The Road Best Traveled


The Road Best Traveled

     Katy and Bill became friends during summer camps at their state's school for the blind. Now in their early twenties, Katy graduated with honors in literature and has become very interested in studying disability; Bill graduated with honors in psychology and is looking for a job far from the blindness or disability field.

      "Katy, how great to see you again," Bill said as he joined her at their favorite cafe. "Can you believe that after all our doubts in the pre-college program, we actually got our BAs?"

      "You're telling me!" Katy said, laughing, but also beaming with pride. "I never thought I'd be walking across that stage! Nobody did."

     "So now what? Is there life after college?" Bill asked, joking, but anxiously tearing up his napkin and rolling the pieces into tiny balls.

      "You bet there is!" Katy said. "I applied to a Masters program at State and got in for fall. I loved literature so much that I'm going to go for it. I'm thinking I'll do my thesis on disability. Want to be one of my anonymous subjects?"

     Bill remained silent for a moment, and then asked: "Why? I thought people who wanted to study themselves did psychology! Didn't college teach you to get past all this blindness stuff?"

      "Sure it did," Katy responded, a little defensive. "But it's really interesting. There's this new field called disability studies that considers disability as a characteristic just like being a person of color, gay, or female. It looks at disability as shaped by society rather than by the condition, so it's a great way to understand how blind people have been oppressed. The way I look at it, I'm killing two birds with one stone: I'm getting something for me, but I'm also an expert and get to participate in changing attitudes toward blind people."

      "Katy, we've been friends for years now," Bill said. "But this sounds like you're selling out or something. I mean, just because we're blind doesn't mean we have to do 'all blindness, all the time.' Sure, I got my degree in psych, just like a lot of blind people. Since then, I've tried really hard not to get pigeon-holed into being the blind guy sitting in a ghetto with a bunch of other blind people."

     come on Bill!" Katy said, exasperated. "Why are you so down on blind people? There's a whole lot of interesting books and history that people have barely touched about the blind. And who do you think SHOULD be doing this work, a bunch of sighted people who really don't get it?"

      "Just think about all the people who taught us in that pre-college summer program we did four years ago," Bill reminded Katy. "There are too many blind workers and educators stuck in the blindness system. They don't say it like that, but it's true. It's like they never left the sheltered workshops. It seems to me, if you want to change what it means to be blind, you've got to move out into other careers where people don't expect to see blind people, not take the course of least resistance."

      Katy thought for a moment, then said, "Look, the unemployment rate among blind people is over seventy percent. So realistically, it's important that we get jobs where we can. Besides, if an athlete becomes a soccer coach, does anyone jump all over them for doing what they're good at or feel comfortable with?"

     "I just think it sends the wrong message if the only places blind people have careers is in blindness things. There's a big world out there."

e-mail responses to

**1. In my opinion, both Katy and Bill make some good points. Many people have asked me if I planned to work in the blindness field when I'm older (I'm a 17-year-old High School junior now). I said I didn't want to, but for a different reason than the one Bill stated: I don't like the negative philosophy most blind-related companies, in which mainly sighted people work, have about the blind. Later I've thought about it: maybe, if blind people would work in such companies, they could help them change and therefore change the attitudes about blindness in general. Here in the Netherlands, services for the blind are often quite bad; the (sighted) managers of the companies expect us to be very incapable. For example, special ed is provided at a very low level and inclusion isn't very easy, libraries don't expect us to need modern books that are required at public schools (which an increasing number of students still attend) and most likely we will be expected to do no or low-paying jobs. Fortunately, attitudes are slowly changing, so that blind people get to have increasingly more opportunities for good jobs and full, independent lives. However, there remain things we need to strive and fight for. As I said, most blind people here still are not expected to have completely "normal" lives and therefore services remain too bad, possibly cause service providers think the blind don't need them. And who can better fight for our rights and change the attitudes about blind people, than the blind themselves? I therefore disagree with the person who says blind people shouldn't work in the blindness field. Indeed, it may be right that a blind person working in the blindness field will be seen as "lower" than a blind person working in other fields, but that doesn't count to blind people in general when many blind people work in the blindness field. Indeed a blind person will probably receive less respect when he/she works in the blindness field than in a "normal" job, but his/her efforts to change the blind-related field will help the blind a lot.

I myself don't want to work in the blindness field, as I want to work together with and for all people, not especially for the blind/disabled. But that definitely doesn't mean I don't want to bring blind people's needs to the notice and do things for the blind, cause I also think society needs to be taught about how independent blind people are and what they therefore need - which you don't reach on just having a good, non-blindness field job. It probably ain't very easy to change the blindness-related services when you don't work in the field, so I am thankful there are both blind people who want to work in the disability field to change that field's attitudes and blind people who will have a "normal" job to teach society that people with disabilities are equal to everyone else.

Astrid van Woerkom (Netherlands)

**2. I respond to this story on several levels:

My personal history
My career path
My view of social change
My view of the market place for blind workers

My personal history: Always the only blind guy around except during a short stay at the Oregon School for the Blind. Always accepted on the terms that I defined with my school mates, both public and college. So, the external pigeon holing didn't occur.

My career path: With a Masters degree in rehab counseling, chosen by me because it was a potential power position -- helping people with true resources at my finger tips, I was offered a position with the Oregon Commission for the Blind. I elected to go with general rehab, even if it took longer to find a position. When exploring the offer, I found myself expressing expectations of the blind rehab clients who would potentially be walking through my door. They were heavily soothed by my personal experience. I did it without people holding my hand, so what's wrong with you? I concluded that I would be less judgmental in a general rehab climate, and probably do less ego damage to my clients.

My view of social change: It's my job to promote that change. How that is done has varied through my life -- aggressive advocacy, role model, .... Both have had impact.

My view of the market place for blind workers: Follow the money!!!!! And, the money will most often follow your passion. That is a truism that smacks of the tons of shelf help books we are expected to buy, read and allow to vastly impact our lives. (cynical snort) However, the person who competes successfully with opening at my company are those who seem to have a zest for life, an interest in the dull repetitive work we do, and a sense of social consciousness that dove tails with the purpose of our work. However, to get to that point of passion may take substantial exploration, trial and error, and false starts. And, it is likely to change throughout life. At age 25 I had no concept of owning my own business with 19 employees and a future that looked bright. I had a vision of helping people figure out what they needed to do to get back to work, or to get a job for the first time in spite of their disability.

conclusion: Both these bright people can make an impact on the future of disability. Both can make a living. However, I sense that one has a positive passion and one has a limitation passion. Which will arrive more quickly? Life circumstances and drive will determine that!

Davey Hulse, CEO Braille Plus, Inc.
P.O. Box 3686
3276 Commercial Street, Southeast
Salem, Oregon 97302
Phone: (503) 391-5335
Toll free: (866) 264-2345
Fax: (503) 391-9359
Every Format. Every Day. And, Everything Right!

**3. I think that Katie and Bill have a good debate, and both are right and wrong. Actually this conversation could mirror one, that a friend and I had a couple of weeks ago. I am a blind student in college working towards a double degree in Special Education for the Visually Impaired and Elementary Education. My friend, also blind is working towards a degree in French and English, I think, last time I checked. She asked me that exact same question. She said, "Well, it will be easy for you to find a job in your field. I don't know what I am going to do with my degree when I get out."

I thought about that and have to tell you why I choose to take a career path, that a lot of blind people I run into have said, was a strange choice, and why not explore other avenues.

Before I settled on Special Education I wanted to do Psychology, Law, and even Administration. But I went to a summer vocational program, and got a chance to tutor one of the students in Independent Living. I sat back and thought about it afterwards, and decided that I truly loved doing that kind of work. So I explored my field, I want to be a Rehabilitation Teacher, a bad word in some people's books but a job I could be proud of. I applied to Kutztown to get my background, and will go and get my masters degree in Rehabilitation teaching, becoming, what have some called "those university vision professionals" another dirty word in some circles.

Why do I do this. Several reasons.

1. I had a hard time becoming a person with a visual impairment. I want to help my students through that transition too, and be a support when they have horrible days, or frustration.

2. There is a huge demand for professionals (another nasty word, but what else to call them.) and I thought I could help, in a field that badly needed people.

3. As Katie put it, there is a ton of information out there, sitting in vaults waiting to be explored, and who better to do it, but someone who has first hand knowledge. A lot of the issues and conflicts today in the blindness community, are based on a history that is not talked about. I am one of those people who asks why, not how or who. I want to find out why, and best way but to make a career out of it.

4. There are a lot of sighted people in teaching too, and frankly, can't
figure out a "career where blind people shouldn't be found" besides of course drivers of trucks taxis or buses. But that is just me. I don't see it as a stereotypical role. I just don't have a burning desire to be a Mountain climber, or a doctor, or a um, electro hydro engineer. I hate math, leave that up to someone else who wants to blaze trails.

**4. I have had a different background than was written up in this thought provoker but nonetheless may have something to offer. It wasn't until age 24 that I took my first aptitudes and interests test and I'm certain that was by design. My mother had a career in law in mind for me, but law came up nowhere in the 6 best positions for me. I knew a long time ago that I wanted to take the path that best suited my aptitudes and interests since that way I'd at least not have a disinteresting career path as a handicap hanging around my neck. The aptitudes and interests test came back with Computer Programmer; Designer, cartographer, travel agent, soldier, and adventurer as my six best career paths with Computer Programmer being the best of the six. I was surprised by the results remembering that computers interested me but until that time never pictured myself as a programmer. The educational system notwithstanding, at age 34 I got a degree in business administration with a concentration in computer information systems management. The only reason for the business degree had to do with the source of the funding. Again family interference, and I found out later costly interference. In January 1989, I started my first full time employment with the federal government in my chosen field. Where the business degree came in very costly is because computer scientists are paid $10,000.00 more starting salary than business computer specialists and the pay gap remains throughout their careers. I have managed to get a few good projects up and running and out to customers in an earlier position but having moved to southern Maryland where I now am projects and opportunities have disappeared. My position will be given over to a contractor before I retire, so am figuring on finding work outside the Department Of Defense since everything in the department is being contracted out. I know this for a fact since the highest ranking civilian on our base came and talked with our Union Local A.F.G.E. 1603 and told us that those in building 1490 doing information technology work were going to have this happen to them eventually. My retirement will happen after eventually, so it's a safe bet I'll be changing employers. The problem is Southern Maryland though since not having been given hardly any projects while here, there'll not be all that much to show on the resume for new potential employers. Given the awful totally blind employment demographics though decisions made in this context are only economically logical. With all of this, the best road to take is where a person's interests and aptitudes lead since if you don't take that road, you'll spend the rest of your life wondering what if, and regretting your choice.

Jude Dashiell Lexington Park, Maryland USA

FROM ME: This respondent wrote back with additional thoughts-

there's a lot of people making money in the blindness industry and for my money, too few of them are blind. We as blind people are owed a great deal by the corporations for two different reasons. First generally, blind people pioneer much of the newer technology that later goes onto profit sighted populations many of those early adopters don't get refunds on technology purchases and in many cases don't receive help with purchasing and that's when technology is usually at its highest prices. Two very old examples of this were carbon paper and the typewriter both invented to help the blind and both later profited off mightily by sighted populations. Second specifically, I.B.M. along with the NAZI party helped with their punch cards to destroy lots of handicapped lives including the blind. That's why if you visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. you'll find an I.B.M. punch card machine not far from its entrance. Germany's handicapped population served as the practice extermination population for the Jews later on, our people just got it first. As for
getting blind people into other work sectors that are new, in order to change what it means to be blind, a single person doesn't do that. What it requires are teams of people who maintain contacts and share information to benefit all on the network. No teams and no network and no impact either. I am the only totally blind person who uses a screen reader on the base at which I work. I have found many accessibility problems connected to career-content training and mandatory training to be not inaccessible but the problems with both happen because of courseware needed to work those sites. Such actions as I have taken have had no noticeable positive impact and are not likely to do so in the future either. The offending sites are
. Both of these sites came on line after Clinton had
the Federal Government and its web sites covered by Section 508. Had there been more blind people where I work, the productivity hit on the Navy perhaps would have been large enough needed repairs would have been done. Even with teams and networks of blind people entering new industry sectors, it needs coordination by those interested in helping get teams employed to be sure the entry actually happens as a team and that the blind employees aren't ghettoized in their place of employment. Ghettoizing means blind people are kept together and have as minimal meaningful contact with the rest of the employees as can be managed. Because I came down to the base where I work from Warminster, I'm also in a two-person office with another person who also came down from Warminster so yes I've been ghettoized. The community into which I moved is very insular and has remained so for about the last 350 years. The reason to avoid ghettoization is that once it happens management now has two distinct groups and management can and does play the divide and conquer game whenever that opportunity presents itself in this form. Really no program preparing the blind for office-based employment has any business doing it unless those trainees spend considerable time playing office politics simulation games similar to monopoly. With those games and hopefully counseling provided about how real world situations actually develop and what needs to be done when, blind people especially totally blind people who are at more significant disadvantage with office politics since they don't see body language and aren't likely to be told about that by sighted colleagues whether friendly or not will be a little more streetwise than I was.

**5. This very conversation has come up more than once in lunchroom discussions. Let me begin by saying that I think there is a difference in attitudes between congenitally blind people and adventitiously blind people. I being of the adventitious group can only speak for myself. I am sure that I will get an
earful from the congenital group as the responses post (grin).

Regarding Katy and bill’s small talk about graduating, people who develop the study habits and have the intellectual ability to do well in school graduate. Those who can’t, don’t. Blindness alone is not a factor in whether or not someone is successful in college Just as being gay or African American is not
a factor. Though subtle, that statement constitutes soft bigotry. Likewise, a person should choose their college major and subsequent occupation based on their personal interests and aptitudes, not visual acuity. If the disabilities studies track Katy is taking teaches that blindness is a characteristic not unlike being a person of color, gay or female, isn’t the goal to minimize social attitudes based solely on those characteristics? Remember Martin Luther King dreamed of a world where a person would not be judged based on the color of their skin.

I chose my current occupation based on a complex set of individual factors. I disagree with the statement that due to high unemployment rates, that we (implying blind people) get jobs where we can. Think of the message that statement is projecting. It sounds to me that Katy is saying we are damaged goods and need to take what we can get. I agree with her statement about the possibility of an athlete becoming a coach, but that is based on individual interest and aptitude rather than a characteristic and is certainly not based on a perceived duty to all athletes. I try to help my consumers understand
that with proper training and adaptations to the workplace, they can perform most jobs. I actually try to encourage them not to focus solely on what they perceive as “traditionally blind” jobs, but rather look inside and focus on what they would do if they did not have a vision problem.

I disagree that every blind person has the responsibility to educate the general population about blindness. Frankly, I do not share many of the beliefs put forth by my peers who are blind. I am an individual who probably does many things quite differently than other blind people. I did not consider myself to be in a homogeneous group when I was sighted and I do not feel that I am in a homogeneous group now. I use a white cane sometimes and a dog guide others. Does that make me like all other blind people? That is like saying all people who drive Fords are the same. Likewise, I read Braille and sighted people read the printed word. The method I employ to access information is not near as important as the information itself. I agree with bill when he says that it sends the wrong message if the only places blind people have careers are in blindness related occupations. We are all blessed with unique gifts and
talents. Sharing those gifts and talents where appropriate will speak volumes about how blind people function in society.

David Ondich Dallas, Texas USA

FROM ME: What about the point this person makes on...The reason as to why you are blind will influence the nature of your career choice?

**6. Excellent topic. I strongly believe that we need both of these fronts attacked. I spoke with a salesperson for Freedom Scientific the other day. I asked them if there were many workers actually operating in the sighted work force. She was sad to say that most of the working blind are either in the blindness field or working for themselves. But if we focus only on outreach , the basic understructure of the blind community suffers. Maybe we merely need more blind people working??

