THOUGHT PROVOKER 84
Blindness an Asset
Last Updated July 18, 2004
To Provoke Thought Is The First Step To Beyond
“Look at that guy coming across the intersection.” Jim said. He was standing at the front door of a tall business building with Don and Will, two of his co-workers. As usual they were conversing, enjoying the early morning air before going up to the office for the day.
“Yeah, I couldn’t do that.” Don commented, his eyes never leaving the slashing blur of the arcing white cane. The rapidly moving figure was obviously aware of and reacting to the ebb and flow of cars in the turning lanes as he negotiated the busy multilane intersection. Reaching their side of the street, cane lightly touching the curb, the blind guy stepped up and turned in their direction.
The three friends continued to talk, periodically glancing at the blind guy coming on. Jin noticed that the guy had started angling toward them. Don began to wonder what was in the leather case the guy had over his shoulder. Will wondered what would happen if the guy kept coming and was beginning to form a question, but just as he was starting to address the man, the blind guy stopped and said, “Pardon me, gentleman. Is this the main entrance to the Empire Building?”
“Yes.” said Will, now not sure what else to say.
“Thank you.” said the blind guy and moved over to where several people were going through a revolving door.
“We better go in too.” said Don, breaking the bubble of inactivity that had come over him and his friends.
Inside the lobby, Jim, Don, and Will observed the blind guy just ahead of them. He was turning his head, apparently scanning somehow without eyesight. Then he headed toward the elevator alcove, where a steady crowd of people were getting on and off two banks of elevators.
The four of them got in the same elevator. Inside, a man who stood by the control panel said, “Three and five are selected. Anyone else?”
“Ninth.” spoke up a woman in a blue suit.
“Twelfth for me. Thanks.” said the blind guy. “That have Braille on it too?”
“Ah...” Touching the panel the man answered, “...Yeah, it does. Some raised print too.”
Jim, Don, and Will caught each other's eye in the mirrored side walls of the elevator. The message was, “Our floor!”
At the twelfth, the shaft of the blind guy’s fiberglass cane lightly tapped the metal on the side of the open lift door as he exited first. The three friends came off next, hesitating slightly, with a mix of natural curiosity and courtesy, wanting to see which way this guy was going to go. Out of the alcove, he turned right. Jim and Don caught each other's eye again, both raising their eyebrows slightly. Will was watching the blind guy too intently to notice. All three were wondering if this might have to do with them? Their first task ahead of them today as a team was to interview an applicant for a company position. The blind guy reached the end of the hall before the three men and entered the glass door of their office.
Entering in the lead, Will heard the last half of what the blind guy was saying, “...and I have an eight o’clock appointment for an interview. I’m early, so I’ll sit and read until you are ready for me. Thank you.”
Don looked back down the short hall he and his two co-workers had traveled to reach their respective offices, he could see the blind guy seated, taking a electronic device with some type of keyboard out of his leather case, obviously preparing to work with it.
The three men found their seats in the interview room. Jim said, ”I think we best look back through this gentleman’s application and resume before we call him in.”
“Right.” said Don. “I don’t recall anything I read there that indicated he was blind.”
Head bent, Will was already reviewing. “I’m looking to see what he had down here for experience. And ah...I looked at our handicap question, the one that asks about ability to perform the duties with or without accommodation and he answered it like most people do...that he can do it.”
“He is dressed well. Carry’s himself well, too.” Jim said.
“Yeah, remember how he looked us right in the face when he asked about the address? Maybe he sees some. When someone has those tinted lenses, you can’t always tell where they’re looking.” Don said.
They called him in and shook hands all around over introductions. Don said, “Have a seat.”
“Thank you. Your offices are in a beautiful spot for business within the city.” said the blind guy, placing his PDA with Braille display upon the table in plain view.
“So, what is that device?” asked Don.
The blind guy explained its nature and use and some more about blindness in general. “Thank you, gentlemen, for bringing up my blindness up front so we can get that out of the way. As for my qualifications for the job....”
The interview went on with a good measure of give and take. The three team members closely listening, observing, processing. When the discussion again came back to how various aspects of the job could be handled non-visually, Jim, widening his eyes slightly, looked over at Don, who answered back with a slight nod. Will had his eyes down to his notepad, where he was rapidly writing. Jim spoke up next. “Here is a question I would hope that you will see as being acceptable. I ask the same basic type of question to every applicant.” Jim paused a moment, then he said, “Would you consider your blindness as an asset?”
**1. I am a blind psychotherapist in practice in Berkeley,
Ca. I have always thought of blindness as an asset. Being born totally blind, it became apparent to me very early in life that I would not have to follow the paths of my parents and other family. This meant that I could discover my own interests, abilities, personality and character independent of family. Blindness meant that I could become a unique individual.
**2. Hi I believe blindness can be an asset as can any other characteristic we are born with. Blindness should be dealt with up front, but should not be dealt on a continuing basis. In the many years I have been a social worker I dealt with my blindness when necessary, but found with either patients or colleagues
that my ability to accomplish tasks and be a fountain of information to help others was the most important facet of my working experience. The truth is that education about blindness is an ongoing process and the class meets every day with new students entering and some graduating to some extent. Attitudes
are most difficult to erase and as blind people we have the job of breaking them down and creating positive feelings about ourselves. Blindness is one of the characteristics that comes along with David R. Stayer.
