As the Perkins School for the Blind Chamber Singers sang the closing lines of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” on Monday, March 6, at the State House, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker was rendered momentarily speechless.
Instead of walking to the podium, he approached the choir and shook hands with each of the nine student singers.
“I hardly even know where to go from there,” he said, making his way down the line. “I’m blown away.”
Rather than reciting the official proclamation declaring March 6-11 the first-ever BlindNewWorld Week, Baker spoke from the heart about the responsibility of citizens in Massachusetts to take action to promote inclusion. An audience of nearly 100 state officials, blindness advocates and members of the visually impaired community were gathered at the Grand Staircase to celebrate “BlindNewWorld Week,” six days dedicated to breaking down barriers to inclusion for people with visual impairment.
The week-long event was organized by Perkins as part of its BlindNewWorld campaign, a social change initiative aimed at demystifying blindness. It encourages the sighted public to connect with members of the blindness community – whether by introducing themselves, as Baker did, or sharing a meal or activity.
“We want people to take some time and get out, get to know each other, and share perspectives,” said Perkins Board of Trustees Chair Corinne Grousbeck. “I think breaking down barriers begins with sitting with an individual and getting to know them on a human basis.”
BlindNewWorld Week culminates on March 11 with Blind Date, when sighted and visually impaired people across the state are encouraged to get together and socialize. As an added bonus, local restaurants and museums like Not Your Average Joe’s and the Institute for Contemporary Art in Boston are offering special perks to anyone participating.
Baker praised BlindNewWorld Week as a chance for sighted residents to find common ground with their visually impaired neighbors.
“[It’s] all about awareness and about understanding,” he said. “It usually starts with the proverbial ‘one small step,’ which then heads somebody in a direction which makes it possible for others to feel more included.”
To learn more about BlindNewWorld Week, including a list of suggested activities, visit BlindNewWorld.org.