White Cane And American Idol


White Cane and American Idol

     White cane arching, swaying, at times twirling like a baton in his fingers, the young blind man belted out his vocals and danced in rhythm to the driving beat of the stage band and supporting voices of the backup singers, all part of his well rehearsed number for the audience and judges of American Idol, the hit television show. The competition was in the third week, eight contestants had already been eliminated, four in each of the proceeding two weeks. This week four more, two males and two females would be voted off, sent home by America's voting audience.

     The live audience responded enthusiastically, obviously having liked the young blind man's rendition of the eighties rock tune. The radiant smile and confident movement of the young man on stage told the watcher that the singer felt he'd given a good performance.

     “Check it out! Check it out! Dog!" Loudly proclaimed Randy, the first of the three judges standing on his feet, bent arms waving the beat, looking excited and pleased. "That was hot! That is what we saw in you from the first tune you sang in front of us. it's the enthusiasm of delivery, good clear tone, and the way you handle yourself. Dog! Good song choice--that was perfect for you. I liked that! This was the best performance of the night!" Randy was beaming so hard, he could have been an ad for toothpaste.

     Paula was next, face beaming, still standing where she had risen to dance behind her chair, Brent, that was a stunning performance; great vocals! Your parents. who are in the audience, can be proud of you. You looked natural up there; you had the audience loving you! And hey, you can dance! We hadn't seen that in your earlier performances. You looked good; you need to do more of that. I think you are going to be in the final twelve and the other singers will have to work hard to beat this performance." She sat down, tilting her head and raising her eyebrows to check what the persnickety judge on her right was going to say.

     The cameras shifted to the final judge. He had sat, arms crossed, taking in Brent's performance with his usual critical eye and half smile. With serious tone and British-accented speech, Simon began one of his infamous, well known intros to an evaluation of a singer's performance. “To be honest with you, I have mixed feelings about you.” The audience erupted with hoots and jeering in response to the judge they loved to hate. “Wait a minute, wait a minute, let me have my say." And with the return of quiet to the hall, Simon addressed the now unsmiling, serious young singer. "On the positive side, I think you actually are one of the top two voices in the competition." The audience responded favorably but quieted down quickly, knowing that Simon had more to say. "But my problem is…" Simon's eyebrows came together as he frowned in concentration.

     "Ah, what? The ever eloquent Simon is lost for words!" blustered Randy.

     Turning a serious face to his fellow judge, Simon answered, "Well, we've never before had a blind contestant and I'm struggling with how to phrase my comment…" Abruptly turning back to the waiting performer, face determined, Simon continued, "Brent, I will not treat you any different, I owe you that, and I'm going to tell you what the problem is. It is … as we tell you all, in this business you have to be believable. And in your special case, you have to be acceptable." The audience reacts, Randy and Paula's voices add to the storm of protest and Simon has to again pause. "Now wait a minute, wait! Let me finish. Hear what I've got to say." With order restored, Simon went on, "I did not say a blind singer would not be acceptable! As everyone else here, I'm aware of Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles, and other blind musicians who have made it in professional music. But there's a difference at work here. Now what my problem is--I said your vocals were one of the best, but on stage I believe you will have to lose that white stick. It was … annoying; it kept drawing the eye, taking the focus off of where it should be, on the singer. Sorry, the stick is not compatible with being an Idol."


e-mail responses to newmanrl@cox.net

**1. Simon may, and I stress may, have a point here. Although it could be nothing more than part of his act, it may indeed be a distraction. Sighted people seem easily distracted, and it is a singing competition. Why did I know that Mister Cowl would be the one to make this comment? If he handled the cane well, then it could become his signature as the harmonica was for Stevie Wonder. If not, however, the vision-centered, looks-based world would shun it and him.

Benn J. Bloomgren

**2. My feelings on this subject are mixed. However, my gut reaction is that Simon is right. This young singer did not need his cane to do his routine. There was no need for him to have it with him. If he had a cane because of physical problems, for example, I think that I would expect him to use it to get to his spot and perhaps sit on a stool and set the cane aside while he sang. This young blind man probably wouldn't need it even to get to his stage spot. I'm sure they could have given him a count of steps and perhaps a tactual marker for the spot he needed to be at to perform in front of his audience.

I would also expect that the young performer wouldn't want praise and applause for sympathy, which the cane may actually bring out in some uninformed people. He would want to win this on his own merits.

Pati Alexander
PKA Vision Services
Marietta, GA

**3. This was a difficult Provoker for me.

This young man obviously has a lot of talent, as evidenced by the strong reaction from Randy and Paula. But, then comes Simon. He's putting the performer in a very difficult position.

Simon's own prejudices may be surfacing, and he doesn't really know how to deal with them. Yes, this young man is talented, but Simon doesn't really know how he'll make it. Of course, there is Stevy Wonder, and we had Ray Charles. But they're extraordinary musicians. So, this kid should probably leave that "white stick" at home and he'd have a better chance.

However, Simon has failed to realize that this young man is an individual in his own right. He's not just another blind entertainer who will do things the same way as his predecessors. He's incorporated his cane (his own symbol of independence) into the act and, seemingly, everyone but Simon loves it.

So, I believe the young man, if he can get past Simon, should keep the cane with him...and take the opportunity to show Simon and other skeptics that he can make it as an independent entertainer, who happens to be blind.

Cindy Handel Willow Street, PA

**4. I auditioned for American Idol back several seasons ago and was not chosen. I do know of other blind people who also auditioned and did not make it. Now clearly all of us blind people are not so bad that at least one of us should have been chosen.

As an Auditioner, I got to see a lot of things that happened back stage. For example, most of the time, the producers of the show choose people who can not sing. Just before I auditioned, a girl who could not even carry a tune was chosen while me and several other talented people were let go.

The whole show is rigged and I don't think they will ever allow a blind person to be on the show. Unfortunately, today's music is about looks and stage presence. That is why we have not seen any other big time blind singers like Ray Charles and Stevy Wonder. They were fortunate to come into fame when music was really about the music and not about visually performing and looking good.

Milissa Garside NFBtalk Mailing List

**5. As I read this thought provoker I was quite interested because I absolutely love American idol, but I have to say I agree with the judges. I am and will always be a proud cane user, and I think it should be used at all times as the mobility aid that it was meant to be, but to have the cane as part of the dance/song? I'm not so sure about that. If I were a contestant I would want to look as good as I could and I would not want something distracting the crowd from my *beautiful* voice. hahaha But in all seriousness, if the contestant familiarized themselves with the stage before the show they should have no problem making the best routine caneless. By the same token I am also not fond of the distracting way some contestants wear strange things in their hair or dress so weird. It distracts the audience from the true nature of the show which is singing.

Kay zimpher NFBtalk Mailing List

**6. Ah, so, we have two diverging interests. One side says it's all about the music and that's what it's supposed to be about. Are you sure? Can't it be about visual entertainment as well? I mean, this is TV after all which does imply visual entertainment. But, don't feel bad. There are lots of good singers, both sighted and blind, who hate the TV's requirements for visuals. But, I wonder, why fight it so much? Why not just learn to visually entertaining?

Some country singers like Randy Travis are visually boring. They just stand there and sing, barely moving. Clearly they've made it. Perhaps country allows for more of this still. I know that Garth Brooks was put down by a lot of his fellow country artists because he has so many visuals in his show. He also has a college degree in marketing as I recall. So, anyway, I'm sure I won't turn any of you musical purists into visual entertainers, but, I don't think it has much, or even anything, to do with blindness. But, if you choose not to be part of the visual form of television, then don't be surprised if you don't get on American Idol. They're in a ratings fight and will always take the dual visual and audio entertainers over those who are just audio.

