[nfb-talk] Can a person's movement be affected by blindness?

Jim jp100 at earthlink.net
Fri Sep 17 17:13:13 UTC 2010

Hello everyone,


I know this topic might have been briefly brought up by me in the Blindtalk
(August 2008 forum).  I've asked questions of a similar nature, but I think
this goes a bit deeper.  If we've talked about this before, please forgive
me.  I hope this will spark some good discussion.  I also hope to hear from
folks with all degrees of blindness, especially from those who have been
totally blind for a long time, or since birth.  This issue is beginning to
affect me enough to want to try doing something about it.  Perhaps as a
precursor, go through the archives and look at a question I sent back in
August of 2008 dealing with extra hands on for the congenitally blind.  This
goes one or two steps beyond my initial questions.


As many of you know, I've been blind since birth.  I think I was raised
pretty normally.  From what I was told, it had been recommended to my mom
that as a baby that I go see a kids' physical therapist to help get me to
move a bit more and a bit more freely.  More than anything, she helped
solidify the whole "up/down and left/right" concepts, among other things.
That was fine, and I was up and about as any other kid was.  The whole
blindism thing was also nipped in the bud at a very young age as well.  In
fact, it might have been nipped too well, because to this day, even when I'm
totally relaxed, I am generally one who sits quite still.  I can still
remember my family telling me to sit or stand still when we'd be at other
people's homes, stores, or other places where I was in public.  I wasn't the
type to really get in trouble for running around places and causing mischief
in that way.  While I played outside in my home area, I don't ever really
remember getting into trouble by just going off and exploring and
terrorizing other areas the way little kids I know would have done.  I was
pretty peaceful and content.  My thing was always trying to look good and
fit in with the regular crowd.


I never really thought about any of that kind of thing until recently.  I
find myself on stage more and more, performing and playing music either by
myself or with two other friends.  I've begun hearing advice such as, "You
need to look like you're enjoying what you're doing.", or "I wonder how we
can get you to be more animated and move a little bit so that you're not
stoic."  One newspaper article recently described me as being "statuesque."
In fact, I might post that small blurb, because it is suggesting that the
reason for my way of being deals with blindness.


"Also, they brought along a friend, Jim Portillo, that played an intriguing
electric bass ukulele with strings made of polyurethane, which gave it a
resonance like rubber, very rich sound for such a small instrument.  Besides
perfect licks, he had a great classic, statue-like stance of a bluegrass
bassist, never wavering, and then later, it was revealed he was blind and
had only been playing a few weeks."



I once took a class on stage craft, and one of the things folks liked about
my image the most was my smile.  I am told that a lot lately.use the smile.
I do, but once I'm on stage, I get so focused on what I'm doing that I end
up forgetting or simply not doing these things that really are attractive to
a visual audience.  How do blind people get more into the visual aspects of
things?  Of course I'm enjoying what I'm doing.  There's no greater love for
me than to play music with my two best friends.


So, here are some questions now that you know my background.  Is a person's
natural movement or lack thereof affected by blindness in any way?  How do
totally blind people learn about movement, expression, etc without looking
forced or mechanical?  I have given up trying to dance because as a kid, I
was always told, "Oh, you look like a little robot, pretty mechanical."  How
does one differentiate between what may look like a blindism from natural
and free-flowing movement?  If my friend tells me to feel free to swing and
sway as I play, how do I do it without looking like a Ray Charles or Stevie
Wonder?  Are these valid concerns or things that can or should possibly be
overcome to some degree, and if so, how?  Maybe I'm either too
self-conscious or perhaps I'm not totally aware of what some of these "free
forms of movement and expressions" are?  I don't know.  I'm inclined to
believe that sighted people learn by watching and imitation.  In my case,
unless someone literally shows me what to do and puts my body through the
motions, my interpretations may be different from what they're asking me to
do.  And, I'm to the point now in what I do where I don't wish to look
foolish or stand out in the wrong way.  


The good thing about all of this is that I have a whole lot of other things
going for me.  I do well behind a microphone in that I'm a good MC and
public speaker.  I'm a good promoter and can get my message across to folks.
And, when I'm on stage, I deliver a good sounding performance.  

My friends have been great ones and very honest with me about things.  I now
know that I probably stand out a bit more by not doing anything or moving.
Interesting, huh?  Now, if I begin working on this, I also want to look
natural and not fake.  I don't want to look like I've memorized a formula
for movement, especially to various songs.  It's Folk music, right?  


I look forward to a good discussion that will hopefully challenge me to go
further and see what happens.






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