Braille Monitor                                                                                May-June 1986


To Practice What is Preached

by Carol Clark

(Entitled "Blind Spot," this article originally appeared in the February, 1986, issue of the Blind Missourian, the official newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri.)

As a current client of the Bureau for the Blind, I was referred to the Rehabilitation Institute for services in job placement. According to my counselor, the Bureau contracted with the Rehabilitation Institute to provide me with services in aiding me in locating employment. One of the areas we covered was a Job Seeking Skills Class in which each member of the group did a role play with the leader of the group to determine our strengths and weaknesses in interviewing, I dare say that something of this nature can be most helpful, especially if it is videotaped and you can observe what occurred in the interview. This process appeared to be a good thing, and I participated in it wholeheartedly.

One of the things that I noticed about the Rehabilitation Institute's staff was, to me, crucial. No blind people were employed by the Institute as office personnel or in a professional status. The Institute has programs for various disability groups. In the Program for the Blind there appear to be no blind people either in teaching or counseling capacities. How, then, I wondered, could the Rehabilitation Institute help me in locating employment if they did not have any notion about blindness, or better still, have no one on staff representing the blind community? I realize that the Job Placement Program at the Rehabilitation Institute is new in that they have not served many blind clients in finding employment, but why does the Bureau for the Blind contract with such a service provider knowing full well that blind people are not employed there? This is a step backward.

There are questions which need to be answered and services which need to be provided if the Institute is to assist blind persons to become integrated and employed in competent and competitive circumstances. A remark was made to me: "Blindness is not unique. It is like any other disability," What poor judgement!

I am told that along with Job Skills Training at the Rehabilitation Institute, the Bureau for the Blind will attempt to set up a Job Skills program to be used exclusively at the Bureau for the Blind. Why duplicate? Why not improve those services already available? What a waste of effort, time, and taxpayer dollars.

I challenge the Bureau to be innovative, use some initiative, and gather consumer input. Why not train and encourage employment of qualified blind people to fill positions where it can really count. After all, those of us in the Federation truly believe that it is respectable to be blind. We want to be taxpayers and not tax recipients. I challenge the Bureau for the Blind to think twice about contracting with an agency which does not respect blind people enough to hire them.