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October Is Blind Awareness Month


Blindness is not as scary as the movies or TV would have you believe, according to Susan Mazrui, director of global public policy for AT&T. “You just have to do things differently. I wouldn’t want to minimize the challenge, but blind people are capable of anything except driving — that is until self-driving cars become available,” she laughs.

“Disability is just another characteristic, and it can be celebrated,” she said. Susan, a 25-year veteran of AT&T should know. Blind since the age of 17, she has learned just how much is possible in an accessible environment and supportive community. Starting Oct. 1, Susan will have plenty of occasions to celebrate the accomplishments of blind and low vision and people and educate the wider community.

Known as Blind Awareness Month (#blindawarenessmonth), October includes many special days and weeks dedicated to increasing understanding, expanding access and cultivating inclusion for people who are blind or have low vision.  Among them:

  • Meet the Blind Month (#MeettheBlind), October: The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), founded in 1940, is the oldest and largest U.S.-based organization of blind Americans. The NFB celebrates Meet the Blind Month every October. Through organized Twitter chats and community-based outreach activities, the organization takes this opportunity to engage its members and educate the public.
  • National Braille Week (#NationalBrailleWeek), Oct. 7-13, 2019: Organized by the U.K.-based organization, Royal Blind, National Braille Week raises awareness about the importance of braille and other alternative formats that open up the written world to people with vision impairment.
  • White Cane Safety Day (#WhiteCaneSafetyDay), Oct. 15First signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on Oct. 15, 1964, White Cane Safety Day has celebrated the achievements of blind and low vision people and promoted equal opportunities ever since.

In 2011, President Barack Obama issued the first annual Presidential Proclamation for Blind Americans Equality Day. With this act, a new presidential tradition of formally acknowledging Oct. 15, as a special day to support the rights of people who are blind and low vision was born. Today, both names are used interchangeably to mark the importance of this community and to advocate for equal access. Whatever name is used, the day of Oct. 15 lives on with celebrations and acknowledgement by government entities and local communities across the U.S.

Together, these occasions present an opportunity to learn about each other and expand empathy for others.  Susan is optimistic that the world is changing for the better, but says we still have a long way to go, “I look forward to a day when blindness is viewed as just the way things are, another characteristic that makes us more diverse and better,” she said. “That will come as people start to feel more comfortable self-identifying and sharing that they have a disability.”

However, sometimes change occurs on a smaller scale. When asked about one awareness she would like to extend to sighted people this October, Susan had a quick response. “Scooter and bicycles,” she said. “With sustainability on the rise, which is great, scooters and bicycles are being used more and more. People leave them everywhere, and they don’t think about how they are creating an obstacle for blind and visually impaired people, or those who use wheelchairs for that matter.”

Communicating with the Blind and Visually Impaired

Courtesy of the National Federation of the Blind:  Our sighted friends often ask for advice regarding what they should do or say when meeting a blind person. Blind people are ordinary people, so please don’t be nervous around us. We are also highly capable people, so please don’t grab our arms, our canes, or our guide dogs if we haven’t asked you to do so. For more tips, we invite you to read our courtesy rules of blindness.

Recognizing Blind Awareness Month

Throughout October, take advantage of the many opportunities to learn more and get involved. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Start a discussion with someone in your life. If you are blind or low vision, ask this person how much they know about blindness, what they aren’t sure about and if they have questions. If you are not, reach out and ask someone who is blind or low vision about their experiences.
  2. Learn more. Listen to a podcast, watch a video or read a blog post that is blindness-related. The American Foundation for the Blind and Blind New World  offer great places to get started
  3. Share your own story of blindness or low vision and how it has impacted your life. This could be a Facebook post, a talk at a local organization, a Youtube video or just talking with friends.
  4. Advocate for safety and accessibility by talking to others and encouraging them to keep walkways and paths free and clear – no scooters!
  5. Use social media to connect with others around the world who are celebrating and to let people know more about blindness in general. In addition to the hashtags listed above, try: #blindawarenessmonth #blindnessawarenessmonth #lowvison and #blindness.

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