(Doing it all) while blind

New MBTA ad campaign from Perkins highlights the incredible talents and abilities of people with blindness

An advertisement hanging inside a subway car

If you didn't think people who are blind could skydive, think again.

January 27, 2017

What do skiing, runway modeling and rock climbing have in common? If you live in Boston and take the bus to work, you may already know the answer.

“(Blank) while blind,” a new MBTA ad campaign sponsored by Perkins School for the Blind, features striking photos of people who are blind doing all those activities and more. There’s a skier speeding down a mountain, a model strutting her stuff on a catwalk and a climber defying gravity while clinging to a sheer rock face.

The campaign kicked off this week with hundreds of print advertisements popping up inside MBTA buses, subway cars and commuter rail stations. A 15-second video featuring the images is now on rotation at high-traffic stations like Back Bay and Kenmore Square.

Viewed separately or together, the eye-catching advertisements challenge viewers to rethink their assumptions about what people who are blind can do. Surfing while blind? Check. Skydiving while blind? No problem.

“(Blank) while blind” is an extension of BlindNewWorld, a social-change initiative led by Perkins to promote greater understanding and inclusion of people with blindness. The BlindNewWorld logo is emblazoned on the campaign posters alongside the slogan “Change the way you see.”

Perkins educator Kate Katulak is the skydiving enthusiast whose photo appears in the campaign. In it, she’s soaring through the sky, her expression a mixture of exhilaration and pure delight. The photo makes it clear: this woman’s blindness isn’t holding her back.    

“I just want to experience all there is in life,” Katulak said. “I like to karaoke, I like to sing. I like adventure sports and running.”

She’s not alone. More than 7 million Americans are blind or visually impaired, and most of them aren’t sitting at home. In Boston, thousands of people with visual impairment ride the bus or subway every day, said Laura Brelsford, MBTA assistant general manager for system-wide accessibility.  

That figure might surprise people, she said, which is one of the reasons the MBTA is partnering with Perkins to bring its message of inclusion to its estimated half-million daily riders.

“We hope the BlindNewWorld campaign serves as a reminder that blindness doesn't prevent people from enjoying everyday life – on or off the T,” Brelsford said.