City recognizes blindness awareness movement

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Yvonne Neubert (left) and Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon at last week’s recognition ceremony. (Photo submitted)

Yvonne Neubert knows all too well how difficult it can be to navigate the world when blind or visually impaired.

She’s also not the type to take things lying down, which is why she’s successfully pushed for Knoxville to become the first city in Tennessee to recognize Blindness Equality and Achievement Month.

“When someone asks my husband what would I like to eat, we need more awareness,” Neubert said. “When the braille room number is above my head, there is a need for education. When a store clerk points and gestures when a blind person asks where something is, we, clearly are not reaching enough of the public.”

As a result of Neubert’s advocacy, Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon has issued a proclamation recognizing “the talents of visually impaired persons, advocate for more training opportunities, and encourage employers to utilize their skills.” 

The mayor also recognized Oct. 15 as White Cane Safety Day, which was established nationally in 1964.

According to Neubert, many people assume that blind people can’t take care of themselves. 

“The general public has such low expectations of what we’re capable of,” she explained. “I would like everyone to know that blind people just like everyone else. We don’t have horns, our blindness does not define us — it’s just another characteristic that we have.”

City Council member Charles Thomas and Yvonne Neubert. Thomas was instrumental in helping Neubert successfully campaign for recognition of her cause. (Photo submitted)

Neubert is no stranger to advocacy. She’s a member of the American Council of the Blind, plus she serves as a state affiliate board member of the National Federation of the Blind and is president of that organization’s Tennessee Seniors division. She also volunteers at Spark, a disabilities accessible training center.

Recently, she has been focusing on providing what she calls “BATS”  (Blindness Awareness and Training Services) to various organizations and businesses. 

Earlier this week, for instance, she spoke to a group of Knoxville Police Department cadets about how they should treat blind people.

“I started acting as though I was getting hit of a car,” she said. “I told them that I wanted them to hear what it sounds like when a blind person unfolds their folding cane, because it goes ‘pop pop pop.’ I want them all to remember this.”

Published on Oct. 21, 2022.