David R. Stayer Merrick, New York USA
**3. Hey, I feel my uniqueness of being blind makes me stand out! It is my confidence in handling my blindness that makes it an asset. This is how blindness can be an asset. However, if the blind person is not well adjusted or does not exhibit good blindness skills, then blindness can be a great handicap. It is what you have the desire and ability to make.
Ronnie Mark USA
**4. Hmmmmmm. Interesting as it seems to me.
I'd have to wonder about this one and really consider blindness as an asset.
Judge Baumb NABS NFB
**5. I wouldn't say it's particularly an 'asset'. The blind guy isn't trying to 'use' his blindness to get the job. But it shouldn't be a hindrance either. He should be judged on the basis of his qualification for the job, not his physical disability. I don't like that question that they always have on applications for jobs - do you have any disabilities that would get in the way of your performing the job? The way it's asked is a loaded question.
**6. I would say that this story portrays a very smart and skilled person. His blindness skills look to be top notch. Just in the way he handled himself caught peoples attention and what resulted was on the positive side of the scale. Maybe some people would still have doubts, but they’d be thinking twice about their old stereo types when they see this type of blind person in action. Some people he would instantly change. Very few people would not accept him, most certainly after they talked with him face to face.
Sue Parker CA USA
**6. This guy in the story showed the best of what we can be. I think he did show that with his ability to function, that this ability of his was the asset. What I would be concerned with, is that some may see that ability, that asset to be so strong that he would be seen as “amazing.”
Linda S. USA
**7. I think some blind people can use their blindness in the form of an asset. It does get peoples attention and once that attention is capture, the blind person could then mold that attentionn into something of a asset. the trick is to know when you are at the point of attention and then what to do to make that interest into a positive.
Charles Harmmer USA
**8. If I were asked if blindness is an asset to the performance of my job, I would say yes. As the owner of a fair trade gift shop, I choose items that have
tactile appeal, intrigue the ear and sense of smell too. Since I deal and handcrafted items from over thirty countries, it gives an added unique quality
to what I sell. When waiting on customers, I am not influenced by their appearance and can readily be courteous to a biker in leathers or a prim grandmother.
I am equally friendly and informative on the origins, materials used and uses of what I sell. I can readily tell them about other items that compliment
the item they are considering or point out other things they might choose. My demeanor isn't negatively impacted by their appearance. I suppose that I
might be at a disadvantage detecting shoplifters, but probably not to a high degree because my interactive approach leaves most people assuming I see some
rather than none at all, so they couldn't be sure I wouldn't catch them out. I once introduced a friend to my sighted spouse and was startled by his cool
response. I found the lady charming, funny and intelligent. He saw only that she was overweight, wore old stained clothing and that her hair needed a
wash and was unattractively styled. It took him several interactions with her for him to get to know the person I knew. So in that much of my job is dealing
with the public, not seeing them keeps me helpful, friendly and polite no matter their appearance.
DeAnna (Quietwater) Noriega
**9. I have been told many times before by teachers that I am an asset to work with. I've also been told this
by my workout trainers. I work out twice a week at a nearby fitness center owned by the local park district. While I do very much appreciate being told
that I am an asset to work with, it gives me sort of an awkward feeling. For instance, my workout trainers speak very highly about my punctuality and the
fact that I have good stamina. However, might the same thing not be true of other people who work out there too? What if I never showed up on time, and
never trained hard? Would they specifically make an effort to point this out only to me and to nobody else? When people tell me this I thank them. Another
place where I've been told this is at church. I am a frequent reader, and I always get compliments following the service on my presentation of that Sunday's
lesson which I am scheduled to read. I have done this for several years and it has always worked out very well. One of our priests tells my parents which
lesson I am assigned, and then one of my parents dictates it to me and I put it into Braille.
Another situation in which I find that I am an asset is vocational rehabilitation. It seems not many VR professionals who work with the blindness population
know anything about JAWS or Window-Eyes, just to name two things. At least that seems to be the case here in the Chicago area. I have found myself educating
the so-called VR professionals about the many types of assistive technology. While I do enjoy doing this, I think it is a shame that they don't know anything
I serve on my township's disabilities committee, and they have often told me what a big asset it is having a committee member with a visual impairment to
the degree that I have mine. This in my view is a very nice compliment. One of our main focuses lately has been employment, and we are organizing an informational
seminar for job seekers and their friends and families. We hope to disseminate valuable information regarding job hunts. I for one am hoping I can get
more information about working through the VR agency, because I am stumped as to why they haven't responded to me as of late. But I digress.
Regarding the situation in the short story, I think the interviewee was definitely making good use of the interview by showing off his PDA, and he will
most likely prove to be a great asset to whatever job he finds himself in.
Jake Joehl, Chicago, Illinois
**10. I always believe that things happen for a reason and this particular "Thought Provoker" couldn't have come at a more appropriate time.
My name is Rex and I have only recently joined the "Thought Provoker" mailing list. Though I have not been able to respond to every provoker sent out, I
do read the comments and I have learned much through the words of others who are blind.
I want to tell you two stories. One goes back to 1988 and one is a currently developing tale.
In 1988, I decided that I wanted to get another job. I had worked for IRS but I quit because of management and personnel reasons. In 1988, I decided to
move from Madill, OK, where I currently live, down to Fort worth. I stayed with an Aunt and Uncle who lived there and we looked through the newspapers
for jobs. I discovered that SWB was hiring telesolicitors to ask for charity contributions to help the Special Olympics. I asked my Uncle to drive me to
the applicant office, filled out the application and did the one-on-one interview. The interviewer liked the application responses and the interview went
well and I was told that I would be contacted soon thereafter.
About two weeks later, I developed a temporary heart condition called ASinus Disrythmia (Doctors forgive my spelling) and had to come back to Madill for
treatment. About a week after I returned, I learned that I had been hired but I had to decline the offer. I considered this a blow to my credibility but,
as I said, I believe everything happens for a reason.
Soon thereafter, I purchased a set of drums and became a professional musician in 1992. For the next several years, I was happy just being a musician but
I needed more. In 1999, I began to study law through distance education courses and through online forums. I now have a substantial number of credit hours
in law, most of that in Constitutional study.
I began a campaign to address government ineffectiveness in early 2000 and I made some people mad and the City of Madill attempted to sic the City Attorney
on me. The City Attorney wrote to me and I wrote him back and we developed a dialogue. Now, I work for the City Attorney and I direct and develop municipal
policies and do legal research. I absolutely love my job and I have an opportunity to make a real difference in people's lives.
But, there was something still missing from my life. someone to share it with. I began to sign up with online dating services attempting to meet people.
I would always be up front about my blindness and this would scare women off before I was even able to develop a dialogue with them. I started to wonder
what I was doing wrong so I searched for articles and newsletters on dating. I found a good one at
and it has changed my life completely.
I learned that women want a partner who is confident and who can provide for her needs. I learned that many people have never had any experience with a
blind person and therefore they have ideas and notions of what blindness is and, these notions and ideas are incorrect.
After reading several of the dating secrets articles, I thought, "well, let me try a sense of humor, I won't reveal that I am blind until it becomes necessary
in a conversation." it's hard for me to believe, but, it works.
I communicate with several potential partners at this time and I did not tell any of them that I am blind until a conversation came up about cars or watching
movies. I also will not tell them that I am blind until I am in a real-time conversation with the women (messenger or phone); unless of course, the woman
asks me via email what kind of car I drive and then I tell them that I am blind and I have a little narrative written up which explains what blindness
is to me. All of the women I have talked to have told me that what impressed them most was the confidence with which I talk about being blind.
In short, I'm saying that most of us have believed that blindness is a nonasset in the dating community, but it doesn't have to be that way. Use blindness
as a means to show confidence. Speak confidently about blindness. I tell sighted people that the only thing I can't do is drive and I have! done this before
but after wrecking the family car, I promised my friends and family I would not try to drive again. this is a true story by the way and I'm not making
up the fact that I have attempted to drive. I'm sure others reading the "thought Provokers" have also attempted to drive. maybe that could be a topic for
later discussion? How many of you have tried to drive with a sighted person telling you right or left and grabbing the wheel from time to time to keep
from crashing. it's great fun but it scares the hell out of those who can see.
Finally I say, blindness is one of the greatest assets that we can have. Most of us who are blind are articulate, we generally write well and speak well
and we are not impressed with material things. there are exceptions to the rule of course and this will always be. My parents did not cry and feel sorry
for themselves when they learned that I was born with an undeveloped Optic Nerve. they declared that I would live a normal life and I have benefited greatly
from this attitude. I remember my father blindfolding me so that I wouldn't use my light perception to tell where things were and because of this, I am
able to sense things with other parts of my body. I'm sure many of you know exactly what I'm talking about.
I hope this narrative helps someone along the way. If any of you would like to correspond with me directly, you can contact me at
**11. If the blind person feels confident about himself all around and particularly with his qualifications for the job and how he would be able to accomplish
the expected tasks, then he/she will feel that his blindness is an asset. If, on the other hand, the blind person lacks confidence and has a low self-esteem,
then he'll feel that his blindness is more of an inconvenience. The blind man in this narrative feels that his blindness can be an asset, which is, more
than likely, why he didn't mention his blindness on the application. He felt very confident about the position he was applying for and all the expectations
of the particular position.
As to whether or not he should have mentioned his blindness on the application, I think that it's really more a matter of personal preference. Some
people, even if they may feel very confident about being able to meet the expectations despite their disability indicate their disability while others
don't feel the need to and, thus, don't. To me, whether a person is disabled or not doesn't matter. The bottom line is whether or not they have the qualifications
and can efficiently complete the expected tasks. After all, there are some positions set for sighted people that blind people are better at and viceversa.
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