Mike Bullis NFB Mailing List

**7. It doesn't sound as if he was using the cane for mobility, but it was more of a device to hold and he was using it more as a baton. In reality he would have a mike in his hand, most likely in a mike stand. I have never seen a professional or amateur performer have or need a cane while on stage. In many cases, the curtain comes up and voila there they are or they might enter via sighted guide if necessary. They rehearse their moves endlessly so he would be aware of his stage and where he needs to be on it. As a performer, he is singing, I doubt if he is going to be all over the stage.

Deborah Eades

**7. Simon may, and I stress may, have a point here. Although it could be nothing more than part of his act, it may indeed be a distraction. Sighted people seem easily distracted, and it is a singing competition. Why did I know that Mister Cowl would be the one to make this comment? If he handled the cane well, then it could become his signature as the harmonica was for Stevie Wonder. If not, however, the vision-centered, looks-based world would shun it and him.

Ben J. Bloomgren

**8. Before my hearing loss made it impractical to pursue further, my music career in the 90's was fraught with scenes similar to this scenario. "We don't believe you can engage your audience, because you can't make eye contact while you're singing to draw them in," one club owner told me. "It's not realistic that you sing songs that use visual words like See and Look and Watch," ran another memorable objection. My approach in these cases was to tell as many audience members what had been said. In many cases, enough pressure was put on the bigoted individual in question to make him or her reverse their decision and give me the gig.

The moral: If you're good enough, you don't need a gimmick, and you can captivate an audience despite being blind.

The realistic side? In the decaying dog-eat-dog remnants of the recording biz, you DO need a gimmick, and whether it's dancing with your white cane on stage or teaching your guide dog to play the harmonica, a gig will get you paid; that's the harsh truth.

My personal opinion: A white cane has no place being on stage, any more than a guide dog does. Performing is about how good you are, not how blind you are. If you want pity-based accolades from an audience intent on giving encouragement to the poor blind person, who's trying SO* hard, then by all means, wear your eye patch and rock your head back and forth and do what you have to do. I'd never vote for the blind guy, *UNLESS* I genuinely thought he was the best talent there, and I would be unlikely to think this based on his blindness-based gimmick.

No one's right or wrong here; it all depends on what you're going for, and how much of your soul you're willing to lose to get it. I'm finingout. that, as you grow older, that changes. But, I rant.

Mark BurningHawk

**9. First, I love this one as I'm a big fan of AI. I have to agree with Simon in this fictional story. I doubt that Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder or any other blind performer ever took a cane on stage. I did some stand up comedy, and I took my dog on stage, but that was just amateur night, and I bet if I'd gone much further I'd have to lose my dog's onstage presence. I did make her a part of the act though. Getting back to this story, the cane would be out of place in a singing performance. Great story though!

Nancy Lynn

**10. Well, Simon is like many others, who make judgments tbased on what he sees and his beliefs that society has taught. The white cane is not only a symbol of independence. It is a tool, a part of the person's style, what he is. Like Groucho Marx's cigar or Phyllis Diller's hair, the person's ability overcomes any distractions and that additional item becomes part of the person's performance and how people picture the person. Are people distracted by seeing the conductor's baton? I wonder if Simon was distracted by the cane because of his own preconceived notions of what a blind performer should look and act like or was he suggesting that the audience would have the same problems that he had. I wonder if Simon sees the White Cane as a stigma of blindness, something that we should be ashamed of, or does he have a preconceived idea that blind people should be dependent. Perhaps the performer should hide his impairment?

Doug Hall Florida

**11. Well, I am somewhat conflicted about this supposed singer/dancer using his cane. On one hand, he might not be able to-do the dancing without the cane, but on the other hand, the cane might be very distracting to the audience. However, I believe Fred Astaire used to use a cane as a prop when he danced in the old musicals. I think the cane should be used despite what Simon might say as it is about time the blind need to stop trying to be sighted and should be accepted as a blind person who needs the cane to be completely independent.

Patricia LaFrance-Wolf Temple City, CA 91780

**12. I don't even think Mr. Simon could take issue with a white cane. He loves conflict but not at the cost of the "A D A".

I do believe that an performer should take care to keep the cane in check when dancing. Simon would be right in reminding a singer that it is the person not the cane that should perform. but I am sure that can be done with lots of grace. A white cane is surely a tool never to be discarded but it should not offend others by tapping or hitting them, flying higher then necessary, or in any other way interfere with the others around a blind user. but it should be used and excepted by everyone.


**13. I feel compelled to share my thoughts regarding the recent "White Cane and American Idol" thought provoker. First--the thought provoker came across as stunningly authentic--but at the price of using real names of real people. Unless the author of the thought provoker personally spoke with the three judges of American Idol, the judges true opinions on this subject cannot be known. Therefore, we are painting a picture that is particularly unflattering to Simon, when in reality, he might not feel that way at all. As one working in the field of media relations for several years, I have seen individuals who were regarded as public figures sit by defenselessly as their good names were tarnished with comments and opinions they never once uttered. Its a great topic; I simply do not agree with using the name of an actual individual to voice an opinion, even in a fictitious context, that that individual never uttered. There are simply certain boundaries that shouldn't be crossed--even when it comes to public figures, who, after all, are human beings just like the rest of us. Thank you for your time and consideration in reading my opinion.

Sincerely, Kimberly Morrow

...FROM ME: Here is what I wrote back to her- Kimberly, I do appreciate you bringing up the issue of me using real names in this fictitious story. I too thought about the right and wrong of using them, but with it being such a popular program, so public, loved and all that I wanted to make it as real as I could. And I figured that if the program had a problem with my methods, then I felt I can get them to see my track record with THOUGHT PROVOKER and get them to go along with me. In fact, what would be great, would be to get some one from the show to write in on what they say about blindness and American Idol.

So Kimberly , you always be straight up with me ,as I believe you have thus far. Thanks

**13. I am blind, and have sung live for years. I do a lot of different types of music, and my cane gets folded and put away after I get on stage, and so if some blind people get there tails in curls because of comments made by judges, then I guess they really do not mean it when they claim to want to be treated like every body else. My thoughts on that particular topic there, either poop or get off the pooper. You can not have it both ways, either you want to be treated just like every body else, or you want to walk around with a chip on your shoulder, and yell that every one is being mean! Make up your mind. So sing all ya want, but loose the cane.

Patty Fletcher

**14. The white cane is a symbol of independence and confidence for sighted and blind people alike, however, for the judge it was a hindrance to how the blind
performer was perceived. If I were the possible idol, Even though my cane is an extension of me, I would not have brought my cane on stage. I would walk on stage independently. Rather than the audience focusing on the cane I would want them to take note of why I was there. It was not the blindness that allowed me to come on stage, it was the singing ability.

AnjelinaDes Moines, Iowa

**15. Oh! He is blind? No! Like that is going to ruin his voice? Hasn't that buffoon ever heard of Ray Charles? What a low-expectation!


**16. Oh Simon Simon Simon:

How ignorant a fellow you are. While his honesty is not always wanted, it's refreshing. What would he rather have had happen? Brent be escorted on stage by a human? Now that shows independence! Sorry for the sarcasm, but this is this young man's mobility tool of choice. Would it be better if he had a dog, and people focused on his pretty dog than his performance? I hardly think so. Simon reminds viewers regularly that this is a singing competition! Looking good helps, but the sound, the song choice, and overall presentation of material is what makes the American public vote the way they do.

