You are here:

Are blind adults being ignored?

This is the question that I am asking myself as I write this.  I know!  In so many cases, society tends to gravitate much more easily towards the needs of our kids—and rightfully so.  They are our future, and we need to do all in our power to ensure that theirs will be a bright one, nurtured and jealously safeguarded and protected at all cost. 

So far, so good, but what about adults?  Especially blind adults?  Are we doing enough to ensure that they too are being given a fair chance to enjoy as much as they can?  I am asking this question based on a recent experience that I had with an organization called Courage Canada.  Last year, I approached this particular organization to see if they would be interested to try and set up a program to teach blind adults how to ice skate.  At that time, the person that I spoke to expressed an interest, and over the summer, we exchanged ideas and emails.  However, July was the last time that I heard from him until I bumped into him in Ottawa in early February at a conference.  

After we were introduced, he proceeded to tell me that he did not have a budget to teach blind adults and that blind kids were the priority.  Everyone has a budget, and everyone has a priority, but this really hurt me, and as a blind adult who is extremely passionate about the joys and benefits of ice skating, it was both sad and shocking to hear this person tell me this.  
So just imagine my surprise when I saw a news item on CTV a few days ago in which this same man was promoting his organization’s learn to skate program for kids.  On the one hand, I was extremely delighted to see that blind kids were being given a chance to experience the joys and excitement of ice skating, but on the other, I felt very sad and disappointed; for once again, blind adults were being left out in the cold. 

The kids will no doubt grow into adults, and when they do become adults, will Courage Canada be telling them that they can no longer take learn to skate classes because they are now adults?  Will Courage Canada be telling them that they are now ineligible because they are adults and that they can no longer afford to teach them because they do not have a budget to teach blind adults how to skate? 

As a blind adult who enjoys ice skating, I truly believe that other blind adults should be given every opportunity to experience the joys of ice skating; for after all, this is Canada, isn’t it?  My parting words to Courage Canada are these:  Please find a way to expand your program to include blind adults.  Kids are not going to be kids forever, and they are kids for a much shorter time than they will be adults.  You need to find a way to include blind adults in your offerings.   

Disclaimer:

This blog is curated by the AEBC, but welcomes contributions from members and non-members alike. The thoughts, views, and opinions expressed in the Blind Canadians Blog are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the AEBC, its members, or any of its donors and partners.

Comments

I don't think this phenomenon is limited to the "blind", but it is certainly a criticism that has been voiced at organizations in the past, i.e. that they have all sorts of programs for little children, all sorts for the elderly, but very little for those "in between" who are seemingly expected to just figure it out, or be more resourceful, or something.

Bring this back to blindness, though, I think this goes for more than just recreational items. To the extent that working-aged adults are expected to have certain skills and be capable of supporting themselves and their families through a career of one sort or another, sometimes the avenues for learning those skills, when they haven't been learned as a child for one reason or another, are limited. The upcoming AEBC town hall on employment issues will likely highlight some of those skills, but one thing I hope to see is the identification for resources where those all-necessary skills can actually be learned.

I'm not sure this is just an issue with blindness. If you look at most sports and recreation classes, the vast majority of them are targeted at kids and not adults. A sighted adult who wants to learn to skate, more than likely, will end up doing it on their own rather than taking a class. You could argue that we are in need of more classes for adults in general. You could also argue that recreation centres, and their instructors, do need more training and resources in providing their services to individuals who are blind.

I guess my question would be, what is stopping a blind adult from finding a friend and going skating on their own? Or from approaching a regular class targeted at adults (if they can find one) and connecting with the instructor about wanting to participate in their class? Or asking for one-on-one instruction if they are uncomfortable participating in a class (which most recreation centres offer)? I think it's far better for blind adults to get out there and participate in regular sports and recreation activities than to have special classes.

I would say the same about classes for kids, actually, except that often kids do not have many of the advantages adults have (independence, autonomy, responsibility, etc.). Kids can't go skating on their own and require the supervision of a class. Also, many parents are uncomfortable letting their kids participate in regular classes due to concerns over safety issues. This isn't necessarily right, but if I had to pick a target population to offer special classes to, it would be kids. Because if there are no special classes, they might not get any experience skating at all.

I think there is a need for some specialized recreational and sports activities for blind individuals when it comes to team sports, since we are unable to participate in regular soccer, hockey, baseball, and so on. But for individual sports activities like skating, swimming, running, yoga, cycling, etc., I absolutely think blind individuals should be participating alongside sighted individuals rather than in special classes. The only modification they really need is use of a sighted guide. Some sports, like skiing, might require some initial specialized instruction, but once the skier and guide are proficient they, too, can participate in regular skiing activities and programs. (As a side note: Many recreation centres will allow a sighted guide to accompany a blind participant or athlete to their programs and facilities free of charge, if asked.) What better way to demonstrate to society that we are just as capable, active, and able to participate in and contribute to society as everyone else than to be seen out there participating in activities that many would think is not possible alongside sighted peers.

I think you make some really great points, Jen. I don't disagree at all. The only thing I'll say is that if a person has faced difficulty, as some have, finding an instructor that is not completely mortified by the prospect of teaching a blind student and that makes the student feel welcome, then I get wanting to find a space that is more comfortable and welcoming. I think you're right that it's better for blind and sighted alike if blind people are integrated, but I get the motivation behind wanting a separate class. It highlights the importance of teaching blind people to be strong self-advocates.