THOUGHT PROVOKER 95
"Lights green!” How many times had I heard that one?
“Yes, that’s an easy one to tell.” I answered him back, waiting for him. I was in the mood to educate and as for later, we’d see. I talk to him, explaining how I cross streets. Toward the end of my spiel, having done it this way many times in the past, I through myself into telling him some of the funny things that can happen when some one thinks you need help. “Here are three wrong ways to guide. This first one I call the Little Red Wagon." Shifting the long white cane, I took the tip end in my left hand, still holding the other end in the right, I mimed someone pulling me forward. a short barking laugh told me he liked that one. “Or," I got around behind him and had him by the elbows. "I call this the Wheel-barrel. With this method they propel you where they think you want to go; need to go there or not! Then there's one that I've heard of, it happen to a lady friend of mine. What this big guy did to her was....." Dramatizing by throwing myself up against his chest, like I was going over the top of him. "He picked her up, put her over his shoulder and carried her across the street. The Fireman's Carry, I call it."
“That’s hard to believe!"
"Truth!” I told him.
Then he said, "I confess, I do not understand all this. But I tell you what! You have taught me a lot about the capabilities of blind people. Your just regular people."
Work accomplished, I oriented for the next light. "Thanks, it was good talking to you. Remember all that positiveness you learned."
I moved off with the flow of other walkers. I felt pretty good about what he had learned and I had gained. Like they say, all in a days work; helping educate the public, while earning a few bucks to supplement my SSI. Yep, blind guys are just regular people. Some of us very capable pickpockets, too.
e-mail responses to firstname.lastname@example.org
**1. The blind man in the story is a bit bitter and cynical. Dealing with the public is all in a day's work, but educating them isn't. We're not obliged to give lectures about assisting blind people. If we do, complaining about what they do wrong isn't going to help.
If someone said "light's green", I'd just say "thanks" and go on my way.
Abby Vincent ACB-L listserv
**2. Amen, Abby; I don't mind doing it in the context of my job or my affiliate, but I don't expect to have to be "on" 24/7.
Darla J. Rogers ACB-L listserv
**3. Actually I disagree. I think educating the public is very important and it is an obligation I take seriously. If each of us takes the time to enlighten even one person a year, that is one less person that may have a negative attitude or stereotype towards blind people and blindness in general. It is also one more person who will think twice before dragging a blind or visually impaired person across the street by the cane tip. And that one person may even share their newly acquired knowledge with a friend or colleague. I'm not saying we should give a longwinded speech every time we meet someone, just take opportunities to educate as they present themselves. We should do what we can to let the general public know we are not stupid or helpless and can function independently.
Amy Snow ACB-L listserv
**4. Oh, I love it. So unexpected. We can be the villain too. Remember the blind chiq (shake?) who was behind the 93 trade center bombing? Now what did I do with my purse, ROBERT!
Jane Lansaw Omaha, Nebraska USA
**5. This has me wondering: Would or should a Blind person in prison be allowed to use a white cane? It might be used as a weapon by other prisoners.
Glenn Irvin Norfolk, Nebraska USA
**6. I enjoyed the one about the pickpocket. Not at all what I expected to read. Very funny.
I would enjoy receiving your Thought Provokers. Debby Eades
**7. The advantage of being a blind pick pocket is that you are able to alleviate your victims natural wariness and move in close without arousing suspicions. Playing on public attitudes regarding blindness gives you the advantage of disarming them. But the down side for the blind pick pocket is the very feature that gains him/her an advantage. Blindness prevents the thief from observing their mark from a distance. Where do they carry their money? Who else might see you as you make your hit? How do you make a fast exit if you are spotted? If forced into a life of crime, I would think it better to become a con artist.
Carl Jarvis ACB-L listserv
**8. That was a surprise. Yes, there are many people out there who think blind people are all of sterling character and none of us would do anything wrong. I guess that gentleman got a real education that day.
