Like how Crocodile Dundee and Steve Irwin are meant to represent every single Australian, mainstream television and film have their own stereotypes for blind people. These stereotypes have, naturally, perpetuated many myths about blind people and blindness which are far from true. In this post, I’ll be doing my best to debunk some of these myths.
It is not my intention to offend any of my fellow blind people. I apologise in advance for any offense that may be taken from the creation of this post. Constructive feedback and discussion are certainly welcome.
Blind People Feel Faces and have super senses.
It is a common belief that when meeting someone new, the blind person being introduced will touch the new person’s face to discover what they look like. This is untrue. Whenever I meet anyone new, I will shake their hand just like many others. To me, this provides more information than feeling a face. If the person I’m meeting has a firm shake, I can assume they feel at ease meeting me. If I shake the hand of someone who is nervous, their hands might be clammy and their grip might be loose. It is also a belief that we all have super senses. The fact is, our other senses are doing the work that our eyes would do if we could see. Our senses of sound, scent, and touch work to act as our eyes. Sadly, we’re not all like Daredevil.
We All Have Guide Dogs.
Apparently, we all have guide dogs. If we don’t, we all want one. This is definitely not the case. Some of us have guide dogs, some use various mobility or identifier canes, and some choose not to use any mobility tool at all. This doesn’t even take into account people with multiple disabilities, each having their own unique skills and devices to help them get around. Furthermore, if we have guide dogs, it’s a common belief that it’s fine to pet the Guide Dog while he or she is working. Petting any working animal is definitely not ok and can potentially endanger the animal and their handler. I like to use the phrase given to children in stores when explaining this. “You can look with your eyes, but not with your hands.”
We aren’t independent.
Despite what people may believe, we can actually live and travel independently. For me, taxis and Uber are handy on rainy days, but I still prefer to catch public transport over using any form of ride-sharing service.
All blindness comes in handily-wrapped packages of other disabilities.
Another common belief is that our blindness is the result of some other disability. This is quite often not the case. I am the only person in my family who is blind and the 11th person in Queensland to have my particular eye condition. Even among those with the same conditions, vision may not be the same. Imagine how different everybody’s vision is, then, with dozens of conditions that commonly result in any type of vision loss! Some of us have some useable vision, others might not, and still others might have enough vision to fake being fully sighted. Not all of us wear glasses or contacts, as we have no need for them. In my case, glasses will not correct my vision and often give me headaches.
All blind people read braille, are musically gifted and know every other blind person.
It is believed that all blind people read braille. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Some people still have enough useable vision to read large print, or even regular print. Braille is a wonderful invention, but is often costly to produce, takes up much more space than hardcopy print documents, and is usually not even available in a person’s day-to-day adult life. Electronic devices which can reproduce braille on refreshable displays, similar to how a computer monitor changes to reflect characters for a sighted person, are expensive to make, taking many small, specialized components to build and maintain, often causing these machines to cost thousands of dollars per unit. While some people still use braille, a lot of us have turned to more recent advancements for our reading needs such as software which reads in a synthesised voice, or audio books read professionally or by a hobbyist found on YouTube and other social media. It is also often said that blind people are musically gifted. While many of us are, there are just as many of us that have no musical talent at all. It’s also a belief that just because we are blind, we know George the banker with his beautiful guide dog. One day as I made my way through a busy train station, the guard who was assisting me asked if I knew of her friend who was blind. His name was George, he worked in one of the banks and had a beautiful, well behaved guide dog. As awesome as it would be to know every single person in the world, this is not the case. While some blind people hang out in small groups and may know of others, there are simply too many blind people in the world to know all of them.
Blind people are fine with being prayed for and touched,
Our final myth is one that seems to circle about many specific interest groups. This is the belief that those of us with disabilities need healing, as it is God’s will for everyone to be cured of their ailments (because that’s what Jesus did.) I myself have been startled by many people wanting to lay their hands upon me for some fuzzy feelin’ healin’. Touching us without warning can be a frightening experience and should not happen. Add some heavenly healing into the mix and we have ourselves a frightening and often traumatic experience.
That’s it for today’s post. I’m sure that I have missed some myths. If you have encountered your own myths as a blind person or believe myths told to you as a person without disability, I’d love to read them. All of the myths I receive from my sighted readers will be put into a post similar to this one for a comparison. Shoutout to Charles Hiser, who edited this post. Any errors that you find are very intentional and of course are stylistic choices, thank you very much. Find him at @tristar1693 on twitter, or email him at Charles.firstname.lastname@example.org if you need anything edited. A Portfolio of his work is available upon request.
Thanks for Reading,