[nabs-l] should the blind adapt to the world, or should the world adapt to us?

Len Burns len at gatamundo.com
Fri Jun 19 08:14:31 UTC 2009

As regards audible signals, while you are likely correct as to the 
official position, I think it no secret the influence the NFB has 
exerted on this issue.  As far as the noise factor, if the correct kind 
of audible signals are used, there is no noise.  If it is a loud 
chirping signal, it is a nuisance.  If it is among those that make a 
soft clicking sound so that, heaven forbid, I can actually find the 
button without looking like  a bumbling fool, followed by an audible 
announcement when the light has changed, they bother no one.  I have 
been making street crossings for a very long time, since long before 
audible signals existed.  Although I am highly skilled in this pastime, 
I would prefer the same information as my sighted peers when the light 

The discussion of money below is a distortion of the issue.  As you well 
know, the U.S. is one of the few industrialized countries who still uses 
  paper notes that cannot be distinguished by touch.  Yes, we all live 
with this, and we survive, but the absurdity is not lost.

I belong to neither organization for many reasons, but the biggest one 
is that I call things as I see them, not by an organizations party line. 
  I have lived much of the philosophy that the NFB claims for its own 
for most of my life and shall continue to do so.


Jedi wrote:
> Marc,
> I don't think that the NfB is against universal design. I doubt that 
> you'll ever hear anyone say that making products and services 
> user-friendly is a bad thing.
> I also think you're right about the audio signals and accessible 
> currency issues. they are nuanced and complicated. but since you asked, 
> I'll give you and the rest of the list the down and dirty of it all.
> With audio signals, the NFB never exactly opposed them altogether. 
> Instead, the NFB said that audio signals need to be put where the blind 
> think they're necessary based on our collective experience, our honest 
> needs, and with the understanding that many street intersections can be 
> accomplished by the average blind person given the right opportunity for 
> good training. The NFB is not in support of audio signals on every 
> corner for two reasons. first, they would drown out necessary 
> environmental cues that we can already hear. Second, they're obnoxious 
> when placed on block after block. If you don't believe me, visit a few 
> neighborhoods in Seattle where it's been done. Yes, the NFB does believe 
> that overmodification of the environment both comes from and reinforces 
> the idea that blind people are severely limited because we can't see.
> As for accessible currency, we never said no to that either. We were 
> frustrated with the ACB because, for good or ill, the ACB claimed that 
> non-accessible currency discriminates against the blind. Furthermore, 
> we've been using currency without accessible markings for a long time. 
> For most of us, getting a sighted person's help or using a bill 
> identifier of some kind has been no big deal. If the treasury were 
> outfitting the bills anyway, then why not include accessibility 
> features? but because the ACB said that the money should be totally 
> reoutfitted because the blind are being discriminated against was our 
> big deal. So now, the government has to redo all the bills, [probably 
> all the vending machines and the like, and the list goes on.
> In general, the NFB favors technology that gives us access but for all 
> the right reasons. If sighted people are the ones determining what 
> access looks like, they're likely to make the wrong things accessible 
> based on lack of education. For example, they'll make sidewalk signals 
> chirp but may not think about the need for accessible touch screens. 
> That kind of thing. So really, what it comes down to is that 
> accessibility discussions need to be intelligent and based on real need, 
> not stereotypes. If you do that, I doubt you'll get much argument from 
> the NFB.
> there are gray areas like DVS. Again, we never said no to that, either. 
> We just didn't think it was terribly necessary to force the issue except 
> where we really need the information. But, if people wanted to provide 
> it, we'll help them do it.
> As for me personally, I feel it's appropriate to ask for help if it's 
> more efficient than whatever techniques are available to me or if I just 
> can't do it at all for some reason. Otherwise, I feel it's my 
> responsibility to adapt to the world as is. What annoys me is when 
> sighted people presume to know when my techniques are inefficient or 
> just not able to do the task simply because they can see and are used to 
> doing things visually.
> Respectfully Submitted
> Original message:
>> I was actually planning to ask a similar question myself on this 
>> list.  But,
>> for me, the question is as follows: to what extent should blind people 
>> fight
>> for changes to the way environments, products, and services are 
>> designed in
>> order to facilitate easier access?
>> I believe strongly in a lot of the tenants of NFB philosophy.  I think 
>> the
>> organization generally has a progressive attitude towards blindness, but
>> where we part company is on the issue of design.
>> If I'm correct, the NFB generally opposes alterations to the built
>> environment unless absolutely necessary.  So even the NFB says it is
>> appropriate to fight so that silent cars make noise, and this is 
>> because no