Sherri from Orlando FL USA
**9. The story of the blind pick pocket who educated a member of the public, "all in a day's work" evoked one of my pet peeves. There is an official technique for what is called, "sighted guide." the technique consists of the blind person taking the elbow of the "sighted guide" and walking a step behind the guide, holding firmly to his/her elbow, generally with the left hand. This technique is alleged to protect the blind person from injury and, with any luck, get him/her to where either the blind person wants to go or the sighted guide thinks he/she wants to go. This position subordinates the blind person to the stereotyped dependent status and takes away some of the control over whereabouts and destination. I have had many of these kindly persons seize my hand, place it firmly on his/her elbow and moved me to a rearward position, a step behind and trailing to some destination of my choosing or that of the guide. Invariably, I resist this humbling intrusion on my dignity and firmly inform the putative guide that I prefer to have my elbow taken so that we can walk side by side; walking together. That way, we are equals in the enterprise of getting somewhere instead of being a dependent subordinate, taken firmly to a destination that I may or may not have chosen. It might not be as dramatic as being thrown over someone's shoulder, but it deprives one of freedom of mobility just as surely and robs one of that cognitive awareness of one's whereabouts and course.
James S. Nyman Lincoln, NE USA
**10. Yep, I found that story very amusing; very creative as well. I know the first two "methods" well, but thank the Lord I have had no experience with the third. Would probably break the guy's back and he'd find some way to sue me. Smile.
As for the blind guy's dirty little trick, I tell people all the time that people with disabilities have the capability to be just as good or as bad as everyone else. Hey, there are blind jerks and sighted jerks, blind thieves and sighted thieves. If you ask me, for every two sighted people that take advantage of a blind person, there is a blind person who, in one way or another, takes advantage of a fellow human being. That's the way things work, unfortunately, and people need to be aware that there is no excuse for such treatment of others no matter who you are or your situation in life.
**11. A thief is a thief, regardless of visual acuity.
**12. Well, picking someone up and physically carrying them across the street, reminds me of the scene in the first edition of "What Do You Do When You Meet a Blind Person?" That scene was very clever. Sure, it is not how you'd normally help one of us cross a street, but it was just portraying something in a comical way. I wish that documentary was kept like that, rather than being remade. The remake is not nearly as funny in my opinion, and as a matter of fact it is rather boring. I showed the remake when I first moved into this apartment complex, and I told everyone about the original make. I told everyone that yes, visually-impaired people do have a sense of humor just like sighted people. I have done a lot of educating since I moved here, and I am happy to report that it has really paid off. I've told all my new neighbors to feel at ease around me, and to carry on conversations just as if they were with a fully sighted person. Everyone has been very helpful here, and in some cases they've gone overboard on the helping thing. To me this is not something to get all up-tight about, as some visually-impaired people do, but there is a point when we as visually-impaired people have to politely say thanks but no thanks. I've done this too and nobody was ever offended.
Jake Joehl, Evanston, Illinois
**13. The way I was taught to cross streets that didn't have an ample enough flow of traffic like at an intersection was to cross when there were no cars in sight, rather than going by the color of the light or by one or two cars that were sitting at it. But sometimes while waiting for the street to clear a car would stop and wave for me to go. I was told to ignore it, since a driver could unexpectedly change their mind and start going as I was crossing. Drivers never seemed to understand when I turn away when they're trying to be polite. As one of my mobility instructor's once told me, not everybody out there is trained in travel.
Patricia H. New York USA
**14. Well, picking someone up and physically carrying them across the street, reminds me of the scene in the first edition of "What Do You Do When You Meet a Blind Person?" That scene was very clever. Sure, it is not how you'd normally help one of us cross a street, but it was just portraying something in a comical way. I wish that documentary was kept like that, rather than being remade. The remake is not nearly as funny in my opinion, and as a matter of fact it is rather boring. I showed the remake when I first moved into this apartment complex, and I told everyone about the original make. I told everyone that yes, visually-impaired people do have a sense of humor just like sighted people. I have done a lot of educating since I moved here, and I am happy to report that it has really paid off. I've told all my new neighbors to feel at ease around me, and to carry on conversations just as if they were with a fully sighted person. Everyone has been very helpful here, and in some cases they've gone overboard on the helping thing. To me this is not something to get all up-tight about, as some visually-impaired people do, but there is a point when we as visually-impaired people have to politely say thanks but no thanks. I've done this too and nobody was ever offended.
