Tue 19 Apr 2005
Now that I have performed 6 hours of community service at Tri-County Association for the Blind, my understanding of people with seeing disabilities has improved tremendously. The majority of the people with disabilities there were completely blind, and some were only partially blind. The workers were not dependent on Caroline and I at all, in contrast to how I was expecting them to be. Being blind did not seem to prevent them from doing many physical activities that I thought it would. I also became aware of the fact that the workers there view there own disabilities differently than I thought they would. Instead of acting like nothing was wrong with them, they would not be afraid to talk about their seeing impairments. There were numerous occasions when the people with disabilities would not be hesitant to remind me of the fact that they were blind (not that I forgot). I think that one of the most interesting and important lessons I took away from this experience is that, for the most part, people with seeing impairments do not lead lives any different than mine. The majority of the people I came in contact with raised families, and enjoyed many of the same leisurely activities as myself.
The more I volunteered at Tri-County, the more I realized they did for people with seeing disabilities. I feel that they have the most direct effect on their employees. Tri-County gives people with seeing disabilities jobs, which might be extremely hard for them to find else where. Danette and her staff work hard to set arrangements up with the government and many institutions that could potentially supply her with tasks the workers could do. On the same note, many of the jobs performed by the employees at Tri-County help the blind in general. For example, there is a radio station in the office that reads daily newspapers on the air for people who cannot see to read. In other departments, employees spend all day brailing books, magazines, dictionaries, etc. People with seeing impairments are also able to come into Tri-County and rent books on tape. Tri-County produces hundreds of different scented candles to sell, and all of the proceeds go towards associations for the blind. One last important service of Tri-County is the fact that they do their best to educate youth and parents of youth to take the correct steps to maintain healthy eyesight.
I do not feel as though I had a huge impact on the people who worked in the agency, however, when Caroline and I worked back in production I definitely think we had some effect on the blind. The jobs that they perform day in and day out are very monotonous and these tasks must get boring very quickly. The fact that they had Caroline and I were working along with them was good because it switched up the daily routine a bit, as well as gave them some help so they did not feel overwhelmed with their workload. I think that we also made time go by fast for them because we were new people for them to talk with. I felt like I had a much larger personal impact on the blind when we were working side by side with them in production, as opposed to when we were doing “busy work” in the office.
I think that the agency helps to alleviate one of the biggest problems that people with seeing disabilities face in a “normative” society: the challenge that they are faced with to find work. There are very few employers that would find it beneficial to hire a person with seeing impairments because they immediately focus on their disabilities. Furthermore, the jobs that the blind are hired for are boring and often require little skill at all. There are obviously many things that a “normal” person can do that a blind person cannot do, but the people with seeing disabilities do not let this get in the way of them living their life “normally.” For instance, they are always dependant on someone else to transport them to and from work, and other destinations. Also, they have to depend on dogs or walking poles to get themselves around, and lastly they must learn to identify things based on smells and sounds.
I am able to connect my learning experience with many of the discussions we have had in class. One of the biggest connections I made was the fact that because of the physical characteristics of the blind, many assumptions are made about them. Rose Marie Garland Thomas talks about this in Extraordinary Bodies. People assume that the blind live completely different life styles than those who do not have disabilities, and they also assume that they cannot perform on the job as well as others. I can also relate those with seeing disabilities to Lionel in Motherless Brooklyn. As he identified himself with Tourette’s, the blind identify themselves with their seeing disabilities. Leonard Davis’ claims that the real problem with society is that normalcy is socially constructed. There would not be a need for Tri-County Association for the Blind if this was not the case.