Blindness And Prejudging


Blindness And Prejudging

     "I think you blind are lucky that you can’t see other people! You can’t make prejudgments about someone you meet based on what you see about them!“ This woman had just walked up to me and started talking like she had an exclamation point after every sentence. I didn’t know her from Adam’s left ox but I knew this line of thought since I’d heard it before more than once. She finished her essay with, “it doesn’t matter how they are dressed or if they are pretty or not or if they look old or young, because you people are truly ‘color blind,’ and don’t judge others by the color of their skin!”

     “Well, I don’t know about that…” I started to answer the woman, but the bus I was waiting for pulled up and she moved off.

     "Hey Sam!” said the bus driver, a guy I had known and ridden with for years. “Was that bag lady bothering you? Man, the city needs to do something with these homeless people.”

     "Naa, Jack. She was just giving me a piece of advice, I think.” I answered him as I moved nearly to the back of the full bus in order to find a seat.

     I sat down with a guy who by his accent I judged to be an African American, who really didn’t have much to say, just mumbling an acknowledgement to my “Hi.”

     Stopping in the downtown area, my seatmate followed me off, then went on his separate way; an odd musical kind of metal clinking accompanied his every step, which I thought I knew what that represented.

     "Hey Sam! Woo-ee, traveling with the Gang-Bangers these days?” It was my friend Jonathan, obviously referring to my most recent seatmate. I was here to meet Jonathan for lunch, he was a researcher working on a new study and I had told him in my capacity as a vocational counselor with the commission for the blind, that I would arrange for him to meet with some blinded vets that I knew around the area.

     "Well now, there are bands of brothers, then there are bands of brothers!” I answered him and having used this analogy, my thoughts ranged to the history of a couple of the vets that I was going to give him. I wasn’t going to tell Jonathan all I knew about the individuals on my list, but I wondered what he’d think if he were to find out that Marvell, though a vet, was more recently a gang member and his blindness came from the pistol shot from a rival gang. And then there was Pete, a white guy who was high up in the hierarchy of the Ku Klux Klan.

     After lunch, back in the building where the commission offices were, I stepped into the elevator alcove and a man spoke up. “Hey buddy, do you know if you want up or down? I’m right here, I’ll push the button for you.”

     Entering our office, DeAnn our receptionist seeing that it was me, spouted off, “This guy is butt-ugly!” I knew she was taking a moment to look at an Internet dating site that she frequented and often she would share her opinions of her findings with me. “And, oh man, look at this guy’s eyes! He looks like a mass murderer!”

     In my office, listening to my voice mail, the very first one caused me to reflect back to the lady I had encountered at the bus stop, to the bus driver, the Gang guy, Jonathan, the elevator guy, DeAnn and now this. “I am working on my masters in social work. I want to talk to you about social stereotypes and blindness. Would you please call me at your convenience.”


e-mail responses to

**1. I regret to say that I think the prejudices that exist in society in general, largely exist in the same way in the population of V.I. folks.

Race or ethnic background is often linked to easily identifiable speech patterns, and even when the condition causing a particular prejudice isn't known at first, it can eventually be found out (for instance, whether someone is gay, or over-weight, or attractive) from others who are sighted or otherwise possess the knowledge.

I've noticed no lessening of prejudicial attitudes amongst the blind people that I'm acquainted with, and yet, prejudice in the V.I.
community makes even *less* sense than it does in the general population. As a minority group, who's often oppressed, we have more in common with other minority groups (that are often the targets of our prejudice), than we do with the general population.

I attribute this to a desperate need to "fit in" with the general population, attitudes instilled in us by our parents and/or friends and coworkers, and a general unwillingness to think things through, or to be different (or any more different) than we already are, from the general population.

This is of course very disheartening, but there are a few positive rare situations. It is possible for a blind person, unaware of some condition in another that would trigger a prejudicial reaction, and as yet uninformed by others, may indeed treat the other person civilly and with respect. This could possibly lead to opportunities for either person, which by the time the blind person became aware of all the information a sighted person would have used, may have already resulted in a friendship or business relationship.

Chisp Orange Tallahassee, FL

**2. Yvonne here, I know all about the stereotypes, but I know enough not to let my visual impairment keep me from becoming a target. It is even harder being a single mother of two young children. My ex-husband keeps saying that I will find someone else, but I'm not really interested. You can perceive a lot about someone even if you can't see them, but you can't perceive what may be worse than drunkenness, or ignorance’s. Is this person a pedophile?(is that how you spell that) is this person a sex offender?
These are questions that plague me as a single mom who is blind with young children.
Yes, I have had people speak loudly as though I couldn't hear, I've had people (namely child welfare workers) say things like "Well, people just don't think you can take care of your children because you're blind...maybe you need someone to live with you to help you take care of them."
What it all boils down to is that you get used to the ignorance, and try your best to educate without belittling, and try to live up to the standards that these stereotypes set for you.
By that I mean you try to be the best at everything because you are blind, and if you do something a sighted person can do better, you'll pay for it.

