By A.J. Llewellyn
I’ve blogged before about my work as a volunteer at Braille Institute, work I am passionate about and committed to. Words and reading are my life. I can’t imagine a world without books but for millions of blind children this has been a sad state of affairs fast changing now that the small 5% who CAN read Braille is increasing every day.
Reading was my refuge as a child. It still is. Blindness is something I think about a lot. What if I couldn’t see? Could I still do the things I love? I’ve thought about this a lot since I started volunteering at Braille. I have watched newly blind people being taught how to walk with a cane, how to negotiate office floors where careless, sighted people leave chairs pushed away from desks…where their guide dogs eat things such as corn cobs that they can’t see…
And just when I was congratulating myself on being so good with the blind people around me I discovered I am not. Most of us aren’t. How many times do we use words that refer to vision in everyday conversation?
I’ll give you an example. At Braille last week, we celebrated our oldest volunteer’s birthday with an opera cake. “Look at that!” I said to the woman next to me who didn’t respond. What could she say? She couldn’t see it!
Duh! I apologized profusely but she wasn’t fazed. She is used to it. I became more and more aware of my word choices as the day went on. When the same woman told me about having to take her dog to the vet because she’d eaten a corn cob, she told me that the vet advised her to keep an eye on her!
Once again, she’s blind and lives alone with her dog. Which eye should she use, she joked.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot since watching an old video of the Australian movie, Hoodwink. Shoulda, coulda been a great movie about a true story – an Aussie conman who got a reduced sentence by pretending a police beating blinded him. He was eventually found out but still…I thought the whole notion of depriving oneself of a basic sense we all mostly take for granted took some skill and real cunning.
I am more aware now than ever of words and how they can hurt or heal. I worry about using words without thinking. I’ll call it word blindness. I think those around me know when I say something like “Isn’t the sky extra blue today?” to somebody who can’t see it that I’ll follow up with an apology…
And, I will keep an eye on that.