Profile of Kevin Carey

Raising the sights on blindness


Asking to go to the toilet is something most of us stopped doing when we were toddlers. But if you’re blind you have to live with it all your life. Not just asking, but being guided there, shown around and then having someone wait for you outside. And, as Kevin Carey, soon to become chairman of one of the UK’s biggest charities, the RNIB (Royal National Institute of the Blind), says that dependence on others has far reaching consequences.

“If you’re going to a meeting with a civil servant to try to extract a concession from the Government, does your power relationship with the civil servant change if you ask him to show you the loo before the start of the meeting? If it’s a man talking to a male civil servant, I think it absolutely changes the power dynamic. If it’s a woman, it doesn’t change it at all. Women are far more sensible about these things.”

As a blind person who spends part of his time lobbying on behalf of others, Carey has personal experience of this unusual aspect of power politics. Most days of the week, though, he earns his living running a consultancy set up to remove barriers to digital content. But to define him as a blind IT consultant is far too simple. His interests and passions include poetry, music, theatre and politics. He has two unpublished novels, is working on a third and is on the road to becoming a priest.

Above all, though, Carey is a thinker and an agent for change. In the years ahead, he hopes to change the way blind people function in society. That means not only supplying the practical tools they need to live an independent life, but more importantly the negotiating, emotional and other social skills they need as well. Unfortunately, teaching blind people how to navigate through life is a far bigger challenge than teaching them how to use a white stick.

This is an extract from a 3,000 word profile covering Carey’s life, his views on RNIB strategy, on blindness, on how blind people should be taught to negotiate, on how more blind people should be in management and politics, on his support for ECLOs, on the right to touch and on training in the art of description. For a copy of the full profile, email John Sanders .

© John Sanders, 2009

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