The Virtual Blindness Challenge


The Virtual Blindness Challenge: The Reality Show

     "Welcome to The Virtual Blindness Challenge: The Reality Show! (On screen a tall dark-haired man stands, long white cane in one hand, cordless microphone in the other.) This is Final Challenge Day of week four, the final test. In today's challenge our remaining two students will have their final faceoff. The one to successfully complete their challenge assignment first will win the grand prize of $10,000. Will it be Patty Hartman, twenty-six-years old, a single mother, and unemployed?" (The screen shows a petit blonde woman with a black sleepshade strapped snuggly over her eyes and upper face. She stands smiling; a long white cane as tall as she rests easily at her side.)

     The MC steps around to the second student. "Or will it be Simon Brown, 32, married, a recent veteran of the Iraq War, soon to enter college." (The screen fills with a well-built young man with a dark, suntanned, skin tone; standing at military ease, a long white cane as tall as his eyebrows in the crook of an elbow. His facial expression below the black of the sleepshade shows the nonchalance of confidence.)

     "But before we show highlights of Patty's and Simon's progress to date, allow me to set the stage. Twenty-eight days ago twelve fully sighted participants began the Virtual Blindness Challenge. All agreed to wear sleepshades, were given the same tools, and taught the same blindness skill-sets. Ten have been eliminated. The judging is simple--if you don't excel, you are cut. This challenge is to find the best."

      "Let us take a quick review of Patty's journey in virtual blindness from that first day, up to this Final Challenge."

     The first scene: Patty is pulling on her sleepshade, a look on her face that may have said, "I'm not sure what I'm getting myself into, but I'm committed, I'm doing this!" Second: the first cane travel lesson; a hesitant step, uncoordinated probing and swinging of the cane. Third: learning Braille; writing with a Braille slate and stylus; fingers reading a thick Braille magazine. Fourth: pouring water from a large pitcher into a small glass; Fifth: frosting a cake. Sixth: threading a needle with a wire-loop needle threader; using a sewing machine. Seventh: seated at a computer, the screen showing what she is typing and a synthesized voice enunciating what she keys in... "Blindness is doable." Eighth: drilling a board with an electric hand drill.

     The MC extends the microphone toward her. "Patty, how are you feeling about your blindness skills? Ready for this Final Challenge?"

     "You bet, Ross, I'm very ready. Just in the past week my ability to pick-up on echo location has come in strong and now on travel, I can fly!"

     "Now here is Simon's journey in virtual blindness."

     First scene: Simon, face showing quiet self-confidence slips his sleepshade down over his eyes. Second: cane held steady in his strong grip, he explores a staircase. Third: inserting a sheet of paper into a Braille slate; reading a Braille label on a can of soup. Fourth: checking meat on a hot charcoal grill. Fifth: threading a self-threading needle; hand-sewing a button onto a man's shirt. Sixth: keying into a laptop, its screen showing a familiar logo, and from the speakers we hear, "Google." Seventh: Cutting with a circular saw; sanding a newly built picnic table.

     "Simon, how are you doing? Up for the final cut; ready to take the grand prize home?"

     "Yes, sir. That's affirmative. And Ross, you once compared this challenge to military boot camp. I would say, yes, in that both are a form of preparation, of training the mind, and training muscle memory. But the game is different; war can kill you, blindness will not. Life goes on and you just use alternative methods to be successful."

     The camera focuses on the MC handing each of them a Brailled sheet. "Though the day has just begun, you two have much to do. Here are your last challenge instructions. Read your challenge and do your best! We'll be waiting here at the finish line with the grand prizes...winner takes all! And the clock starts now!"

     The camera zooms to both contestants, seated, intense faces, fingers reading their instructions.

     The camera follows as both contestants walk down the front steps. Simon turns right, long strides carrying him swiftly south. Patty turns left, north, her shorter stride quickening, moving into a trot, cane flashing in the early morning sun, she begins to run.


e-mail responses to

**1. I think this would be a great show, since in my everyday life I encounter people that think I am not able to do normal, everyday tasks. I liked the response from the military man that says that life goes on. I lost most of my sight 5 years ago now, and most of the time I don't even think about my loss of sight, I just do whatever it is I need to do. Okay, I would love to drive a car again, but... Anyway, I think a show like this could open people's eyes, so to say, and show that just because people that are blind or visually impaired may do things differently, we are just like the rest of the world.


**2. Well, this reminds me of the old Longstreet TV series where "Super Blind" prevails over any and all obstacles in his path.

I find it rather difficult to believe that a normally sighted individual could pick up the skills credited to them in this scenario in only 28 days.

Reading Braille with "fingers flying" seems rather unlikely in that short amount of time.

The thought of a young blindfolded woman running down the street using only a cane as long as she is tall seems to me to be a bit presumptuous as well as blamed dangerous. This is how blind people are maimed and innocent bystanders injured. (LOL)

Sewing competently, baking and icing a cake, working with power tools, reading and writing Braille and mastering mobility skills in only 28 days while adjusting to a blind world would, surely, require a near God like personage.

