Many of us who are members of the National Federation of the Blind know that with the proper training, tools and opportunity that blindness can be reduced to the level of a mere nuisance . We can live, work and have great lives as blind people. There is no doubt about it; blindness does not have to stop us from living the lives we want. However, it does not follow that living life as a blind person is always easy.
In the summer of 2016 I booked a cruise to Mexico. In preparing for my trip, I made a request to have a braille dinner menu as outlined on Carnival’s website. As someone who had just recently learned grade II braille, I was ready to put my skills to work by exercising a new level of independence on the cruise ship. Unfortunately, things did not work out the way I had hoped.
The first day of the cruise, I arrived at the dinner table and immediately noticed that we were led to a table for two. This is important to know because on a cruise ship, most times people are seated together at a table of around eight people. This form of assigned seating is done purposely so you can get to know other people on the ship. Often it is these people that you get to sit with each day who become potential lifelong friends from around the country, but for some reason we were sitting in a corner all by ourselves.
It also did not take long to notice that my braille menu was not on the table, and I was quickly informed that braille was unavailable and my waiter would be reading me the menu for the duration of the cruise. Something had gone wrong somewhere. By asking for braille accommodations, I had alerted them that a blind person would be cruising with them, and not only did I not get the braille menu I had requested, I also was segregated to my own secluded table, taking away one of my favorite parts of the cruise experience. Who knows what friendships could have been forged last summer if carnival had not thought that a blind person needed to be sequestered.
This is exactly one of the reasons why the National Federation of the Blind is so important. We need to educate everyone on the real truth about blindness. Sometimes we can do everything we need to do as blind people, yet one uninformed person can change the rules of the game. It is definitely true that with the proper tools, training and opportunity we can live the lives we want. However, the general public has to know this truth as well. It will take a lot of hope and love, but together, we can turn our dreams into reality!