Kenneth Semien Sr. leads the nonprofit Beaumont Area Council of the Blind (BACB), and he and his membership exemplify to others that people should not label them as limited due to blindness. These active and engaged community members have careers, navigate city streets, travel, shop, donate and volunteer at places like Family Services of Southeast Texas and Meals on Wheels.
“Stereotypes place people with disabilities in a box as it focuses on our inabilities instead of our abilities,” warned Semien. “We want to demonstrate our abilities rather than our limitations.”
According to Semien, blind citizens are often underappreciated and undervalued in society and in the workplace. All too often, he said, he hears that blind people, even with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, are underemployed, as well.
“There are programs that match blind people with jobs, but a lot of the time, the jobs they are matched with are jobs like sweeping or cleaning up – jobs that don’t match their skills or utilize their specialized knowledge,” he explained. “They are giving people who worked in finance or had a tech career minimum wage jobs because they are blind. It’s a waste of talent.”
Semien wants to demonstrate that Southeast Texans who are blind are valued members of the community. He also hopes to raise awareness for his organization and encourage more area residents to join the group. Preventblindness.org estimates about 50,000 people are diagnosed with visual impairments annually, and studies show that, as people live longer and population size increases, the number of people with visual impairment could increase significantly over the next three decades.
“I get calls every day from people who need information, and I provide them with resources that can assist them,” Semien shared. “Some people don’t know who to turn to when they are diagnosed with a visual impairment. I didn’t know who to turn to 17 years ago when I became blind from meningitis. I really want to empower people who are blind. I love being a part of this group, and one day, we would like to have our own office.”
BACB is a sub-chapter of the American Council of the Blind – Texas, which is itself an affiliate of the national parent organization, The American Council of the Blind. According to information from the organization, BACB “promotes unity, inclusion and the discovery and activation of personal abilities possessed by blind and visually impaired individuals residing in the Beaumont area.” The group holds meetings on the third Saturday of each month, with the exception of July and December, from 1:30 p.m.-3:00 p.m. at Post Acute Medical Rehabilitation Hospital of Beaumont, located at 3340 Plaza 10 Blvd., behind Chili’s Restaurant on Interstate 10. Semien asks that people who intend to attend call him at (409) 866-5838 to confirm any changes prior to arrival.
BACB can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The BACB member message center may be reached at (641) 715-3900 ext. 63503 to learn about sudden meeting cancellations or during evacuations.