[Nfbc-info] educating hospital staff about blindness, any tips?

Karmalynne ladyklynne at gmail.com
Fri Aug 17 00:00:17 UTC 2012

Hi Ronit,

Don't have anything major to contribute, but I do wish much success
with your job.  Hope all works out well for you. Please keep us

On 8/16/12, Lauren Merryfield <lauren1 at catliness.com> wrote:
> Hi,
> You might need to write a memo about how blind people can be treated and
> circulate it or have a meeting and discuss your issues.
> I have had quite a few problems with hospital staff, as a patient or when my
> husband was alive and I was visiting him.  The staff would sometimes get
> more riled up about me than about tending to him.
> When I was a patient, I made sure they didn't have any strange messages on
> the wall of my room.  I asked them to write on their board that I was blind
> but to please treat me with respect and not talk down to me etc.  I think
> medical staff, in general, like much of the rest of the public, have
> negative ideas about blindness lurking in their minds.
> Thanks
> Lauren
> advice from my cats: "meow when you feel like it."
> The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be
> understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.
> -- Ralph Nichols
> Visit us at catliness.com
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Ronit Ovadia Mazzoni" <rovadia82 at gmail.com>
> To: "'NFB of California List'" <nfbc-info at nfbnet.org>
> Sent: Thursday, August 16, 2012 4:15 PM
> Subject: Re: [Nfbc-info] educating hospital staff about blindness, any
> tips?
>> Thanks so much, this was a good article. My quesotn is more about
>> educating
>> people who deal with employees of the hospital. My problem occurred when
>> I
>> went in to get my health checked as a new employe of the hospital. They
>> were
>> so surprised that I was blind that they treated me rather badly. Not
>> expecting that an employee of a hospital could be blind. I'm wondering if
>> I
>> should just talk about blindness in these general terms, or if I should
>> talk
>> about specifically dealing with disabled people who are employees of a
>> hospital?
>> Ronit
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: nfbc-info-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nfbc-info-bounces at nfbnet.org]
>> On
>> Behalf Of Frida Aizenman
>> Sent: Thursday, August 16, 2012 4:04 PM
>> To: NFB of California List
>> Subject: Re: [Nfbc-info] educating hospital staff about blindness, any
>> tips?
>> This is an excellent article. It is worth reading.
>> Cordially,
>> Frida
>> The Braille Monitor
>> Vol. 37, No. 4
>> April 1994Barbara Pierce, Editor
>> NURSES  by Sharon Gold  From the Editor:
>>  Recently Sharon Gold, President of the National Federation of the Blind
>> of
>> California
>>  and a member of the NFB Board of Directors, was asked to speak at three
>> continuing-education
>>  classes for Southern California nurses wishing to renew their state
>> nursing
>>  licenses. She was asked to address two topics: growing up as a blind
>> child
>> and
>>  blindness and the responsibilities of the medical profession. This is
>> what
>> she
>>  had to say:
>> Love is a four-letter
>>  word with a big meaning. If each of us in this room shared our thoughts
>> right
>>  now about love, we would probably all say something about the great need
>> for
>>  more love in the world. Indeed we would do well to nurture the growth of
>> love
>>  among us. However, while we all need to increase our sensitivity or love
>> for
>>  one another, it is important to recognize that we can be cruel to one
>> another
>>  even in our loving. Yes, to speak directly to the point of our
>> discussion
>> today,
>>  love can be a form of child abuse, giving rise to the need to defend the
>> child.
>> My parents were devastated when they learned that their first-born
>>  child was blind. Neither my mother nor my father knew a blind person,
>> But
>> what
>>  was even more devastating than the blindness was the way the doctors
>> handled
>>  the situation. They were kind men who didn't wish to upset my parents by
>> telling
>>  them their baby couldn't see. You may be thinking that perhaps the
>> doctors
>> did
>>  not know that I was blind; and, of course, you may be right. However, my
>> eyes
>>  were cloudy because I had congenital cataracts. My mother noticed the
>> cloudiness
>>  immediately and inquired about it. The doctors said that they would put
>> drops
>>  in my eyes, and the cloudiness would go away. In those days mother and
>> child
>>  stayed in the hospital for several days, and each day the doctors put
>> drops
>>  in my eyes and tried to avoid discussing my ophthalmological condition
>> with
>>  my mother.
