Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Myths, Part 2
As a follow up to yesterday's post about the myths surrounding deafness, today I am writing about the myths that exist about people with blindness or visual impairments. My desire and need to write these two posts grew out of the frustration Ashley faces on a daily basis from dealing with people who don't understand, or refuse to believe she is blind. She does compensate very, very well for her blindness, and I can understand why some people would assume she can see better than she does. But blind she is - she has accepted that and would really like others to accept it.
MYTH: Blindness is a tragedy. For people who suffer from blindness, life has lost all meaning.
With proper training and opportunity, the average person who is blind or visually impaired can compete in terms of equality with the average person who is sighted. In other words, the person who is blind or visually impaired can be as happy and lead as full a life as anybody else.
MYTH: People who are blind or visually impaired are helpless and require supervision in their daily activities for safety’s sake.
People who are blind or visually impaired are by and large much more independent than others give them credit for. Many are mobile and independent. Many view their blindness as a mere physical nuisance and not a disability.
MYTH: All people who are blind or visually impaired see nothing at all. Being blind means having no vision at all. People who are blind or visually impaired are always in total darkness, seeing nothing at all.
Only about 10-15% of people who are blind or visually impaired “see” total darkness. The majority of people who are considered blind have some sight, rather than no sight at all. That is, they have some residual vision, whether it is light perception, color perception, or form perception.
MYTH: A person’s other senses become more acute after the onset of blindness or visual impairment. People who are blind or visually impaired have “super” hearing.
Blindness does not entail compensatory powers. Although one may learn to pay greater attention to one’s hearing or other senses, those other senses do not actually organically improve.
MYTH: People who are blind or visually impaired often possess a sixth sense and are psychic or able to foresee the future. All people who are blind or visually impaired are musically gifted.
For people who are blind or visually impaired, there are no miraculous new powers awakening, no strange new perceptions, no brave new worlds to explore.
MYTH: All people who are blind or visually impaired wear dark glasses.
The need for any type of low vision aid (e.g. glasses, magnifier, etc.) is contingent upon the individual situation and preferences of the person who is blind or visually impaired.
MYTH: All people who are blind or visually impaired know Braille.
Only about 5% of people who are blind or visually impaired use Braille. Most use large print, magnification, “talking” devices, and volunteer readers.
MYTH: All people who are blind or visually impaired use a cane.
Less than 2% of Americans who are blind or visually impaired use a cane for orientation and mobility.
MYTH: Dog guides know where to go and how to get there without handlers telling them.
The handlers know where they are going not the dog guides.
MYTH: Dog guides let their master know when the traffic light has turned to green.
Dog guides cannot tell red lights from green lights in traffic. Rather, the person who is blind or visually impaired listens to the flow of traffic, determines when it is safe to cros, and then signals the dog to go forward. However, if a car is coming, the dog is taught to refuse to obey the command.
And just for the record, Ashley is totally blind (sees darkness) in her left eye, has an acuity of 20/2000 in her right eye meaning she can focus at about one inch from that eye, has no depth perception, can see colors and forms, is learning to use a cane, is learning Braille, does not have any magical or musical powers, and is quite happy with her life as it is.
Thanks to the National Federation of the Blind for today’s myth buster information.