I think it, as did Longstreet, give a false impression of the difficulty adjusting to the loss of sight. (LOL)

Cy Selfridge, retired Denver Colorado

...FROM ME- This gentlemen wrote and I am sure others may think, "....I think it, as did Longstreet, give a false impression of the difficulty adjusting to the loss of sight...." I want to say, as I always explain to a sighted person that I am teaching blindness skills to, and that is, "What you are doing here, is learning to function nonvisually and are not experiencing nor adjusting to the loss of your sight." And for informational purposes, in Nebraska, if a sighted person is hired into the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, they go through our training center, under a sleepshade for four months of training. Nebraska isn't the only rehab service where this is true. Also, it is important to note, that contestants in a challenge as depicted in this TP, would be handled more like an athlete, where a trainee who was slated to become a counselor would be handled differently.

**3. Ross was asked, "Once you compared this challenge to military boot camp.

Ross replied, "Yes, in that both are a form of preparation, of training the mind, and training muscle memory. But the game is different; war can kill you, blindness will not. Life goes on and you just use alternative methods to be successful."

I say "I think it is time to learn alternative methods to be successful. I want to run."


**4. I have mixed feelings on this one. As one who has taught braille and independent living skills, I believe some people have more ability to master skills but that all can benefit and improve their quality of life. I don't believe that everyone will or should master everything quickly. Much of teaching is finding out what a person wants to do and tailoring lessons to those wishes. I remember Ted Hinter of JAWS fame saying that he hadn't cooked before he lost his vision so couldn't see the point of learning to do it after vision loss. I also know a highly talented teacher who prefers working with sighted student aids rather than forego this contact for better computer skill. Each individual has to assess their needs, natural ability and go forth to explore options to get the job done. There is no single path to independence and quality of living with blindness. We are all uniquely different and so are our needs.

DeAnna And Curtis Noriega MO

**5. ShoI must disagree rather strongly with this particular TP on many levels.
First, it's obviously NOT reality. You aren't going to take fully sighted people, throw them into total blindness and expect them to be independent in a month. Even by NFB standards, that's unreasonable. I had the great misfortune to go to a training center run by the NFB. I won't go into the abuse and general mistreatment I had there, but I will say that the average time that people were there was about a year. Even for a TV reality show, you're not going to condense this down to four weeks. It would, however, make an interesting video game. Perhaps it would either start out with someone slowly losing their vision and gradually relying more on sound or similar to this TP where the screen is totally dark and everything is done by sound.

Another thing I disagree with is the NFB's notion that everyone must learn computers and must be able to use them. I'm a computer person through and through. I've used them for most of my life. However, just as there are many sighted people who aren't comfortable with them, there are many blind who don't like them for various reasons. I know of successful blind people who rarely use computers. With that said, I think that computers are critical for the blind of today more than ever before and the blind should learn them, but they shouldn't be forced into using them for everything. This brings me to other things, like reading the label on the can of soup. How did the label get there?
Unless the blind person has sighted help or a barcode scanner, I have no idea. How is this related to computers? Simply that people shouldn't be forced to use barcode scanners. I know, the means of labeling the soup wasn't mentioned, but I'm inferring that the blind person did it themselves from the NFB attitude that the blind should do as much on their own as possible without outside help. That opens up a long discussion about how people don't have money for all the gadgets, but I'll let that pass. What if I prefer to have sighted help? Obviously that might not always be possible, but I shouldn't be forced into using a piece of technology just so I can thump my chest and say that I did it myself.

I'll finally mention the slate. For some strange reason, the NFB seems fascinated with them. Yes, I learned to use one in training and no, I've never used it since. Here is where my computer interest comes out. I would much rather use a small notetaker than try to load paper into a slate and carry it around with me. How people actually get work done with those is beyond me. I can do it but it's incredibly slow for everyone I know of who uses it. It's not necessary to force people to learn it. If they're given the option and want to learn it, that's obviously up to them, but they shouldn't be obligated. Even if they're broke and can't afford a notetaker, there are voice recorders for almost nothing that are accessible. The VR Stream has a built-in microphone.
There are alternatives. With that said, I want to make it clear that I'm a strong supporter of Braille and I would be far worse off without it, I'm just not in favor of the slate and stylus.

Finally, I really have to disagree with the comment that blindness can't kill you. Oh, yes it can. I'm not talking about a disease that's eventually fatal, I'm talking about direct results of being blind. The most obvious example is quiet cars. If you can see the car, at least you know to avoid it, but if you can't see or hear it, you are at the driver's mercy. It's just a matter of time before the driver will kill enough blind people, over a period of months or years, to change the notion that it isn't fatal. Yes, I'm aware that sighted people also have issues with quiet cars, but at least they have a fighting chance.
Another example can be construction areas which can be dangerous, even with a cane. I would briefly mention here that it's interesting that neither one of the TV contestants had guide dogs. Finally, as the ACB has stated at conventions in the past, up to 50% of the disabled are abused somehow and are crime victims. It would be interesting to know how many blind people have been killed by criminals or as part of a crime. Probably not a lot, but more than the proportional number of sighted. That probably applies to all disabilities though, not just the blind.

