Transitioning into adulthood brings increased responsibilities, and the opportunity to experience unfamiliar situations. Sometimes, these situations cause challenges, and require us, as people who are visually impaired, to advocate for our needs. Advocacy can feel intimidating, but it is necessary to increase the public’s view of the abilities of people who are blind.
My first experience of advocating for myself was in the seventh grade. My Orientation and Mobility instructor asked me to visit a grocery store and request assistance from a clerk to find items. I called the store, provided the approximate time on which I would arrive, and explained that I was totally blind. The person on the phone told me that I was welcome to shop at their store and that I should look for any staff wearing green jackets for assistance. For someone who is blind, finding a person in a green jacket is impossible. I sent a letter to the store manager asking that their staff receive training on helping a visually impaired person locate an employee. A few weeks later, I called the store and was told to report to the courtesy booth for assistance. Upon getting to the courtesy booth, an employee immediately approached me to help with my shopping.
More recently, I have been advocating for braille menus in restaurants. Being able to read a menu independently allows me to choose the item which sounds appealing, and lets everyone continue conversing while making a selection. A few months ago, I learned that “Not Your Average Joe’s” and the “Chateau Restaurant” no longer had braille menus. I was disappointed, and sent a letter to their corporate office to inquire why menus were no longer available. Restaurant executives promptly replied that braille menus are important, but were unfamiliar with which companies could produce a menu in an alternative format. I was encouraged by their open-minded approach, and provided a few resources to help locate a transcription agency. As of now, “Not Your Average Joe’s” has braille menus, and I’m hopeful “Chateau Restaurant” will have accessible menus soon.
When advocating for anything that you feel is important, please keep in mind these strategies:
As we go through the holiday season, it is crucial that we are thankful for the advancements which have made the lives of people with visual impairments better. Many of these changes resulted from advocacy by people who paved the way for us. I hope we can continue to use advocacy strategies to improve our lives and the lives of the next generation of people who are blind.
By Tim Vernon