"Whoa, that"s a big honking screen for a laptop!"

     "Yeah, I like to be able to sit back and be comfortable." Dempsey was showing off his computer to a new friend. He was attending a summer program for blind teens of high school age. Rapidly he reduced the enlargement of the text he'd been studying. "I was checking out the details of the pics and diagrams we need to use for our group project," he lied; he didn't think it would be cool in this group to be the one using the biggest enlargement. Squinting now, he forged ahead, getting only a part of what scrolled by. Next to him, a tiny earphone voice running at triple speed told him his neighbor was back to reading via her screen enlargement software's voice.

     "Everyone finished? They want us back in the main hall in five minutes," said Kelly, the group's elected leader and the only one of them who was totally blind.

     Dempsey's ego hurt a little for not being chosen for lead. But deep down he knew he probably would not be able to outdo some of these guys, no matter if he could see better than them or not.

     "Yo! Done and got my notes Brailled up," answered Mark, putting his slate back in his laptop case.

     That Braille thing was something Dempsey just didn't get. He had visited with Mark and knew the two of them had about the same vision. Dempsey and his parents had always opted for print, wanting him to fit into the mainstream.

     "Hey, let's settle on who is going to present which part of the report," Kelsey said. "I've got to write out the specifics of what I say."

     "I'll handle the second section," Dempsey volunteered. He hadn't gotten much further than that in his study of the material; he was a good student, but these guys had gotten through the four sections of readings faster. And while the rest was being organized, he quickly wrote out a few notes with a heavy marker. He knew he'd better not even try to read from prepared notes; he'd gotten teased at the school where he was the only blind student ("Smelling or reading it, Dempsey?").

     Presentations completed, the group was given a one-hour break. Someone suggested, "Let's go to Mickey D's!"

     "I know the way," Kelly said and took the lead.

     "Whoa…we going to go to a light?" asked Dempsey.

     "That would be four blocks down," answered Kelly. "We don't have the time."

     "We can handle this," Mark said, leaning forward, listening to the traffic on the four-lane street.

     Out of the four of them, Dempsey was the only one without a cane. He had a monocular back in the dorm, but even with that, this type of street made him nervous; at home he had a folding cane...somewhere. He never wanted the stigma of a cane, didn't need one, because he always chose where and when he would go places by himself.


     Heart in his throat, Dempsey followed; he wouldn't be left behind. About the middle of the street, "Ow, darn!" as he kicked into an unseen cement island and fell.

     "Better take my arm…hurry." Kelly said.

     That evening was philosophy seminar. The topic was the effect of a blind media character upon an audience. "I have a rather provoking thought," spoke up one teen. "We all agree that when blindness is portrayed in the mass media, it has an effect upon how blindness is viewed by society. My question is, if that influence guides how we are treated and if you view that as a process that has been worked upon you, can you come up with a single term that captures the essence of which specific blind cult figure that's been applied to you?"

     Dempsey got it right away, but wasn't sure he was ready to share it. This day had brought it home to him. these guys had blindness skills, confidence, knew where in life they were going! They were competent blind people and he was basically an inferior sighted person. "Yeah, I've been Magoo'd."


e-mail responses to

**1. This sounds so much like my story. When I was growing up, I was encouraged to live a "normal" life. My parents insisted that I shouldn't "look" blind. In fact, I hadn't started to use a cane regularly until I became a client of the Nebraska Orientation Center here in Lincoln almost four years ago.

Until then, I was one of those people who would use vision I couldn't truly rely on and would trip over curbs, down steps, in holes in the street any other area in which the use of a cane would have been much more reliable. When I went to the residential school in South Dakota back in the early seventies, I wasn't encouraged to use a cane. I was given an aluminum folding cane as a young adult. The cane had the red identification and marshmallow tip. I disliked those canes intensely and wouldn't use them.

