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

mworkman at ualberta.ca mworkman at ualberta.ca
Fri Jun 19 16:13:25 UTC 2009


Arielle,

That's a very interesting point.  I can certainly see how our scarce
resources might be better spent on promoting excellent training, passing
good legislation, and so on, rather than on adapting the environment.

There's one point in response that I'd like to make.  Perhaps you can
address it if and when you elaborate further.  It makes sense not to fight
for environmental alterations because of the lack of resources, but it
doesn't make sense to spend resources fighting against environmental
changes.  In this case, you would be spending those precious resources on
opposing environmental changes that could benefit some.  Maybe the NFB has
never actively opposed environmental changes, I don't think this is the
case, but it might be.  Leaving the NFB aside, do you think it is ever
appropriate to actively oppose environmental changes that other individuals
and organizations are willing to spend time and energy fighting for?

Thanks,

Marc

-----Original Message-----
From: nabs-l-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nabs-l-bounces at nfbnet.org]On
Behalf Of Arielle Silverman
Sent: Thursday, June 18, 2009 11:17 PM
To: National Association of Blind Students mailing list
Subject: Re: [nabs-l] should the blind adapt to the world,or should the
world adapt to us?


Hi all,

I'm really tired and so will provide only a brief  response here--will
elaborate more later. I won't try to speak for the NFB, but will share
my personal opinion and a new angle on this issue. I am personally in
full support of universal design principles and practices. I don't
think that having universally accessible systems in place perpetuates
prejudice or misconceptions. However, I do think the critical question
is "How much should we fight for environmental modifications?" rather
than "Should the environment be changed?" In answering the former
question I do think that fighting too much is what can hurt blind
people. This is because we have  limited energy, time and resources.
Whenever we choose to fight more on one issue, I think time, money,
and energy that could be spent on another issue is taken  away. That
kind of trade-off  is really what we're facing here.

Again, more on this later, but it gives you something  else to think about.

Arielle

On 6/19/09, mworkman at ualberta.ca <mworkman at ualberta.ca> wrote:
> Jedi said,
>
> 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.
>
> That is true I think.  At least, it is harder for me to think of cases
where
> I've heard of NFB opposition in these instances.  Though, one could argue
> that currency is akin to a product, not the same, just an analogous
> instance.  Maybe I'll come back to that.  But I noticed that you only
> included products and services while I always said environments, products,
> and services, and my main argument, the one that interests me the most, is
> about environments.  So while the NFB may support universal design of
> products and services, it does not support universal design of the built
> environment.  In some cases, not only does it not support it, it actively
> opposes it.
>
> Jedi said,
>
> 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.
>
> Based on this statement, I think you would agree that the NFB does not
> believe in universal design of the environment.  What you call
> over-modification many would call universal design.  Also based on that
> statement, I take it that the main reason for this opposition is due to
the
> negative impression that comes from these modifications, which is what I
> suggested was the reason in my earlier post.  I have to leave out the part
> in your assertion that modifications not only perpetuate, but stem from
> misconceptions because I believe, in most cases, they can be justified in
> terms of correcting a flaw in the original design, and therefore don't
> necessarily come from misconceptions, though they may reinforce them.
>
> So I'm left thinking that my original two claims were correct: 1) the NFB
> opposes, either passively or actively, universal design of the
environment,
> unless such adaptations are taken to be necessary (e.g., quiet cars), and
2)
> the main, if not only, reason for this opposition is the belief that such
> modifications will perpetuate/reinforce negative misconceptions about
> blindness.
>
> My position was, and still is, that it doesn't make a lot of sense to
oppose
> something because others are likely to misunderstand it.  I think it makes
> more sense to try to educate people about the need for universal design
and
> how a lack of universal design only serves to construct disability.  And
> actually, given the notion that disability is socially constructed, which
I
> recall you accepted, I'm a little surprised that you would oppose doing
> everything possible to eliminate environmental barriers that create
> disabilities.  It's a belief in the social construction of disability that
> leads me to disagree with the NFB on this very point.
>
> I could go into the audible signals and currency, but I really didn't want
> to get into that debate.  And I don't think anything you've said on those
> issues refutes numbers 1 and 2 above; I think what you've said in fact
> supports those claims.  In all three examples you mentioned (audible
> signals, currency, and DVS), you talk about need/necessity.  Adaptations
are
> only justified if they are absolutely necessary, which is exactly what I
> suggested.  What I would challenge, and I believe Alena questions as well,
> is what counts as necessary.  Something that may not be necessary for you
> might be necessary for someone with less training, intelligence, health,
> youth, supports, and the list goes on and on.  Why not construct things in
a
> manner that requires less of these things? It's great if you have the
> training, intelligence, health, etc, but why design things in ways that
make
> these necessary, and more importantly, why oppose redesigning things in
ways
> that would make them less necessary?
>
> I'm primarily interested in why we should not advocate for universal
design
> of the environment simply because some people may misinterpret this as a
> sign of blind people's weakness.  I also wonder about how you would
respond
> to the stuff about necessity, and closely related to that , I'm interested
> in how you square opposition of universal design with a belief in the
social
> construction of disability, because I, and others I know, haven't been
able
> to square these two things.
>
> Looking forward to a response when you have time.
>
> Marc
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: nabs-l-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nabs-l-bounces at nfbnet.org]On
> Behalf Of Jedi
> Sent: Thursday, June 18, 2009 6:25 PM
> To: nabs-l at nfbnet.org
> Subject: Re: [nabs-l] should the blind adapt to the world, or should the
> world adapt to us?
>
>
> 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/
>
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