[nfbmi-talk] Institute of Blind Rehabilitation of Western Michigan University, at Kalamazoo
trising at sbcglobal.net
Tue Feb 26 21:15:48 CST 2013
Let us see. Here is a promising professional publication, produced by the Institute of Blind Rehabilitation of Western Michigan University, at Kalamazoo, in cooperation with the Rehabilitation Services Administration of the U. S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Do we find, here, the sense of importance and the urgency of commitment that are lacking elsewhere, along with recognition of the intellectual and physical capability-the plain normality-of the blind person?
The title of this exhaustive ten-page treatise is Techniques for Eating-A Guide for Blind Persons.1 These are the opening words of the preface: "After a cursory glance at the title of this manual, many people would dismiss it as relatively unimportant, or surely as something that does not present problems to blind persons. Nothing could be further from the truth." Methinks the authors do protest too much; as the Biblical admonition has it, the wicked flee when no man pursueth. For at the very outset the tone is so defensive as to suggest a lack of confidence in the topic.
However that may be, the next words betray a striking lack of belief in the general capacities of blind persons; for it develops that these authors are not addressing the blind person at all, but rather the people around him (families, counselors, guides, and other nursemaids) who are there to take care of him and be responsible to him.
"This manual does not pretend to have all the solutions to the problems presented to the blind individual when eating. At best, it is only intended to serve as guidelines for those who will be working with the blind individual in this specific area. It should be helpful to families or rehabilitation personnel who are in direct contact with the blind individual. Above all, it must be remembered that the acquisition of these skills and techniques require constant practice under close supervision ...... (I must interrupt here to say-as an old-time grammarian-that the subject-verb disagreement in the foregoing sentence comes from the treatise, not from me!)
What are these intricate "skills and techniques" which require such constant practice under such close supervision? The table of contents tells us, under the general heading of "Techniques:"
"To Approach Table Exploration of Place Setting Orientation to Contents of Plate
To Cut Meat With Fork
To Cut Meat With Knife ...
To Butter Bread or Roll ...
To Pour Salt and/or Pepper
To Put Sugar Into Beverage . . .
To Pour Cream . . .
To Pass Foods . . . (and)
To Eat on Tray."
Here are some examples of the intricacy and complexity of the problems dealt with in this scientific exposition by the authors-both of them, as we are told, experts in education and rehabilitation of the blind:
"During the course of eating, it is advisable to bend the trunk forward, bringing the face above the plate, should something fall from the fork ...
"In the process of eating, foods may be picked up by the 'stab' method which involves inserting the tines of the fork into the food and lifting. This is used for-such solids as string beans, fruit salad, etc.; or foods may be picked up by the 'scoop' method, which involves dipping the forward part of the fork down into the food, leveling the fork, and then bringing it up."
"In situations where it is difficult to pick up the food, a 'pusher' may be used. This might be a piece of bread or roll, or another utensil. such as a spoon or a knife, which holds the food in position to be picked up with the fork."
Now for some concrete techniques, skills, and scientific methods:
"To approach table: (1) Place one hand on back of chair; (2) With free hand, scan arms and/or seat of chair to ascertain shape and whether or not the chair is occupied." (One wonders, in the context of all this frivolous nonsense, whether the authors would also advocate, should the chair be occupied, scanning the occupant to ascertain shape.)
Under the heading "Exploration of place setting," we find the following:
"To locate plate, with flexed arms and curled fingers, lift hands to top edge of table and move gently toward center of table until contact is made." And a little later on: "With arms flexed, and fingers curled, follow right edge of plate, and extending arm and fingers gradually, angle to the right to locate tea cup and/or glass."
Here is an especially complicated maneuver, apparently modeled after jungle-warfare instructions in an army field manual:
"Using edge of plate as point of reference, approach contents of plate from above with tines of fork in perpendicular position. Insert fork into food at positions of 6 o'clock, 9 o'clock, 12 o'clock, and 3 o'clock, identifying food by texture and/or taste. (Fork may be brought to mouth as desired.)"
In the detailed discussion of how "to butter bread or roll," consisting of seven steps or operational phases, there is one I find particularly fascinating. It is "Number 4. Break the roll."
Let me quote just three more specific techniques which appear in the course of these illuminating instructions:
"To eat pie, begin at the tip and, either stabbing or scooping, work toward the back of the pie."
"To take a roll or cookie, locate edge of plate and gently move in to find item." And finally:
"Sensation of hot and cold indicates where hot and cold foods are located." I was glad to learn that; aren't you?
Something of the condescension of this pompous parade of the obvious and the trivial may be observed in the quotation which serves as frontispiece to the publication. It is attributed to Emil Javal, and reads as follows: "Meals being for the blind, the pleasantest moments of life, it is very important for him to train himself to eat properly, so that he may feel in a position to accept an invitation out."
Now, why are meals "the pleasantest moments of life" for the blind? Can it be because (as some people appear to believe) the blind, in their helpless condition, knowing themselves to be incompetent and irrelevant if not quite immaterial, can have few joys other than eating? "What is a man," asked Hamlet, "if his chief good and market of his time be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more."
And what about that crack about being in "a position to accept an invitation out." Out of what-the almshouse? Solitary confinement? Why must the blind person wait for "an invitation out", unless he is in truth not capable of sallying forth on his own or of "inviting people in?" Such an archaic attitude might have been suitable in, say, 1905; but we are far removed today from the conditions of social isolation and enforced idleness which this quotation conjures up. The real value of the quotation is the very opposite of that intended by the authors of this tiresome treatise on table topography, this god-awful guide to gracious gourmandering, this moronic manual on meal-time mastication, this oddball odyssey for outlandish oenologists, this poor man's primer on polite pantry protocol and perpendicular pie-pushing. The frontispiece quotation, and indeed the whole sad tract, is graphically illustrative of the demeaning and dispiriting image of blindness and the blind which still controls the thoughts of far too many agency professionals, and so controls the lives of the blind.
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