I’m proud that we have a State Commission for the Blind in Massachusetts, and I believe that when lobbyists fought for an agency separating the blind from those with other disabilities, they meant well. It’s not that persons with other disabilities don’t need a supporting agency. Of course they do. However, many people in the disability community fear that if you lump the blind in with others with disabilities under the same agency umbrella, the blind will drop to the bottom of the barrel as far as support and attention are concerned. I don’t know that for a fact, but I agree with this public fear. In fact, I know many people with other types of disabilities, especially those with developmental disabilities, who have jobs. But that’s not true of the majority of blind people in this country, no matter how well educated they may be, or how hard they try to obtain jobs. As a blind consumer, and as someone who wants to live as normal a life as possible, I have certain expectations of a Commission for the Blind which I feel are quite reasonable. While I don’t think that Commissions for the Blind should figuratively hold our hands and guide us through life in every way possible, I feel that when we have obstacles put in front of us because we’re blind, the Commissions should advocate for us more than they do. For example, if I go on a job interview, and if my potential employer refuses to offer me reasonable accommodation to help me on the job, I would much prefer that a powerful agency, which is responsible for knowing the laws, step in and help. While there are blind people with enough knowledge to be their own advocates, many are not trained to be—yet they have the same rights as those of us who are. On one occasion, I was asked by a potential employer to describe the nature of the adaptive technology that would help me with my job. Because I knew I couldn’t explain it to his satisfaction, I counted on the Commission for the Blind to explain it, because the Commission employs computer engineers in this field, people who know all there is to know about such technology. If I decide to go for an extended period of job training at a company that will ultimately reward me with a job, either on their premises or here at home, I expect the Commission for the Blind to play a role in the process, especially where it comes to easing the employer’s doubts in every way possible. Many employers will think of ways not to hire a blind person, and will exercise these ways in a manner where we can’t prove they’re practicing discrimination. Commissions for the Blind have many professionals who can motivate employers to think outside the box by considering blind people for jobs.
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