Though Brent shouldn't have to, he has a glowing opportunity to educate Simon, and the rest of the public that his cane is his mobility tool, and how way of being an independent traveler.

So Simon, if I'm being completely honest with you, you're an uninformed bloke about this subject, and you need some enlightening.

Regards, Shelly A. Bamrick

**17. the stick is not compatible with being an Idol. Does that mean one needs to give up one's independence to be worshipped? Just wondering.

Lori Stayer Merrick, NY

**18. dude? was this really a case on idle?

The BlindTechs Network NFB National Organization Of Blind Educators Mailing lis

**19. Like so many people I have encountered in my life, Simon is ignorant, and needs to learn that it is not a "WHITE STICK". I can understand the younger kids not knowing, but he is a grown adult.

Diane L. Filipe Secretary, NFB of Colorado

...FROM ME: When I wrote the THOUGHT PROVOKER, I Chose what term Simon would use. Here in the US we will say "white cane" or "cane." In England the British will say "white stick" or "stick." Sorry.

**20. I say, if the cane gets more votes, keep it! If no cane gets more votes, do that! If a baton gets more votes then do that. Now, if he's on a dual mission of music and blindness and wants his cane prominently displayed, then, keep it and the judge be damned. What he should understand however, is that the "successful blind musician" paradigm has already been proven, so he needs to have another mission if he wants to keep the cane prominently displayed. He's not really teaching anything that I can see, so I don't know that the cane sends a clear message of any kind.

Mike Bullus

**21. Firstly, did this really happen or is it a hypothetical situation? Secondly, I think I see where Simon is coming from. Brent was apparently moving the cane while performing. IF I were in Brent's shoes, I'd have selected a folding cane, walked out onto the stage and folded the cane. Brent seemed to call attention to the cane while performing. Mind you, I
don't like Simon's reaction, but in the plastic world of entertainment, I'd say it may be typical.If Simon had criticized Brent for merely using the cane to walk on stage, I'd argue that was discrimination. Again, I'd say that Brent inadvertently made the cane a part of his performance by twirling it while singing, and that he'd have been better off not doing so.

bob Hachey ACB-L listserv

**22. As someone who has watched American Idol for the past 7 seasons, all I can say is this: Since when did anyone take Simon seriously?

Darran RPlist

**23. Darran... lighten up! Accept Simon for who he is! You might not like him or take him seriously, but many folks do!

Numerous people think Simon, although brutal, rough and too direct with his comments and feedback, is also the most honest of the judges. Don't let his style get in the way of his message. He has the professional music track record to support his qualifications.

If Stevie Wonder had a white cane, rather than a piano in front of him, would he have been a music star? Unfortunately, I think not, because in the music business it is the total package that is evaluated, and there is prejudice and discrimination in the world.

Rock on....

Kenneth Chernack RPlist

**24. Well, unfortunately, when we carry a white cane, it becomes the focal point. I know this is true because I started carrying my cane when I still had some useable vision. I could see the body language and actions of sighted people even though I couldn’t see their faces. I think that Randy and Paula were watching Brent and not letting the cane influence their judgment. Simon was distracted by the white cane even though he thought the performance was exceptionally good. If the cane had been a different color he probably wouldn’t have noticed it. I can remember that years ago, many singers and dancers, Fred Astaire for one, used canes in their performances and everyone loved it! What sighted people don’t realize is that when a blind person has that cane in his/her hand, it gives them balance and confidence!

Pat Wagner Blind Friends List

**25. I had the opportunity to see both Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder onstage. They both seemed extremely inept and looked
"blind". Stevie often did not even attempt to make anything that remotely looked like eye contact with his audience. And he had two assistants who brought him on and off stage. Pretty much the same for Ray Charles, only to add that he appeared to be intoxicated. I think that using a cane would not have hurt either of them. I must say that from a visual standpoint, the most impressive performer that I have ever seen is Ronnie Millsap. He obviously took the time to become oriented to the stage. He often danced around while he sang. I understand that he would come out a few hours before his show and pace off the stage. he didn't use a cane however. From the story, it appears that the cane was a part of his dance act, a kind of prop, so I do not see it as being out of place.

Andy Baracco ACB-L listserv

**26. Although I do not completely agree with Simon--I seldom do- I do think our young "Idol" is not doing himself or other blind people any favors by using his cane for something it is NOT meant to be used for. The long white cane is a tool to aid in mobility, just as a screw driver is a tool to tighten screws or a shovel is a tool to dig. What if the ditch digger twirled his shovel as a baton. Wouldn't we all say "That shovel has got to go?"

Janis Stanger

**27. Dog, that's the real thing. Thought I was watching the tape I made of Tuesday's show. The question is, is a white cane a tool, a symbol of blindness, or a part of us, at least those of us who use one. It depends on my mood, but I can see it as a part of me, one that would go on stage as much as I would. And it will, in my next life, that is.

Abby Vincent ACB-L

**28. I think Simon was honest and forthright. In some states, the people who work with blind persons make them use unfolding rigid canes. A newly blind person cannot for a single second be seen as a normal person, not in cabs, not in restaurants, not in grocery stores where that rigid cane becomes a lethal weapon pulling ladies dresses up, knocking things off shelves, and getting caught in the Tupperware containers. Tom Sullivan, more than 40 years ago wrote If You Could See What I hear. I Heard him at a Boys Club of Tampa dinner for their kids. Tom played the piano and so the situation is not the same. However, I think a white cane is a distraction to many people regardless of the audience reaction here. So a decision must be made, assertit as part of the act, or put it aside and concentrate on...good music not making a statement. I was forced to use a rigid cane in an orientation center and the sheer humiliation of simply placing it on a dirty floor for a meal and picking it up after eating still gives me the shivers. So if the cane is a foldable one, fold it up and leave it out. If it is a rigid one...burn it now and buy a folding one. There is class and there is making a statement. While the cane allows the world to know the singer is blind, since when is blindness a red flag to wave in front of a bull...a community...or a judge? I would like to see a Provoker about using rigid canes which get run over by cars, caught in elevators and escalators, rip off women's panty hoses, and collapsible canes which can be folded, placed on the lap, are certainly less intrusive, and can give a feeling of hygiene, calm, and privacy when needed. The unwanted focus emphasis on the cane detracts from the music...and in music...nothing should detract. I think that is a quote from Sullivan. So listen to experience!

Dr. Scott Wendell Bray NFB Deafblind Mailing List


**29. As a blind woman who sang and played keyboards professionally for over
twenty years I have all kinds of thoughts on this issue. I'll begin by
directly addressing the question asked in this TP. I view the white
cane as a very positive and useful tool that a performer can use when
he or she walks on and off the stage if the performer chooses not to
be escorted onto the stage. The cane is not, in my opinion, a prop to be used consciously as a part of the dance routine. I'm not a Simo fan but I think he was right in this instance. Now, as to whether a blind person should insist on walking onto and off of the stage alone: I think it's a matter of personal choice. I choose to be escorted onto the stage with my head held high and a smile on my face. I like the regal look even if I'm not tall and statuesque. If I did my walk on and off with the cane I would find a way to look regal under those circumstances, too. Why do I choose to have assistance? Because there isn't always time or me with my somewhat limited spatial orientation to memorize the stage. If I walk with someone it's just one less thing to worry about. In summary: yes, I agree with Simon that the cane as prop in the dance routine is distracting and unnecessary but folding it up while dancing would have been fine.