I'll just close by saying that even though Braille is a great and wonderful thing, the fact is that most of the material out there in accessible formats is not Braille, like it or not. It's audio such as NLS or electronic such as Bookshare. The idea of Braille magazines is nice but becoming less and less reality.

Tony Baechler ACB-L listserv

**6. Tony,
Your message reminds me of why I love the Thought Provoker. Look at the many points you raised that probably you'd never get around to unless you were provoked.
One comment of the whole field of reality shows. They aren't!
These Reality Shows are carefully staged to appear spontanious, but they are filmed over many months and aired long after the participants are off doing some new reality show. So a year would be well within the time frame of staging a Blind Reality Show.

Braille. Well Tony, the reliable old slate and stylus got me through college. Sure, I sit here pounding out this note on my computer, caressed by the gentle voice of Jaws 10.0. And I have two Braille 'N' Speaks, please don't get me sstarted on my rant about Voice Mate, but even though the Braille 'N'Speak voice grates like finger nails on a chalk board, I use them daily. Still, at easy reach is my old Perkins Brailler. And right next to it is a stack of slates and a gathering of stylus'...or styli? And by them is a box of gummy back labels that can be quickly Brailed and stuck on just about anything.
Some of my acquaintances can hammer out Braille with that little stylus faster than I can type. I'm not among that number. But it is the back bone of my communication tools.
Thanks for your post Tony. Lots of stuff for us to chew on.

Carl Jarvis ACB-L listserv

**7. Interesting one this time.

Terrie Arnold

**8. I hope it feels less like a game and more like real reality. Why didn't you include such real life situations such as:

A. guy grabs the woman at a corner and propels her in an unknown direction;

B. Unidentified passerby grabs the guy's cane and yanks it in an altered direction;

C. someone asks "why are you out here?"

D. construction work blocks all passages;/>

E. Rain wets braille instructions. (Offered with less cynicism than it might sound.)


NFB nobe-l

**9. I'm not interested in the "reality" shows on television. So, that probably influences my comments. I believe that these "reality" shows are anything but reality. So, if there were to be one with sighted people learning and competing, based on blindness skills, I'm not sure that too many people would believe it.

Secondly, my first thought was that I didn't know how they could be as competent as they appear to be in only 28 days. Maybe it could be done if they had very intensive training. But, I'm a little skeptical.

I believe something is needed to teach some people about blindness, and putting sighted people through training of this sort seems like a good idea.
But, a reality show...hmmm; not sure.

Cindy Handel Willow Street, PA

**01. I like the concept, because it makes others aware about just how difficult it is to master the art of blindness; if it can really be mastered.

Justin Williams

**11. I agree with others on this thread. I especially find it totally incredible that anyone would master contracted Braille to read the instructions competently in 28 days! Of course, like any virtual reality show these scenarios have no basis in any reality whatsoever. Moreover, even if one looks at these experiences as a sort of gospel there is no discussion as to how these contestants acquired these skills. I mean were they given even modest instruction? Or did they just muck about and learn all this stuff on their own. If the latter is the case then I suppose that there is no need for rehab.


**12. Wow Robert! I didn't think they smoked that stuff out there in Lincoln.
You have created a TV Reality Show that will never happen. Unless you have the dollars to underwrite it.
If Hollywood gets its hands on this idea, here's what will really happen.

First month: Many people will be screened by a panel of judges. They will all have sleep shades on and be given white travel canes with no further instructions.
The judges, and all America, will watch them go through a series of challenges. These will include crossing busy highways, trying to catch a plane at a busy airport, finding the bathroom at the back of a very busy restaurant, trying to catch a bus on a crowded city street, eating a meal consisting of soup, salad, bar bq ribs, spaghetti and chocolate cream pie, and finally trying to date someone in a crowded sports bar.
As our blind contestants bump, bounce, stumble and gross their way through each challenge, the audience and the judges will hold their sides and laugh until they roll on the floor. It will be better than a court full of Jesters in the days of old King Cole.

Second and third month:
The judges will select the funniest and bravest of the contestants, narrowing the field down to about 12 finalists.
Then each week these 12 will continue to be placed in crazy, funny, and slightly risky situations. Each week the audience will phone in and vote for their favorite. One by one the field will narrow until only two contestants remain.
These two will stand back to back and leave the studio. One will travel East and the other West. The one who makes it around the entire planet and back first will be the winner. Think of the fun of watching a blind person trying to find a toilet in Berlin. Wow!
No Robert. Don't let Hollywood know about this idea as a reality show. It could set blind people back one thousand years.

Carl Jarvis ACB-L list

**13. I think it might be more educational for people to have a show that follows the life of a few blind people such as a "real world" style show. As a game show would really only have a good effect for the first few episodes then the people auditioning would start "practicing" being blindfolded and stuff so what would be the ame?


