I know that October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, but I had no idea until recently that the 15th has the specific designation of being Blind Americans Equality Day.
For a historical perspective, on October 6, 1964, Congress proclaimed October 15th White Cane Safety Day. The purpose of that proclamation was to recognize the contributions of Americans who are blind or have low vision. Forty-seven years later, President Barack Obama has made significant strides in encouraging the achievements and enhancing the safety of persons who are blind or vision impaired. On January 1, 2011, for example, the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act was passed. What makes that law so significant is its mandate that manufacturers of electric and hybrid cars add sound to their vehicles. In addition to being more easily heard, this legislation also requires companies to make these cars easier to see as well.
On October 14, 2011, the president designated October 15th as “Blind Americans Equality Day,” a proclamation in which the president first addressed disability inclusion and achievements from a cross-population perspective. More specifically about blind Americans, the president then said, “Generations of blind and visually impaired Americans have dedicated their passion and skills to enhancing our national life-leading as public servants, penning works of literature, lending their voice to music, and inspiring as champions of sport. On Blind Americans Equality Day, we celebrate the achievements of blind and visually impaired Americans and reaffirm our commitment to advancing their complete social and economic integration (Proclamation 8739).
President Obama went on to highlight disability legislation like the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act which created technology regulations that are especially beneficial to persons who are blind or vision impaired.
Though I don’t support all of President Obama’s positions, I can’t commend him enough for his disability inclusion, especially regarding those of us who are blind or vision impaired.
Please tell us in Reader’s Forum what you, or the community you live in, will be doing to celebrate Blind Americans Equality Day. Here in Pittsburgh, children’s book author Sally Alexander, who became blind as an adult and is also a motivational speaker, will be the keynote speaker at the City of Pittsburgh/Allegheny County Task Force on Persons with Disabilities meeting.