Chris Coulter ACB-L listserv)

**30. This is Chris Jones from Tacoma. Thanks for sending me this. My honest take on this is that Simon needs some education. It sounds like the blind guy in this feature was trying to accommodate himself, but be creative with the way he used his cane. Though he should not have had to disclose blindness necessarily, I think it might have helped if the judges understood part of how he might be using his cane so that this could not have been used against him. As a blind aspiring musician myself, though mostly a dog guide user, I know how hard it is to break in to music professionally. I doubt that most blind people, unfortunately, would have been willing to assert themselves at that juncture of the program to try to educate Simon. Just my thoughts.

Yours Sincerely, Chris Jones

**31. At first glance, my thought was that "Simon, the judge, has to go." At second glance, it really depends on how you want to look at the situation. If the singer is displaying his blindness with his white cane to emphasize that he is blind, then Simon is right about the cane having to be hidden. If, on the other hand, the singer is using his cane as a stunt to humor his blindness as he sings, then he shouldn't have to hide his cane. If people agree with Simon, then it should've been said that Stevie Wonder should not have been wearing those cool, fashionable sunglasses on stage. It would also mean that Ray Charles shouldn't have been rocking back and forth when he sang. Yes, appearance is everything and you don't want to fulfill the negative stereotypes about blind people, but both Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder were expressing themselves in their own way. Likewise, I think that the singer was also expressing himself. He just happened to be using his cane in time to the beat of the music.


**32. Hi, I read all of the email and I also watch American Idol, I love it. Since I am blind, I missed the cane. I heard the comments but had no idea he was blind. So, my thought is, the cane might be distracting. but, the cane also shows that he is blind, and can work in spite of it. I am female, I live in Missouri, and am married. I am 72 years old.


**33. "Angel, our own Laurie states that she doesn't utilize her dog, Mark, as she performs on stage. And, this is to avoid the stigma of the blind person with a dog or cane. This is also a very personal choice.
I think that you use what tool with which you're comfortable.

You know that Ray Charles used to rock when he sang. So does Stevie Wonder. In the days when a stand alone microphone was used, you could hear his voice ebbing and flowing as he gyrated.

Some people wear the dark glasses which some say are symbolic of the blind when in public. Personally I do not, as I feel that my eyes are normal looking. I've been told so, anyway, but my eyes do roll and move a bit, as
I have some control over them but not full control, perhaps due to being born prematurely and the damage that was caused by being incubated and given too much oxygen. In the summer and during times of high amounts of sunshine, I will wear sun glasses that adjust to the amount of sunshine.

I will use my dog guide to travel, but have also used it to enter and exit stages when I have performed in bands, when I've played solo and see nothing wrong with so doing. I would think, however, that flailing your stick around and making a spectacle of yourself would not help you in gaining professional status or during a performance on American Idol.

For the record, American Idol was a good idea when the show was conceived, but during the seven seasons thus far, graduated cheapness and haughtiness of American Idol has become the order of the day, and the show is nothing more than a popularity contest that has little to do with talent. Carrie and Kelly were true examples of talent. Chris Daughtry and others were voted off because of possible public dislike. But, I believe that much of the true talent on that show was overlooked because of the narrow understanding of what musicianship is and what demands on show business would place on people.

As a result, Rubin, Taylor and Katherine are finished with their contracts with the show because of disappointing record sales, and other contestants who were dismissed by Simon and company are flourishing, i.e., Jennifer Hudson, Clay and several others whose names I can't recall.

The nation judges American Idol, and it is a barometer of how it judges other things and our leaders. We'll not get into the debate here on list of the importance of judging whom and for what reasons, but suffice it to say, as Alaina was dismissed, and Danny Noriega goes home heart broken, there are more important issues to examine. But, Mr. Newman's column offers yet another scenario that shows that prejudice and misunderstanding exists within the greater landscape of this country, whether it be in the workplace, on the street or in personal life.

Mike Townsend

**34. The young contestant probably knows that Simon is in need of education regarding the white cane, as are many people.

Charles Hackney

**35. "Like so many people I have encountered in my life, Simon is ignorant, and needs to learn that it is not a "STICK". " In the UK, where Simon is from, the cane is referred to as a white stick, by blind and sighted people alike.

Vicky Winslow, lmsw NFB Human Service Worker Mailing List

**36. Vickie, Thanks for the clarification. It is important that we consider culture and context when we comment. Though Simon's commentary is, definitely misdirected, the terminology was not offered to be offensive.


Mary NFB Human Service Worker Mailing List

**37. Well, to me, this is a no brainer. We all know, of course, that it's respectable to be blind. We all know that the white cane draws attention to us, in one way or another; usually, we hope, a good way. We know this, but, many sighted still do not know it. The white cane would, as a matter of fact, draw attention directly to the performer rather than away from him. Besides which, the white cane could be used as part of the appearance aspect of his performance. IF some female American Idol contestants perform BAREFOOTED as part of their appearance or preference, (Kelly Clarkson comes to mind) Why not the white cane for the hypothetical blind performer? As for Simon, well, that stuffed shirt doesn't seem to like anything or any one; so, what can I say?

Just my $0.02 (Zero Dollars two cents) worth.

Sincerely yours, The Constantly Barefooted, Ray Foret Jr. NFBtalk Mailing List

**38. So many people call canes sticks it's not funny. But I think a white cane is part of me and should at least be on the stage. But I'd hide it in a case.

Beth NFB NABS Mailing List

**39. Its good to see another blind person try for a career of his/her choice. He has a problem; what to do on stage. Should he be led out on stage without a cane? That would hardly represent independence. Maybe he could preview the stage and count steps so he could get out on it without a cane. Then if he starts dancing, he has to get off safely. It wouldn't do to get turned and walk off or into lights, mic stands, musical instruments or whatever else is on the stage. The logical solution is to use a white cane. Now, what to do with it while performing? He used it as a prop. Certainly a unique use for a cane, but its in a unique situation. The reality is that he has a cane and can travel with it, and is trying to make a career for himself.

Some years ago when I was in college, I was in two musicals Oklahoma and Brigadoon. As a member of the chorus, I was costumed as a farmer and I followed my stage wife on and off the stage. My white cane would stand out, so I was provided a stick about four feet long. It was a bit awkward, but served its purpose and blended nicely into the scenery. I was able to take part in the musical just like the other students.

Robert Jaquiss

**40. How about firing Simon? Or is he the stabilizer for the other two?

Joe Otts ACB-L listserv

40. HMMM1 Interesting. What's wrong with having your cane with you on stage? I believe it's necessary, especially when you have to move around the stage. I would hope the blind guy doesn't get booted just because he uses his cane in his act. This brings up an issue I had in high school. I wish then I had the NFB because I got turned down for a part in the school play because the director was afraid I would fall off the stage. He didn't even tell me himself. He passed the message through a friend of mine. I was very upset and never auditioned for another play.

Peace, Cari Kness NFB NABS Mailing List

**42. I also wonder how he would respond if a blind person had a guide dog. A dog and cane are equal tools of blindness.

Terry Powers NFBtalk Mailing List

**43. Go Ray, go! That is a disgrace on the blind. He has no right even saying anything about the man's cane. I missed that episode. I did not even know we had a blind person on the show. I think he is the first and I am sure glad we are finally represented. I sure hope he stands up for his rights. His cane is his means of getting around. It sure looks better for the man to use a cane and be able to walk one the stage, alone, than to have to have a sighted guide. This reminds me of the airlines taking away our canes. If a singer had MS or CP..., would he have the nerve to take away their walking cane? I bet not, so why is he questioning a blind person using a walking cane for navigation. This could lead to a 508 case if it gets out of hand. In my opinion, he is being discriminated against and could be taken to court. I see he said nothing about that man with the real long hair!

