by Connor Courtien, RDPFS Intern
As part of their series “Where the Blind Work,” The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) held a webinar on April 20, 2023, speaking with three immensely accomplished blind journalists about their careers, offering a wealth of insight and inspiration for those interested in the field. The main theme, reinforced by their personal journeys, is that it’s very possible to succeed as a journalist with a visual impairment. All three panelists spoke of barriers faced by those who are blind or have low vision, but indicated that, ultimately, these are largely overcome by advocating for yourself. Elizabeth Campbell of The Star Telegram shared that “There are always access barriers around getting information quickly,” referring specifically to government and company websites that aren’t accessible. She noted that it’s important to advocate for whatever assistive technology you need to get your job done. Campbell suggested availing yourself of multiple screen readers, as some sites work better with different tools than others. This sentiment was echoed by the others, Gary O’Donoghue of the British Broadcasting Corporation and Michelle Hackman of The Wall Street Journal. O’Donoghue stated that you must “fight (from) your corner, and advocate for yourself,” to overcome disparities in access. He gave an example of using a braille display with a neck strap to write while out in the field, where having a laptop or using audio recording would be extremely difficult. O’Donoghue added that it’s essential to “keep up with technology to do things as efficiently as possible, (allowing the individual to be competitive when) compared to sighted individuals.” Hackman also spoke of barriers experienced in interactions with peers, remarking that while you may encounter some ignorance, “If you have the drive and interest, attitudinal barriers are nonsense that you’ll figure out.” She offered an anecdote involving an individual scoffing at her when visiting a section of the Mexico-United States border since she couldn’t see her surroundings. Hackman insisted on experiencing the environment and proceeded to walk through the brush. Each panelist shared many insights exemplifying tremendous journalistic achievements, serving as inspiration for aspiring journalists. As O’Donoghue stated, “Journalism is not a paper exercise, it’s a people exercise. The talking and listening required (are) a very good fit for blind people.” Check out the work of these journalists in the links above and visit the NFB Employment page for information on the next Where the Blind Work webinar in June.