Pamela McVeigh Ruston, Louisiana USA

**7. I am just going to give you my first reaction on this, and it is that both roads are valid and needed. If attitudes about blindness are going to change, then there need to be blind people working within the system to change the attitudes of the blind people themselves about their own blindness, and there need to be blind people in non-disability or blindness related fields to show the sighted public that we can make it in a system that doesn't involve blind people at all.
Let's face it, Bill's reaction and Katy's are both reactions to their blindness.

I can never understand why people will say that you should get over being blind, or black, or white or gay or whatever because those things are a part of who and what you are, just as much as your hair color or your eye color or the kind of music that you like is a part of the person you are. People react differently to things, and I like to think that it is all important.

LaWanda Ezell Sacramento, California USA

**8. An interesting topic and one that has been discussed over and over, both by people with disabilities and many professionals in the field of rehabilitation. About 18 years ago, when I decided to get an education in massage therapy, several friends and former rehabilitation colleagues said that blind people shouldn't go into that field, because it has been seen as the "blindness" job. Many people are quite concerned with image and, like Bill, don't want to be pigeon holed. That issue was and still is of little concern to me. I feel that we must go into whatever area interests us, in which we are helping others and we prove to be good at. My first impression, after reading the Provoker, is that Bill seems to have a personal problem with his blindness. I wonder if he hasn't accepted his limitations and abilities. The NFB has always said "Change what it means to be blind" and I feel that an important factor in that is to become comfortable with who we are. Deciding not to go into a particular field, because of the expectations of others, is reactionary and probably not well-thought out. In my opinion, Bill's refusal to enter a field, which may be associated with blindness, says that he is afraid of what others think.

Doug Hall Daytona Beach, Florida USA

**9. I am reminded about the story of the two disputants who took their problem to the rabbi for mediation. He heard one side and said: "you're right." He heard the other disputant and said "you're right." The rabbi's wife who had been listening to the exchange exclaimed: "Now look what you've done. How can both of them be right?" To which her husband the rabbi responded: "You're right."

All this is to say that the issue in the thought provoker is much more gray than is portrayed. To my mind, we certainly do not need each and every blind person involved professionally in work with the blind. We do need blind people to seek and find employment in as many occupations and vocations as possible. Yet, blind people can and do play a positive role in the various helping professions. In short, I don't think that blind people should be employed in the field for lack of choice. But if it truly is their choice, they should be encouraged.

Arie Gamliel Jerusalem, Israel

**10. Katy and Bill are both wrong about some things, and right about some things. I would like to meet them both; certainly by no means to counsel specifically, but to befriend. The word "disability" has plenty of connotations of negativity, as denoted by the prefix dis-; not only that, but the Americans with Disabilities Act, which Kansas Senator Bob Dole helped prepare for President George Bush to sign in 1990, is so full of legalese that it is not understandable by the average reader. Furthermore, we know how organizations catering to disabilities in general have wrought damage upon the work of the American organized blind. Just one case in point is demolition of curbs, so that people in wheelchairs are emphasized, and it is difficult to determine when one has come to a street with a white cane. So how do Katy's chosen thesis and career in disability-related areas "change what it means to be blind?" If she wants to "change what it means to be blind," why doesn't she concentrate on a blindness-related field, or enter a field which is not perceived as blindness related?
At the same time, Bill is wrong in concluding that blindness-related careers are demeaning, parallel to being in a sheltered workshop. Personally, I am applying for a Braille-teaching position, wherever I can get it; though without a degree in rehab, etc., I have my expertise in several American and British
Braille codes, in Grade 3, and in German, Greek, and Hebrew Braille. To Bill I say this: Knowing what I have, knowing that only 10 percent of the blind read Braille, knowing that the ability to read fluently is a high priority toward being employed, knowing that the written word is much more comprehensible
than the recorded word, and much more effective for taking notes, and knowing that large print causes many of the legally blind to strain their eyes and to read slowly, I do not believe a sighted person could impart knowledge of Braille as well as I could. Furthermore, because many of the sighted read Braille
with their eyes, rather than by touch, as it was so designed, I have not seen many good sighted Braille instructors; during my own life, the best Braille instructors I ever had were/are blind.Bill should also know that generally, the blind on rehab staffs, not the sighted, are more respected and looked up
to by the students. Of course, there are exceptions to this: Lowell Holland, the first director of the Rehabilitation Center for the Blind, Topeka, Kansas, and Dianne Hemphill, the present director, were and are both blind and bureaucrats, and were and are extremely unpopular among the students, and among the blind of Kansas. Katy and Bill are both right in choosing career paths benefiting their fellow human beings. I wish them success.

Jeff Frye Overland Park, Kansas E-mail:

**11. This short story sure gives us a lot to think about. I can see both sides to this story and both Katy and Bill have valid points. On the one hand Bill can see that we need to be seen doing things just like everyone else and not everyone is cut out for the disability field. Bill and Katy are two different
people and so they both have a different angle on the world. I agree with Katy when she says that blind people need jobs and if they're in the blindness sector and employed, then that's heaps better than being unemployed along with the many other blind people in the same boat. I certainly would not appreciate
the idea of sighted proof-readers proof-reading Braille textbooks for example.
I balance it all in this way. I work in the blindness sector and I have lots of blind friends that I am in contact with over the e-mail. But like Bill, I like to mix with the sighted world and be a part of it, so on weekends I'll go shopping with Mum, or maybe go to the movies with a sighted friend. I
go to church and sing in the choir and in this way I feel I'm showing the sighted world that I am very much a part of it and can take my stand as a worthwhile, responsible member of the community as a whole and not just the blind community.

Nicola Stowe Australia

**12. First, I would like to say that both of these endeavors are wonderful! I, personally, chose not to work with blind people, not because I can't, but because
I was interested in other areas. I have friends that do work with the blind, and we both have fascinating things to discuss. Just as there are different ways to build a family, new program of mine, there are different ways to build a career. Second, what a NEAT idea to study disabilities in literature.
If more of this was integrated into the average school system, imagine the perceptions that would change! How great to change the average way of thinking before thought patterns are set in cement. Third, I would be concerned about the gentleman with the degree in psychology. I am not a psychologist, but,
it seems to me, that he should never down grade career choices if they are honest and provide a paycheck. I would not recommend him to anyone experiencing a crisis if he believes that people can only go the way he prefers.

Marcia Beare Martain, Michigan USA

**13. Boy is this quite a thought provoker !!! I think that both Katie and Bill are right in their points about employment. Yes, we shouldn't always focus on all blindness all the time, however, who best to know the kinds of things blind people go through from day to day socially, educationally, and
vocationally than another blind person. This is not to say that sighted people cannot be trained to work with blind people or don't have the understanding of blind people, as there are many out here who do have quite an understanding of blind people. Likewise, there are a lot of blind people who understand
the sighted world as well. After all, blind people have relatives and friends who are sighted just as sighted people have relatives and friends who are blind, equally. Moreover, both blind and sighted people experience social, educational, and vocational problems in their lives. Yes, there are some problems
within the big problem that are experienced more by blind people than sighted people, such as accommodations that contribute to the seventy percent of blind people being unemployed, but the problems as a whole are the same--alienation, discrimination, lack of skills training in different areas, unstable
economy affecting the unemployment as a whole, etc. So, I think that both blind and sighted people should be able to be trained and obtain employment in blindness-related education and jobs just as equally as in the sighted world-related fields. How are blind and sighted people going to learn from each
other if we cannot socialize or be in jobs that are blindness-related or sighted world-related equally?
Personally, I don't think that there should be this separation between blindness-related vs. the sighted world-related this and that. Employment is employment and a job is a job. If we're going to have this separation, though, then all Katie is doing is taking the road she wants to take just as Bill
is taking the road he wants to take. Neither are right or wrong. They are only choices they, as individuals, made.

