by Liz Wisecarver
From the Editor: Liz Wisecarver is our national communications committee chairperson. She lives in Houston, is an active member of the chapter, and works full time for the state affiliate as its NFB-NEWSLINE® coordinator. Here is what she has to say about our Meet the Blind Month activities as we take things virtual:
The National Federation of the Blind celebrates Meet the Blind Month each October to teach the public about the capabilities of blind people through example and one-on-one conversations. Each year, local chapters conduct a variety of outreach events in their communities, including White Cane Awareness Day proclamations on October 15, white cane walks, resource fairs, and Braille workshops. This year will be a little different, however, because the majority of our events will take place virtually.
The theme for this year’s Meet the Blind Month is our lived experiences with problem-solving, self-confidence, and intersectionality. And 2020 has certainly been a year that has put our problem-solving skills to the test. Chapters and affiliates have found creative ways to keep members connected while staying socially distant, including virtual chats over coffee, live banquet viewing parties on Zoom, and workshops on everything from technology demonstrations to exercise classes. Now it’s time to expand our collective creativity to host engaging Meet the Blind Month activities that will reach people outside of the Federation.
One challenge is how to interact with the public now that we are unable to meet in person and go where people are likely to congregate. The Houston Chapter has come up with a unique way to reach out to the community. We plan on hosting a public open house on Zoom for anyone to attend to talk about the National Federation of the Blind and the capabilities of blind people. An invitation will be posted to the usual social media outlets, as well as on the Nextdoor platform. Nextdoor allows users to connect with neighbors and businesses around them to share community events, ask for recommendations, and sell items. We hope that posting an invitation to our community will encourage people to join in and get to know us.
Many chapters are part of White Cane Day Celebration committees charged with planning October 15 proclamations and presentations. The Houston Chapter suggested that a virtual resource fair of exhibitors could be hosted on Zoom as part of the celebration following the presentations. The National Federation of the Blind of Texas, NFB-NEWSLINE® Texas, the Lighthouse for the Blind of Houston, and other local blindness agencies will host breakout rooms to let participants know about the services they provide. There will even be commemorative face masks available to purchase for the occasion.
Our national headquarters is hosting virtual events throughout October to promote meaningful conversations between blind people and the general public. There will be a Twitter chat each Wednesday in October to discuss blindness intersectionality with other characteristics that are also subject to inequalities, including other disabilities, race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, and seniors losing vision later in life. Webinars designed for employers will feature blind people’s experiences in problem-solving to illustrate the unique value we bring to the workplace. A video series sharing stories about building confidence through nonvisual training and the Federation philosophy is being created to show how blind people can accomplish their dreams. We encourage all members to join in the Twitter chats and share your experiences on social media. Remember to use the hashtag #MeetTheBlind.
Although this year may be different than years past, we encourage affiliates and chapters to plan a virtual event in your area to talk about blindness and the Federation philosophy. Invite other local partners and agencies, such as schools and libraries, to take part. The Courtesy Rules of Blindness and White Cane Awareness Day resources found on www.nfb.org are great to share at a virtual event or with local government officials. Please send us the date and a brief description of your event to email@example.com so we can feature it on our website. We can’t wait to see how our Federation family across the country is celebrating Meet the Blind Month this year.