>> As I have already said, these doctors were kind and loving
>>  men. They meant only good for my parents, and they certainly meant no
>> harm
>> to
>>  this new-born baby. But however shocking and cruel it may have seemed to
>> the
>>  doctors, it would have been more loving and kind to have openly
>> discussed
>> the
>>  actual condition of my eyes and my blindness with my parents.
>> You are all probably observing my gray hair and are thinking
>>  that this happened a long time ago and that surely it would not happen
>> today.
>>  You are right about the long-time-ago part. This event took place fifty
>> years
>>  ago, and I wish it were different today. Sometimes it is. However, there
>> is
>>  still real reluctance to discuss blindness when it strikes a family. The
>> tendency
>>  is still to bypass the subject or to minimize the situation.
>> My mother concluded that it would do little good to cry over
>>  the fact that I was blind. She decided the sooner she and Daddy began to
>> deal
>>  with the situation, the better it would be for all of us. Therefore, my
>> parents
>>  made a conscious decision to raise me as they would have any other
>> child.
>> Children
>>  need to be encouraged, have their behavior molded, and be disciplined. I
>> was
>>  no different.
>> But disciplining a blind child can often be a problem if there
>>  are visitors in the house or if the family is away from home and in the
>> company
>>  of others. Sending a child to his or her room until the identified bad
>> behavior
>>  is over may be acceptable discipline for a naughty sighted child, but it
>> may
>>  strike visitors differently when the child being punished is blind.
>> Indeed,
>>  any disciplinary measures at all may raise severe criticism from third
>> parties.
>> One evening, when I was very young, my parents had dinner guests.
>>  It was their custom with me (and later with my sister) to include me at
>> the
>>  dinner table rather than feeding me beforehand and excluding me from
>> eating
>>  with the family and the guests. Mother always set a beautiful table, and
>> this
>>  evening was no exception. I had my place setting, complete with a glass
>> of
>> milk.
>>  However, I wanted something in the middle of the table. Instead of
>> asking
>> for
>>  what I wanted, I took the child's shortcut. Standing up on my chair, I
>> leaned
>>  over the table to reach what I wished to have. In the process I knocked
>> over
>>  my milk, spilling it all over the table and the floor. My mother picked
>> me
>> up
>>  with one hand (as only a mother can do) and swatted me on the behind
>> with
>> the
>>  other while firmly sitting me back down on the chair. As she began
>> cleaning
>>  up the mess, she noticed that the guests were very quiet. It became
>> evident
>>  that they were upset when they voiced their intent to leave because my
>> mother
>>  had punished me for spilling my milk. They reasoned that, because I
>> could
>> not
>>  see the milk, I should not have been punished for spilling it. Mother
>> explained
>>  that I had not spilled the milk because I had not seen it but because I
>> had
>>  been doing something I should not have done--standing on a chair and
>> leaning
>>  over the table to get what I should have asked to have passed. Mother
>> told
>> her
>>  guests that, if I had been sitting properly at the table and had knocked
>> over
>>  the milk because I did not see it, nothing would have been said. The
>> milk
>> would
>>  simply have been cleaned up.
>> Many parents have difficulty raising their blind children because
>>  of the attitudes of others. Peer pressure is powerful at all ages, and
>> it
>> doesn't
>>  cease to exert that power at adulthood or parenthood. Good parents
>> demonstrate
>>  their love by teaching their children self-discipline and by expecting
>> and
>> praising
>>  good behavior. Withstanding the criticism of well-meaning friends and
>> relations
>>  can be very hard for parents, especially parents of blind children. Yet,
>> like
>>  sighted children, blind youngsters need standards for self-discipline
>> and
>> good
>>  conduct, and bad behavior should not be excused away by blindness.
