CHICAGO (WLS) --Imagine living all your life with unfounded perceptions of what you can and cannot achieve. That's the way many visually impaired people say they feel every day, ruled out before being given a chance. But there is a new effort aimed at turning that around.
It's all about erasing stereotypes and showcasing possibilities. It's directed at all of us in order to both educate and inspire. As someone put it, "to open our eyes" to the world of the visually disabled.
A new national public service announcement will begin airing soon. It features a character name James, played by Chicago actor Jay Worthington who is also legally blind.
It's part of "Blind New World," which is being called the first "blind awareness social change campaign" in history. Its purpose: to break down barriers.
"To increase awareness within the sighted population of not only the misconceptions that can be made about visually disabled people, but also to increase awareness of what we can really do," Worthington says.
It's a multi-faceted campaign with PSA'S and an entire website devoted to changing perceptions and instilling pride. Jay says that's a new concept.
"And I was shocked because in my entire life, I've never seen an audition that was specifically looking for visually disabled actors. So almost out of morbid curiosity I was like I've got to check this out," he says.
But it was tailor-made for this member of Chicago's Gift Theatre Ensemble in Jefferson Park. He's a veteran actor who living with ocular albinism, a rare condition affecting his retinas. He's had it since birth.
"In terms of things I concretely can't do? I mean I can't drive a car. Well, I suppose I could drive a car but it would be horribly dangerous. So, I shouldn't drive. Legally I can't drive," Worthington says.
All kidding aside, jay works around obstacles as he paves his own way in the theatrical world.
"Whenever I get the opportunity to address my disability, visual disability in the art that I do, that's always something that is very special to me," he says.
And so is the message that he hopes will resonate with "Blind New World."
"So if it can increase awareness in the sighted population and also increases confidence and hope and faith within the visually disabled population, I'll be sleeping soundly at night," he says.
"Blind New World" is sponsored by the Repected Perkins School for the Blind in Boston. Some of the public service announcements will actually be shown in movie theatres just before the feature films.
Next up for Worthington and the Gift Theatre is "The Grapes of Wrath" in mid-June.
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