**14. In response to Blind reality show: This is the worst thought provoker since Lincoln got shot in Ford's Theater in 1865. I think The Invasion of the Body Snatchers has begun and a alien pod has taken over Robert's mind, body, and soul. It takes a lot of time and patience to learn blindness skills and it cannot be done fast or in a game show atmosphere. It is insulting to blind people and degrading to suddenly blind people who spent weeks and months learning these skills. It also demeans those blind folks who spent years in blind schools learning these skills. The only way for seeing folks to learn these skills rapidly is to cheat- intelligence is NOT the key. The key is patience, training, and considerable practice. If anyone out there knows what happened to Robert, please contact the local police department ASAP. I think he is being held for ransom or was mistaken for a Martian and transported back to The Red Planet. This thought provoker demonstrates that the thoughts at least have disappeared while the provoked part is greatly increased. I feel quite provoked about this story.

Dr. Scott Bray

**15. so why hasn't the geniuses up at HQ put allot of thought in to this and maybe put a million or two that they stole from target and use it towards a tv show shown on like cbs or something and use it as a public relations/education tool on a large scale?

Gabe Vega
The BlindTechs Network

**16. Which group of people are the most ignorant about the blind? Answer: those who
are superstitious and prideful. They get creeped out by the disabled, because the
presence of one less-than-perfect body unnerves them. They themselves would never
admit having any sort of physical deficiency. They will wear painful contact lenses, or
undergo insane plastic surgery, to cover it up.
Such people would never watch a show like this. Why not?

I talk a lot with my girlfriend, who has several disabilities (blind, weak sense of touch,
etc.). Her own family gets impatient with her disabilities. She often asks rhetorically,
"Why don't people understand?" I answer, "They don't want to understand."

Fortunately, this doesn't always happen. A show like this might be an encouragement
to parents whose children are disabled, or soon will be. The idea is certainly nothing new.
Blind children often visit public schools, and challenge non-disabled kids to wear a night
mask, wear earplugs, or ride a wheelchair for a day. Some kids do learn from that.

Personally, however, I would not do a reality show. I would much rather write a dramatic
show, in which the disabled characters are written with a measure of depth, intelligence,
and respect. The point is that a disabled person can function like any other ordinary
human being, and not be presented as a cliched soap opera victim. This alone makes it
a novelty.
Unfortunately, the TV networks would never accept it. In my idea, the children never
talk or act dirty, and never mouth off to their parents. That's my idea of a "fantasy."

David Lafleche

**17. This was a good story, however the authenticity is unrealistic.

I've lived in both the sighted world, and now the world of blindness. The skills I now have didn't ensue over night, or even for the duration that these two contestants have.

Echo Location is an art which is developed because the blind use our ears like the sighted population use there eyes.

To suggest that in only a few days, weeks or even if this incident transpired over a larger duration that this man and woman would unearth skills that many blind people will never achieve, is absurd. By these two individuals putting on sleep shades, and wham welcome to the world of the blind. Instead of using that narrative, let's welcome these sighted people to the real world of blindness. The author paints the picture showing us that these two people are educated. The author doesn't spell this out directly, however when we read this narrative we find two super humans who laugh at the world of blindness.

I spoke about echo location. I am thrilled that I use echo location as a sighted person uses there eyes.

I'm a black belt in Karate, and I use echo location when I'm fighting my opponent. If there is too much residual noise then I'm fighting blind.

Now let's move to Braille. We see these two adults reading the last step in this last challenge. Wow how long did learning Braille take these two to learn? Obviously not long since there reading the directions for there last challenge.

I lost my sight as an adult, and I won't make any qualms about it, I found Braille difficult to learn. Oh I can read Braille fairly well, however I'm certain I don't always come away with the correct or the entirety of what I read.

Now our military man and our heroin pick up there canes and go on there merry way to complete the final step in this challenge they find themselves. Oh wait I said they went on there merry way, Don't allow me to misconstrue what we read. Our Military man and our heroin decide that running with the aid of the cane is a better option. Was the medical unit following these two?

I'm a guide dog user and have been for most of my life. However I went through O and M training like everybody else. Did we have one lesson, and we learned how to use a cane in its entirety. I just wrote that and all I can say is how absurd is that statement?

OK my case concerning many of the skills blind men and women learn was much more retarded with me. I lost my sight in a motorcycle wreck, so the first hurdle I faced was the stage of denial concerning the loss of my sight.

Many of these skills I'm certain didn't take others as long to learn as they did for me. However our skills weren't learned over night.

We also see these two poring water, sanding, or whatever else they did. Those little side trips really had no significance to the story. We could have had them finger painting, or tying there shoes.

I felt that the way the author perceives blindness is a joke, and the trials, and tribulations the blind community face aren't anything to worry about.


**18. This particular TP seems very contrived and unreal to me. I realize that it is about a "reality" show, which is contrived and unreal whether it is about blindness or not, but the focus here is on the two people learning their skills much more quickly than would normally happen. The characters aren't even developed; they are just paper doll cutouts of people and the sleep shades and canes are the stars of the show. I'm somewhat disappointed in this one.