>> Through the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children,
>>  a division of the National Federation of the Blind, and its magazine
>> Future
>>  Reflections, parents of blind children receive support from each other.
>> This
>>  network promotes the notion that it is important to set standards for
>> blind
>>  children similar to those set for sighted ones. Through sharing ideas
>> and
>> experiences,
>>  these parents hope to raise normal, well-mannered children who will grow
>> into
>>  successful blind adults.
>> Through its library of Twin VisionC Books, the American
>>  Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults provides a great service to
>> parents
>>  of blind children as well as to blind parents raising sighted children.
>> Twin
>>  Vision books are children's story books which have been disassembled,
>> interleaved
>>  with Braille transcriptions of the printed text, and reassembled into a
>> book.
>>  The facing page to each print page contains the Braille text. Parents of
>> blind
>>  children can subscribe to this library service and read the Twin Vision
>> books
>>  to their preschool children who can then touch the Braille while the
>> parent
>>  reads. School-aged blind children can read along with the parent. The
>> Twin
>> Vision
>>  books are also wonderful for blind parents who can read the Braille to
>> their
>>  sighted children while they follow along, looking at the pictures and
>> reading
>>  the print text.
>> Today we are very aware of child abuse. Doctors, nurses, and
>>  teachers look for the physical signs and report such symptoms to the
>> authorities.
>>  It is customary to look for bruises or other signs of physical abuse,
>> but
>> there
>>  are other kinds of child abuse, as well, and we are coming to recognize
>> forms
>>  that do not come from a physical beating. The mother who was still
>> feeding
>> her
>>  blind child baby food when he was ten years old was abusing him as
>> surely
>> as
>>  if she had beaten him. He was thin and underdeveloped. His facial
>> muscles
>> were
>>  atrophied. Her excuse for feeding him baby food was that, since the
>> child
>> was
>>  blind, he could not learn to chew. This parent thought that she was
>> providing
>>  tender, loving care to her son when in fact this was a blatant form of
>> child
>>  abuse.
>> Similarly, parents who require fewer household chores from
>>  their blind children than from their other youngsters are also abusing
>> the
>> child.
>>  These lowered expectations damage the blind child's relationship with
>> siblings
>>  and diminish his or her self- esteem. Further the child's development is
>> delayed
>>  because he or she does not learn tasks that are age-appropriate--picking
>> up
>>  her toys or clothes, making his bed, setting and clearing the table,
>> helping
>>  to wash the dishes, carrying out the garbage, helping with the laundry,
>> caring
>>  for the family pet, and assisting with the countless other chores that a
>> well-adjusted
>>  child learns to do growing up.
>> Verbal abuse is another type of mistreatment that can be as
>>  debilitating to a child as a physical beating. Reminding a child of his
>> or
>> her
>>  shortcomings often increases the tendency to make mistakes, eliciting
>> further
>>  parental criticism. Constant exposure to the preconceived and inaccurate
>> notions
>>  of others about his or her perceived limitations can be very harmful to
>> a
>> blind
>>  child's appropriate psychological development. We all thrive on
>> encouragement,
>>  and discouragement stunts our growth.
>> All children have dreams. Some are realistic and some are pure
>>  fantasy. Almost every child has dreamed of being a fireman or nurse or
>> doctor.
>>  Scurrying about the floor, racing to an imaginary fire, gathering up the
>> hooks
>>  and ladders, and putting out a raging fire are all part of a child's
>> play,
>> and
>>  that play translates into growth and development. Similarly, children
>> play
>> nurse
>>  or doctor and cure the worst ailments with the magic resident in the
>> doctor
>>  or nurse's kit. This type of play is expected of sighted children, but
>> as
>> soon
>>  as the blind child starts down the hallway with a toy fire truck, some
>> adult
>>  is likely to squash the fantasy by the not very subtle reminder that,
>> since
>>  he or she is blind, putting out fires would be an impossibility.