I was one of those kids in school who used the large print and wrote in the darkest ball point or marking pens I could see to write with. I was ashamed to use magnification very much like the person in this story. If I wasn't "normal" I was sometimes teased by the other children once I transferred to public school. I learned Grade 1, and started to learn contracted Braille while living in Wyoming. I finally learned all of the contracted Braille and am still subscribe to Braille magazines to keep up on my Braille reading, and I'm comfortable using JAWS. It's made my life much easier in the long run. I like that it's respectable to admit that I'm blind and now I have no problem admitting it. If only I'd had the courage to admit it a long time ago.

Bonnie Ainsworth Lincoln, NE

**2. I think there are a lot of us "partials" out there who have been Magoo'd at some point. Boy do I feel compassion for Dempsey, because there is so much pressure to "fit in". I can remember when I finally learned how freeing it is to use a cane. I was traveling away from home, and decided to try using one where no one knew me. I was worried that if I used a cane in my usual circles, people would feel sorry for me. By using a cane, I discovered that store clerks and people on the street are much nicer, because they usually understand immediately that I can't see, well.

Mary Ellen from Daytona

**3. The problem with saying that what counts is the self image that comes from within, is that this self image is a composite of external events and conditioning gathered over our trip through Life.
If my culture teaches me that blindness makes a person dependent and helpless and incompetent, then that becomes part of my self image. If blind people are looking for a challenge, this is it. The first difficult task will be to establish a positive self image. The second task is to develop a positive image of blindness in the public at large. When you have taken care of this matter, we will all be living our American Dream.

Carl Jarvis ACB-L listserv

**4. Well, the timing of this TP could not have been better. Saturday Night Live's portrayal of New York governor David Paterson as a bumbling fool because of his blindness makes it clear what many still feel about those with visual impairments. No matter how skilled, educated, or talented a blind individual becomes, he will still be the subject of mockery. It is easy to understand why Dempsey tries to disguise his blindness for as long as he can.


**5. I've always been blind, so I guess I don't empathize with people who are losing their sight as well as I might. But, I do understand that it takes time to adjust to the realization that you are blind and your sight is probably not going to return, one day. The thing I don't understand, though, is how people, with a little vision, can truly believe that others don't know there's something different about them, when they are running into things, can't walk with ease, perhaps they look down at their feet while walking, struggle to read print, etc. In some instances, the public might not know that this person can't see, but they know there's something wrong and are often unkind about the way the blind person is acting...just so no one will know that he/she's blind.

Then, what's wrong with being blind? This person's friends are getting to where they want and need to go with much more ease, less worry, and faster than he is. Does he really believe that he's better off than they, because he can see, a little?

As I said at the beginning, I don't empathize well with this kind of attitude, and it is attitude which ultimately determines whether we'll succeed as a blind person, or struggle to remain sighted, when we can't do that.

Cindy Handel Willow Street, PA

**6. The infamous, but lovable (according to some) Mr. Magoo was not Scottish. Therefore, his name should not be spelled as if he were Scottish; that is, it is Magoo and not Magoo. His first name, by the way, was Quincey. Interesting use of his name as a verb, however.

James S. Nyman Lincoln, NE

**7. How does any one like being portrayed in the media? - middle class white, urban dweller, blind competent, blind inept, cognitively challenged? How, in fact, would we like a portrayal to appear?

I suspect that our self image, cobbled together by decades of reactions from others, tweaked and refined by piles of self help books, listservs, coworkers' responses, and all other interactive arenas in which we participate, can, it might be said, be crafted any way we wish, or, not at all.
Does this mean that we should hope only for positive portrayals in all circumstances? For blind people specifically, does this mean we'd like the never-ending parade of supremely confident and competent blind people, living the American dream? A portrayal of a blind person in any form is, by definition of the medium, going to be skewed. Remember "The Fantastic Four"? The blind girl, I think Alicia, is a superb artist, in love with Ben, whose body is like a rock due to some mishap.

Then, in the movie "Mask" there's the blind girl who falls in love with Cher's son. - Somehow as though a blind girl just can't get something right - or, maybe it's the rest of society that can't get it right.
I mean only to say here, if we're not able to sort out the lines of demarcation between reality and media, maybe we've got more to worry about than blindness issues, portrayals, betrayals, an glitches.

