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Letter: Blind turned away by B.C. MLAs
To the editor:
I live in Victoria, but friends of mine in Kelowna visited three members of the provincial government recently which prompted me to write this letter.
Does a wheelchair user know what his chair is for? Obviously yes. Does an amputee know he needs a prosthesis? Obviously yes. So blind people also know what’s best for them, right?
Wrong, according to the B.C. government.
Why else would the provincial Liberals insult knowledgeable blind advocates by disregarding what they suggest is needed for motivated blind people? No need to reinvent the wheel, they seem to say. But what wheel is that? The wheel of social dependency, fear of blindness, and the wheel of incapacity?
A young blind woman sits in her family home in Victoria because she was never given the tools, the attitudes and the encouragement to succeed. There she remains because our elected officials feel they have no responsibility to give her the optimum training and abilities to succeed. They don’t believe in her, any more than they believe in the capacities of the blind experts. Why? With negative attitudes about blindness how can she possibly succeed?
Just recently two very capable and successful blind citizens with years of personal and leadership experience for blind people, spoke with three Liberal government MLAs to make a modest request . A mere $36,000 is all it would cost to send her for training to help change this blind woman’s life, but these MLAs refuse to acknowledge the need for her training, even though her ability to be a productive, contributing citizen will become a much greater possibility.
Removing the burden of dependence should be a priority.
Norm Letnick, one of the MLAs in question, did not completely dismiss the request but he did the usual political manoeuvre and created a diversion. Like reinventing the wheel, he suggested yet another study to justify what these blind people and most others already know.
Although not available in Canada, there are three excellent comprehensive training centres for the blind in the United States where intensive work in positive attitude training about blindness, mobility, independent living and life skills are available to Americans, free of charge, through federal and state government subsidies.
American students completing their stay of approximately six to nine months at these residential intensive learning facilities where positive attitudes about blindness are embraced, have a far better chance of living a productive and independent life.
Statistical data on the outcomes of these US centres is readily available for these MLAs to quickly and easily review.
The Minister for Social Development and Social Innovation, Mr. Don McRae, is, at present, engaged in consultation with people with disabilities. The Minister appears to have a disconnect with his fellow MLAs, or do they somehow fail to view blindness as a worthy “disability.”
How genuine is the Minister if these well informed blind advocates are disregarded and given the brush-off?
So far, the alternative provided by government for many young blind Canadians is a life like that of this young Victoria woman—to remain marooned, neglected and never having the experience to have a normal life. Instead, her prospects are grim, having to permanently exist for a life time on a subsistence allowance.
Varying young disabled citizens, including young blind people, need to undergo specific comprehensive training to help prepare them to function effectively. In Canada, paraplegics and others with similar conditions are given thousands of dollars in training to prepare them to live in a wheelchair. But in Canada, when you are blind our society still considers us as incapable and worthless charity cases.
All we’re asking for is to give young blind, motivated Canadians a chance to become independent, contributing and respected members of society.
Barriers for blind Canadians are social, not physical.
Surely, Minister McRea, blind citizens should be given the chance to succeed and rise from second-class citizenship to full contributing Canadians.
Let’s show some leadership in giving all disabled people a chance, but especially let’s change what it means to be blind in British Columbia .