Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Priority Barrier

by Donna J. Jodhan

I don't think that fellow vision impaired persons would be too shocked to hear mme ask this question: Is there a priority barrier in the midst of our society? What exactly am I talking about? It is this: Do we face a priority barrier because of our blindness? A question that continues to haunt me and one that I hear several others asking on a continual basis.

Whenever a doctor says things like "Well, why should you be concerned with this because you can't see it anyway" it leaves me to wonder. Whenever a doctor deliberately turns away from me and chooses to speak to the person accompanying me, it makes me wonder if they just can't be bothered to speak to me because in their eyes I am either not much of a priority or they do not believe that I can understand what they are saying.

Whenever a customer service person tells me that it is just too costly to send me my statements or other information in an alternate format, it sure makes me feel that I am just not a priority on their radars. When governments cut programs and services that directly affect the well beings of disabled persons it is no wonder that many of us ask ourselves why. Are we not Human Beings? Persons with as much rights as our fellow Canadians? Persons who must be treated equally? For after all, we pay our taxes on time and I don't think that our government would be too amused if we were to say that we would not pay our taxes because we did not feel that we were receiving equal access to information and services.

I have had a few persons telling me in the last few weeks that they have been to meetings where it has been asked if information is going to be available in alternate formats and the overwhelming response has been that it is just too costly to provide information in alternate formats.

Nine out of 10 times, whenever budget cuts and/or job cuts take place both within private industry as well as within government departments, the cuts almost always affect the well being of the disabled. We seem to be one of the first groups to be directly affected. For some reason, we seem to be expendable in the eyes of the majority. I am wondering out loud whether this is due to the general attitude that we are not really considered as contributing members to society; economically as well as socially, probably could never be, so why should we be made a priority?

Could it be that the statement out of sight out of mind would be most suited for this editorial? Could it be that much of society would prefer not to make us a priority because they feel uncomfortable with us and vulnerable because they are afraid of becoming disabled at some point in time in their life? If the picture were angled in a different way to focus on a particular province, a particular religious group, or a particular group of persons based on language or race, chances are that they would most definitely feel the same way about being faced with a priority barrier.

Before you take the big step to call me a negative nagger, I will acknowledge that despite its existence, the priority barrier has become a bit less steep in recent years but it is threatening to rise again and will surely do so if we do not act now to start bringing it down and reducing its size to manageable proportions.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:
Donna Jodhan! Advocating accessibility for all: http://www.donnajodhan.blogspot.com
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility: http://www.sterlingcreations.ca/blog/blog.html
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns: http://www.sterlingcreations.com/businessdesk.htm

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