Terry Powers NFBtalk Mailing List

**44. Wait!!! no need to get all bent out of shape yet; you see, this is only a hypothetical situation. IN reality, there was a blind guy who did attempt to appear before the judges I think back a couple of years ago; but, as I understand it, he didn't even manage to get in to the audition room; so, neither Randy, Paula nor the stuffed shirt Simon was able even to see or hear him. I have an unpleasant suspicion that they wouldn't let a blind person on the show anyhow. But why? because of the lack of visual stage presence. What I mean by that is this. Does the blind person just stand there still and sing; or, does the person move around and dance and all that? You will notice that Robert has obviously dealt with that question very directly in his thought provoker. Read it carefully, and you'll see that Robert has anticipated this very issue. Obviously, the blind guy sure just doesn't just stand there and sing. Let's give it some thought. Do the judges pay more attention to how a contestant looks or how they sound. This is a sighted world; and, whether we like it or not, how someone looks is almost more important than any other consideration. So, if you just stand there still and sing, the chances are you're not going to arouse any enthusiasm on the part of either the judges or the audience. As I understand it, there was a young blind lady who did manage to appear before the judges, but, it was her lack of visual stage presence that did her in; and, she never even got in front of the camera in the judging room.

Sincerely yours,
The Constantly Barefooted,
Ray Foret NFBtalk Mailing List

Carl Jarvis ACB-L listserv

**46. Hi Carl, Excellent post. Are you saying that Simon should have ignored Brent's twirling of his cane while singing? IN a perfect world, I'd agree with you. But unfortunately, as we all know, in many ways we blind folks are put down by the rest of society. I can only wish that an associate of Brent would have clued him in as to the effect that twirling his cane can have on some sighted people. This reminds me of situations where blind folks do something unusual that draws undue attention to themselves. IN my book, if I'm doing something like that, I would really appreciate it if a sighted friend discreetly informed me of what I was doing. For example, I used to rock a lot when I was a kid. My teachers at Perkins often told me to stop rocking. When they learned that I was to begin going to public school in eighth grade, one of them took me aside and told me calmly that I really needed to work on rocking because it would make me less acceptable in public school. That really hit home for me and I began to really concentrate on the issue. I've gotten a lot better about rocking over the years, but it still happens occasionally, like when I'm under a tight deadline at work, or I'm paying rapt attention to an exciting Red Sox or Patriots game.

Bob hachey ACB-L listserv

**47. Bob, Dick and all you lovers of American Idol:

What I am suggesting Bob, is that the white cane is not the issue here. Simon has a problem with blindness and he uses the white cane to cover his discomfort. I believe this Thought Provoker goes to the heart of what we, as blind people, deal with every day of our lives. We try hard to make ourselves as "Normal" as possible, even doing our best to hide our blindness. But when we come down to the bottom line, it is blindness that is bothering some people. And we can't do a darn thing about it. Randy and Paula saw the entertainer. Simon saw the white cane. I don't know about the rest of you, but I run into this every single day that I am out and about. Of course there are things I can do to make myself more "acceptable" to the rest of my world. For example, as I am now in my 43rd year as a blind man, I tend to tilt my chin upward during conversation with folks. Since I am 6 foot 3 inches tall, this makes it appear that I am talking to the ceiling. In some cases this might be the better conversation. But my wife and several friends remind me of this from time to time. Then, at least for a while, I work at leveling my stare into the eyes of the person I'm speaking with. But nonetheless, if the person is hung up on blindness it wouldn't matter if I sat on their lap and blew into their ear. They are not going to see the real me

Carl Jarvis ACB-L listserv

**47. Firstly, I have to say this is the most entertaining thought provoker ever. I am a big American Idol fan. I know, I know, trash TV. You have all three of the judges pegged.

I agree with grumpy Simon. The guy should not be waving his cane around. It would be like letting my guide dog loose on the stage or something. I would use a folding cane and fold it up, or if I had to go on without the cane so I wouldn't have to hold it. I don't think the cane should be used as a prop.

Sarah L. Gales
AdLib Center for Independent Living
Advocate/Peer Counselor
ACB-L listserv

**48. I agree whole-heartedly with Ken on this one. Simon is the only judge I take seriously, although I do think that Randy has improved somewhat this year. Paula is an absolute joke as a judge, but Simon tells it like it is.

Sometimes constructive criticism is what people need and you can always count on Simon for that. He is honest, yes brutally honest, but paying attention to him can actually help contestants to be realistic and to improve, if that is possible.

When I walked my daughter down the church aisle on her wedding day, I did not have my white cane in my hand and when I sing or play my guitar in front of a crowd, I don't have my white cane in my hand either. In the case of this Thought Provoker, it would be totally unnecessary to have the white cane and it would, indeed, be distracting. As Simon often reminds contestants, "This is a singing competition."

Just my 2 cents worth,
Don RPlist

**49. As a performer, I choose to not bring my cane on stage. In this situation presented here, it sounds like the cane was apart of the guy's image. What he did was fine, and I'd never tell a blind performer not to bring their cane on stage. My feeling is that I want the focus to be on my talent as a singer, not as a blind singer. Do I have a problem with being blind? No of course not. Will I make some sort of effort to hide my blindness? No. But while I'm on stage singing for people, I want the focus to be on my talent, not my blindness. I have used my cane to get off and on stage before, but I fold it up and sit it nearby while I'm performing. I don't hold it or make it a part of my act. It's a personal decision though, and everyone is going to want to present something different.

I know a lot of people in the business have told me to use my blindness as a "gimick." The sympathy vote sells records I guess. Personally, I don't think that using my blindness to my "advantage" would only make things worse in the end

-Briley Pollard NFB NABS Mailing Listserv

**50. I agree with your logic. What would be the point of him making the cane a part of his act anyway?

Even if the sympathy sells it wouldn't be right to exploit that fact but also expect to be treated as in equal. We can't have our cake and eat it too.

Anjelina NFB NABS Mailing List

**51. I agree with Ray. Judging some of the people who have made it to the top of American Idol, it sure must have been their stage presence, as their singing left a lot to be desired.

Sherri NFBtalk Mailing List

**52. I am an avid fan of American Idol, so I loved this TP. Simon can be awfully harsh, and has been proven wrong many times over by the people who vote on American Idol. I don't think the American populace would be against someone who walks out on the stage with a white cane as long as the person sings well. However, if the contestant twirled the cane around in his or her fingers while singing instead of using it as a tool, I would then have to agree that it was an annoyance.

Jan Brandt Kearney NE

**53. My response is that people who have negative feelings about blindness and its symbols, will respond negatively to the white cane. How many negative responses there are and how severe they are, is a measure of the prejudice that people harbor.

Miriam Vieni ACB-L listserv

**54. Carl, I agree with you. My response to the thought provoker was that the negative responses of people to the cane is a measure of the prejudice that they harbor in regard to blindness. I think that it helps blind folks assimilate into the general population if their behavior looks as normal as possible and if their appearance looks as normal as possible. But blindness is a fact and cannot be hidden. Some people can deal with it. Others can't.

