People being curious about blindness isn’t new. Every day I get asked how I use the computer (screenreader called NVDA, if you’re curious. I don’t typically use the mouse, just computer commands) and every day I get asked how I cook, clean, get around the apartment complex. Especially now that I’m comfortable enough where I live to walk around without a cane sometimes.
Sometimes, people have more NSFW questions.
Let me begin by saying - I’m not totally blind, I’m legally blind. Legally blind means I see less than 20/200. I can’t read text unless it’s like 300pt font, I can’t drive, my vision can’t be corrected by glasses. I can’t see detail, but I can sometimes see obstacles if they’re large and in direct contrast to the background. I walk with a white cane because most obstacles are knee-height or lower and it helps me to avoid these. I read Braille because I like reading on my own, rather than having someone read to me. However, humorous radio plays are my favorite thing in the world.
I’ve only been blind for the last four years and sometimes it’s very frustrating; I don’t think that will ever go away.
Anonymous asked: Hello! I was wondering if you have any tips for roleplaying as a blind character! Also, how would I portray someone blind having sex?
Okay let’s get started! Firstly there’s a big question to ask before you roleplay this; Is your character someone who has been blind their whole lives, or someone who has recently become blind? The question here deals mostly with their emotional content, their knowledge of certain things, and their level of skill in dealing with being blind. When someone first becomes blind, they can become really depressed and the loss can be felt pretty keenly. If they’ve always been blind, they might think of colors with longing. Not to mention, are they completely sightless, or legally blind? Everything depends on your choices here.
As a blind person, I get a lot of questions from people simply wanting to know a little bit more about how I live my life. There’s a lot of curiosity involving blindness & I’m more than happy to enlighten… Here are some of the more commonly asked questions & their answers.
Being a blind person is kinda fun. You weren’t expecting that, were you? See, people expect it to be miserable (and sometimes it is, though not for the reasons you may think) and treat people with visible disabilities accordingly. And honestly? I find it endlessly entertaining.
People react differently to blind people than almost any other visible disability - there’s a sense of fear there that isn’t usually present when they encounter someone who is in a wheelchair or deaf.
There are people who treat you like you don’t exist. Ask them a question, trip them with your cane, nudge them on the bus - YOU DO NOT EXIST TO THEM. I don’t know what sort of psychology this is, I pretend they’re like a child with a “If you can’t see me, I can’t see you” kind of mentality. Sometimes this backfires because it takes all I can to NOT play peek-a-boo with them.
There are the overly helpful people. These people will offer to follow you to a destination, grab your cane arm (PRO TIP - don’t do that) and point it in another direction or pull you somewhere, or try to guide your free hand somewhere. To this type of person, don’t get me wrong. I understand you come from a good place and you just want to help, but treat us like you would anyone else. Don’t touch unless given permission. Don’t touch my cane, don’t touch my arm, don’t touch my dog. Don’t tell your children how brave I am and to be like me. It’s kinda weird. I’m just on the bus trying to get to my destination, just like you.
There are the angry people. These people, for whatever reason, are pissed off because YOU can’t see and are CONVINCED you are faking it. They will shout abuse, throw things at you because they think it’s funny, and generally be a big bully. I once had a guy who followed me for six blocks, tormenting me, waiting for me to trip and when I got where I was going, said I was obviously faking my blindness because I knew where I was.
No matter where I go, though, people notice me. They notice the cane and write me off. When I walk on a busy sidewalk, people part like the Red Sea. When I’m on the corner waiting for the light to change, people tell me when it’s safe to go (again, I know your heart is in a good place but I got this under control. Thank you for your concern). I’m constantly aware of my appearance because the National Federation of the Blind has drilled into my head that I represent them. I represent all blind people when I’m outside. I have to show people that YES, it is possible to lose the majority of your vision when you’re 22 and survive. Blindness isn’t a death sentence, it’s an inconvenience. Like having to take the stairs when you’re used to taking the elevator.
No matter where I am, what I’m doing, who I’m with, in the back of my mind, I know I’m being stared at. This isn’t paranoia, this is an actual thing. It’s all the attention of celebrity with none of the perks. And you know what? It took me a long time to get here. So stare all you like.
I don’t read many books about blind characters. This is in part because there aren’t that many around, but also because the ones I have read just weren’t terribly good. I have enough problems dealing with misinformed opinions and well intentioned ‘help’ in real life that reading about them in my leisure time makes me angry.
Please, for the love that all you consider holy or true, STOP blindfolding yourselves & walking around the house in order to understand blind people. It won’t help you & you could hurt yourself.
I find myself striving for change, wanting to help others and show the world what blind people can do…
But fall short of exactly HOW to accomplish that.
I keep wanting more blind & low-vision people in media… but when they actually show-up, I cringe.
So I had a really unpleasant experience on Saturday night - a woman harassed me in a movie theater because of my guide dog and her perceived notion of “blindness.” I was going to blog on it, and I still might, but the whole issue got me thinking about something related that deserves discussion.