>> By the way, I am not at all certain that helping to put out
>>  fires is an impossibility for a blind person. Certainly there are blind
>> doctors,
>>  nurses, pharmacists, and others in the medical professions. Every time I
>> decide
>>  that a blind person cannot do a particular task or job, I soon learn
>> that
>> there
>>  is a blind person somewhere performing that task and doing it as well
>> as,
>> or
>>  better than, his or her sighted colleagues. The National Federation of
>> the
>> Blind
>>  has taught us that with proper training and opportunity we can compete
>> on
>> terms
>>  of equality with our sighted neighbors.
>> Toys are a very important part of all children's growing and
>>  developing. There is a tendency to think that blind children need
>> special
>> toys.
>>  Although I am not suggesting that blindness should never be considered
>> when
>>  selecting toys, I am suggesting that many perfectly fine toys are
>> sometimes
>>  eliminated from the blind child's collection because some adult has
>> decided
>>  that, under the circumstances, they are unsuitable. My mother thought
>> that
>> choosing
>>  a toy was an important part of every child's education and development.
>> When
>>  I was still too small to reach the counter, mother would put each toy in
>> my
>>  hand for me to see so that I could choose the one for us to buy. When I
>> grew
>>  large enough to reach the counter, I independently walked up and down
>> the
>> aisles
>>  in the dime store and carefully inspected each toy so that I could make
>> my
>> choice.
>> Many times children find their own toys. One day, when I was
>>  about eighteen months old, I found a ladder that a painter had left
>> leaning
>>  against the side of the duplex in which we lived. Being a curious child,
>> I
>> climbed
>>  straight up it. When my mother discovered where I was, she was fearful
>> that,
>>  if she called, she would startle me. Ultimately she decided to take off
>> her
>>  shoes and socks so that she could quietly climb the ladder and carry me
>> down
>>  to safety without frightening me.
>> Another day I found an open gate and rode my tricycle out of
>>  the yard and into the big world. I was found blocks from home, having a
>> wonderful
>>  time exploring on my own. As you can see, my childhood was not much
>> different
>>  from that of other curious children. Mother and Daddy never believed in
>> "can't."
>>  Mother was fond of saying that "I can't" never did anything, but "I'll
>>  try" can do many things.
>> Mud is always a fine and inexpensive toy. How many mud pies
>>  do we all recall making as children and eating, too, for that matter?
>> When
>> I
>>  was a child, all milk bottles were glass, and the empty bottles lined
>> the
>> back
>>  steps waiting for the milkman. I added to the fun of making mud pies by
>> taking
>>  the bottles from the step and carrying them to my outdoor kitchen. I
>> thought
>>  it great fun to fill one bottle with water and pour it from one bottle
>> to
>> the
>>  next. However, when a neighbor happened to observe this activity while
>> visiting
>>  my mother one day, she admonished mother for allowing me to play with
>> the
>> glass
>>  milk bottles. Mother's response to her criticism was that, if I were to
>> drop
>>  one of the bottles and cut myself, I would heal. In the meantime I was
>> learning
>>  valuable lessons, including how to pour water from one bottle to another
>> without
>>  spilling it.
>> In the early 1940's children were more likely to go out and
>>  find their own toys. When we didn't have anything to do, we climbed
>> trees
>> or
>>  walked along walls. There were no televisions or electronic games. Today
>> toy
>>  manufacturers look for ways to build what they call educational toys
>> that
>> will
>>  take the place of the coordination we developed from wall walking, tree
>> climbing,
>>  and the countless other things we found to do when we were children.
