Examining ‘Blindness’ Prejudice

"Let's see if there is any prejudice ..."
“Let’s look a little more closely…”

“How do you handle going blind and deaf at the same time? Amy Bovaird shares her fears, her prejudices, and her denials — all negatives in this surprisingly positive book…” -Mike T, an Amazon reader 

Huh? Did he get that right? Surely I didn’t hold any prejudices! 

Preconceived ideas, perhaps. 

Tons of fears. 

Even denials. I could accept that. 

But prejudices? 

I filed that piece of information away, in the way we do when we feel uncomfortable and uneasy and we don’t want to examine it too closely. 

Several months later, I read another review of my book.  

“As a mobility specialist myself, I found this book of great interest to me for its subject matter… I was encouraged by the confidence and the change in attitude that overcame Amy as she completed her mobility training. She no longer looked at the word “blind” as having a negative meaning, but just accepted it as part of who she was.” — Kathryn Svendsen, Orientation & Mobility Specialist

There it was again. Blind and negative in the same sentence.  

I gulped. Only one way to find out. I fished for my manuscript to re-read the passage where I first met my blind mobility instructor. 

****

He took a sip of water. “So Amy, can you tell me a little about yourself?”

 We talked about my job and prior travels. He was so attentive that when he eased into the topic of vision, I explained what I knew about Retinitis Pigmentosa. I almost forgot it wasn’t a social visit until he said, “Perhaps the best solution is to simply tell people that you are blind.”

 “I’m not blind. I have a vision problem.” I glared at him—not that he would notice.

****

This was denial, not prejudice. 

I read on a bit further. 

****

“Bob, I run into tables and open cupboard doors and miss steps. I walk into walls and bump my head on my breakfast bar.”

“Are you legally blind?”

“I’m not sure.” Twenty years earlier, when I was diagnosed, the doctor said I was. But people who lose their vision gradually can get by for a long time. We keep adapting. Suddenly a big chunk of vision disappears. After everything I’d said to Bob, I still couldn’t admit it.

“From what you tell me, I’d say you could benefit from using a cane. Have you ever thought of that?”

“You mean a blind man’s cane?”

Did I just say that out loud? I can’t believe I blurted that out! “Bob, I didn’t mean … um, I meant like blind in a good way, well, it probably didn’t come out that way…” I was just making it worse.  “Sorry, I don’t need a cane. I’m just clumsy. I never look where I’m going.”

If only we could start this conversation over again. Better yet, maybe he’d drop this terrible subject all together.

****

Well, yes, I did have a negative association with the word, ‘blind.’  Any sighted person losing their vision would. But that’s not prejudice, that’s fear. 

But isn’t that what prejudice is based on? Fear. Not understanding? Seeing only what I want to see?

Fear of change.  

Fear that I once I picked up my cane, others would see me differently.  See me as less capable. 

They wouldn’t see the me who had traveled the world independently. They would see the me who fumbled and depended on a long stick.  It terrified me. The unknown gave me chills. 

I had to change my mindset about what I thought it meant to use a cane–and what message I believed that using one sent out to others. 

I recalled what I said at a recent speaking engagement about how I kept stumbling over the word ‘blind.’ Every time I came up psychologically bruised. Losing my vision meant I had to use a cane. If I didn’t adapt, I imagined my worst case scenario… 

Blind was … sitting at home, afraid to go out in the dark. 

My unseen prejudice hit me right on the noggin, just as if I had literally bumped into one of my many unseen obstacles. 

That was both prejudice and ignorance.

I needed educated. I needed to learn that blindness wasn’t the opposite of independence. 

Some people viewed me differently. 

Some were solicitous. Some ignored me. One man even waved his hands in front of my face to see if I was really blind. 

It took me awhile to learn that coping with blindness wasn’t like waiting with my head under the pillow for the bells to toll for my death. 

Blindness wasn’t life-threatening.

But I didn’t understand how to make it just another characteristic of myself–no more and no less important than any other one. 

Gradually, I gained more insight. It all started with me. How I viewed myself.  How I viewed blindness. The more blind people I knew, the more I understood it, and the more empowered I felt.

My Friday Friends column started out as something I used to change how I viewed blindness. I wanted positive examples of individuals whose life clearly said, “Blindness doesn’t own me. I own my life.” 

This column is one of my most popular blog features.  I use it to encourage myself and others, to educate and to change negative perceptions of blindness. I want others to see people who are blind as individuals with challenges but having as much or more potential as anybody else. 