Yvonne NFB Parents of Blind Children

**3. Oh, Robert, you always give us something to think about. Blindness hasn't stopped me from making judgments on people I meet. I don't have to see to tell that a totally drunk man at least 20 years my senior was trying to "pick me up" at my first NFB convention. I just knew that was a situation I wanted to get out of. Sometimes I do ask my sighted husband his opinion about how someone looks, but I also let my own instincts play into my judgments. If someone smells or talks incessantly about nothing, I gene rally shy away. I think that's just is just human nature I certainly have a sense if someone is possibly threatening my children--even I they are just too nosy. Maybe, I need to examine more closely how I make judgments.

Kasondra Payne NFB Parents of Blind Children

**4. That woman with an exclamation point after every sentence, and an explanation for everything, is not the kind of person I enjoy being around. Now
isn't that prejudging? I think not.
Because sight is the most important thing to her, she bases virtually all her opinions and observations on that which is visual. Her insinuations
that Sam was lucky because of his blindness may have been meant as compliments; in reality, they were not at all complimentary. This woman erroneously
believes that sight is the only way to acquire information.

Jeff Frye Overland Park, Kansas

**5. First, I don't know that this is such an old assumption: that blind people do not / cannot prejudge based on our lack of vision. I have frequently had clients walk in my office and say how glad they are that I cannot see them because I will not judge them.

I would like to think of myself as someone who doesn't tend to make prejudgments of people based on other, I don't think anyone is totally free of doing that. I also know in some situations, I tend to do it more than others, i.e., at work I do the assessment as a counselor, than come up with impressions and that is not based on looks but more on presentation. On public transportation or in general, I make little to no judgment about anyone because I don't remotely have enough information to go on. When choosing people whom I want to be associated with, or a potential relationship, I am much more likely to make a judgment about that person although I have learned that first impressions are often inaccurate so I give the person several "chances" so to speak. As far as do looks matter to me? Somewhat but not much. If we're friends or in other social settings, or in general, I really couldn't care less what a person looks like. If we are potentially in a relationship, it becomes somewhat more important but more so in terms of physical terms, not just how the face, hair or eyes appear. Do I think blind people have preferences and things that attract / detract them from others? Absolutely! It could be voice, looks, personality, behavior, etc. but blind people have just as much ability to make judgments about others as do sighted people. The specific characteristics of judgment may differ, but the likelihood of making judgments is not a blind thing, it is a human thing.

Jessie ACB-L listserv

**6. I agree with Jessie,

Judgment in this context has little to do with vision. This is an area where the blind are no different than anyone else. I make judgments all of the time. They may be based on perceived intelligence, voice tone, body odor, etc. For example, I am less likely to reach out to someone who does not express him or herself well verbally. I am not usually attracted to women with deep and/or husky voices. I am not generally attracted to women who are taller than me. However, these are not hard and fast rules, and there are more exceptions than I can count.

Andy ACB-L listserv

**7. Before I met my husband, who is blind, I wrote in my journal, "I wish I could meet someone who could see past my physical accoutrements (and like me for
my mind too)."

After we met and hit it off (he rescued me from a doubletalking man who had just been released from a mental hospital), he asked his friends what I
looked like. But that was after we'd made arrangements for our first date.

I think that what we look like affects us in terms of self esteem and behavior. So someone who feels good about his looks/clothing/accomplishments acts with confidence. That alone will tell you something, whether you see him or not. Voice alone is not enough. Just ask anyone who has tuned into a radio announcer who finally got his own TV show. But physical presence (the way a person moves, how he smells, etc.) is definitely a clue.

Lori Stayer Merrick, New York

**8. Some sighted people forget that other senses can give us clues; the senses of touch, smell and hearing. Many sighted people who are so "light dependent"
forget to use their other senses, thus they assume we don't have any way of assessing our world since we can't see.

