The Meaning of Independence

Individual walking with cane long sidewalk

For many Americans, the Fourth of July holiday provided another opportunity to gather around the barbecue grill with family and friends, take in a dazzling fireworks show, and otherwise enjoy a little downtime celebrating the start of summer.

For America as a whole, Independence Day is the annual recognition of the sacrifice made by a small group of fearless English expatriates determined to find life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness far from the oppressive rule of England’s autocratic King George III.

Today, 247 years later, this burning desire for independence remains hardwired in our American DNA, and whenever our freedoms are threatened, we reflexively seek to restore our autonomy at almost any cost.

I cannot speak for the more than one million working-age Americans who are blind, but I can speak from personal experience and the experiences of my friends; this hardwired ‘independence reflex’ remains strong within all of us, regardless of our disability. It never goes away. Major roadblocks to personal autonomy, like financial independence, can leave us all tremendously unfulfilled and foment ever-compounding feelings that our life is on a trajectory of ultimate failure.

Take three of our most familiar American rites of passage to independence: buying a car, landing a fulfilling job, and purchasing a home. While most of us with vision impairment understand we will not be independently driving a car any time soon, we nevertheless believe financial independence and home ownership are within our reach if we can just find the right employment opportunity.

At NSITE, we strive every day to design, implement and identify new opportunities to help blind and visually impaired job seekers gain or regain their personal and economic independence.

We strive every day to collaborate with companies and hiring managers to disprove the unfortunate and unfair societal misperceptions of the capabilities of people who are blind.

Whether we are creating new and innovative training programs to up-skill and re-skill job seekers in the field of human resource recruiting, information technology, or business entrepreneurship; or whether we are helping our employment partners foster a more inclusive workplace,   We understand that American freedom means freedom of choice; that we the people should not be judge by the clarity of our eyesight, but by our burning desire to contribute to the success of our families, our employers, our communities, our nation and, ultimately, of ourselves.

The people I meet every day who are blind are the most resilient and adaptable people I have ever had the privilege to know. Likewise, the more than four hundred job seekers profiled on the NSITE Connect job board are all uniquely talented and qualified for immediate employment opportunities. They just need the right employer who shares the belief that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness should be accessible to all, independent of someone’s disability.

So, as we continue to finish off the Fourth’s leftover hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, and macaroni salad, let’s continue to work together and reduce the 70 percent unemployment rate of people who are blind by 2026 – when we will once again gather around the grill with our family and friends and help America celebrate her historic 250th birthday.

That will be quite the party, indeed.