As for Dempsey, he's like most teens I know, working it out, stumbling (figuratively, as well), reassessing, redefining. That's what the teen years are for. With this in mind, he's a bit more real to me than the kids who have seemed to work it all out. He's getting there, thanks to that all-powerful force, PEER PRESSURE.

kat Guam

**8. This thought provoker brings up some of the issues which plague teens and have done so for centuries. I'm not even going to talk about "Blindness" the movie. That was an art film, and the whole point was what happens to society when something goes wrong and society falls apart. It's equivalent to Golding's Lord Of The Flies.

No, I want to talk about this McDude character. He falls because he is too proud to use a monocular. He doesn't learn braille because his parents want him to learn print.

These are all images put upon one from outside. What makes a full human being is one who's self image comes from within.

Somehow we've got to promote braille, not as a "blindness tool", but as a tactile code used by blind and partially sighted people to make life easier. If you have trouble seeing, learn print, sure, but also learn braille. I did. I'm totally blind, but I know the shapes of the print letters. I don't use them often, but I might write a creditable message if I had to. I use braille. So? I use Morse Code too. Morse Code is cool, but braille isn't? Where's the difference? Even ASL is cool whereas braille isn't. Somehow we've got to make braille cool. When you spend more time decoding your print than in comprehending it, when you know your vision is deteriating, when you know that you might lose your sight some day, when you just flat out want a quick and easy way to identify stuff around your house without making nose prints on it, then braille becomes an option that should be taken seriously, not as a bitter pill but as a new way to make communication easier.

As for the cane business, that, unfortunately, is a problem which a partial or a newly blinded person has to accept. It takes time, and each person comes to it in his own way. However, this I will say. If you carry a cane, it's not only for your protection, but it is for those around you. People see a cane and they become the ones who move out of the way. It's a passport, a entry that gives you certain privileges which benefit you. However, in order to take advantage of the passport, you've got to determine that you're going to travel with it.

Ann Parsons ACB-L listserv

**9. Ann and list,
There's another thing about use of the cane that you didn't mention but was instrumental in my deciding to embrace its use when I'm walking by myself. If I'm trying to get around, especially in the city on sidewalks and streets without a cane people may perceive me as drunk or spaced out in some way. I could be the victim of a mugger more readily without a cane than with one. Yes, the cane says that I'm blind; it shouts it to the world. But maybe that's a good thing sometimes.

Chris ACB-L listserv

**10. I'm partially sighted, and went through the whole long list of rebellions before I finally used a cane. Since I retired my latest guide dog, I'm going through some of the same struggles all over again.

As unreasonable as it might seem, I hope other blind people will have some compassion , especially for partially sighted people, who appear to be too slow in adapting to blindness and all it's specialized equipment and techniques. One turning point for me was, around the age of 25 I collided with a black woman. I got a loud and long speech about how racist I was.

If I had a cane, she might have just moved around me.

Abby ACB-L listserv

**11. The question of the effect a blind public figure has on a blind audience is fascinating to me. When I was growing up in the 1950's and 60's we read and heard every day about Helen Keller's childhood. I got sick of hearing about Helen learning to say "water". I really didn't appreciate her in those days for the intelligent and sensitive woman that she was.

My childhood was nothing like Helen's. I could hear. I could talk, although I was a late talker. This contributed to my desire to distance myself from Helen Keller. My friends and I all watched The Miracle Worker and in our youthful arrogance we saw Helen's parents as the bad guys and Anne Sullivan Macy as the little girl's brave rescuer but the story didn't go much further than that for us.

When I was in my early thirties I read a book by Helen Keller called "my religion." It blew me away. I began to have an inkling of why this woman was, and still is so revered all over the world. She talked about her spiritual awakening at the age of thirteen when she was given a braille book about the life of Emanuel Swedenborg, a mystic who lived several centuries ago.

Helen Keller isn't just a symbol. No blind person is just a symbol. We have very down-to-earth lives and we live those lives based on our authentic character and personalities. It isn't just the partially sighted young man struggling to keep everyone from knowing about his weakness who falls into the trap of putting up a facade to keep from being embarrassed. We all need to do, each in our own way what Helen Keller did. We need to get to know ourselves warts and all. We need to love ourselves warts and all and go out there and do what needs doing without embarrassment or shame.

Chris Coulter Edmonds, Washington

**12. I really gave this one a lot of thought! I do not work in the blind rehab field; I am only a client. I suffer from RP, and in the early years, I was a stumble bum like Mr. Magoo, yet during those same years, I laughed heartily at the Magoo cartoons. All of my friends, my family, and my employers were aware of my low vision, but I cannot recall even once being intimidated or feeling less than equal to my friends, peers, or family. Each of us had something to offer. I was even nicknamed "Magoo" by my closest friend, all of whom were sighted, but seldom was the name used outside of our close circle; at least, not that I am aware of. I was always grateful for any help offered or received, and never ashamed of asking for help when I needed it. In return, I was constantly called upon to do tax returns, notarize signatures, do volunteer work at church or in the trade organizations to which I belonged, or help with a do-it-yourself project for my friends whenever I could.

I didn't use a cane, because at that time, I had yet to receive rehab and mobility training. Only in my first week of rehab, when the director of the rehab facility asked me why I never used a cane, I replied, "I don't need it." He smiled, asked to see my shins, and after showing him my scarred shins, I realized what I needed to do, and I did it.

For all problems in life, I think attitude plays a tremendous role in solutions. To this day, I remember the words of the ophthalmologist who delivered the news of my impending blindness to me. He said, "You can curl up in a corner, feel sorry for yourself, be miserable and make everyone else in your life miserable, or you can move on with your life." Fortunately, I chose the second course and never looked back!

I have read accounts, and have had personal conversations with people, who have faced adversity and become successful in life, and one common thread exists: You must rise above the disability, challenge, discrimination, ridicule, embarrassment, or whatever else it might be called, and get on with the job!

Something else that occurs to me: Maybe the influence of Magoo on society is not that blind people are stupid, but that people so obviously impaired and who refuse to deal with the impairment are the dummies!

Jim Theall, Longmont, CO

**13. May I have the thought provoker sent directly to me?

I really like this one. It is very thought provoking. My thoughts thus far though have stopped at --- nice to use at our summer program for teens next year.

Janet George AERnet listserv


Phyllis RPlist

**15. As I read this story, I can't help but to ask why blind people, and blind people with a little sight continue to be ashamed of something they can't avoid. I also have to wonder if there is such wide-spread denial of one's blindness to the point of cheeting yourself out of being efficient.

This includes the sighted blind person who in this story shrinks the size of his screan, and the blind person in this story who chooses to write with a slate, 25 words a minute for a speedy writer, instead of using an electronic note-taker, 45 words a minute for an average writer.

There is a major difference between these two
blind people. The former denies having anything to do with a sensory impairment, and the latter wants everything to do with it. They are making choices. The sighted blind goes as far as to harm himself, and make a lower grade, and a poor presentation because he is denying, and avoiding his blindness. The totally blind student in the story chooses a slower method of writing, but no one really notices a deficiency because the slate user is able to keep up.

This brings to mind a few things: Why choose an inferior way of writing? Yes, inferior. I love the slate, and think people should learn it, use it, and never let the skill wither. But it is inferior. It is slower, bulkier, and the writing can't be edited, shared, put out in print, pasted into an e-mail, put up on a blog, spell-checked, and so on. I am a firm believer in slate use, but understand its limitations.

On the other hand, the slate is cheaper, and if one has practice with it, she or he will make few errors.

We also do not see the slate user come out with a disadvantage in this story.
They have a good enough command of braille to do good work.

As to confidence, well, that all comes with exposure, understanding, and a reality check. I tend to see a lot of blind people who are not confident, and are not given the slightest chance to feel out an area of competency. Some are not confident, and are shunned for their inadequacies.