Lauren Merryfield Everett, WA

**9. There are many ways to judge others that don't include visual cues. I got lost late one night in a large city when I left my hotel and walked six blocks
to relieve my guide dog. Some Hispanic teens clustered around me and I became nervous. They were asking questions like "Does your dog bite?" I excused
myself and left in such a hurry, that I didn't keep my orientation straight. I exited the park onto a different street and after I didn't locate my hotel,
I asked the next set of footsteps if he knew where the Imperial hotel was. The man said I was several blocks away and seemed reluctant to attempt to describe
the route I needed to take. He decided to walk with me. Some twelve blocks later, we arrived at the hotel and my guide refused a tip and left hurriedly
when greeted brusquely by the doorman. The doorman then told me I shouldn't leave the hotel at night alone and he would assign a bellman to walk me to
the park if I needed to go there again after dark. My good Samaritan, was a street person. Because he spoke politely, I had not been afraid of him.
I am not racially prejudiced, but have met blind people who are. I don't think it was the accents of the youth in the park that spooked me as much as
it was the questions they asked and the fact they crowded my personal space too much. I would have been as nervous of Anglo youth late at night in a park.
However, I could have misjudged the teens in the park because they were young, traveled in a group of six or so and had nothing better to do than hang
out in a city park at night. As a native American, I have been on the receiving end of prejudice too. Particularly so when living near reservations.
I know my own mother, stressed to us five children the importance of speaking well with no slang or profanity and I probably hold a subconscious value
judgment of people who don't speak well as a result. AT least that would explain my fear when approached by the Hispanic youth and my lack of it when
walking with the street person who spoke well. It is true that appearance in itself doesn't affect my judgments but I think it does influence some other
blind people. I am always well groomed myself, but understand those who don't dress appropriately because they don't have anyone to help them learn.
I did have a blind friend though who chose not to socialize with another woman of our acquaintance because she said she didn't want others to judge her
because she befriended an overweight not always clean blind woman. It saddened me because the woman in question had a lovely giving nature and an engaging
intellect and I though my appearance conscious friend was shallow to allow the opinion of others to deprive her of an entertaining loyal friend. I simply
spent a lot of time describing clothes, fashions and working to improve the woman's understanding of the importance of appearance. My reward was having
her as a friend.

Dianna Quietwater Noriega

**10. Are we not products of our environment? Do we not learn from what we are taught as children? This being true for all human’s, be they sighted or blind? Are there not signs of cultural differences that go beyond the visual? I have seen blind friends who were just as racially prejudge mental as any sighted person. Also interesting, I had a blind friend who was white and had problems within him concerning anyone who was not white. And after he began college he struggled learning his way around campus and in making friends and the people who were the most helpful, the most respectful and most friendly to him were the students who were not white.

And now that my thoughts have turned down this path in thought, isn’t it interesting how a handicap will change a person’s status in life? You can go from the top and plummet to the bottom. You can start off life as a abled body person and be at the pinnacle of the dominate race or class and after you become disabled, you end up at the bottom of your strata and even be looked down upon by abled body individuals from those other classes of peoples found within your society.

John Mars Kansas

**11. I can't remember what movie it is, but it's a WW2 movie about vets returning from the war, wounded vets. For months these vets help each other, and are friends. Then, somehow one of the vets finds out that his friend, the one he had helped, the one who had helped him go through learning how to be blind, is black. the whole movie changes.

Sorry to say, but blind people have just as many prejudices as do the sighted. Why? Because prejudice is a learned thing. Doesn't matter if you're blind or not. What matters is what you are taught. I remember showing pictures of my trip to India to all kinds of people in the last months. One lady who saw them said, "You're the only white person there."

When she said that, I realized that the color of my new friends didn't matter to me at all, what mattered was who they were and how they had received me.

On the other hand, I must confess to you that one of the main reasons I dislike our president is his voice. I can't stand it, I simply can not stand it. I turn him off whenever he comes on the TV. Now, my gut reaction has been Bourne out by some of the things which he has done, but it started with his voice.

Prejudice extends to everything we do from what shampoo we buy to whether we go to a certain restaurant or not. How many of you buy Gold Medal Flour and won't buy anything else because anything else is bad? Nope, afraid that blindness does not free us from prejudice, only clear, logical, unemotional thinking can do that.

Ann K. Parsons

**12. First, I don't know that this is such an old assumption: that blind people do not / cannot prejudge based on our lack of vision. I have frequently had clients walk in my office and say how glad they are that I cannot see them because I will not judge them.

