I’m writing this on my Mac, with a pair of headphones attached to my Yeti microphone. Thankfully, the website is accessible, after all this is WordPress we’re talking about. The National Federation of the Blind, the presumed oldest and largest organization of the organized blind, is doing much better at addressing a lot of issues that we the blind have to face on a daily basis. Here are the highlights and what still needs to be addressed in resolutions for this organization.
- First and foremost, Uber and Lyft and guide dogs was addressed. This is a great start to a huge problem, something that so many friends of mine have reported on using social media platforms, more on those later, but so many guide dog handlers have been denied service on Uber and Lyft because of their dogs. This is clear discrimination, and reeducation of certain drivers is not what the NFB wanted to begin with. Let’s break down the demographic of Uber and Lyft drivers. Take those in Dearborn, Michigan, a large Muslim city. The drivers might say that dogs are dirty, which in the Islamic sense, yes, dogs are supposed to be forbidden as pets in Muslim homes. However, I have an example of a Muslim lady who has a guide dog, though she’s never brought the dog to mosque as far as I know. Ginny Quick is amazingly capable of putting up with two kids, and if she wanted Lyft or Uber, she would need it. No matter what the situation is, a driver should never deny Ms. Quick a ride to anything from her prenatal visits if she chooses to have a child, to her son’s or daughter’s doctor’s appointments. This is highly important stuff. Ginny and I have been friends a while, and I sometimes wonder how she would handle denials on uber or Lyft in Winter Haven, or another locale in Florida. Dearborne is a strong Muslim community, however, and getting people to abide by a service animal policy might be tricky over there. The NFB must have some more efforts to educate the Middle Easterners who tend to populate the transport industry, i.e. Lyft or Uber or medical transit, about the importance of service dogs such as guiding dogs, hearing ear dogs for the deaf, medical alert and wheelchair dogs, many other types of hero dogs that help the disabled.
- The NFB finally addresses Facebook accessibility. I hope it passes, but I’ve heard lots of complaints about that too. People have often complained about Facebook and its buggy feature set or sets of features that don’t include the blind. For one, we live in an increasingly pictorial world that doesn’t like the blind. Even in kindergarten class, you see many pictorial worksheets that don’t exactly include the blind child or parent helping a sighted child learn their ABC’s and 123’s. How the hell is anyone going to be included on Facebook with the ever infamous “awesome text background” some people complained about? Text embedded in images often can’t be read, so I am shy about asking friends “What did that picture say?” Imagine my horror at asking these folks, sighted as they are, about images with text and faces I can’t see. I have to tel them that the FB AI algorithm can’t tell me what their text image says. So the NFB has this right.
- Scooters. Boy this is interesting. Scooters are going to be a huge problem. I’m sorry, but we need to make a world safe for blind pedestrians because these scooters, according to the NFB resolutions, are dangerous and don’t seem to make noise. If the Trump administration wants to allow electric cars to be silent, however, the same scenario could happen with these dangerous scooters. And why should anyone write the number and company name on the scooter in Braille? With only 10% of blind people literate, how is that going to help? I could benefit from the format thing, but then what about the phone apps for filing complaints? This is a good resolution, but I’m going to have to play Devil’s advocate here and ask some very important questions. Do the sighted scooter manufacturers understand the consequences of making scooters at all on sidewalks? And laws regulating the placement of such are only going to make some irate drunk sighted people mad. Like this, “Why should we have to accommodate a bunch of blind people? They’re a small niche population, so I or We don’t have to do anything for them.” And the government and current administration’s views on blind people, with the exception of books, has been degrading and at best very belittling toward blind people. Trump is only going to care about what benefits him and his white rich cronies, and doesn’t seem to care about the welfare of anyone, not even the blind, immigrants, and so on and so forth. So scooter legislation might not fly with this administration, so I think the NFB should urge them to be elected out of office as soon as possible in order for the scooter thing to work.
- Next, secret ballots. I had to have someone mark a ballot for me recently because we don’t live near an accessible polling place. Ugh. So the NFB’s views on this is refreshing. Thank you for this one. They basically said that the accessible marking devices should be made usable for all disabled voters, and they should have more of those in polling places. If only it were that simple.
- There are two resolutions dealing with 14C of the FLSA, or Fair Labor Standards Act. Exploitative companies are still paying disabled people pennies per hour. And there’s more to this story. The NFB is really pushing demands that 14C be dropped and competitive employment be found for disabled people. If only that were simple. According to this resolution, parents and guardians push 14C on anyone who will listen, pretty much, to paraphrase it all. I would never do this, even if I was the guardian or parent of a child with a disability. Why? Because 14C doesn’t let the disabled one buy a decent house or apartment, buy good food, or stay out of an abusive group home situation. More on that later.
