Ten Tips about Blindness

Ten Tips about blindness

1. total blindness is not darkness, despite all the literary and metaphorical references. It is “nothingness,” because the visual centers of the brain are not stimulated. This translates into mist or fog, not blackness.
2. Other senses do not improve effortlessly as compensation, but can strengthen remarkably by attention and training. Echo location, for instance, where the ears detect changes in sound of footsteps or voice bouncing off objects seems to develop automatically in those who are born blind, but still has to be practiced diligently as in those who became blind.
3. Most people called “blind” can see…at least something, shapes, colors.
4. Only 8% of blind people know Braille. visual problems mostly affect the elderly whose fingers are less sensitive. Braille dots are difficult to distinguish from one another even in youthful fingertips.
5. Guide dogs are incredibly well-trained, but they are still dogs, with all the instincts of the species. They are trained to lead their owner safely down a sidewalk and stop before every street, staircase, or obstacle. The blind owner directs the dog left and right and tells her whether or not to cross a street. Often after repeat trips, a dog will recognize a store the blind person is aiming for and head that way. But we can’t just say, “Starbucks, please.” Guides are dogs, not taxi drivers.
6. We live in a visual world. Those of us visually-impaired cannot interpret facial expressions or gestures. Words like “over here” or “there” have no meaning to us because they are accompanied by pointing.
7.Act as if you’re on a traditional telephone when you speak to a blind person face-to-face. Say responses such as “really,” or “no kidding.” That way the blind person can locate you and face you. It’s embarrassing to talk to a sighted person and find that he’s 90 degrees or more from where you’re facing. Also, do not walk away without telling the blind person. You wouldn’t put the phone down while a friend is talking and go make a peanut butter sandwich without saying, “hold on a sec. I’ll be right back.” But blind people often find themselves speaking to an empty room or chair.
8. In encountering a blind person and wondering if he needs help, here is a good rule of thumb. Say, “let me know if I can help.”
9. All blind people are not musically-talented, although there is evidence of early visual impairment directing youngsters to more right-brained development.
10. Despite loss of sight, a person can still enjoy movies, plays, sports games, many other visual activities if she adjusts her attitude. Adaptations such as a radio headset can give play-by-play in a sports venue. Many theater companies now offer audio description to blind patrons.

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About Sally Hobart Alexander

Blinded at the age of twenty-six, I left California and elementary school teaching for life in Pittsburgh, Pa. There, I met my husband, got a Masters' degree in social work, had two kids, now 35 and 32, and became a writer. Surprisingly, the writing career led me full-circle to teaching, and I teach in Chatham University's M.F.A. program and lead two writing critique groups. Always, since the age of 26, I have traveled, not in the stereotypic darkness attributed to blindness, but a mist. My blog then, "traveling through the mist" will deal with issues in my culturally different life as a blind writer, teacher, speaker, and human being.
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