Diversity Blindness Judgment


Diversity Blindness Judgment

     “You blind people really have an advantage over us sighted people. You can’t judge a person by the way they look. WOW, the color of someone’s skin won’t provoke a big reaction thing with you. And, when you meet someone you won’t know if they are pretty or ugly or sporting all sorts of body piercing stuff or tattoos, or if they have teased up their hair to look like waxed spikes, or if they are wearing the latest designer clothes...” Said Linda, my new, and now breathless friend; she had just shared her thoughts about one of my most outstanding characteristics--blindness. A bunch of us classmates were sitting in the cafeteria. We had just come from a new class that had started on the topic of diversity.

     “Yes, that can be an advantage.” spoke up Rosa in her accented English. She was an exchange student from Mexico. “There is much discrimination throughout the world.”

     “Isn’t that the truth!” jumped in Luwanda, her rich south Georgia African-American accent drawing out her words. “And you don’t have to go anywhere else in the world to find it, either! It usually can be found right in your own backyard!”

     “Time for our next class. Here take my elbow.” said Linda. “I want to try that sighted guide technique you showed the class the other day when you educated us on blindness.”

     I placed my left fingers in contact with the back side of her upper arm just above the elbow; the arm was much larger than my hand and the loose flesh wiggled
when she walked. I had to press forward with my fingers to keep in contact with her as she moved forward, rolling from side to side. “I really like this class and our discussions. There is so much more we all need to learn about each other.” I said.

e-mail responses to newmanrl@cox.net

**1. “This one got me to really think and remember quite a bit. So maybe this message will be slightly longer than it should.

First, it seems evident that the narrator's new friend has a misapprehension about blind people--namely that because we can't see what a person looks like on a visual scale, that we're not as apt to judge a person as harshly. This is a common enough misapprehension the sighted have about the blind. But as the story progresses, you begin to realize that the narrator may have other ways of collecting and retaining information about certain people
with whom he associates. You know that he knows that one other person is Mexican and that another is black because of their accents. And at the very end of the story, you find out that Linda may be overweight. All this leads me to ponder other points. First, it seems that although this particular blind character does not seem to have any racist tendencies, he, and thus all of us who are blind, are no more and no less immune from racism just because we can't see that a particular individual is black, Asian, Native American, whatever. We retain information through listening, if we're not deaf, and through the use of our remaining senses. Thus if a blind person
has a tendency to be a racist, and if he or she has a particular prejudice against, say, black people, one can assume that he can tell, by talking to someone, whether that someone is black. Right?
But wait: What if the black person does not have an African-American accent? The blind person (who may or may not be a racist) cannot tell that the person with whom he is talking is black (I'm assuming for the purposes of this discussion that my hypothetical blind person is white). Now the question becomes what does he do upon learning that the person with whom he has struck up a conversation is not of his color? Obviously if the blind person is
not a racist, it won't matter one way or the other--just as it won't matter to a sighted person who can look and easily see whether the person standing next to him is black. But then does the blind person reject a potential friendship or love relationship because of race? It seems to me that this is just as likely to happen as it is with a sighted person if the blind person has absorbed prejudices from family or friends while growing up. In fact, I can remember reading a science fiction story several years ago which spoke of these very issues, and I remember that my reaction was rather negative. This particular story appeared in the June 1996 issue of Analog, I believe. I no longer have the story, and cannot now remember the exact title,
but it was by someone named Doug Larsen (please excuse the spelling if incorrect). The main character in that story was blind from birth and (if you can believe this) was in his early thirties and living in a retirement home. He viewed his blindness as a curse (more points off), and yet he was rich enough to pay his own way in this retirement home because he had developed some sort of computer software. Well, it came to pass that the character was introduced to a new roommate who had a much better attitude about blindness even though he'd sustained his loss of sight at the age of sixteen through diabetes. Meanwhile the character who was blind since birth somehow stumbled over a way to integrate computer
software/hardware with the human brain so that it was possible for him to see. But at the end of the story, this character's nephew comes to visit him and his roommate in the home (by this point the two had become friends), and the nephew flips out because the roommate is black--a fact not previously known to the main character.
And so, the main character throws his nephew out of his apartment, threatening him with roach spray. (I wonder if anyone out there remembers this particular story and may still have it. It's on a flexible disk). In any case, the whole story was pretty unrealistic to me because I don't think the author had any cognizance of the fact that blindness does not necessarily mean one will not develop prejudices.
Which actually brings me to another point. To wit, the very first thing I focus on whenever I meet someone is his/her voice. I find particular types of voices to be more attractive than others, just as some sighted people might find tall redheads or people with great muscles to be attractive. In that regard, I can remember one time in particular. There was a bar I used to play at when I was a teenager. There was a girl about my own age whom everyone around me thought was gorgeous. They also said she liked me. I didn't find her attractive because she had the highest, shrillest, most
nasal-sounding voice I'd ever heard. She may have been a lovely person, but I don't think I could have realized that fact because I couldn't separate the voice from the rest of her. By contrast, I've found particular people to be very attractive to me even though others in my circle didn't think they were visually attractive. So I think, in short, (even if I have rambled on a bit longer than I should have), that (a) blind people are not immune from
learning to be prejudiced; and (b) we have our own ways of being prejudiced toward particular individuals.”

John D. Coveleski (New York, New York USA jcoveleski@mindspring.com )

FROM ME: “Here is a new phrase, maybe- ‘One man’s prejudice is another man’s preference.’ Think that applies here?”

**2. “The more I reread this one, the more bewildering became the array of thoughts and emotions. My first reaction was a roar of laughter over the manifest irony. The writer never indicated emotional content concerning his/her own reactions to the sound and touch clues, but pointed out the opportunity from
those clues to make such emotionally-laden reactions as alarm, disgust, mistrust and/or hate. But the opportunity for such judgment was clearly available to the writer but assumed not to be by the fellow students. Delicious irony.

As I thought about sharing the story with my staff, I began to see how my own perception of the humor was coloring my reaction. Part of the humor was driven by an emotional judgment something like "Those idiots. How dumb can they be, or how ignorant do they think we are?" Ah, humor gained from superiority.
Got to think about that one. Or maybe not. That's the basis of most humor.

Then, finally, I came to this point as I began to write this response: I hope this writer has the courage to share this story with the fellow students. It is so perfectly written to highlight the observable facts and then to allow the listener/reader to attach all kinds of judgments to those facts. What a special lesson in different ness proving our similarity! We all observe, filter, judge and assimilate events.”

Davey Hulse Braille Plus, Inc.
(Salem, Oregon USA
service@brailleplus.net )

FROM ME: “As most THOUGHT PROVOKERS are intended, you fill in the blanks; the feeling which is provoked within you, the truth or falsehood of the PROVOKER, etc. And from this we will have further thoughts and all shall learn.”

**3. “I have had some people comment on this fact to me. They say that I am fortunate to be blind because I don't judge a person on their appearance and I agree with it. There are times when I hear sighted people say "he's too fat" or "She's ugly" and that affects their perception of the person. As for me, I don't care what a person looks like. If they are kind to me, if they treat me like any other person and don't let my blindness get in the way ... these things are what I look for in a person. I remember once we had an aboriginal man for tea, the relation of one of my cousins. He hadn't met some of us before and he was a bit nervous. He asked me if I minded having a black person at the table and I said that I couldn't see what colour he was and it didn't matter to me at all which put him more at ease.”

Rishie (New South Wales, Australia)

**4. “Just last week, we were discussing diversity in psychology in one of my classes. I've been in this doctorate of psychology program for three years, and I still can't believe that some of these people are going to be psychologists. When one thinks of a psychologist, one would think of empathy, understanding, or open minded ness. However, many of my classmates voiced a reluctance and apprehension to discussing diversity. They usually say that they are not comfortable and wish not to speak about such things in class. I am the only African American male in the program and being blind makes me stand out even more.
Sometimes I get offended when my blindness is seen as one of my "most outstanding characteristics." Many people tell me "oh it's great when you meet people, you don't judge them." Well, guess what, that's not true. By the sound of their voice, or by the smell of them, or by whatever information I can get, I make many assumptions. I am guilty of being curious about what a woman looks like while I'm dating her or if the people I am with in the streets
look like weirdoes.

