No matter that the student may have very limited functioning
and progressive conditions
. No matter that fear of blindness and attitudes about it and alternate techniques are unhealthy
Some staff has expressed concern about using the term “blind” since it can be "psychologically devastating". Some have suggested the need for therapy. If a blind person needs therapy it is not because blindness is a neurosis or mental illness. If the issue is blindness and fear of it, then emotional adjustment
training and positive and expectations are the therapy.
Equality of Opportunity
Some professional rehabilitation staff have a negative attitude about the “B” word. Many sighted staff and some staff who are blind with some vision, do not want to use the term “blind” with blind students and do not want to be referred to as blind persons. They consider the word “blind” negative, demeaning, and as one person told me, like using a negative racial term sometimes called the "N word”. Sounds like a negative attitude toward blindness to me in an Agency dedicated to serving the blind and even in some organizations of and for the blind.
I submit that those coming to a rehabilitation center for the blind for training are coming precisely because they are “blind”. The vision they may have is not working for them and they require skills in alternate techniques and a positive attitude about blindness and themselves as blind persons. Someone once said that an agency or organization that is afraid to use the word “blind” need not remain in business. I agree and salute those who have worked and
continue to work toward equality of opportunity for the blind.
Ed Kunz Austin, Texas USA Ed.Kunz@tcb.tx.state.us
**41. I would like to put my response to number 40 and to ask a couple of questions about your impressions. I am a legally blind person, am partially sighted use the vision for some things, have Retinitis Pigmentosa, so it will vanish at some point, and am training to be a "vision professional".
I don't agree with Robert's interpretation of the phrase "what it means to be blind." as it is not "what it really means" but some people thing. The American Council of the Blind does not promote that philosophy, it is only NFB’s territory. ACB promotes equality, independence, and freedom. Which are quite obtainable.
One comment on the idea of Rehab professionals having a negative view of blindness. Excuse me, but the last time I checked human beings as a general rule are very visual characters. We rely on sight to tell the status of people, to tell things about each other, to display our ideas and impressions, and to carry on conversations. According to speech communication people non verbal or gesture communication makes up more than ninety percent of communication. Amazing huh?
I would like to contend that at least at my University, as well at conferences and conventions, the concepts of "negative attitudes" get discussed. There is a fantastic book out, which is required reading for everyone in my university vision program called Self Esteem and Adjusting with Blindness. it is by Dr. Dean Tuddle and is available from American Printing house. This book discusses all the issues of stereotyping and adjusting to any change not just vision loss. It talks about all the experiences we as visually impaired people encounter, the terror of our first class trip, the fear of meeting a new friend and wondering if they will talk to us afterwards, or even the issue of introducing yourself to a new professor and explaining accommodations. All of which are very awkward and uncomfortable situations. I recommend anyone to read this book.
I would also like to point out, that like in any other profession, there are some professionals that "stay up with the times." going to the conferences, attending the workshops, buying new books, and chatting on list serves. But there are also the professionals who stick with their ways of doing things. The sad thing, is that the way things are going, the "old timers" in the profession will retire, and the new blood, will not be able to take over. There are too many positions to fill and not enough people to fill them. My graduating class, granted we have no mishaps between now and May of 2004 will have 10 graduates. Ten! and you know what, we already have jobs. And Kutztown is one of the larger programs. A lot of the issues have been addressed in literature and research, it is getting the research and literature to the professionals who need it, the ones
who won't buy it, or go to the conferences, or pay attention if it is handed to them because it was the way they were taught, and a young punk isn't going to change them.
One more thought. if you haven't checked the age of most in the blindness professions, most of them are in the late forties, thirties and fifties. Do the math, so they were in school in the sixties, and early seventies. Here at Kutztown in the seventies, people getting a Vision degree took two classes on vision. Braille 1 and a Anatomy class. Lots of info right???? yeah right! Today, in 2003 the students at Kutztown take six courses. Early Intervention and Deaf Blindness, Orientation and Mobility, The reading, writing of the Braille code, The reading and writing of other Braille codes, Anatomy and Physiology of the Eye, and Special Visual Methods for the classroom. The last course is a culmination of the other classes, such as assistive technology, adapting worksheets and other materials and doing Functional vision assessments and Learning Media Assessments. I am legally blind, and will leave it at that. just some food for thought.
Shelley Rhodes firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
**42. I am legally blind, I can see a
little, but travel with a guide dog, and/ or a cane if the dog is sick, or
at the groomer. It goes like this. There are so many parallels or similarities between blind folks and, "other minorities' as I used to call them, but let's be clear. Between blind folks and black folks, all right? Too often, it is fear of blindness as some one on this list said, but quite often, it is hate! I think it is! Because sighted people won't hire, even when educated! What do you do when people don't want to be educated? The discrimination and prejudice and lack of tolerance we have to endure is the same as that of other minorities, and what they have to deal w with. There is the case of my aunt, who thinks to this day, that my brother pays my bills. What does she think I do, send my paycheck to my brother? She is also the same person who thought I was "amazing" when I made a veal burger. People will think you are good if you can tie your shoes, and they won't learn otherwise. It is due to lowered expectations and projection. But how about family members who swear up and down that you will depend on them when they, in actuality, should know better? I have had it happen to me. They couldn't do half of what we do if they lost their sight. And that's the route of all this evil. People fear it will happen to them, we remind them of their own vulnerability. And they often, though not always) hate us for that.
Black folks are discussing their identity and are trying to truly accept themselves, regardless of what white folks think. We should do the same. I am glad this list helps us to do that.
Lucia New York USA
**43. I'm sighted, and I'm the kind of guy that would have asked a blind person if they needed help in crossing a street, until I became friendly with some blind people and found out how independent blind people can be. I have been thinking about this problem for a long time. Some of my blind friends get quite annoyed when sighted people presume incorrectly that they need help or assistance. I've been saying the blind need some public relations campaign to get their views across, but absent that, is their something the blind as individuals could do? Could you write letters to the editor of the opinions section of your local newspapers? Or by email to any newspaper in the world?
Bill Heaney Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA
**44. In response to Resp. 43, writing to the editor of your local paper is fine and dandy, but views on helping blind people and how to approach blind people will vary to some degree. Some will say that "we're totally independent, so don't offer us help unless we ask it" while others will say, "go ahead and
offer because the blind person just may need the help but don't know that". I think that the idea of a public relations group or class for blind people
is a good idea, though. I say this because I have seen many blind people be offered help only for the blind person to snap at the person who genuinely
went out of their way to help.
Yes, there are many of us who are independent and should exert that independence. However, how we exert that independence is what makes all the difference
in the world. If you snap at a genuinely helping hand, then that kind person is going to take the approach not to help another blind person again. Then,
when another blind person who actually needs the help but is afraid to ask for the help comes along, that blind person is not going to receive the help
all because of a previous one who snapped at that kind helping hand. On the other hand, if you accept the help or kindly tell the person, "no, I'm okay.
Thanks for the offer, though", then you haven't alienated that person offering the helping hand. While I've had many people offer me help, which I've
kindly accepted so as not to seem like I'm pushing them away, I have also had people not come up to offer me help or avoid trying to help me upon my asking
all because a blind person previous to me snapped at them.
I think that people, regardless of whether they've been around blind people or not, are generally genuine in their intent to offer a helping hand.
It's not because they feel pity or view us as inept. Many times it's because they see an obstacle that we are unaware of and they're afraid that we may
have some struggles navigating around the obstacle. Such was the case one time with a construction sight up ahead of me. I had no idea that the sidewalk
was blocked off six feet in front of me. There were no sounds of construction equipment running, so I figured that everything was clear. Well, someone
approached to help me. Upon kindly telling them that I was okay, that was when I was informed that there was a construction site up ahead of me, so I
accepted their help. Now, if I had snapped at the person, they would've left. Meanwhile, I would've encountered that construction and would've been struggling
to figure out how I could get around it only to find that there was no way around it except to walk in the busy street. So, in a case like that, I would
rather look like I'm being dependent rather than exert my intendance to the point of alienating people. Besides, when you accept help from people, it's
an opportunity to educate through small-talk as they're helping you. In fact, there was another situation where I was getting ready to cross a street
that was under construction. even though I'm sure that I could've crossed on my own, I allowed for one of the construction crew members to help me just
in case. As I proceeded down the sidewalk on the other side (I found out later from other onlookers) the man who helped me across watched me in admiration.
An hour later, I was on my return back on the other side of the street, and I happened to hear the guy who helped me talking to one of his other coworkers
as he was watching from a distance to make sure that I made it across safely.
In short, what I'm saying in my illustrations of these incidents is that we can make a difference in how people view us just in how we accept or decline
assistance. When we decline assistance, we can be rude about it by snapping at people, or we can be gentle-mannered.
**45. I agree with those who say that not everyone with vision loss should necessarily be called "blind," because some people do still have good enough vision
to read large print, for example. I myself have often wondered about this. I've been referred to at times as "blind," and at other times as "visually impaired,"
and it doesn't bother me. I only have light perception and cannot see any objects. What really does bother me though is when people with vision loss are
abrupt and arrogant about accepting assistance. This, too, goes back to what has been said about not everybody being the same. Not everyone has the same
level of skills, and I think when people with vision loss are rude and refuse assistance, it only makes the person offering assistance feel uneasy and
at times very concerned. Regarding some sort of public-relations campaign for those of us with vision problems, I think it's an idea that needs to be explored.