>> amount of training is going to completely eliminate the danger of quiet
>> cars.  In general, though, the NFB promotes better training over what it
>> perceives as unnecessary changes to the environment.  Audible signals 
>> is one
>> example, and I think accessible currency is yet another.  Let me say 
>> that I
>> know the reasons for the stances on audible signals and accessible 
>> currency
>> are more nuanced, but, as a generalization, it seems to me that the NFB
>> favours training over alterations that aren't necessary.  Correct me 
>> if I'm
>> wrong on this.
>> So the question is then, why oppose alterations to the environment.  Who
>> does it hurt when we fight to have environments, products, and services
>> designed with everyone in mind? And the answer that I've typically 
>> seen is
>> that it hurts blind people.  If  I understand the position, the NFB 
>> argues
>> that misconceptions and myths about the abilities of blind people are the
>> main barriers we face, and I won't argue with that, but then the argument
>> goes on to suggest that making changes to the environment only 
>> perpetuates
>> these misconceptions and myths.  Altering the environment makes the 
>> average
>> sighted Joe six pack think that we all need special treatment, we're
>> incapable of doing things like everyone else, etc etc etc.  So because 
>> these
>> adaptations/alterations actually do damage to us, it is necessary to 
>> oppose
>> them.  This is my understanding of the opposition.  Again, correct me 
>> if I'm
>> wrong.
>> Now, let's suppose that it's true that such alterations perpetuate
>> misconceptions and prejudice, which I think is actually debatable itself,
>> but even if true, don't we see the flaw in the sighted person's thinking?
>> The reason we should push for audible signals is not because we couldn't
>> possibly cross the street without them, it's not because we're inept and
>> can't do things like everyone else, it's because the people who 
>> originally
>> designed the thing called a controlled intersection screwed up.  They
>> designed it on the assumption that sight would be the main sense used to
>> determine when the light has changed.  Well that was a serious error in
>> design.  Both the sense of hearing and the sense of touch can also be
>> employed to detect when the light changes if only the designers had taken
>> into consideration these alternative ways of gaining information when 
>> they
>> originally designed it.  A very similar argument can be made about nearly
>> every environment, product, and service.  They are almost always designed
>> based on the assumption that only one kind of body will interact with 
>> this
>> environment, use this product, and receive this service.  We know that 
>> that
>> is a bad assumption.  People come with an innumerable set of differing
>> abilities, and design should, as much as possible, try to take these
>> differences into consideration.
>> So even if sighted people do misinterpret changes to the environment, it
>> strikes me as odd that we should put up with bad designs just because 
>> most
>> people interpret things wrongly.  Instead, we should push for universal
>> design of environments, products, and services, and we should do our 
>> best to
>> educate those who would misunderstand these alterations.
>> Let me say pre-emptively that I absolutely support the availability of
>> really good rehabilitation training services.  We completely lack 
>> adequate
>> rehab services up here in Canada, and I think the NFB has the right 
>> attitude
>> when it comes to the blind teaching the blind.  Nothing I say should be
>> interpreted as denying the need for excellent blindness skills.  But as I
>> said, I very much disagree with the NFB stance on universal design, 
>> and if
>> someone wants to show me where I've mischaracterized the position, or why
>> the position ought to be supported, I would really appreciate that.
>> Regards,
>> Marc
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: nabs-l-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nabs-l-bounces at nfbnet.org]On
>> Behalf Of alena roberts
>> Sent: Thursday, June 18, 2009 10:44 AM
>> To: nabs; National Association of Blind Students mailing list; NFB of
>> Oregon mailing list
>> Subject: [nabs-l] should the blind adapt to the world,or should the
>> world adapt to us?
>> Should the world adapt to the blind, or should we adapt to the world?
>> This is the question I posed in my blog today. I believe that it
>> should be both. People with disabilities need to be given tools, but
>> we also have the right to participate in society which may mean
>> accomidating our needs. I would really like to hear other people's
>> opinions about this topic. Please visit my blog and let your voice be
>> heard. Thanks.
>> http://www.blindgal.com
>> -- 
>> Alena Roberts
>> Blog: http://www.blindgal.com/
>> _______________________________________________
>> nabs-l mailing list
>> nabs-l at nfbnet.org
>> http://www.nfbnet.org/mailman/listinfo/nabs-l_nfbnet.org
>> To unsubscribe, change your list options or get your account info for
>> nabs-l:
>> http://www.nfbnet.org/mailman/options/nabs-l_nfbnet.org/mworkman%40ualberta. 
>> ca
>> _______________________________________________
>> nabs-l mailing list
>> nabs-l at nfbnet.org
>> http://www.nfbnet.org/mailman/listinfo/nabs-l_nfbnet.org
>> To unsubscribe, change your list options or get your account info for 
>> nabs-l:
>> http://www.nfbnet.org/mailman/options/nabs-l_nfbnet.org/loneblindjedi%40samobile.net 

More information about the nabs-l mailing list