- Chemistry exams are a thing now? The NFB is pushing for access to chemistry exams. What a wonder. I took chemistry in Braille, and I daresay I pulled either an A or B in this. Ms. Hinkle, a friend of mine’s mom, was the chemistry teacher, and I got extra credit for writing and entering in an essay for a science contest. I wrote about the then popular JAWS, job access with speech, for windows. What I should have written about is screen access software, but none of the other software really hit it off till later. If Ms. Hinkle knew that the chemistry tests were not doable, she’d be mad. She’s since retired, who knew. But I hope never to have to take bio, chem, and physics ever again. If my child has to manipulate diagrams then I know that a blind person would never succeed in chemistry, not because of the science itself or the student, but the access buriers. Those need to go, and the NFB’s position is clear.
- I think the NFB should address Hulu, but it does address the authenticity of blind characters in entertainment. Sighted women should not play blind women. Whitewashing should be illegal too. But offensively portraying my kind of person is a real big insult to me. As a blind woman, I don’t want to be portrayed as a slut, a miserable oaf, or worse, dead. Blind women are not portrayed well by the sighted, and consulting a blind writer of script and a blind actress is what the NFB said in its resolution would work for everyone. Try telling that to the BET, CBS, CW, and so many entertainment outlets. Playing someone with multiple disabilities should be done by the multihandicapped actresses and actors as well.
- Wow. As if it gets better, they finally passed or adopted a resolution on website accessibility in all forms. It’s pretty much saying that we need this kind of thing, no matter what, and that we must be able to use websites independently regardless of the situation. There is also a resolution on digital tech and appliances and exercise equipment. My friends who can’t or won’t exercise would be happy to know that at least the NFB agrees with me in that these machines should be made to be accessible, should talk, and that technology is out there in a low cost form to make these things usable for a blind person. Same with glucometers and medical devices. We must be able to exist in the world, and the NFB is all too aware of this.
Here are a few things they’ve improved on within the family as one man puts it.
- The code of conduct. The NFB resolution on intersectionality is a good step forward, but the NFB should prove its worth by electing a black person to be its president nationally, or electing a woman to lead the organization. Mark Riccobono and his ACB cohort Kim Carlsen are both white, though Kim being a woman is still a step forward. The Federation must elect a black woman who is blind, and that will show its commitment to addressing the intersectionality issues facing blind people of color, blind Native Americans, blind gays, etc. I know too many blind LGBTQI’s who meet this criteria. I know an intersex woman in Canada who is Sikh, black blind people, a gay blind man who is married to a sighted gay guy, transgenders who are blind, and more. Yes, I see all of you who intersect between communities, and I know the NFB is working toward common ground with these folks, but they still have a long way to go.
- Let’s address a real family affair. Intimacy with those folks who don’t want to have sex is a bit odd to some people, but this convention and other conferences with blind people tend to be called “blind fuckfests” or “blind mating season” for some strange reasons: blind men in particular use the conventions as a vagina shop so they can rest their penises in places they’ve never been before, to quote Rodney Carrington in a strange way. These blind adults should have been taught consent, and while the NFB is working to address this stuff in their code of conduct, I hope they fully educate youth first about consent and sexual etiquette as it relates to sexting and social media and … yes, dick pics. Blind boys can and could send girls dick pics. For more on the uses of social media for sex, read the book American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales. It is narrated by Teres Plumber, and is available on Bard.
- NLS bard on android. While the NFB did address graphics on Bard, I think a more important issue is how to get those graphics on electronics and a one page display that is cheap in the hands of all blind people who want it. But then, android doesn’t have robust Braille support, and the NFB has seemingly given up on our friends with Android devices. Amazon Fire kindle tablets have Braille support, period. Apple seems to have the most robust Braille things, but Android and its NLS bard app need work.
- Blind female rape survivors need support from the NFB. Yes, I kid you not. Especially those women who are raped in high school. I could name ten females I know personally who have been raped, and the reports coming out of the #whyIdidn’treport hashtag have been numerous and gory. Some resulted in unwanted pregnancy that the female should not have to keep. Some families are abusive outright toward blind females, and that could cost them their lives. Take Kelly M. Bond, a young woman from Tennessee that I didn’t know but my friend Lacey knows of her. Lacey suspected her murder while reading her obituary, which did not give her justice or attention. Katelyn Reichert is another victim of rape who might have been tossed out by her family, but now she rests in the arms of Goddess or God or whatever deity she worshipped, and I hope she comes back for some revenge on the family who tried to break her. This kind of behavior is unacceptable in any organization, and the NFB should act as a go between for families with females who are blind who are suffering abuse as a result of blindness i.e. rape, guardianship, isolation. Whatever it is, the NFB isn’t addressing it.
