A Manifesto for Blind Citizens
I offer a Manifesto for Blind Citizens who are concerned about social change in progressive and innovative terms and who will do everything within their power to influence the establishment to adopt an attitude that acknowledges and promotes social and political equality for us…and who know that if society continues to endorse prejudicial stereotyping, then public attitudes cannot possibly change because we will continue to be perceived as charity cases…and who also know that the only way to bring about this change is to insist that we be treated as equal citizens with individual voices who should be judged on our intelligence, creativity and skills and who are entitled to receive unrestricted access to any and all programs that will ensure us an equal opportunity to succeed.
Let’s Get R-E-A-L
As blind citizens of Canada, we wish to get R-E-A-L: to be treated with Respect while being given Equal opportunity to become Assimilated into society at large and be Liberated from the stranglehold of charitable organizations.
Respect: We want to be treated with same respect accorded the majority of able-bodied Canadians.
Equal: We want to be given an equal opportunity to demonstrate our intelligence, our creativity and our skills and to compete on an equal playing field.
Assimilated: We want to be recognized as an important part of the social mainstream—to be assimilated into society—with equal access to the rights, privileges, services and considerations that are given every able-bodied citizen.
Liberated: We want to be perceived as individuals, not defined by a charitable organization who promotes itself at our expense.
Recommendations for Kick-starting Change
It is time for the CNIB and other relevant institutions to relinquish control over the lives of blind citizens. The Canadian government could facilitate that by abolishing blind charities and replacing them with comprehensive services for blind people.
The Canadian government could introduce a federal living allowance based solely on the characteristic of blindness. This allowance would replace the current system which destroys initiative and is counter-productive because it penalizes people who want to utilize their intelligence, creativity and skills and rewards the people who, through demeaning means tests, demonstrate their incapacity.
The Canadian government could promote a nationwide public relations campaign to create a new image of blind people who “can do,” replacing the image of blind people who “can’t do.” This media blitz, which would employ blind Canadians in every aspect of the campaign, would be highlighted by images of blind people working, traveling and generally doing all manner of activities that able-bodied citizens can.
The Canadian government could ensure that there are national educational standards that promote fluency in Braille reading, writing and mathematical skills for blind people and also ensure access to any and all adaptive equipment that facilitates this goal.
The Canadian government could establish regional training facilities that would offer a variety of life skills that are necessary for blind citizens to function effectively in all aspects of society, giving us the tools to become independent and to reach our optimum economic and social potential. These facilities would be special rehabilitation and life skills centres run specifically for and by blind people. In addition, they would offer resources for promoting the skills necessary to procure employment. These programs would also be paired with efforts to promote and maintain the employment of blind people.
The Canadian government could establish ongoing incentive programs for employers to help them overcome the inherent reluctance to recruit blind workers. These programs would accompany “affirmative action” employment-specific programs exclusively created for blind workers.
These actions, if implemented, would drastically reduce the current financial cost to society of a blind person’s lifetime of unproductive dependency. But most important of all, they would promote respect and equality for blind Canadians.
In conjunction with the Canadian Federation of the Blind (CFB.ca), we should like to invite you to join our campaign to lobby our Members of Parliament to change what it means to be blind in Canada. R-E-A-L is an acronym for Respect; Equality; Assimilation and Liberty. The 4 main goals of this campaign are described in greater detail below. Click here to view and copy form letter to member of parliament: