Blind Culture


Blind Culture

     "Look at all of you!" A deaf friend of mine signed into my hands. He had come upon me and a group of my friends in a Chinese restaurant where we were having a late lunch after a meeting. "Some of you have white canes, some a dog. Some reading print and some Braille. All talking, laughing. What is this, a community, a culture thing?"

     "WE all friends." I signed back. "All members of a consumer group. We have been making plans for a convention, a walk in a parade, a picnic, working with the legislature."

"Don't for get to mention the seminar for Parents of blind children." "Our employment seminar." Two of my table mates chimed in.

     Trying to bring it closer to home for him I said, "The deaf, you have consumer organizations too, right?"

     "Yes. We also have schools, but you too! We have our own language, but you have Braille, special to you! You also have special tools for travel too. You have a culture here, right?"

     After my friend had left, the conversation at our table turned to the topic of culture. "Do we have a Blind Culture or Culture of the Blind?" One asked.

     Another said, "How or why would that be of significance?"

e-mail responses to

**1. “In my mind, there is definitely a blind culture. I won't admit it when my sighted friends around, because I fit in very well with them as another human
being. But put a roomful of blind people together and what do they FROM ME: “Where do we draw the line between conforming to SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE STANDARDS AND SELLING OUT? Plus, in who’s opinion is this to be judged, theirs or ours? Is this not where a major problem exists now? And so, how do we get some of our ‘ways’ that allow us to function to be accepted? Like: They will say, you must travel; and I say, I do, I use a bus or I use a long white cane or dog. Another might be: They say, you must be able to read; and I say, I do, I use a magnifier or I use Braille.”
talk about? Oh, of course they talk about their jobs or lack thereof, foods, tv shows,
etc, like anyone else. But how much of the talk is about guide dogs, discussion of a certain route from here to there, adaptive equipment, computers from
a speech point of view and related blind software, who delivers fast-food or groceries till what time, and many other "blind topics?" I don't think it's
negative, I enjoy being with my blind friends and "letting it all hang out" if you will. I have thought about the whole issue when contemplating remarrying
someday. What do I want the guy to be like? Oh I'd love to have a nice car and go riding, on trips and doing hiking and many activities with a sighted
man. But then there is the man who would go for long walks with me, discuss all of the above blind topics. Both could be just as loving, as romantic.
But a person may have to make a choice at some point about how important, or unimportant the "blind culture" is.”

Vicki Meizinger( Massachusetts USA.)

FROM ME: “Let us see how many feel as this person, the feeling that one must be of the ‘same culture’ when making a ‘choice’ in a relationship as this lady speaks of.”

**2. “Yes, I think there is such a thing as a blind culture, almost like a special
club that no one really wants to join, but those who are members are proud
and protective of the exclusivity afforded them. I've noticed from reading
all these many thought provokers that blindness is "rated" on the degree of
disability, as if people are judged by their skills or their helplessness.
This happens in the sighted world all the time, but we are expected to behave
that way. Sighted people base their conclusions on the things they see, how
circumstances are perceived visually. Blind people, however, seem to have a
culture all their own, with rules and guidelines and tools and reading
enhancers and travel aids that the sighted notice, but don't understand or
maybe have never known about. Just as sighted people have the audacity to
categorize those less fortunate, so do the blind lump those who use dog
guides in one group versus those who feel around with a cane, or those who
can read Braille versus those who can't or don't. There have been so many
examples of cliquishness and competition, even regarding the kind of school
each blind or partially blind person once attended or should attend. Who is
blinder than whom, are records kept of such information? And by the way,
which group is more noble, those who were born blind or blinded in infancy,
or those who once had sight and have had to deal with the sudden loss and
disorientation? You see, blindness is a world and a culture all it's own,
and there is nothing wrong with that. All groups, cultures, ethnicity's,
cliques, languages, nationalities have at least one thing in common---- The
people in these groups, who find similarities with other people and form
their own smaller groups or cultures. This is a natural, yet significant,
trait of humanity.”


FROM ME: “What is this trait of finding those who are most similar to ourselves; either as a result of being pushed out of the larger group or from a desire to separate from the mass to find a closer bond? Is it a part of this culturization process?”

**3. “Your group of readers has nothing in common, I'd guess, but the wish to
learn more about blindness with and from others of good will and without
cultural straightjackets on their brains. I expect some are blind, some
sighted. They are not in a common "culture," merely sharing a common

I get riled, even upset, when some fool [that is, someone who disagrees with
me, of course] tries to tell me there is a "blind culture"--for Pete's sake!
I agree that one could make a case for the NFB having a culture [as all
groups will that stay together more than a decade], but I don't agree there
is an all over "blind culture."

Yes, we work together in the NFB and share fundamental beliefs about
blindness. Yes, the over 50,000 NFB members have some of the same goals as
other blind persons, such as members of tiny ACB [like wanting MORE BRAILLE]
and quiet giant BVA , but no, these pieces of agreement do NOT make a
"culture" which separates blind persons from other persons in the greater
culture of humans who live in the United States. Some of the time, it
matters whether one is blind; some of the time, it does not matter. As NFB
members, we are working for the right and the automatic acceptance of all
blind persons to be EQUALLY involved in our general culture with sighted
persons. We are not looking for ways to be cut off from it. We work to
increase the scope of the times that it doesn't matter whether one is blind
or not; merely whether one is competent.

I know in any debate over meaning, the first thing to do in order to think
clearly and debate with understanding is to define your terms. Okay, I'll
try. Based on NFB definitions, but in my own words>>

"Blind" is not having the physical ability to use your eyesight some of the
time [80 percent have some vision], or all of the time[20 percent have no
vision], to get jobs done that folks generally use eyesight and "sighted
techniques" to do. Blindness is physical.
The "social culture" historically and currently in the United States
encourages sighted persons and blind persons to believe that blindness is
also spiritual and mental and metaphysical. The lives of members of the NFB
have proven this to be a false notion.

Being a "competent blind person" is having the knowledge and the practiced
skill to use already known blind techniques and to invent new blind
techniques as new tasks arise so that one will successfully complete tasks
without eyesight, obtaining results equal to those achieved by competent
sighted persons.
Currently, so many agencies teaching blind techniques do it so poorly
that many blind persons only learn to be competent by reading NFB literature
and attending state and national conventions of the NFB so that they can
learn from other blind persons who have such knowledge. The lucky few
attend NFB's model training centers. In addition to knowledge of skills,
one cannot be competent unless one believes in one's own ability to be
competent. Currently, blind persons in our society must choose whether to
believe or not. Pre-NFB examples of competent blind persons: John "Blind
Jack" Metcalf of Knarlesborough, the road builder in 3 counties of England;
"Zisca" the blind general of free Bohemia who defeated two armies of the

Now, my ideas>
"Culture" is a shared idea acted on consciously and unconsciously by the
members of a group. They often have a common language that only the members
share on a regular basis. Along with a common habit of thought is, often, a
common reaction to events. There will often be shared heroes, shared
history, shared goals, shared values, but these things are not enough. It
is also necessary to believe that one has a shared culture before one
actually has one.
Examples: Canadians. Members of the Masonic Order in the past, but not
always the present. Circus people. Horse show exhibitors; "real horse
people" they'd say.
Example of "Close, but no banana": People who attend the same college share
these cultural things during their college years. Most don't consider their
college culture vastly important once they leave college.

Deaf Culture is shared by individuals who speak ASL, believe they "have" a
Deaf Culture, and work to perpetuate their Deaf Culture. They write that
they believe they have more in common with the members of their "cultural"
group than with persons who are not members. It is this belief more than
any other feature that creates Deaf Culture. Example: members of this
group who write that they would not accept any operation to restore their
hearing because they are proud members of the deaf community.

I wish them well and notice that for many deaf persons in America, their
lack of ease in speaking English [the common language in American culture]
and the huge lack of non-deaf persons to speak ASL, creates huge problems
for them which those who are blind do not share.

For blind persons, the idea of a blind culture reminds me of that poem that
says, "He drew a circle that kept me out. I drew a wider circle that let
him in."

Yes, NFB members have much in common--heroes, villains, history, parables,
songs, shared vocabulary, a shared common reaction to many events concerning
blindness, and primarily, a shared belief in our view of blindness and in
our solutions to solve the problems of being visibly different in our
society. And, No, all blind persons do not have these things in common with
NFB members. And, Absolutely NO, all blind [and sighted] members of the NFB
do not share a belief in a "blind culture."

Furthermore, folks go home from NFB meetings and especially our national
convention all reenergized to fight and cajole and surprise their home
communities into seeing the blind adults and children in their midst as
"just people" with the same range of abilities and interests that are held
by the sighted people around them. They do NOT go home ready to hole-up and
talk only to folks who are blind or only about blindness. Our members go to
jobs, and schools, and nunneries, and PTA meetings, and Sierra Club, and
Art Fairs, and AIDS education programs, and adventure vacations, and
WHATEVER, without regard to being blind. That's the point. We prize and
encourage our diversity. [The deaf appear to prize and encourage their

As you know, Robert, I've been a member of the NFB since July, 1975. About
two years ago I first heard someone say there exists a "blind culture" like
the deaf have. That blind fool thought it made The Blind more important to
have a separate "culture" and be seen as a separate group of humans who
will always have more in common with each other than with any others in our
world. In this e-mail, I hope I've explained my take on this ridiculous
attempt on the part of the unthinking, illogical, politically correct to
ghettoize blind persons. It would be so nice if such folks would think it
through again. And, if not, would go milk cows or dig ditches or go do
anything truly useful.”


FROM ME: “I am sure we will be finding some writing in to give the argument that a blind culture is not what we have and is not what we need fore it will further widen the gap of acceptance; similar to this writer. I am also sure we will find others writing in saying that we indeed have and need a bonnified culture or some saying we have and need something like a cultural identification for the personal strength it may grant and the collective clout it will give. My questioning thought at this juncture is… let’s see how others feel about it and see if there is a recognizable and acceptable answer... I’m wondering what that will look like?”

**4. “Yes, we do indeed have a blind culture. I think it is valuable, but I am
glad that it is not so pervasive as certain other cultures I have heard
about. I think people need a group that they feel they belong to, people
who are their equals, who think of them as equals and, most important treat
them as equals. I will go out on a limb here and probably get myself
branded as a whiner or something, but my personal experience has been that
I have met very, very few sighted people who actually perceive me, a
totally blind person, as an equal to themselves, one with equal, though
perhaps not the same, capabilities as themselves. Most sighted people,
including, perhaps even mostly, my family, seem to think of me as someone
they are supposed to take care of. So having a group where one feels equal
is very important. The various national organizations also serve as a more
organized culture, but I am not into any of that, and don't plant to be.”

Carol Ashland (Eugene, Organ USA

**5. “Yes, I think that there is very definitely a blind culture and, as our
society has become so polarized, so have we. You and I live in the same
town and, I don't know how you feel but, my take on it is that the blind
community in Omaha is not only separate but, is quite segregated from the
rest of our community And, I think that many blind and sighted alike really
prefer it that way.

I Further believe that this has gotten very unhealthy for all of us.
We've seen our transportation system degrade year after year for example,
while we see millions dumped into a road system that never seems to be good
enough. We've seen recreational facilities that used to be accessible to us
close and relocate to areas only accessible via private transportation.
We're told that its a matter of money but, I've really begun to wonder about
that. It seems that the only kinds of activities that the blind and sighted
in Omaha partake in as a group seem to require that the sighted be very
visible only as helpers and providers rather than just friends and

I also feel that such well-intentioned activities, such as the Christmas
shopping Spree for the blind sponsored by a well-intentioned but, severely
misinformed grandmother here in town and highly publicized by the local
media have only helped to feed the fires of segregation. I believe that
laws such as the ADA have made people in all parts of the United States,
including good old Omaha, feel that they have gained a new sense of
"awareness" with respect to the problems of the disabled. I feel that this
law and all of the attention which has been granted it by the media has only
served to further build a major social barrier between the disabled
community and the general public. I further believe that, because the blind
do not fit in to the neatly packaged and well-intentioned provisions of this
act, that we have been particularly driven into our own corner.

It sometimes appears to me that, where blind people used to put fourth a
good deal of effort to become more integrated into the general community,
that now, we are content to play "King of the Hill" amongst ourselves. I
think if the trend continues, despite all of our wonderful technological
gains in the world of information access, we will, and have already,
suffered tremendously as a class of people. Just think of it like this;
access to information in the world is more readily available to blind people
than it ever has been throughout history. We also have better opportunities
for training and rehabilitation and adjustment than we ever have had. The
economy is booming and things are good for most people. Yet, we, the blind,
still face roughly 75% unemployment in the U.S. WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS

Bob Simonson (Omaha, Nebraska USA

FROM ME: “Anyone else out there who feel similarly about how legislation like the ADA can have a negative backfire on those who the law was written to promote?”

**6. “I doubt that we blind people truly have a culture, though we all
(virtually all of us, anyway) share, to some degree, experiences that we
simply could not have if we were not partially or totally blind. I think
a true culture requires that people think and act enough alike that it (1)
distinguishes them from the larger world and (2) unifies them enough to
have some elements of a world within that larger world. (My own views may
distinguish me from most people, including most blind people, but I'm by
no means sure that they unite me with any group. If I belong to a
culture, therefore, these views may have little to do with it.)

