SeroTalk 118 Show Notes
A helping of analysis, a smidge of prognostication, a dash of humor and a pinch of sarcasm are all a part of the recipe for this week’s SeroTalk Podcast with Jamie, Ricky and Joe. Your emails and iReports are the icing on the cake. Stories discussed in this week’s show include:
We had so much in the way of feedback again this week, thanks to all of you for your emails and iReports!, that we had to share a few of them here online in the show notes.
I listened with interest as usual to SP #117 and, as a blind person here in the UK (as well as an RNIB volunteer), I felt I had to respond to your piece about the RNIB’s promotional video.
The RNIB used to be called the Royal National Institute for the Blind.
Only very recently in its history did it change its name to the Royal National Institute of Blind People, reflecting a significant change in attitude. Surely the ‘of Blind People’ assertion denotes a sense of ownership and involvement by blind people themselves in the activities of this organisation, as opposed to simply being on the receiving end of alms or other forms of charity ‘for the Blind’. In this context, has the RNIB really shot itself in the foot or, even worse, has it shot the credibility of blind people here in the UK with its emotive promotional material?
Let’s imagine for a moment that none of us has any feelings or sensitivities about what it means to be blind or visually impaired. What is the RNIB trying to do here? It is engaged in the activity of fund-raising. Fund-raising is about money, money and more money. Money is measured in numbers using arithmetic – not by racing pulses or elevated blood pressure which is perhaps more relevant to measuring emotions.
The problem faced by the RNIB is that it is having to compete for funds with the other 180,000 or so charities which exist in Great Britain. The existence of this mind-boggling number of charitable bodies is probably due to the insufficiencies of state-provided services: in Norway, for example, visually impaired people are horrified that we Brits have to go to charities for help to buy expensive assistive technology. In Norway, they get A.T. by right from the state, so there’s less need for the kind of fund-raising which is necessary in the UK. It seems that in the UK, members of the public are more likely to pay for services for ‘the less fortunate’ privately by way of philanthropy rather than by suffering higher taxes to finance public spending on the same services.
Remembering, therefore, that the success of a fund-raising promotion should only be measured in terms of the quantities of cash generated as a result, the real question is whether the RNIB’s current campaign is effective, not whether it is ‘appropriate’. For an organisation which is only in a position to offer services to visually impaired people if they have the funding to do so, staying financially solvent, especially during an economic crisis, is mission critical.
If we are to credit the RNIB or their promotions team with any intelligence (I think we should), perhaps we can give them the benefit of the doubt by understanding that their analyses and projections, following on from hard data through market research, have indicated that the heart-string-pulling technique of immersing poor little Emma in involuntary illiteracy would be the most effective method of persuading the Great British public to part with £3 per month (an amount somehow linked to the provision to Emma of a Daisy player or whatever).
The fact that blind people here in the UK, as well as elsewhere, might view this campaign technique with teeth-grinding, buttock-clenching concern could well be regarded as a price worth paying if the campaign produces the goods and enables the RNIB to do whatever it does. So, assuming that the RNIB’s approach has been precisely tailored to match the prevailing culture and mindset of the British public, perhaps our emotional responses to the promotional material can be regarded more as verdicts on the culture here in the UK, rather than on the campaign techniques of the RNIB.
The big question is, how can a body such as the RNIB continue to promote the interests of blind people if it cannot raise sufficient funds to survive or to provide services which are the basis of its existence?
The other side of the coin is, of course, that the integrity, esteem and public perception of visually impaired people should not be sold at any price. It might even be possible to argue that if an organisation with the stated aims of the RNIB has to resort to financially rewarding, but socially damaging campaign techniques, it might well be time for such an organisation to review its own structure and costs in an effort to become more efficient so that it need not resort to inappropriate methods of campaigning.
If you were charged with ensuring the financial survival of the RNIB, what would you do and what would you rule out?
I have been listening to Serotalk 117 and the chat about the RNIB’s promotional advert.
My first thought was “this is revolting”. It was so negative in its presentation of blindness and how blind people relate to the world around them. I very much agreed with everyone’s comments.
However, to be fair to RNIB in some way, here in the UK this is very much an identikit charity advert. It’s as though every charity appeal promo has been written by the same team of marketeers. Perhaps there is a group of them in a little dingy room somewhere in the less well-paid quarters of London whose lives revolve around creating tearjerking appeals to the British public to separate our cash from our pockets and propel it into the meedy coffers of the charity sector.
Every ad has the same format, whether it’s for a disability charity, one for the homeless, overseas aid, animals … they are all tearjerkers and present the target as needy, helpless, defenceless and their only hope is the monthly charity aid being sought. So, this RNIB advert is not so shocking in that context.