I would like to think of myself as someone who doesn't tend to make prejudgments of people based on other, I don't think anyone is totally free of doing that. I also know in some situations, I tend to do it more than others, i.e., at work I do the assessment as a counselor, than come up with impressions and that is not based on looks but more on presentation. On public transportation or in general, I make little to no judgment about anyone because I don't remotely have enough information to go on. When choosing people whom I want to be associated with, or a potential relationship, I am much more likely to make a judgment about that person although I have learned that first impressions are often inaccurate so I give the person several "chances" so to speak. As far as do looks matter to me? Somewhat but not much. If we're friends or in other social settings, or in general, I really couldn't care less what a person looks like. If we are potentially in a relationship, it becomes somewhat more important but more so in terms of physical terms, not just how the face, hair or eyes appear. Do I think blind people have preferences and things that attract / detract them from others? Absolutely! It could be voice, looks, personality, behavior, etc. but blind people have just as much ability to make judgments about others as do sighted people. The specific characteristics of judgment may differ, but the likelihood of making judgments is not a blind thing, it is a human thing.


**13. The new provoker reminds me of something said to me this summer I was told you forget your blind! How ridiculous I could really hurt some one by running into then with my power-chair I do just fine traveling in my wheel-chair but never forget I can't see!
I judge people by mostly their smell and some really need a bath grins Some try to cover that up with cologne and powder yuck!
But some seem to believe of our disability we must be saints after all we are the "you guys!"
Who do not judge! hehehe

Diane Dobson Victoria BC Canada

**14. Having had vision most of my life, I probably look at blindness differently from people who have been blind all of or most of their lives.
I had little or no experience with blindness when I went blind in twenty minutes. I can remember that my mother used to buy brooms from a blind man that I had never met and one time when I was sitting on a bus bench, a blind man came up whose cane had just been run over by a cat. At the time, I did not realize how vital a cane is for a blind person. What I have mentioned was the extent of my acquaintance with blindness.
I still have some vision so, I can determine more or less, how a person looks but I cannot see faces or the expressions on them nor can I look into a person's eyes, (the windows to their souls,) to see what they are thinking. I cannot see body language too well, now, so I have to rely o
voice reflections, Yes, since I cannot see faces, everyone is
beautiful and fortunately, I was not brought up to be prejudice about skin color , religion, country of origin, etc.
When a woman offers to help me, I accept graciously, try to complement her about something and just feel glad that she can feel good that she has done a good deed. It also, makes me happy to know there are so many kind people in the world. If a man in trying to help me, offer his arm, I tell him, "Oh, I don't often get the chance to hang onto a handsome young man." If he says, "I am not handsome, I tell him , "you are to me, I'm blind" If he says, "I am not young," I tell him , "you are to me, I'm eighty-five years old."
To me, it is extremely rude to tell someone who offers to help, "get away from me, I can do it myself." When a person is rebuffed in this manner, that person is less likely to help someone who might really need the help. Of course, I think it is alright to show people who offer to help, how the long white cane helps us to get around and how we learn to usually compensate for our lack of sight. The easiest way to teach people about blindness is by being complimentary and grateful.
Because they will be more receptive to whatever you say. My mother always said, "you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar."

Jo genit Omaha, Nebraska USA

**15. Not much here; just that blind people come in all shapes and sizes as everyone else.


**16. It’s interesting to me that there are so many people in the general populace who cling to the notion that because we can’t see, or can’t see very well,
we’re somehow totally different from them. Not only is this untrue, it’s also, at least to me, rather insulting. One of the weirder moments in my life
occurred one evening while I was walking home in the middle of a smallish snowstorm. Some woman, whom I didn’t know, said in a loud voice: "You’re lucky
that you can’t see all the ugliness in the world!"

Oh really? Has anyone ever watched A Stranger is Watching or Death Wish Two? The first was based on a Mary Higgins Clark novel, and the opening scene was
of a woman getting beaten to death, crying and pleading with her assailant not to do it. We find out later in the movie that the daughter witnessed it,
as she was having a nightmare in which she kept screaming for her mother throughout the attack.

Death Wish Two had a really graphic rape scene. All through it, the housekeeper who was being raped by a gang of teenagers I believe, was screaming and
crying. At one point you could tell that she was being raped in a bedroom because you could hear the bed.

A Stranger is Watching disturbed me not because of the visual effects of the scene. I can’t see, so it’s obvious I can’t read the expressions of terror
and pain on both the mother’s and daughter’s faces. But I got it through what I heard. I could only imagine myself as a little kid having to witness such
an attack against my own mother, whether I could see or not.

The second movie bothered me for two reasons. First, again I empathized with the victim even though I got my input auditory. Second, it bothered me more,
I hate to say, because parts of it were vaguely erotic, which was not true about the first movie.

My point is that there’s ugliness out there, but you don’t have to see it to believe it. To paraphrase E.G. Marshal, what idiot invented the saying: "Seeing
is believing?" Can you see love? If so, what does it look like? Could I see the ugliness in the movies I mentioned? No. I didn’t have to. And as much of
an auditory person as I am, there have been some instances when I wished I didn’t have to listen to some things.