- Guardianship cases are still not being addressed by either organization. Does the community give a crap about those of us whose parents don’t feel we’re capable? They silence us when we discuss some things about civil rights. They tell us to “be grateful” or be punished for standing up for ourselves. This is also unacceptable behavior by a family. My family stole fifteen years of my life, not allowing me to enjoy my young life at all. They stole my prom tickets, took away my grad bash opportunity by saying I wasn’t capable of whatever I wanted to do, took my friends away by abusing me emotionally and verbally, and did not want me to go to Colorado to begin with because of their state guardianship. Well, it took them too long to realize I was indeed capable of doing the things I wanted to do. After repeated attempts to get organizations to listen, nobody has. It has fallen on deaf ears. What will happen if my child is removed from me by order of a red governor? What about if a child of mine visits my parents, and my dad decides to take a sick pleasure in raping his granddaughter? She will be mixed heritage likely, so you know what happens when white fathers find black girls in their families. Not all the time, but it’s an old habit. Slavery allowed white men to rape black women, and their ancestors did not like it at all. The products of rape by white fathers were frequently sold into slavery. I won’t have this happen to my child, whether my parents have guardianship or not. We won’t be in Titusville for any amount of time in Florida at all. And besides, there’s a Rabies warning in Orange County at this moment of press time because feral cats scratched a performer or two, and they needed shots. Ugh. The NFB should know that their silence is unacceptable and should never have happened. They should compensate me and other victims of guardianship a vast amount of time, money, and therapy. The NFB of Colorado in particular is not invited to me and Trenton’s wedding because of their actions regarding me and this other guy whose name I won’t mention. Only two people from the entire blind community will be there: Davina and another guy Eddie who’s been friends with Trenton forever. Problem is that Trenton hasn’t been on FB in a while.
Now, if the NFB wants to get better at doing what it does best,
- Please listen to your guts and help victims of rape.
- Do not allow slut shamers in your organization. Blind women are more at risk of being abused, so slut and whore should never be spoken in meetings or in private if you truly believe we should be above the sighted.
- Help blind victims of guardianship abuse.
- Do not advocate guardianship for those with multiple disabilities, and replace the entire one person system with supportive decision making with a team and so on. Do not allow families to have guardianship over members, preventing them from joining in NFB activities and so on. This would have saved all of us from harm.
- They should reverse all bans on me in the NFB email listserv forums. I’m this close to saying why. NFB should be helping victims of rape, and I tried to paint a true picture of what blind females go through at convention time, in centers, in all places and walks of life. I’m honest and blunt about these issues, and all the NFB people in power did was silence and deny me the right to speak on my behalf. This is unacceptable censorship, and should be labeled as such. I left all the NFB Net lists for that reason, and those of you reading my blog, you guys should know why I left. It was because not only have there been cases of females being raped and harassed in and out of the NFB, but nobody seems to want to help these women cope with their traumatic happenings. For more on this, I would recommend reading some books on rape and trauma, but my favorite is I have the Right To, and it’s by Chess Prout. She writes candidly about surviving sexual assault, and much of this applies to blind girls in high school too. Though this girl went to a prep school in New Hampshire, I think it would apply especially if a blind girl was involved in a non boarding school. The girl would indeed need extensive therapy, and her community needs to stand behind her. None of that happened here with the female victims of rape, and they should come forward themselves to report it. Without consequence, I want to help these young women. I could name so many people who’ve told stories in the #whyIdidn’treport thing I saw all over Facebook. This organization’s response to my concern is why I would have never reported my ex for rape in the beginning. While we did have consensual relations, this man is still dangerous and has bad energy floating around him. He has tried to make it right, but I’m glad to say I won’t fall for his crap. I am going to crusade on behalf of his victims, not him, and my ex has become a sort of phenomenon among the blind women I’ve spoken to.
If you are in the NFB or ACB and want to add to this, please feel free. I think the NFB is setting things up for success, but they still have a long way to go to being a safe space for all blind people, including blind women. Victims of guardianship abuse and civil rights abuses should be welcomed, and no guardian should have the right to curb members from doing what they want to do. Period.