Braille Monitor                                                                  June 1985

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Agency Antics

by Gerry Paice

Once again, so-called professionalism and poor judgment on the part of agency for the blind personnel have taken their toll. A year or so ago it was the Carroll Center for the Blind, sponsoring a runner in the Boston Marathon equipped with blinders to create the image of a blind runner. Before 1985 had firmly established itself, it was the Massachusetts Association for the Blind, arranging a luncheon in Worcester, Massachusetts, a feature of which was the blindfolding of participants to simulate blind diners and to demonstrate how frustrating and defeating it is for blind people who are obliged to face the terrible ordeal of eating 1,095 times a year.

Yes, such a calculated mockery with all the usual innuendoes was actually arranged by the Massachusetts Association for the Blind, and seated at the display tables were its members and friends. It was the creation of a misguided staff member with an overactive imagination, and the Worcester newspaper leaped at the opportunity to make hay. No doubt the entire affair was amusing, even to the point of hilarity at times, but authentic and revealing--we think not.

Learning of the nightmare and fully cognizant of its possible negative consequences, blind men and women in the area cringed. Some just couldn't accept it as fact, but fact it was, and the indiscreet offender was the Massachusetts Association for the Blind, a local agency they had trusted and turned to for assistance in their daily lives.

What a pitiful lack of sensitivity from a source whose very image is that of a benefactor to the blind. As one disillusioned blind person expressed it:

"It is like having a very dear friend suddenly turn into a vicious enemy, bent on harming you. I can't understand it. I have always considered MAB to be one of the better agencies for the blind. I have respected it for years and I have sent donations for its support when I could afford it."

Obviously, the indiscretion constitutes a violation of trust in the attempt to stimulate the emotions of the populace in an effort to gain additional financial support. No doubt the strategy was effective, but the injury to blind people in all walks of life was devastating. The stigma will attach itself to blind children in schools who are now preparing themselves for the future, confident that they will be given opportunity when they reach adulthood and seek to broaden their horizons. It will have a similar effect on blind college students applying themselves and anticipating acceptance as equals in the professions when they qualify. It will also inhibit the progress of blind men and women persisting in their efforts to enter the competition in business and in industry.

When the general public is addressed by a reputable agency for the blind and led to believe that blind people cannot even feed themselves without difficulty and mishap, how can we expect that public to accept the fact that the blind can keep themselves neat and clean and that they can travel back and forth to their places of employment without the assistance of others?

Such thoughts as this confuse the minds of countless prospective employers with the result that, quite often, confidence is lacking and opportunities are withheld, completely without justification. What a terrible price to pay for agency irresponsibility. How can there possibly be true dedication and complete sensitivity in the area of blindness and its fringe deficiencies among the personnel of an agency for the blind which takes advantage of an opportunity to gain added public support regardless of the impact it may have upon those it purports to serve?

As a blind individual who is personally familiar with the humiliation and the anguish generated by such irresponsibility, I deplore the gimmickry which does damage to the blind and the sighted alike. How many times and in how many ways have would-be providers of service to blind people turned out to be impediments to their growth and development through sheer blundering in the name of professionalism?