I think it is more accurate to say that there are cultures among blind
people, cultures that would not exist except for the blindness. Examples
would be the people who attended Perkins School for the Blind during a
given period, the members (at least the active members) of the National
Federation of the Blind or the American Council of the Blind, probably the
Randolph-Shepherd Vending Facilities program (and certainly its operations
in many states), and blind computer user groups. I certainly don't mean
that any of these groups is a monolith: groups rarely are, except under
duress. I do mean that the members of any of these groups are much more
apt to act in concert, or to act like a community (with the good and the
bad things that implies) than is that much larger group that may be called
simply "blind people." Blind people as such are connected by the problems
of blindness (both those that are physical and those arising from notions
about blindness), whether we like it or not. But our experiences are too
varied, and our views of how to deal with the problems of blindness often
too different and too much at odds, for blind people as such to be
regarded as having, even generally, a single culture.

That, at least, is how it seems to me.”

Al Sten-Clanton (Boston, Massachusetts USA)

FROM ME: “Are there recognized cultures out there who don’t always agree or act the same and who have many sub-groups?”

**7. “I do think there is a blind culture, but it's not
uniform. Not all blind persons use Braille, or a cane, or a dog, or a
sighted guide. Not all blind persons go to a special school. Maybe all
blind persons should, as it would help enormously with independence, but
there doesn't seem to be uniformity in the blind community, not even there.”

Lori Stayer (Merrick, New York USA)

**8. “Interestingly, I recently had a discussion with someone regarding this very
topic. It seems to me that there are two distinct issues that need to be
addressed. First, what is the definition of a "Culture"? Second, what are
the advantages and/or disadvantages of belonging to a culture?

Regarding the first issue: A culture, as I understand it, is a group of
individuals who share common traits, circumstances, beliefs, language, and
are bonded by a common goal. Though this may not be the definition found in
Webster's Dictionary, it is my understanding of what a culture means.
Consider the IBM Corporate Culture: the employees are expected to dress in
a similar fashion, speak the same language (IBM language), they are bonded
together for the common purpose of advancing IBM products and technology,
etc. Likewise, the Mexican American culture speak a similar language,
celebrate similar cultural events, share in traditional cultural dress, etc.

Do the blind have a culture? Probably so. We have a unique language
(Braille), we have similar needs regarding access to technology, we
experience common issues relating to transportation, we have organized
entities whose sole purpose is to identify and correct problems related to
societal barriers that exist for blind people. There are any number of
similarities that could identify the blind as a culture.

this brings us to issue 2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of
belonging to a culture? Well, one distinct advantage is unity. Blind
people have a strong network of individuals and groups to advocate for them.
The voice of the many ring louder and stronger than the voice of the few.
We have access to technology as a result of the resounding call for equal
access. Technical wizards have turned print into speech and Braille. Jobs
that were out of reach for blind people just a short time ago, are now
filled with "otherwise qualified" blind and visually impaired workers.

How about the disadvantages though? Unfortunately, being associated with a
culture also brings stereotypical attitudes toward everyone in that culture.
I have been guilty through association with some groups and beliefs that I
did not necessarily espouse. Does belonging to a culture strip someone of
their individuality?

I would like to challenge respondents to consider these two questions while
thinking about this month's thought PROVOKER.”

David Ondich (Dallas, Texas USA)

**9. “I think we do have a blind culture. Not as defined as the deaf culture
though. the deaf primarily speaks sign language, their own language, which
typically separates them from the hearing culture, or defines their culture
from the hearing people. The blind culture is not as defined for several

1. Our verbal communication is the same as sighted people.
2. Some blind people choose not to read Braille. Some, due to losing their
sight later in life, don't want to learn it.
3. Some blind people don't want to associate with other blind people,
insisting that they do not have a handicap.
4. We have two blind factions that should be working together but often are
not, ACB and NFB.
The culture is there, but not as defined as the deaf community. I'm
reminded of how strong the culture is whenever I'm in a group of blind
friends. I have sighted friends too, but there is a bond of familiarity
with the blind friends. Most of us, at some point, have experienced the
discriminating views of sighted people, sighted co-workers, and even sighted
family members. That's what defines our culture. With the deaf, it is more
the way they communicate and the way they organize and less of how they are
viewed by others. With the blind it's the way they are viewed by others
and less of the way we communicate and organize.
I also think the cultures are more defined in the deaf community because
that's what they want. They want and desire their own culture. The blind
are trying to break away from the blind culture and become one with the

Tom Rash (Yucaipa, California U.S.

**10. “Yes, I feel that in a way there is a blind culture/network in the world.
there are national groups for the blind, local groups for the blind, and
just blind persons who like to get together. however, we must all realize
that we live in a sighted world and if we want to be truly productive in
this sighted world we must realize that the world does not revolve around
the blind but the sighted. I live in a county with very few blind persons
so at home I do not associate with other blind persons as they are not here.
when I attend social events, show, go out to eat, and go to work, I am
usually the only blind person around. I use a guide dog and have made
friends in the world community of the blind and have made very good friends
here. also, while in Atlanta being trained in computer skills for the
blind, I met persons there who have continued to be my friends for the past
few years. I have not always been blind and was an integral part of the
sighted community and have continued to be so. I have attended advocacy
groups, but did not join because of the transportation issue. I usually do
not have the means to travel to neighboring counties to these meetings
though I go to a support group for the blind about once every three months.
I did not attend a school for the blind because I was not blind until my
thirties and then only legally blind and many did not realize this.
however, in my fifties, I became totally blind. I continue to work on the
same job I had as a school teacher of
those who are not visually impaired. I am accepted by the faculty to the
point that they often forget I am blind asking me to read something they
hand me or to look at something they have in their hand or on their bulletin
board. at this time, I find it amusing that they have so readily accepted
me into their community of the sighted but of course I was already in the
community before becoming blind. there are those who turn away because they
are afraid of blindness and I pray for these. I do all I can to help all
disabilities as I work with those with learning problems. I do not limit my
advocacy to the blind. I do not limit my friendships to the blind. and I
do not limit my activities to those only for the blind. whether I would
call it a blind culture or a blind community, I do not know but I do feel
that there is a wonderful network among the blind throughout the world
thanks to the internet, organizations, schools, . I am glad to feel a part
of this network as well as a part of the sighted world. I do not believe I
answered the question about a blind culture. I feel it is only a blind
culture if the blind allow themselves to not diversify and intermingle with
the sighted, the deaf, the learning disable, and all other disabilities. I
am a human being who loves my fellow man and I hope that I will be accepted
without my disability, the color of my skin, or my religious beliefs being

pat mair (Sale City, Georgia USA

FROM ME: “Is acceptance of a person from a sub-culture not possible into the larger culture? Is there something in ‘culture’ that means that one culture can’t live equally with another culture?”

**11. “On the subject of having a blind culture, I think we do to an extent. In
some ways, we're usually quite spread out in the country so a close knit
culture is hard to form, in my opinion. But, as the PROVOKER stated, we do
have Braille which no other group of people can say they have, and we have
white canes which other people don't use. On the dog subject, though, dogs
aren't unique to the blind world. The way they function is certainly, but
there are obviously people who are in wheelchairs who use them, and now the
deaf culture if you will is discovering them for things like doorbells,
telephones, etc. So, the dogs aren't unique, but in our cases, they're
primarily used for walking solely not hearing things or reaching things for
certain persons.”

Stacy (Wisconsin USA)

**12. “As a blind teenager, I thrive on the blind culture that surrounds me. I
live in Phoenix, Arizona, near the Foundation for Blind Children, an
organization that offers services and programs for blind children so that
they can be mainstreamed. The recreational programs there on weekends and
summers immerse me in the culture of the blind. This culture is vital to me
for several reasons. Mainly, I feel more like an equal with the blind
community than with the sighted, since my blindness does not set me apart
from the rest. I also feel more tightly knit with the blind community
because I speak their language and use many of the same techniques every
day. In fact, my friends and I sometimes communicate aloud in Braille; for
instance, replacing the word "mother" with "dot 5 m" (the Grade 2
contraction for mother) in conversation. And with the blind I have many
fewer inhibitions, because I do not fear they are finding fault in the way
that I look or judging me when I make a mistake. Sure, the blind are just
as judgmental as the sighted, but they understand the awkwardness of
Through my own experience, I know that a unique blind community exists. I
am a strong believer in its support. But there are some who are just as
well without it. I don't think they are any more or less well assimilated
into the sighted community; they just view it from a different angle.”

Arielle, 15, (Scottsdale Arizona USA)

FROM ME “Is there an age or a time/stage in a blind persons development/life when a ‘blind culture’ is more important than others?”

**13. “I think there are certain aspects of disabled culture - it is as
if you have "crossed over" = whether it is blindness, deafness, cancer,
whatever. I do not hang out on a regular
basis with just blind disabled so perhaps my perspective is
off balance on the issue. I have been more involved with
disability as a whole issues versus just blindness, although
I am certainly very interested in blind issues. A very
interesting thought provoker!

Catherine Alfieri (Pittsford, New York USA

FROM ME: “Might there be or perceived a larger culture that the blind and visually impaired are a part of, a culture of the disabled?”

**14. “I wouldn't say there's a blind culture as much as a 'fraternity'. When
blind people get together they feel 'comfortable' with each other. There
isn't the same 'social guard' that we all feel with sighted people. We
don't have to worry about eye contact and we don't consider it 'socially
inappropriate' to bump into each other. We can simply relax with each
other. This is probably true of other ethnic or special interest

We spend the majority of our time in mainstream society, but having a group
of blind people to gather with makes us feel we are not alone and we can
support each other and advocate for other blind people. I would sum it up
by saying that this blind culture is like an old guild.”

JODY Keen, New Hampshire USA)

FROM ME: “How about this level of togetherness, a fraternity or gild or clan?”

**15. “I guess I have never thought of the things we do as a culture. I just
consider myself doing those things I need to do in order to establish my
place in my community, my consumer organization and just my life in general.
I just have to use alternative techniques for accomplishing the same things
that my sighted neighbors, friends and relatives do. After all, if a
consumer group is worth anything it is going to lobby, work, participate in
those things to make the world a more equitable place for everyone to live
in. (Bad grammar but I hope you got my point.) I think that when we
believe in a cause we should live that cause. It is just first nature to me
to do all of those things and I do not see myself as belonging to a
particular culture. I am just me, doing my thing. Blind people represent a
cross-section of the overall society and I guess it is just no big deal how
I get it done. I am different because I am me.”

Joyce M. Porter ”Texas USA)

FROM ME: “Just being different, yet a part of your culture. Is that allowed? If so to what degree of difference is okay and how do we get that level of difference to be accepted?”

**16. “Well, this I must say is a very interesting subject to consider. My
college background included a strong concentration in Anthropology, and so
human culture is especially fascinating to me. I think we first have to
define what we mean by a culture, which basically is a group living together
with shared concepts, values, beliefs, and most important of all organizing
their lives as individuals closely paralleling each others behavior based on
these factors. This means they share a common notion of the ways of nature,
human interaction with both other humans and their environment, and both the
group's and individual's place in the universe. In other words, a shared
understanding of the questions of "Where do we come from?", "Why are we
here?", and Where are we going?".

There also exists a structure known as a subculture, or basically a culture
within a culture. I think perhaps this is a better description of our
situation. A subculture is a group functioning within a greater culture,
which share many of the greater culture's concepts, beliefs, and values, and
yet has its own unique understandings and relationships. Certainly most of
us that are blind share most of the same behaviors and notions as our
sighted neighbors, but we also certainly have a very different understanding
of blindness and how this characteristic shapes the quality of our lives
than the majority of people making up the greater culture within which we

Clearly the things that have meaning and value in our lives do not always
strike a cord in the lives of persons who are not blind, and far too often
when it does strike a cord for them, it very often has a very different
meaning entirely, usually negative. In spite of our best efforts to educate
the rest of our culture about blindness, our way of life, behaviors,
everyday activities, and technologies remain a source of mystery to most
people. In fact the myths about blindness are much more a part of our
greater culture than what we know to be true about blindness.

Like so many groups that are perceived as having characteristics that
somehow limit their ability to contribute to the greater good of the overall
culture, as blind people we tend to be pushed to the very edges of our
greater culture, and the misconceptions, and myths that have grown out of
these unfounded beliefs, have tended to keep us there. Any group so
isolated from the core elements of its culture has no choice but to develop
its own social structures and mechanisms for coping with its own internal
issues, and its relationship with the greater culture. The very fact that
our greater culture perceives us as a group separate from the mainstream of
society makes us a group, and our individual need to have a sense of
belonging somewhere tends to draw us together as a subculture.

Being a subculture is both a strength and a weakness. pulling together,
sharing common experiences, values, and understandings allows us to support
each other, and achieve greater acceptance in our society. At the same time
this group action and interaction tends to reinforce our perception of
ourselves, and the perception of the greater culture that we are somehow
different and separate from the rest of society. As long as we continue to
work together as a group we will move closer to being fully accepted by our
greater culture, but it is a constant diminishing curve, that is you never
reach the point that the difference is totally gone. I think that one day
we will be like the Irish. Once looked down upon and pushed to the edge of
society, and now in the present, while still viewed as somehow different,
admired and celebrated as one of the great strengths of our culture. Maybe
we should all where green more often.”

Jeff Altman (Lincoln, Nebraska USA)

FROM ME: “I’m thinking of the above process as to how a sub-culture might be eventually accepted by a larger one- Seen as being weak we/you are pushed off to the side; these individuals on the side with similar characteristics group, consolidate, nurture a belief system, etc. and become strong; the sub-culture works within the larger one and the larger group recognizes the smaller groups strength and/or contributions and acceptance occurs.’ What do you think? Or more importantly, how might both sides be worked with to make this more readily and easily happen?”

**17. “I think that we do have something that resembles a blind culture. In my
personal opinion, my blindness is a part of my complete culture. It is
what makes me a more well rounded person.”

melissa R. Green (USA)

**18. “It took someone to point it out to me, but I now do think that we do
have a blind culture. In fact, I'm willing to say we even have an
NFB culture. It is one full of positive outlooks on blindness, but I
think it is a culture because it seems that Federationists think
alike and are the ones developing the culture.
As to blindness, blind people have their own language and their
topics as well. Who else, but professionals of course, are going to
talk about such things as cane travel and Braille? Who else might
speak of Kenneth Jernigan or the American Printing House?
I'm sure more could be said on the topic, but there is some
semblance of a culture among blind people and even among

Jim Portillo (National Organization of Blind Educators- NFB)

FROM ME: This is not the first response featuring a consumer group as a vehicle to or as a sample of a blind culture; the American Counsel of the Blind has also been mentioned. What other groups are out there? What part do you think they play in all this?”

**19. “Jim Portillo has some good points. That is, those of us deeply committed
to NFB and further the cause of the blindness movement have our own codes,
our own shorthand for a body of experiences and philosophy that outsiders
would need a key to unlock.
However, what makes this different from other cultures, such as the
deaf community, is that our practices, attitudes, and lingo all have the
long-term goal of normalizing the experience of blindness in order that we
be as much an integral part of the sighted community as we choose to
be. Our intention, in other words, is not to be insular, clannish, or
exclusive, but rather to forge tools of integration and assimilation,
something a true culture eschews.”

Brian Miller (National Organization of Blind Educators- NFB; Iowa City Iowa USA)

**20. “I think that every specialization of society has a "culture" if you define
culture based on terms and skills. We as blind individuals have our own way
of doing things, that's for sure, but lawyers, doctors, teachers, engineers,
and other businesses all have their own specialized skills and terms. Does
this mean that they have their own cultures? If that's true, then how does
one decide which culture is dominant? Leave this to those who have too much
time on their hands, and let's try to all live our lives as best as we can,
reaching out to educate those around us whom we have been called to teach!”

Sarah Lanier (National Organization of Blind Educators List- NFB)

**21. “Frankly I don't see anything wrong with being a part of blind culture. It
is what makes us unique .
Just as Sara said there are many different cultures.
So I am definitely coming down on the side that we do have our own set of
behaviors that makes us a culture, and that's ok!”

Mike Jones (National Organization of Blind Educators List- NFB)

**23. “ I think culture is not the term one should apply to the community of the
blind -- and I feel fairly comfortable using this term, even if we aren't
as cohesive and unified a community as some suppose. Rather, I think
experience is the term that most adequately describes the situation for
most blind individuals. That is, we share a common experience of being
blind individuals. This experience can, and often does have a major
impact on our lives (and I mean this in a neutral sense). I am a little
reluctant to classify blindness as merely a secondary, almost
inconsequential characteristic, because it does make a big difference in
the way we do things, and, more importantly, how we are perceived
(something we are working to change, of course). Still, there are many
times when the adaptive techniques I use every day have become so
normalized, that I forget completely that I am totally blind.

One of the things missing from our community that would truly give a
cultural cast to our situation is language. Braille, of course, is not a
language, but a system of transcription, like Morse code, rather than a
different symbolic system of communication.

It is interesting to think, however, that many in the sighted community
ascribe to our experience the term culture, much more often than we do
ourselves. Many believe we exist in a kind of cultural bubble of
blindness. If there is a bubble, it is more often constructed by the
sighted than by the blind.

Just a few thoughts.

Brian Miller (National Organization of Blind Educators List- NFB)

FROM ME: “We have seen several times already to this point the issue of a definition of ‘culture.’ We are also seeing many good attempts of defining that, what the blind has or needs as a group. Within this THOUGHT PROVOKER we have the blind/visually impaired (99% of respondents) speaking for themselves and as we have heard more than once, culture in a large part is formed by what the group of people themselves agree that they are. Thus I am wondering, knowing how the process of discussion goes, might some of us be willing to write in again after having had the chance to read all that is said; a redefining of what they and others have said?”

**24. “I've been a lurker on this list, but I had to respond to your email about a blind culture. I'm a blind person, a member of the NFB, and a teacher of
blind children. I do everything I can to teach my students that they are
normal people who just happen to be blind, and that they can do anything
they want to do, as long as they get the right training, have confidence,
and take responsibility for what they do and not wait for things to be
for them, and that no one owes them anything. I want them to know that
they can participate in any activities at school that they choose to;
that blindness is not the central thing in their lives or the main part
their personalities--they are individuals first.

I don't see blindness as the central thing about myself or my
personality--it's just one characteristic; I don't want to be part of a
"separate blind culture." I feel that blindness is just one
characteristic--not something inferior or something to be proud of
it's just something that requires me to do some things in a different way
from sighted people but I still get the things done. I read Braille, but
read the same material (when it's available) as my sighted friends might
read. I have some blind friends, but also have more friends who are
sighted. I'm a member of the NFB, but am also a member of my church and
the Christian Educators' Association, for example. In short, I am just a
person who happens to be blind, not a member of a separate "blind
To me, the goal is for everyone to accept each other as equals, not to
have separate cultures.”

Deborah Prost (National Organization of Blind Educators- NFB)

FROM ME: “Seeing blindness as just a characteristic, a physical trait that dictates some functional differences in how a person goes about their daily activities. This makes me ask, what characteristics and/or differences are allowed within a culture or more importantly what level and kind of reaction to a different characteristic is allowed within a culture?”

**25. “Deborah, My name is Logan McMullen, I am a recently blinded man in New Zealand. I
have returned to study in an attempt to become a teacher of Psychology.
I read your reply to the thought PROVOKER and have to agree with you on all
of your points.

Been that I am a recent addition to the world of blindness and that I had
been sighted for 25 years prior to my accident I have found it a struggle
to understand the benefits that the majority of blind people in New Zealand
find in having themselves recognized as a independent community and

This need to classify themselves as individuals, separate from the rest of
society, in my opinion perpetuates the Us and Them scenario that many
people with disabilities have striven for years to overcome.
I understand the need to have an individual language(Braille) to assist
with communication, and specialized equipment(Dogs and alike) to assist
with daily routines, but I can not fathom the need to individualize the
entire blind community as a separate identity in the world. This attitude, as you are well aware, is what children who are blind are
been taught does not exist. As educators, teachers and parents attempt to
instill in all children that regardless of a persons color, race,
religion, ethnicity disability they are all members of the same world and
as individuals they make up the vast variations that are commonly known as

Then as those children enter the adult period of their lives they are
confronted with thee completely jaded ideas of adult society.

Therefore it is my submission that while indeed there is a blind culture
that exists in society the potential ramifications of this culture if
nurtured and fed to flourish into an unwavering object may be that people
with visual disabilities will be on the outside of general society. I too
trumpet the call for understanding on everyone’s part and education about
one another to remove uncertainty.”

Logan McMullen (National Organization of Blind Educators- NFB)

FROM ME: “Is an unacceptable separation/non-acceptance always occur within a larger culture when a smaller group of people are seen as a sub-culture?”

**26 “Hi, I would say those born blind definitely have a culture. One reason comes
immediately to mind is because we relate to the world in different terms,
"unsighted" if you will. We learn O&M from sighted people but those who teach O&M
can probably speak better than I can about how they have to adjust their
thoughts/language in order to relate the concepts of mobility to a congenitally
blind person.

How do you relate color to someone who has never seen it? Usually use "feeling"
terms, IE. blue is cold, red is hot. To be honest, I had problems with north,
south, east, west when I first had mobility ("nobody eats soggy waffles" was a
clever memory tool but still didn’t add to my ability to understand "why" those
positions were there). Of course after several lessons I understood the importance
of directions and how I had to relate to the sighted public in order to ask
intelligent questions and hopefully receive intelligent answers.

I've had sighted people apologize for using the phrase, "see what I mean?". Good
grief! Why apologize for that? I'm not offended by people using colloquial English.
Yet, people feel as if I would be offended by their use of "vision" words (see,
look, etc). I see but in a different way. I look but in a different way.

As for our use of Braille. Hmmm. Different language? Not sure it's a different
language. More of a symbolic representation of the dominant culture where one
lives. However the use of Braille might be more of a factor here. Translating the
visual/print mode of the language to a tactile/Braille mode takes time and skill.
In that respect I must agree with Braille being a "different" language, especially
how it relates to the presentation of graphics. Culturally based? More than likely.

The use of adaptive equipment alone might not make up a blind culture, but the need
for adaptive equipment might. We might ask the question, "why do we need adaptive
equipment?". The answer of course is so that we have access to the same things the
sighted culture enjoys. We can work equally with sighted people if we have access
to computers (although we don't have total access yet, we're getting there). We
use canes or dog guides so we can move freely in the environment. There are now
sensors and in some cities there are voiced directions on buildings and signal
boxes. Equipment helps us with daily living skills and leisure time activities. We
can live full productive lives with the help of adaptive equipment. The need for
this adaptive equipment might signal that there is a cultural basis for that need.

I think the idea that the Deaf individual watching a group of blind people interact
and felt there was a culture there might have been very perceptive on that persons
part. We communicate and relate to each other differently, than we would with our
sighted counterparts. We have common barriers that the general sighted population
does not have. We require adaptive equipment to help us function equally with
sighted people. Those born blind have common frustrations we experience on a daily
basis. People who are blinded and have established visual concepts might not feel
the same levels of frustrations but their lives are not free of frustrations. A
person who is blinded must go through the stages of grief and loss and that is no
easy task.

What makes up a culture? According the American Heritage Dictionary it is:
Culture the totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs,
institutions and all other products of human work and thought characteristic of a
community or population.

Tactile art, Braille, ways of communicating ideas in a non-visual manner, and
everyday life with its successes, frustrations and failures unique to the blind
population, and the use of adaptive equipment or ways of doing things in order to
accomplish our goals, should qualify us for being a culture. That's my two cents
worth, as I "see" it (grin).”

Isabell Florence (AERlist)

FROM ME: “Would those who were born blind be more likely to form or fit a sub-culture of the blind? Or, would they be yet another sub-group within a larger culture/group of the blind? Either way, here we see more evidence of that human tendency of categorizing and having groups within groups.”

**27. “There is an aspect of this question that grabs me as well. I think many people who are
blind, or have other impairments want very much to be considered "normal." They do
not want their blindness to stand out in either positive or negative ways (no pity
and no super crips, just me for who I am with a variety of interests and friends).
If they were conservatives before their visual impairment they will still maintain
their politics, such as believing in minimal government involvement in social
services. I think some folks, with years of mostly successful experience with
visual impairment, or those struggling to be successful, may not want to be
associated with "blind culture." (That is of course a gross generalization of those
who do not believe in blind culture.) I also think that the difficulties that many
of us face, either because we are new to visual loss, or because of societal
obstacles, tend to radicalize us and push toward the creation of, or the belief in
a Blind Culture. Thus I believe the issue of whether or not a Blind Culture exists
(along with my assertions that Braille can be considered a language) depends very
much on whether a person, or people, want it to exist, more than sociological
commentary on the elements of culture. If you do not want to be considered
different, an alien, or strange, then you probably do not want to associate with
what would classify not as a dominant culture but as a sub-culture. The most
important element would be the individuals belief that such a culture does or
should exist, and the individuals sense of belonging to it. I think the
significance of such a culture existing is social support and political strength.”

John Frank (AERlist)

FROM ME: “One point here- Have you seen this, a successfully integrated blind person who is well accepted by his/her sighted peers and you see this blind person having few blind friends and having little to do with any ‘blind movement?’ Plus, have you seen other examples of this, like a member of a minority race who takes on the life style and ways of the majority race. What is this?”

**28. “As far as culture goes, I think we have one but it isn't in the academic
sense where a group of people have artifacts, language, food etc. But we
have one because there are common experiences and a bonding together which
is present when a group of blind people are together and is not present

Maureen Pranghafer (Blindfam list)

**29. “I'm not sure there is a blind culture. I think most of use other
markers to define our cultures of identity. For those of you who think
there is a blind culture please define it with examples?”

Albert Griffith (Blind-X list)

**30. “ If we had a blind culture as cohesive as the deaf do, we would have some
political clout. One needs to only be on a blindness related list for a
short time to note the vast differences among us, and not only the
differences, but the hostility and disagreement.

A culture, in general, depends on a certain amount of cooperation. The
blind can sometimes cooperate, but more often, we end up at cross purposes.

The biggest danger is taking our cultural cues from the sighted dominant
culture. We are often at their mercy, or think we are, so we adopt their
definitions and attitudes, almost always to our disadvantage.

We need a blind culture, we need cohesion and coherence. We need enough
clout and political power to get what is needed to be on an even playing
field with the sighted.

I do not know if this will ever happen, but I surely advocate it. It is
unfortunate, but the only way we will ever gain what we need is to become a
culture of our own that is a thorn in the side of the dominant culture.
The only way a marginalized minority can become listened to is to become
that thorn, and enough of one so the dominant society sees it to their
advantage to listen to us.

This will not be a popular view, because it is uncomfortable to take on the
sighted majority. However, unless we change the causes, the effects will
be as they have always been.”

Dan Graham (Blind-X list)

FROM ME: “Is there a history, are there examples of sub-cultures who used the tactic of becoming a thorn in the side of the larger culture and were successful, accepted as equals? Or, are there examples of those who used this tactic and lost, what happened? Then second, how much strife can exist within a group before it either cannot form into a more effective group or even culture or can some in-fighting be a positive thing?”

**31. “I am currently teaching a multicultural counseling class for Masters
students in Counseling. The issue of culture is a fascinating one and how
we deal with one another. In a series of videos issues concerning such
things as racism are being discussed. One of the common themes is that
minority groups often fight within themselves or with other minorities
because it basically serves the dominant culture for us to do so. We put
each other down while lifting the dominant culture members. When the
dominant culture does these things they put us down to lift
themselves. The net result is the same but we have to recognize when we
are in a minority that our fighting like this serves the dominant culture
while keeping us at a serious disadvantage.”

Lisa Carmelle (Blind-x list)

FROM ME: So with this in-fighting within a group, what does it take to cut down through the causes of this fighting and get each side to work together?”

**32. “One of the advantages that Deaf persons have managed to have through the
years is the effort they have made to live in similar areas, attend similar
groups, having a common cultural base. Their college alone is something no
blind person has available to them. The irony is that our forms of
adapting are far more extreme technologically in the mainstream university
and resistance is great there but we have no other alternative. Deaf
persons in many instances can fit in the traditional university but have an
alternative if they wish.

Complicating our situation still more though is how much isolation we
experience from others who have similar experiences. it is not uncommon
for a blind person to go through their entire life knowing no more than one
or two other blind persons. it is hard to develop a sense of community and
identity with those we admire under such circumstances. The bottom line is
nearly everyone we try to emulate never really looks like us. One of the
fundamental issues for African Americans in our society is the fact that
there are so few role models who look precisely like them. It sends a very
destructive message without having ever to explicitly state the
reality. The same is true for us.”

Lisa Carmelle (Blind-X list)

FROM ME: “Having people like you to look up to, social icons or heroes as it were, who are they among the blind? In what ways would this help the individual and/or the group?”

**33. “I'm not suggesting that we who are blind deny our blindness or forsake
our traditional identity. For some of us, that is not an option because we
are totally blind. It is easier for many partially sighted people to fake
being fully able to see. What I was suggesting is that in many ways, such
as appearance, grooming, Etc., we should try to follow the standards of the
sighted world because they are a majority, we are not. If we were to go
around mismatching our clothes or moving our heads in Stevie Wonder-like
fashion, we would be the odd ones out. By not doing these things, we are
not succumbing to the dominant culture and selling out, we are just
conforming to accepted standards.

Any of us, blind or sighted, who go into a job interview go in with a
suit and tie or something similarly dressy. We don't go in with shorts and
a T-shirt or holy jeans because that is not the accepted standard. In the
same way, we who are blind should conform to the standards of the sighted
world when it is convenient for both them and us and when it does not force
us to deny our blindness.”

Ed Salcido (Blind-X List)

FROM ME: “Where do we draw the line between conforming to SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE STANDARDS AND SELLING OUT? Plus, in who’s opinion is this to be judged, theirs or ours? Is this not where a major problem exists now? And so, how do we get some of our ‘ways’ that allow us to function to be accepted? Like: They will say, you must travel; and I say, I do, I use a bus or I use a long white cane or dog. Another might be: They say, you must be able to read; and I say, I do, I use a magnifier or I use Braille.”

**34. “ The argument you are making is the same one most minorities have had to
grapple with concerning becoming part of the dominant culture when they can
while rejecting often their traditional cultures and self-identities. I am
suggesting that to accept what the sighted culture and its dominant value
system maintains results in a denial of anything positive blindness can
create in our lives. it is denying self for the sake of marginal
inclusion. the fact is no matter how hard you try you will be tolerated in
the dominant culture but never fully a part of it because you cannot see
and nothing will change that in their eyes.”

Lisa Carmelle (Blind-X list)

**35. “This Provoker particularly excites me in that it has both a blind and a
deaf person in it. I am a member of both communities - hearing and
visually impaired. And from first hand knowledge I can answer that
question, do we have a culture, each and every group. The answer is
yes. The blind, the deaf, the Jewish, blacks, woman. And as I see it,
like all these culture groups, its very separatist, unfortunately too
much so. The blind stand by themselves almost one hundred percent. I
admire the independence and capabilities of the blind. I also admire
that of the deaf. But those of us who are members of both 'blind
and deaf' we find ourselves lost in the shuffle. most handicapped
groups are bunched together in one agency - physically disabled,
mentally or developmentally. The blind have their own agencies, which is
fine for them, but again, it shoves those with two disabilities, added to
the blindness off into a corner. IN my state at least, New York, no
job related or vocational training agency will work with a person, no
matter what their other handicaps may be, if they have a dowel
impairment. I've been told that one quite a few times. But my state's
commission for the blind, as helpful as they try to be, knows how to deal
with anyone with added disabilities to blindness.

I don't know if this exactly relates to the PROVOKER. I'm saying it's
okay to have your own culture, click, group, what have you. Its great
to know there's others out there in the same boat, who have the same
difficulties and such, but we should all join forces more that's what
I’m trying to say.”

Patricia Hubschman (New York, USA)

FROM ME: “We have seen this point of ‘we all need to work together’ time and time again. We have also read that the Blind are a fragmented group. Again I wonder, can there not be some differences and still have the majority working together; how to bring this about?”

**36. “Is this a pessimistic or realistic view?

I work in the mainstream, and I find there are loads of benefits and
problems. Normally, I am accepted as a person who knows my trade
well, on the other hand, I am seldom included in social events that
may take place in off hours--but that may be partly because I don't
enjoy loud places and I don't often drink, and the fact that when I am
socializing I prefer to be doing so along side my husband, not alone.
Here again, maybe this is because with my husband with me I feel more
comfortable especially if the event involves buffet tables or serve
yourself anything.

There are fine lines, and I am not sure that we don't create some of
the unease we all seem to feel especially in social situations.

I attended a July Fourth picnic at my Dad's house last week and felt
mostly uncomfortable there because Tom and I were Dad's only family
there, the rest of the gathering was my Stepmother's family, all nice
enough, however, in the two years since Dad remarried I have not had
opportunity to become acquainted with many of her daughters, sisters,
brothers, grandchildren, and, in my opinion, my step mother wants it
to remain that way. I have not been at Dad's house often enough to
know my way around, finding the bathrooms is still a challenge. I
think I have been at his house three times in three years as my
stepmother seems to be all in favor of us meeting for dinner in a
restaurant now and again, but is not willing to let us come to visit
unless it is a holiday and the whole tribe is there. Since Dad had
his stroke, it means we see him always in situations where it is
difficult for us to talk to him and even more difficult for him to
communicate with us, since all the noise and clamor is a distraction
for him.

This particular situation makes me wish I could drive, could go pick
Dad up and take him places, or just drive out for a visit. As it
stands I can keep him focused best when he is on the phone, and when
his wife is not in the same room, and trust me, if she has a clue it
is me on the phone, she is right there, jabbering at full volume as
fast as she can go.

Lest you misunderstand, I am not the type of person who resents
stepmothers, or at least, I have never done so in the past, but this
particular one is becoming a trial for me.

As to blind culture, I don't think there is really one, but, there
most definitely is a deaf culture and I think part of that stems on

Rose Combs (Blind-X list)

**37 “Hello yes there is a big culture out there an there are
millions in our country and many others all around the world, and I’m
now a member of that culture, and I hope some day we all can live good
lives as normal and respected as all other culture who are worthy of
there names also.
It's a real pity that gays and lesbians get more media
coverage, more research money etc for there inept actions than we with
RP will ever receive and we didn't even choose our destiny it was
dropped on us like bombs out of the world war 2 sky. So I hope the big
wheels will take up our cry for equal rights an equal benefits! What
can Mr. an Mrs. public do they can have consideration for all of US.”

Bernard Oleary (USA

**37. “I agree that we as blind people need some cohesion in order to get
things done, and I think we have that with the NFB. This is the largest
organization of the blind that there is and we have effected many changes
since 1940, when prospects were hopeless for the blind. In the 1950's,
the NFB made advancements in the area of government employment. In that
decade, civil service jobs began to be available to blind people. The NFB also
grew in the 1960's and 70's, protesting such loathsomeness as sheltered shops
and exit row seating prohibitions for blind individuals. While the exit
row battle is not completely won, we will not give up. We are definitely
changing the concepts of blindness in the community at large. However, I don't think we need a separate and distinct culture. As I
have illustrated, we can make lasting changes while also being a part of
the dominant sighted culture. Since we are members of the general public too,
I think it's in our best interest to not isolate ourselves and marginalize the sighted. If they wish to help us in our fight for first class status,
then they are welcome, as long as they don't become our custodians.”

Edward Salcido (USA)

**38. “This discussion touches on some of my recent personal musings and
experiences. I think I want to talk about it from this personal place

A friend recently organized a social group that meets once a month. She
didn't consciously plan for it to be a group of visually impaired women,
but that's how it came together. If blind people have a culture, we were
all starving for it: the inside jokes, the understanding without lengthy
explanations, the sense of belonging/homecoming/relaxation, the "universal"
experiences and truths, the chance to perform the small courtesies for each
other that we usually have to teach others about (or to do without). . . .

I think there is a culture around blindness. It may be hard to spot or
define because we are so isolated within the larger cultures in our

When I was a child, people talked about "the blind community." The phrase
was loaded with negative connotations. People in the blind community lived
on SSI, were too afraid to join the sighted world, married one another
(which was supposed to be like tying the proverbial dead albatross around
one's own neck), were rabid radicals about blindness, and were simply not
"normal." I know that the adults in my life wanted me to strive for
inclusion, education, a career and contentment, but their ignorance and
prejudice were harmful. My visual impairment is not who I am, but it is
part of me. I am part of the blind community whether I acknowledge it or

I had been searching for my place in the blind community for a long time
before I joined the social group of visually impaired women. I can't tell
you all that these ladies have done for me just by being there. We may
just BE blind culture! Have you ever played Clue with 4 blind women? It's
a different game altogether.”

Jeri Cleveland TSBVI Special Programs lead teacher (AERnet)

**39. “I have often wondered why we blind people aren't as closely knit as deaf
people seem to be. I haven't had the privilege of knowing many deaf
people and, therefore, am not familiar with all the levels of their quote
"culture." But we may be missing some of the support and encouragement
elements that they may offer each other.
Of course, when two blind people meet, we tend to compare notes on two or
three experiences to open the conversation. We ask about the cause of
the other's sight loss, exchange education experiences, and maybe talk
about our favorite Talking Book readers. Yet, there are so many
gradations of sight-loss, that you may find that these subjects don't
have the same importance to the person to whom you are talking.
I had an experience which made that point to me. I went to a national
convention a few years ago and got there a day after it started. My
roommate told me that Jill Ferris had given a talk before I arrived.
When I said I wished I could have been there, my roommate said, "What's
the big deal." Then she described how some people in the audience got
emotional telling what Jill Ferris meant to them. She couldn't
understand it.
She didn't start losing her sight until she was almost 18, so she didn't
grow up with those familiar voices opening the world to her.
Finally, I have a few questions for which I have no answers. Is it a
little easier for us to integrate into general society? Does the deaf
community readily accept people who still have some hearing? Do we treat
people with more or less sight than we have with respect?
By the way, I'm a total.”

Nancy Karstens (Nebraska USA

**40. “I know that we have something that draws us together. What ever it is, it is a natural attraction. Partly it comes from the knowledge that we are different, seen as different and feel too often different. Oh yes, we are Human, we are American, we are Russian, we are South African and we are black or white or yellow or brown and we are female or male and we are religious or not religious and we are young and some are old. But being blind or visually impaired and treated different we begin to feel and act different, not accepted by the larger sighted society, culture in which we life. That is to say, yes we are still part of the over all group or culture, but pushed off to the fringe. This is what naturally (at this stage of Human development) happens when someone is seen to not fit the norm. sure we are still on the bell-curve, just off toward the one side of it. After all, for as long as Man has been able to see, he/her has lost some visual capability and even gone blind, this is part of our history, part of the Human experience. Thus getting back to the original point, when two or more of us find ourselves in close proximity, we seek one another out (or others do it to us) and we see all what we “do have in common” and either group-up or at least know that we are not the only one.

Like many have already said, we do not have a prescribe set of ways we act or be, not like a member of a culture like the Americans or the English or the Egyptians, etc. our sameness is more functional in nature and within the country in which we reside we live and struggle to make our way, seeking out others like us to gain support and gain skills. We are still American or Japanese and/or female or male and religious or not and a blind person.

I don’t even think the Deaf have a true culture. I think that if you took two Deaf women, one American and one Chinese and switched their locations, that they would not fit into that new society/culture of the Deaf any better than if we changed the physical and culture to be sighted. Oh sure, they would gravitate to others with the closest set of characteristics and more than likely be come one of their bunch. But I do think that this acceptance or seeming appearance of seeing the Deaf as having a culture is a start to broadening the concept of culture and this may have an impact upon other groups and their similar cultural situations.”

(Nebraska USA)

FROM ME: “So, are the blind members of an already classified type of culture, such as a ‘functional culture?’ Or is it that we are in the middle of a process wherein a new intellectual classification of culture is being defined? What do you think? Who has the text book to show what it is this type of grouping is considered by the cultural experts who define these types of things?”

**41. “I have read the first set of responses and I have found them to be very
interesting and, well, thought-provoking!

At first, I wasn't particularly interested in reading this topic because
I feared the answers would probably be of the black and white, all or
none type thinking; totally yes or totally no. Instead, I am reading very
thoughtful considerations that in some ways there might be some aspects
of a blind culture, or perhaps more realistically, a sub-culture. On the
other hand, many blind persons can and do become part of the overall
culture in which they desire to belong.