Linda Minnesota USA

**14. I've known both types. I've been both types. Two extremes.
I think it is possible for some blind persons to "hide" in the comfort and security of "their own kind," thus participating in, and thereby condoning segregation. I further know that some blind persons can become fixated on blindness to the extent that they become "blind-aholics,"--addicted to blindness stuff.
I know that some blind persons receive much attention, fame and glory within "the blindness system," (whatever that is) which they thrive on as part of their definition of themselves and their self-worth. This can happen easily since blind persons are generally still not accepted all that well into the mainstream
of work and other normal life activities. I also know that there are blind persons who make a decision to dedicate their lives to improving the lives of blind people everywhere; it is what turns
them on; it is what drives them; it is their "purpose for being here." I know blind persons who do just the opposite; they make a conscious effort to avoid blind people and blindness issues.
In some cases, they enjoy the "celebrity status" they receive from the admiring sighted people they insist on socializing with. "You're so amazing," pleases them, especially if they build their own self-worth according to the admiration/approval of others. Some blind persons tend to hang out with sighted people when they just don't happen to be around other blind people. They don't know any other way.
Perhaps some want to deny their own blindness. Perhaps some feel a sense of shame being seen with other blind persons.
They may have spent some time with other blind persons and didn't garner the unusual amount of praise/admiration they received from their sighted peers, who were so good at lavishing insincere, flattering oohs and aahs, and they felt uncomfortable being treated as if they were "ordinary."
Maybe it is their sort of "crusade" to take the blindness message "to the masses," of the general public, since this seems to be their calling. Perhaps a blind person's family has pushed them to over-achieve, to prove to themselves and the family, how wonderful they are, and how the blindness doesn't
"make their family look bad,"--"tarnish the family's reputation." We could conjecture for the rest of our lives..... Personally, though I have been there, done that, and even have t-shirts on the "hang-out-with the-blind-only" types, and, at times, I have felt that I wasn't
really helping myself and/or other blind persons unless I took what I learned in the sheltered environs of the blind community, mainstreaming it out into the rest of the world--I really need/want to do some of both. It seems that the more I was concerned about one side or the other of these issues, I was worrying too much about what others thought of me, trying to keep
up with so-and-so, afraid to disappoint, or suffer the disdain and disapproval of some persons, etc.
As long as I did this, I was not really being my natural self. These days, I do whatever seems best at the time. If I find myself too frustrated, and saying what I think to an unaccepting audience, I've slipped over too much one way or the other.
Being a Libra, balance is a theme of mine. Perhaps some of my boat-rocking and other characteristics are simply means of seeking some sense of balance,
like the earth does after it quakes; something it seems to need to do at times to retain balance.
For much of my adult life, I really have attempted to be mindful of doing some of both--spending my time with people in ways that seem to be most optimal, with the hope that I am connected to both blind and sighted persons, and whatever other types there might be out there, including my favorite--felines.
But it depends on a lot of things. A see-saw/teeter-totter, needs to have both extremes taking turns, with short spells of balance in between. Most of us have been on both ends of the teeter-totter of life, lol, and we tend to notice those times more than the moments of balance.
In the story, it seemed like both Katy and Bill were rationalizing their own perspectives, giving a positive spin on their extreme of choice, but, perhaps, they were listening to each other, too.
If they weren't listening then, perhaps they might at a later meeting at their favorite spot.

Lauren Merryfield Washington USA

**15. I am a graduate student in marriage and family counseling. I have no desire, or intention, to work with blind people or in the disability community. I plan
to work with sighted people and those in mainstream society. This is my choice and preference. I did not choose this profession because a lot of blind people do it, but because it was of genuine interest to me. I don't think I realized that a lot of blind people wind up choosing psychology, counseling,
or social work professions. I do think a lot of blind people wind up either intentionally or unintentionally working in disability and/or blindness related professions. Some choose
this route, and others find that this is the job they wind up able to get once they're done with school. I have a friend who never intended to work with other blind people, but wound up applying and getting a job in that field because she'd been looking for work for a while and was prepared to take almost
anything. She saw it as a chance to get some experience. I worry that she will never get out of the disability related area of work. She is just glad to have a job.
My Dad used to always harass me about me being the person who could change the world for blind people in our state, at least. He would get angry when I said I had no desire to do that, and didn't want to become involved in politics or become our state's Commissioner for the Blind, etc. That used to
make me really angry because I felt like he was not honoring my choice. He would say things that implied that I would eventually change my mind and see things his way. I expect it will come up again. I personally feel that working with the general public gives me opportunity to show people that a blind
person can work in mainstream society and help people, and that people with disabilities can work meaningfully alongside quote unquote normal people. I don't have to work with disabled people, and can do other work in a variety of settings. I can do my job as well as my sighted colleagues.
I did not grow up surrounded by blind or disabled people, though I have been legally blind since birth. I went to public schools and had sighted friends, and did not have blind friends at my colleges or here at graduate school. I do have a few blind friends that I have met primarily through training at my
state's commission for the blind, through both teen and adult programs. Those friends are the best things I got out of those programs. I am selective about my blind friends. I want people who are motivated like myself and operate mostly among sighted people. They are people who are in a unique position
to understand certain aspects of my life, but I expect my sighted friends to understand as well as they are able, also. I think some people surround themselves with other blind people because they feel more comfortable in these circles. That's fine, I guess, but I would not want to live and work only
among this population just because it is comfortable. Some people genuinely do want to help other blind people, and field the field fascinating. That's fine, though I think thee are way too many people choosing this route. I will not judge anyone for their choice.

Carmella Broome South Carolina USA

**16. I agree with Bill. Katy seems obsessed with the blind thing and, in my opinion, copping out. If we're trying to change the way society sees the blind, and disabled, than we have to blend into society along with everyone else. We have to prove that we're no different than anyone else. By only circulating
amongst the blind she's sending out a message that that's where blind people belong - amongst their own kind. From what I see, she's playing it safe for herself.

Patricia Hubschman New York USA

**17. A job is a job, is a job. Bill seems to have some issues with his blindness. I had a friend like this who didn't want to work with anything having to do with the blind. that's how he talked. We went our separate ways and several years later he had a very successful job selling adaptive equipment for
the blind. So talk is cheep.

Tom Rash, Executive Director AUDIO VISION Radio reading service phone: 909-797-4336
Fax: 909-797-3516 E-mail:
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**18. As a blind person I feel the pull both ways. I see both Bill and Kay’s positions. after graduating from high school I decided I wanted nothing to do with
blind people, not that blind people were bad, undesirable or anything like that. I, like bill wanted to "make it in the sighted world." I did, graduating from a Bible college in Kansas city in 1971. Following that I ministered in two Kansas churches as an associate pastor. In 1975 I married a sighted lady.
In 1977 I was invited to speak to the National Church Conference of the Blind. Since it was my first conference I thought I'd better attend the whole thing and get the flavor of the group. I met other blind people who were both "making it in the sighted world" with good jobs but who were also interested in
associating with other blind people. Since that time I've tried to achieve a healthy balance of associating with blind people and sighted people. At times I've lived where there haven't been many blind people. Right now where I live I have a number of blind friends as well as a number of sighted friends.
I've worked as an announcer at our local radio reading service and served with a missionary society where one of my goals is to translate several of our courses into Braille and audio formats for other blind people.
Now my life is changing as I'm moving from Omaha to work at our mission society's home office in Madison Georgia as the field director for Africa. In this post I'll be working along side sighted people who have had only token contact with me and in working with the African workers I'll be working with people
who, traditionally have an even lower view of blind people than Americans do.

What's my point? Why have I told you all this? To say that it's possible to do both what Bill and Kay want to do. Beyond getting a job where you can get it, Kay must have an interest in blindness and literature and she should pursue that interest. Bill, perhaps needs to balance a little and not shut out
all his blind friends, which he apparently has not completely done if he goes to the School for the blind for some time after college. Kay may need to look somewhat beyond the blind community but she may help some people change their thinking on what it means to be blind by her interest in literature
by the blind. All the time we're striving for that balance between the "blind ghetto" where all of our associations are with blind people and having no contact with blind people. It's important for us blind people to remember that sighted people and blind people are people too.