>> Visual toys are also an important part of a blind child's growing
>>  up. We live in a world in which most people see, and it is important for
>> blind
>>  children to learn that fact at an early age. One time someone sent me a
>> machine
>>  that showed pictures which were in a roll inside the machine. There was
>> a
>> crank
>>  on the top which, when turned, changed the picture. Since I could not
>> see
>> the
>>  pictures, an adult described them to me. I made up a story about each
>> one
>> and
>>  set about presenting picture shows to the smaller neighborhood children.
>> This
>>  was excellent stimulation to my imagination, which needed little
>> encouragement,
>>  and it also taught me much about pictures. However, it also taught the
>> neighborhood
>>  children that blindness made no difference to the quality of the picture
>> show
>>  and the stories that went with it.
>> The discussion this afternoon would not be complete if I did
>>  not talk a little about being a blind adult. Opinion polls have shown us
>> that
>>  blindness is feared second only to cancer. The average person equates
>> blindness
>>  with inferiority and even stupidity. At the office of the National
>> Federation
>>  of the Blind of California we spend much time talking to the adult sons
>> and
>>  daughters of older people about blindness. We emphasize that Mother or
>> Dad
>> is
>>  the same person she or he was before becoming blind. These people have
>> the
>> same
>>  need to do for their children as they did before losing their sight.
>> They
>> are
>>  often eager to pour coffee, cook dinner, and do the countless other
>> little
>> things
>>  that show their love, and they are still perfectly capable of doing
>> them.
>> We
>>  stress that these parents should be encouraged to do for themselves and
>> others.
>>  Even if you simply want to help, jumping up and grabbing the coffee pot
>> only
>>  makes the older parent feel inadequate. Remember that the person without
>> a
>> reason
>>  to get up in the morning has very likely lost the reason to live.
>> As nurses and other medical professionals, you are a very important
>>  part of your patients' lives. Your attitude toward blindness and the
>> blind
>> person
>>  will help determine the quality of the life your patient is able to
>> create.
>>  If you accept and promote a healthy parent-child relationship, your
>> influence
>>  can reinforce the attitude that it's okay to be blind and to expect
>> proficiency
>>  from a blind child. Similarly, you will make the difference with grown
>> children
>>  as they deal with the onset of blindness in their elderly parents.
>> Some of you deal directly with blind children and adults in
>>  hospital settings. We need and desire the same respect other patients
>> receive
>>  and the flexibility and optimism that enable one to get well. If
>> physical
>> therapy
>>  is in order, the blind patient needs the full scope of physical therapy
>> that
>>  the sighted patient would receive. If walking the halls will help a
>> patient
>>  progress, then the blind patient needs to walk the halls too. You must
>> set
>> aside
>>  the presumption that a blind person cannot be expected to do such
>> things.
>> It
>>  will be helpful if you keep in mind the fact that fear often arises from
>> accepting
>>  false evidence that appears to be real, and concluding that blindness
>> necessarily
>>  prevents a person from doing a given task is almost always false.
>> I appreciate this invitation to speak to you today, and I welcome
>>  the opportunity to discuss blindness. As professionals and as
>> individuals
>> you
>>  are important to blind people. Thank you for helping us teach the world
>> that
>>  it is respectable to be blind.
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Ronit Ovadia Mazzoni" <rovadia82 at gmail.com>
>> To: <nfbc-info at nfbnet.org>
>> Sent: Thursday, August 16, 2012 3:16 PM
>> Subject: [Nfbc-info] educating hospital staff about blindness, any tips?
>>>        Hello everyone,
>>> I am working part-time at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center doing
>>> genetic counseling. I went through employee health at the beginning
>>> and was met with alot of resistance about my blindness. I offered to
>>> do an educational inservice for them and they accepted. I have never
>>> done an educational session for hospital staff before, only for
>>> children. Have any of you done one of these before? Would you
>>> recommend I give hand-outs about blindness to these workers? Anything
>>> particular I should make sure and talk about? Any tips would be very
>>> much appreciated.
>>> Thanks.
>>> Ronit
>>> _______________________________________________
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