I will admit that first impressions can be different. To say that first impressions don't exist because I can't see someone is inaccurate. Blind people do have standards for beauty and attractiveness. It's not just a personality thing, as the rest of the world would like to believe. Many people have no clue in how to act around the blind in employment or professional settings. I have a vision one day to do consulting for businesses and agencies to educate them about the blind. Many people are scared and feel inadequate when it comes to interacting with those who are not like themselves.
Nice topic.

A. Watson (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA doughboy@netaxs.com )

**5. "I can't tell you how often people have said the very same things to me that the people in this story are saying to the blind person. On one hand, I agree. Sometimes it is an advantage for us that we cannot see another's appearance the first thing. One of my closest friends in high school was a girl who was a real tomboy. She dressed like it, wore a baseball cap, and tried to look like Miss Tough Woman. I got to know her well at school, but the first time my mother saw her, she did not like my friend because of her appearance. I was not naive about what my friend looked like. She told me
up front. But I had already seen more to her.

In another case, I was walking in the mall with my sighted travel
instructor, and a different, but equally close friend of mine approached. She had several body piercings, and a "rough" appearance, as described by others. Before she even spoke to us, my teacher said he was afraid this girl was coming to be hostile to me, or to attack us or something. She came
up to me, said a very friendly "Hi" to me and my teacher, and gave me a hug. My teacher had made a pre judgment based on her appearance that I had not made when we first met.

However, it is not all rosy, and just because we are blind does not mean we are perfect and nonjudgmental. If a person is going to have a prejudice, they will hold to it whether blind or sighted. For instance, if a blind person holds a prejudice against African Americans, then even though they can't see the skin color, they are likely to judge the person the second they know that person is black. They may be told by a sighted person, or may hear it in the accent of the black person's voice. If a blind person is prejudice against overweight people, like the girl Linda in the story, then they are likely to judge her accordingly. I know a blind person who makes a very negative judgment call the minute he may hear a foreign accent in a
person's voice, or touches a woman and can tell that she might be slightly overweight. I have been around blind people who, the moment they meet someone, they rush to a sighted person and say, "Describe this person to me, because I don't want to be around them if..."

Unfortunately, people hold all kinds of prejudices and make all kinds of judgments, whether they are blind, have any other disability, or have no disability at all. I think we as blind people can tell an awful lot about physical appearance through sighted guide. I can tell things about a person's build, walking gait, height, etc.

So, even though there is a bit of truth in the fact that we can't make first judgments on appearance, we do judge. If we do it on appearance, it may just take us a bit longer. Some of us may have other criteria we judge on. I know that I can judge too harshly, a fault I am working on. Yet, people often can't understand why I have this fault, since I am totally blind. I
am not perfect, nor is any blind person.”

Alicia Richards (Lincoln, Illinois USA)

**6. “Well, it goes without saying here, that there are many ways to perceive people’s characteristics, and the choice of what to do with that information remains that of the perceiver, just like it does with those who gather info about someone visually and make the choice to discriminate or not based upon their

Laura Collins (Rapid City, South Dakota USA)

**7. “Well, it is really interesting that you brought this subject up. I have often found sighted people doing this to me. I do think we do have an advantage
to get to know the person with out seeing them. However, I think the computer is the best way to do this. This way You can get to know the person with
out being influenced by a persons voice or physical feel of there arm or hand. I strive to be like this person in the story below.”

Reinhard Stebner (College Station, Texas USA)

**8. “I think I'm going to respond to this one in pieces. I'm not sure if I
have the time to deal with all the buttons that it pushes!

Gotta deal with the context first. "Diversity" is little more than a
sneaky way to get people to think that they are not discriminating
against anything. In fact, they are free to discriminate against anything
that they think does. The idea is to get everyone to accept each other as
they are, and to do that it is believed that personal bias, personal
morality, and any standard of judgment must be fair game for the goal of
universal acceptance of everything.

Even if you think it is wrong. WRONG?!?! You can't use that word! You
can't respect diversity and use THAT word!!!

Why not? Why would using the words right and wrong be such a problem for
advocates of diversity? Could it be that the goal of this movement is not
to have everyone get along, but rather to level and create a path where
they do not have to hear or experience ANY disagreement or criticism for
what they do or for the decisions that they make? Is it because these
advocates cannot tolerate those that make a decision about them whether
it be right or wrong? Is it because that the goal of the diversity
movement is to replace the standard of right and wrong that others hold
because their own standard is more favorable to their agenda?

I resist the temptation to write this in ALL CAPS because shouting is not
required in this forum, but let me go on record now and with great
clarity -

The blind (and for that matter, all those who have a disability) should
avoid the diversity movement like the plague!

Why, you ask? Have you noticed the decline of services and assistance
that occurs whenever an disability related agency decides to umbrella it's
sections or services? What happens when the deaf, the blind, the
retarded, those with limited mobility, etc are all dealt with by one
agency in a parody of one stop shopping? Well, those things that people
need start to go away because the distinctions get blurred, the need to
focus on specifics gets worn away simply because of the work load, and
soon the whole thing is existing on far less than it needs.

This is what will happen if the disabled join forces with the great
leveler of "Diversity". I can think of no African-American person who is
black by choice, as I can equally think of no disabled person who chose
their white cane, or wheelchair, or hearing aid. These things are not the
result of our decisions, right or wrong. If, however, we allow ourselves
to be rolled into the great melting pot, we will find ourselves seen as
different, but with absolutely no respect as to the differences that make
us unique individuals. It will be at that point that we will find
ourselves at the mercy of those who see no difference and will not allow
a difference to be noted.

After all, how can decisions be made in a system where a standard of
right or wrong is the greatest evil of all? I'll close with a quotation
from the most "Intolerant" man of all ---

‘Stop judging by mere appearance, and make a righteous judgment!’”

Gary Drennan (Valparaiso, Indiana USA)

**9. “This is an interesting concept to explore. I understand what the first sighted person is saying, but many people who are blind have the same prejudices
as their sighted counterparts. We may not make snap judgments on the basis of how someone looks at first meeting, but how they sound, feel or talk may
impact on our opinions. How do we react to someone who is deaf or hearing impaired, mentally handicapped, mentally ill or in a wheelchair? How about
someone who is of a different race or gender? How about the negative feelings that many sighted people have about blindness and those of us who are blind
have about our sighted counterparts?

In other words, anyone can be prejudiced, regardless of disability or lack thereof. I hope that I'm not guilty of prejudging others, but expect that we
all slip at times.”

Doug Hall (Daytona Beach, Florida USA
fl_halls@juno.com )

**10. “It seems to me that the disabled are subject to discrimination just as those people of a different color or race. So, it would appear that the main character
in this story has something in common with others in the diversity class.”

Abbie Johnson (Sheridan, Wyoming USA

**11. “Though her classmates don't realize it their attitude is discriminatory!
That is reverse discrimination!
The your so lucky you can't see, sighted persons routine.”

Diane (Victoria, British Columbia Canada)

FROM ME: “Interesting how a stereo type was used to explain away the existence of a potential to carry out yet another stereo typing. Hmm, can that ever work, I mean for real?”

**12. “ I think blind individuals can be just as cruel in their judgment of
others. Never mind that one cannot see. Once the facts are disclosed, it is
not terribly uncommon for a blind individual to have the same attitudes as
those with sight, a sad reality but reality nonetheless.”

