[nfbwatlk] tomorrow's hearing

Mary Ellen gabias at telus.net
Tue Feb 2 04:21:11 UTC 2010

This is just a note from north of the border wishing you all the very best
success tomorrow. 
Specialized government funded and publicly accountable services for blind
adults don't exist here, so we look to the U.S. for the model of service
delivery we would like. I know there are problems there, but a person can go
to a counselor and know that counselor specializes in blindness. Yes, some
of them are better than others, that is true in even the best places, but
the rehabilitation counselors you see don't need to have the rudimentary
concepts of alternative techniques explained to them. The publicly funded,
though privately contracted, job placement counselors who fund career
training are generalists here.
CNIB is supposed to provide adjustment to blindness services. It is the
service delivery option everyone wants us to use. Although the individual
CNIB staff members are often quite knowledgeable and competent, they work in
a private charity model of service delivery where raising money to continue
is a paramount concern. That skews the way things are done, at least at the
higher levels. Portraying blind people as pitiful without the continuous
intervention of CNIB raises more money than anything else, so that's how
we're portrayed. If we don't like what's done on our behalf, or if we feel
not enough is being done, our only recourse is to complain to the very
private charity that has done what we don't like in the first place.
Government isn't accountable -- they just paid for the service. Or they
didn't, and charitable funds paid for it. (That depends on whether the
particular service in question was provided as part of a government contract
or out of the agency's charitable revenues.) Either way, accountability is
mighty hard to come by.
The school for the blind is an even more inspiring story. You have one of
the very best schools for the blind in the U.S. Canada has one school for
the blind, in Ontario, and a resource center that offers short-term
educational programs in Halifax. Canada has embraced the concept of
inclusion without putting in the resources that could guarantee excellence.
Because of scandalous behavior at the school for the blind in Vancouver,
there is no desire to open a new school. But some of the things Washington
School is doing are still helpful and uplifting to parents and teachers
That's why what happens in Washington State, and other places around the
U.S., matters so much to us. So, stand proud and know that you're standing
for your own futures and for a model that is an example we hold up to our
Mary Ellen

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