It’s not talked about as much as other “-isms” (racism, sexism, etc). Some might say it’s because it happens less, it’s less prevalent, etc. But I don’t think so. I think people need to talk about it way, way more than they do now, and in a very different.
When most people think of ableism or discrimination against disabled people, they think of distinct, extreme, obvious things - disabled people being rejected for jobs they are qualified for, for instance. And while that happens, I don’t think the average person realizes the ableism that occurs in every day life.
Here’s an example from my upsetting encounter Saturday night.
After being harassed by a woman who was accusing me of faking my disability and threatening to call the cops to the theater, a worker approached me and asked me for “proof” that my dog was really a service dog. I informed that asking me for proof is illegal in the US as many service dog users self-train their dogs and wouldn’t have “proof.” She assured me she believed me and was on my side, but if she was going to report the woman to her manager, she knew her manager would ask if she got “proof” from me first.
Sounds logical, right? I mean, she was just trying to protect me.
Except not really.
I had done nothing wrong. I was within my rights to have my service dog. I hadn’t even complained about the woman harassing me yet. *I* was the one being attacked - and yet, *I* had to provide ID and proof that I was disabled/my dog was a service dog. If the woman had called the police like she threatened, she would have been the one in trouble, not me. If the theater was really on my side, they would have stood up to the woman, regardless of my “proof.”
Sadly, there’s this odd perception that people “pretend” to be disabled to get perks.
No, really, there is. After telling this story, I had numerous people tell me “Well, they have to ask for proof because people take their non-service dogs places.” I won’t say this NEVER happens, but I will say I doubt it happens very often. And, on top of that, even service dogs can be asked to leave any facility if they are misbehaving/clearly a threat.
But, as I said, lots of people seem to think abled people fake disabilities. I’ve been yelled at numerous times for “faking” my blindness because I “looked” at something. Well, yeah, I did look - because I have some remaining vision. But people don’t know that. They don’t know that 90% of blind people have some remaining vision. And before they ask questions, they make decision. They place themselves as the morally correct and attack the person they assume is doing something wrong.
This opens up a whole topic of invisible disabilities that I don’t think I can go into right now. But, just FYI, invisible disabilities are a thing.
So you’re probably think “Well, I get all that - I wouldn’t do that - I’m not ableist.” But more there’s more to it than that.
This post is getting lengthy, so let’s get into lists. Okay, here are a few ableist things lots of people do with no ill will or intent that are still offensive/inappropriate.
1. Using phrases like “What are you, blind/deaf?” Even if unintentionally, it implies that blind/deaf/other disabilities are bad things. Or that only someone with those disabilities could do something like run into a door, not hear someone yell to them, etc. It turns the disability into an insult.
2. Referring to non-disabled people as “normal.”
3. Telling a disabled person how “amazing” or “brilliant” they are for doing normal things or just being alive - I don’t know. Strangers tell me how “amazing” I am for going upstairs. It’s obnoxious.
4. Assuming a disabled person won’t enjoy doing something because of their disability rather than asking them. (See also: assuming a disabled person’s limitations rather than letting the person state their own limitations.)
5. Assuming a disabled person requires your help before asking. (It implies the disabled person isn’t capable. Always ask or, even better, wait to be asked.)
6. Describing a disabled person by their “struggles.” So, like, in books where half the narrative is about how HARD it is for that disabled person because of their disability.
7. Talking to a disabled person only about their disability - keep in mind they have full lives outside of their disability.
8. Speaking on behalf of people with disabilities instead of letting them speak for themselves or asking them how they feel about something first.
9. Attempting to relate your abled experience in a conversation about disability. For example, during conversations about blindness, I’ve had numerous people say they “get it” because they once did an exercise where they were blindfolded for x-amount of time. Not the same thing, guys.
10. Whining about “perks” disabled people get (special seating, special parking, boarding planes first, getting extra time on tests, getting to take their dogs everywhere, etc). Abled people are privileged, and none of these small things makes up for that for those of us with disabilities. Also, even if you can’t SEE a disability, it’s best to let it go. Again, not all disabilities are visible, and disabled people are frequently accused of lying when they aren’t. It’s stressful and upsetting.
So yeah. That’s definitely not ALL of the smaller ableist things that occur in daily life, but maybe a few that will get some people thinking. Also, I”m very open to having a discussion about this. I am not the “voice” of disability (oh, yeah, let’s add an eleventh note - Saying things like “my cousin is disabled and he isn’t offended by….” No one speaks for the whole minority group. We all have different perceptions) so if you want to add or if you disagree - I’m open to hearing it.
In the mean time, thanks for reading this massive, massive tumblr post.
One time at a carnival, they tried to take away my white cane because it “could be used as a weapon” - and later some little kids stole it and were hitting each other with it, which was somehow MY fault rather than the fault of the kids’ & their parents.
The actual question was: How Do People Who Are Blind Get Around Safely?