Here on the North Shore of Chicago, it seems there isn't really a good method for representation by the visually-impaired population. It seems the two
blindness organizations in this country are often times at odds with each other over what are in my opinion common-sense issues. If they could reunite
as they were before the "Civil War," we might stand a chance at a better PR campaign. I should mention that I just yesterday left a voicemail at the office
of the Illinois chapter of one of the blindness organizations, and I have yet to hear back. I am on my township's disabilities committee. As good as the
committee is, I am the only current member with a visual impairment. I think situations such as this are excellent opportunities to educate the sighted
public about such things as screen readers and other adaptations we use. For instance, at our last meeting each committee member was asked for input regarding
employment. I spoke up and said that a lot of VR counselors are unfamiliar with screen readers. I should mention that the committee has been very willing
to accept my input, and they've also been great about providing their material in accessible formats in a timely fashion. These things make me truly feel
like part of the committee..
Jake Joehl, Chicago, Illinois
**46. I would like to cross-reference this one with that other story about the guy with the blind wife (TP81). I would actually like to meet blind people. The question
is, how to go about it?
If you had known me 25 years ago, you would not have thought this possible. I'm not blind, as you know, but I did suffer from extreme shyness and fear of
crowds. Oddly enough, I did have a much easier time dealing with people who were not my peers (that is, some teachers and elders), than I did with kids
my own age.
And yet here I am, seeking friendship with blind people, who, usually, make some sighted people nervous. (It's not a nice thing to say, but, judging from
some of the TPs I've read, it is often true.) Now, isn't that odd? How is it that a person who was painfully shy around everyone else could possibly be
comfortable around the blind?
Part of it is the fact that I do understand, in my own way, what they're going through. How? Well, in school I learned a term called "Social Darwinism."
It basically means that people are shunned by the "in" crowd if they fail to meet certain societal standards of perfection.
In the case of blind people, well, they are considered less-than-physically-perfect. (Look at those stories about blind women threatened with sterilization!)
In my case, it was financial. I had grown up in a huge working-class family (the seventh of ten children). My parents could not afford to buy me the latest
clothing styles. For most of Fifth Grade, I had only two pairs of pants...both of which were green denims...one of which was bell-bottoms. I once went
to Junior High School in house slippers, because I was too sorry for my Dad to ask him for money for new shoes. To top it off, my house was a bit run-down.
I had absolutely no hope of measuring up to the "standards" of the "in" crowd.
So how does that relate to the blind? Simple: There are many testimonies of blind people who know that their handicap puts them lower on the totem pole,
simply because they don't fit the standard in this perfection-crazed society. How do they know? Because they listen to the reactions of others, and they
can "read between the lines." Sighted people who are "perfectionists" will be condescending to or repulsed by a blind person. THAT, I know about. I'm not
blind, and I'm not all that bad-looking; but I've always been a working-class person, dressed in working-class clothes, and I do working-class things.
The "in" crowd never wanted to be near me.
And so, by way of introduction, I'll explain what I would try to do if and when I should ever meet a blind person:
I will simply take up some small talk with him or her (hopefully "her," admittedly). I'll let that person do all the talking, and listen carefully. There's
a good chance the person will say something I know about. If so, I'll wait until the person gets finished. If the person has any social skills at all,
he or she will pause long enough to her my two cents. (I wish I had known this 25 years ago, but I needed coaching, and didn't get it!)
Logically, the subject of that person's blindness would HAVE to come up eventually. Hopefully, that person will say so first. And suppose he or she does?
Like that guy who met the blind woman? SHE was the one who brought it up, saying, "I'm totally blind." Now, suppose I were in that guy's place? The woman,
perhaps trying to deal with the obvious, and get it out of the way as diplomatically as possible, might say, "By the way, I am totally blind." How would
I might respond by saying something like this: "Yes, that's true. And I wear glasses, I'm left-handed, and I like Italian food."
In other words, "Que sera sera." Then move on. (Think of it this way: Doctors don't like to attend parties where guests "talk shop" all the time; so why
should blind people talk about their blindness all the time?) That's where "small talk" comes in handy. I've recently spoken to a blind guy about a common
interest: baseball. It's a great ice-breaker.
As for the word "blind" itself, I would think that most blind people would not be offended by the obvious. And it seems to me that, after you've known a
blind person long enough, you don't really have to say it anymore. You just walk and talk casually. ("Hey, how about those Red Sox!")
The whole thing reminds me of an absurd bit of "political correctness" at the Los Angeles Times. A few years ago, they established new writing guidelines.
One of them is that you cannot refer to a deaf person AS a "deaf" person! You must say, "...a person who cannot hear." I can't imagine what they hope to
accomplish by doing that. I suppose they want an excuse to stuff more words into their stories, hoping that the length will disguise their utter lack of
How would I handle it? I wouldn't bring up deafness at all, unless it was crucial to the point. Then I'd go into detail as to WHAT this person DID. (Oh,
and did I mention he happens to be deaf? Don't yell at me. That's not a dirty word. Deal with it.)
To the blind, I simply say, "Hello. What's on your mind?"
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