Written by David Stupay, Managing Director, Envision Dallas
According to the World Health Organization, 2.2 billion people in the world have a visual impairment of some kind. Of these 2.2 billion, 43 million people are blind. Every May marks Blind Awareness Month: but many sighted people are still not aware of what it is like to be blind or to have a visual impairment, let alone that people who are blind or visually impaired (BVI) are just as capable as people who are sighted.
Envision, a non-profit company that is one of the largest employers of individuals with vision loss in the nation, headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, officially added Envision Dallas to its organization in 2018 to continue the important work started decades ago.
Envision Dallas, and Envision as a whole, is dedicated to improving the quality of life and providing inspiration and opportunity for people who are blind or visually impaired through employment, outreach, rehabilitation, education and research.
To honor Blind Awareness Month, let us dive deeper into some of the misconceptions that are present around blindness and low vision.
Misconceptions on blindness and low vision
According to a study done by the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind, Americans fear blindness/low vision more than losing their hearing or speech, losing a limb, or losing their memory, namely because people who are sighted cannot wrap their minds around how it is possible to live life without being able to see, and believe sight loss would have the gravest effect on their daily lives.
Since sight loss is such a feared disability, it becomes very difficult to not be closed-minded and resistant to understanding that people who are BVI are just like people who are sighted.
One of the over-arching themes of misconceptions about people who are BVI is that they are not a person capable of independence in any aspect of life. For instance, many people who are sighted think that processes as simple as getting dressed and being able to utilize technology are not possible. There have also been many instances where people who are BVI are not directly spoken to but are rather circumvented in conversations when they are with a sighted person, and questions are asked to the sighted person who is with them. These are examples of what happens when there is fear around sight loss.
This fear around blindness and low vision can cause people who are typically sighted to put people who are BVI in one box, but the fact is that blindness is a spectrum. Not everyone who is BVI sees color or light the same, and blindness does not mean you only see total darkness. Even people who have the same visual impairment have different perspectives of light, color, and depth.
2.2 billion people are BVI. The time for misconceptions is over, and the time for inclusion is here.
Based in Dallas, Texas, Envision Dallas offers programs, services and employment opportunities that are unique to each person, working toward an approach that enhances independence and quality of life.
70% of people who are BVI are unemployed nationally and are lacking access to needed services and are not being given the opportunity to work. In North Texas alone, there are 150,000 people who are BVI.
Today, we employ nearly 150 people who are BVI. Our team is proud to help in supplying critical items for the U.S. Military and state and federal governments through our Envision Dallas manufacturing and outsourcing solutions. Our manufacturing operations allow people who are BVI to be in charge of their own careers and support themselves independently. We also provide critical programs and services that promote independence and opportunity.
Envision Dallas continues its momentum as part of one of the nation’s largest service providers to, and employers of, people who are BVI with our 35-million-dollar investment in the purchase and renovation of a new 210,000 square foot state-of-the art center in Farmers Branch, Texas, that will nearly double in size and allow for growth of our employment, educational and rehabilitation services. Once complete in spring 2024, the new facility is expected to create up to 200 new job opportunities for individuals who are BVI over the next three years and will expand the capabilities of our programs and services we offer.
An example of a person who is blind and breaking misconceptions around blindness every day is our Envision Dallas Outreach Manager, Blake Lindsay.
Blake has been blind since birth due to Retinoblastoma, an eye cancer that begins in the retina. He has been with Envision Dallas and its predecessor organization, Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind, for twelve years and his passion is to improve people’s perception of blindness.
Prior to joining Envision Dallas, Blake worked with several recognized companies including Zig Ziglar Corporation, Dallas Area Rapid Transit and Bank of America. He is also a well-known voice talent on top Texas, Kansas and Indiana radio stations. He is an author and has written three books titled Out of Sight Living: A Sightless Person with Pure Vision, Blind for a Purpose, Turning Life Challenges into Purpose in Life, and his most recent book, Overcoming Obstacles.
"Each time I apply for a new job, I encounter some apprehension. I usually choose not to mention my blindness. When we can present sincere answers and real solutions to their concerns on whether we can fulfill the job responsibilities, it puts the interviewer at ease, and they will nearly always respect who you are and the value you have convinced them you can bring to the job."- Blake Lindsay.
Blake is a wonderful example of someone who has experienced misconceptions and fear around blindness and has shown that people who are BVI are just as capable as typically sighted individuals.
Honoring Blind Awareness Month
Remember to be open-minded, never assume, and treat people who are BVI as if they are someone just like you; someone who is strong, capable, and ultimately, human.