I, for one, have strongly identified with other blind persons by having a
blind sister, attending a school for the blind, happening to join an
organization of the blind etc. However, the rest of my family is
sighted. The university I attended was highly predominately sighted. My
spiritual affiliations have been made up mostly of sighted persons. In
all of my volunteer endeavors, quite often I have been the only blind

What I perceive is that there are commonalities which allow us to make our
lives better and to help others make their own lives better, which have
been enhanced by networking in various aspects--technology, Braille,
cane travel, support and understanding. However, the goal has usually
been to work toward total integration into the mainstream of society, not
to learn to "accept" being in a separate "culture."

I personally have been forced into what feels like segregation to me
much of the time. I spend more time with blind persons since they are
more willing to spend time with me.

Certainly, I have not given up on insisting that sighted people include
me more, but it is not an easy thing to do over and over again and
sometimes being with other blind people feels more relaxing. I
appreciate the support given to me by other blind persons, and I have
felt fulfilled at times being able to directly help someone else who is

I would like to be able to experience more of this with sighted
persons, too, but due to a high level of fear on their part, and some
shyness on my part, it is not as likely to happen ass I would desire.

Certainly, I am not "stuck" in either group, and, thank goodness, I have
not given up on blind people or sighted people as far as hoping for
positive change goes. Living all as one sounds nice to me, but our
individuality can be part of that.

Thanks for all the lively discussion on this topic. I truly appreciate
it. I have studied anthropology, human behavior in the social
environment, psychology and the like and I really have gotten a pleasant
surprise by the responses thus far.”

Lauren L. Merryfield (Washington USA)

**42. “I belong to a " culture" of persons with a disability. Whether it be a
culture or group of persons who are blind or have a mental illness,
whether they have ms or a t.b.i. We as blind folks do not need to stick
together as much as we need to work together with all persons with a
disability. Case in point. I currently manage or direct a Federally funded
Independent Living center in New York state. I have had this job for four
years, not because I belong to a blind culture but because I am willing
with my abilities and what I learn to work with all persons with a
disability... I cannot stress enough whereas as individuals we as blind
folks need to " open our eyes" so to speak and move on with life. I am a
firm believer that a door can and will open up for those who want it. To say
"nobody cares" is a trip by itself as we try and try again to open doors
for fellow blind persons who in fact can and will want positive change. I
too was setting home for near 15 years on S d I and knocked on many
doors before this opportunity came along but at the same time remaining
positive as a blind person that more than 72 per cent of persons with
any disability to include blindness are out of work..... So my friends ,
open your thoughts and words to think positive and if you want positive
change in your own community then speak out and up only to it in a
positive sense and realize that there is nothing wrong with belong to a blind community or culture but make it always to a blind community or culture but make it always positive in what you
attempt and do.... We as a culture can and do make a difference in many
phases of everyday life...”

Lee A. stone (Hudson, New York, U.S.A.

**43. “Well there is a blind culture as well as a deaf culture and this I
know first hand as my wife is blind and I am very hard of hearing
and it is not saying that the two does not mix because they do.
I have learnt to understand the blind culture and the way of the blind
living as the talk can go on for many hours as to what is new or old or
out of date and what works and does not work for the blind as my wife has
told me.
I do know that by visiting with her blind friends and the topics can
change from guide dogs to some different at a blink of an eye. I enjoy
learning as the people also learning from me and this is important to one
and all.

Something that I can add is that each person can add to other cultures
and also receive from other cultures and that we can all learn from each

I enjoy the blind culture and to learn how each one does things like
cooking or cleaning or just using the computer and how the speech
programs work, this is very important to me as I can help my wife if she
gets into a spot that I know and she does not which is very few.”

Willie Burton (Arkansas USA)

FROM ME: “Here we have a husband writing in, a family member. My thought or question is, ‘Are family members part of the Blind Culture’ too?”

*44. “I have found that acceptance by the sighted culture, I'll call it that
for lack of a better term, is not easily acquired. As one respondent
has already mentioned very few sighted people are willing to accept me
as a whole person.

Reading one of the respondents comments made me think of an incident
this past Wednesday. Neither of my daughters have ever done any baby
sitting. this lady called and asked if they would. They readily
accepted. after all they would get a bit of extra money. but then the
doubts started. They finally asked if I'd come and just be there in case
anything went wrong.

I called the lady and was surprised to understand, that no, I shouldn't
come. The girls would be just fine. No. they would be fine the
children's mothers would be in the next room and everything would be

This sounds as if I am trying to find prejudice where there was none
meant. You see she had called looking for baby sitters because it was a
special meeting and all the mothers wanted to be present during the
presentation. I can't express in words her attitude over the phone. It
seemed to me that she would rather to have the inexperienced girls than
an adult's presence because said adult was blind.
I find that I am much more comfortable around other blind people. I
don't mind being with sighted people but too often I am left out of
conversations or ignored when I try to offer to do anything in the group.
not all sighted people are like this. I love being with my family. and
there are a very few close friends, now far away with whom I've felt at
home. on the whole though I much rather being with other blind
individuals. I'd call it a kind of blind togetherness.”

Janet George (Idaho USA)

**45. “I wouldn't go so far as to say that as blind people we have a culture. I
think the word "community" is more applicable. To me, "culture" implies that
we share something separate, something self-contained: our own language,
cuisine, dances, etc. I don't think that we as blind people can say that
about ourselves; nor do I think it would be desirable: this would tend to
isolate us too much, and we don't want that.

I prefer to think of us as a community: this term preserves the individual
differences among us, while at the same time allowing for the need to come
together to do what we need to accomplish in a group setting. We live and
work as a sub-community within the larger community of society, using
alternate techniques to make our lives richer.

That's my take on this topic. I invite other thoughts.”

Steve Brett ITT (NFBtalk list)

**46. “Hi Steve. This is Sylvia Connor. I agree with you that as blind people, we
don't want to be separate from the general public, but a functioning,
capable and respected part of it. I want people to see me as a
self-assured, contributing person who just happens to be blind.”

Sylvia Connor (NFBtalk list)

**47. “ I have always known that the blind was out there in the world, but I
never expected to be one of them. Since signing up with this list, Badeyes,
RP-Friends, and a few others, I never knew that there were so many,
especially with RP. Are we a Blind Culture or Culture of the Blind? This is
a good question, one that I'm not able to answer; but am thinking about a lot
now. From the very first time that I realized that I was going blind, I
accepted my fate; but it doesn't mean that I've resigned myself to just being
able to "sell pencils." There's a whole world out there that can be
challenging and rewarding to each and every one of us, it's a matter of
finding what works and appeals to us as individuals. I am still trying to
find out what works for me. Right now I enjoy learning new things, such as
my landscaping home course and talking with all of you. Well, that's about
it on my thoughts. As to the culture thing, does it really matter. We are
all here now and have been for a long time.
Take care now”

Angelica Freeman (RPlist, Phoenix, Arizona USA)

**48. “I've been Emailing with Jonas, who posted to the list a few times. He is
from Sweden where, he tells me, there are certain crafts that pay well and
are reserved for the blind. While the blind person is free to choose
whatever he/she can or may do, a few crafts, such as brush-making, are
available to learn ONLY if one is blind or visually impaired. I don't know
if there is a blind culture, but at least in Sweden, one can earn a decent
living if one wishes.”

Carolyn Gold (RPlist, Florida USA

**49. “Hi,
A few years ago a seminar entitled "Blind Culture" was offered by the
"Candle in The Window" people. I went to the seminar, and have not bee
too successful in dredging up memories from the four day get together.

The Candle in the Window get together were started by three female RPers
who met at TSE (The Seeing Eye) guide dog school in Morristown, NJ. After
about 12 years of excellent seminars, the group appears to be running thin
on the energy necessary to put together great seminars. I feel a sense of
loss, as these seminars helped me enormously over the years.

RP by its gradual loss of vision can lead people to isolate themselves and
not propel people too seek out blindness agencies as quickly as one who is
adventitiously blinded. Let me clarify. People who are blind from birth
believe there is blind culture. There certainly is blind networking and
blind associations populated by people who know each other and have the
common bond of blindness.

IMO, the average RPer will bend over backwards to avoid appearing blind for
as long as they possibly can -to their determent-me included. This
understandable avoidance of things "blind" will actually prevent the
standard, garden variety RPer from learning about blind culture until they
are very far into the disease, and in fact, many very advanced RPers never
do seek out the greater blindness population as friends and allies. This
type of avoidance only hurts the VIP by limiting their exposure to the sort
of adaptation techniques, and tools others who have experienced what they
are now experiencing have learned.

I am sorry I cannot remember many of the topics from the seminar on "blind
culture" that weekend, but those of us who participated sure felt it existed.”

Tom Sykora (RPlist)

FROM ME: “Those of you/us who have joined the ‘Blind Culture’ after having been drug in kicking and screaming, what could you say to those who are now avoiding the plunge and need to come in?”

**50. “Angel writes:
"Blind" a culture??

Angel mused ... is Blindness a Culture?

This topic has been kicked around quite a bit, but of course,
when new people come onto the list, EVERTHING is new!!

No, I do not believe that blindness is a culture. A culture is
formed by people who are drawn to a number of others like
themselves in life.

Hmmm. I wonder .... is the RPlist a culture? :-)

Dorothy with tongue stuck in cheek again ....

Just part of the whole of life ....

That's my take on this subject!!”

Dorothy Stiefel (RPlist)

**51 “I would definitely say that there exists a blind community within a disabled sub-culture, rather than a blind culture. The deaf do indeed have a culture, as American Sign Language is an organic language that grows independently of American English. I feel togetherness with other blind people, and I've I noticed that unlike a culture we don't share a set of core beliefs (e.g. have met some bigoted blind people). As one who has more than one disability, I have noticed that we tend to segregate ourselves (like high partials, totals, people who became blind later etc.) as well as in the disabled
community at-large. I don't think this is very healthy...And this will not
advance our cause only keep us where we are.”

Paul (Sacramento, California USA)

**52. “As for the culture. We are of many cultures and a blend of many different people here in the United States. Many different languages, customs, eating habits, religions, and so on. So what is, the beef, if there is a culture in blindness?

In #3 forum the great old stand by, NFB, making it clear about the feelings
yet afraid to sign their name. I think that, in choice of words, NFB and ACB; yet more NFB is a culture by itself. Saying how they train people to be up, strong and proud of being blind. I think in a way your group in this blind discussion can be a culture by itself. Again what is the beef?

I agree with the person who commented on being a teacher and in the working world. Again, that is what America is all about blending together as one.
If we keep ourselves totally apart from the others, not blend, We will be alone and left behind.

I live in the sighted world, educate the sighted world just by living in the
sighted world independent. I have my friends who are blind and those who
are sighted. I do not get involved with all blind bowling, swimming, or another kind of sport that shows a blind person, OH I am special, help me. When I go skiing I blend in with the sighted skiers on the hill. Yes I wear a bib to note that I am blind. that is more for safety reasons that saying I am blind. I think it is cool there is different groups that meet to talk about their issues. As long as they also go forth and mix in with the sighted world. Yes, it is hard and yes it can be taxing; yet it was not easy for the other different cultures that arrived on the American door step, either. So again I ask NFB what is the beef? You are just as much a
culture of the many members you have and blend as one, So?

As this group, Robert, can be called a culture in the education of what is
blindness and other issues all about. As you have a group of people sighted, visually impaired and blind gathered and partaking in the discussion.

Again, as ask in one of the former statements what is culture? Then mine
what is the Beef?

Thank you for allowing a circle discussion on the subject”

Gene Stone (Portland, Maine USA)

FROM ME: “Recall, I don’t allow any bashing of one group against another, yet obviously I allow some opinions to be posted that edge over into the spectrum of bashing, but only if they aren’t too bad and support the authors point (my judgement). Now, I would ask, members of at least two national consumer groups have written saying they were members of their respective group and were expounding on what they felt were the groups stance on the topic of Blind Culture. So do you not feel it is important to see what variance there is within a group (and we’ve seen some) and don’t we need to know what that group of people feel? Are there any other groups out there who will write in with their take on this topic?”

**53. “I spent three years at the Perkins School for the blind and made a very
disturbing observation. There are at least three subcultures in the blind
community. The first was the one I belonged to it was the high-partial
community. The cardinal rule, was that we were the coolest, the ones in charge, thee ones who would determine the order of things, the ones who got first turn on the playground equipment and would use it as long as we pleased thank you very much. In other words, we were a pack of bossy self-important brats. We did sometimes let in totals who were interesting
or imaginative but we were pretty much a clique. They were also a group unto themselves. A lot of them were quieter than us, more reserved. We were
loud boisterous and always up to something. In my third year the third group arrived, the deaf-blind. I think the totals were more excepting of them than we were. There were some reasons for that that might be better for another PROVOKER but a large one was language, we weren't taught sign. I never gave it much thought at the time but we all stuck pretty much to our own kind so to speak. We acted as though learning their ways would slow us down. After all, who wanted at that age to have to learn Braille on top of print or signing with all those different finger combinations. Anyway, what opened my eyes was my sudden reduction in vision
at age 10. When I first began to be fully re-educated into the blind way
of doing things, using a cane, writing and reading Braille, using an upper
arm technique to protect my face, etc I refused. I told them all I
wouldn't do these things as I'd look like a blind person. When my parents pointed out that I was I explained quite rationally that being total or
low partial made one slow and uncool and weak and pathetic. It was only as I explained this that I realized there had been a class distinction so
to speak in the blind community. A culture does have classes so I guess at least on that front, we're a culture and it's a shame that is so. If we
could all get over this thing about who's better or cooler or more
acceptable in this society I think we'd get a lot done. What's scary to me
is that the adults in the blind school didn't do much to stop this division and if anything, they encouraged it with separate classes except
for gym for the partials and totals. So if this class division is to stop
it needs to start in the blind education system.”

