[Community-service] Progress Through Telling Our Stories: The Truth About Blindness Makes a Difference | National Federation of the Blind

Darian Smith president at nfbcommunityservice.org
Sat Oct 8 20:07:28 UTC 2016

Federation Family,
  I wanted to share with you some truly wonderful news that shows just another example of what we can do when we commit to working together.
> https://nfb.org/blog/vonb-blog/progress-through-telling-our-stories-truth-about-blindness-makes-difference <https://nfb.org/blog/vonb-blog/progress-through-telling-our-stories-truth-about-blindness-makes-difference>
> Progress Through Telling Our Stories: The Truth About Blindness Makes a Difference
> The members of the National Federation of the Blind work on a daily basis to demonstrate that blindness is not the characteristic that defines us or our future. Every day we work to raise expectations for blind people because we experience daily the harmful impacts of low expectations on our lives. Today we can celebrate another important milestone in combating low expectations and educating the public regarding the truth about living with blindness.
> Yesterday the Foundation Fighting Blindness released an announcement <http://www.blindness.org/foundation-news/foundation-fighting-blindness-announces-completion-phase-one-howeyeseeit-campaign> saying that what it described as phase one of its #HowEyeSeeIt campaign has ended, and that the end of this phase of the campaign signifies the end of the #HowEyeSeeIt Blindfold Challenge. The announcement publicly recognizes the concerns raised during the past month by members of the National Federation of the Blind about the harmful effects of perpetuating misconceptions about blindness in order to raise money for medical research. (For background, read recent posts on our Voice of the Nation's Blind blog <https://nfb.org/vonb-blog>, as well as my contribution to the Huffington Post <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/blindfolding-is-not-the-way-to-educate-the-public-about_us_57f3a703e4b0f482f8f0bd23?>.) This long-awaited announcement, combined with the meeting the foundation leaders have agreed to have with me later this month, makes me cautiously optimistic that they have come to understand the valid concerns of the blind of America.
> It is fitting that this hopeful sign of change has been achieved in October, which is "Meet the Blind Month" in the National Federation of the Blind. During this month we put extra emphasis and energy into getting our local chapters out into the community in order to teach members of the public about blindness by having them get to know blind people and to better understand our lived experience of blindness through genuine interactions. For the members of the Federation, this is often a time to tell our individual stories about breaking through the misconceptions that we have internalized and coming to the realization that if we allow ourselves to buy into the fallacy that blindness is a severe limitation, we will most certainly and artificially limit our potential. Low expectations are self-fulfilling and only lead to minimized opportunities and diminished lives.
> I want to express my deep appreciation for the members of the National Federation of the Blind who have respectfully and energetically pushed back on the harmful impact of the #HowEyeSeeIt Blindfold Challenge. The true stories of the experience of blind people that have been shared during the past month have gone a long way toward mitigating the negative impact of the campaign and creating a greater understanding of the interesting, active, adventurous, fun, and powerful lives we live as blind people. Equally as important, members of the Federation have demonstrated courage in speaking the truth about blindness. I read many disappointing comments from supporters of the #HowEyeSeeIt campaign suggesting that our reaction to it was unfounded, mean spirited, and ungrateful. It takes courage to speak the truth even in the face of discouraging comments about the lives we live every day and the discrimination we face from the low expectations of others that were perpetuated by the blindfold challenge. The stories of hope, love, and determination that have been shared by Federation members are a shining example of the timeless observation that the truth will set us free.
> Although the FFB says it has ended the Blindfold Challenge, I encourage members of the Federation to keep telling your stories. Continue to create videos, write blogs, share photos, and publish articles about the true lived experience of blind people and how we use alternative techniques to participate fully in society. Continue to tell those stories because we must repair the damage that has been done, and because this will not be the last time that we are confronted with the negative impact of low expectations. Keep telling our stories because the more we tell the truth and the more we demonstrate our integrity, courage, and the independent and dignified way in which we live our lives, the more we will continue to make powerful, and ultimately permanent, change throughout our society. This experience once again demonstrates the power of our collective action.
> The announcement released yesterday by the Foundation tells us that the #HowEyeSeeIt Blindfold Challenge was built on the theme of “experiencing the world through another person’s eyes.” Of course, this is the primary problem that members of the Federation had with the challenge. Vision is not a requirement for success. Blind people experience the world just as fully and joyfully as others do, but using our other senses instead of our eyes. The joy of living and gaining knowledge about the world is not found in one sense but through the combination of them, powered by the decision of each of us to be happy and fulfilled human beings focused on the many things we can perceive rather than what we cannot. The blindfold challenge was focused on vision, while the lived experience of blind people—the everyday lives we live and the techniques we use to do the normal everyday tasks and the extraordinary, not-so-everyday ones—are not dependent on the eyes. The announcement goes on to say that “Phase two of the campaign will feature profiles of people with no or low vision, showcasing their adaptability, strength and talent.” I again encourage the Foundation and all of its supporters to call on members of the National Federation of the Blind for profiles of blind people living life successfully, carrying out the normal responsibilities of equal participation, and breaking down the stereotypes about blindness. The evidence from the past month demonstrates that the National Federation of the Blind, the oldest and largest organization of blind people, has strength and capacity rooted in the authentic experience of blind people living the lives we want. We invite the Foundation Fighting Blindness to draw from this deep well of experience to tell its supporters that there is life with blindness, even as the search for new medical treatments continues.
> To my brothers and sisters in our movement, I again express my deepest appreciation for what you do to demonstrate the truth about blindness every day. It is a tangible expression of the promise that we make to each other in our organization a promise that has been clearly witnessed in our work on this campaign and which expresses #HowWeSeeIt: Together with love, hope, and determination we transform dreams into reality!

Darian Smith
President, National Federation  of the Blind Community Service Division

Web: www.nfbcommunityservice.org

Twitter: @NFB_CSD, at goldengateace

Facebook: www.facebook.com/CommunityServiceDivision"

E-mail: president at nfbcommunityservice.org <mailto:president at nfbcommunityservice.org>


The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the
characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the
expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles
between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want;
blindness is not what holds you back.
 “We need your service, right now, at this moment - our moment - in history. I'm not going to tell you what your role should be; that's for you to discover. But I am going to ask you to play your part; ask you to stand up; ask you to put your foot firmly into the current of history” — Barack Obama 
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