Jake Joehl Evanston, Illinois USA
**15. Very good and creative! Enjoy reading these and pondering. Thanks.
**16. Again, another wonderful provoker! This happens to me daily and just last night I was ranting with a sighted friend about how every day, all day, I'm working to not only educate the public, but also keep my own sanity and self-image intact. When you constantly hear phrases like , "light's green", or "watch out for the stairs", or "Sir, you are at 16th and Locust Street", one can almost start wondering if they really know what they are doing since almost everyone else around them appears to have no confidence in their skills. I love the illustration of how people help, that was funny too.
Andre Watson Philadelphia, Pa USA
**17. I certainly have heard of the three ways blind people have been guided as well as experienced them--being told that the light is green, The Little Red
Wagon, and the Wheel Barrel. I've never been guided via the Fireman's Carry, though, nor heard anybody led that way unless in the case of a fire and treacherous
terrain in which it would be too dangerous to walk through to get out of the danger in time alive. I don't know if that fourth way has really happened
just to carry a blind person across the street or whatever, but I'm sure that the blind person was adding that to the litany of things not to do just for
humor. While I wouldn't want to be guided like that, it would be rather hilarious
I think that the best environment to educate the public is in informal situations and when the person wants to be educated. Such was the case with the man who told the blind person that the light was green. When the blind person confirmed that he knew that the light was green even though he couldn't see it, the stranger asked how he knew. Then, the stranger asked more questions, which prompted the blind person to answer more as well as add more to what wasn't asked. (NOTE: I don't know whether the blind person is a he or she, so I'll just presume that the person is a He. Apply whatever gender you wish.) In my experiences, people are more apt to feel more comfortable with learning about kinds of people they've only heard about but never met before--blind people, those with other disabilities, people of color, those from other cultures or ethnic backgrounds, etc.--than they are in a formal situation. There seems to be an easier flow of conversation in informal situations than there is in formal situations. If inquiring minds really want to know and want to ask, they'll ask you more questions than you can answer in one breath. Such situations as in this narrative can also provide ways of meeting new people as well to get together with. Since the narrative was limited, it is possible that the blind person and the stranger could meet up again and they exchange phone numbers so that they could get together some time. Such was the case with one of my dates. About twelve years ago, I was on my way to my parents' house for my mother's birthday. While I was waiting for the green light to cross the busy street to catch the next bus, a young man approached me and started talking to me. He, too, told me that the light was green. Like the blind person in the narrative, I knew that the light was green, but I still thanked the man. As we crossed the street and I sat down at the bus stop, the man crossed with me and sat down with me. He never asked me how I knew when the light was green or how I got around. Instead, he asked me what bus I was waiting for. No soon one of the buses arrived, he asked me for my phone number. Because I didn't have time to write it down for him, I quickly rambled it off to him as I boarded. Of course, I never dreamed that he would even remember because I rambled off the numbers much faster than I could even remember a phone number rambled off as fast as I rambled them off. Two weeks after the man and I met as I was crossing the street, he called me and asked me out on a date. Though we only dated for a month, the fact that he felt comfortable with me and my blindness made me feel comfortable about him. He didn't ask me how I bowled or how I roller skated since I couldn't see. We just went bowling and roller skating. When I walked with him sighted-guide, I looped my arm into his the way couples in love walk down the street arm in arm. Sure, I still had my cane extended, but to the general public, we were more like a couple in love than we were a tall man leading a short blind woman around. Not only did I educate him through living as an example rather than telling him what is what, but my date and I became an example to the public at large who saw us. Just because a blind person may be holding onto a person's arm doesn't mean that he/she is being guided around like some helpless puppy. When John, my husband, was able to walk far distances, he and I walked the same way. People who thought that I was being kidnapped and led around by a burly Black man found out when I told them that he and I were husband and wife. They not only learned something new, but I'm sure that they felt like absolute fools. In conclusion, there are all kinds of situations in which we as blind people can educate the public without always being in a formal environment. Sometimes, it is through somebody asking you questions as you're waiting to cross the street or walking down the block. In most cases, however, it is through living by example. People are always watching us not because they're gawking, but because they don't know and they want to learn. Sure, you have those who gawk, but for the most part, watching eyes are those who are curious but are afraid to ask or don't know how to ask for fear of offending you.
