A VOLUNTEER FORCE OVERLOOKED BY CHURCHES AND CHARITIES

Bruce Atchison (small photo)

An e-mail from a friend last year saddened me. Debra wrote that she wanted to do more to help out her church but nobody would take her offers seriously. Why did they not accept her help? She’s totally blind, that’s why.

Debra isn’t the only one whose offers of assistance have been waved away by able-bodied folks. I’ve heard of other blind people being denied the chance to help out in organizations.  We’re somehow viewed as the ones to be helped rather than the ones who can pitch in.

Blind folks have many talents which could be put to good use in churches and organizations. The obvious ones are singing and playing an instrument. But not every blind individual is a Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder. What can they do to help?

Volunteers for telephone reminders are one area where sight-impaired individuals can give assistance. It’s no problem to dial a phone if a person can’t see the buttons or dial. In fact, blind telephone operators have been around for decades. Not letting people do that easy task proves how short-sighted some sighted people can be.

Folding church bulletins or stuffing envelopes is another low-skill job which anybody can do. As long as the stationary pages are the right way up and the envelopes are placed properly in the printer, there should be no trouble for a sight-impaired volunteer  to complete the task.

Blind people can also take minutes at board meetings. With the use of a digital recorder and the permission of the participants, that person can type the minutes up at home and have them printed out for the next meeting. As for reading them aloud, the secretary could either ask a sighted friend to read them aloud or they could read from a braille copy. I’ve volunteered as secretary for both the local Wildrose Party constituency association and for the Alberta Rural Crime Watch Association for the past year. Nobody has said I didn’t do a good job or I shouldn’t be in such a position.

Since many sight-impaired folks use computers with screen-reading programs, why not let them put together newsletters? Alternately, let the blind volunteer write the text so that a sighted member could work on the lay-out of the newsletter.

I could list many other examples but I’m sure you get the point. Generally speaking, visually-impaired folks are dedicated volunteers who take pride in their work. Not giving people such as myself the chance to pitch in is a subtle form of discrimination as well as just plain foolish.

I mentioned a few problems I had in offering help to churches in my book called How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. It’s available through Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers.

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Author: bruce Atchison - author

I'm a legally-blind freelance writer as well as the author of three memoirs and scores of articles. Contact me for details.

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