Ben Watson Omaha, Nebraska

**19. I faced the same kind of issues as the couple described in the story, and can identify with each of them in a different way. When I was in graduate social work school I mentioned to a student colleague that I did not want to find a job in the blindness field. He tried to analyze my motives, telling
me that at the core I didn't accept my blindness. My response that there are many other social problems that need addressing. I was interested in child welfare, family counseling, racial issues, etc. I further said that if I went into the blindness field I'd be pigeon-holed for the rest of my working
life. Further, I hoped I could pave the way for another blind person in the future by working in the "sighted world." He didn't know how to counter my arguments. I did find a job in the child welfare field, but also joined the NFB after grad school. Since then I've worked in child welfare and in an
adult outpatient psychiatric clinic. Now, between jobs, I wouldn't mind working in the blindness field where there's a desperate need. There's nobody teaching newly blind in all of west-central Georgia, and I'm willing to do so. In short, one can both work in a nonblindness-related field and still do one's part to change public attitudes.

Susan Knight Columbus, Georgia USA

**20. hey well I think people should try to work in things of blindness so that there is a bigger future for us but also things that sighted people do.

Kristen Osage, Arkansas USA

**21. This is a really good thought provoker. I hope I can focus on working with the blind. But I would be happy in the disability field in general. Anyway, I think Bill does make a valid point. Blind people should not limit themselves. One of my hopes for the future is that we see more people with blindness/visual impairments in regular jobs- executives, directors, office personnel, etc. I wish there were more people with disabilities in regular jobs, it would really make for a diverse workforce. HOWEVER, Katy's point is also valid. If a blind person really truly wants to work in the blind/disability field, then he should not be discouraged at all. I believe a good job when you're in an area you have passion for, not just because someone pushes you in that direction. It is a good idea to realize, however, that there are other options out there for those who don't want to be "pigeon-holed" into the blindness area.

Take care!
Christine NFB Human Service Worker Listserv

**22. I have thought on this off and on for awhile now. It really started clicking when a person mentioned he or she, can't remember which, said they were talking to a class of blind high schoolers and asked them what they wanted to be after they graduate from high school. One of the students said: "I'm going to be a client of Services for the Blind."

In many ways, blind children are taught how to be clients and to expect to receive services for their whole life. They are not really taught how to exist without services. How to stand on their own, like sighted people, independent of services. So this has an affect on what fields, those that decide to work, they decide to go into.

Furthermore, we tend to study and go into fields we know about. So most jobs that blind children know about are those in the field of blindness/social work/psych because that is the work they see most adults doing. If they were exposed to other fields, outside of social and psych fields, they may choose to go into those fields instead.

I never knew the blindness "field of services" existed until I saw an ad in a newspaper for a rehab teacher. And they would pay for the masters degree. That got me very interested and I explored what this blindness stuff was all about. I always knew I wanted to teach but I didn't want to teach a bunch
of kids. So I finally decided on being an O&M Specialist and I have never regretted it. But if I hadn't read that ad or decided to do some research, I would never have known of this choice and probably gone into a profession I wouldn't have liked as much.
So exposure to many other job fields is very important. Teaching blind children to try to live without cradle to the grave services is also of great importance.

David McMahon OandM Listserv

FROM ME: How do we arrange for blind kids to be exposed to many different types of careers?

**23. I believe that a blind person should either work for an agency for the blind or in the regular employment market. This should be the choice of the blind person. When I got out of graduate school many years ago, I believed that it was better for me not to work for an agency for the blind. Over the 38 years I have done hospital social work I have used my blindness as a positive educating patients and all professional staff. Although I accomplished much, more is needed and I am spending some of my retirement conducting seminars for hospitals, nursing homes etc. I am still doing investigative work and my initial seminar is pending.

David. Stayer Merrick, New York

**24. I agree with Astrid. The blind and the sighted can learn so much about each other. It was late in my life before I became friends with a blind person. It wasn't that I had anything against the blind, it was the lack of contact I had with blind people. They went to school on different buses, and there were none in the occupations I've had. I now have several blind friends and they mix easily with my sighted friends, in fact they are friends with each other. It has been a rewarding experience for me, and I'm sure for my other friends, blind and sighted, and I hope there becomes more awareness of the blind. I've mentioned it before, there needs to be a public relations effort to bring the blind into the mainstream. It is society's loss that they are not there yet.

Bill Heaney Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA

**25. I really like your attitude. People should take the paths that they are comfortable with. When I was a kid, many people jumped on the band wagon and thought I should get interested in ham radio because other blind people were interested. I was interested in music, not because people who were blind were, but because I loved music and played the piano. A dramatic thing happened when I went to the Orientation Center for the Blind in Albany, California. I really thought I knew most things about being blind by the time I was eighteen years old. When I got up there, I found out in a big way how little I knew. I learned about all sorts of attitudes about being blind from the most dependent people to extremely independent. I learned how to get around better with a cane. Later I learned about informational magazines like Dialogue and tape clubs like Newsreel. This broadened my education even more and I found out I will never stop learning and that spreading information is one of the most important things blind people can do. There are fields that blind people do well in, but why are they called a blindness field or many blindness fields? In many cases or indeed most of them, sighted people do the same jobs as blind people do. I think most of us know how very hard it is to find work. If we can find fulfilling work that makes us happy I feel we should go for it, not because this is something most blind people do, but because we want to do that work.
It took me fifty-one years to find out that being a musician was my real
niche. I worked at it when I was very young, but in my twenties I tried other avenues and they just didn't work. I went back to where I should have been all along, but certainly not because it was an occupation blind people like Ray Charles or some other blind musician picked.

Leslie Miller San Diego, California USA

**26. This is a wonderful thought provoker! As was mentioned several times in this first update, I think people should follow their interests and passions. Many of us worry, too much, about what others think. Yes, there are some people (blind and sighted) who might think that blindness related jobs are the only ones we can get. However, those of us who chose blindness related professions out of genuine interest know better.
One previous responder stated that students who are capable graduate, and
those who aren't don't. I absolutely disagree with this as I have seen too
many students passed through college programs without having to meet the
same standards as their sighted peers. I beg all students with visual impairments to respect themselves by not allowing this to happen to them. It is degrading to those of us who are blind and continues to promote stereotypic beliefs.

As a rehabilitation supervisor, I have the opportunity to provide input on policies that can help make a difference for people with blindness.
Moreover, I have the responsibility of going out into the community to talk
with people in all types of businesses. I try to be articulate and present
a scrupulous image. I am prepared and am confident in my abilities. I am
hopeful that potential employers will get the message that a person with
blindness might fit into their work place.
One more final thought-- I am grateful that the fine people who collect our
garbage aren't so worried about their image that they wouldn't do the job.
We need them, just as we need all hard working people doing a variety of

Mary Ellen Ottman Daytona, Florida USA

**27. While everyone's points about Bill and Katie's views are valid, I cannot help but be surprised how so many respondents, in so many words, feel that Bill's choice to not go into blindness or disability-related fields has to do with the possibility that he has a problem accepting or dealing with his own blindness and/or Katie's choice to go into blindness and disability-related fields is to take the path of least resistance--"a cop out". I, myself,
don't view bill and Katie as choosing their roads based on such ideas. Nor do I see Bill and Katie choosing their roads based on what others have told
them is right or wrong for them. I see it more as that they are following their calling from the heart. Now, whether their choices is due to one being
to be associated with other blind and disabled people and the other feeling more comfortable being surrounded by people who are blind and/or disabled, I cannot say, as I don't make such judgments unless I've met the people and talked to them for sometime to get a feel for what is what. I have more sighted friends and acquaintances than I have blind friends and acquaintances, but that doesn't mean that I'm ashamed to be surrounded by blind people. It's more
that I'm in a different camp than most blind people I have personally met are in. I deal more with issues beyond blindness than most blind people I've had in my circle of blind friends. So, in that regard, I don't feel that I fit in with a lot of blind people as I do with sighted people. This is not to say that I wouldn't work with blind and disabled people when the opportunity arises, as I would. As for blindness influencing career choices, I really don't think it d. Sure, there may be some blind people who would rather work in disability-related fields while there are others who choose not to for whatever reason, but the choices in employment blind people make and the justification behind it are no different than with sighted people. After all, there are sighted people who would rather teach high school and/or college students while there are other sighted people who would rather teach elementary, kindergarten, and/or preschool levels. In other words, it's more a matter of personal preference and/or interest. I think that the only ways that blindness can be an influence to career choices are if the choices, like in Katie's case, are from the heart because she wants to be of service to the disabled community, and/or the blind individual allows others to influence him/her based on the negative
ideas denoted when associating or being fully surrounded by blind and disabled people. Katie could have changed her mind by deciding against going into disability literature after talking with Bill, but, based on what I've read of the thought provoker narrative, Katie puts me in mind of the kind who did
not or would not have changed her mind about disability literature or issues.

