April 2nd is World Austism Awareness Day
Fact on Austism: People with autism may demonstrate above average levels of concentration, reliability and accuracy.
So I'm taking part in RJ Scott’s April Blog Hop, aimed at discrimination and prejudice. When thinking about what form of discrimination I could write about, it seemed only fair that with my two recent releases, Blind Faith and Through These Eyes, that I approached the discrimination that blind people in our communities face on a daily basis.
As a member of any community in the developed world, whether able sighted or not, we are entitled to basic human rights. So what are the rights of blind people? It is tempting to reply, no different from those of the sighted. We want a happy childhood; a good education; a satisfying job; a fulfilling family life; enjoyable leisure and social activities, and the chance to take a full part in public life. We want respect; esteem; affection; but above all recognition that we are citizens with full civil and human rights.
More often than not, it’s not the perception of the blind person that they can’t do or perform certain tasks, but the opinions of able sighted people who think blind people aren’t capable.
Many things able sighted people take for granted, are not a sure thing for those who are vision impaired. Things such as:
Paid employment – probably the most trying. Some statistics I’ve read doing research for this blog post suggest anywhere between 80% – 95% of employers wouldn’t hire a blind person. Blind people have appropriate qualifications because they go to universities and colleges like anyone else, so why would a potential employer think their abilities to be any different? Is the fear of the unknown? Do they believe there will be extra needs? Extra cost?
The answer to these questions is generally no.
There are no other requirements or leniencies for blind people as there are for able sighted people, with one exception, which leads me to my next point.
Technology – I think it’s safe to assume there are some jobs, for safety reasons for all involved, that blind people couldn’t/shouldn’t/wouldn’t do. Like being a driving instructor, or a pilot, or a brain surgeon. But most other jobs, are perfectly suitable. Office administrator, teacher, accountants, lawyers, social workers, counselors, academics… the list is long.
The most critical component in making these professions vision-impaired-friendly, is technology.
The aid of different technologies has progressed the ease and proficiency in which blind people can do almost anything. Such as screen readers, text-to-voice, audio text, computer integrated reading software and Braille note takers.
So do employers have to provide such technologies for employees? Yes, they do. Not all are too expensive and many governments have funding to encourage such employments under the various Discrimination Acts.
But there are still employers who won’t make the concession. Though in many instances, if the employer has less than a certain amount of staff and deemed a “small-business owner”, s/he is exempt from this legal obligation. This makes it difficult for blind people living in smaller towns.
Renting an apartment – Many blind people have reported discrimination in this regard, particularly if they have a guide dog. There was one instance where a ‘control caller’ phoned some 100 real estate agents and asked about availability of apartments. Then the same agents were phoned again, citing the applicant had a guide-dog, and the differences were alarming.
Two landlords said guide dogs weren’t allowed at all. Three said only little dogs were allowed. (Ever seen a Chihuahua seeing eye dog?) Six said there was an extra fee for tenants with a guide dog. Two said guide dogs were allowed, but only in ground-floor units.
Using public transport - This is a big one, and one encountered frequently. Thankfully, times and perceptions are changing. In the 1960’s blind people – even professional, self-sufficient adults - weren’t allowed to travel unaccompanied, insinuating they were child-like and not mentally capable.
But still, there are issues and regarding safety and accessibility that still exist today. Whether using a cane, or a guide dog, blind people encounter issues pertaining to ignorance and discrimination on a daily basis.
In my two books, Blind Faith and Through These Eyes, the public transport issue is something Isaac encounters. He works at a school for the blind, so his employment is strictly catered to his needs and there are very limited discrimination issues there.
Throughout the course of the two books, Carter realizes just how much discrimination Isaac, as a blind man, encounters. Issues with taking a guide dog in public, into restaurants, onto public transport, even shopping. When Isaac needs a new laptop, the sales assistant first ignores Isaac, and then speaks to him slowly and loudly, like he was mentally inept or deaf.
As ridiculous as this sounds, this is something the blind community encounters often. If you see or encounter a blind person, on the street or in a shopping center who looks a little lost or unsure, introduce yourself politely and ask if you can help. They are, above everything else, just a person.
If, god forbid, you see a blind person who is encountering a form of discrimination, again introduce yourself politely and ask if you can help. Because it’s our right as human beings to speak up for those who are being discriminated against.
So, enough with the serious, and on to the fun stuff.
I’m giving away a copy of BLIND FAITH and THROUGH THESE EYES. Yep, two books!!
First, we have Blind Faith…
Starting a new job in a new town, veterinarian Carter Reece, makes a house call to a very special client.
Arrogant, moody and totally gorgeous, Isaac Brannigan has been blind since he was eight. After the death of his guide dog and best friend, Rosie, his partnership with his new guide dog, Brady, isn't going well.
Carter tries to help both man and canine through this initiation phase, but just who is leading whom?
Then Through These Eyes
Six months after we last met Carter Reece and Isaac Brannigan, they're still very much in love. Moving in together, moving forward, life for these two is great until some life changing events occur. Isaac has a frightening setback and Carter's world starts to unravel. Things become even more complicated and start to change for both men when Isaac’s new colleague enters the picture.
As Isaac struggles for what he really wants, it might just cost him what he needs the most.
Now, something on a little more personal note from me...
I’ve received a fair amount of harsh criticism for Isaac. Apparently many readers think he’s too obnoxious, too bratty, too rude and too cold. Apparently Carter deserves someone who’s nicer and deserves someone who’s capable of love, because apparently Isaac is not. I believe the term “most despised character ever written” has been used a few times.
I don’t mind criticism (if it’s constructive and fair) and to be honest, if someone says they hate the character then that’s more of a compliment than an insult because the reader felt something. Making a reader feel something, in any form of emotional response, is the aim of every writer – it means I’ve done my job.
But to outweigh that, I’ve also had two reviews and an email, from people who have lived with, loved, married someone who lost their sight, and said the descriptions of Isaac’s anger, resentment and frustrations, and his defensive walls, were spot on. Absolutely 100% correct.
It’s reviews from people who have lived through what Isaac and Carter were living through, and applauded the not-so-pleasant reality that I created, that makes me love Isaac that little bit more.
For your chance to win a copy of Blind Faith and Through These Eyes, please leave a comment stating if you had to lose one of your senses, which would you choose, and why? I'll be choosing a winner at the end of April (yep, the contest will be up for all of April).
The link back to RJ's site, and so you can continue the blog hop, is RJ's April Blog Hop!