Sue Ellen Melo (USA)

FROM ME: “How about the notion that this Blind Culture has its classes? Are they as this writer describes them?”

**54. “A number of responders made a statement that "Braille is a language" and so a proof for the blind being part of their own "culture." Does this mean
someone wearing a leg-brace is in a "culture" with anyone else wearing one?
Or, someone with braces on their teenage teeth is in a "culture" together
with other teens with crooked teeth? I guess you can read between the lines
and see that I don't think so.

Seems to me that Braille is a tool that works for a particular need. It is
not a language with its own words and spellings [well, Braille does have
some of its own spellings], but I don't think anyone would call it a dialect
of English because it's English-American Braille, or a dialect of French
when it's French Braille, or Chinese dialect for Chinese Braille, and so on.
I think the word TRANSCRIBE means something like "across-written" or
"written again." Is there any word in Braille that cannot be written in
print? The deaf language ASL does not have perfect 1 to 1 language
translation between it and English. Also, I've heard of people with
dyslexia learning to read and write Braille because they can't trust the
messages that run from their eyes to their brains, but the messages are accurate between their fingers and their brains. If Braille ability proves there exists a blind culture, what about these folks? What about sighted
transcribers and sighted teachers of Braille?”


**55. “I don't know if I would say that blind people have their own separate culture. Instead what I think we have here is a sub-culture of the blind. We have many interests in common such: adaptive software, public
transportation, and Braille literacy, just to name a few. But I think
there might be not one but sub-cultures of the blind.

What I mean is this, is that there is one sub-culture in the blind community that is made up of people such as myself who attended residential schools through twelfth, and another sub-culture made up of people who spent a majority or all of their scholastic careers in the public schools. I tend to feel a greater sense of solidarity with my
comrades from the residential system. It is almost the same feeling that former servicemen and women feel toward each other. We tend to have had
the same type of experiences growing up. and that makes it easier to make
friends with them. However in closing I believe that it is necessary for all blind people to continue working together to attain our shot at the American Dream.”

Shawn Martin (Lincoln, Nebraska USA)

**56. “Do we have a special culture???

yes, there is a special blind-culture. But there is also a big difference between blind and partially sighted people.

The decision about belonging to blind culture falls when the 6th year of a blind individual has finished. This is the fact because of the fact that parents of a blind child have to decide if their child should visit a regular school or a special boarding-school for visually impaired or blind people.

When a child visits such a kind of school it will only meet visually impaired on blind other children and due to this decision it is excluded from daily life.

That sentences a child grows up in a kind of getto. There it develops a special culture. So the child gets friends in its new environment but it doesn't get friends outside this school.

Later, when such an individual gets a job or begins to study, or what ever
it comes back into the "normal world" and gets into trouble finding the right way in this "new world."

You will see that problem when coming in the "work world".

You will recognize that sighted people have got wrong imaginations about your skills. And they say behind your back: "the blind one is not able to become successful in that mission". And then you will have to prove your facilities.

Next I will say that a blind human lives in a more audible world as a sighted person does. For example: blind people like to listen to the radio very much they telephone very much and do more audible related things as sighted people do.
Therefore we don't have only a blindness related culture, we have a blindness related lifestyle.”

Boris Dudziak (Haltern (NRW) Germany)

**57. “The question of whether or not there exists a "blind culture" in the same way, for example, that there is certainly a Deaf culture, is an interesting one. Given the fact that deaf people share a common language, the development of a unique culture has had a distinct advantage over many other disability subgroups. Linguistic unity facilitates, indeed encourages a shared identity - a true sense of community. It is only by means of a common language that a particular
group can develop its own literature, folklore, dramatic and performing arts. When this language is not the same as that of the dominant group in a particular
geographic region, it also contributes to the subgroup's insularity which, in turn, may then strengthen communal/cultural ties.

Another factor that seems to promote cultural unity is, of course, a common political ideology. In the case of the deaf community, the very fact that ASL
was not properly recognized as a "real" language certainly would have exacerbated linguistic insularity and, as has been demonstrated, been a driving force in that community's socio-political development. Deaf people are bound together by a common language as well as at least one very clear common political
goal. Similarly, individuals with mobility impairments have long had a shared political goal as well: eliminating physical access barriers in the environment. Thus, the movement could gain widespread support across gender lines, age groups, race and ethnicity. Whether or not this common political goal has subsequently
contributed to an actual cultural identity is debatable; however, it has certainly promoted a strong civil rights awareness among all members of that population.

The blind community, on the other hand, has not seemed to develop a common cultural identity given the lack of unifying political goals. The access issues
we share as visually impaired people are not linguistic nor environmental so much as they are "informational". And, until recently, access to information
was something that each individual seemed content to resolve independently. Moreover, until recently, there seemed to be no real way to resolve or even
approach this issue as a community. However, the rapid proliferation of online materials and communications services has begun to alter that perspective.
Now, there is a common access issue around which the community can rally its combined political efforts: whether one is totally blind or partially-sighted,
whether she uses Braille or large-print or speech, the visually-impaired user wants to be assured of equal access to the so-called Information Superhighway.
And what is particularly interesting to me is that the community has seemed to abandon much of its historical divisiveness regarding which access media
are most appropriate in promoting group literacy in order to focus attention on the underlying access issues. We all need to be able to access online
documents and services, irrespective of our individual preferences for large-print, Braille or speech output.

I believe that we have seen and that we will continue to see an increased political unity within the blind population thanks to the increasing number of
visually impaired computer users. Frankly, too, I suspect that if a true "blind culture" is to be established, it will be born out of the virtual communities
of blind computer users. Like the deaf community's shared language and the wheelchair users' increased environmental access, the ability to move freely
and share in information exchange on the Internet will empower the blind community and contribute to its sense of group identity. Thus, I would submit
that qualitative research based on materials posted to listservs and the like would be most appropriate in terms of understanding our political attitudes
and perhaps in predicting long range cultural trends as well. As to whether or not those of us who are currently online are actually representative of the population, I should think this is a matter defined more in terms of economics than anything else.”

Dawn (R-Squared list)

FROM ME: “Dawn states- ‘As to whether or not those of us who are currently online are actually representative of the population, I should think this is a matter defined more in terms of economics than anything else.’ How about this? What might those who can not afford access to the WWW say about a Blind Culture?”

**58. “My young employees think that there are blind cultures within the blind
community, the same as there are different cultures within the sighted community. They do not think there is a blind culture that includes all persons that are blind. They think that some of the blind cultures within the blind community may have a profound effect upon employment, particularly attitudes.

They agree with me that all persons who expound on the internet may not be
blind at all, at least not have any physical loss of sight.”

Alice M. Post (R-Squared list)

**59. “I like reading all that comes out in these THOUGHT PROVOKERS. But I some times wonder if we are speaking for all the blind. Not all the blind have computers. I wonder what those who do not have a computer would say. I wonder if it is money why they do not have access to the internet? I wonder if because they do not have money and do not have access to lists like this, that if they could speak they would say things are different than we say?

But in defense of this list and what I have to say and what I think others are saying on this list, is we are saying the same basic things that all blind people would say. Yes there could be some who are not writing in who might talk or feel more to the extreme than what we are saying, but those are few. After all, most of us on this list I think are members of groups where there is talk and a sharing of feelings and we know what our friends feel. We also know what services for the blind are like in our state and can write about them with truth. It is always interesting to read what others around the country and even more interesting to read what other countries blind are feeling and doing. I wish we had more people on here from other countries. This seems to be the better list for gathering feelings and putting them all together.”

Sally Wright (USA)

**60. “we are only where society has put us for years, for instance when you see a blind person in the old movies, you see them begging, or counting foot steps, or with a dog. this is how the sighted world view us. they base the movie on how they picture a blind person not reality they view us as blind people, not
some one with feelings and goals and dreams and not with husbands or wives. or with meaningful lives. the limits blind people have either self set or otherwise, society set the barriers long ago. and if blind people are going to brake the barriers, society needs to realize that we are, people and we will not bee treated like people from another planet. and will overcome and conquer. and as for culture, society won't give us a chance to fit in, They can't even call
us by our names, it is the blind girl or guy, right? think about it. and when they talk to us they raise there voices like we are deaf, so, culture?
No we just feel more comfortable around our own kind, because in our own kind we know the barriers, and we know the ignorance of society. Right? we know
there is none so blind as those who will not see.”

William Spencer (Sayre, Pennsylvania USA)

FROM ME: “Here is a key statement this gentleman writes- ‘No we just feel more comfortable around our own kind, because in our own kind we know the barriers, and we know the ignorance of society. Right?’ He gives this as an explanation why we come together, not

**61. “Culture or Community, Both or Neither

I have three primary thoughts here. First, culture in sociology and
anthropology has specific criterion to meet. This was stated previously on
the list. A caveat to that is over time has the definition of culture
shifted? I am curious as to who set up the original definitions of culture
vs. community and how often it changed. I question the validity and
integrity (in terms of statistics) the definition of culture is. Secondly,
in my rehabilitation studies, I was always taught that disability knows no
cultural boundaries. Disability, be it vision, mobility, hearing, or
cognitive impairments; like age, birth, and death, cuts across all culture
lines. Then I was asked if there's a Blind culture; as a result I ask
myself can a culture emerge from something that is supposed to have no
culture boundaries. For this I still have no answer. Lastly, is the
individual. As an individual do I want to be identified with any group,
community, or culture. Ultimately, a person has the choice to be a part of
or apart from any culture. Another question; I therefore ask myself is how
many people make up a culture? Further can a person be a part of more than
one culture at a time.

If looking for concrete answers: Personally I see a disability community.
In that community I see sub communities. The Deaf are most likely the most
uniform group of people with disabilities. I see the Deaf Culture, but I
can say that I see that with any other disability group. As stated in the
3rd posting access to information superhighway might be the unifying piece
for people who are Blind or Visually Impaired.

Again I come out with more questions than answers. These expressions are my
own and not necessarily that of my culture(s), employer(s), or others.

Geoff Kettling (Texas (USA)

**62. “I am from Australia, and have only been registered as legally blind for
about 8 years. There doesn't seem to be a blind culture here, although I do know that the Guide Dogs society tried to put me in touch with a few people who are blind. I only keep in touch with one of them, although we have never met. All my other friends are sighted and treat me like one of them. Maybe it is
different for those who are totals I don't know. I guess I will find out one of these days.

Elizabeth (Australia)

**63. “”I see a blind culture. I am a totally blind man. I also see that the partials also are covered by the same basis set of cultures rules. Because if you are seen as severely visually impaired, you are seen as being blind. This means that the sighted world also sees you as having a blind culture. This effects us in all areas of life. It influences what jobs we get, what education we get, what treatment we get on the street and all this together and more. So to change how the blind culture works, you must change how the sighted culture works. They are part of each other.

Charles Marley (Florida USA)

**64. “I noticed two different groups. I went to the MD school for the blind. The two groups I saw were, the blind students who were just blind. and the
students that had mental disabilities. I had to be the strange kid that
tried to get them to be friends. It seemed as if they were afraid of each
other. But that is how I got my volunteer work.”

Annette Harvey (Blind Industries of Maryland, USA)

**65. “From my perspective, having been a teacher of the blind for 26 years, and also meeting and talking closely with blind adults........what binds all of
these people together, no matter what the reason or cause of their
blindness.........was the "need to share/discuss their own definitions and
feelings/reactions to their varying blindness conditions." Then, to connect
with others with "like" or similar eye condition to discuss "how it feels"
and what kinds of changes manifested in their lives. You see, it is not just
"one thing" or "another"........but certain degrees of self acceptance and
then learning how to acquire the necessary tools to adjust one's life.

I feel that within the "blindness community" are individuals and
organizations who act like a it the Braille issues,
cane issues or other. There are huge issues and political alliances formed
over these subjects. Here's yet another thought, Rather than call this a
"blind culture" I see it more of a tactile oriented culture, since there is
such an emphasis on learning to use one's hands in a different way, to
acquire information. It is interesting to note that both the deaf and the
blind communities have great emphasis on "hands".............and this is
something to ponder. Well, now that I have meandered in my
thinking................let's get a response to my thoughts
here....” (R-Squared list)

I had another thought last night while drifting off to sleep...........that
perhaps the "culture" so to speak, of both the deaf and the blind, has to do
with the "hands."

The use of one's "hands" in both deaf and blind communities is at the very
core of communication........and I believe that "language" (sign language,
tactile communication (Braille) etc. is essential for a culture to form.
Think about that and let me know what you come up

**66. “I have personally found the blind trying to fit in with the average American society. I can not say anything about other countries. We have aids that
are unique to our situation and also serve as an advertisement, whether we wish it or not. I have so few contacts with other visually impaired people
that I would have difficulty saying that we have a particular culture. I understand frustration presented by visually impaired clients since I have experienced them myself; I do not consider this understanding part of a culture. Maybe those attending residential schools or living in cities feel differently. I
will be interested to finally sit down and read all these responses.”

Marcia Beare (Martain, Michigan USA)

**67. "No. I think we are a sub culture. Wee are a smaller group within the dominate culture. We have some differences, but I am not sure we are a true separate culture.”

Tina (

**68. “I have not had a chance to look at other responses, but probably just as well. There are certainly some external attitudes and circumstances toward and about blind people held by society and even by blind persons themselves. There are certainly ways of doing things such as travel, communication etc.
that we do which are particular to and/or deemed acceptable as "norms" in the "blind culture" or "community".

