Organizational Philosophy from A Student Perspective
In the National Federation of the Blind we often talk about our philosophy-our definition of what it means to be blind and how that differs from the belief held by most people. Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, president of the NFB from 1968 to 1986, summarized the NFB's defining philosophy with the following statement:
"The real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight. The real problem is the misunderstanding and lack of information which exist. If a blind person has proper training and opportunity, blindness is only a physical nuisance".
But what exactly does this mean to blind students? And how can we find the training and the opportunity that will render blindness nothing more than an inconvenience?
For me as a blind student, the NFB's philosophy has a very simple meaning. It means that I am capable of studying any field or taking any course that I find interesting. Because blindness by itself doesn't limit our abilities to succeed in school and employment, it follows that having more usable vision does not lead to greater success. The skills and techniques used to function in nonvisual ways can be equally effective for the totally blind person and for someone who has a good amount of residual vision.
The philosophy also means that I can and should be in full control of my own education, free to decide which accommodations, if any, I wish to use in order to succeed. This philosophy is about choice and freedom, not rigidity. It doesn't imply that there is only one way to be successful-that all blind people must go to one particular training center or use a specific cane to be effective in life. Nor does this philosophy dictate that blind students must do everything "on their own" without any assistance whatsoever. Rather, the philosophy challenges us to reach our full potential by taking advantage of all the different options available to us as blind students.
The links on this Web site will introduce you to the resources and techniques that you can make use of to be successful in school, work, and beyond. But in order to be in full control of our lives, and to truly succeed in any endeavor we choose, we also need to find training and opportunity. Unfortunately, we can't always control how much opportunity others give us, but we can all give ourselves the best possible training in the skills of blindness. Mastering these skills is what really enables us to participate equally in all aspects of life and to maintain control over our choices.
So whether you're a high school student with a few more years to go, a high school senior about to start college, a current college student or you're planning to go back to school, the following page will give you some practical tips to help you maximize your blindness and general life skills. Even if you don't plan to go to college, all of these skills are equally important in the job world and for living on your own. If after looking at this page you realize that your skills aren't where they could be, don't beat yourself up about it-everyone has areas where they can grow and improve. A little extra training and practice can go a long way toward rendering your blindness a mere "physical nuisance".
Interested in learning more? We welcome you to continue reading about the various Skills and Guidelines that accompany our philosophy.