Who should be speaking?

In the normal scheme of things, we should and would expect that when it comes to speaking up and speaking out, it should be the voices of those who are most affected to be the ones to be doing so but alas!  When it comes to communities and groups made up of persons with disabilities, it appears that the reverse seems to be happening.

I am going to limit my editorial to my home country of Canada and to Canadians who are blind and vision impaired, but I will also note that this is not an uncommon problem in any way.  It is very prevalent around the world but moreso in some countries than in others.

Here in Canada, blind and vision impaired Canadians continue to struggle to have their voices heard, but against this background is a community that is deeply divided on how this should be done.  In addition, this community is very fragmented and spends a tremendous amount of time fighting among themselves as opposed to putting their energies into the creation of solutions.

There is yet another dimension to this picture, and that is more than a perception that there exists a paternalistic attitude on the part of the more powerful service providers who believe that they are better able to speak on behalf of the blind and vision impaired community because they know best what is needed.

All of this has lead to a Federal Government who has tended to believe that it is easier to deal with the more powerful service providers, rather than with fragmented groups and several of the more powerful providers have certainly taken advantage of this.

To try and further clarify:  Blind and vision impaired Canadians continue to have their voices heard.  They continue to have problems verbalizing in a meaning and professional manner, and as a result their frustrations continue to be one of the major obstacles preventing them from becoming more potent and powerful.

On the other side of the coin, we have service providers that continue to take advantage of these glitches and they continue to use them to convince the Federal Government to fund them with large sums of money so that they can continue to exist.

So what do I think could be a good formula?  I am by no means the expert here but for what it is worth; how’s this for starters.

A commitment to start afresh; to come together to listen, admit shortcomings, respect, and a commitment to carry out honest and transparent collaboration.  Transparency and accountability are probably the two most important factors to any formula for success.

These are just my two cents worth for today.

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