Joe Orozco

**13. “Hi. Well, I can't tell you how many times I've heard people tell me that
there are advantages to being blind. There have been times in science
classes, for example, when things look rather disgusting, and I don’t' have the
fortune of looking at it.

Just my two cents for now.”

Stacy (Wisconsin USA musicmaker@MailandNews.com )

**14. “Well, I can't tell you how many times I've heard people tell me that
there are advantages to being blind. There have been times in science
classes, for example, when things look rather disgusting, and I don’t' have the
fortune of looking at it.
Just my two cents for now.

Stacy Wisconsin USA musicmaker@MailandNews.com )

**14. “Hi. Well first of all this is a stereo type in the biggest since of the
word. Blind people may not judge people on the basis of visual cues but
human nature is alive and well inside of us. While I would like to say
that I never judge people on shallow criteria I have to admit that I do
unwittingly make judgments before I really know a person. Although we
may not see what a person looks like or the color of their skin we make
our judgments in other ways. We base it on voice tone, how many times
have I heard blind people say that person sounds fat, and on behaviors.
I have some sight so the visual cues also tip me off and while I claim to
be an enlightened not prejudice person when I hear someone on the phone
who sounds fat or of a different race my mind already makes judgments.
I hate to admit this in myself but it is true. I am not saying they are
bad judgments but they do mark how I respond to the other person. I
have heard my totally blind friend say after walking with a sighted
person that they were surprised he or she was fat but once they know
there perception changes.


PS. May I post your thought provokers to my WGPS low vision listserve?
If you would like to do it please let me know and I will give you
subscription information.

FROM ME: “THOUGHT PROVOKER is often copied to friends, other lists, newsletters, etc. This is fine to me, just credit them/it for where it comes.”

**15. “This thought provoker brought to mind for me, an incident that happened to
me and my daughter several years ago. My daughter was playing at a local
playground and I was sitting on a near by log with my guide dog on her leash
in front of me. A very friendly, nice young man came up to me and wanted to
pet the dog and while he was petting her he was asking lots of questions
about guide dogs in general. Then he started asking me questions about
being blind and if there was a home for the blind I lived in. I desperately
wanted to make him understand that we have our own home and manage quite
well on our own, so I blurted out that we had our own house over on such and
such street. Later on, after he'd walked away, my daughter came over to me
and sighed and said she was so glad he left. I asked her why and she said
that he had tattoos all over him and long hair and looked like a rough biker
type. I was thinking how if I could have seen him I would have probably
been scared to death of him and maybe even would have panicked a little. As
it was, I had a nice conversation with him, but wished I hadn't told him
where we lived. On the other hand I felt I had an opportunity to educate
someone who obviously didn't know any independent blind people.”

Bev (Blindfam)

**16. “I don't make visual judgments like sighted people do but there are people
that drive me up the wall because of the sound of there voice or there use
of perfume or need of a good bath.”

Charlie Web (Blindfam

**17. “This is Stacy's mom again. This is a thought provoker that reminded me of
an incident about a month ago when we went out to eat at "The Cheesecake
Factory". Stacy, her boyfriend, her father and I, and her younger brother.
We had a very nice waiter. When he realized that Stacy was not sighted, he
told her where he was putting things when he placed them on the table. I
found that particularly sweet and caring about him. As the meal progressed
her younger brother and father were passing comments the entire time between
themselves. It wasn't that they were being malicious or mean, just making
fun and laughing at times. Stacy became very annoyed and her comment to her
brother and father was "He looks perfectly fine to me. Maybe if you close
your eyes you won't be so judgmental." Well that ended that - no more
comments. This young man made no errors with any of our orders, the food was
great and the service was excellent. Our waiter was a slight man, who
appeared to be obviously gay in his demeanor. He had many body piercings
and colored hair, and he was also the nicest, most professional waiter I had
ever had. The fact that he took a few extra minutes to be polite and caring
to Stacy shows me that he is a good human being that cares about others.
The world really could take a few lessons from him. I was very proud of

I agree with you Charlie on the voices and smells also. Stacy let me know a
few times that my voice annoys her and asked me to "just stop talking". Of
course, being her mom, I guess is falls into the category of nagging too.
But she also tells her younger brother from across the room to change his
socks so you make a good point.”

Diane A. Maeurer (Blindfam)

**18. “HI Charlie and list. Well, I completely agree. Just because we are blind and
don't see people, we have perceptions about people in different ways. On
certain people, depending on how often I'm around them, I can hear whether or
not they're smiling.”

Stacy (Blindfam)

**19. “I have just as many prejudices as the next guy, I just don’t start with the visual part of them.”

Ray K. (Springfield, Missouri USA)

**20. “There are just so many wrong stereo types concerning the blind that it is hard to address just one and do it justice. But this one is a real kicker! Just because a person can’t see doesn’t mean they will not come up with another reason for judging another person and either find that person to be less or more than the next guy. the blind are just as weak and dumb about prejudice as the next guy. And okay, maybe some blind will not jump to prejudice right away, even before the other person speaks or does something more than just being seen, well visible to others, if the blind guy was able to see them. So yes, the blind will not judge on sight, but the deaf will not judge on sound like the blind and the person that can not smell will not judge on how a person smells and on and on. But if that person has the messed up characteristic within them to judge and be prejudice, than they will find a way.’

Rob Hamlet (Iowa USA)

**21. “I was gonna respond to this thought provoker after I saw the first
round of responses (I'm on the Thought Provoker list but haven't had
much time to read lately), but I guess I'll respond now. In a
nutshell; blindness doesn't make us immune to prejudice, or making
judgments about people, or having preconceived notions, or any of the
rest...it's just that sometimes, our particular
prejudices/judgments/preconceived notions spring from different things
than they might do if we were sighted. I might make a snap judgment
(undoubtedly wrong) about someone's intelligence by the way they
speak, for instance. Believe me, blindness doesn't make us immune from
that very human folly of making unfounded snap judgments or being
prejudiced against some one or some group. Really, there's no way of
getting away from this sort of thing. The trick, I think, with all of
us, blind, sighted, whatever, is to recognize that we do this and then
strive to work with it, get past it, and look beyond it, then look at
people as individuals.”

Buddy Brannan (Blindfam, davros@ycardz.com )

**22. “My son won some writing contest in our city and he had to go get his picture
taken for the paper..... after the photographer finished and we stepped
outside he said, "mom, that man spoke very funny [he did have a very thick
accent from another country] and I could tell he was really skinny because
he moved around so fast. Do you think he gets enough to eat????....... Guess
his blindness didn't stop him from making some observations!”

Terry Pastel (AERnet)

**23. “When I started as a teacher of the visually impaired, I became close to a young man - bled over his disappointments and celebrated his achievements which
were many. He was an immigrant with minimal formal schooling, but had taught himself English (and just about everything else he needed!) He was accepted
to a university program (we did fund-raising for him) and found himself a girlfriend in fairly short order. I met her and thought she was very cute -
bright, charming, energetic. He broke up with her because someone had referred to her as "not very pretty." I was appalled! Fortunately I had a much admired
older friend who explained that status was so hard to accumulate as a blind person that he thought my young friend had done the right thing. He couldn't
afford any but an extremely attractive girlfriend if he was going to achieve as he hoped to. It still distresses me that my young friend accepted someone
else's opinion of a very subjective thing with so little questioning, but I feel as if I accept the reasoning. By the way, he's now a father with an extremely
attractive wife (but at least she has a lot more than looks going for her).”