Chris Coulter

**19. I would think that most sighted people would not take part in that type of test of "understanding." Yet understand what they are doing in said training.

Sean Moore

**20. I would like to post a comment about the Thought Provoker. Here it is.

This is a very interesting scenerio and I find myself wondering how many sighted participants there would be if such a game existed. I have asked friends and family to try sleep shaded exercises to help them better understand what I go through and how I do things, but so far know one has been willing to try. I usually hear hemming and hawing about how they couldn't do it or it doesn't matter or I have even been told it was stupid and I was ridiculous for suggesting such a thing. I know not everyone is this hostile about sleep shade training, but even blind people refuse to try. I know this sounds really negative and I apologize for that. This is just what came to mind after reading the Provoker.

Bridgit Pollpeter
Secretary NFB Omaha Chapter

**21. Sounds like a great reality show. Now all you need to do is market it and find sponsors.

Robert Jaquiss

**22. Making a choice between Patty and Simon would be very difficult as both are equally confident travelers and have accomplished the tasks they need to function in their every day lives. But, when it comes down to the knitty-gritty, I guess I would have to pick Patty simply because she's an unemployed single mother. Ten thousand dollars can go a long way to take care of her and her family.


**23. This is great! I wanted to do something like this in my residence, but there was little interest among my peers. Any suggestions how blindness awareness can be made fun and informative?

Thanks as always,

**24. robert, are you watching too much reality tv these days?

it was a very good way of presenting the skills of blindness. but I
didn't think it was safe to run with a cane.

jc NFB Writers' Division Mailing List

**25. Well, at least not after only 14 days travel experience Lol.

Angela fowler NFB Writers' Division Mailing List

**26. I think this would be a wonderful idea. I think it would help sited people gain a better understanding of how we do things.


**27. Sorry, Robert. So called "reality" shows don't turn me on, and with absolute certainty, I can say that learning to cope with blindness is not something akin to putting on blinders for a one hour TV show, with catering trucks, cameras, directors, lawyers, grips, costume people, and whoever else these TV shows need to get on the air is a far cry from reality! Get real!

Jim Theall, Longmont, CO

**28. Robert,I'm sorry to say this particular one does nothing for me. Unlike your other thought provokers, I can't figure out how to use it in a class.

Dick Davis MN

**29. (Dick relating to the above response wrote back with the following suggestions-

Two possible scenarios:

1. I think the show idea would work if you framed a blind person's center training in that context. Center training as a reality show in which the blind participants try to be the first to achieve their goal. Such a
scenario would help people look at center training in a new way.

2. If you want to have sighted people in the show instead, use real life blind person challenges like the following:
A sighted person who insists on controlling you.
An employer who doesn't believe you can do the job.
Overprotective family members who won't let you do anything.
Fighting the agency for the technology you need.
Enforcing your right to informed choice in center training, college, etc.

I like the idea of a blind MC in either scenario.

Hope this helps.

**30. I think it is a horrible idea. The idea of voting people out who aren't "good enough" at coping makes me sick, not to mention the NFB-only mindset.
Blind people are not automatons, and we don't all do things in the same way.
It would just reinforce the idea that we are so brave and wonderful for coping with something so hard.

Sarah J. Blake NFB NABS Mailing List

**31. That's a good point, Sarah. I never thought of it that way.

Sarah NFB NABS Mailing List

**32. I think the concept is good but I have a problem with it. On the one hand we want others to think that being blind is a sightless state but otherwise we are equal to the sighted world. On the other we want the world to know just how difficult it is being visually challenged . Exactly what is it we want people to believe?

Judith Bron NFB Writers' Division Mailing List

**33. This was very interesting. I wonder if it has ever been done before. If someone were to do this it would defenatly open some peoples eyes. My family is involved with our local lions club, and I think this would be a good thing for them to do mayby as a public awareness thing. It's just a thought, but they could put an add in the local paper looking for people that would be willing to compete. Since we also have two lions clubs that are within 15 min of each other we could let there be a Competition between the two lions clubs if there were some people game for it in each club and let our local channel one cover the competision. I for one think it would be fun to watch! The only thing is we would probly have to find an O&M teacher willing to teach the skills.

Mytchiko Mckenzie

**34. This is awesome. I think that it would definitely educate people about blindness, especially if they had to experience it themselves.

Sarah Baughn NFBtalk Mailing list

**35. I felt drawn into this provoker. I am not a reality show viewer by any means, but this is one I think I would follow avidly. I find myself curious as to what the "final challenge" is?
When I was in high school and college I found that the majority of my peers would rather be deaf than blind. They felt that being blind would end their lives. Even today, my own children, both having grown up with blind parents - whom they did not realize were blind until they were in the middle grades of elementary school - would prefer almost any other handicap over blindness. So to get participants for a reality show, ... Yes! that's one show I'd like to watch.

Janet G.