Antonio M. Guimaraes Jr. East Providence, RI

16. Regarding the thought provoker. I think it would be nice if proper grammar were used when the narrator speaks. These contrived stories go everywhere, to all sorts of people. They look like they were written by a high school student. I doubt the plausibility of this story because the person about whom the story is written would have learned too employ coping mechanisms when walking with his peers. Such as following the others so he wouldn't fall over an island. Or allowing the traffic to be his guide. In the 48 years of knowing my partially sighted husband before his death, he never guided me in to anything. Nor did he ever fall over an island while walking in the street.

Angel Blind-X

**17. I don't think these stories are "contrived" at all. They are meant to stimulate discussions about different aspects of blindness.

I think these two situations are certainly plausible. As a rehabilitation teacher and fellow blind person, I have known several partially blind people who struggled with their schoolwork because they did not read Braille and were not able to read print in an efficient manner. There is still a debate in the blindness field on whether to teach Braille to a person who has some remaining vision.

Traveling independently is another skill that some partially blind people have trouble with. Even if you follow someone and use the traffic as your guide, you may not be looking down in order to see the island or the steep curve. If the cane was used, the accident could have been avoided. The point of the story was that the young man had very poor skills and was ashamed of "looking blind". If you don't have the skills you need as a blind person, you are going to have a hard time succeeding academically and ultimately in a career.

Leslie Fairall Blind-x

**18. I understand why you might feel offended, but do remember that people, good, old, regular people do not speak in grammatically correct sentences. Many do, but many do not. Often someone who speaks in correct grammar most of the time will choose, for whatever reason to not do so. The style of these Provokers is meant to be both down-to-earth and as close to reality as possible. They are all written in this style. Therefore, the grammatically incorrect dialogue fits.

Smiling> One thing you've got to remember in looking at somebody's writing is that each writer has his or her own style of writing. Each author has his or her own voice. The line between what is grammatically correct and what is the author's style is often blurred, but a good editor or teacher learns to distinguish these two things.

I think you may be more upset about this piece because you are grieving. That is certainly understandable and no shame to you at all. It's a good thing, in fact. I think if you were to read this story in a year or two, your strong reaction would be tempered. have a better day.

Ann Parsons Blind-X

**19. It happens to many teenagers. I have come to know of a teenager within the last two weeks who is legally blind. Other students at his school are bullying him. Of course, he is not competent to stand up and protect himself. When I spoke with the parent she was not sure about getting help from the NFB. I hope that he learns Braille and cane travel. I have encouraged his mother and hope that she will make solid firm changes.

Yasmin Reyazuddin
Information & Referral unit
Department of Health & human services
Rockville MD

**20. well , this is the same old story , of not wanting to look different than others , and the student that is low vision did not get the right type of training or the right way to look at himself. The self we see is far different than what the world see's we are far , more critical than someone on the street. We need to give all these students some counseling to improve their self confidence in these matters enough said.


**21. Just think of sending your children to school only to learn that they were being allowed to read at a fraction of the speed that was expected of other children. Indeed, the teachers assured you that this would work out fine because your children would not need to read fast. It was more important that they look normal.
You probably would move Heaven and Earth to get that teacher fired.
Yet this is exactly what our educational system is doing to many low vision children. Of course the problem is complicated by parents who also buy into the belief that their child will be psychologically damaged if they look different.
Dempsey, and other young adults like him, are crippled by uninformed parents and an ignorant educational system.
Even when Dempsey realizes what has been done to him, and begins to work to make up for lost time, he may never gain the level of skill that he would have if he'd been given proper information and education from the ground up.

While it is important to provide a high level of training for the Dempsey's of the world, it is even more critical to deal with the lack of proper education at the front end.
We blind folks need to work together to educate the educators. Our organizations can help by providing educational materials and speakers to teacher organizations. Already both the NFB and ACB have active groups of parents, but more effort needs to be made to seek out all families.
Some state agencies for the blind have pretty good child and family services. Other states have programs that set the children back.
Fortunatley Dempsey and his peers are better at figuring it all out than are their parents and teachers.

Carl Jarvis ACB-L

**22. This one I can relate too since I have some usable vision, before I started using the white cane, and had my blindness skills down. I was always tripping over stuff, etc. Heck even now I still don't know Braille. But this one brings it home for me, since I can relate a lot.