Linda Minnesota USA

**28. I have found these responses very interesting. I never had to make such a choice, having gone partially blind after retirement. But I laud those who have a commitment to working in the sighted world. Just this week-end has brought this to mind even stronger. In our small town I have a friend and his dog guide. We walk the streets and usually do not have problems. However the city recently "up-graded two intersections. Here is where it would have been invaluable to have had someone who thinks like a blind person helping to draw up the plans. City planners know about
wheel-chairs and how they need to be able to get around town. But the blind? We are a forgotten race! One major intersection has the ramps for wheel chairs going down so that if a blind person were to get centered on them they would be walking right to the center of the intersection. They did install
buttons to help pedestrians to get across, but no truncated domes to help the blind to get oriented for a safe crossing.
The second one, which we just checked out this morning, has the same problem. However, in this case, something has been added to make it more challenging. The pole holding the stop sign has been placed in the center of the sidewalk, next to the curb, and the wheel chair access makes a slight right turn
(following the great plan of the city engineer) thus directing a blind person again out into the center of the intersection.
Don't tell me that we don't need blind people to follow their dreams and help in making decisions that affect the blind of their communities, state, etc. There are ways to serve our fellow visually impaired communities other than working with the sightless organizations. For hose going into such jobs, may I wish you success in fulfilling your dreams.

Elwood Mabley College Place,
Washington USA

**29. Kevin Murphy had a response in this slot, but he requested it be deleted. I agreed. He said it related to a thread dealing with this being discussed the AERnet listserv THOUGHT PROVOKER and would have been written differently for this forum. (Kevin has submitted several responses in the past to prior PROVOKERS and I respect an authors wishes.) However, I did not delete the folowing 2 responses that were written in response to his.

**30. Hi Kevin, good points. I believe that often people with the mentality of Robert's psychologist perpetuate the negative stigma about blindness. I feel that a blind person working as a service provider is a very respectable career. However, this is not to be taken to infer that all blind people will be good service providers. We are no different from anyone else. We have a diversity of interests and talents. My ire is aroused when I hear visually impaired folks putting down someone who is visually impaired who is a service provider or an educator in the field of blindness.

Olivia Schonberger AERnet Listserv

**31. In response to the latest Thought Provoker, Kevin Murphy wrote, in part:

“Anyway, were I full time teaching in this field, (Which could as easily be written "full time learning. I append this because the opinion I express here would become immediately subject to alteration; either reinforced or mutated under the influence of students.), I would be particularly wary of blind students. One aspect I ascribe to their "culture" obstructs them in a small way. I observe that blind people and their mentors often become locked in a lifelong struggle to prove that which has been proved in every generation since written history began: Blind people can be like sighted people. It's even been proved in more recent generations that blind people can humble sighted people by their live's accomplishments.

There is much more to be gained if it could be proven that sighted people can be like blind people. Take note that proving this just to blind people would be as useless as proving it just to sighted people. ”

I agree with you here, Kevin. As a sighted TVI on the high school level, I do consider myself a “full-time learner.” All teachers continually learn from their students. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be able to teach them effectively. I rely on my students to teach me which approach works best to help them acquire the skills they need.

While no one can claim to know or fully understand what it is like to live with a physical challenge unless s/he too is visited with that challenge, most of us do try to (as you phrase it) “be like blind people.” We try to comprehend as best we can what it is like to live with the challenge of being blind or visually impaired so that we can find ways to present material more effectively. We don’t always succeed, but we do sincerely try.

Lillian AERnet Listserv

**32. Wait a minute here. Are saying that going into the blindness field is not a regular job just because we are working with blind people instead of sighted people? Nobody should be forced into the blindness or any other field for that matter. I chose to be a counselor for the blind at my state agency. However, there are two other blind people that chose to have general caseloads. Does this mean that their jobs are better than mine or something? Not every blind person is able to work in the field because they are unable or unwilling to obtain the education necessary to be successful in the profession. I believe the field of blindness needs competent blind people who are role models and have positive attitudes toward blindness. The last thing we need to allow to happen is for a bunch of sighted people to dominate our field who do not understand our problems and have their own agendas.

I realize this diatribe might make some people angry, but I am really tired of people implying that working in the blindness field is somehow an inferior occupation. Blind people need to be represented in every
occupation, including the blindness system.

Leslie Fairall NFB Human Service Workers Listserv

**33. An economic system must take account of the members participating in the society; Thus, as a result of our belief in equal opportunity for all, the system must make adjustments and provisions for groups and individuals of varying abilities who are willing to be participants to be able to participate fully in the societies economic system. We have seen that when a large number of people are denied economic opportunities blood will flow in the streets. Katy has it right and poor Bill has been co-opted by the propaganda of the right.

Rick Farmington USA

**34. I have to admit that I have had conversations like the one between Katie and Bill countless times with my blind peers. I think the obvious answer is we need blind people to be involved in every profession out there. I want to more and more blind people working in the blindness field, because when I was growing up, all the low vision teachers and counselors I dealt with were sighted, or, in a few cases, were blind guys with crappy attitudes about blindness. As others have mentioned, we need to keep in mind the historical context of the blindness profession. For decades sighted professionals determined what kinds of services blind people would receive, and often, what kinds of careers blind people could pursue. The blind were exclitly barred from teaching most adjustment and rehab courses, with the exception of Braille. It is only in the past half dozen years that the blind have cracked the profession open, if only a few inches. Anyone who believes the AER is a leopard that has changed its spots needs to familiarize themselves with the blatantly discriminatory policies of this accreditation outfit. So, I say let as many competent blind people pursue such careers as they are compelled to until this history is ancient history.
The other side of the coin, of course, is that in order for the positive philosophies of blindness that are only now creeping into the field to resonate with truth, we also need to be able to point to blind people out there holding down jobs and careers outside the blindness field. The two phenomena feed off each other. We cannot say blind people are capable of doing most jobs if we look out across the landscape and see no blind people doing those jobs. This is not just an individual thing, but a social movement. In other words, we need to recognize when blind people are discriminated against and kept out of jobs for bogus reasons.

Brian Miller Iowa City, USA

**35. I have a job in one of the so-called "blindness professions", medical transcription. I can work from my home, e-mail my work in and it is very convenient for me, as I have a six-year-old son and two other teenaged children living at home and I like to be here for them. I actually got into the medical transcription field, because I wanted to
be a speech pathologist, but was very much discouraged by my state agency for the blind. Anyway, since that discouragement, I took
training and became a medical transcriber. I first worked in a hospital for six years with no other blind people. So I am a little confused as
how it is considered a blindness profession. Of course, this is not the most intellectually challenging job and I probably could have easily
qualified to go into some other field, but I try to keep myself intellectually involved in other ways.

Anyway, I feel the blind community needs more, not fewer, blind people involved. Had I actually been able to talk to a blind speech therapist, something I have done since my decision was made, I probably would have pushed harder for that training.

I definitely do not feel that blind people are selling out by working in professions that help other blind people. Nor do I feel that they aren't facing up to their blindness by working outside the so-called blindness fields. Each of us is responsible for making our own way in the world and hopefully, with a 70% unemployment rate, finding a career that brings us satisfaction is the most important thing we can do!

