compiled by Ardis Bazyn, ACB Membership Chair
When we discussed the topic "How to Encourage Newly Blind Individuals It's OK to be Blind," we received some valuable suggestions. One key message relayed throughout the call is making sure we treat every blind person as worthwhile, no matter what their blindness skill set. In the blindness community, some who have been blind for a long time may expect newly blind people just to "get over it," meaning the urge to stay home and to depend on others to assist them. We need to reassure them that it is OK for them to try new things and not expect to learn everything immediately.
One of the ways we can assist those losing sight and their family members is to show them how we accomplish tasks and that we don't allow our blindness to keep us from enjoying life. We can display this by having chapter members involved in outreach projects. Your chapter can set some goals for involvement in various activities in your community. Some ideas are:
- Speaking at elementary schools
- Visiting low-vision support groups
- Sharing the tools you use with others around you
- Networking with other organizations
- Inviting public to fundraising events
- Showing braille and print cards, braille-and-print books, and gadgets for those with low vision
- Highlighting photos of blind members involved in recreation, family celebrations, school activities, and traveling
- Presenting yourself professionally
- Creating a Mardi Gras theme experience with casino games, poker tables, braille cards, beads, and mats
- Having wine and cheese parties to educate people
- Having 800 number for people to make inquiries
- Move your meetings to different places including senior centers
- Educate your community by planning activities such as socials and events
- Wrap presents at Christmas at Barnes & Noble or another store
- Have your chapter provide a tech Olympics for blind children to show how well they use various assistive technology devices
- Hold a braille challenge
- Read stories in braille at a book store, in hard-copy braille or on braille notetaker
When we meet newly blinded people and parents of blind children, how we act and react can make a difference in improving their attitude. Here are some thoughts shared on how to help them:
- Encourage learning of blindness skills.
- Share your accomplishments with them.
- Accepting that each person adapts to blindness differently. Some need more assistance than others.
- Seeing blind people operating independently because it's not a death sentence.
- Independence is more fun than depending on someone else all the time.
- Accept blind people as they are, whatever skills they have.
- Seeing some blind people use technology such as smart phones for reminders and other alternate ways instead of braille.
- Using a white cane is useful for independence and getting assistance when needed.
- Gadgets are available for both totally blind and low vision.
- Blind people can be confident and self-assured.
- Encourage blind people to ask for help when necessary.
- Give brochures to doctors and ophthalmologists.
- Blind people need to advocate for themselves.
- Sharing your life story because it may make others feel they can cope.
- Have a sense of humor about difficult situations.
- Learn how to be a leader as a blind person..
The next two membership focus calls will be Monday, August 27 at 5:30 pm Pacific/8:30 p.m. Eastern on the topic: "How to get people to attend and access materials at convention," and the last Sunday in October at 5 p.m. Pacific/8 p.m. Eastern on the topic: "Tips on bonding officers and board liability insurance."