Sean Moore National Federation of the Blind of Georgia, Bainbridge Chapter

**23. I had a general idea of what you meant by the title. After reading the story, I know
for sure. Coincidentally, I had recently read an article about Mister Magoo online. The
writer noted that, "Mister Magoo's problems don't arise from blindness. He's actually
myopic. His problems arise from his stubborn refusal to admit that his sight is failing."

Dempsey's problem is ALMOST the same. But it wasn't his denial. It was that of his

People like that should be ashamed of themselves. How many times has this happened?
A child is born with some kind of eye problem, and the parents know he is going blind. But
they refuse to surrender to it, as if blindness itself is scandalous. Maybe it is among superstitious pagans; but Twenty First Century Americans ought to know better than that.

Think of it this way: A baby will have to go to school and read books someday, right?
So parents get him accustomed to the idea of reading by giving him wooden blocks with
raised letters on them. (Ironically, wooden alphabet blocks were invented for blind babies,
long before the invention of Braille!)

So, by the same token, what's the basic difference if a baby is going blind, and has to
read Braille eventually? Might as well get started. Get him some wooden blocks with
raised dots.

Toddlers are taught to ride tricycles, then bicycles, then work their way up to cars. So
why not think of cane training the same way, working his way up to dogs? Even better,
why not give him a puppy, and get him used to that idea?

In many cases, children born with eye diseases are often caught off-guard. By the time
they realize what is happening to them, they become even more stubborn than their parents
had been. They hate their canes, they hate using Braillers, they hate admitting they are
blind ("legally" or otherwise). Parents who know the facts from birth must level with their
children, so the transition will be easier, even natural and relatively painless.

If parents don't tell their child he is going blind, he will not only be caught unprepared,
but he will also be resentful. He will wonder why his parents lied to him. He will find it
difficult to trust them, or any other sighted person. He will have learned, wrongly, that
blindness is shameful. They have set a stumbling block before the blind.

David Lafleche

**24. I am a semi-sighted legally blind person. I am not totally blind. I should not have to endure an education geared to the totally blind. I do not wish to join the blind community in totality. I am sorry if that offends some, but it is true and how I feel. I live on the cusp of both worlds and given a choice, I would rather be sighted and live within that world. I would like to learn how to do things within the limitations of my personal vision loss that is true. I do not wish to join a mixed group of individuals that includes the totally blind in a learning environment, that is. That has nothing to do with me and worse, makes my struggling feel worse. HOW INCREDIBLY AWFUL. Why do I have to learn to function as a totally blind person? Do they have to learn how to function as a semi-sighted person? I do not think so. I do not want to learn braille while I can still read the printed word. I will learn it when I am fully blind like most blind people have learned it that way, when they had no other choice.

I was not born blind. At one time, I have driven a car, used public transportation, an elevator, an escalator and was able to look someone in the eye while speaking to them. I could go to a restaurant salad bar and make selections based on eye appeal. I found a ladies room and used the facilities without having to "feel" for the toilet tissue or seat or coat hook. I went to college and worked at my profession. I have raised children and participated in their education. I am a wife who has cared for a husband, maintained a household, lived within a budget, and supervised a home. I have done major shopping, banking, Christmas shopping, Birthday shopping and hosted many parties and events in my home. I have volunteered in food banks and church activities.

