Janice Wald Friedman
|September 19, 2002|
To Whom it May
One of the most important things to remember in providing access to the public sector is that if a need is evident for a sizeable portion of a population, though not necessarily for all, that need should be filled. The National Federation of the Blind has spent the better part of the last century trying to prove to the world that blind people have such well-developed senses of hearing, touch and smell that any public accommodations are superfluous. This is absolutely untrue.
In my experience of knowing and working with blind people since 1964, including literally thousands of people with varying degrees of vision loss, I have only met a handful of people who truly seem so in touch with their environments that they appear to require no accommodation whatsoever. If you listen to NFB, you will be convinced that this description fits the majority of visually impaired people. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The American Council of the Blind is promoting installation of audible traffic signals and tactile surfacing because the majority of blind people, regardless of organizational affiliation, will benefit from some form of accommodation. Why deny such a simple solution to the many who will benefit from it? The only ones benefiting from the denial of these accommodations will be those with enormous egos who would rather see people crushed beneath the wheels of a car or mangled by a subway train than admit that they occasionally need assistance.
This is an issue which should never have been an issue. No one denies that not every sighted person has the same level of proficiency in navigation--many of us get lost or distracted--but the NFB cannot deal with the idea that there are blind people who might not be able to navigate new areas and concentrate on their environment as skillfully as others. We have already lost too many visually impaired people to these completely avoidable fates. Those who lose their vision later in life are especially vulnerable to these situations. Let us not be influenced by the whims of people who are embarrassed to be seen as "needy" when the real issue is that people's lives are at stake.
Janice Wald Friedman
Disability Rights Advocate
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