Advocating By Social Media

With over a billion people worldwide using Face book and other social media, we have a bigger platform than ever to raise awareness of our capabilities as people who are blind. Of course, we at Boldly Blind do this frequently in our blog posts. From the YouTube demonstration of a cooking lesson to a video clip of a goalball game, people can see us in action.

That’s why I encourage fellow advocates to make use of the visual media. Our sighted friends and neighbors depend on showing more than telling to grasp what may seem obvious to you and me. And the more our friends and neighbors see us who are blind going to and from work, ordering food at a restaurant, voting on Election Day, and so forth the more they will know we walk the same path of life they do.

It amazes me still how much more than just social games and fun you can pull up on Ticktock, for example. And the video clips aren’t just short here-and-there ditties. You can really show someone going curb to curb from home to work or a center for independent living or just on an afternoon stroll. People who are sighted need you to point these examples out, especially if you are the only person they know who is blind. That YouTube video of a guide dog in action with his handler, of which we’ve featured several on this blog, can give that supervisor confidence that his new employee can travel to work while letting his furry pair of eyes guide him through hallways, into coworkers’ offices or classrooms, and then to the waiting transit for going home.

Maybe, there’s a mother or father who wonders how their teenage daughter will do with cooking in an apartment-style dorm when off at college. YouTube videos abound showing the tricks of the trade from organizing a kitchen to using appliances like a liquid measurer or talking meat thermometer. The trick for us as self-advocates is knowing where to look for the resources.

Google Is Our Friend.

The search engine is a great place to start. Say you want to look for videos of someone using a computer. Thanks to Sendero and Freedom Scientific, among many software distributors, you can find lots of examples if someone wants to see a well-adjusted person who’s blind interacting with a screen reader.

After all, one of the big fears that a parent, employer, teacher or neighbor might have is how they might react if they were blind themselves. It’s an understandable fear. Yet, since we are all advocates to a smaller or greater extent, we can show people in various parts of the U.S. or around the world doing the same tasks we want to do as independent, self-confident people. Exposing someone to what we do or are learning to do will help remove the mystery or hero perception that many have about us as we venture out as part of the big world “out there.”

So if asked for a video or proof of someone who’s blind teaching class , you can show them after searching, for example, “blind+teacher+classroom.” Or you can bring up videos of a blind wrestler by searching on Google for YouTube videos to show others.

Even beyond answering friends’ or family member’s questions or concerns, sharing videos on Facebook regularly exposes sighted friends to the world that is completely normal for us. After all, what do many folks look at on Facebook but videos of friends at a picnic, hanging out for a birthday party, or laughing over something funny like a cat’s goofy face when playing? We don’t have to see the pics of puppies in training ourselves to educate our friends about the preparation it takes before a dog is ready to be a guide. We don’t have to have gone to a school like World Services for the Blind or The Helen Keller Center to show friends that job training is available for us. Posting clips from these schools’ websites can educate people we know about the opportunities we have to become contributing members of society.

Sometimes, it takes a bit of prompting for friends, coworkers, or classmates to become inquisitive beyond their learned perceptions of the blindness community. Yes, we’ve got a lot of regulations and legal clauses in place to safeguard our rights in public. Yet, more importantly, we can provide those means of getting beyond the narrow scope that learned prejudice provides. Ours is the opportunity to show our community being bold, capable, interactive, and contributing in the public square. So post those videos of a guide dog handler and his furry four-legged friend. Link your post to a speech given at one of our ACB or NFB conventions. Share that video of a person who’s blind explaining the notetaker she uses.

Then likes can lead to questions and questions to further discussion. And all the while we keep raising awareness and encouraging each other, being boldly blind.

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