[nabs-l] Ignorance vs. Prejudice

Beth thebluesisloose at gmail.com
Tue Jun 16 12:59:39 UTC 2009

I have probably the best friend you could ask for.  Aaron is probabl
the coolest sighted guy ever.  We don't normally talk about blindness,
it's something I don't wish to always talk about, but Aaron accepts
that I use my computer differently than others.  I guess being able to
chat on FB and AIM makes me more of a person than if I don't.  There
are those who use MSN and Skype who can probably see my point.  But a
lot of people use FB.  But one of the nicest things about Aaron is
that he doesn't ever say I can't do something because I'm blind.  I
don't know if other sighted people in Florida really view us that way.
 That's just my two cents worth.

On 6/16/09, Rania <raniaismail04 at gmail.com> wrote:
> I think it has to do with both the experience the person has or has not had
> with blind people as well as the personallity of the person. I have found
> some people to just except me for who I am and ask me questions like how I
> use the computer. Once I explain how it works they understand at least to me
> it seems that way. I really like it when sighted people whom have never been
> around a blind person are interested in learning what they can by asking me
> questions. That shows me that they are excepting of my blindness and how I
> do things.
> Rania,
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Arielle Silverman" <arielle71 at gmail.com>
> To: <nabs-l at nfbnet.org>
> Sent: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 1:01 AM
> Subject: [nabs-l] Ignorance vs. Prejudice
> Hi all,
> Recently we’ve been talking about airline discrimination, which has
> historically served as a good representation of the kind of
> second-class treatment that we often get in everyday interactions with
> members of the public. I think Jedi made some good points in
> describing the tendency of some sighted people to judge us as
> incompetent based on the role of sight in their own lives and their
> assumption that losing their sight would leave them incapacitated. It
> is true that we are a tiny minority (even within the disabled
> community) and that a lot of sighted people simply don’t know how we
> perform everyday tasks. In some cases this ignorance leads to
> discriminatory treatment (“The blind person can’t sit in the exit
> row”) or stereotypes (“Blind people are slow”).
> What I’ve always found fascinating, though, is that lack of
> knowledge—ignorance—doesn’t always translate into discrimination. In
> fact many sighted people are simply curious, and if we tell or show
> them how we use the computer, read or travel, they quickly accept our
> alternative techniques and treat us just the same as everyone else.
> But this doesn’t happen all  the time. And then, on the flip side,
> there are those who know all the facts about blindness and still
> “don’t get it”. This includes, for  instance, the mobility instructor
> who’s taught O&M for thirty years but who still insists that you
> should walk three blocks out of your way rather than cross a busy
> intersection. Many of us find that our own parents make more of a big
> deal out of our blindness than do people we’ve just met, even if our
> parents have met competent blind people or been to blindness
> workshops, know Braille, etc. So there definitely is a difference
> between ignorance and prejudice. The combination of both is bad, but
> you can easily have one without the other. And it’s prejudice, not
> ignorance, that actually causes us trouble.
> Unfortunately, while we can easily remedy ignorance with simple
> education, alleviating prejudice isn’t that simple. It seems like much
> of the persistence of people’s prejudices comes from their emotional
> or “gut” reactions to blindness. The experienced teacher of blind
> students may know all the facts about Braille, including the fact that
> children who learn Braille while young can read just as fast as
> sighted children. And yet, on some gut level the teacher feels an
> aversion to Braille, seeing it as a stigma or a symbol of weakness. So
> no matter how well this teacher is trained, if she gets a kid in her
> caseload who has partial sight, it’s going to be  a struggle for the
> teacher to actively teach the child Braille. The parent who finds his
> child’s blindness frightening, likewise, is going to have a hard time
> letting the child play outside or do chores, no matter how  much he
> reads about what is best for blind children, unless he figures out how
> to let go of  his fear. I think so much of the success of our training
> centers comes from their ability to not only teach us practical
> skills, but also help us  overcome our own fears and negative feelings
> about blindness.
> And yet, as Monica has demonstrated, there  are those sighted people
> who display a lack of prejudice and who automatically include us and
> treat us normally without any prior knowledge about blindness or
> education on our parts. We all know sighted people like this, even
> though we often tend to spend most of our mental energy grumbling
> about the sighted people who treat us strangely. My boyfriend never
> met a single blind person before me, and yet in some ways seems to
> instinctively “get it” more than my mother, for example, who besides
> raising me for twenty-four years, also read many of the leading  books
> about raising a blind child. (Never mind that many of the messages
> espoused in those books are rooted in prejudices of their own).
> So  what do you guys think makes the difference between those members
> of the sighted public who show prejudice and those who don’t? Is it
> something about their personalities or experiences? And if simple
> educating isn’t enough to address people’s deep-seated emotional
> reactions, what can we do about it? Do we have any control over
> whether the sighted guy on the street grabs us or treats us with
> respect? It’s easy enough for us to tell who will be responsive to
> education about blindness and who won’t. But for those who aren’t
> responsive, how do we deal with them civilly while still protecting
> our rights and our freedom? And how do we deal with educators like O&M
> instructors, who have power over what we learn or what accommodations
> we get but whose judgments are affected by their misconceptions about
> blindness?
> I look forward to a lively discussion on this topic, as it’s central
> to how we act as an organization and how we can really change what it
> means to be blind for ourselves and for others.
> Arielle
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