John D. Coveleski, Minneapolis, MN (

**17. I've been saying this for years. A long time ago, before I was married, I told a black friend of mine that I was color blind. She understood right off
what I meant. I told her that there was some advantages in being blind.

Patricia H. New York USA

**18. I had to read this passage through twice before I got the gist of it. then I realized that the reason why I had missed the point, was that to me as a congenitally
blind person it was obvious how the man had made these observations. the more I think about this the more I feel that the difference between blind people
making judgments and sighted people making judgments is that sighted people do judge from a distance where as a blind person has to wait until they hear
an audible clue such as shoes or the way someone is speaking.
however, I can remember something which made a lasting impression on me when I was a student on placement in a local social services department. a referral
came through and the reason for assessment was something along the lines of: "...young man living alone registered as blind, is experiencing difficulty
cooking meals. please note, this young man is an alcoholic." from this I judged that this young man would believing in a mess and be eating from a microwave.
I visited the house with my placement supervisor who also felt that this would be a very complicated case. we arrived and the young man came out to
greet us, steady on his feet and no smell on his breath. I asked him what sort of meals he was having difficulty cooking? he replied that he just wanted
a bit of guidance as he was a qualified chef but had no knowledge of cooking techniques used by blind people.
so as a result of this I try in my work never to judge a book by its cover but I am only human, smile.

Jayne Connor
Carlisle social services
telephone 01228 60 70 50

**19. We blind people can make even worse judgments about people than

people who can see. I, for one, have the horrible habit of judging other students
at my university as being lazy when they don't speak another language just because I speak another foreign language. We use other ways to judge. We don't
need sight to be prejudiced. I received many of my prejudices from my father. I have broken free of many against which he struggles, but I have my own.
Now, I don't want to marry a woman because "she's hot," but I can still say that women are weird and odd and stupid and all those things that I don't want
to say. They're subconscious. I don't think about them. I don't say, "women need to be brought down!" I see a woman do something that triggers that dark
side of my coin, and the words flow to my undoing.


**20. This was a very interesting thought provoker. My fiancé and I were told our love must be true because we can't judge each other by what we look like.
I have often heard remarks like this. Judgment comes from other sources other than seeing. A lot comes from what our family taught us by what they say.
The mass media tells us what is beautiful or politically correct. In my opinion blind people prejudge just like everyone else.

Angela Farmer Dothan Alabama, USA.

**21. I have always been judgmental, hence the reason of having a few friends. I to, give people
second or third chance, but not much than that. I have learn that I'm usually right the first time but still give them another opportunity to prove me
wrong. I speak of characterization, not from physical means. It is true that if your good looking your success comes easier. I have witness heavy people
get ahead because they knew how to dress smartly, and hold themselves up right and with confidence. Being in the sales profession brings that about. Being
judgmental is also a safety mechanism that is needed , especially now that I'm blind. I use to feel that blindness afforded me special protection from
being cheated or taken advantage of. I have learn otherwise, blindness provides a greater advantage to be cheated. That's a shame, because it written
in the scriptures that widows, orphans, and the blind are to be taken care of. But that's for Christian, God fearing folks that abide by that. I thought
it was more wide spread than what I have realized.

Jack E. Mindrup USA

**22. This is an interesting story. One of the things that is interesting about this reflects on where our society is at the present, as compared with half a
century or so ago. We now place the label upon prejudice and discrimination as evil or bad automatically. Certainly when it is applied to how we view and
respond to others, it should be considered to be inappropriate; however, there are forms of prejudice and discrimination that are truly appropriate, in
fact they are critical to our survival as both individuals and as a species. Having the prejudice that stepping into the path of a fast moving truck could
be bad for your health, is a perfectly appropriate belief, even though you probably haven't personally tested it to make sure that your experience matches
your beliefs. Being able to discriminate between chocolate pudding and used motor oil is probably a desirable thing as well. The point is, prejudice and
discrimination are hard wired into us, or at the very least, so thoroughly learned through culture and experience that they are simply a part of us. In
fact I would say they are a necessary part of how our minds work. We should expect ourselves to notice and even search for differences in characteristics
when it comes to new things, and for that matter unfamiliar people. We naturally try to categorize new things so that we can relate them to things we are
already familiar with, and so that we can recognize them the next time we run across them. This means that often we associate anything we experience with
the new thing, or person, and then we go one step further. When we run across anything similar to it, we then tend to assign our experiences from our previous
encounter with the new one, just because the thing, or person has similar characteristics. Vision is not required to do this, and often personal experience
is not required either, since we also learn from others, especially those we trust and love. My parents told me many times as a child that it was a bad idea
to run out in front of fast moving vehicles, and that dirty motor oil is something that you don't want to eat, or mess around with very much in general,
and I find that these lessons are reasonable enough to want to pass them on to my own child. On the other hand, as loving and intelligent as my parents
were, they still taught me many negative beliefs regarding people of other races and cultures, among other things. These are lessons that I have spent
my life trying to overcome, with reasonable success I believe, and they are the sort of beliefs that I do not wish to pass on to my child.

