[Nfbmo] RSB survey request

Gary Wunder GWunder at earthlink.net
Mon Nov 28 15:35:25 UTC 2011

1). What RSB services and outcomes do you value most?

The services from RSB have made my life immeasurably better. I have had a
job since 1978 and before that sporadic employment to build a resume. My
jobs, thanks to a contract between the state and federal government, have
been good enough to assist in raising one child through college, another
soon bound for college, one to finish high school and attend cosmetology
school, and another to leave his son while he pursues his occupation which
requires travel. If the American dream is to strike it rich and be known in
the history books, I've missed, but if the real dream is to have a family, a
home, some challenge, and a bit of time for pleasure, than the state/federal
partnership has given me a very realistic and rewarding life that meets my
criteria for living the dream. 

2). What are the barriers to access those RSB services?

I had few barriers in accessing services. People believed in me. When I said
I needed something, I supported that need with fact and so the only problem
was the delay in procurement.  The only trouble I ever got into with the
agency was when I would find people who couldn't get a braille writer, a
typewriter, or a tape recorder, while I was receiving a scientific
calculator, lenses for the Optacon to let me read it and an oscilloscope,
and other high-tech devices.  Of course I tried to help people who were
getting less and the counselor once told me that her biggest problem with me
was that people perceive me as the great white God of technology and that
caused her all kinds of problems.  I took it as a compliment because I never
encouraged people to get technology just because they could.

3). What direction would you like to see RSB take in the future?

I would like to see RSB emphasized to new students the nature of the
contract to which they are committing themselves.  As a parent who has
helped to pay for one college degree and stands to foot the bill for
another, I can tell you that most blind people have no real idea what a
college or a technical education costs.  When you try to budget $15,000 a
year for a four-year institution and still find that your child has to
borrow to make it through, you slowly come to realize what a tremendous gift
a college degree or a technical certificate really is.  When you buy a
VersaBraille or a braille note outright and it takes you several years to
pay for it even with a substantial amount going out monthly, you have a
different perspective on what used to be a simple request and receipt.  

Students have to understand that America won't just continue rehabilitation
because it has in the past.  It will look for the payoff.  This will mean
that we have to go beyond our comfort zone and looking for and keeping
employment.  Organizations of the blind can help to knock down the walls
that keep all blind people out, but once we open the door, it is the
individual blind person who has to be courageous enough to walk through it,
to do the work required, and to come out of the process with a monthly check
that will convince the taxpayer that their investment was worthwhile and
that they have substantially enhanced the quality of life for one of their
citizens.  Training beyond high school can't just be seen as a stopgap
measure to continue and income.  At this point in life one is required to
step up and make a major decision about life goals and what will really make
them a living.

Before people begin making an academic record it will be difficult if not
impossible to undo, I think that the agency should do everything in its
power to make sure they have the necessary skills of blindness to compete.
A grade in technical school or at a university should represent a students
ability to do the coursework and not their ability to handle the stresses of
being blind.  Mastering blindness skills and developing or enhancing an
already positive view of blindness should come before one begins building
their academic credentials.  RSB can't mandate this, but it can show that
the acquisition of blindness skills prior to higher education is
respectable, prudent, and the way to a happier, healthier life.

If fewer and fewer jobs in America are going to come from corporations, we
will have to figure out more creative ways to establish blind people as
small business owners.  We will also have to figure out how to break into
the small business market where hardware and software are used that are not
accessible and where the size of the business will argue against its being
able to make the changes required by itself.  I think this means being
proactive in looking at business opportunities and the kinds of technology
they employ before we have someone with a job offer.  Frequently there is an
expectation that filling a vacancy will mean work starts immediately. Too
often we don't have any idea what work in a given industry will require, and
by the time we usher in the rehab engineer, decide what is needed, order or
build it, and deliver it to the client, the would-be employer has already
gotten the idea that the blind person he was so anxiously considering hiring
can't compete.  I suspect rehabilitation services for the blind will have to
partner with other agencies to figure out where hiring is taking place and
what a qualified blind person would need in order to work, but I think this
is our only hope if we are to compete in an economy where there are fewer
jobs than job seekers.

Gary Wunder

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