Dana (AERnet, Montreal, Canada)

**24. “Interesting topic. It brings to mind something on a similar note.
For many, many years now I have worked with visually impaired teens in
our summer programs and some late teens/ young adults in our regular rehab
programs. Frequently, these younger folks need to be instructed in
appropriate dress and grooming for work places, as well as work aspects of
social skills. These also often apply to social settings.
The response they often give is that they should be judged for
themselves and not for how they look. Very normal adolescent response, and
very nice ideal of course. What I have said to them over the years is that
while it is NOT appropriate for people to judge them because of their
attractiveness, their skin color, their height or weight or the cost of
their clothes, it is inevitable and in some ways appropriate to judge people
to a certain degree by how they CHOOSE to present themselves.
For examples I cite these hypotheticals. Do you want to go to a dentist
who has really bad breath and possibly rotten teeth? Do you want to be
represented by a lawyer who uses terrible grammar making him/her sound
un-educated? Do you want to buy food from someone who smells badly, or who
coughs or sneezes and keeps on working with the food?
Would you be comfortable giving a detail oriented job like bookkeeping, to
someone who comes to an interview with a crumpled up, handwritten list of
important information like work history and references?
I point out that all of these people may be fine individuals,
intelligent, capable and charming, BUT based on a "superficial" judgment,
most of us would hesitate to have a business interaction with them. That is
because sometimes supposedly superficial observations can be indicators of
significant information. And, the traits implied by those superficial
things can have a negative effect on us in certain situations. I try to use
non-visual examples so the students can relate to them regardless of their
vision. I also try to stick to examples of things that reflect choices
people make, not things they can't change.”

Karen McKenna (AERnet)

**25. “Here's another 2 cents worth from me responding to the Thought Provoker.
There is no doubt that even without vision, blind people have access to
information that allows them to be as aware of diversity, or as prejudiced,
as anyone else. Reminds me of the time in college when my O&M friend got taken to an unfamiliar place under blindfold on a lesson and had to solicit aid to find
a certain location. She was allowed only one question, so she formed it
carefully and then asked the first person she heard passing by. His answer
was that he was going right by there and he offered sighted guide. As she
took his arm, she noticed he was wearing a big fur coat and walked with a
pronounced swagger. She also noticed that her professor's footsteps got
ALOT closer all of a sudden. He spoke pleasantly to her, in "street"
language till they got where she needed to go. After he left, the professor
confirmed her suspicion that she had been strolling through downtown
Cleveland on the arm of a pimp!”

Karen McKenna (AERnet)

**26. “This reminds me of an incident several years ago. I was working with a youngster who had just entered 8th grade. He was not a happy camper that year for
many reasons; he had lost the remaining vision he had over the summer, he was a teenager and he was having a hard time dealing with any effort at learning
Braille from a NEW vision teacher- ME. He was a fully mainstreamed student in his home school.

One particular teacher, his language arts teacher, really gave him a hard time. She expected him to used the taped materials I made for him in that class
and use the help of a volunteer classmate helper. My student was so ticked off at his loss of vision that he didn't make ANY attempts. She prodded him daily with remarks on how he used to tell her how smart he was, but clearly, he wasn't nearly as smart as he claimed, or he'd be taking advantage of his
vision teacher and all the help being provided for him. He was, in fact, suddenly trying VERY hard to learn how to use the basic Braille he was learning
and how to use the indexing system on the taped books.
He finally had it with her and one afternoon, stormed into the room where we worked together. My student was an African American and he began telling me
how rude and ignorant this teacher was. He was VERY worked up and suddenly he said "I think she is prejudiced because I'm black." I told him calmly that
I didn't think that was it at all. But he was on a roll and he began again about how nice she was to the kids he remembered were NOT black, etc. etc.
Finally, after he had tired from his tirade, I quietly told him that Mrs. Smith was an African American too.

Finally, I asked my student what color he thought I was.
He thought for a long long time. Finally, he gave me that grin that I am sure today must charm many women and said: "You're rainbow colored, Mrs. Alexander!"
That was the best compliment I have ever had. My student never asked what color I really was, and he never used that as any excuse for a teacher who gave
him a lot of work, or a hard time(my student was gifted).
Prejudice is a learned and acquired trait. I work with infants and preschools a great deal. They do not discriminate. Not until someone at home has taught
them to, IMHO.”

Pati Alexander PKA Vision Services
(AERnet, Marietta, Georgia USA)

**27. “I don't think being blind guarantees we'll be totally open-minded and
prejudice-free. We may not be able to just look at a person and judge them
right then and there, but if you listen to the voice, for example, you might
be able to notice an accent, be it a regional dialect or an accent from a
foreign country. We might be able to talk to them and if we pay attention,
we can see things in the personality just by talking. IF we happen to touch
the person's arm, we can tell if they're fat or thin, short or tall, what
have you. Yes, we can notice the differences, and we can also like or dislike the person due to those differences. Liking or hating people because of their differences, I've thought, was something a person learned from their environment. If you're told enough times to stay away from certain people for whatever reason, some people will just believe that because they don't know any better. In America, we have certain built-in prejudices that are very obvious in the media. It's better to be attractive than Chris Swank from Redcrest, CA if you don't already
to be average-looking or ugly physically. Thin is better than fat. Those are just
a couple of simple examples. I'm not saying it's right, but it does exist.
The idealistic side of me hopes we can all get past such things someday, but
as long as you can use an attractive body to sell a car or a cola or such,
I'm afraid it's going to continue for a while.”
Chris Swank (Redcrest, California USA)

**30. “I'd like to comment on this a bit. My dear friend Kim, before meeting me,
had a boyfriend who was very cruel. Kim is physically disabled, and this
boyfriend was always judging her by the way she looked, and the fact that
she has to use a wheelchair to get around rather than walking really ticked
this guy off. He would often throw things at her, and have her try to catch
them and throw them back. This was not easy for Kim, because in addition to
being confined to a wheelchair, her strength is not that good.”

Jacob (ACB-L)

**31. “It would be wonderful if blindness did cause people to be color blind.
Alas, as Dr. Kenneth Jernigan once said, of blind people, "we have are share
of genius and jerks.". Blindness does not eliminate prejudice, I have known
many blind people whose views can be categorized as downright racist. I

have known others who were truly willing to take people for what they are. My only point here is that just as it is unfair to label any group of
people even if the label might be a kind one, so it is unfair to label the
blind. We sometimes forget that we are a minority, we sometimes forget that
we are the victims of wrong thinking that is just as old and engrained in
the human psyche as racism or any other kind of prejudice.

But let us never forget that we too can be just as guilty of those things as
anyone else, there is no advantage to being blind, because what such
thinking would mean is that we don't use any of the sensory input we
receive. But, we do use that input and we may not know immediately how
someone is different, but if we are in fact inclined towards prejudice,
well, blindness does not change that.”

Rich Ring (Portland, Oregon USA)
Portland Oregon USA.

**32. “To just get on with our lives, we must interact with many strangers in a courteous manner. We must ask directions, verify that this is the bus we want
to catch, ask assistance in determining the price, or even locate the things we want to buy. I remember being disoriented leaving a city park with my guide dog because some young Hispanic teens had gathered around asking questions. I was attending a conference in a city I wasn't familiar with and it was late evening. Made uneasy because there were several young men in the group and they were crowding in close to me, I said good night and walked away rapidly. I had turned in the wrong direction and walked several blocks without locating my hotel. The next pedestrian I met offered to walk me back to my hotel. I had no occasion to touch him as my dog guided me, but he was polite. When we reached my destination, I offered him a tip and he refused.
The security doorman was upset and told me that I needed to ask for a valet to walk us to the park because the man who assisted me was a street person.
He insisted that I ask hotel personal to accompany me as the hotel was in a rough area. The point in all this, is that I was probably fine when approached by the teens in the park, but their numbers, and youth made me uneasy. I was assisted by the man the hotel guard found disturbing. Perceptions are funny things. I am attracted to people who speak intelligently, have a sense of humor and don't particularly care about physical appearance. I don't think I was reacting so much to the fact that the boys in the park were Hispanic, but because there were five or six of them and they were just hanging around a park at night. The dynamics seemed threatening as I am a soft spoken female and neither my small black lab nor I would seem very intimidating to anyone.

