by Carl Jarvis

The other day someone said to me, “With our economy in the tank and our state budget about to be cut to the bone, we’re going to have to prioritize services for the blind.”

“That sounds logical,” I said, “but how do we go about doing that without cutting some services? The state agency is already pretty lean.”

“Well,” my friend said, “you look at which services give you the most bang for the buck.”

“Bang for the buck?” I asked. “Did we just get recruited?”

“You know what I mean; we need to invest our money where it will make the biggest return to our economy. We must protect vocational rehabilitation services because, once trained and working, those are the people who will make the greatest impact. They will be paying taxes, buying homes, renting apartments, shopping at the mall. You know, become contributing members of their community.”

“What about blind children and the older blind?” I asked.

“No problem about the children. The school for the blind already handles most of their needs, and as for the older people, well, providing them services doesn’t bring much back to the economy.”

“Wait just a darned minute!” I cried, pulling myself up to the fullness of my 73 years. “You just blew off the majority of blind people in our state.” I dusted off my soap box and clambered aboard as my friend ducked beneath the nearest chair.

“Not only that, this is the fastest growing segment of our population. And despite all the talk about their needs, they are the most poorly served population in the blind community. Did you know that there are large areas in our state where older blind people are not receiving any services at all?” I got so excited that I almost fell off my soap box. “But even more to the point, how can you say that these people don’t make significant contributions to their community? With proper services they will stay in their homes and apartments, go to their local stores, pay their taxes, consume lights and heat, and even hire help. Stick them away in nursing homes or adult family homes and they will not be making contributions, they’ll be costing taxpayers thousands of dollars each year.”

My friend made a frantic dash for the door, but I was too quick. Barring the door, I shouted, “All that aside, what about our obligation to these folks? These are our parents, our grandparents and beyond. These are the people who brought us out of the Great Depression, marched off to war in order to keep us safe, worked hard and raised their children to be productive citizens, paid their taxes and took part in community activities. These people are what America is all about. Is this how we plan to repay them? After all they did for us, are we going to measure the services we provide by the dollars we can still squeeze out of them?”

I heard my friend sobbing. “There, there,” I soothed, “I’m sorry to have upset you.”

“Please, please,” my friend blubbered, “you put your soap box down on my foot.”

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