Sherri Orlando, Florida USA

**36. I was just reading through your most recent provoker, and it gave me cause to think about the reasons that I have pursued a career in blindness rehabilitation. To call my career choice the "path of least resistance" may, for some, be tempting, but it certainly does not reflect the realities. These thoughts were in the back of my mind as well when I first entertained the idea of entering my chosen profession, but I quickly learned just how naïve I had been. I am blind, and I am also an O&M instructor, or perhaps more properly a "Travel Instructor". For myself, and many more like me, our presence in this field of work has, for the most part, not been welcomed with open arms, and in fact we are to this day accused of bring inferior skills and knowledge to our work, and outright endangering the people we serve, all without the slightest evidence to support such opinions. These attitudes are beginning to change, and after more than forty years of a clear determination to keep blind persons from participating in this profession, the doors are finally opening to us.
It would be wonderful to be able to say that this change came as a result of increasing understanding and enlightenment on the part of the Orientation and Mobility profession, but the simple truth is that it has taken changes in the law, and the willingness by a few to challenge the status quo, to make
this a viable career choice for blind persons. There are in deed some in the O&M profession that have been very open to the idea of blind people teaching travel, and their thoughtful consideration is truly appreciated, but there have also been many that have greeted the notion with open hostility.

So, I will not deny that my decision to become a travel instructor was in part due to the fact that there were those that said I couldn’t do it, but it runs much deeper than that. Yes, it was also a job when I desperately needed a job, but that certainly would not have kept me in this work for more than
fourteen years, or lead me to take a one year leave of absence to obtain my Masters degree in this field. The silence, sarcasm, condescension, questioning of competence, and occasional out right verbal abuse honestly sometimes weigh heavily against the words of encouragement and appreciation. I would dare
to say, that my motivation has little to do with a desire for wealth either. There are many more reasons to have walked away from this field than to stay with it, and for what I have seen, this is the case for every area of work in blindness rehabilitation. I am not alone in this way of thinking and behaving,
I have met many others that have devoted themselves to this purpose, and it is certainly not for a lack of other options. I believe for each of us, we feel that we have been given a true advantage through receiving proper training, and we want to share that advantage with others. I want the people I work with to have the skills they will need, I want to be a role model for them, and above all else I want them to have a philosophy of life that will carry
them through the setbacks that are certain to come, and to know that they are not alone as they strive for their rightful place.

If you don’t believe that blind people should be in the field of blindness rehabilitation, then please find something else as a career. If you believe that you should go into blindness rehabilitation, because, it’s a job, or it’s the only job you can get as a blind person, then please find a job doing anything
else, for your own sake as well as the people you would be serving. If you want to take care of others, please become a doctor, a nurse, or a parent, but stay out of rehabilitation. If the everyday activities of disabled persons inspires you, or assisting them to learn ordinary skills is uplifting for you,
then please take a long hard look at your own life and your beliefs, and consider a different career. If the notion that someone you serve may one day rise to heights well above you makes you uncomfortable, then please go into politics, but stay out of rehabilitation. Finally, if you believe that blind
people struggling for equality, or others helping them to prepare for this struggle represents a serious fault in their personalities, you are either not blind, or you have been resting your head on a silk pillow for too long.
I firmly believe that blind people need to be encouraged and supported in exploring and choosing the right career, the same as everyone else. The only wrong career is one you don’t enjoy or feel passionate about. A career in blindness rehabilitation is the right choice for only a few people, sighted or blind,
and when it is chosen for the wrong reasons there is much more at stake than the happiness and fulfillment of the person making the choice. I truly want more blind people to enter this field, for the right reasons, especially as Orientation and Mobility instructors. If this is what you truly want, you understand
from the beginning that this work is sometimes thankless, frequently demanding, and often frustrating, and your primary motivation is the desire for blind people to have an equal shot at being successful, then please ignore all the crap about being the easy way out, and know that you are not alone in making a very tough choice.

Jeffrey T. Altman MA NOMC Lincoln, Nebraska, USA

**37. In response to Resp. 32's question about whether or not people are saying that going into blindness-related jobs is not a regular job vs. going into jobs that are not blindness-related, I don't think that people who've responded to this thought provoker are necessarily saying that blindness-related jobs are not regular jobs. I think that how people view themselves going into blindness-related jobs vs. *regular* jobs is more a matter of personal choice and preference. As I've said before, some people's decisions on the kinds of fields they major in or jobs they go into are either shaped by their own feelings not influenced by anybody else's thoughts and feelings while others' decisions are shaped by what other people think and feel. Everyone wants to fit in, not be singled out, which is why there are many who will choose jobs that either fit them or don't fit them, according to the job-seeker, themselves, or other people's views. To me, there's no such thing as a *regular* or *normal* job vs. one that is not *regular* or *normal*. Such terms are set by society or by a group of people in society. To me, personal choice and preferences is more important than following suit just to fit in or not look bad. No matter how one goes at it, there will always be some kind of debate on what's right or wrong, looks good or looks bad, etc. This leads me to the next part of my response. Like Resp. 25, I love to sing and play music. I took piano lessons for four years--from age nine to thirteen. Shortly before I quit piano lessons due to a heavier work load in school, my stepfather told me one day, "you could be a keyboardist for different bands and go on tour all over the place". While such thoughts sounded wonderful because of the fringe benefits--going to different places I've never been to before, meeting all kinds of famous and not-so-famous people, working in recording studios and seeing how songs you hear on the radio are cut and released, and having lots of money--the first things I thought of were that I didn't want to be on show as the blind keyboardist for such and such a band and "I'm worth more than somebody like a ray Charles or Stevie wonder sitting behind a keyboard up on stage or in the recording studios". The idea of such a job wasn't challenging enough for me as far as demonstrating my capabilities and the potential to educate sighted people on blindness beyond being able to sing and play the keyboard. I wanted to show that blind people can be counselors or teachers (fields I thought of during my teen years) working with blind and sighted people. The kinds of jobs I wanted to go into and majored in when I was in college require more complex thinking than just playing or singing a bunch of notes day in and day out, which is the kind of challenge I like. Sure, it would have been great to meet and work with such people as Quincy Jones, Michael McDonald, Michael Jackson, and many other musicians I enjoy listening to. It would have also been great to have lots of money than I have now, but I just would have felt like I was selling myself short. So, there can be trade-offs when you choose not to go into such an easy job for blind people--being a singer or keyboardist. As for arranging for blind kids to be exposed to many different kinds of careers, one hands-on way this can be done is for blind kids to meet adult blind people in different kinds of jobs at their work places. Children can not only see the different kinds of adaptive equipment the blind employees use to do their work, but they would be allowed to ask the employees questions about the job. Of course, such jobs blind kids are exposed to should go far beyond just factory or sheltered workshop environments. When I was taking a career awareness class at the summer program at the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind, we were given tours at factory-oriented places. The class was very disappointing to me, as I thought that we would be exposed to much more. It also told me that the attitude being presented was that "blind people cannot do any kind of higher level jobs than factory work". Not only did I know better than to believe such an attitude, but I knew that I could do more and was capable of doing more than factory-level or sheltered workshop work.

Linda USA.

**38. I found so many fascinating comments in this last update. First, the idea that blind students/children choose careers based on what they are exposed to when young. Social workers, psychologists, rehab people etc. are some examples. Well, I am a social worker; not because I was exposed to social workers
for myself, but because my parents were foster parents. I had never even heard of social workers before they became licensed. I do agree that blind people should be exposed to mentors working in a wide variety of careers. Number 28 also caught my attention. I was disgusted in the manner in which our township board did some things. I ran for and was elected to the zoning board. Regularly, I have a grumpy, older man protesting in public that I have no right to be serving in this position. His basis is that I can't visually look at the map. Well, some of the sighted members can't even read maps correctly, so that claim was full of hot air. When my term ended last year, I was even asked to run again. This is not an average position for a blind person, but I believe I represent a population that otherwise wouldn't even be considered. I had another enlightening conversation last month at a Toast Master training. A huge part of Toast Masters is to network with others and learn more about working together as a team. I met some new people, one of whom will stick with me for a very long time. She seemed to be a sweet, caring person, but she didn't seem to listen to anything I said. She introduced herself and then said she was a great friend of the NFB. I said that that was nice. She asked how active I was. She was very concerned that I wasn't a participant in the NFB. I explained that my work was demanding, and I didn't have much time to go to conventions and stuff like that. The statement that I was occupied with a job never phased her. She kept telling me how much I would benefit from the rehab center and how I could talk to other blind people to encourage them. Despite my repeating that I was very busy with a career, she plugged on that I really should make an effort to be more involved with the blind. It has been quite a while since anyone has worked that hard to pigeon hole me into their version of the perfect job for me.

