Braille Monitor April-May 1985
(Note: This article appeared in the Winter, 1985, issue of The Blindside, a publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota.)
Many changes are taking place over at the State Capitol as a result of the Independent Republican (IR) victory in the November election. In the process, several long-time employees of the State House of Representatives lost their jobs. Losing a job is a jolting experience no doubt: everyone suffered. Oddly enough, the news media decided to focus their attention on the plight of just one of these unfortunate individuals. That individual happens to be blind.
For eight years the blind gentleman in question conducted tours of the State Capitol and helped educate the public concerning the legislative process. He rightly earned the job he held and continued to hold it because he was good at it, not because he was somebody's "charity case." So far as we know, the other ex-employees also performed their duties with distinction and dedication. Earning a livelihood was no doubt important to all concerned; blind and sighted alike. So why did the reporters flock to the one and leave the others alone? There can be only one answer: because he was blind.
We in the NFB are always concerned when blindness is used to guilt and intimidate our sighted colleagues. When the press gets into the act, it hurts its own credibility and compounds the sin. Worse yet, harm is done to all blind people who are striving for first-class citizenship.
Did the IR House Majority do the right thing when they let all those people go? It's hard to say. Presumably, they did it because they thought it would make state government more efficient. Whether or not they achieved their goal, only time will tell.
We already know that the IRs did one thing right for sure. They did not discriminate when it came time to hand out the pink slips. Despite media pressure, they refused to make an exception for an individual just because that individual happened to be blind.
Equality with our sighted colleagues - that's the goal of the NFB. Quality education, rewarding jobs, the opportunity to share in the benefits America can offer - we want all these things.
But equality means more than just having the things we want. For it also means sharing in losses and suffering through changes that may be painful. In short, it means taking the bitter with the sweet.
We devote a lot of space in The Blindside to reporting on the "sweet" side of equality. We proudly keep you posted on all the gains blind people are making-both individually and collectively. For both blind and sighted, what happened at the Capitol was definitely a case of "the bitters." Because we believe in equality, we report on "the bitter" side, too. Indeed, our sympathies go out to everyone involved.
As blind people, we demand equal treatment when an employer is hiring. And we expect equal treatment when an employer is firing. Whatever happens, we in the NFB won't let today's pink slip stop us from striving for tomorrow's blue ribbon.