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Part 2:The struggles faced by blind individuals in a sight-centric world

27 November 2023

Despite advancements in technology and awareness, blind people continue to face obstacles ranging from limited access to information and education to a lack of suitable career opportunities. Photo IMRAAN GALLO

By Imraan Gallo

In an increasingly connected and technologically advanced world, one might assume that barriers to accessibility are diminishing.

However, for blind individuals, the modern world still presents numerous challenges that impede their full participation and inclusion. Despite advancements in technology and awareness, blind people continue to face obstacles ranging from limited access to information and education to a lack of suitable career opportunities.

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This article delves into the multifaceted difficulties and challenges that blind people encounter in the modern world, exploring issues related to accessibility, awareness, and career prospects.

The accessibility abyss While the digital age has revolutionized access to information and communication, it has also unintentionally deepened the accessibility
divide for the blind. Websites, applications, and digital content are often developed without considering the needs of blind users.

Consequently, these individuals face significant difficulties in navigating the internet, accessing online resources, and participating in online platforms.

The lack of adherence to web accessibility standards, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), creates an online environment that excludes blind users. Furthermore, printed materials remain a challenge for the blind population. Books, brochures, and other printed documents are often inaccessible due to a lack of Braille versions or digital alternatives.

This limits their ability to access educational materials, literature, and other essential resources that their sighted counterparts take for granted.

Limited awareness and attitudes

While progress has been made in raising awareness about disability rights, misconceptions and stereotypes about blind individuals persist.

These attitudes can perpetuate exclusion and hinder blind people from fully participating in social and professional activities. The belief that blindness equates to
to helplessness or dependence can undermine their autonomy and self esteem.

Public spaces and transportation systems are often designed without considering the needs of blind individuals. Complex layouts, a lack of tactile markers, and inadequate signage make it difficult for them to navigate unfamiliar places independently. This lack of accessibility can lead to feelings of isolation and frustration.

Education and employment barriers

Access to quality education and suitable employment opportunities is crucial for personal growth and financial independence.

However, blind individuals often face significant barriers in both areas. Inadequate educational resources, such as Braille textbooks and accessible teaching materials, can impede their learning experience.

Furthermore, schools and universities might lack the necessary infrastructure to support blind students, limiting their participation in extracurricular activities and collaborative projects. In the job market, blind individuals encounter limited career options. Many industries still perceive blindness as a
hindrance, overlooking the diverse talents and skills blind individuals possess.

The lack of accessible workplaces and adaptive technologies can further hinder their entry and advancement in various professions. While some progress has been
there is a need for a shift in attitudes to recognise blind individuals’ potential and create inclusive work environments.

Technology as a double-edged sword
Technology has the potential to be a great equaliser, but its implementation can be both an asset and a challenge for the blind. While screen readers, Braille displays, and other assistive technologies enhance their access to digital content, they also face hurdles in adapting to rapidly evolving technologies.

Compatibility issues, a lack of training resources, and rapid technological change can create barriers to their effective use of modern tools. Additionally, the rise of automation and digital interfaces in various industries can lead to the exclusion of blind individuals from certain jobs.

If these technologies are not designed with accessibility, they can inadvertently reinforce employment disparities.

Social and cultural inclusion

Participation in cultural and recreational activities is integral to social inclusion and personal enrichment.

However, blind individuals often encounter difficulties in accessing these experiences. Museums, theatres, and other cultural institutions may not offer accessible exhibits, audio descriptions, or alternative formats.

This exclusion denies them the opportunity to engage with art, history, and entertainment on an equal footing.

Similarly, the digital realm has transformed social interactions, but it can also isolate blind individuals if not designed with accessibility in mind. Social media platforms, for instance, can present challenges regarding navigation, image descriptions, and participation in visual content.

Advocacy and progress
While the challenges faced by blind individuals are numerous, there have been notable advancements in advocacy and awareness. Blind advocacy groups and disability rights organisations tirelessly push for policy changes, raise awareness, and promote accessibility.

Legal frameworks, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the United States, have played a crucial role in compelling businesses and institutions to consider accessibility as a priority.

Additionally, grassroots efforts, campaigns, and the voices of blind individuals themselves have contributed to shifting attitudes and fostering a more inclusive mindset.

Blind individuals continue to navigate a world that often overlooks their needs and potential. The difficulties they face in accessing information, education, and employment opportunities are symptomatic of a broader issue – the pervasive lack of awareness and accessibility in a sight-centric world.

The onus is on society to address these challenges by recognising the talents and contributions of blind individuals, advocating for accessible technologies, and promoting an inclusive mindset.

Only by collectively addressing these issues can we hope to create a world where blind individuals can thrive and participate fully in all aspects of life.

This is the second in a series by Imraan Gallo, a creative director and photographer. He was diagnosed with open-angle glaucoma and only has 15% vision.

Source: Muslim Views

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