Well, it varies from person to person as well as the situation.
In places where visually impaired people spend a lot of time, they usually move around by memory. On less familiar locations, most people who are use a white cane to search for obstacles. Some may have a guide dog, which alerts them to holes, curbs, cars, and so on. Some like to travel to new places by themselves, others may prefer to have a friend come along for the first trip.
When traveling alone on public transportation to a new place, a person who is blind may sometimes ask someone to announce their stop. People who are blind can receive mobility training, which teaches how to travel safely and independently.
I received my training at BLIND, Inc in Minneapolis. In addition to travel, they also teach computer and Braille literacy, basic culinary skills, and a shop class.
When you’re disabled, (particularly blind, I’ve noticed) people think you are incapable of doing the simplest tasks without assistance. Most people I meet are surprised I pick out my own outfits, put on my own make-up, cook food, get to the store, etc. Things that other people do everyday are suddenly remarkable because you have a slightly higher degree of difficulty.
Now, I told you that to tell you this. When you apply for a job, you’re suddenly helpless. Being blind and wanting to have a career takes a lot of patience, gumption, and self-esteem. If you want to be paid the same amount as a sighted person, have the same amount of respect, you have to do the same an able-bodied person does, but better and in a noticeable way. When you’re disabled, you are no longer part of the crowd - you stand-out, regardless of what you do.
When you want to be in the public eye, the bar is raised even further. Suddenly, they’re incapable of seeing anything other than your disability. They even will get upset you are there, because how could you possibly be anything more than your disability?
Quite a few don’t bother to ask me any questions, just dismiss me outright (which sometimes happens to sighted actors, too, I know) but the few that have tend to ask the same questions/have the same remarks.
How did you even read the script to get here?/How did you find your way here?
I have a digital copy of the script. I memorized it, then acted it out. Practicing on my own until I was satisfied with the results. / You placed a public casting call, I found the address and then GPS’d the location; exactly like most of the other people who are here today.
You’ll fall off the stage!
No. No, I won’t. And even if I did, it wouldn’t kill me. Sighted actors have been falling off the stage for generations, my lack of vision doesn’t make it special if I did the same.
The character isn’t disabled!
Please, elucidate how that would change the character at all. Also, I don’t have to play a blind version of the character. It’s called acting. If Marlee Matlin can play a hearing person, I can play a sighted person. My eyes are clear.
How will you find your markers?
I can utilize sandpaper or pingpong balls on the floor to find where I need to stand.
How will you read the script?
There’s a program that reads text after it is scanned into a computer, I also have sighted guide as well as family/friends that are willing to assist me.
Quite frankly, I’m talented & easy to work with. If given the chance, I’m sure I could prove to be quite the asset as well as change public perception of blindness.
Do you have any questions of your own?
What is audio description?
Audio Description, or more correctly Video Description (also known as DVS), refers to an additional narration track for blind and visually impaired consumers of visual media (including television and film, dance, opera, and visual art).
How does that work with the dialogue?
A narrator, separate from the cast if there is one, talks through the presentation. They describe what is happening on stage or the screen during natural pauses in the audio (such as between lines) but will sometimes occur during the dialogue if deemed necessary.
It is similar to a radio play.
Isn’t that annoying?
Well, yes, it can be. What I like to do is to first listen to an audio version of a film and then re-visit it without the service - that way, I have an idea of what is going on during the show while also getting the full benefit of the performance.
Where else can you find audio/video description?
Museums, exhibit halls, even the Disney Parks! While it is difficult to find and can be, at times, either overly or less descriptive than one would like, it is a great tool and can be immensely useful for understanding a visual medium without relying on a sighted companion for an accurate depiction.
However, it should also be noted that audio/video description in America is rather difficult to find on live television - and, sometimes, when you do find it, it is nearly impossible to enable the service on a cable box or television.
Some production companies are including an audio/video description track on their DVDs (much like enabling Spanish, French, or commentary) but it is only roughly 10% of all media that has been audio/video described will include this feature.
Quite often, the visually-impaired must wait weeks or even months before they can enjoy the same media as fully as sighted people (including books).
So, I’ve been debating on making one of these for a while - what could I possibly add to the conversation? However, my guilty-pleasure show “Teen Wolf” has gotten under my skin and I find myself unable to stay quiet about this any longer.
You see, Teen Wolf has a blind Alpha who leads the all-Alpha pack in the new season. While some people are oh-so-impressed with how clever this is & forward-thinking, actual blind people are taking it with a grain of salt. You see, the actor they have portraying the Alphas’ Alpha, as it were, isn’t blind. Which isn’t strange, as the only visible blind people in media are musicians (which is really sad - where are the blind actors?) What is also not strange is that the actor doesn’t seem to have had any training to portray a blind person. They seem to have handed him some sunglasses and a collapsible cane and said, “Okay, go be blind.”
For comparison’s sake, let’s re-visit how pissed people are about Benedict Cumberbatch playing Khan in the latest Star Trek film.