In this inaugural blog, I begin by discussing about DeafBlind Citizens in Action (DBCA). Many many wonder what this organization truly is about, why it was founded, and what its vision is for the world.
Let me begin with a brief discussion of some of the most pressing challenges the community faces. Many individuals who are deafblind, members of DBCA included, felt that our society has tended to leave behind deafblind people, especially when implementing programs and services or developing new consumer products. Too often, government policies do not take into account the combined nature of vision and hearing loss; instead, these policies are usually designed to accommodate either vision or hearing loss. Because deafblind consumers, while highly diverse in their needs, belong to a comparatively small market segment that has long been left out of advances in technology because, among other reasons, there is a serious lack of funding for investment and companies generally do not want to risk developing products with little return on investment. In addition, there is a general lack of awareness of the needs of deafblind citizens not only among the general public but also government officials and businesses, leading to decisions that unintentionally disadvantage deafblind people. Together, these factors combine to create conditions that hinder the full and equal participation in society of Americans who are deafblind.
But it is important to note that this is not just about deafblind people. We know the U.S. population is fast aging, and many seniors may experience dual loss of vision and hearing. In addition, those who have served in the military may be subjected to combined loss of vision and hearing. Even if seniors and U.S. military veterans experience either vision or hearing loss, not both, they often benefit from many of the same products and services that deafblind people would need. When a society’s policies and practices do not take into account these groups, the result is often a sense of alienation and a financial burden on the nation. To ensure its collective economic and social well-being, society must be prepared to deal with costs associated with an aging population, the impact of military conflict on the physical and emotional well-being of servicemembers, and the long-term exclusion from equal participation of people with disabilities in the social and economic life of our nation.
So why create DBCA? It was a combination of a unique opportunity in Washington, DC that provided a safe and rewarding environment to discover and practice one’s leadership skills, and a desire to make the world a better place for all that allowed DBCA to emerge as a nonprofit organization. The daily lives of deafblind people encountering and overcoming barriers shaped the organization’s vision for a world that includes every person in every facet of life. A world where individuals and corporations unleash the creative power of humanity in facing and conquering its greatest challenges, including designing a universally accessible world. Beyond this vision is the recognition by DBCA that our country needs to lead the world on the accessibility front, since other countries throughout the world are racing to establish themselves as leaders of universal access within their borders that put into question America’s commitment to removing barriers that preclude its citizens from the equal enjoyment of life, liberty and happiness.
But DBCA is not just about young leaders who are deafblind committing themselves to meaningful change. DBCA seeks to create change that positively impact deafblind people worldwide. Human rights, and by extension disability rights, should not be confined to certain places. So, our goal is to be a global voice, not just a voice of Americans who are deafblind.
How do we accomplish these goals? DBCA, like many nonprofits working to improve the lives of people around the world, depends heavily on the generosity of those who believe in enhancing lives. Volunteers have also been critical to our work. Indeed, everyone inside DBCA is a volunteer balancing his/her commitment to a better world for all with the demands of professional, academic and family responsibilities. At the core of our mission is the empowerment of young adults to be committed leaders who give back to their communities, through our Leadership Development Program. In addition, we actively seek out new opportunities for collaboration with other nonprofits and the business community to make a world of difference, together.