Tuesday, February 18, 2020

"If You Can't Beat Them, Join Them" has not Worked for the Blind and Visually Impaired

The Americans with Disabilities Act has been around for 30 years.  Why haven’t the employment figures for the job seekers who live with various levels of blindness increased significantly?  One of the answers to this question can be found in the January issue of The Braille Monitor that is published by the National Federation of the Blind.  An article, “Screening out Blind applicants because Software is Deemed Inaccessible,” tells of a current lawsuit against a corporation that knows that its software is not compatible with screen-reading software and refuses to make changes.  This will be one of the most important court cases ever fought by the disability community because it will decide if making software compatible is a reasonable or unreasonable accommodation.

There was a time when I would recommend to visually impaired students and the parents of visually impaired children that they embrace technology and even become experts.  Those goals are no longer possible.  I learned this as I decided to join “them” by watching a Great Course lecture series on Computer Programming and Python.  I believed up to that point that I was the problem.  People like me just needed to be more technologically savvy.  The article in the January issue of The Braille Monitor saved me a lot of time and frustration.  I’ve complained in this blog about the problems I’ve encountered since buying a state-of-the-art Windows 10 laptop.  I’ve also discussed my disgust with the inaccessibility of Facebook and other social media websites.  I now know that the problem is much bigger than I ever imagined.  It is not a technology problem; it is an attitude problem.  The new attitude in high tech is that THEY are entitled to do whatever they want, whenever they want, and to whomever they want.  The attitude problem that first showed up in the showrooms and customer service areas of telephone and cable companies has now gone to the top levels where software is being developed.

What are people who are living with blindness and low vision and attempting to work supposed to do when they can’t beat “them” or join “them”?  Read and follow the examples and advice in Who Moved My Cheese? And then move with the cheese.  Reading a history of the blind and visually impaired to learn just how bad things can get if history starts to repeat itself would also be a good use of one’s time while waiting for courts to make their decisions about discrimination cases that have been on hold for too many years.

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