However, I don't see us as having a different or specific culture. It is the perception of society and in some cases persons who are blind who choose to see it this way. They see the cane as strange, different. The see Braille the same way...remember when Braille was being first promoted, it was
resisted by teachers since it was not "visually pleasing" to the eye. But
its just a different way of communicating toward the same end of enhancing quality of life in terms of education and employment. After all is it not education and literacy and ability to freely travel rather than Braille and the white cane that really matters?

Some blind persons see themselves as "less fortunate", perhaps "victims" and maybe even entitled to some special things while others are self confident, initiating and responsible for what and who they become. But both the "entitlement mentality and the self made successful person can be found in
both the blind and non blind populations. Is ability to play music more representative in persons who are blind as compared to others? I think not.”

Edwin Kunz (Austin, Texas USA)

**69. “I think that this thought PROVOKER is a good one. I think that disabled people have their different ways of doing things, such as blind people read with Braille. I think that blind people shouldn't think that they are in a culture all by themselves. They should be integrated with sighted people.”

Beth Kats (California USA)

**70. "To the extent that blind people may have common experiences and, among many, common ways of doing things, yes, I believe that I am part of a culture. I'm
dating someone who's blind; I feel a little more comfortable around blind people, although this was not always so. But I also feel that as a blind person,
I should not necessarily be excluded from other cultures or subcultures or communities. I am in fact part of several communities or cultures. First,
as mentioned, I am blind. But also, I'm originally from upstate New York, and by and large we have different characteristics than those who have been born and raised in the greater metropolitan area. (Of course, since I've been living here for twelve years, I feel more a part of New York City now than upstate NY.). Two-thirds of the people I've dated have been of my own gender, so I guess I identify with the GLBT element. I enjoy the music of George
Jones, Tami Wynette, etc., so I'm culturally country. I identify pretty strongly with my Italian roots, although I have a Polish surname. I am white,
I am American, I am male, I am of a particular age bracket, I am an attorney. I speak English. I am any number of things, each of which I feel should
be accepted. But if I identify strongly with one group, it does not mean that I should not identify with one other, or any number of others. I have a
friend from college whom I often call an "honorary blind person" because he really does have a clue most of the time, if not all of it. So in a rambling kind of way, I guess I'm saying that it's important that we both accept ourselves as parts of subgroups, and probably many of them, and realize that this part of ourselves is okay. What an unbearable world this would be if we couldn't enjoy ourselves and each other for who and what we are!”

John D. Coveleski (New York, New York

**71. "Recently I engaged in a conversation with a Deaf friend of mine (I am both
hearing and sighted) about ADA law, different definitions of disability,
etc., and the conversation eventually led to my asking my friend why he
believed that Deaf culture existed while blind culture does not. This is the
response that he gave me:

The Deaf community is a microcosm of any community of people, a
cross-section of society at large, in its heterogeneity of physical builds,
races, religions, intelligence, interests, and values. The common
denominator is the inability to hear and its ramifications.

The Deaf community is a concept, not a place. It is a name given to the
tendencies of Deaf people to seek each other out, tendencies that are
manifested in the organizations and guides to behavior that facilitate such
interactions. Hence, the Deaf community is real--as real as any other

Most do not define Deaf communities geographically. The magnetism that
draws one Deaf person to another is not greatly attenuated by distance.
English speaking, you can have two Deaf people get together and fellowship
using their native language that call this fellowship Deaf community. It can
be anywhere and anytime, two or more Deaf people can get together and call
it Deaf community.
Deaf culture's most distinct feature is American Sign Language. Sign
language in each country are, with few exceptions, unique to that country,
much as most spoken languages are unique to particular countries. Within
countries, the national sign language has dialects. Thus, the varieties of
sign language parallel the varieties of spoken language. The "discovery' of
ASL ranks among the great twentieth- century advances for Deaf people."

G Herver (R-SQUARED list)

**72. "The theory of Deaf Community development presented here hypothesizes five
factors--demography, alienation, affiliation, education, and milieu.

Demography: Deaf Community is the attainment of a sufficient number of
Deaf ppl in relation to their basic characteristics - age, sex, and
geographic location. For a Deaf community to emerge, the actual size of a
group of Deaf ppl must reach some number larger than two.

Alienation: Alienation is the motor that drives the Deaf community.

Affiliation: The counterforce to alienation is affiliation. The action of
alienation is centrifugal, while that of affiliation is centripetal.
Affiliation is the tendency of ppl to seek out and to establish conditions
that facilitate their opportunities to intermingle.

Education: Education did not cause a Deaf community to develop in the
United States, but it exerted a strong influence on it--it shaped it.
Meaning that the experiences that Deaf ppl have in common during their
developing years--experiences of communication difficulties, of
embarrassments, of rejection by playmates and some adults, and of joyous
moments when they meet other Deaf children and occasionally Deaf adults.

Milieu: (I am confused about this terminology..I need to study it more
before answering this to you)"

(R-SQUARED list)

**73. "Deaf vs. Blindness
Another way of testing the proposition that the schools accounted for the
growth of the Deaf community is to look at the parallel case of blind
people. While blind children also were educated together, frequently in
residential schools, they did not develop a similar community. There have
been ample organizations for blind ppl, but almost none of the blind ppl
until about 1960. Even then, the organizations of blind ppl do not compare
in number or strength to those of Deaf ppl. While the reasons for this
difference are probably numerous, a salient factor is communication.
Deafness interrupts communication with the general public, blindness does
not. Anyone can discuss and commiserate with the blind person, but not with
the Deaf person. Blindness evokes sympathy; deafness tends to evoke
frustration and hostility. Thus, blind ppl have long had supporters who have
been willing to do for them what they would have difficulty doing for
themselves. Deaf ppl, on the other hand, have tended to be ignored by the
general public, which seems to prefer to avoid contact with them because
social interchanges are so difficult. "The blind leading the blind" seems
ludicrous, while the Deaf communicating with the Deaf does not. Blindness
interferes with mobility, something that sighted ppl can assist blind ppl to
overcome. But deafness inhibits communication with those who cannot
communicate manually, something with which Deaf ppl can assist each other.
This factor may be the critical one in accounting for the differences
between these two admittedly gross sensory disabilities. The one has brought
support from the general public and the other has caused its members to seek
each other for support and companionship."

(R-SQUARED list)

This is quite a thought provoker, as it got me thinking more of how I would respond based on the thought provoker, itself, and everyone's responses to this. This question came up on another list I was on, but I couldn't really answer yes or no to the question of whether or not blindness is a culture.
I still cannot say for sure that blindness is a culture. I think that, as resp. 45 stated, blindness is more like a community as much as deafness is a community. Yes, we have Braille and other adaptive things we use to help us function like everyone else the way others with other kinds of disabilities do. However, we are more of a community rather than a culture. Blind people in the US speak English like everyone else just as blind people in Germany
speak German like everyone else there do. Blind people join church or other kinds of community groups as well as live in different kinds of communities like sighted and other people with disabilities do. just the same, people of different races and ethnic backgrounds either live in a community of people like them or they don't even if they may share the same cultural background. We are a community through organizations, the cliques within the organizations
or group of blind people not belonging to any particular blindness-related organization, etc. Whether in an organization or just as a group of blind people, we seek advice from each other in whatever problem areas we might be trying to resolve. We also advocate for the community as a whole as well as for individuals in the community. However, we don't all live in one neighborhood where the blind as a community could be seen as a cultural group. Moreover, we don't
have specific cultural customs the way people of different ethnic backgrounds do.

To defined blindness as a culture only serves to widen the gap between blind people and all other communities--sighted, deaf, physically disabled, etc.

It also says that we have certain cultural practices and customs separate of everyone else. It also says that we speak a totally different language than everyone else does. Well, since we don't fit this definition of a culture, as I see it, we are best described as a community.

Yes, people belonging to a culture, subculture, or community sometimes segregate themselves from others through establishment of neighborhoods, but there are others who adapt themselves to the dominant culture and community to fit in so as not to be singled out. This is when they choose to live in neighborhoods that are not made up primarily of people like them or adapt the lifestyles of everyone else's. While people may relate with those of their
culture, subculture, or community, there are reasons why they may not want to always be seen with people like them. Just as blind people don't want to be categorized by the public under long-held stereotypes about blind people, people of different ethnic backgrounds do the same for the same reasons.
There are blacks, for example, who don't want to be publicly associated with other blacks because blacks are seen as violent and belonging to hard-core gangs. Resps. 31-32 (written by the same author) and Resp. 53 also touched on in-fighting and classism within one racial or disability group. Classism exists in all cultures, subcultures, and communities.
Regardless of culture, subculture, community, disability, or social class, though, we all, whether sighted, blind, etc., need to bridge the gap between all sections by trying to understand each other and adapting to each other's worlds. I'm not saying that we cannot have separate communities, as such
is important for networking, peer support, and role models big or small. What I am saying is that, while we have that community to depend on for help or just to chat with, we cannot allow ourselves to become so absorbed to the point that we segregate ourselves from others belonging to a different group
of people than us or that we not allow ourselves to be accepted by those other groups. Yes, I may talk with other blind people and no our vocabulary. Likewise, I am surrounded more by sighted people and try to understand their vocabulary. Take computers, for instance. We blind people speak in terms of Jaws Cursor vs. PC Cursor (for all of us JFW users) when navigating around on a screen, and we speak of highlighting and then hitting enter. Sighted people speak in terms of a portion of the screen and clicking vs. double-clicking on an icon. While this vocabulary tidbit may be demonstrating blindness
as a culture in that there may be somewhat of a language difference, the point I'm making is that, when I hear someone say, "double-click on Such and Such icon", I translate it in my head to the terms I know. Likewise, when I am around other blind people, I have to remind myself to use verbal description of my body movements when I am relating a story and acting out the body movements of the characters involved.

As for what blind, deaf-blind, and deaf people who don't have access to the Internet for whatever reason would say in regards to blindness or deafness
being a cultural group or community, I really don't know. I suppose, though, that they would all say what those of us who have contributed our responses
to this thought provoker have already said. Of course, I cannot speak for everyone, as I'm sure that there are others out here who are online or don't
have access to the Internet who might say different from what all of us have already said. Whether online or not having access, some people don't contribute because much of what was stated already is what they, themselves, would have said; it's not a topic of interest to them; or they are fearful of being viewed as being different and don't want to be shot down for their feelings and opinions. After all, everyone wants to fit in regardless of what the situation might be. Perhaps, people who have access to the Internet could interview those who don't have access to the Internet, and then post those responses to the list(s). People who have access to the Internet could do more reaching out to those who don't have access and work together on posting their responses online, or just to be heard in general.”

Linda (USA)

**74. I've thought about this one a bit and here's what I came up with. I used to be involved with an organization called Natural Ties, which was a disability-related
organization. It was started in 1988 at Kansas University, when a sophomore there befriended somebody with autism. Eventually people noticed their friendship
and all that they did together, and this eventually led to the start of Natural Ties. The mission of Natural Ties was to integrate people with all types
of disabilities into "mainstream" society. This was done through one-on-one friendships between someone with a disability and someone without a disability.
These people with no disabilities were known as "ties," in the sense that they bonded with the disabled person in order to form friendships and get out
in the community for fun activities. To some this would seem like a common-sense thing, to befriend somebody with a disability, but being in the organization
has taught me otherwise. I still have a "tie," but as of late I have been quite busy and have not had time to hang out with him. Most of these "ties" were
college students, but some were out of college and were working full-time, with a family. Natural Ties is being revitalized, but I have yet to attend a
meeting of the new group of people, due to a busy schedule. At the time of its founding, I happened to be the only blind person involved. There was one
young lady who was partially sighted. Eventually, my sister who is blind got involved. So I guess one could ask the question, "Do the disabled have a unique
culture and if so how is it different?" I am throwing that one around for discussion. Incidentally, Natural Ties is the very same organization where I
worked for a while. I firmly believed in the mission, and still to this day believe in it.

