Blind address barriers and misconceptions

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JEFFERSON CITY - Different, but equal. Blind individuals took a stand against the offensive misconceptions that label them as unequal members of society.

The National Federation of the Blind of Missouri (NFB) had it's 56th convention in Jefferson City today.

"The national organization helps defend the rights of blind people, to expand opportunities for blind people, to really bring the authentic voice to blind people, to any matter affecting the blind," said Mark Riccobono, the NFB national president.

The convention is 3 days, some of the main highlights include self defense classes, parents of blind children seminar, workshops for members, and the screening the movie "Do You Dream in Color".

According to Riccobono, the organization has about 500 chapters throughout the United States.

NFB addresses barriers that prevent blind people from becoming successful in society. Shelia Wright, the Missouri NFB president, says there is a low employment rate for the blind. "70-74% of blind people are either unemployed or underemployed." She says the organization is also working to encourage schools to implement a program that allows blind students to learn braille in school. Another barrier is access of information, where things in print or online are not accessible for the blind.

Wright says individuals can come to NFB to find resources, role models for blind children, and educational support, and networking. "The most important thing that happened to me was meeting other blind people and I found that people I met through the National Federation of the Blind, were not only blind, but believed in blind people," she said.

Riccobono and Wright hope that NFB can help end the misconceptions, and negative public attitudes about blind individuals.  "They think well if I close my eyes I know what it's like to be blind. That is because they don't know the techniques and technology that blind people use, and of course when you just close your eyes you don't understand what it's like to be a blind person," Riccobono said.

Wright says that people see blind individuals as less than equal, she educates them that the blind can do things as well as anyone else. "We preach that it's not if I can do something as a blind person it's how I'm going to do it. There's very few things that there's only one way of doing. There's always a non-visual way to do things," Wright said.

The National Federation of the Blind of Missouri is always seeking new members and supporters. The national convention is in Florida, in July.