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Kamala Harris's Use of Visual Descriptions Should Be Celebrated — Not Attacked

Vice President Kamala Harris broke new ground for accessibility when she used a visual description in a White House roundtable meeting with multiple disability advocates. The meeting, which occurred on Tuesday, July 26, was held to commemorate the thirty-second anniversary of the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act. 

A now-viral clip of the event shows Harris describing her appearance in order to make the roundtable more accessible to those who are blind or have visual impairments. 

“I am Kamala Harris, my pronouns are she and her, and I am a woman sitting at the table wearing a blue suit,” the vice president explained.

Some political leaders — including members of Congress — have mocked Harris for her decision to kick off the roundtable meeting with a visual description of herself. However, visual descriptions can help both blind and visually impaired people feel more in tune with their surroundings and pick up relevant environmental cues. Using these descriptions in an important meeting revolving around issues affecting the disability community could help participants feel welcomed and included in a way they may not in everyday life.

The National Federation of the Blind has not taken a firm stance on the use of visual descriptions as an accessibility tool, but Chris Danielson, a spokesperson for the organization, says the use of visual descriptions is complex. According to Danielson, some blind people welcome the use of visual descriptions, while others believe the practice detracts from creating accessible presentation materials for meetings and isn’t necessarily an accommodation the blind community requests. “It kind of seems to some of us like one of those things that sighted people have decided to do,

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