Except … a charity like RNIB, which is a membership organisation, should be presenting much more positive images and aims as it does in most of its work. In this context, the advert is highly disappointing and is very much reminiscent of campaigns and attitudes It is out of step in a very
significant way with the usual campaigns of RNIB. of previous decades.
Anyway, sending this response gives me a great opportunity to thank all of you involved in producing Serotak and the other podcasts for all of the really enjoyable audio coming out every week and month. They are so informative and professional, a great pleasure to hear, especially as they are presented in such a friendly and involving manner. Thanks everyone!
“Thanks again for another informative podcast.
I still have major issues with the video you asked for a one word response to from RNIB.
We as visually impaired people deal with enough stereotyping & cynicism among general society without international help. Why is it that the image of a blind person who seems unmotivated or socially inadequate is the image that sticks in one’s mind versus those of us who are high functioning members of society; who on occasion do ask for help when needed?
There are times I wish we as high functioning blind people who have either, or both held a job &/or run a household & raised a family, functioning as our sighted counterparts could somehow work with less functional blind people to help them integrate to the best of their ability within society.
If we did a better job within our own subculture of helping each other with concerns in daily life, we would not have to respond to such a plea for money from an organization who is obviously working with & for the benefit of blind people; though in another country. They would have a more positive image if we could be pictured helping a newly blinded person adjust to their surroundings rather than picturing them in a dim & dark world.
I have an anecdote to share that may help you understand why I am so adamant.
I, as I am sure all of you have, done my share of traveling. 2 years ago I went to Seward Alaska alone for a week. I have family heritage there who was a part of Alaskan history. My Great Great Aunt wrote her autobiography while living there depicting most of her accomplishments. The focus of my trip was to retrieve information for my then ailing Mother who had never met her; but had read her book. The information I brought home was not in the book. At any rate, while in Alaska for the entire week I never was asked the age old question “What are you doing so far from home being blind?”
To make you laugh, as expensive as the Alaska trip was, the information, 50 pages & 125 pictures on a CD afforded me by the curator of the local museum cost me $9.
Without a militant attitude, though it has mellowed through the years, I have tried to educate by example. I have no problem with any legitimate organization asking for pledges or donations for their given cause if it is done in a tasteful manner.
Keep up your excellent work.
Hello Serotalk Podcasters,
I left you a voice mail but I screwed it up royally so here is my attempt at a coherent email.
My reaction towards the RNIB video that you played on Podcast 117 is sadness and anger. While listening to the audio I pictured someone who has nothing left in their life accept for this donated audio book player which has become their life line. This saddens me because here is an organization dedicated to enriching the life of the blind and visually impaired who is choosing to perpetuate society’s misconceptions. This sadness then evolved into anger. As someone who is going to leave the home soon to become independent and perhaps even risking burning bridges with my family this is a slap in the face. How could an organization portray the people they are helping in such a pathetic way? If were an employer who watched the video I would never hire a blind person accept out of pity! If RNIB wants shock value why not create a video showing blind people doing things and living a productive life. Show an Emma, who is playing with her friends, who still rides a bike, who discovered another way to see and then grew up to be successful. Then tell society how with their help more Emma’s can be created.
Thank you for letting me rant and keep up the great work. Oh speaking of independence, I would love to hear a podcast in which Mike Calvo and other Serotek staff discuss their journeys to become independent individuals. I would like to know what they wished they would have known, mistakes they’ve made, and anything I can do to make the road easier to travel.
“Hello Jamie: First, I want to let you know that I thoroughly enjoyed your printing house tour. I have toured the original printing house three times and the mmuseum twice. In 1954 in kentergarten, through the third grade, I used the slate and stylus, as well as the hall braille writer. I received a perkins in the fourth grade. But I digress. Though you did not include it in the audio tour, I hope you didn’t miss the Hall Of Fame. It includes embossed representations of some of the well-known leaders in work with bllind persons and is very interesting. I also listened to to the coverage of the ACB Convention through Serotek’s link to ACB Radio. I have finished the Conventions’
Special Eppisodes one and two, and hope to complete eppisode three today. Thank you for all the hard work you and others on the Serotek team do to put all this matterial together. I believe it is very
informative to lots of people. Dick Seifert, Little Rock, Arkansas.”
“Hi Jamey, Joe, and Ricky,
I can’t thank you enough for the great coverage from the exhibit halls of both conventions!
I loved it, because both conventions had different exhibiters, and you got’um all!
I sure look forward to ATIA in January, 2013!
You all take care,