Let's Celebrate Disability Independence Day!
Today we celebrate the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), on July 26th, 1990. This new legislation meant workplace discrimination because of a disability, was now illegal, and access to goods, services and information for everyone, became mandatory.
32 years later, with improved accessibility both online and in physical spaces, and a wider general awareness of inclusion, we’ve come a long way since 1990. Although many environmental and social barriers still exist for people with disabilities, we shouldn’t underestimate the value of celebrating endeavors and successes too. This sentiment is at the heart of our community and our blog, InTouch. We share stories and visions to promote inclusion, acknowledge achievements and support each other. As a community, we can learn, inspire and advocate together.
So today, on National Disability Independence Day, we celebrate two nonprofit organizations who inspire independence in people who are blind or experiencing sight loss. The ADA was a turning point for inclusion, but these organizations create turning points every day, for individuals hoping to regain their independence after sight loss. They are a life-line to those they support, but often work quietly, away from the spotlight. So, we’d like to introduce you to two outstanding organizations that we support and value (and we hope you will too!).
Credit: Blind Spot
Mac is a sweet little boy who was born blind. His parents had never met anyone who was visually impaired before and found themselves learning to bring up a child who can’t see. They soon realized they couldn’t give Mac the experiences that sighted children had, because events and spaces were not accessible for a child who is blind. They also noticed people around them didn’t know how to interact with Mac, nor could they see how he could adapt to life in a sighted world. This is why Mac’s parents founded Blind Spot.
Credit: Blind Spot
Raising the bar
Blind Spot’s mission is to improve the quality of life for those who are visually impaired, through education of their sighted peers. They want every individual to have the confidence to achieve their dreams, regardless of whether they can see. Their vision is that the sighted world should see past the visual impairment and appreciate individuals for who they are and what they are capable of.
Blind Spot aims to build empathy through bringing people who are sighted and blind together, so more people can see what can be achieved without sight. They push for those with blindness to be seen as capable of achieving amazing things and for society to raise their expectations.
Credit: Blind Spot
Blind Spot x RoKC Climbing Event
Mac is now 5 years old and loves climbing. He was recently taunted by another child who said, “blind people can’t climb.” Blind Spot believed that many adults, although they wouldn’t express it in this unkind way, shared that view.
Thanks to many generous donors, Blind Spot recently hosted an inclusive climbing experience at RoKC in Olathe, Kansas. This event brought together 175 people, blind and sighted, who climbed together, and learned together. Those who were sighted, climbed blindfolded, next to their visually impaired peers.
Here is what just one sighted climber had to say about the event:
"This was more than a climbing exercise for my family. This led to beautiful conversation about how those who are blind manage their day to day, about Mac, about blindness in general, and how they have to learn without using sight. Thank you!"
Creating a lasting impression and significant change in the perceptions of those who are sighted is a big step in removing social barriers for those who are blind. Congratulations to Blind Spot on such an awesome event!
Here at Eone, we’ve been proud supporters of Blind Spot, donating timepieces for their fundraising events. Find out more about Blind Spot and support their next event at blindspotkc.org
Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey (VLANJ)
Skills for Independence
To live independently and cultivate a uniquely meaningful life, an individual who is blind or visually impaired needs certain skills, to navigate and access a world that was built for people who can see. VLANJ empower those with vision loss to build the life they choose, by giving them those skills, through education, and training. Their programs cover practical independent living skills like cooking, orientation and mobility and assistive technology. They also offer programs that focus on emotional wellbeing. This two-pronged approach, develops the skills and emotional strength needed for individuals with vision loss to create their own version of independence.
A sense of belonging
For someone who is blind or visually impaired, inclusion can be a long journey. That journey is at the heart of what we do at Eone, and VLANJ also recognizes how important inclusion can be. As well as skills-based training, they also offer programs designed to help build that sense of belonging. Belonging means feeling safe, connected, listened to and valued. Teaching personal safety, self-advocacy and orientation and mobility all help individuals build connections.
By combining orientation and mobility training in the community, with visits to local businesses, restaurants, museums, banks and other organizations, participants get the opportunity to talk to business owners. The participants educate them on how their business could be more inclusive for someone with vision loss, sharing advice on accessibility and the appropriate way to guide, interact, and share information with a blind or visually impaired customer. This is a great way to build proximity, add real value and raise awareness in the community. All these things contribute to that all important sense of belonging.
A wider reach
For 79 years, VLANJ has tirelessly served the low vision and blind community of the state of New Jersey, but their effective response to the global pandemic in 2020 allowed them to reach more people who needed their support, than ever before. They pivoted, apparently seamlessly, to online programs, but it took many hours of hard work from the team to get even the least tech savvy participants familiar with Zoom. They were determined no one would be left behind. As the programs grew in popularity, the team welcomed participants from across the globe. Two years on, VLANJ are once again offering in-person programs, but their online offerings continue to attract both participants and expert speakers from around the world.
Eone are pleased to support VLANJ’s annual fundraising event, ‘Dining in the Dark’ on October 26th, 2022. We’ll be donating timepieces for auction and sharing stories to inspire, to help this small but mighty team, keep reaching those who need their support. Find out more about VLANJ and how you can support them too, at vlanj.org
Happy Disability Independence Day to you all! Let’s remember to celebrate those who work tirelessly to support individuals who are blind or visually impaired on their journey to independence.