I have limited my activities greatly because of my vision loss. All of these things are major losses to me and have caused a great deal of depression and resentment. I have had to learn to accept that I cannot have what I once had. As I have become legally blind, I must now learn to live within a sighted world and PROVE myself daily, that I did not lose brain function because I lost some eyesight and that I am indeed smart and intelligent. I have to show that I can function in a sighted community in employment and everyday activities of daily living. It becomes quite tiring and stressful to prove myself over and over again. It is as if my life experiences do not count. To hear that we can do almost everything a sighted person can do is not necessarily true and a cruel thing to tell people who have lost their sight. We MUST rely on many people to HELP us. There is not too many instances I can think of that a blind person does fully independently. I do not agree with that statement and find it unrealistic and harmful. It needs to be amended to be fair and reasonable. Yes, we can do things, do them well, but we just do them differently and often with guidance and assistance. I do not have the advantages of a fully sighted individual and I never will. Nor will any blind person. I have not had the benefit of blind training from birth or from a young or semi-young age. I have to use a cane I do not want to use. I need both hand to sense and feel, and move around. Mobility is my major dilemma. The cane is a hindrance to me in many ways personally. If I am holding it, I cannot use my hands fully For me it is used primarily for others to see me and to realize I have a problem with my eyes. It is only a calling card to others to let them know I have somewhat vision difficulty. In truth, it does not help me see at all. It helps others to realize it helps me be mobile. I have some eyesight. I need my hands to be available. To carry the cane takes away a vital part of my life and ability. If you are totally blind, you cannot understand this. I wonder why a totally blind person thinks they understand this? There should be, in my opinion, places to be taught that allow you to use what ability you have and not have to be part of a totally blind community. Unfortunately, like some minorities, there will always be stereotypes. Blind people will always struggle with how others perceive them as individuals and a group.

My battle in life is hard enough. To have a caste system within the blind community is unconscionable. Mr. Magoo did very well by my estimations and he lived his life according to how HE SAW things. Being compared to Mr. Magoo is not so terrible. He didn't give a damn how others saw him or what they thought of him. He did what he wanted. What is terrible is to perpetrate a false belief system that blind people can do, be and have whatever they set their minds on having or doing. It is not true and if in the event it does occur, the percentages are extremely small. There is a horrible prejudice among the ranks in the blind community. Some people who are totally blind have little empathy for those who have some sight, it seems.

Here is an example: If you dropped me off in Russia right now, it might take me one year of being totally inculcated in that community to learn the language and culture. Eventually, I would learn enough to get by. I am not submerged in the blind culture on a daily basis. It is extremely difficult to learn blind skills without intense practice. I would venture to surmise that many visually disparaged people are recluses. And there is an awful lot of judging in the blind community based on the comments of the last thought provoker. I must live as I see fit and not have to be categorized by some model or generalization. I am not totally blind and do not want to learn how to be a totally blind person. I was not born blind, I have suffered losses, but I am not totally blind. I am not going to pretend that I am.

Perhaps I am stubborn, but too bad if I am. I have grown a thick hard skin. It is how I have learned to survive, how I have made my life work. It is bad enough to have to function in society that has little understanding of a difficult circumstance, but to have blind people judge with malice and prejudice against each other as in some of the comments in the last thought provoker is disgusting. NO ONE SHOULD HAVE TO FAKE WHO THEY ARE, sighted, semi-sighted or totally blind. If you use a big screen lap top, so what? Go ahead and use it, whatever it takes to make it in this world. You can't braille notes? Who says taking notes by braille means you are a good note taker? If you trip and fall, SO WHAT, you can always get up and brush yourself off and start again, big deal. A CANE DOES NOT PREVENT YOU FROM GETTING HURT, believe me, I know from experience. PEER PRESSURE hurts worse than falling. It is not to be born in the blind community and yet if you read some of the last thought provokers, there was absolute meanness and lack of empathy or compassion. One day in the ideal world, things may be better, but for now, it aint so great. We should be encouraging each other not sending people who need help packing. Intentionally discouraging and judging another person. That is horrible. It only proves one thing, that there are those on both sides of the pendulum, the good and the bad in all people. Some people have a great capacity for good and some have a great capacity for evil. Some happen to have vision and some do not. In that one instance, I can truly say we are exactly the same and truly equal There can be nothing worse than a blind, blind person.

Virginia S.

**25. I would like to add a rebuttal to Response #7 (from "Kat").

I had brought up the question several years ago. That is,
"How would you like a blind person to be portrayed in fiction?"
In my observation, there have been four basic genres:
slapstick, suspense thrillers, soap operas, and superheroes.
All of them are dead wrong for the portrayal of disability.