Miriam Vieni ACB-L listserv

**55. I think it is a very ridiculous and sad thing that our white cane / dog guides are seen as anything but a positive, helpful and productive mobility aid. My dog is that, not "part of me" or "my identity", blah blah. He is a dog, a very special dog as are all dogs, and he is a mobility aid with I thank God every day for. My leg, my ear, my skin, my hair: those are my parts, thank you. My dog, however, has his own parts and is free to maintain them--hopefully in good working order. Certainly and absolutely there is a deep connectivity betwee us, a deep bond, but no more or less than there is between me and my mother, or would be between me and my husband / lover / partner (whatever he might be fortunate enough to be called should I have one). Or my child if I had one. But they are not "parts of m", they maintain their identity, I maintain my own. When I do any performances or presentation, I prefer to take myself on and off stage with my mobility aid of choice and that is my dog guide. Were I a competent cane user, it might be that. Would I dance with a cane? Probably not because I'd trip myself up with it and fall flat on my face; however, if someone else can, God bless them! And that is well because it likely kept Ronnie from falling off the stage too. I would much, much rather see a blind person walk, self-sufficiently, on and off a stage with his / her mobility aid of his / her choice, place that device in an appropriate position and leave it there until it was needed than have all these "assistants" hold their little hands or arms to be sure they were properly established before we ever see them get on or off, or worse, we see them herded on like cattle. But when will we as blind people stop behaving as though our mobility device is a disgraceful thing? When will we use it proudly and demand its equal right to accompany us wherever and however we are?

Jessie ACB-L listserv

**56. I find this horrible. Just because someone is blind does not mean they could or can not be the next American idol. If it may not have been for the comment of Simon then this person may not have been voted off the show. I am disgusted at this, as someone who has been a avid AI watcher, to think that Simon thinks of the blind like this. Wow, wish there was a way we could show him the truth. Oh well.

Marsha NFB NABS Mailing List

**57. Well I have my thoughts on Simon but I will not post them. I think he was a little harsh in the way he said that however, the guy should of set his cane down on the stage because he did say that was drawing the eye more than his voice but still to take him off the show because of that. That's a bit rediculous

Christina Gountas NFB NABS Mailing List

**58. You guys are remembering this is fictional, right??

Jim NFB NABS Mailing List

**59. You've really managed to capture the atmosphere/tone of the judges - so believable! it's just realistic - we've all shared the experience of people seeing "blind" in our personhood rather than the person.

if i had talent and someone commented as did Simon, I'd probably respond with something like: "it can't be more distracting than Ossie biting off the head of a bird or Michael's beaded glove - and who was it that burned up his guitar on stage?"

kat Guam and the OandM listserv

**60. It's really amazing to me how in this day and age, the things that the sighted public will except when it comes too blind people, and that which they won't. or example, if your a blind musician, you can shake your head from side too side, and rock and roll too the music, and that will be acceptable, because there entertainers, where as, if your in the real world every day where you have to hold down a job, that kind of behavior isn't and shouldn't be tolerated. How many of us who are blind, know of some blind people that still have what's known as blindisms, even though there in there 40's 50's, and even 60's. When I was much younger and starting out on the dating game, I can't tell you how many times I, as a blind person, was felt that I was being compared too blind entertainers, just because I happened to like listening too music. When this happened to me on one occasion , I said to the persons that were around me, that we're not all like those blind entertainers that you see on television, or on the radio. We're just like everyone else. I'm really tired of the stereo type that seems to be associated when it comes too the sighted perception of what a blind person is supposed to represent. I wonder, when will they ever learn.

Cutolo Albert ACB-L listserv

**61. Simon is absolutely right! Everybody would be focusing on the stick, rather than the performer. He could use it to get where he needs to be, and then use it to get off-stage; but, someone would have to take it before the actual performance, and then hand it back when he was ready to leave. There must be ways of getting around that. Stevie Wonder did it, and I'm sure Ray Charles did, so if this guy really wants to make it big, he'll have to do a bit of problem-solving in that area. I've been on stage, and would never think of bringing my white cane.

Lynn, the boomer NFBtalk Mailing List

**62. Woo, look how many people here on this list are saying that the blind person will need to lose their cane in order to be acceptable. Part of me is saying that really may be true for sighted audience acceptance. But part of me says that we can't do that and be true to ourselves, especially if we are the type that say, I am okay and I will not bend on those unfortunate and stupid non-accepting behaviors that you the sighted will try and press on me, no I will not run from who I am. Accept me for who I am. And also, if you are the type to want to change what it means to be blind, then you push this envelope. And maybe not at first twirl the cane in their faces, but we get them more use to seeing it by using it on stage. Yeah, we need to get the white cane and we the blind more on stage!

Charles Whitehead Kansas

**63. Ray Charles wore dark glasses, so did Roy Orbison, and I am unaware of his having any visual impairment. I suspect he thought they made him look cool. A blind friend of mine in college got a kick out of using a white cane that looked like a pool cue. Another one used to screw a bowling trophy or something equivalent to the top of his. I have a fiberglass NFB type with a silver horse's head mounted on top. My brother, who is a talented silver smith made it for me when I had a long break between guide dogs. He said he thought I needed a hobby horse to keep me company while I waited to recover. Sure we should do what we can to minimize negative things like rocking, head down eyes closed stereotypic stuff that distract from people getting beyond the obvious fact we are blind to evaluating us as individual people with our own sets of talents and abilities. Anyone watching Stevie Wonder or Jose Feliciano will tell you that they rock and they don't move freely without assistance. If this young man is indeed talented, comfortable with himself, then that white cane won't hold him back. It may just be the signature of his individuality and make using one cool. Somehow, I believe that the tools we use to function should be just that, tools. Trying to pass by not using them doesn't make any sense to me. Randy wouldn't look any more professional stumbling around or falling off the stage because he chose not to use his cane. So as usual, Simon gets it wrong.

DiAnna Quietwater MO

**64. I know it could happen. Personally, I think the cane would be too much of a distraction from the performance. I think too many Americans would be too busy thinking about their preconceived notions about blindness to focus on the person's talent if they were holding/waving/twirling their white cane, but that's my opinion.

Allan Wheeller NFB NABS Mailing List

**65. Is this for real? Did it really happen? I've only seen "Idol" once or twice, but Simon's reputation is well-known. Still, I can't imagine even Simon saying that. Back in the early 60s, Jose Feliciano became a singing/guitar-playing star. Same for "Little" Stevie Wonder. In the early days, Jose was led onto the stage and over to his stool by an aide. It could easily be seen that not only was he blind, he also had a visible hump on his back from scoliosis. No one seemed to care. Little Stevie Wonder was also led on to the stage by the hand during the same era. No one seemed to have a problem with him either. So I find it baffling that a singer with a white cane could pose a problem, unless he was waving it around wildly, like a sword. That, perhaps, might prove a distraction from his singing.

Carolyn Gold RPlist

**66. I thought about trying out at one point, but after I saw many go who can sing and those who can't stay I was like na. I am not sure if it is necessarily blindness, but anyone who is characterize as different. Like it or not blindness is in that category. For instance I saw an older lady got let go and she was a grandma. If you have notice all those people up their now are young, and have the stage presents that majority of the audience likes are in the top.

Jung, Soo Keea NFBtalk Mailing List

**67. I've never had the fortune to see Ray Charles, but I did literally see Stevie Wonder perform on my nineteenth birthday in 1971 before I became legally blind. He was at a huge benefit concert in Ann Arbor to promote the release from prison of John Sinclair along with the likes of John Lennon, Phil Ochs and Commander Cody. He did occasionally dance back then on stage, but had a few unfortunate stumbles. (Can happen to anyone by the way and did happen to others who were sighted.) I attribute this more to lack of rehearsal opportunity as this was, like so many benefits rather impromptu. I know that Stevie Wonder does have excellent mobility skills. That is attested to by the fact that he ignored his mother in his youth to seek out and find a recording studio he heard. I did not however see him with a white cane on stage. But, the performance was all I cared about at the time and it was excellent. I don't think anyone in the audience either cared whether or not he had or did not have a cane. They too just cared about the experience and the performance. when Stevie had a stumble that felled him and he got right back up and continued without really skipping a beat the audience erupted in applause. I agree with Carl in his later post on this issue in that some of us (not you Andy to be sure) care more about these issues and projections than do the average sighted person. Anyway for what it is worth that was my experience.