**36. Good one! It is always interesting to see what people will do when motivated by money, on reality shows or in real life. When people feel valued, it is amazing how much more they will accomplish. If people new to blindness believe there are significant financial or personal advantages associated with getting specialized training, they will be motivated to learn alternative skills. If they feel valued as an individual, with specialized needs and unique capabilities, their accomplishments will be even greater.

In my opinion, sleep shades should only be used by silly game participants, by terrorists wanting to inflict fear on their hostages, and/or by those that are in need sleep. It seems to me like most of the rehabilitation proponents of sleep shades have been blind most of their life, fully sighted all their life, can easily be led or misled, or have never accomplished anything significant before their vision loss.

Today, unemployment and underemployment are the reality for most adults new to blindness. It is time for the blind rehabilitation to wake up, stop the fear tactics, and take the blinders off. One size does not fit all when dealing with adults. We can do better!

Most blind people become blind as adults, not in their childhood. I suggest that those blind at an early age consider not working in blind rehabilitative services with adults. They have no idea what it is like to lose vision as an adult, or what it is like to lose a successful source of employment. Too many make a career out of their blindness. When they say blindness is not a disability, or that blindness is no big deal, they represent the wrong kind of blindness, which is the inability to understand. If they want to be an inspiration to others, prove that they can do anything in the job market, and leave the social work, blind and disability advocacy, and vendor jobs to those that become blind as adults.

There are those that argue the current sleep shade and submersion techniques work effectively. My point is, that if the these techniques work so well, and the results are so good, why isn't every blind person lined waiting for this type of training?

When I became legally blind over 10 years ago, I was told that I needed to wear sleep shades for nine months at a NFB Center, because I was going to lose all my vision anyway. I decided to enjoy my remaining vision for the short time I had it left, then adjust as needed later. Today, I still have about the same usable vision as a legally blind person. Last year, my eye doctor said there are medical advances in the works that may help improve my vision in the future.

I am so glad I did not listen to that blind person. She was not interested in my needs. She was interested in serving her needs and her cause. I wish she could have said here are some techniques that can help me use my remaining vision better, along with alternative techniques to help me keep the job I had. She could not help me because all she knew was how to be totally blind. Today 80% of the legally blind have some usable vision. It seems too often like those with no vision do not value those that have some remaining vision.

I want the blind children and the totally blind to get all the services they need. However, my needs may be different then theirs. New opportunities for the blind should begin with rehabilitation, it should not end with the one size fits all approach. Use the blindfolds for the reality games, but keep the blindfolds, and the terrorists, away from me.

Mark in Omaha, NE

**37. If they do the training properly, this would be awesome! No more looking for things. They actually have to know where they are and know the name of the thing, not just some visual aspect!

Ben J. Bloomgren NFB NABS-L

**37. As one who straddles the fence--one who is not totally blind, but one who has just enough sight to feel inadequate, I still find this TP insulting. I have been "blind" all my life and I still find any rehabilitation task daunting at best. First of all, you are making fun of reality shows which in and of itself I understand but don't like. They are just a form of entertainment like beep baseball and intelligent people know that.

Secondly, you're trying to slam the first blind guy who did follow the cliché of blind pianist, got far enough to be recognized and complimented on his ability. Yes, it troubles me that he plays an instrument when the group as a whole is doing singing and choreography; and yes, it bothers me that most of the time they take a break before he comes on so he can already be seated at the piano; but he's there! He's visible to millions of Americans, and although I think he shows a lack of motivation to improve, he's part of my blind community and I sincerely hope he represents all of us well--something this Thought Provoker does not do.

Adjustment to blindness at any age is hard and rehab is even harder. But if you told me you would give me money based on my ability to learn and perform to a level of achievement that represents excellence, how is that any different from a scholarship? Since we are underemployed at best, I'd take the money in a heartbeat and buy some of that technology you want to disparage in your sketch.

Blind people need to be challenged and empowered so they can understand that achievement is important. Don't belittle a guy with a talent who happens to be in a reality show--in his own way he's showing the world what it means to be blind be it good or bad.