**18. Instead of trying to educate people, I just live with them. For example, re street crossing, if someone asks if I need help, I would say no with thanks or, if warranted, I would ask them what I needed to know or tell them I needed to take their arm. Education is not a project. It just happens in the flow of life. I have had very few instances of being treated differently and I think that is because, from my earliest days, I was part of the stream of life. Using that viewpoint, education is not necessary--just explanation once in a while, just as is done between sighted people. What is expected is very often what you get--regarding treatment by others and in all life's facets. Beth, Newport News, Virginia
**20. I am generally patient with silly questions and don't mind explaining what I am doing, how I am doing it or why. It is funny though how the general public tends to place us in categories at the extremes of the norm. We are viewed as either saints or sinners. We are deemed to be remarkable for just getting our clothes on correctly and brushing our own teeth or possessors of super human skills and arcane talents. In actuality we fall somewhere in the middle. Even those who should know us better can display a lack of understanding. I was explaining how to help visually impaired customers to my stepfather when he and my mom helped run a booth at an ACB Convention. My dad was shocked when I implied that he needed to be observant to shoplifting. Just because his lovely daughter would not do something like that, didn't mean that all blind people were equally honest! My mom on the other hand is startled when other blind people don't manage their grooming and basic independent living skills well. This story reminds me of a news story sometime ago about a blind burglar being observed lifting his guide dog through a window. I am sure that his version of self employment wasn't one approved in any vocational rehabilitation Plan.
DeAnna Quietwater USA
**21. This was hysterical!!! It shows that blind people can also have a sneaky side just like sighted people. Do blind people serve time in jail?
Marcia Beare Martin, Michigan, USA
**22. I have known of a couple of blind men who were convicted of crimes and sent to prison. One guy after feeling a slight by a bartender, left and came back with a gun and sprayed the interior of the bar with bullets; didn’t hit anyone, but nevertheless and rightfully so, ended up in prison. Another guy robbed a Radio Shack and was caught on their in-store cameras and was later picked up and he spent time in the local jail. Those two people I had met, but I’d heard of several other severely visually impaired inmates who were getting services from the state VR agency while they were still incarcerated. Also, I know of a couple of buys who had been hauled off to jail for domestic violence; another No-No.
Larry Price USA
**23. Just a quick response to say that this one demonstrates for me a truth I've always known -- namely that blind people are in general as good or as bad as the next person. Cheers!
John D. Coveleski, Minneapolis, MN (
**24. I'm sorry I'm late responding to this thought provoker, but I am somewhat offended by it, even though it does teach that blind people are like other people and as such can be dishonest. But care should be taken not to convey that all blind people are out for your pockets... It is interesting to me that in the media I have seen a number of drama programs and even movies featuring or at least including blind characters. Of these, I can think of two in which the blind person was the bad guy -- but that was out of maybe 8 shows so 6 positive portrayals versus 2 bad guys is probably fair. Again, all I am suggesting is that the juxtaposition of the story and the statement that this though provoker was intended to educate the public I found kind of inappropriate. I'd be interested in reading the responses -- where is your website? Thank you and I’ll try to answer future posts more promptly.
**25. It would all depend on whether or not I felt like being an educator. I would probably just say "Thanks" most of the time. Sometimes I don't want to explain everything, I just want to continue with my life. Good for you that you took the time to enlighten someone.
Rhonda Partain ACB-L listserv
**26. (The following series of responses came about with the introduction of a new listserv called BlindTurd; which was to be a forum to describe the worse type of blind person you have ever met) Hey all, this reminds me: remember the thought provoker Robert posted a while back about the blind guy who encountered a sighted man who wanted to help him cross the street? After a long rather humorous exchange about misconceptions about blind people, the men parted happily -- and the blind guy had picked the sighted guys wallet...? I didn't say anything then but I thought that was a bit outrageous... I mean offensive giving blind people a bad rap. It might be interesting to post that little story on the blindtard list and see what kind of ripples it makes... (Just kidding of course!!!!) Just a thought. Cheers and don't be a blindtard!
Laura Eaves NFBtalk listserv
**2. Hi Laura; Do you still have that one? I must have missed it. What a disgrace on the blind. I am kind of surprised he would even print a story like that.
Terry Powers NFB listserv
...FROM ME: "I did repost TP93 to the NFBtalk) **27. Hi, guys. The thread about the BlindTard list seems to have died out, but Terry's post, and the subsequent ones I saw beneath it, made me think.
