Op Ed with Bob Branco – Lack of Skill Results in Labeling

Yesterday, I had a rather humbling experience which I would like to share with all of you. I was talking on the phone with a fellow blind person about how he needed to send me some written material. When he admitted that he didn’t know how to send an email, I wasn’t surprised because many of us, blind or sighted, can’t do that. However, he also told me that he didn’t know how to mail a letter the old fashioned way. I paused for several seconds while trying to figure out how an adult blind man couldn’t put a stamp on an envelope and drop it in a mailbox. I realize that some of us do not have access to a mailbox, yet we still get the job done. This man couldn’t get the job done, and that’s why I am writing this column.

There are blind people in my community who take this very personally, because they regard this man’s unwillingness to learn how to mail a letter as the direct result of being blind, and that it’s men like him who give us the reputation of being stumbling, bumbling, lazy people when we’re not.

Am I saying that the blind need to be perfect in order to put an end to this unfair reputation? No, because not only are there certain things I can’t do, but there are things that many sighted people can’t do as well. To go further with my point, I don’t use my blindness as the reason why I can’t do certain things. What excuse would the sighted have? I know how to change a light bulb, and have done so thousands of times, yet I know a sighted woman who actually told me that she doesn’t know how.

I could go on all day about how society excuses the sighted because we can’t regard sight as the result of someone’s lack of ability to perform a task, while it’s easy for society to say that the blind use their disability as a reason for not doing something, whether it’s true or not. Instead, I will concentrate on this man’s lack of knowledge of how to mail a letter, because I honestly believe that if he had sight, he’d know how to do it. Therefore, I would encourage him to learn despite his blindness, if, for no other reason, it lessens the desire for the rest of the blind community to be labeled by society as incapable.

I will bet that if I asked this guy why he couldn’t mail a letter, he’d tell me it was because he is blind. That, my friends, sums it all up.

Where do you stand on this issue? Let us know in the Reader’s Forum.

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