I tend to be made uneasy by people who invade my personal space or feel that my blindness allows them to take liberties of touching me or taking hold of
me. I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt that they only intend to assist, but also try to move away and disengage if they make me uneasy. Why I feel uneasy is harder to pin down, but I feel it is important to listen to my instinctive reactions. I would never be rude, but I don't feel it is prejudice so much as common sense when situations feel wrong. Some of these responses are the result of experiences during my adolescence and young
adult years. I have from time to time been targeted for harassment by individuals who perceived blind women to be good targets because even if they believe they know who the person is, no one will believe them as they can't give a visual identification. So, if I have prejudices, they are rooted in frightening experiences that have left me wary.”

DeAnna (Quietwater) Noriega (Colorado USA quietwater@codenet.net )

FROM ME: “do you think our acceptance of diversity gets better or worse as we grow older?”

**33. “I loved the responses to the provoker and just had to write again.

First, I think that the gentleman from Indiana made a wonderful point when he spoke about the "melting pot."
It is very important that we don't loose our uniqueness in this age of diversity.
As a black man, I feel offended when people talk about how to work with diverse groups in some generic fashion.

Secondly, I have had a lot of mixed feelings about this topic of attractiveness. I feel bad because I'm one of those people who have been ambivalent about
dating someone just because I hear a person's opinion about how attractive they are. What an eye opening experience to hear some of those comments about
It's a re al "gut check" topic.”

A. Watson (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA

**34. “I just had to write in with a new twist on this diversity scenario.

Sometimes we expect or anticipate people of various races, ethnic backgrounds, etc to act a certain way because this is the way we’ve always observed them throughout our life, where we grew up.

Two examples of this expectation, and it not coming to fruition-thus blowing us out of the water follow.

My husband was raised in Texas and Mississippi, where all of the American black people he met could be categorized more or less by their speech patterns.
Of course there were wide variances, but, nevertheless, some “givens.”

Well, we made a trip to Montreal, Quebec, Canada a couple of years after we married. Now, that is a city where 75% of the people speak French.

Finding ourselves a little bit disadvantaged because we couldn’t always understand traffic signs and store signs, or directions given, etc, my husband saw
a small group of black young men down the block and stopped to ask them for directions or something. He started with some classic (from his point of view)
opener, like

“Hey, Home,” and asked them his question. They replied in French and it was apparent that they had no idea what he’d said. He had such an expectation that they’d respond in one of the ways to which he’d become accustomed as a teen-ager growing up in the American South.

Another example was when we were stationed in Germany. We loved to take opportunities to go to various activities in some of the German villages. During
the Christmas season, we noticed a little church having a Christmas pageant. We were warmly welcomed in.

In that congregation, there was a black couple. Again, assuming things from his American upbringing, my husband approached the couple. His assumption
was probably one, albeit unconsciously, that all black people spoke English. I am sure he didn’t start with “Hey, Home,” but, again, boy was he surprised
that they spoke very little and very poor English. They had immigrated to Germany from Kenya, had never lived in an English Speaking country, and, thus
had no reason to speak English.

Wow! What eye-openers these two experiences were to my husband.

I had had many friends of so many different national or racial backgrounds, these two revelations about black people didn’t impact me quite as much, but
I do wonder sometimes if, say, German white people notice an Afro-German (you couldn’t say Afro-American) accent, or if white, native-born Australians
detect an accent from those Aboriginal people who have grown up speaking English, etc. etc.”

Laura Collins (Rapid City, South Dakota USA)

**35. “This thought provoker gave me a good laugh. The word "see" has many
different meanings only one of which has to do with physical sight. I know
very few blind people who do not see in all the other ways to have sight. It
would take a pretty ignorant sighted person (ok ok there are plenty of
those) to not know that a blind person can see a whole lot without the use
of their eyes.
Just my comment”

Mary Reese (AERnet Ontario, California USA)

**36. “Now I have some thoughts to add on this subject. We people who use a white cane to get around usually only know what the elbow of a person feels like,
or looks like. We can get rather surprised after hearing a voice and guessing what a person might look like.

I had been listening to a talk show on our radio reading service. There was a woman on there who, I felt, must be really beautiful. Her voice was absolutely musical and somehow, I got the impression of a slender person. One day I got to meet this person. we had a lovely time together and when she left, she gave me a big bear hug. Boy, did I get a shock. I could hardly reach around her. Her voice image was totally different from what I had imagined.”

Leslie Miller (Blindfam)

**37. “As we all know this word wasn't around 25 years ago and all because of us wanting to be politically correct we come up with new terms, phrases and words. When is it going to end? We all have the pre judge syndrome disease. This is how we all create our images. Is it wrong? It is if it is used to discriminate. We all have a level of prejudice, it doesn't matter who we are or where we come from because the fact of the matter is that there are many outside factors that influence us in our thinking. If it is not the media, t v the newspaper then it is with the people we interact with on a daily basis.
I know being blind we all have been told this at one time or another. The people who say this in my opinion right away are letting you know they've created a level of prejudice or they're letting you know they have the pre judge syndrome. I don't think there is any way to get around this because we're not perfect people and besides our 5 senses are the way we create our mental images. Whether we have all 5 senses or less we are all going to create or formulate an image of some sort. Again, it is wrong if we use it to discriminate in some way so why can't we treat one another like we would like to be treated?

Luis Roman (East Chicago, Indiana USA
luis63@comnetcom.net )

**38. “I think that being blind causes you to look at the personality rather than at the physical person. While blind people may still share similar prejudices that sighted people do, we are definitely more auditory.”

trilby@cableone.net )

**39. “I think the stereo type is true for as far as it goes. It says, “you can’t see the person, so you won’t judge them by how they look.” And this is as far as it goes. for those who know about blindness, they know the blind can and do go beyond sight, or its absence. This is where the sighted person who doesn’t understand the blind gets into trouble with the stereo type. Hmm, I wonder how it is for the color blind? I know they can tell race by looking, but I wonder about how they perceive colors in respects to the “mood” that certain colors are suppose to put you in, like red is hot, blue is cool, and all that sort of reaction thing. In fact, I bet these scales are cultural based, too.”

Ed Carman (USA)

**40. “Diversity and tolerance are seen in today's world as the antithesis of discrimination and prejudice. I see what respondent #8 may be saying in that tolerance
and diversity taken to the extreme may result in a society where that is devoid of values, standards and absolutes. At worst, they can translate or be used in such a way as to simply take on or promote another form of discrimination and prejudice. Persecution of those who one fees is intolerant may not be any less dangerous nor unacceptable as the initial prejudice or intolerance. But that's the end of my philosophical waxing for today.

Regarding the more fundamental issues, prejudice to my experience is no respecter of persons, not even the blind. Minorities just as majorities in our society
have prejudices. By the way, the blind are in fact a minority with the same problems and opportunities as other minorities. And since others have done such a great job in addressing the issues about not having vision and still having the capacity to be prejudicial, let me throw this one out.
What about prejudice and discrimination and intolerance of the blind toward those in society who may have negative attitudes? are we not often times intolerant
in our reactions to their patronization of those amazing things we can do? those things that everyone knows cannot be done without vision? My most recent
experience with the latter is an employer who told a staff that they could not offer any volunteer work experience for the blind because " ..you need to
have vision to think and do the things we do here". And how well do we tolerate the absolute rudeness of those who believe and even share with us that
we need to not be on the streets, but in a home or institution somewhere? This actually happened to a student when his cane hit a car, a new car. a woman
got out of the car and started screaming at him. He was not very tolerant and unfortunately smacked her upside her head.

so how do we handle these attitudes in a manner that does not tell the society that blind persons are bitter and angry in addition to being helpless? Dealing
with these attitudes of the public indeed is a challenge, but essential. Most of the time we may deal with this intolerance without becoming intolerant,
but sometimes we likely do not. and what about our prejudice among and against other persons who are blind? What about our intolerance of those who may use a cane vs. a dog guide, or a sighted guide? What about our prejudice against those who may have more vision, less vision or no vision? And what about our prejudice against those who
may belong to another organization of the blind that is "the wrong one"? I actually met a person who thought that he could tell which organization a blind person belonged to by the type of cane they used! Prejudice is usually based on some kind of characteristic, but sometimes it can go further than that.