Jeff Altman Lincoln Nebraska.

**23. We humans are all judgmental. Whether we can see or are blind. I have heard blind people so prejudiced against the sighted. Our experience with most
sighted people is that they are not prejudiced against the blind, but are uneducated. Like the lovely lady said in one of the comments, you can be nice
to people who offer you help even if you do not need to be helped. My blind husband has discovered that most sighted people do not dislike nor feel superior
to blind people, they want to be of assistance believing that if they were blind, they would need it. He has had many compliments on his attitude because
he is kind to those kind people who mean well. He tells them nicely that he either needs assistance, or that this time he is fine, but maybe next time
he will need help. He is not racially, ethnically, social-economically prejudiced, but he is morally prejudiced and was that way when he was sighted too.
People who mistreat other people, are people he is prejudiced against. He travels very well and gets along fine. His good attitude has taught more people
about blindness than they would have learned had he been offended when they had offered or even forced their help on him.

Rory Conrad Dunlap, Iowa

**24. I, too, have prejudices based on how a person sounds or even where he or she comes from. I don't let these prejudices get in the way of my relating to people though. I just know they're there and relate to the person anyway.
Sometimes I find my first impression was right and sometimes wrong. It's not wrong or bad to have prejudices. It's a human thing. Just don't let them get in your way.
Peace & friendship,

Nancy Lynn

**25. Sometimes reading the comments is as thought provoking as the story, or even more so. I don't judge visually. Sometimes I can't tell a person's race and once in a while I can't tell a person's gender by looking.
Unless she/he has obviously white or gray hair, I can't estimate age.
And, frankly, I find this aspect of my otherwise very bothersome visual disability to be a definite advantage. It is inconvenient not to be able to follow facial expressions or any but the broadest, most obvious body language, but I am glad not to be able to prejudge visually.

That being said, reading some of the responses has led me to the uncomfortable realization that there are, indeed, other types of judgment besides visual; and, while I am thankful not to be burdened with racial, religious, or gender/orientational hatred and prejudice, it is true that I judge people on how well or badly they use the English language. If a person speaks well, I accept and respect her/him. If not, I don't. Foreign-born persons are different, of course; but, even there, if the person has been in the U.S. for many years and still doesn't use correct grammar, well... This is as insidious and vial a form of prejudice as any. I understand that, and am ashamed to acknowledge that I practice it, albeit I'd been unaware of it till reading these comments. Thanks for bringing an unsavory part of myself to my attention, so I can fight against it.

I was also amused by the person who said he dislikes Pres. Bush because of his voice. I can certainly relate to that. IMO he has a most uncongenial (uncongenial?) voice. I, too, tend to go by voice, as well obviously as manner and other factors. But, voice is important for me.
Some people make me nervous or uncomfortable simply because of the sound of their voices. This is not really something I can help.

A couple of people brought the discussion back to the idea of discrimination or prejudice against us as disabled people. I think that is certainly true. Finding a way to label us, even with something so seemingly benign as "you guys who don't prejudge" is certainly an act of aggression and attempted control. But, one must understand that, to an able bodied, fully sighted person, disability is something to be feared.
Just as with any other kind of discrimination or persecution, those among the able bodied, fully sighted population who discriminate against and persecute us do so out of hatred borne of fear. The prevailing idea
- I almost said the current fantasy - is that to be disabled in any way, certainly to be completely blind, or wheelchair bound, or in some other way "helpless" is to be worse than dead.

Consider the recent movie MILLION DOLLAR BABY, about which there was so much controversy in the disability community. Yet, I know a woman, an enlightened, intelligent, sensitive woman, who thought the ending of that movie was just as it should be. After all, who would want to go on living as a paraplegic(sp?) or quadriplegic(sp?)? What kind of life could she have? That kind of deep seated incomprehension is mighty hard to fight against, let alone change.

