This article was originally written on the nomination of a sighted, female director for the Caribbean Council for the Blind and Visually Impaired. It stands to reason that I cannot be expected to go into any detail about why she and not he or he. What I have proposed myself to do is to express my personal views on the matter of blind leadership. Those views are not only applicable for our own region.
The idea of blind leadership plays an important role in most of the organizations of and for the visually handicapped. It is a well-known fact, that not only in third world countries, but also in the first and second worlds (I hate those terms!) blind leadership is usually accepted as a prerequisite for organizations involved in work with and for the visually handicapped. In the Latin countries, this phenomenon is even more striking than in the Teutonic language area, while it is obviously also very strong in the Slavonic world (The former Soviet Union and its Satelites). In Africa and Asia, due to an educational back-log the advancement of the visually handicapped is still, for a large part a matter of sighted pioneers.
The actual problem, in, for instance, the Latin American countries and in Spain (and probably also in the Slavonic countries) is that a blind and visually impaired person in spite of even an academic education, has virtually no chance of obtaining a position in accordance with his qualifications in society at large. Even if a single person obtains a position as, say an associate university professor, it is, as a rule in the field of special education for the visually handicapped! In Spain, a blind person with a high university degree has practically no other opportunity than to get employed by the National Organization of the Blind of Spain (ONCE) and if we are quite honest to ourselves, we shall have to admit that even in countries like the United States and Canada, qualified job openings (i.e. jobs that are in accordance with the qualifications of the visually handicapped individual) are very rare outside the agencies of and for the visually handicapped. In the Slavonic countries, integration is not even an objective. Curiously enough, both in Spain (a Latin country) and in Russia (the largest Slavonic one), the totally blind particularly constitute a separate class within society, in a different way, of course, but separate classes all the same!
There is a strongly ambiguous undertone to the cry for blind leadership. Blindness is no warranty for leadership! The very fact that we refer to blind leadership and not visually handicapped leadership is clear proof of the ambiguity of the term. We seem to ignore completely that it implies, that we are only paying lip-service to our goal of integration since we apparently do not even want to integrate the blind and partially sighted, not even in our terminology!
We have an excellent excuse, that we can use as a seemingly solid reason for our ambiguous attitude; after all: the impact upon the sighted of a blind person is so much more effective than the impact of a sighted one, even if he or she is a partially sighted one. The thirty-six thousand dollar question is whether the effect isn't quite often an adverse one in the sense that we are trying to create the image of the genius in spite of his blindness, -where-as the majority of blind an visually impaired people are, of course not gemiusses same as the majority of sighted people aren't.
However, the sting is in the tail, also in this case. Our agencies all proclaim that they are striving for integration of the visually handicapped into society as a whole. The word integration has been derived from integer, i.e.: whole, complete, not broken up or in the case of figures: without any fractions. An integer or integrated society can thus be defined as a society in which all constituent parts are of equal value and status. That, in its turn means nothing less than a society in which there is no discrimination in human values; or, in other words: no distinction between the human value of one individual and the other. Isn't that what we all want to achieve in the end? And if so: shouldn't we, as an agency striving towards that goal, set the example?
Positive discrimination, or as the Americans call it: affirmative action quite often has the opposite effect of the desired one. In itself being a woman, or black, or blind, or white, or deaf, is not an asset for any job or position. On the other hand, nobody will deny that women's affairs, can best be handled by a competent woman, and the affairs of the blind by a competent blind one, and so on. But the emphasis should be on competence!