Betty Rains Mabank Texas

**38. It is amazing to me how many negative emotions stem from these provokers. I agree that after only 28 days most people, blind or sighted, would not be proficient in alternative skills, but they could be on their way. I learned Braille in 4 months and I have a nerve condition. I know others who learned Braille in 2 months and no they were not children or totally blind. Yes we all learn at different levels and at times with different methods, but if we put our mind to something we can learn.
As for sleep shade training, I don't understand what the big deal is. I have never met any person or organization who taught skills requiring sleepshades and asked students to travel about a city crossing streets and intersections in the beginning. Usually one starts within a facility, then one moves to walking around the block, gradually working up to independent travel. And the instructors always are with one in the beginning. No one is thrown in the deep end of the pool. My experience has been that those who are against sleep shade training are just fearful of the method. No one is against vision or using usable vision, if it is efficient. Then again I guess it depends on what one's definition of efficient is.
I always tell people that anyone can learn alternative skills while low vision skills only work for some. And why is it that those instructing in sleep shaded alternative skills are referred to as close minded? Isn't refusing to attempt to at least learn skills such as Braille and cane travel being close minded? I find it interesting, too, that those who go on and on about the close mindedness of some and are against certain techniques and skills are the ones who do not work, sit at home and live off of disability. Hmm, from where I stand, because see, I don't sit at home, not using the alternative skills seems like the worse option. And terrorist do not wear sleep shades because that would imply terrorist can conduct their terrorism with alternative techniques!
Also, the blind are equal to the sighted when we have the proper training and attitude. It is not that being blind is necessarily difficult we just want our sighted peers to understand how we do things. Everyone thinks it is so difficult for me as a student, but it really isn't anymore difficult than it is for my sighted counterparts. I have been a totally sighted college student and I have been a totally blind student and I do not think it has been more difficult than when I was sighted. I may use some different methods and tools, but that does not equate to hard. We want the world to understand and accept our abilities. We do the same things we may just use different tools and methods to accomplish things. Not hard just different, at times!

Bridgit Pollpeter, NE NFB

**39. I'd like to speak to the perceived tension -- voiced in the above comments -- between the people who are born blind and those who lose their sight as adults,, firstly as it pertains to rehabilitation. I was born legally blind from RP, but had enough usable vision that I was allowed to struggle over print until I taught myself Braille after receiving my first guide dog. I never had mobility instruction and was one of the first "partials" to be trained with a guide dog. When I received computer training, it was not at a center offering other skills. I say this mainly to convey, that as far as rehab programs for blind people go, I cannot speak from the experience of a consumer.

What I do know, however, is the value of empowerment which is nurtured by respecting and encouraging people to be active participants in their own lives. For example, look at health care. In modern medicine, the standard of care for many conditions is far more rigidly defined and agreed upon than the standards for rehabilitation of blind adults seems to be in the blind community. Nonetheless, when a patient, having been presented with the theories behind a doctor's recommendations, decides that part of the treatment is not something they wish to participate in, most doctors will work around their wishes. They don't refuse to treat them altogether.

More important than any skill that a newly blinded adult can learn is the ability of that person to take control of their own life, making their own decisions about rehabilitation and living with the consequences of their decisions. People, being people, will make mistakes. They may decide initially that Braille is too difficult to master or that they'd rather get someone else to do their grocery shopping. They may regret these decisions and revisit the skills they couldn't deal with initially and master them, or they may live out their lives at a level of dependency which others feel is unnecessary or demeaning. One of the most common complaints I hear from blind people, including myself, is the inability of the sighted public to simply allow us the autonomy to work things out for ourselves. It seems both ironic and sad to me that many blind people have experiences in which other blind people are essentially doing the same thing to them. I believe that anyone in a professional or peer support relationship with a newly blinded adult, should be encouraging them to be an active partner in their own rehabilitation. This means that sometimes someone will not want to do something which you honestly believe is essential. Being accepting and supportive of those decisions is to me the mark of a true professional. Otherwise, it just seems too much like brain-washing and displaying the very bigotry about which we so rightly complain when it comes from a sighted person.

Whether there is a deeply held resentment of newly blinded adults by those who were born blind, I don't know. I often speak about the difference between blindness and other minorities -- that other groups aren't composed mainly of people who were not members of those groups through their formative years. Most blind people come to blindness after at least twenty-one years of developing opinions and prejudices about blindness from society's vast reservoir of misunderstanding and fear. It's their biggest obstacle. But, people who are born blind are not immune from developing these prejudices. How many times have sighted people told you that you're not like other blind people; you do this or that just like a sighted person. The general society accepts very few of us, so we are in competition to prove that we are the superior blind person. Furthermore, people who have experienced discrimination all of their lives may harbor negative feelings toward newly blinded people whom they perceive -- sometimes rightly so -- as having the very prejudices which have made their own lives miserable.

Also, those people who were born blind and whose career paths have been solely in the blindness field statistically have an easier time finding and keeping jobs. This means that they must work harder to understand the obstacles faced by those seeking careers in other areas. If they do not recognize this, they are in danger of being unfairly and unrealistically harsh with their clients.

There was a comment about the paradoxical things blind people seem to want the sighted public to believe about blindness. Well, duh! Find a human who is not possessed of contradictory expectations. That's normal, but for us, blindness is under a microscope and we notice these things. Furthermore, we are at a sticky juncture in the evolution of blindness as an independent minority. Blind people have proved that we can do a gazillion things that would have branded anyone as a kook had they suggested them a generation ago. Nonetheless, as a population, we are in a terrible spot with seventy-percent unemployment, declining Braille literacy and persistent social bigotry and discrimination. So, on the one hand we want people to recognize that we are capable of contributing on the level of our sighted counterparts and on the other, we need their money and help.

Donna Hill, Performing Arts Division, NFB

**40. Ok Robert, you were clearly dreaming on this one. I think there are better ways of showing what blind folks can do. Follow several people who are blind in their own walks of life. I'd volunteer.