Kerry Elizabeth Thompson Springfield, Mass.
Member, NFB Writers' Division
Web Sites:
Disabled Americans for Democracy: The Wood between the Worlds:

**26. Wow! There is a lot being said. Everyone has their point of view and each one is right and yet different. I to
have made assumptions with the accent fitting the national origin and been wrong. Not saying that you have, but a case in point, I thought Charles was black because of his accent. I have made that assumption before and been wrong, so I'm more careful now, not that it has made a difference in my treatment
towards them, however I must admit it does affect my open mindedness with them. What I'm trying to say, is, that I have a more open mindedness with minorities than the favored class societies. Hadn't thought much before reading your provoker, but have now. Amazing. I have discovered that there is a difference among the different races in how they treat and think of other races as well as within the same skin color! For instance, the African treats and thinks
quite differently about the afro-American not as brothers but something quite different. The African's do not have a high regards towards the afro-Americans
compared to themselves. In fact when the afro-Americans visit the home land of Africa and call the Africans' brothers, the common reply is "Don't call
me brother, I'm not your brother!"
There is a high and a low German language. Slavery didn't involve only the blacks. There has always been a high and a lower race of people, even within
our own people and race. It gauges the poor and rich, the higher I Q's and low I Q's, the national origins, color, and etc.
What would happen if we didn't use judgmental and, or prejudgments in choosing friends, dates wife’s, husbands and etc. The scripture does instruct us
To use good judgment in choosing friends or mates. I suppose that its all in how we treat others. We are to be kind and yet on guard. That’s what American
dream is all about, equal opportunity for all. Isn't that the meaning of the good semeraten proverb?
Still Thinking;

Jack E. Mindrup

**27. I must admit, this one is a mixed bag. To me, the whole idea of "the blind don't judge" sounds a lot like that "compensation" nonsense. One's hearing does
not improve if one goes blind. After all, does a deaf person see any better? Does a quadriplegic see or hear any better, just because he's lost most of
his sense of touch? Of course not. And, by the same token, a blind person is not necessarily more open-minded.
Suppose, for example, you walked into a room, and you heard a man with slurred speech? You hear thumping on a mattress. You reach over to feel him, and
find that his leg is twitching violently. Admit it: you just might assume that this person is having drunken tremors. You say, "Shame on you, being intoxicated!"
But then the attending nurse tells you that this person suffers from Lou Gherig's Disease; that his slurred speech will soon fade to nothing; and that
the leg will stop shaking as soon as the disease kills off the neuron that controls it.
So, yes, it is quite possible for a blind person to be prejudiced.
I myself have made the same assumption, that a blind person would be less quick to judge (if indeed one judges at all). But this is more based on reverse
logic, due to my own dealings with sighted people (of whom I am one). I have never actually met a blind person; but I know from experience that, sometimes,
I am indeed more readily accepted if I am heard without being seen. This is a fact.
All my life, I've found it difficult to connect with people. Sometimes, it is my fault. But other times, I got the distinct impression that my very presence
repulses people, even if I say and do nothing to deserve it. I never understood why. I'm not all that bad-looking. I dress tastefully. I have good hygiene;
yet people just didn't want to be near me. (But then, New England has never been known for being "neighborly.") But I accidentally discovered a way around
Years ago, I had a hobby of sorts: writing letters to the editor of my local newspaper, The Woonsocket Call. For about ten years, I averaged one letter
roughly every six weeks. When I wrote them, they often provoked responses, just as your website does. But I wrote in such a way that I forced readers to
take sides on issues. Thus, if people didn't like me, they could judge somewhat more objectively. They could judge based on what I was thinking, rather
than making assumptions. On the other hand, if readers liked what I wrote, they would like it honestly, and they would not say, "Hey, that's good!" just
because they counted me as a friend. Rather, they liked it simply because they thought it made sense, regardless of who wrote it. They could honestly judge
what I said, yet they couldn't SEE me.
In short, those letters were an editorial version of "Cyrano De Bergerac" know: the unpopular guy who had a talent for writing mushy love poetry.
(If his readers had seen him, they would have responded in shock: "THAT was YOU???")
And so, yes, I have also assumed that blind people would be less likely to be prejudiced, based on that experience. And I can objectively say that there
is some element of truth to that...but only to a point. And I will admit that this belief is part of what causes me to seek out the friendship of blind
people, because I think I'd have a better rapport with them than I do with the sighted. I don't know all the reasons why this is so. I just think that's
the way God wired me.

