Factions & White Canes

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One week ago I sat in on a session of OASIS (Orland Area Sight Impaired Support) with fellow Lions. Our club is supporting OASIS in their endeavor to initiate a new chapter in the Will County area. Sight impaired people are no different than you or me in that they love to participate in normal activities the same as they did when they were sighted. The range of impairment goes from blind at birth to age related diseases. Some can see, but very poorly, some are totally blind. When observing the group it was obvious to tell who was totally blind by their mannerisms, but those whose blindness was age related there was no way to tell that they had a problem.

The founders of OASIS is a married couple, both blind, who took it upon themselves to do something to help others in their situation. They have been doing counseling and support for twenty-three years which is how old OASIS is. Kim, leads the group in a discussion by asking a question. Her first and only question of the day was What is your greatest frustration caused by blindness? A very astute and lengthy discussion ensued as each of the participants (eight) responded. The number one frustration is getting transportation to do things, like going to the grocery store, or for a hair-do, or church. Even though our county supports seniors and disabled by running special bus services, the service is considered slow to respond, and inconvenient. Many use Uber, but complain of the high cost. The number two frustration is not getting respect from the public. For instance a few people cited being made fun of because of their cane. For the uninitiated, blind people can learn to negotiate on their own by using a cane. There is a special white cane with a red tip that is available for them to use. Evidently, our culture has shifted from giving the cane respect to one of harassment, and ridicule. In the good old days when a person with a white cane stopped at a street corner to cross there was always a citizen nearby who would step up and assist the blind person across the street. The same happened at building doors, elevators, etc. They complain that the respect is no longer there. Another situation arises when a vision impaired person steps up to the counter at a fast food restaurant. The order taker will ask “order please?” When the blind person responds I can’t see the menu, they respond “look up at the board.”

I can understand the frustration of the order taker who is under pressure to serve as many people as possible in an hour, but there comes a time when speed must be second to politeness and courtesy. I took it upon myself to write to the CEO’s of ten major fast food corporations with a suggestion to fit a  simple excise into their clerk training program. It is too early to have received any responses  yet, but I can hardly wait.

This got me to thinking about all the causes and problems experienced by people. I just mentioned the frustration of the blind, but there are many others, like those in wheel chairs or on crutches, or are linguistically impaired. Each segment is a tiny fraction of our total population, but we as citizens expect our businesses to react appropriately to each situation. Even though, what I suggested is a simple and short addition to a training program I began to vision all the other problems that can be taken care of by training. Add them up and the cost of training becomes major. It becomes even more complicated in our country because of the many different nationalities and cultures who look for entry level jobs in fast food restaurants. Many of these people are still learning the language and don’t understand the menu themselves. In the meantime, factional groups register their daily living frustrations.

What is the answer? Robotic order takers. With artificial intelligence programmed into a robot it could be programed to detect situations like language differences, visual impairments, and others. If Robo detects a person is vision impaired he read’s the menu. If a person is hearing impaired he shows a large print electronic menu, and so on.

I’m not sure any of this is necessary, but something has to change or the visually impaired will be doomed to living solitary lives inside their apartments and suffer for help.

Another thing we must do is teach our youngsters from an  early age to be polite and courteous to everyone. We won’t need robots when our neighbors step up and help us out.

2 Responses

  1. It seems many of us have come to project ourselves as living in a perfect world. Either holidaying. Or eating exotic food. Or laughing in a group. Where imperfection is a nuisance. Unfortunately many realise it only when it happens to us. We need to understand that the world is not perfect. Far from it. Each individual is different. We need to be sensitive to people and individual differences. Starting at a young age would be a great way.

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