/second in a series…
To understand the challenge before us we must map the terrain we will be fighting on:
- We know that several entities either directly or indirectly influence those environments which encourage misconceptions about the capabilities of the blind
- These entities can be classified as stakeholders of this issue, for example; individuals, families, communities, cultures, local government & schools, state government, the federal government, vocational rehabilitation agencies, the American Foundation for the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind, the American Council of the Blind, etc…
- Understanding how these entities influence, compete with, or reinforce one another will be crucial to our task.
The majority of these stakeholders strongly believe that the blind should be protected, i.e., they must be sheltered and taken care of. I assert, as a blind professional myself, that this belief robs the blind of opportunities to define their own future. This co-dependency attitude toward the blind is shaped by others and is passed on to the blind. Therefore, the problem keeps circling around like a merry-go-round because the blind are also components of the public at large.
Individuals, families and communities are social networks. Individuals create families; families establish communities. As they grow and gather information, the same information is diffused within the network; therefore they are automatically interconnected due to their natural make-up. For example a blind child is born, grows up in the family, and becomes a member of the community. While growing up he/she is like a tender plant that is fed by the social network’s beliefs and standards. Such nested relationships (individuals-> families-> communities-> social networks) are the best ground for seeding an open mind about the true capabilities of the blind. Yet we must always take account for how social networks are embedded within a culture, and that culture will have rules which must be respected.
In part three we will look at an action plan with two methods for synthesizing needs at each level.