Op Ed with Bob Branco – What Are the Younger Blind Doing These Days?

From 1981 to 1988, I was a member of one of the major consumer organizations of the blind in this country. During my seven years as a member, the leadership worked very hard to try to recruit younger blind members, but more often than not, it was difficult to accomplish. In fact, during the past 25 years, this particular chapter ceased to exist because many of its membership either died or resigned, and were not replaced by younger members. Furthermore, this problem exists throughout my state, and I have to wonder if it exists throughout the country.

With some exceptions, it’s very difficult for organizations of any type to find young people to join. With this concern comes speculation. Why is it so hard to recruit young members into these organizations? One theory is that there are more blind students mainstreamed in public schools, to the point where they don’t feel the need to be involved in an exclusive blind society or network. Second, where we have a fast-paced and progressive society, there are other options for the younger blind, either socially or professionally, and that many feel they don’t need support at this particular time. The third opinion is one that I don’t share, but I will bring it up anyway. There may be younger people who have no faith in consumer organizations based on the lack of progress in lowering the very high unemployment rate of the blind.

Don’t get me wrong. If you are an active young blind participant in a movement or other group, then this topic doesn’t apply to you, however, even you must realize how tough it is to find others in your circumstance. If young blind people are too busy to join groups, many believe that this is a good thing if they are constructively busy. Obviously, if a young person sits home and does nothing, then that’s a completely different story.

I welcome your thoughts in the Readers’ Forum.

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