[Athen] AHEAD E-Text Site Update

Marks, Jim marks at mso.umt.edu
Thu Jul 26 08:44:21 PDT 2007

I wish that people with learning disabilities would practice the same
sense of identity and collective action that blind people do, but I am
not going to hold my breath in anticipation of this progression. It's
accurate to say that most alternate format issues are driven by the
blind and visually impaired, but this is caused by the lack of action on
the part of other groups rather than the actions of the blind and
visually impaired. Blind groups often get charged with allegations that
we do not cooperate, and that this lack of cooperation hurts the things
we could achieve if only everyone would play well together. But what is
really being said, at least in part, is that blind people ought to pick
up what others are failing to do for themselves. The trouble with this
is that if blind people lose their focus, who is going to pick up our

And here is another point to consider. The only group of people with
disabilities to shrink in post-secondary education enrollment over the
past two decades is the blind and visually impaired. Part of the reason
for the shrinkage is better medical treatments. The other reason is
that the United States failed to teach blind and visually impaired
children how to read and write well enough to function in college. Now
consider that for every blind or visually impaired student a DS office
sees, there are 40 students with learning disabilities standing at the
door. As a consequence, DS officers tend to know a lot about learning
disabilities, and very little about blindness. Just look at the number
of posts about blindness that crop up on disability service listservs.
DS professionals do not know enough about blindness, and it's left up to
the blind to fend for themselves. They often have to do it under
extremely difficult circumstances, such as being forced to use
accommodations that are very appropriate for students with learning
disabilities and downright harmful to blind people. One size does not
fit all.

I do not think that blind and visually impaired people want to keep
other groups from getting their rights met. But neither will we let
others dictate our agenda for us. It may be sloppy, but special
interests are what drives our US system of government and economy. I
and many others feel no shame in our self-interest. But it sure would
be great if others would stop asking us to address their special
interests for them.

We will have to hoist a cold one over this sort of conversation, I
suppose. While we might not convince one another of much, at least we
can enjoy some good company and some good beer.

Jim Marks
Director of Disability Services
University of Montana
jim.marks at umontana.edu

-----Original Message-----
From: athen-bounces at athenpro.org [mailto:athen-bounces at athenpro.org] On
Behalf Of Ron Stewart
Sent: Wednesday, July 25, 2007 2:38 PM
To: 'Access Technologists in Higher Education Network'
Subject: Re: [Athen] AHEAD E-Text Site Update

I think the lesson for me at that point is if the various communities of
print disabled folks band together to work for a common solution to
their issues of access then a more wholistic solution would in all
likeliness result. As long as it is solely the NFB and other blindness
related organizations that are pushing for change then the result will
be laws that benefit those groups to the detriment of the others.

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