WATERTOWN, Mass., June 20, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- A new study by Perkins School for the Blind shows that people who are blind remain largely excluded from society despite the progress in technology and cultural awareness in many other aspects of American life. In its study, Perkins, the school where the deafblind Helen Keller learned to read and write, found that although the public champions the blind population in theory, many people doubt the capabilities of people who are blind. That doubt fosters stereotyping that perpetuates marginalization.
For example, only 28 percent think a person who is blind could do the respondent's job – a perception that contributes to only 40 percent of people who are blind being employed, according to the American Community Survey. The study, "America's Blind Spot: What's Preventing Us from Including Those Who are Blind in our Sighted World?" also uncovered that misperceptions of the blind community give rise to four barriers to inclusion – discomfort, pity, fear and stigma, all of which inhibit the path to meaningful employment and living independently.
"In the nearly 50 years since Helen Keller left the world her legacy of brilliance and tenacity, everything has changed and yet nothing has changed for those who are blind," said Dave Power, President and CEO of Perkins School for the Blind. "Education and technology have opened so many new doors for those who cannot see. But now we need the sighted population's help to welcome them in, and afford them the same access to opportunities as the rest of the population."
To combat these barriers to inclusion, Perkins is sponsoring BlindNewWorld, an ambitious social change campaign aimed at helping the sighted population to be more inclusive of people who are blind and make the world more accessible to them.
Additional findings from the study include:
- 80 percent of respondents feel sorry for those who are blind, a sentiment that leads to assumptions that prevent the sighted world from embracing their peers who are blind in society
- 74 percent of respondents do not think they could be happy if they lost their vision, projecting their emotions onto a condition they know little about
- 46 percent of respondents cannot think of a condition worse than being blind, even compared to terminal illnesses like cancer and Alzheimer's
- 82 percent of respondents do not think a person who is blind can play sports, while 81 percent think someone who is blind is not capable of babysitting and 70 percent think people who are blind cannot shop for clothes, illustrating how the overwhelming population believes the blind population cannot perform everyday activities
The 2016 study conducted by Research Now included responses from 1,000 Americans with near equal representation across generations and regions of the country.
About Perkins School for the Blind
Perkins School for the Blind was founded in 1829 and is where Helen Keller challenged and dramatically changed society's perceptions of individuals with disabilities. Today, Perkins educates students on its leading-edge campus and throughout Massachusetts. Perkins is the premiere global enterprise dedicated to advancing the lives of the young people who are blind or deafblind through education, accessibility and innovation and remains a pioneer in education, accessibility solutions and teacher training worldwide. Learn more at Perkins.org.
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SOURCE Perkins School for the Blind