Jake Joehl, Chicago, Illinois

**75. I feel the Deaf have more of a culture than the blind do. The Deaf, and I taught Braille to deaf-blind people for a time, seem to like being deaf and not
want to ever change it. They consider their ASL or American Sign Language to be equal to French, English, or Spanish. The Galaudet University protests
in was it 1988 caught the attention of the media in a way that blindness related things never seem to. Deaf people drive and I understand their unemployment
rate is slightly lower than ours, 50% v. 70%.
I'd rather go deaf later in life so that I'd have my language skills. Maybe being born blind would make it easier for one to adapt and get the good hearing
with that facial vision that some blind people have.
I think having two organizations for the blind sends a message to sighted people that we are divided and can't get our philosophy straight. I have tried
reading both Walking Alone and Marching Together, and People of Vision. They are both much much too long and abstruse. I am currently in the ACB because
the NFB always seemed to imply I was lacking. I vividly remember to this day the closing remarks said to me by the Ruston Center's mobility teacher in
June 1989. "I feel like I failed with you because you'll never strike out on your own and just go places." Oh well. I find ACB very loosely confederated
and didn't enjoy my interactions with a former president. We had booth attended an NLS library function. NFB seems so dogmatic and harsh. Is there no
middle ground for us?
I had sort of thought being a blind woman might be easier in that society still expects less of women. That's not right but if she wants to stay home it's
not quite as bad as if a man wanted to. Women who are blind tell me it's harder because they don't feel safe going around alone because any weirdo can
hit on them and try to bother them.
It annoys me that the only time blind people make the news is if we climb Mount Everest, bring Braille books to Tibet, write autobiographies about how you
should see what we hear, and win on a trivia game show. Not that I'd mind winning on a game show and I think I'm smart enough to give Jeopardy a run for
its money. But you rarely hear about us doing other things. I'd love to know how that blind guy is doing at that Wisconsin Medical school. He couldn't
be a worse doctor than some sighted idiots I've been to. Maybe he'd try harder if you went to him anyway to prove himself.
As to career types, I have often wondered if you take out the blind people working in the Rehab field in some capacity or education or who own a vending
stand who would be left. I have absolutely nothing against these people. They work, pay taxes, and contribute to society. I'm just wondering how many
careers of this type dominate. Then take out lawyers and shrinks and people in religion. Law, education, psychology, and religion, I understand, are
the 4 traditional areas for the blind to work in. I'd love to know how hard a blind lawyer works compared to a sighted counterpart. I have often wondered
if blind professionals have to work harder just to keep up. I feel like I have to work as hard as I can just to keep up. Well, I did feel that way in
graduate school. I think the PC mumbo jumbo about diversity should apply to blind people, too. I have written several library internship programs that
described themselves as open to "historically underrepresented groups in the profession" hoping they'd take me on. One was a nice 2-year one, paying $40
thousand a year with 25 holidays, and sick leave and insurance. But no go. Made me so mad. The American Library Association has a Century Scholarship,
pitiful little scholarship, that is for persons with disabilities. This sure has a negative connotation. Anyway, seems ashamed that that scholarship can't
be donated to and increased.
I had come up with some unique jobs but don't know how one would ever do them.
1. Get an MFA in Gastronomy: Boston University offers a degree and try to get into magazine food writing.
2. Study aromacology and become a perfumer or aroma therapist.
3. Lifestyle coach.
4. Acupuncturist.
5. Be a hand model or voice-over actor.
6. become a hobbiest making soap, spinning yarn, weaving rugs, and belts.
Well, let me dash. All this had me thinking a lot tonight.

David F. USA

From Me: The above is one man’s opinion, it is real for him. If you read further, you will find opposing views, just as real.

**76. I was very pleased to find such a large discussion on so many excellent and intertwined topics taking place. This is a very valuable forum Mr. Newman has started and has provoked a great deal of careful thinking in me over this strange Summer in my life. I'll be covering a fairly diverse sampling of subjects. However, the premise of a blind culture or the lack thereof was the major impetus for my deciding to write. I tend to think of a blind community versus a blind culture. In my mind, the word "culture" implies far more linguistic, geographical and historical heritage than a randomly picked group of blind people would have in common. Braille isn't the equivalent of sign language but is merely a substitute for print. We don't have our own widely accepted definition of a successful life but apply sometimes too harshly the standards of fortune, notoriety and employment which are used within mainstream culture. We share the same heroes and villains as our sighted contemporaries. We don't have our own literature but demand that the literature enjoyed by sighted people be made accessible for us. A large number of blind people would have faced the same or very similar life circumstances and experiences though. This gives us somewhat more in common than average able-bodied people drawn at random from a large city. It doesn't give us even remotely as common a life experience or outlook on life as many sighted people seem to expect. However, it is, in my judgment, enough to forge a community.
Unemployment is extremely common as is the subsequent situation of living with very little money. Transportation is also a common problem. The simple inability to easily and/or quickly get to where we may want to go changes what we value enough to partake in. There's also that tendency to lump us all into the same mould. Typically, people will either think you're blessed with extraordinary gifts or incapable of even the simplest of tasks. Even worse, they'll have heard about that ultra-successful blind person who has either climbed mount Everest, can travel better than sighted people around a city without getting lost, or do some other thing and they'll wonder why another blind person they've come across can't do these things. Being faced with these and other similar circumstances definitely has a profound effect on character that no simulation of blindness sighted people might participate in could ever demonstrate to them. Simulations only give them a sense of the surface problem and not the cascade of effects and consequences in life that a lack of sight exposes one to. These conditions all tend to give blind people at least some common ground when they encounter each other.
Emotionally, we're caught between a rock and a hard place precisely because we don't have a fully developed culture. People judge us and we largely judge ourselves based on all sorts of standards set for fully able people rather than blind people. Until we hit that painful brick wall which forces us to redefine for ourselves what constitutes a successful life, our self-esteem, connectedness with the rest of society, empathy for others, and sense of purpose are in grave danger of needlessly being eroded by the judgments of our host cultures. Perhaps, in some distant future, folks like the NFB will actually be correct and blind people will be thought of as simply individuals who must do things a little differently. The drive to make transportation, buildings, and the world in general universally accessible will have reached a point where there are no unfair barriers and blindness will indeed be merely a nuisance.
However, at present, we're simply not there and aren't likely to be in such a position for at least a century. It's just plain harder to get a job, more expensive to purchase accessible devices and more of an effort/challenge/expense to get from A to B, rake in the money and Career, etc. If we don't happen to be gifted with aptitudes which lead to employment in a relatively narrow if expanding list of areas, we find all sorts of obstacles in our way of financial and physical independence. Being measured against the extraordinary blind people and/or the sighted world can be a very destructive and painful thing to deal with and that source of demoralization isn't likely to go away any time soon. Sight is such a powerful and dominant sense that people who have it will naturally be favored by employers and in most social aspects of life over people who don't.
It is therefore vital for blind people to avoid being isolated from each other. We need a forum where we can communicate, interact with and be judged by our piers. Insulation rather than isolation from the sighted world is what I believe many blind people lack. We don't need a completely separate blind culture. I don't think that would be at all desirable. However, we do need times when we can interact with our fellow blind people who have shared some or all of the life experiences more unique to blind people. Also, we need more territory than the razor-thin space between being seen as living a worth-while life and being a complete failure than we currently have in mainstream society. Even if we can't find work and never earn a dime for ourselves our whole lives, we can still give quite a lot to society at large. It would be nice to have the efforts we make to do this earn us at least a modicum of self-respect and recognizing as worthy citizens.

The real danger to society as well as to us blind people isn't ultimately that we won't be able to earn our own living. The true danger is that we misuse the resources that we are given and lead completely self-centered empty lives. I worked hard to get good marks in school and graduated from university with a BA degree in English. I attended all sorts of youth camps designed to teach career seeking and independent living skills. With the help of a job agency specializing in finding employment for disabled people, the only job I was ever able to obtain was with an Internet startup company.
This was despite hours of phone calls, writing cover letters and sending resumes to anywhere we could think of that I might have the ghost of a chance to obtain a job. There were lots of rejections for all manner of reasons. All that rejection despite considerable effort is a very destructive and dangerous thing. Eventually, you reach a critical point where preservation of what remains of one's self esteem demands drastic action.
I don't think there's any avoiding reaching this juncture unless you either find your way against all odds into the work force which seems to want so few of us to get into it or come into enough money to permanently support your lifestyle. Once this point is reached, you have to start defining success on your own terms. In many instances I've come across, blind people can become detached and will not want to try to contribute meaningfully to a society which hasn't made them feel particularly worth-while or useful. They'll take all the advantages they can and go wherever their pleasure takes them.
Sighted people who can far more easily find jobs and have so little excuse not to find work often have no idea how tempting this sort of life can seem particularly after a protracted but unsuccessful search for employment. It's an incredibly easy slope to slide down particularly if your lack of employment and easy transportation has left you with few or no friends and your family has no understanding of your situation.

I started out buying completely into the standard expectation that my hard work for no pay would translate into the chance to earn some. I would have tried almost anything, worked overtime, and done whatever extra it took to keep a job. However, I wasn't given the chance. Only after I had given up looking did that Internet startup company approach me. Of course, I jumped at it and was rewarded with a brief taste of what it was like to truly earn your keep in the economic sense. I grew up a lot over those four months. I proved to myself and to my employers that I could cut it in the so-called "real world". It was a fantastic feeling finally being able to earn money and be valued by the people who I worked with. However, just as things were looking up, I had the misfortune of experiencing what it's like when the rug is pulled out from beneath you through no fault of your own. The European company we were a branch of decided to close us down and consolidate in Europe. All our plans and work in preparation to launch an online community for students and disabled people across Canada were thrown away like so much dirt. It took quite a while to sort things out emotionally and financially after the company went under. My parents and I wondered whether I'd ever be able to get back on ODSP. One thing that experience in financial limbo taught me was that I had better be very certain that the personal benefits of trying another job opportunity out-weighed the financial risk. While I didn't end up with permanent employment and don't see myself being employed any time soon, I don't think the years I spent seeking a job were a waste. I lost a great deal of enthusiasm and idealism, but gained a clear conscience about being unemployed and finding what enjoyment I can in life. That clear conscience must be worked hard for. I might spend a lot of time sitting on my ass, but I don't spend it doing nothing. Access technology and the Internet have given me a field upon which I can exercise my skills for the good of myself and others. I might not have the business, travel or other skills needed to earn a living, but I can earn good friends, interesting experiences, and peace of mind by finding and taking opportunities to help others whenever possible. I know that some of what I've done has helped others to actually learn the skills and the courage to gain actual employment. Audyssey Magazine as well as other online activity I've participated in has truly made a difference in peoples' lives. Nothing and nobody forced me to do any of it. I was raised by good parents who had a good grasp of the realities in life I would likely face. They were there to help me recover when my career was snatched away and have been supportive of my efforts and life style always.
I fully believe that young blind people should be given all possible training and incentives to find meaningful work. However, they also need to be emotionally prepared and supported for the possibility that their efforts along these lines will fail. It's far less needlessly painful an eventuality to have to face if the disillusioned person has at least some people around him/her who don't buy that "if you just put enough effort into it, you'll get a job!" crap. Life just doesn't always work out like that. They should certainly have role-models who have been successful in finding paid careers.
However, they should also be put in contact with people who haven't been so lucky but have accomplished other praise-worthy things. The job isn't the only badge of honorable existence out there to be had.

Think for a moment. What do we have that everyone around us seems to be dreadfully short of? In a word, time. The sighted world is an incredibly fast-moving place where people routinely ware themselves physically, mentally and spiritually down to the bone in pursuit of bigger houses, faster cars, better looks and more. People and things are often judged in the fraction of a second it takes a sighted person to look at them. We have the time to offer a kind of counterweight to all that. I have the time to try and be the best and most true friend to people that I can be. We can pursue our own interests as long as they're not too costly. If we're disciplined, compassionate and helpful enough to earn the respect and friendship of others, this can often give rise to opportunities which expand our horizons or let us make an even larger difference to others. We can be a meaningful part of life if we put the effort into it. Time is comparatively on our side and we can use that time to our own and others' enrichment. We can take the time to actually think about and fully absorb the news, books, movies, conversations, events etc which shape our lives. We can give that time and our best effort to various causes and projects which can benefit others. Time is our fortune. We have enough time to live a truly balanced life if we manage it well and are disciplined. I make no apologies for enjoying myself and my circumstances as much as I am and have. I feel that I've given my best efforts to finding a permanent job for long enough to know that I and others will come out farther ahead if I continue to offer a helping hand where I can and pursue projects on my own terms and at my own pace. It is a gift as long as you approach it and an unemployed life with the right attitude. It's not strictly speaking a life that's yours by rite.
Treating it like that will end up leaving you ultimately alone and unsatisfied. It should rather be viewed more as a peculiar circumstance and even a privilege. After all, hardly anybody has such control over their time and how they spend it as we can exercise. Learn to treat time like the precious thing it is. I am by no means saying that we shouldn't enjoy ourselves and take time for that purpose. I merely say that we should make certain we spend enough of our time in more productive ways helpful to others so that we can give a good account of ourselves when hard-working people ask why they should pay into our government support. If we can't earn a living for ourselves, we should strive to improve the lives of others as much as we can. In so doing, we can set the stage for possible future job opportunities for ourselves and other blind people. In such an unfair playing field as blind people find themselves in, there has to be that third option. Not all of us can overcome the odds stacked against us and swim.
Sinking simply can't remain the only other alternative. Drowning people are generally a drain on or loss to society. It's far better for everyone when they can be brought to shore. If they can't learn to fish for themselves, there are likely other ways how they can contribute to society.

I'm certainly aware that I don't have everything I desire. However, I'm also aware that there are millions of people who contend all their lives with circumstances far worse than I face. Like Paul, that long-suffering disciple in the bible, I have learned the secret of being content. I won't ever have absolutely all that I'm after, but thanks to the work I've done, understanding parents, and good friends who I treasure, I have more materially and more scope for positive action than I ever expected. I also have long-term income security and when we finally get into affordable housing, we'll have a secure roof over our heads and actually be able to save money while not relying on the generosity of our families. As grateful as I am for their ongoing assistance, I very much look forward to that.

My gifts are of an artistic creative nature. Currently, I am working on writing an autobiographical book and designing the first of hopefully many accessible games. I also help a young blind student with learning how to use access technology to best advantage. I plan to use the game and book to reach people who may be in danger of slipping down the more selfish self-destructive slope and demonstrate to them why it is in their and my best interest not to take that road through life. Thirty years from now, I'd like to look back on a lifetime spent well in helping other people get more out of their lives. I also hope to have a good deal of fun along the way.
After all is said and done, I'd like to leave a legacy of people inspired and enriched by having known me or taking the time to explore my creations.
Society may not have given me a job, but I am grateful for the many other gifts and blessings in life which I've experienced. Instead of dwelling on what I don't have, I choose to enjoy what I have while I continue to learn and exercise my gifts.

Michael Feir Creator and former Editor of Audyssey Magazine