I am not talking simply about philosophical disagreements in the paragraph above, but agreement or refusal to acknowledge and/or mingle with others based
on a singular characteristic such as vision, organization or cane, etc.”

Ed Kunz (Austin, Texas USA)

**41. “In one sense, blindness does present an advantage because we, as blind people, usually look beyond the surface. But once we get to know people, we usually
have a feeling of what they are like on the inside and outside. We are certainly at a disadvantage with employment and have to prove ourselves doubly hard
to get anywhere. But like everything else, blindness is a double-edged sword. We have to do our best to accept the positives and the negatives.”

Mary Jo Partyka (USA)

**41. “The thing that glared at me from this thought provoker is that sighted
people think everything is taken in visually and that we as blind people
don't form opinions about others. We can tell a lot about how a person is
just by listening to their voice, holding their arm, getting a hug, our
sense of smell, etc. Sighted people many times just don't realize this.”

Sherri Brun (USA)

**42. “The idea and the misconception that we as blind people do not judge a book by it's cover is false. I myself held prejudices in the past against Black people
because I made generalizations about this ethnic group. As I became more and more familiar with the NFB philosophy, I realized that I was doing exactly
what the sighted do to us on many occasions. I was catigorizing, labling, putting a whole race of people in a very small limited and narrow box. I began to slowly change my attitudes both about Blacks and about our capabilities as blind individuals.”

Eddie Salcido (NABS)

**43. “A few years ago
in a college setting my sighted driver had told me of a sight
she saw as we parked the car.
sitting next to us were two classmates " making out" and
apparently enjoying each others company as adults It happened to
be two ladies I knew very well but the problem I explained to my
driver was that by " seeing" she had drawn conclusions
which not everyone would agree with.

A previous posting here stated it so well that we as blind
persons have a real advantage in many settings, to include
prejudging others by their actions .

We as educated blind adults can teach so many of our skills we have
about diversity and prejudice .
would it not be interesting if at least half of those who are
in a position to hire others, sitting at a front desk , were
totally blind?

I say this because of a lady I know of who is over weight
and had a problem several times accessing work. I know this lady
as a hard worker in completing computer projects for me. However
what personnel viewed was not a skilled female, what they saw
was a woman who was over weight. Reach out and share with others what you know about being blind and not making judgments. Share your skills as a human being who
can think, feel and yes educate.”

Lee A. Stone (Hudson, New York 12534-1105.... USA /email :
stonedge@mhonline.net (

FROM ME: “How do you see us, we the blind teaching others about not judging the visual?”

**44. “I know that I have experienced acceptance more easily from individuals
I've met who are blind and visually impaired than I have with many folk
with normal vision. I am very short and was until recently very
youthful in appearance. I have had people treat me as if I were a
very young and obnoxiously precocious child, oftentimes when I have
been their age or even better. I have had people just ignore what I
say, although if someone else in the group picks up on it and repeats
it, they will treat the statement as if it had somehow been transformed
into a pearl of wisdom simply from having come from the mouth of this
other individual.

Part of it is that those I meet who are blind appreciate being greeted
in a non-judgmental way, and tend to be more accepting of the sighted
individual who accepts them as human beings; part of it is that they
tend to pay more attention to what I say than what I look like.

I do know that a former college roommate who was blind seemed to be
seen, for some reason, as fair game by stalkers and muggers. She had
her purse stolen three times, and one time was probably saved from a
serious assault only because the barking of a nearby dog caused its
owner to look out of the house, which frightened off the guy who'd just
approached her. In one case as she struggled with the guy who was
intent on taking her purse from her she yelled out, "Why are you doing
this? Why are you taking my purse?"

The guy answered something to the effect of she was white and
privileged, and he was black and downtrodden, so he was taking from her
what white folk had always denied him.

She responded with, "But I'm blind--I had no idea you were black until
you just told me that!" He paused for a second, then wrenched the
purse from her and ran. She felt that she had almost but not quite
made a connection there, and grieved that his own prejudices seemed to
be stronger than the sense of decency implied by his pause.”

Bonnie L. Sherrell Teacher at Large (Port Townsend, Washington USA)

**45. “This thought provoker and comments has caused me to have a careful think about the topic.

I feel that blind / visually impaired people could become more judgmental on how people sound, as they may try and imagine a face to go with the person.
I find myself doing this quite often, due to my job which requires me to try and educate people who I can not see facial features of, if they are not in
a short distance of me.
I recognize people more by their voice than appearances.”

Martin Rowe (Leicester, United Kingdom)

**46. “As my first contribution to Thought Provokers, I present the following.
It is obvious that we don't actually see others when we meet them, but I think it is natural to form a mind picture of them. I can't speak for those who
are totally blind from birth, but for myself, who have some sight, but not much, I seem to form a picture in my head from their voice the size of their
hand when I shake it. I think I form this from the time when I could see much better than now.

When talking on the phone, I feel I can see the person on the other end. So I can talk to the whole person and not just a voice. I am sure this helps
me to communicate in a more meaningful way. At least that is how I feel.
Have a happy day,”

Alan McClintock (Cairns Queensland Australia)

**47. “I’ve never had my eyes. I’ve always been blind. When I talk to someone on the phone, I try to figure out what they might be like in the person, if they are tall or big or real skinny or smelly or have rough hands and all that. but none of my characterizing are visual in nature, but I am doing it, trying to go past the personality and to the physical part of it. I also can tell most races and countries, like black American, Asian, Mexican, Russian, Swedish, English, Indian, and like that.”

Ron Black (USA)

**48. “making judgments is the natural thing to do. That is how an organism survive in the real world. I suppose what is wrong is when one organism in power selfishly holds down another different organism, for people, it is one person holding down another person. But judging all by itself is not wrong, it helps us know our place in the order of things Yes, blind people do it too.”

Tom Johnson (Greenville USA)

**49. “While in one of the classes I attended to receive a guide dog, the students
were trying to figure out what the instructors looked like. We were
correct on three out of the four perceptions but the fourth one we were
dead wrong. None of us in the class had enough vision to see what the
instructors looked like so we formed our opinions based on our impressions.
We all thought that the fourth instructor was a preppy sort of guy. We
really missed that one. He had 7 piercings in one ear and hair in a pony
tail down to his lower back. We never lived that one down and we also
teased him during the class about being so preppy.

Sometimes being blind can be a blessing and other times it can really get
you into hot water especially if we speak before we think.”

Vivian Conger and Guide Dog Peg
(Guide Dogs of America, Class 324

**50. “Adding to the post of 40, Ed from TX,
I think that when some people talk about diversity, they really mean
tolerant. Now, if someone is tolerant as opposed to prejudice or because of
some desire or proclamation of not being prejudice as proof of evolution.
This type of valueless ness is just as damaging as closed-mindedness. But,
let me state that this does not have to be the case when embracing
diversity. Tolerance does not have to be thought of as valueless ness which
we all can agree is really embracing some kind of value. When I talk about
respect for diversity, I am talking about recognizing and celebrating the
uniqueness of others. tolerance as well as individualism, taken to
extremes can be destructive.

I have known blind racists and body image is not a visual phenomena, it is
a social construction. I do know blind people who judge people who are not
able to enunciate well or have a speech impediment as mentally disabled. A
friend of mine who has CP is often difficult to understand and thought of as
mentally incapable. Not to mention what we are saying about those who do
have cognitive disabilities.

I think that it is more productive to understand that we all have prejudices
that we may need to reflect upon and attempt to eliminate.”

