[nabs-l] Ignorance vs. Prejudice

Hope Paulos hope.paulos at maine.edu
Wed Jun 17 01:31:40 UTC 2009

I agree. A lot of the people around here are curious (especially about the 
guide dog). I'll tell you, though, at least for me, it's difficult for me to 
talk to them and to pay attention to the cues of my dog.
Hope and Beignet
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Sarah Alawami" <marrie12 at gmail.com>
To: "'National Association of Blind Students mailing list'" 
<nabs-l at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 1:51 PM
Subject: Re: [nabs-l] Ignorance vs. Prejudice

> Oh Same here. I've ben on travel  routs and have ben asked questions. I 
> try
> and answer as best I can while paying attention to what I'm doing.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: nabs-l-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nabs-l-bounces at nfbnet.org] On 
> Behalf
> Of Rania
> Sent: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 3:33 AM
> To: National Association of Blind Students mailing list
> Subject: Re: [nabs-l] Ignorance vs. Prejudice
> 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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