[nfbmi-talk] Institute of Blind Rehabilitation of Western MichiganUniversity, at Kalamazoo

Joe Sontag suncat0 at gmail.com
Wed Feb 27 07:17:31 UTC 2013

This looks familiar, like something from one of Dr. Jernigan's banquet 
speeches, and I agree with it fully.  That is, while I believe there is some 
useful information in this piece, I find myself insulted and degraded by the 
underlying attitude that comes through so clearly; and I can only wonder 
about those who say they are Federationists, yet insist on blasting those of 
us who get it and who won't run away from it.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "trising" <trising at sbcglobal.net>
To: "nfbmi List" <nfbmi-talk at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 22:15
Subject: [nfbmi-talk] Institute of Blind Rehabilitation of Western 
MichiganUniversity, at Kalamazoo

> 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.
> Voice Lessons and Braille Tutoring available. Contact Terri Wilcox MA at 
> (734)663-4050 or at trising at sbcglobal.net
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