Joe Harcz ACB-L listserv

**68. I wonder how something like this would be handled on AI. if it really happened. In all, its a good thought provoker.

Melissa R. Green NFB NABS Mailing List

**69. Well, actually, I thought there was a blind person last year. But, you'll have to take that with a grain of salt because I don't watch the show. Don't even have a television. In any case, I think the reason there haven't been blind people may indeed be that many of us aren't good at doing the visual things that the show requires. I think the nervousness about blindness on the part of the show would be outweighed by the fact that we have this mystique of being musically inclined. I knew a blind guy once who was doing local training for businesses. The tv station thought he was so good with his training that they wanted to give him his own five minute segment on the news once a week to talk about business excellenct. After the first show they canceled him because he didn't look at the camera--do all the eye contact things they needed. I thought to myself that I would probably have the same problem but then wondered how one might learn to do that sort of thing. For example, couldn't one have the cameraman snap his fingers so I knew exactly where to look? Maybe my eyes not focussing would be a problem, but, I don't know. I'd like to do some experimenting around and see just how well a blind person could do. In fact, I'll wager that some blind people have already found out some tricks that work.

Mike Bullis NFBtalk Mailing List

**70. Hey, Mike, Talk to the NFB of Florida folks. A few years back, they ran a community cable TV show on a regular basis, which included blind guys running the cameras and in front of the cameras. I do not know if they are doing it
now. Let me know if you need a contact email.

The way a sighted performer knows which camera is "on" is by noticing a camera's red light is on. But on the other hand, TV. studios have multiple cameras and if one is fixed front center, one to the left and one to the right (as I've seen done), I don't understand the problem in knowing where to look for "eye contact." In addition to that, the engineering booth has tiny television sets showing individually the feed from each camera. The director decides whether the shot from the front or the side, long shot or close up, is the shot to send over the airwaves. The performer doesn't need to know where to look at cameras as long as he or she looks at any guest, looks at the audience if there is one, and looks straight ahead with the chin up at the beginning and end of segments. The idea is to "look" at people the same way any blind person with some social skills will "look" at the persons he or she is talking to. By the way, cameras never have a problem getting a full-on shot of Stevie Wunder's face when he is performing.

Lorraine NFBtalk Mailing List

**71. Well, I've never had to do television. I did a video many years ago and it went fine. My reason for making all these points was to suggest to others that there is a solution to the problem. I think sometimes we complain about the unfairness of something but don't find solutions. In this case, those who believe that being a visual entertainer dilutes the purity of the musical experience are not talking about a blindness issue. On the other hand, I sensed that some people were perhaps saying that they were at a disadvantage because of being blind. I don't believe it, although, I do believe it perhaps takes some training, much like other things we as blind people do.

Should I ever be asked to handle that major television appearance in which I am asked for my expertise on child raising or perhaps how to invest ones funds in such a way as to never seem to get ahead, I'll go and check with blind folks who've mastered the TV presence.

Michael Bullis
Executive Director MD TAP
Maryland Department of Disabilities

NFBtalk Mailing List

**72. So my question would have been, "why did you focus on my stick." If the others saw me for who I am a singer? I hope he takes them to task for sure. No different than someone wearing the pop glasses. So thick they look like pop bottles. But the person can see.

Dar NFBtalk Mailing List

**73. I really don't know what to say about this one. I guess part of it is that I don't watch American Idol and am generally not familiar with what celebrities who are blind have to do with issues such as when to display a cane, and I guess that's really what this is about, really when it is appropriate in the sighted world with lots of people looking at you, to use the white cane, not American Idol itself. So I guess I'll just leave it there, for now, sorry I couldn't say more.

Mark Tardif

**74. I don't know, Ray... On one hand I totally agree with you that it's his choice to use a cane and that it does draw attention to him. What Simon is complaining about is that it draws attention to his blindness. As far as that goes, if Simon has a problem with it, he can get stuffed.

Twirling a cane like a baton though.. What kind of message does that send? A cane is not a prop. It is not a toy. It is a tool, and it is an important tool at that. Does having a performer twirling it like a baton on stage detract from its appearance as a tool to the audience? I think it might. If it does, as I suspect, then using it in that manner is rather irresponsible.

I seem to cannot come to a conclusion on this one, aside from the notion that Simon is earning his paycheck (which I am sure is sizable) by being such an uncompromisingly arrogant butthead.

Joseph Carter NFBtalk Mailing List

**75. I can see why twirling a cane might be a little much, but using it as part of his dance, so he does not fall off the stage and use it gracefully, is fine. As I said before, it sure is better for a singer to use his cane and walk on to the stage alone than to have to be that dependant blind singer who needs a sighted guide. I wonder how he would respond to a person in a wheel chair or some other handicap or even a midget. Simon has no rite to down any disabled person. He is there to judge the vocal aspect of the picture.

Terry Powers NFBtalk Mailing List

**76. What Simon said certainly was not appropriate in my opinion, but it was probably better than what he could have said, knowing Simon. But why should he have to get rid of his cane? What if he had not been blind and that cane were simply part of his act? Why should it be any different if he's blind? He's just found a cool way to make it part of his act.

Nicole B. Torcolini NFB NABS Mailing List

**77. I had to think about this one long and hard, but I decided that I would agree with the judges. It's respectable to be blind, and I don't believe that we as blind people should be treated any differently than others performing on American Idol. Until recently, I didn't get caught up in American Idol but have really come to enjoy it. Simon can come across as harsh and very critical though so I guess I'd have to take him with a grain of salt. I'd try to learn the stage but in this case I don't know if that would be possible. After all, the cane is a part of us cane users, like it or not!

Bonnie Ainsworth NFBtalk Mailing List

**78. I read this THOUGHT PROVOKER like everyone else and it is really interesting on how many people don't see what the blind singer was doing with the cane. So here he is, walks on with the cane, probably using the two point touch technique. The song starts, he gets into it and dances arching and swaying the cane as he puts rhythm into all he is doing, and at one point, he uses the cane to make a dramatic point or flare in his dancing presentation by twirling the cane. I'm blind, but I've read and have been told that lots of people who use a walking cane or stick will twirl it in a moment of glee or fancy, artsy movement. So I'm telling you, this blind singer knew what he was doing.He practiced his dance, he used all he had with him while on stage. Yeah, think of the rock and jazz guys that use their guitars in fancy ways as props to bring attention to their act. So get off getting on this guy for twirling the cane. And see that 2 of the judges thought it was okay and only one didn't. The audience seemed to like the performance!

Gary Cole Michigan

**80. While, I agree with Simon, my question is, Would a dog have been any better? Some of my blind friends have dogs, and their dog are most noticed and popular
then they are, now is that right, I think not. The only way to get around this situation would be to have the blind performer escorted by a sighted person, and that fosters dependence which is not good. My final comment is, no matter what we do as blind people, we are never excepted as the non-disabled population.

