[Nfbmo] Blindness some ideas.

Fred Olver goodfolks at charter.net
Wed May 29 16:55:16 UTC 2013

Several months ago a teacher of the visually impaired in Vermont purchased my book "Dealing With Vision Loss"  It took me some time to get it to her because she was unable to download the audio copy from my website so I ended up sending her a copy on CD because she was unable to open the drop box links I had set up for her. Although I had not heard from her since February, she did communicate with me this morning and I present to you the information I imparted with her in hopes that there is a parent, teacher or individual who might benefit from it. 


By the way for more information about my book go to http://www.dealingwithvisionloss.com


Hello Fred, 


Thank you again for getting the book to me in cd format.  It was great and I just love listening to books in the car.


I was wondering if you were willing to answer a couple questions.  I am doing a small write up for school for my position as a TVI.


You really seemed to achieve alot for yourself in a time that it sounds like people with visual impairments had very limited options.  What do you feel pushed you to go further than the societal norms at that time?  I just couldn't get over the different in how children with visual impairments were treated in the 60's.  


If there was one thing that you truly wanted people to understand from your book, what would it be?


Thank you.




Nancy, How nice to hear from you. To answer your questions is not easy. There were several factors playing in to my initiative. First of all, I had been started on my way via a nursery school for blind kids set up in the Detroit area in the 50's. As you know, small children are like sponges and they ubsorb practicly everything so I did. 


When I went to the school for the blind in Michigan I figured if I did well enough, if I tried hard enough that my folks would let me come home and live. Sad to say, it didn't matter how well I did, it didn't matter how good I was, the only way I got to come home for my last year of high school was because I pushed the question to the Principle of the school I wanted to attend. Another factor in this whole thing was that other kids, older than me had said it would look better if one could show that they had graduated from a public school rather than a school for the blind. 


Let me go back a step or two. As I point out in my book, blind children have to be exposed to absolutely everything in order for them to be able to understand concepts, what things are like, what they feel like, and what actions are necessary for them to be a part of something like say sledding down a hill, or holding a frog in their hand, hearing a robin in a tree far away or feeling a bird's nest to know what it actually is. The more one can provide blind kids with these sensory acquisitions, at an early age, the earlier the better the more they will understand their environment. Even as an adult, my environment is composed of noises which tell me where things are and where I am in relation to them, Orientation and Mobility are such a large part of a blind child/adults' world it is practicly mind-boggeling. 


A baby chick, the sound of a baby robin cheeping, a hen setting on a nest, snow flakes on your face, feeling hail stones on the sidewalk, smelling baked bread or just the nearness of a restaurant are all things which present a picture of one's environment and surroundings. The key is to get kids to observe with their ears, their noses their feet and their hands, and to be able to integrate them to provide a sensory picture of what is around them. Be ware of sunglasses and hats. They can shield one's ears from hearing and their faces from feeling. I never wear a hat, sometimes, no gloves and very seldom a scarf, these things all ubsorb or change the observations one can get. 


Now for your second question, If there was one thing that you truly wanted people to understand from your book, what would it be?


I think for this question I ought to go back and re-read my book entirely through to see if I answer this question, however although I do not believe I say so in my book, the most difficult thing for blind kids to overcome, well, maybe two, is the limitations others want to put on them, and the limitations they put on themselves. If a parent says he/she can't do that because they are blind, or if they are excempted from classes because the teacher figures they can't get anything out of the class than what does that tell the child about him/herself? They might need some extra prep work to participate, Braille graphical drawings or someone to explain to them what is shown or seen by others, but it seems to me that too often well-meaning adults decide for the blind children that they can't participate because they won't be able to understand when maybe they just think that, because of their own prejudices regarding blindness and seeing. It is my conjecture that sighted folks grow up fearing not being able to see. They are taught not to function in the dark, in fact they are taught to fear the dark. What is the first thing you reach for in the middle of the night, is it your glasses or a light, or is their a light on your alarm clock which helps you to adjust to waking in the darkness?


One of the things I used to use as a part of my teaching and I found it worked very well in developing kinnesthetic awareness was to ask folks to bounce a basketball and catch it when they did. If they could do this then they found that they could do many other things as well. 


Play beep ball with your kids, play goal ball, roller skate, take them water skiing, snow skiing, horseback riding, let them jump down out of a hay maw, have them touch a cow or a horse, let them milk a cow, expose them to the sun, the rain, the leaves on the ground in the fall, the smell of fresh-cut grass or a freshly mown hay field, teach them how to perceive and give them perseptual memories to grow on. 


Does that help, boy I got pretty wond up, oh, the smell of coffee is a good smell, too. So many things to experience, you can't show them all, but you can give them a good start.




>From my editor:


I'm going to chime in here as the Editor, a sighted person, and someone who has know Fred or known of Fred since he was young.

>From the book: 

Being blind doesn't end your life, the more you put into adapting the better you will get at living the life you want. 

I second Fred's passion at exposing kids (and adults for that matter) to absolutely everything there is to experience. Sighted people have to understand that a blind child/person can't understand water skiing or zip lines unless he or she actually does it. A blind man won't know what a full beard is until he grows one .... and then has the experience of shaving it off...with a real razor and don't worry that he will cut himself. 

And that leads into what is not empahsized in the book but should be in Fred's blog: people's reaction to disabilities, their fears, assumptions, exclusions -- maybe leading to a life time of being on the margin -- that is what has the most negative impact on a blind person....the mere fact that he can't see is trivial in comparison. 

yep I get wound up on that subject, too, and I had my own coffee, not Fred's!!! 


A final comment from the person who had purchased the book:


I definitely hear what you guys are saying.  I see it all the time in the school system when teachers are amazed that a student is able to do a presentation for a class.  They seem totally amazed that he is able to do this.  I feel like I am constantly reminding the teachers, he is very smart and loves to learn - he just happen to be blind. I have been lucky to spend quite a bit of time at Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown Mass.  I have met some wonderful visually impaired people who have made a tremendous impact in the lives of students with visual impairments. 


Fred thank you so much for writing this book.  I was able to get so much out of reading and I am sure you have positively impacted so many people.


My final response:


Not enough, Nancy, for sure. I was a professional in the field of blindness, I am no longer, but that's another story, but I feel I have important things to say and I tried with my book to do so, anything you can do to get others to read it and move forward for the betterment of blind children and/or adults will be appreciated, and not from a monitary standpoint, either. When I am a member of a church for most of five years, walking around, talking and the members still question my ability to get down a flight of stairs, it's because of their own fears, not my inability, but they still refuse to see it, even though it's right in front of their faces. It gets to be sometimes overwhelming to think that people who actually know me have so little faith in my abilities but want to center on my disability.





Note: Every so often I will get a letter from someone I do not know but who has found out about my book on the internet, they are usually very gratified to have found some new and interesting information and usually very appreciative.


It's not necessarily the NFB line of thinking but I have yet to receive a negative comment from anyone who has read it or become aware of it. 


Fred Olver

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