Jan Wright (Greensburg, Indiana USA)

FROM ME: “I know someone who is blind and will not listen to national news from the network that has Tom B. as the Angkor. The reason being, Tom B. has a speech problem of some kind. But I wonder and ask, where is the line drawn between taste and allowable choice of who you will like and not like?’

**51. “I have several clients who were obviously “rednecks” before they went blind and now as college students, they are finding out that the most friendly and helpful students on campus are not the same people of color and cultural background as themselves. Interesting. They appear to be cautiously reevaluating their opinions of other races and cultures. I wish them well.”

Ray K. VR counselor (USA)

**52. “Not being able to judge someone by the way they look can come back to bite you as it did me a couple of years ago. I was working as a VR Counselor and
had acquired a couple of new cases from another counselor in my region. I had spoken with one of the new consumers on the telephone a number of times
and he had struck me as a very well spoken, intelligent individual. when I finally met him in my office, I explored employment options with him based
on my non-visual impressions. It is important to note that the accident that took my vision also clipped my Olfactory nerve meaning that I cannot smell
either. When the consumer left the office, I was all excited about the many potential interviews I would set up for this consumer. A couple of minutes later, one of the assistants in my office came to me and told me how much work I still had to do and that she was glad it was me rather than her who had to bring up the sensitive issues that needed to be addressed. When I asked her what she was talking about, she explained that this person looked like he had not showered or shaved for weeks. Forgetting that I could not smell either, she commented on how badly this person smelled.
Needless to say, I had to schedule a second meeting to address hygiene and grooming at our next meeting.”

David Ondich (Dallas, Texas USA)

**53. “I have found this topic to be interesting.
I personally do not form judgments about people based on their voices, thickness of their arm... Since I am totally blind (since the age of 6) I have learned
that everyone has something to offer. However, I happen to be a white female who walks briskly (when I know an area) and know I do not like being judged. I hate when people say "So you are blind. What kind of music do you play?" Well a true miracle would have to occur if I were to play a musical instrument...

When I was at a community college I often said that other students who were disabled, students who had a foreign accent, or people who have faced adversity
would offer assistance. I could ask a bunch of people for assistance, but, the one to offer assistance would often be somebody who stopped to think how
would I feel if I needed assistance and everyone passed me right by! People really need to learn about themselves as well as others and become more accepting of individuals who are different-(in whatever way). We all are
different and that is what makes this earth such a nice place to be. But, we all need to learn to respect and value people who are different.”

Lori Baldwin (New York USA)

**54. “I agree with the sighted person who said that blind people have an
advantage, or better said, they are not disadvantaged in judging people
without knowing if they are of a different race or are pretty or
unattractive. We sighted people place too much emphases on appearances.
The blind people I know are judging me on my words and deeds, they don't
give a damn what nationality I am, what I look like, or who I vote for.
They are the most non-judgmental people I've ever met.
We could learn so much from each other, and I hope that one day we take
advantage of our shared experiences.
Sighted people have most of the power and influence in this nation,
probably in all nations, and we need to listen to our handicapped
brothers and sisters and ask them for advice in running our country.

I made a mistake recently, I told a blind guy, Robert Hansen, that he
couldn't work a cigarette machine he bought, and I know better than to
say such a thing, but I was basing it on my own ability to work it. I
have an identical one, and he saw me use it when he visited me. He can
work that machine as well, or better, than I can. I watched him type on
my keyboard, and he types better than I do, so does Charlie, another
blind guy with vision similar to Bob's, and I saw first hand what the
handicapped can do, yet I still said what I did. I had told some of my
blind friends that we sighted people take everything for granted,
society made it that way, and I told them I am going to make mistakes
once in a while, and reminded them that I was actively trying to learn
about blind people, so if I make mistakes, they can expect more from the
sighted friends I have who are not so aware. They understood, and they
are friends with my sighted friends now. It was they who bent over
backwards, they took the first steps, and for that I admire them.

Thanks for sharing with me and for giving me the opportunity to share

Bill Heaney (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA)

**55. “The assumption in the story, that, because we're blind, we don't know about
someone's appearance, is another of those "sight-dependent" assumptions many
of us deal with all too often.

I've been told that my home would, of course, be dirty because, how would I
know if it was dirty or not?

Blind persons can tell using their other senses, and, for Heaven's sake,
their brains, to figure this out.

If my home happens to be dirty at any given time, it is not because I am
blind; it is because the place is dirty and needs to be cleaned up, period!
Other members of the family contribute to how one's home looks, too, not
just the blind person.

I've been asked how I know if my clothes fit right or are up-to-date?
Because, of course, if you're blind, you can't know these things.

I know by comfort if something fits okay or not. One can keep up with
styles by paying attention to descriptions of items, visiting clothing
stores and sometimes being horrified by the latest fads, etc. Again, this
is an assumption coming from someone who is "sight dependent."

The other day someone asked me how I knew when my husband got home, since I
couldn't see him through the window?

I couldn't help but laugh! For one thing, when he is working, I know about
what time he usually comes home. We also have cell phones, so we
communicate that way so it's no big surprise.
The cats go on instant alert and are all there to greet him.

I hear the sound of our car which doesn't happen to sound like anyone else's
that I know of, and few other cars ever come up to the end of our driveway.
Sometimes I smell the familiar odor of gasoline nearby.

I often hear the radio blasting away, and I hear the car door slam shut,
and his keys jingle, and then, whoa! how many brains does it take for this
one???? I hear him opening the outside door, putting his key into the lock,
and, oh my! opening the door!!!!

One time a Black person assumed I would be more accepting of him, which, in
some ways, I was. I told him I wanted to know what color he was; it
mattered to me because it is part of who he is, but I didn't feel prejudice
because of it. I told him that behavior was more important to me than his
color or nationality. I further informed him that people of color were not
necessarily always more understanding and accepting of me as a blind person.
In some cases, there are cultural expectations of blind persons which differ
from my own.

Well, I could go on, but the above examples probably are enough for now.”

Lauren Merryfield (Washington USA)