Christy Crespin, LCSW, President, Active Blind Inland Valley chapter, CCB

**41. I have read all responses to this point. The nay Sayers miss several obvious points about this provoker that when taken into account, build a superb case for making this a workable scenario. One- The final truth is, these blindness skills are born of common sense and are being learned now by both the blind and the sighted and most people do very well with them. There are good training centers scattered around the country that are doing a very credible job providing blindness skills. These centers usually train their new staff by placing them in the training center and requiring them to go through the same training as a blind person needing nonvisual skills. So here is fact that blindness skills are successfully being taught to sighted individuals; most doing very well.

Second, in a show, no --- let us call it for what it is, a competition, there are major differences in this approach verses that of a "training and adjustment center." In this approach, you would totally restructure the training process; the timing of things, and emphasis would be on skills, skills, skills and adjustment would be secondary if not non-existent because, these people are not dealing with a life threatening loss. I could also see these people getting one-on-one trainers.

third the motivation of these participants verses those attending a blindness training center is totally different. These are individual competitors going for the win, willing to extend themselves to do what is necessary to beat out the competition. These "center students" are not going to protest any introduction of a skill or assignment/challenge. They will to a man/woman be open to instruction and aggressively working to learn and hone all skills, concepts and awareness's.

In addition, the rules in this training center would be more strict and participants will know it. That is, if they get caught peeking, they are out.
Its benefits for all would be one plus after another. I'd bet money you could put this together and make it come out very close to how this story reads.

Charles Morehead Nebraska

**42. I was going to comment on how cool I think a blindness reality show would be, but after reading the midpoint update email I have more I'd like to say.

I think some people were focusing too much on details and didn't see the big picture. First, the frame of the picture: it's a reality show, and anyone whose brain hasn't been totally rotted by television knows that reality shows are not real. They're staged. They're choreographed. They're doctored to make them more interesting. That is the frame for this scenario.

Now, for the argument that blindness skills can't be learned that quickly. And the argument that it is demeaning to be eliminated because your skills aren't perfect. On the show, The Biggest Loser, the contestants are given personal trainers to help them lose weight, and they are eliminated if they don't lose enough weight. If the premise of Virtual Blindness Challenge is that the contestant who completes the challenge the fastest wins, then this show is basically the same as any other reality show.

From the scenario, it sounds like all the contestants were taught a set of skills that would help them complete the challenges. Just like on The Biggest Loser they would have someone to train them on how to do things and plenty of time to practice their skills before and between challenges. It doesn't say whether they were using contracted or uncontracted Braille, but it would be possible for them to learn enough uncontracted Braille to label soup or read challenge instructions. Teaching them to use the slate and stylus may not be practical, but it is the least expensive Brailling device. Using a computer is something they probably did before so teaching them to do it using speech makes sense. Learning adaptive skills for sewing or using power tools only makes sense if it was something they did before, but I suppose the show would include it to make things more interesting.

I don't think that a show like this would be making light of blindness or the skills needed to be successful. It would be a way to show the general viewing public that these skills exist, and that with a little extra effort, determination, and ingenuity a blind person can do almost everything that a sighted person can do. We just do things a different way. I think a show like this would help to create a little more understanding of the challenges blind people face, but it would also show the public that we're not helpless either. And like Simon said, blindness won't kill you. The car that you don't see might, but blindness itself won't.

Gina Bunting

**44. One of your readers wrote, "There is no single path to independence and quality of living with blindness. We are all uniquely different and so are our needs."

I am inclined to agree to a point, in so far as it is an individual choice as to how much independence one wishes, and how much that individual is subsequently able to learn. I am however also inclined to disagree as a number of skills have been identified, through personal experiences as well as the research of the organized blind, as basic to independence. Might one obtain independence without daily living skills, the ability to use adaptive technology, have basic literacy through Braille, and be able to travel with a cane? If so it is a definition of the term independence which I am unaware of, and question.

Another reader wrote, "I had the great misfortune to go to a training center run by the NFB. I won't go into the abuse and general mistreatment I had there, but I will say that the average time that people were there was about a year. .... What if I prefer to have sighted help? Obviously that might not always be possible, but I shouldn't be forced into using a piece of technology just so I can thump my chest and say that I did it myself."

I find it unfortunate that your reader seems to gather that because they had a poor experience at an NFB training center that it is therefore an invalid option of all blind people. I additionally find the terms "abuse and general mistreatment" unfortunate- as they seem to cause more heat then light. As for forcing one to do anything, do the blind police show up at this reader's door demanding they do what the police say with the threat of force? Does your reader truly find themselves forced into anything, or is it the case that they object so much to another's view on independence that they feel unable in comparison?

For myself I really really liked this. A show where individuals can have a focused time of being blind, learning the basic skills, rather like the Biggest Loser etc. is a super idea. I myself was able to complete a NFB training program in four months, so believe that with a real focus on the skills, which would happen if the prize were large enough, is extremely reasonable.

George McDermith