David Lafleche

**28. I've given this one some thought. I know I already touched on the fact that no blind or visually-impaired person is one and the same, but I think it bears
repeating. It is not always easy for a visually-impaired or blind person to find work, and I am a perfect example of this. Not only have I been faced with
a most difficult job search due to the declining job market, but I've also been pre-judged by my state VR agency. When my parents and I first made the
decision for me to move out of their house, we did so with the goal of me being independent. I am very happy to report that for the most part, this goal
has become reality. I no longer rely on one or both of my parents to prepare meals for me. I have learned how to prepare a few quick and easy meals myself,
and I am going to continue this learning process. I now do my laundry totally independently. This isn't to say that I've pretty much always been dependent
with my laundry, but when I first moved to this apartment there was a problem. The laundry machines were coin-operated, and at the time one had to go down
a very treacherous staircase in order to even get to the laundry facility. Imagine a blind person doing that. For some this might seem an easy task, but
for others of us it just isn't. Now, imagine a blind person who has a slight balance problem, having to carry a full load of laundry plus use their mobility
aid of choice, all this while holding on to the railing and carrying a wad of quarters for the washer and dryer. Those who might think this was easy, a
piece of cake, I urge you to think again. Mind you I didn't even attempt the staircase alone, because it was very rickety and everyone was afraid I'd fall
down the stairs. My neighbors and my tutor who worked with me at the time were always very happy to help me do my laundry. That went on for quite a while,
and then plans got underway for a community room in my apartment complex. We now have it and it is very nice. Two new laundry machines, a washer and a
dryer which are not coin operated, were purchased by the organization for use by each resident in this complex. At first I had to have sighted assistance
setting the machines, but two former life-skills tutors fixed the labeling on the knobs so that I could be totally independent and not have to rely on
others. The knobs have Braille labels on and near them. There are also a few other things which I have learned to do for myself, but I won't waste too
much space talking about them. As I mentioned, independence is a big goal for me. I should feel good about it and I do feel good about it. Others with
whom I live and work should feel good about it, and they do feel good about it. However, I am not independent with regards to the job-seeking process,
and I really want to be. I realize I cannot be totally independent in the job-seeking process as are fully-sighted people, because I probably need assistance
from a job coach. I don't think I am unique in this respect, and I have had job coaches in the past who were not great but okay. I know other visually-impaired
job-seekers who have at one time had job coaches, or who are currently being assisted by a qualified job coach. As I have mentioned in other Thought Provokers,
I really have a problem with my state VR agency. I don't feel they have my best interests in mind and quite honestly I feel trapped whenever I talk with
them. This might include the Client Assistance Program, but honestly I have not pursued CAP because people in my VR agency have repeatedly been advising
me and my parents not to take this matter up with the Client Assistance Program. I wonder if that happens with other VR clients who want to use the services
of CAP. Just because I have moved out of my parents' house does not mean that I am no longer blind., VR has ignored me and I think this is something which
needs to change. They have either ignored me altogether, or in some cases they've listened but at the same time undermined my thinking abilities. For instance,
I am and have been in need of some formal O&M instruction. The VR people, at least most of them, tell me that I need to have a paying job and be working
in that job before they will even think about the O&M part. Something about that just doesn't sound right to me. How the heck am I supposed to get to work
if I don't know how to get there in the first place? This is basically what the O&M thing comes down to. If one really takes the time to think things through,
this is exactly why people ask for directions from somebody in a passing car, for example. What does funding have to do with it? Let's say VR places somebody
in a job and then the client is provided with formal O&M instruction. My question is, if things happen the other way around what in essence is the difference?
I have brought this issue up not only with my VR people, but also with several people here at Center for Independent Futures. Everyone at CIF is on my
side. I'm not trying to brag or anything either. At one point as a matter of fact, we had a staff member who was going to look into possible sources of
O&M training for members of Center for Independent Futures. She is no longer working for CIF, but her reason for leaving had nothing to do with the O&M
issue. Folks, the one and only way things will ever begin to change for this country's blindness population, is if the two blindness organizations speak
with one voice. If it is OK to be blind, then why the heck is it not OK to need VR services and not meet the exact high standards set by VR agencies for
whatever reason? If it is okay to be blind, then why the heck is it not okay to be blind and have low muscle tone, or to be blind and have other additional
challenges? Why the heck should we the blind feel a sense of dignity and pride at all? I am by no means trying to sound whiny and feel sorry for myself.
I am just stating the facts. I also have become very aware that Illinois is not the only state experiencing turmoil. As long as human beings exist, which
I imagine will be till the end of time, differences are bound to exist. This is called reality, and it ain't gonna change. It would be great, I suppose,
if all of us were exactly alike, because then we would all need the exact same services and nobody would be left out or feel left out. Please forgive me
for the somewhat bluntness of this response, but the fact remains that too many blind people like myself face these kinds of difficulties. My honest opinion
is that if things don't start to change for the better, future generations of blind and visually-impaired people are bound to face the same problems as
I have described probably too many times. If anybody would like to take issue with me, or to question my approach, please email me. I will most gladly
abide by your request.

Jake Joehl