The Culture of Blindness

When my friend Diane Croft suggested that I come to NBP’s 86th Annual Meeting, my response was an immediate 80 percent “fabulous Idea,” mixed with 20 percent apprehension. 

I am a frequent attender of annual meetings. For someone who is both blind and has impaired hearing, such gatherings can be concealed land mines of discomfort and self-doubt. 

Where’s the bar?

Where’s the food?

And, of course, the most burning question:  Who’s here? 

The minute I arrived at the registration table, all apprehension melted. 

Like its amazing collection of braille products, NBP is rich in the culture of blindness.  One staff member swept me into the reception, describing the food, the bar, and the recognizable people as we entered. 

Every time one conversation ended, it seemed, another NBP person was at my side asking, “Do you want food?  Wine?  Would you like to talk to [this person or that]?” 

The one thing, in other words, that is most difficult for a blind person to do – look around – was rendered inconsequential.

Then, there was the meeting itself. 

Diane Croft presents Judy Dixon with NBP's 2013 Volunteer Award

Diane Croft presents Judy Dixon with NBP’s 2013 Volunteer Award

Paul Parravano, Brian MacDonald, and Diane Croft each presented with warmth and eloquence (and did I mention brevity?).  We celebrated together the work of NBP and the recipients of the 2012 Louis Braille Touch of Genius Prize.  We heralded consummate advocates and volunteers—Judy Dixon, the Delta Gamma Foundation, and the State Street Corporation’s Disability Awareness Alliance — and felt connected to them all. 

We were connected because National Braille Press has a clear vision of both purpose and intent.  It is not just an organization that promotes braille.  It is a collection of human beings who love and respect blind people.  They “get” the “culture” of blindness, and made me, a braille reader, forever grateful that they do what they do.