Marcia Beare M.S.W. Martin Michigan USA

**39. I've thought long and hard about this one. Bill is not necessarily wrong in his wanting to live in, and be accepted by, the mainstream world, but he does seem awfully judgmental about Katy's wanting to do things differently from him. I can't shake the sense that Bill is trying "act sighted" - perhaps thinking he wants to be perceived as a man, not as a blind man, by the sighted world. Katy, on the other hand, accepts her blindness and seems willing to maximize her abilities and to help other blind people learn to do the same. Probably she will enjoy her work, for she seems to be looking forward eagerly to getting in on the ground floor of a new area of education. Bill, however, not only seems not content with Katy's decision but actually angry about it. Perhaps he thinks a blind man is not likely to set the
world on fire, and resents that Katy doesn't even feel the need to do so. Is Bill trying to push Katy to act more pseudo-sighted, as it were?

Carolyn Gold Clearwater, Florida USA

**40. (This lady response to one of my comments) FROM ME: How do we arrange for blind kids to be exposed to many different types of careers?

Some high schools have a work study program, some what like the college work study. Blind kids should be exposed to the different types of careers under some type of work study program. Just my opinion.

Angelica Freeman Phoenix area, Arizona USA

**41. Both the thought provoker and responses received so far
have been very interesting. I'd just like to say, as a sighted person, that I'm extremely grateful that some non-sighted people have chosen to go into "the blindness field" and allow me to use them as examples for my students and their families and advisers for me. Somehow parents tend to listen more attentively to my gainfully and obviously employed friends than they do to me...

Dana Montreal, Canada
Having it done is NOT the same as having done it.

**42. I like the thought provokers for use with my students as well as the para-pros I train to work with students. I like them for me as well - they always cause me to reflect a lot. These remind me of something called "cases" which are used in education to teach about pedagogy and also used in business schools to teach about business scenarios. Cases were a major part of the methodology of my master's program as well as a part of the presentation process. I'm intrigued to read them in any form. They delve way beyond the surface and superficial and cause a deeper reflection on matters. Please continue these efforts and any time it is convenient to you I know I would love to read what others say. The trick with cases, and with these thought provokers as well is that there
is never a "one size fits all" solution. Thank you again.

Kathy Millhoff USA

**43. There was a young mother of a blind child who designed Braille jewelry and sold it at the ACB Convention this year. Among her offerings was a ring that read "Follow your dreams," in Braille. I think that is the only right answer here. It shouldn't matter what the public thinks or how you are judged by other blind people either. Your choices should be made on the basis of your own talent, inclinations and interests. To do anything else is denying your individual gifts.

DeAnna (Quietwater) Noriega Colorado USA

**44. Thank you for posing this discussion, it has been a life saver. I don’t know why some of my friends feel so strongly as they do. Some feel we need the best blind people we can get for models as counselors for the blind and some feel we need the best blind people in all other jobs to show sighted people what we can do. There seems to be a battle over this and what I say is we need both. I like what one or more of the writers to this discussion have said, go for what most excites you. I think being true to your heart is always best.

It is sad when a blind person feels that only blindness related jobs are open to them. That is like saying blind people can only marry other blind people. This attitude can be learned young if the blind kid isn’t exposed to the right information about blindness. This can be the attitude of the sighted people around them or even by some blind adults too. Remember in the past, there were very few professions the blind being channeled into, like piano tuner and chair caning and massage and some others. But now we read about blind people working in so many different professions, too many to list here and that is great. discussions like this one is one place where we can learn and change things in the minds and hearts and actions of people, the sighted and the blind.

Betty Parsons USA

**45. I was one of the people that went into work for the blind as a teacher in a blind school. I taught Braille. I liked it but got burned out. The problem I had was feelings of frustration about what else I could do after I quit. I was on disability for years after I quit. I even tried running a business to produce Braille for the needs around my small city in the south west but there wasn’t enough to make it a full time job. Lately I thought about telemarketing but felt that would be to stressful but at least with the computer as a tool there are more jobs available for the blind than before. I think ADA has also helped make more businesses aware that we are out here and can work at a larger variety of professions. Maybe what we need is a TV show that interviews disabled people to show what is possible. Maybe this show could be like a learning channel about employment and professions and a place where all kids and adults can learn about professions and jobs. This to me would be important for our country. We need people to find the best job for them in life. I think good people in good jobs makes a good country.

Peter Best USA

**46. (This refers to response 38) “...Despite my repeating that I was very busy with a career, she plugged on that I really should make an effort to be more involved with the blind. It has been quite a while since anyone has worked that hard to pigeon hole me into their version of the perfect job for me...”

You should tell Marcia Beare that the NFB person trying to get her to work more with the blind was paying her a great compliment as she must assume Ms Beare has great leadership potential.

Lori Stayer Merrick, New York USA

I graduated from college and like Bill, chose not to work in the blindness field. I did my field placement at an agency for the blind because they couldn't figure out where to put me for the second year of my social work career. I enjoyed that placement but decided that I didn't want to work with blind people because it was what people expected. But it took me 25 years to get in touch with my blindness and that only happened when I immersed myself in the blind community. I still work for a welfare organization but started a chapter of the National Federation of the Blind in my home town and became a lot more sympathetic and attuned myself to what blind people really need. I don't think that blind people should limit themselves to either working with the blind or working in another agency. But I think that somewhere along the line, you have to get in touch with who you really are.

Mary Jo Partyka USA

**48. Hi. It took me a long time but I've thought about this provoker. I cannot help but wonder why some in the blindness community think that we the blind will
someday be able to do every single job that is performed by a fully-sighted person. There will always be people with varying abilities as long as human
beings exist on this Earth, and for someone or a group of people not to understand that is beyond my comprehension. Specifically, for a group of visually
impaired people not to understand that differences of ability do exist within the blindness community, to me is unthinkable. I for one have thought about
several career paths. One of these is advocacy. It seems that too many times, the abilities of all blind and visually-impaired people are over-exaggerated,
and I think this is a big contributing factor in our unemployment/underemployment rate . Not every blind or visually impaired person can write Braille
effectively using a slate and stylus, for example. I happen to be among those possessing this inability. There are those that, even if afforded the opportunity,
cannot and will never be able to read Braille. This in large part is where technology comes in. The advent of screen-reading and screen-magnification software
put a whole new face on accessibility. I for one happen to be very good at using both speech and Braille, but there are those people who do not possess
both abilities. A lot of us are not mountain climbers, and we may never be mountain climbers. More power to those who can climb mountains, or to those
who can somehow manage to fix a car without being able to see which parts go where, and so on. My point here is simply this. We are all different in some
way or another, and therefore we're all going to function somewhat differently. The thing that is preventing people like me, and other visually-impaired
people who just don't happen to "fit the mold" of the extremely gifted visually-impaired person from seeking employment is this "one-size-fits-all" approach
to blindness. It is true that there are those people in society who doubt our abilities as human beings, but the opposite is also true. This is just how
reality is. Maybe someday every single visually-impaired person will function on the exact same level, and that truly would be nice. But until that day
comes, we are all going to function at our own skill levels. This should not and does not mean that one visually-impaired person is better or smarter than
another, or that one visually-impaired person has better blindness skills than another. It is perfectly fine for people to have multiple disabilities,
if that is how God meant these people to be or if the disabilities were simply acquired later in life.

Jake Joehl, Evanston Illinois