Helen Keller: Honoring a Voice for Disabilities
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” ~ Helen Keller
This month we celebrate the life and legacy of Helen Keller, a woman who overcame immense challenges and became an inspiration not only for people who are deaf and/or blind, but for anyone facing adversity.
A co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union and a long-time member of the staff of the American Foundation for the Blind, Helen Keller was a voice for people with disabilities. Her efforts inspired others to come together to ensure that education, employment and other life pursuits were not denied to people who were blind, deaf or had other disabilities.
One such group that is committed to fostering the health, well-being and opportunities of people with vision loss is CAABVI – California Agencies for the Blind and Visually Impaired. CAABVI member agencies serve people of all ages who are living with low vision and blindness. As the president of the board of CAABVI, I know that our collective efforts are critically important right now.
CAABVI’s mission is to advocate for effective and equitable training, education and services for all Californians who are blind or visually impaired. We are currently working on improvements in educational services and resources for children. Schools throughout the state do not have enough Teachers of the Visually Impaired to ensure children with vision loss receive the educational support they need to succeed academically.
Employment of people with vision loss has remained at a paltry 30% for nearly two decades. At a time when businesses are struggling to find employees, CAABVI is urging businesses and organizations to look to people with vision loss. Assistive Technologies make most jobs accessible for someone with vision loss, and most of our member agencies can work with employers to onboard their new employee with the tools and devices they need.
As our population ages, CAABVI is working on legislation along with the CA Council of the Blind and other groups to increase supportive services for older adults living with vision loss so they can age actively and remain independent. Society board member Jeff Thom, who served as an attorney for the California Legislature for 30 years, told me, “Historically, specialized services for adults coping with vision loss have been dramatically underfunded, and it is only with the united efforts of the blindness community that we will begin to reverse this trend.”
Anita Aaron, executive director of CAABVI, said, “Each agency, working alone, can only affect change in a limited area. Together, we have a collective, statewide voice to raise awareness and improve services.”
Society for the Blind wants to ensure that people who are blind or have low vision are able to access services and pursue their professional and life goals. Our organization is committed to the work of CAABVI on behalf of the nearly 1 million blind and low vision people in California.