The Braille Monitor                                                                                              March, 2004

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Blind People Are Just Looking for Social Equality

by Katrilla Martin

From the Editor: Any time a blind person ventures outside the home or into a new place, he or she is likely to be noticed and may be compelled to do some impromptu public education. Often such experiences are pleasant, interesting, and successful; but sometimes, despite our best efforts, they do not go well. Even then it may be possible to turn the experience into something positive. The following article is reprinted from the Fall 2003 issue of the Vigilant, the publication of the NFB of Virginia. It originally appeared in the November 9, 2003, Fredericksburg Free Lance Star.

Katrilla Martin
Katrilla Martin

Katrilla Martin is a Federationist who is ready to articulate her positive philosophy of blindness anytime it is appropriate. Her refreshing attitude does not, unfortunately, shield her from unpleasantness. Being Katrilla, however, she finds ways of using such experiences to do some good despite inappropriate comments by unbalanced people. May we all be as sensible and constructive when such things happen to us:

Recently I was verbally attacked in downtown Fredericksburg, not because of the color of my skin, not because of my religious beliefs, but because of the cane I was carrying and the jacket I was wearing. Confused? So was I.

You see, I am blind, and I use a white cane for independent travel. I have had some cane travel training, and I have never injured anyone with my cane. As for the jacket, I was simply cold, and it kept me warm. The issue on that day had nothing to do with my cane-travel skills or the cool temperatures. A gentleman—and I consider him a gentleman—tapped me on the shoulder to express his hatred of the organization of which I am a member. He said that my organization, The National Federation of the Blind, was made up of "angry, blind, cane-pushing [expletives] who think that blind people are better than the rest of us!" I tried to reason with him and even invited him to one of our meetings so that he could find out what the NFB is about for himself. An innocent bystander asked if the police needed to be called.

I concluded that this man was misinformed and chalked it up to ignorance. Besides, the gentleman was elderly, and I, being twenty-eight years old, decided that the attack had done me minimal damage. I was wrong. I have been deeply affected by the incident and would like to take this opportunity to clear something up.

The National Federation of the Blind is the largest organization of blind people. We organize to secure equality for the blind. We are the blind speaking for the blind, but that does not mean that we will not work in partnership with anyone interested in educating others to counteract the misconceptions about blindness. We believe that, given proper training and equal opportunity, blind people can live worthwhile lives and successfully maintain careers.

The gentleman was wrong. We do not think of ourselves as better than the rest of you. We do know that we are capable. We do not push canes, but we do use canes (as well as guide dogs) to travel independently. We are not angry—persistent, maybe—because we simply will not give up until the misconceptions about blindness are dispelled and equality is reached. If you would like to find out more about our organization, please feel free to join us at our monthly chapter meetings.

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