I somehow missed the Thought Provoker which had the blind guy pick-pocketing a sighted one. But Terry and Laura's posts got me thinking. If we'd seen something about a sighted guy pick-pocketing, would we have gotten mad about that? My guess is not, because it's not out of the norm, so to speak.
Blind people, as we say in the NFB, are a cross-section of society. The only thing different about us is that we happen to be blind. So, who says that there can't be blind criminals, common thieves or worse, just as there are sighted ones?
**28. Discussion of the old thought-provoker about the blind guy who picked a pocket reminds me of a TV show I used to watch about 20 years ago. It was about a middle-aged black couple who lived in an apartment house in Chicago. I think the show was called Good Times. The wife was "Florida" who had been a maid on the Maud show. Anyhow, a blind black vet comes to their door selling some sort of encyclopedia, and it turns out that he is a swindler. I remember thinking at the time that it was brave of the show to have a dishonest man who is both a black and blind.
Edmund R. Meskys
National Federation of the Blind of N.H.
Moultonboro Lions Club
**29. Isn't it wonderful that blind people are human good, with all the good and bad that it entails.
Dave Camble NFB web master
**30. I don't know Terry, I was somewhat amused when I read Laura's message (I missed Robert's original.) To be aghast that a blind person could do such a thing is a furtherance of the stereotype that we are somehow unaware or innocent of the ways of the world. I have met a couple of blind people who were very good at being very bad. One would have you think he was a priest until you heard a bit of the man's music collection such that no man of God would ever own. Another was a Seattle native and vendor at the Oregon state fair who was happy to rip off even children.
Both were con men who were eager to find and use any advantage. Blindness is an effective way to get people to lower their guard. It works as well as a nice suit, an attractive woman, or anything else. If they can find some way to distract you for just a moment to give them an edge, they'll do it. That’s the nature of the game they play.
Harmeet NFBtalk listserv **31. Really? You were bothered by this?
We're a micro chasm of society as a whole. Within our...community...we have all kinds. Good and bad. Philanthropists, boring people, fun people, white people, people who aren't white, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Agnostics, Atheists, married people, single people, straight, gay, bisexual, heroes and crooks. Nothing about that story bothered me. I saw it as being completely expected and plausible.
Harlon NFBtalk listserv
**32. Hi Harmeet; If this man could not see how in the world did he know where the sighted man's wallet was. When he got close, what did he do, feel his clothes with out him knowing it. It does not sound possible. If someone touches me I would back off. He could have had some sight or been sighted and faking it. what do you think. I also thought this thought provoker was about how blind handle complications with blindness and their discussions. This is why I was surprised to see a story like this, because it is a negative upon the blind if any sighted people read it. Since I am a Christian and try to help the needy where ever I can, the thought of a blind person stealing had never crossed my mind. I try to promote the NFB not downgrade it.
terry Powers NFBtalk listserv
I think that the blind man in this story used the cover of his sighted guide demonstrations to conceal his actions while stealing the man's wallet. When he was showing the man how people took blind people's arms from behind to lead them or when he demonstrated how sighted well wishers even tried to pick people up and carry them over their shoulders he could have easily taken the man's wallet. As far as the question of how did he know where the man kept his wallet, that really isn't too difficult to figure out. Most men carry their wallet in their right hand rear pocket. Even if this particular man didn't, though, the places that he could have carried it were few and the cover of demonstrating the various methods of intrusive sighted guide techniques would have provided plenty of opportunity to move around the man and make enough contact to locate and lift the wallet. I don't think that this is very moral conduct and I don't think that it is in any way admirable but I do think that it could be done. I have seen stranger things. I have had sighted people steal from me and I really don't doubt that there are some blind people in the world who would have no guilty conscience about stealing from a sighted person or even another blind person for that matter. It's sad but true.
Harlon NFBtalk listserv
Sad but true, yes. But no more or less sad but true when its done by a blind person than when its done by a sighted person. Equality means equality...Fully.
Harmeet NFBtalk listserv
You are right about this and I won't even try to argue. The actions of this person were a symptom of the human condition and nothing more. It may have been a person who steals all of the time and it may have been a person who made a mistake once but it makes no difference if they were blind or not. Equality is a double edged sword.
Harlon NFBtalk listserv