by Tony Stephens
As our country looks forward to some return to normalcy in our communities during the latter half of 2021, the American Council of the Blind will launch a national health and wellness campaign on full inclusion for people who are blind and visually impaired, particularly those with additional health complications who were disproportionately burdened during the pandemic.
The effects of the pandemic will be long-lasting for many throughout our community. Prolonged social distancing guidelines, continued reliance on virtual meetings, and threats to cut public transit and infrastructure will continue to make moving through life beyond our doorstep feel quite different for years to come.
This reality will add to the weight that has already been placed on the shoulders of those experiencing great social isolation over the past year. To some degree, that weight has been emotional and physical for many of us – myself included. That’s all the more reason to recognize, as we move out of the pandemic, a greater need to get up and get moving back into our society.
The Get Up & Get Moving campaign that ACB will launch this summer not only seeks to break down many of the structural barriers implemented during the past year, but also strives to empower each and every one of us who has felt this weight, especially for the millions of those who have spent years and years fighting their way against the headwinds of structural and systemic barriers to mobility and independence.
Over 4 million Americans experience severe vision loss and blindness, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), puts a $51.4 billion burden on our annual economy. And with one out of three Americans with diabetes experiencing signs of diabetic retinopathy — now the leading cause of blindness among working-age adults — the negative impact felt by the COVID-19 pandemic only brought to the surface many of the challenges to inclusion and opportunity that have existed for decades.
What is encouraging is that as the world prepares to come out of isolation, we have beneath us a bedrock of tens of millions of Americans who have found themselves experiencing many of the challenges our community has felt for years. This groundswell of a deeper understanding of our issues has enormous potential to amplify the key issues that stand in the way of enriching our health and wellness.
As we wrestle our way out of the emotional and physical chains of the past year, ACB recognizes the powerful opportunity to raise awareness on the key barriers for those most harmfully impacted by the sedentary confinement of social isolation. There exists an opportunity to not just educate, but to influence and empower. This is the goal of the Get Up & Get Moving campaign. It seeks to drive forward a major public awareness campaign, advocate on key issues impacting independence and mobility in the health and wellness space, and establish partners capable of making major change toward full inclusion of Americans who are blind. And in the process, it seeks to provide a platform for those most impacted to make sure their voices are heard.
The campaign will kick off on the eve of the 60th annual ACB national conference and convention. It will span the course of three years, with major public awareness events taking place across the country. And it will challenge all of us to take steps that will allow us to take back our health. Key areas of advocacy will include issues such as accessible durable medical equipment, accessible fitness machines, access to health data, and affordable assistive technology that allows us to move safely and independently throughout the community.
An excellent way you can get involved is to join us for our kick-off event on July 17th, when we will launch the campaign and share ways members and friends of ACB can help move the campaign forward.
Join us in the ACB Brenda Dillon Memorial Walk! How can you be a part of the action?
- For a small donation of $25, register for the Walk. When you register, you can choose to either create an affiliate team, join a team, or register as an individual.
- After registering, you will receive an email with a link to your webpage. Send that link to family members, friends, co-workers, etc., encouraging them to either join your team or make a donation.
To register, visit https://secure.qgiv.com/event/acbwalk2021/ or go to acb.org, and check the Quick Links section for the link to the 2021 ACB Walk. This is the same web site we used two years ago. If the site recognizes your email address, it will ask you for a password. Just click the “forgot password” button if necessary, and the system will send you a “reset password” message. Or you can download and complete a paper registration form from the web site listed above. For a hard-copy paper form, contact the ACB office in Minnesota at (612) 332-3242.
Once again, affiliate or committee teams can designate up to 50 percent of the money they raise to come back to their treasury. So let’s Get Moving Together, get some exercise, and help us reach our fund-raising goal of $95,000.
For questions about the Walk, contact Walk committee chair Donna Brown by email, Donnambrown59@gmail.com, or by phone at (304) 940-0292.