**56. While I've never had anybody approach me with the first few lines in this thought provoker narrative, it still really got to me. Not only was the person's
statement a wrong assumption, but they had their set ideas about blind people--that we have an advantage over sighted people because we cannot judge someone
by the color of their skin because we cannot see them. Well, as many respondents have already said, we gain visual references--someone's color, physique,
physical appearance, etc.--through people talking to us or around us, or physical contact via sighted guide. Whether sighted or blind, we all grow up
modeling ourselves after those around us. So, if we model ourselves after someone who points out to us that the person with a certain drawl in their accent
is from the South or is Black and to avoid them, then, we'll do just that--avoid those kind of people just the same as a sighted person might avoid someone
who's dark because they were taught to avoid those like that. This is not to say that I, too, haven't thought that blind people would be more open-minded
in racial attitudes, as I did. It wasn't until my late teens that I started learning different about my own blind friends. Since most of my blind friends
and I went to different schools, they didn't know which kind of people I often hung out with at school even though they knew I had many sighted friends
in school. Yes, I had friends of all different kinds of ethnic and social backgrounds, but I had more friends who were Black than of any other group.
One day, one of my friends called me to relate an event she witnessed while she was out and about. Apparently, there were a bunch of guys standing at
a street corner, talking and saying, "don't be dissing me" (which means: "don't be disrespecting me") to each other. She had enough vision to be able
to tell that they were black, so as she was relaying this story to me, she kept referring to them as "these Niggers". I couldn't believe what I was hearing
come out of her mouth. Finally, I told her that I wasn't going to talk to her anymore until she could talk more respectfully and not use racial names
or make negative racial comments. The point I'm saying here is that she learned her racial attitudes from her family and other friends and modeled herself
after them.
People also gain their prejudices or notions based on personal experiences. Growing up, my husband, John, was often taunted by Black people even though
he, too, is Black (and also Native-American). In the view of other Blacks, John didn't act or talk Black. When he spoke, he sounded like a White person,
and he didn't like the same kinds of music the Blacks were listening to. When he moved away from home and went to college, he met a lot of Asian women
who liked being around him at parties, but they didn't want to date him; they wanted to date White men instead. So, when he and I met, though he saw me
as looking quite fine and pretty, he was also quite reserved, fearing that I might be like those Asians he's tried to date previously. As time progressed
in our relationship, he not only found out that things were very different from what he'd expected, but, as he always says, "I can't believe I fell in
love with a brown-skinned woman".
In addition to physical or visual contact, blind and sighted people, alike, form mental impressions of strangers they talk to on the phone based on
the sound of the stranger's voice or the accent. just as in the case with Resp. 36's story about finally meeting with the gal she was listening to on
the radio and what Resp. 36 discovered, my husband was in his teens when he spoke with a prospective date on the phone. because of this date's high, soothing
voice, he pictured this person to be really thin only to find out when they met at an ice cream parlor that this prospective date was very much over-weight
and not someone he was attracted to. Similarly, when we found a prospective realtor to work with us on our search for a house, we first spoke to them
on the phone. Everything went very well until he set up a time with us to meet at our apartment. Upon the realtor's arrival, the attitude changed, as
he thought that John and I were a White couple, not Black and Asian. From that moment on, the realtor started showing us boarded up houses in crime-ridden
neighborhoods for sale.
The two questions that I haven't seen in any of the responses is: (1) How are people of different groups really supposed to act like? (2) What are
Blacks, Whites, Mexicans, blind and disabled people, etc. supposed to sound like when they talk? Just as sighted and blind people have their impressions
of what someone who's thin, beautiful, White, Black, or whatever is supposed to sound like or how they're supposed to act, sighted people also have their
ideas of what blind people supposedly sound or look like--sound like they don't know what they're talking about, poke at their eyes and rock, stumble over
everything, etc. To me, there's no right or wrong way of how someone from a certain group is supposed to look, act, or sound like so long as they're not
making a nuisance of themselves or giving the group of people they represent a bad name. However, when someone doesn't act or sound like the group of
people they represent or belong to, then those who don't belong to that group see that there's something wrong with that person, or they're intimidated.
For example, John and I live in a primarily White community and in an area where many disabled people live in apartments instead of own a home. Many
here have their ideas of what people of color who come from urban areas are supposed to be like--loud, violent, thuggish in appearance and attire, etc.
They also have the idea that disabled people need a lot of help with up-keep, maintenance, and management in different areas. Instead, they see John
and I who are very quiet, stay to ourselves instead of getting into everyone else's business, dress in nice clothes, keep our yard clean and grass mowed,
clean our house, etc. They also see us at the grocery stores or the mall, working together on what we need to buy vs. what can wait, discussing prices
to justify buying or not buying the item, etc. They don't see either one of us trying to decide for the other or leading the other around like a puppy
dog or the *poor blind person*. They are not only intimidated by us, but they get embarrassed when they see that we've cut our lawn and they haven't done
anything with theirs. Those who are not intimidated or embarrassed are more amazed than anything but just don't know how to react or what to think. No,
we don't get the "boy, you guys are amazing" remarks; they just stare in awe.
As for whether or not diversity and acceptance gets worse or better as you get older, I think it really depends on the person. When I was training
for a guide-dog at one of the schools five years ago, I met a middle-aged woman who had gone blind ten years previous. Somewhere in the conversation,
we got to talking about race; perhaps I was talking about mine and John's ethnic backgrounds. Anyway, this woman told me how most of the people that have
helped her since she went blind were Black--the very people she told me she used to be scared to death of when she had her sight. Well, in the same breath
of telling me all this and how she's become more receptive of Black people, she kept inserting racial comments, terms, and jokes here and there. This
not only told me that, either she was ignorant and didn't know not to make such comments, or she wasn't as truly receptive as she believed herself to be.
Erroring on the side of caution that she really didn't know what she was saying, I didn't come down hard on her but warned her so that she wouldn't be
misunderstood by the wrong person and get hurt.

Linda USA

I just got around to reading this TP. Linda's friend seems to be sincere in her belief that blind people should be less discriminatory because the lack of visual sensory input. Under the surface, she is like a duck. One the surface everything is calm, but under the water, the duck is paddling like all heck to stay afloat. She has placed blind people on a pedestal to be admired or singled out. However, she is not as open minded as she would like to think of herself. Even if
she is with blind people or people who are different in culture, language or lifestyle, she is still apart of the people she "down graded" ( the sighted
world). In the cafeteria she was noticeably silent when it came to expressing her views. Also, she defined the people speaking as, female, Mexican or
African and regional differences in tone. Further she goes on to tell us about Linda's "fatty arm" when they left to return to classes.
I have lived this scene time and time again. Usually with White Americans but with other People of Color who are American. These people will hang
out with you, they will adopt many of your expressions, and even "down grade" others. But the seed of prejudice is planted within them and always present.
Some will date you and be your "best" friend. However when it comes to sex, marriage or having mixed race babies. Well the tables change. I hear statements
like " Can't we just be friends"? "Such and Such is my friend and she or he is ( blind, Asian, Black, White, Gay, Lesbian, etc...)
Blind people are not special people. There are prejudice, bigoted and racist blind people out here. They form ideas of what people look like, they
match up what they have been taught about "those people". Many blind people consider the public reaction to them being with "those people" and form their
course of action or reaction based on these ideas.
Linda's friend forgets that these are people, just as she is. Linda's friend further overlooks her own prejudice toward " fat" people.
Linda's friend has allot to learn about people. Especially those who happen to be blind...but are still people.

John Minnesota USA

**58. I agree wholeheartedly that there are prejudiced blind people in the human race. I'm not going to name names, but those who think that there is just one
type of blind person, and that every single blind or visually-impaired person has to follow in his/her footsteps, are definitely biased. There is no "right"
or "wrong" way to function as a visually-impaired person in society. One way may make it easier to do things, but there is still no "right" or "wrong"
way to be blind, visually-impaired, and the list goes on. Those whose opinion suggests otherwise are just asking for criticism. One cannot profess to other
members of society, for example, the "right" way to watch TV when visually-impaired, or the "right" way to obtain a job, with or without the assistance
of voc/rehab agencies. One size does not fit all, and it never will because society just simply is not all the same. Psychology tells us that while humans
all possess the same basic needs such as the need to be wanted and cared for and the need to eat and drink, there are different characteristics which exist
from person to person. For example, one person might be very good at dictation, and might desire to work in an office setting, while another person may
be better at weight lifting and might therefore become an athletic coach of some type. By the same token, a blind or visually impaired person might prefer
to live and work in a rural area, or otherwise. I speak from experience here, because I live in the suburbs of Chicago, and the VR agency does not cater
well at all to clients up here. I am currently involved with an agency that focuses on independent living for people who are differently abled. I won't
take up too much time talking about this agency, but what I will say is that they have what I would characterize as a very civil-minded and logical approach
to independent living. We have thus far obtained two separate living quarters. One is a three-flat which now houses two girls and two guys, and one more
girl and one more guy are about to move into that house. The other is an apartment building which is in the process of being renovated, but it will house
two guys, one of which is yours truly, and two young women. Each of these facilities has skills tutors, and each of these tutors are matched with a resident
according to the resident's personality and abilities. I'm told that I will need slightly more tutoring than the rest, because of the fact that I only
have light perception and have never had extensive experience with things like cooking and money management. However, should I or anyone be ashamed of
this? My answer is no. I personally find it very difficult to understand why some people can't recognize diversity, and learn to live with it rather than
cutting people down who may be different in one way or another. If everyone had the exact same abilities and the exact same traits, needs and desires,
then life would certainly be boring because there'd be no need for diverse viewpoints.

Jake Joehl, Chicago USA