It was difficult for me to admit even to myself–let alone to my readers–that I had held certain unspoken prejudices in my mind about blindness. Reading how others viewed my journey showed me how far I’d come in my thinking. 

My Book
http://amzn.to.1G7BDSe

Could I have avoided this painful crossroads in my life if I had looked blindness in the eye from the start? 

We all change opinions and grow as we journey through life. We step past our indifference and fears, along with the lack of understanding, unease and discomfort to embrace that which we fear.  

Have you ever read my Friday Friends column? If so, what stories could you relate to best or which ones taught you something new?

You have just read, “Examining ‘Blindness’ Prejudice by Amy L. Bovaird. July 8, 2015. Please take time to comment and share a thought.

Examining ‘Blindness’ Prejudice
Spread the love

12 thoughts on “Examining ‘Blindness’ Prejudice

  • July 8, 2015 at 7:34 pm
    Permalink

    Really interesting take on this loaded topic. Thanks for opening up and sharing a very thoughtful personal response.

  • July 8, 2015 at 9:27 pm
    Permalink

    This is great insight into the concept of prejudice, as it relates to blindness. Also it tells so much about what it feels like to lose your eyesight. Thank you for sharing that. I learned a lot about that. It was a well-written article and I could really sense your feelings.

  • July 9, 2015 at 1:27 am
    Permalink

    Aww Amy, such a heartfelt post. I can relate because I have avoided and denied certain parts of myself too. Looking back, accepting things right away may have helped but I don’t know if I was ready to at the time. Love your honesty, thank you for sharing.

  • July 9, 2015 at 3:55 am
    Permalink

    Good post. It takes humility and self awareness to examine yourself in such a critical way. Most people are not able to do that so frankly.

  • July 10, 2015 at 1:47 am
    Permalink

    Hi Jason,
    It is a little bit loaded, I agree. 🙂
    But it is a journey so they’re always best shared. I like to have the company of others, so to speak, and whenever I share what I feel, I think others can walk alongside me and we both know the landscape a little bit better.
    I like how you said it was “a very thoughtful and personal response.” Thank you so much for those encouraging words.
    Amy

  • July 10, 2015 at 1:53 am
    Permalink

    Hi Alice,
    Thank you for giving me such positive feedback, and for reading my thoughts with sensitivity. I want to print out your words and re-read them when I think that I am not impacting anyone. They are beautiful and encouraging.
    Amy

  • July 10, 2015 at 1:58 am
    Permalink

    Hi Ashley,
    Exactly! I wasn’t ready either. I don’t know what it takes to GET ready but I wonder why I took such a circuitous route. It’s good to be honest, hard sometimes, but better in the long run. 🙂 No more denial. 🙂
    Thank you for taking time to read and relate to my post.
    Amy

  • July 10, 2015 at 2:02 am
    Permalink

    Hi Trudy,
    Thank you. I loved your post on the High Line Park in NYC. Couldn’t view much of the video though. It kept stopping and starting. But I loved the post. Are you still reading the book? How do you like it so far?
    Thank you for taking time to comment and encourage me.
    Amy

  • July 11, 2015 at 2:35 am
    Permalink

    Hi Amy,

    Early on in my life, my RP went undiagnosed, so I learned to deal with my blindness by denying it because I didn’t know what is was. RP has taught me to be a problem solver. But even after my diagnosis, I still kept it a secret. But eventually RP wins and we can no longer keep it a secret. So many people with RP go through this denial phase. You’ve read my book, Seeing Through Blindness, and know of how denial tripped me up. It’s common. RP is very confusing. But I think only with some hindsight can we truly see blindness in a positive light.

    Matt

  • July 11, 2015 at 2:46 am
    Permalink

    Yes, you’re right, Matt. But I think it’s more than denial. We think that’s the worst thing that can happen. I did, anyway. The uncertain future … when it’s not. The denial and fear keep us in a prejudicial state perhaps until we find the courage to face it. That is when we learn that blindness is not the end of our independence. In fact, it could be if we let it. I really thought a lot about that and how things would have been easier if I had just been more courageous to push through my fears earlier. Could I have? Who knows? Maybe there is always that period of going back and forth until we forge ahead???

  • July 12, 2015 at 1:44 pm
    Permalink

    It’s okay. We all have prejudices. Good for you for taking what those reviewers said though, examining yourself further, and sharing what you found.

  • July 12, 2015 at 3:01 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks, Kerry.
    It’s like anything else. The more you get involved, the more you understand and grow.
    We do all have them about various things, don’t we?
    Amy

Leave a Reply