It’s a campaign that will shatter stereotypes, transform behaviors, inspire inclusion and, ultimately, change the world.
It’s BlindNewWorld, an ambitious social change campaign sponsored by Perkins School for the Blind that’s taking a head-on approach to challenging society’s fears and misunderstandings about blindness.
“We want to change the way people see,” said Perkins Board Chair Corinne Grousbeck as she announced the campaign at Perkins’ annual Gala on May 5. “And we’re going to start right now.”
The BlindNewWorld campaign features two short films showing how sighted people in various real-world situations can either marginalize or welcome people with blindness. The films are designed to make viewers reexamine their own feelings about people with visual impairment.
BlindNewWorld also features an interactive website with personal vignettes about situations that confront people who are blind on a daily basis, as well as practical tips on how to be more hospitable to people without vision in your community or workplace.
“The goal is to start a conversation about blindness, to demystify it,” said Grousbeck. “That’s the first step towards greater understanding, awareness and empathy.”
BlindNewWorld was inspired by Grousbeck’s desire to change the world for her son, Campbell, who graduated from Perkins in 2014. As a mother, Grousbeck has witnessed all forms of prejudice: strangers expressing sympathy for her son’s “condition,” people staring at Campbell as he used a white cane to walk beside her and more.
A recent survey commissioned by Perkins confirmed what Grousbeck already suspected – more than half of respondents reported feeling uncomfortable around people who are blind and 80 percent said they pitied people with visual impairments.
“No matter how much we prepare our students… they cannot be successful if people aren’t comfortable being around them,” Grousbeck said. “I will not lose hope that this world can be a better place for people like Campbell. And I will not stop until it is.”
Since BlindNewWorld’s launch, thousands of individuals and organizations have rallied around the cause. Within a week, the #BlindNewWorld hashtag racked up 13 million impressions on social media, catching the attention of people all over the country. Nearly 20,000 people already follow the campaign on Facebook and other social media sites, and the short films have been viewed more than 150,000 times.
This groundswell of support is energizing to BlindNewWorld spokesperson Kate Katulak, a teacher at Perkins. Like many people who are blind, Katulak often finds herself going out of her way to make sighted people feel comfortable.
“I’ve never been ashamed of being blind, but sometimes I find myself fighting so hard to prove my worth and show people that I’m normal, that I’m fun, that I might be someone they want to get to know,” she said. “We as a society need to change the way people view blindness. The change starts today.”