Thanks for this opportunity.
Edwin Yakubowski

**81. Okay I've never watched American Idol myself. But would this guy truly say such things? Besides that I don't think that the White Cane- dis-eye the attention of the watchers.
Sean Moore

**82. I think that if this blind guy was able to get accepted into an audition for American Idol he should be able to use his cane as part of his act, no big deal. What I find more interesting is Melissa Garside’s response about how rigged that show is, and then I start thinking about the whole climate of entertainment today and how many blind performers there are in Hollywood. I think the number is somewhere around zero, excepting the few that have been mentioned earlier, who have sustained the past few decades despite producing any hit material, simply because they are blind. I would really be shocked if any TV show allowed a blind person to appear in any role at all, let alone a role that didn’t revolve around the blindness itself. It doesn’t even matter how good a performer the blind person may be. We all know how hard it is to find employment anyway, in spite of skill. It’s all rigged, has been for decades, and blind people are not part of the program. Either that or most of us are not interested in such a shallow venture in the first place. AT least that’s my opinion. I do know of some blind people involved in performance but that is on a more regional level not Hollywood. Some of them are comedians and their acts are always all about their blindness.

Mike Sivill

Well Simon was telling the blind guy to give up his independence to loose the stick. that is my thoughts on this.

from Mich Verrier from New Liskeard ONtario Canada.

**84. As for using the white cane on stage, my thought is that if the blind person has not know his/her choreography well enough to perform without using the cane, then he/she isn't ready for the performance -- stopping to grope around for props and stage edge is not really possible in the heat of a musical performance -- you can't interrupt the beat of a song to check where you are with something like a cane -- perhaps tactile markings on the floor that can be felt with the feet, but not a cane -- Does anyone disagree? I am thinking that if the performer doesn't think he or she is in the right place then finding the right place isn't appropriate during a performance -- ad libbing or altering the routine in a planned way

and compensating is a more likely solution.

--le NFBtalk Mailing List

**85. Laura, I might agree if he were doing that, but he wasn't. The cane was a prop he used on stage, not a mobility device. He happens to use it as a mobility device off-stage apparently, but on stage he is using it in his act. I'm still not sure how I feel about that.

Joseph Carter NFBtalk Mailing List

**86 I just read the responses from every one about the guy that used the cane as part of the act for American Idol, and I am a bit surprised at the different views every one has, as many think who cares and some seem to find it insulting for him using the cane as a sort of prop, now I have been completely blind for two years, and guess I do not have the strong attachment to the Cain or feel that it should matter one way or the other, as if someone is a musician/ artist then if they choose to use the cane as a prop then so be it, it is show, his act, and his expression, yes I rely on the cane to get me around to my college courses, and it is a important well it is my complete ability to get around, so if one should choose to be more light hearted with the cane and lessen it's importance of independents for him or her, then so be it, I say rock on my friend.

Christine Mcdonald

**86. I was amazed at all the responses to this TP. BTW, I thought AI was for Artificial Intelligence, maybe it still is. Personally, and fortunately, I have never seen more than a moment of this program. My thoughts are that a cane is a part of the individual, or should be, anyway, like wearing one's glasses. If it were me, as if anyone would want to hear me sing, I would be proud of my independence, and use my cane out onto the stage. If I wanted to move around the stage while I sang, I'd use it, and if I were just going to stay in one place, I might fold it up when I got to the microphone, assuming that if I was not going to use it, I'd plan on using a folding cane, otherwise, just holding it, I'd use a one-piece cane. But if folks have a problem with seeing someone's cane, it's their problem, as the message we send with using our canes say more about the fact that we are a part of the world, than any fame would bring later. I don't think hiding our Blindness is the right thing, but perhaps twirling it would be a bit much, but I think that is preferable to not using a cane for what it is intended in such a situation.

Glenn Ervin, Northeast Nebraska.

**87. "you have to be acceptable." Now that is a damming statement and I'm glad Robert made Simon say it. By all means we must be palatable to the majority class. This is why African American actors were regulated to roles as servants, minstrels and buffoons in American theatre and early movies. It wasn't acceptable to the majority to have strong, black leading men and leading ladies. Black people didn't break this glass ceiling by waiting until white people were ready to let them in. They opened the doors through constant effort and pressure. Because of that pressure, because they displayed African Americans and their culture as it really is, Americans, even white Americans, are seriously considering having a black president.

Now if you lay aside your cane and take an elbow to get on stage just for the convenience, and you are being honest with yourself about it, there's nothing wrong with that. As Kenneth Jernigan used to tell us, independence doesn't come from cane or dog or human arm. "These are the trappings of independence not the substance". He said independence must come from within ourselves.

Also, as a travel teacher, I can't condone spinning or twirling the cane. It is a tool and a silent explanation of what I am and how I got here.

That said, we are blind! we are a strong people. What other minority in America that numbers less than one percent has the voice and the political power that blind people have? We are proud. We have fought and won the rights of citizenship that our constitution grants us and that are freely given to members of the majority. I know we're not finished yet but I'm proud that my people have won the right to vote independently. On the subject of pride in blindness, Dr. Jernigan said that if a rock rolled down hill and could think, it might think that it wanted to roll down the hill. But I'm not proud of blindness, I'm proud of blind people and what we have accomplished given our insignificant numbers. I'm proud of my people. We have a rich history, some of which we are just now learning about through the research of the Jernigan institute. Some of which we have celebrated for centuries. I'm certainly proud of that "wet behind the ears" little French boy who gave me the ability to read and write. The cane is a symbol of who we are and how far we have come. So stride on stage with that cane in its proper place. Wave the colors of your heritage and remember Sydney Poitier and Paul Robison, oh and Michelle Nichols for you star trek fans. Yes we want to be treated like everyone else and we'll remember what everyone else did to gain equality on stage and screen.

Jane Lansaw NOMC Texas

**88. The white cane is part of me. it symbolizes who I am--a blind guy. When my wife and I had our wedding pictures taken, my now sister-in-law said that the pictures looked good "except for that,' and she pointed at my white cane. I told her I resented that because that cane is a real part of me. she still doesn't understand, just as Simon obviously doesn't understand. but, without proper education about blindness, we couldn't really expect him too, could we.

Michael d. barber NFBtalk Mailing List

**89. Michael, I can understand what you mean, but be honest. Would you be waving and twirling your cane if you were a performer on stage? I wouldn't, personally, but that's just me.

Alan D Wheeler

**90. Judging from the responses, I'm in a tiny minority (of one) here, but I find this TP, and the seriousness with which it is taken, silly. We have so many other *important* issues and concerns to think and do something about, but yet this is the story that grabs everyone. P. T. Barnum was obviously right.

Robert Shelton


Terrie Arnold

**92. He could incorporate a cane into his act. I do take my cane with me when I do chorus and if chorus is doing several numbers I will fold the cane up and lay it down beside me. But if we are going only do one or two numbers I hold it in front of me. Of course anybody in the group know that I am blind. But moving the cane around during your perform would cause people to be looking at the cane instead of listen and observing the performance.

Dexter Terry

**93. I think the cane has its place and it is certainly a great mobility aid. But I think it would take away from a person's act if he had it on stage with him and might actually lead people to make fun of him.

Mary Jo Partyka New Jersey

**94. American Idol, along with the Oscars, the Super bowl and the Olympics, is something I naturally avoid. Notwithstanding, I guess the answer is simple for me: If this young man can use his cane as a prop the way, say, Fred Astaire did, as others have pointed out, then he doesn’t need to lose the cane. I will say that the judge who wants him to get rid of the cane while he's on stage certainly has a right to his opinions; music and visual stuff can be rather subjective and therefore difficult to pin down in terms of what is desirable and what is not. I personally use my cane when I go on stage, having just gotten back into music again after a long absence. It increases my independence. So if people can’t deal with it, they need to get some professional help that I'm not qualified to give them.

John D. Coveleski, Minneapolis, MN(johncoveleski@mindspring.com)