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

Mary Willows mwillows at sbcglobal.net
Fri Aug 17 02:25:28 UTC 2012

Hello Ronit and listers:
This is always a good topic for discussion.  Public education about 
blindness is not something that we deal with and then it goes away.  As 
staff changes are made and young people become old and those who may never 
have met a blind person are now in a position to interact with us, we find 
reasons to launch blindness education campaigns.

Ronit, if you wish, speak to me off list and we can talk about ways to 
educate the staff with which you recently dealt.  I am sure none of them 
intended to be rude.  They are just ignorant.  There is a difference.  If 
this is a place where you will be working everyday, they will need to know 
the dos and don'ts.  Beyond that, it will be your attitude everyday that 
will educate them about your abilities.
----- 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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