(Come to think of it, the Matt Murdock/Daredevil character
in Marvel Comics is worse in some ways than Mister Magoo,
because no disabled person could ever have super powers
to fall back on. This is badly unrealistic, even for a comic

When I got into writing fiction five years ago, I thought
about using a blind character as a role model. This was
reflected in a previous Thought Provoker ("Follow the
Leader"). Strangely enough, one or two respondents had
dismissed the concept as unrealistic.

I've been working on a story in which the blind person
is the only character who is NOT "dysfunctional" in any way,
and she counsels the able-bodied characters in their own
crises. I wonder how that would go over?

But, hey, I gotta do something. I hate Greek tragedy,
and Mister Magoo just isn't funny.

David Lafleche RI

**26. I do believe this young man is having more difficulties accepting his vanishing vision. Like so many people his age he badly wants to be accepted by all his sighted peers. He does not want to be looked at as "different" or as part of that "blind" group of kids.

young people long for acceptance but what this man is missing is that with proper Braille skills and use of a cane he can be just as good as his peers. Sure these are new concepts to deal with but in time he will master them. As for Magoo I always thought he was just a funny cartoon character and was not worried much about the way he portrayed himself.

Yes cult figures like him can have a bit of influence on how we look at ourselves, but with skills like braille and use of a cane we can overcome all this and laugh at the cartoon character's antics.

A happy new year to all of you.
Friend ship and peace Karen Crowder

**27. wow this thought provoker made me think. This sounds a lot like me. All through elementary school I used large print and dark markers. I got teased very much even with out using a cane and braille so this did not make me want to use these things at all. However, as I got in to high school and now in college my vision has changed some and it is a lot faster and easier to use a cane and braille. I have now realized that I can't change my blindness so I have to live with it and do the best I can. This tp also brings up the question of what effect the media has on stereotypes of blindness. It has been my recent observation at college that many people were very nervous when meeting me because of my visual impairment. I have also asked my close friends how they felt when meeting me and found it interesting that if some one would find out who my close friends were the new person would bombard my friends with questions about what to do when around me. I believe that many of their preconceived notions of blind people were from the media like films and tv. In addition, I always make sure to encourage people to ask questions and to not be afraid. I have also found that once a person asks questions they become very interested and think my adaptations are very cool and then they want to learn more. Another thing about me that people find interesting is that I am a theatre major in college. So I tell people that if there is something you really want or want to do you should never let any one else tell you what you can and can't do. Or what adaptations you should use. In the end you know what is best for you and that is what is most important. So I tell people I am a lot like them except I have a visual impairment. I also think we are all different for a reason so we just need to educate those around us about our differences what ever they may be. I feel the only way to break these stereotypes is to get more people with disabilities or any kind of difference to speak out and teach those around them. After all every one is unique and special in their own way. That is why our world is so interesting and diverse.

Tiffany Taylor Livonia Michigan

**28. I would like to respond to the 24th response to this thought provoker.

First and foremost, I want to say that I'm sorry you're having so much trouble with your vision loss. It must be frustrating to adjust to a new lifestyle and accommodate your new set of advantages and limitations. I am also "semi-sighted," "visually impaired," "legally blind," "low vision," "partially sighted," or whatever term you prefer to describe persons not totally blind. My experience has been a little different from yours, and I beg your pardon for the impending length of this post.

First and foremost, I heard you say that it's cruel to tell a blind person that she or he can do anything that a sighted person can do. I disagree. I think it makes all good sense to encourage a blind person to be just as productive as their sighted friends, colleagues, family members, and neighbors. However, I do submit that there are some things that sight is most helpful for. For example, it's often more efficient to ask for assistance at a grocery store when shopping, or to take transport operated by someone with full sight. In a chemistry lab, it's helpful for a sighted person to offer information about the visual environment such as color changes in various compositions. However, this is not at all to degrade the level of accomplishment performed by the blind person. Whether we are disabled or not, we all need a little help sometimes; short people need a stool or a taller person to assist them, men need women to bear children, young people need older people to teach them, etc etc. This is common sense to me. I also wish to note one more important thing in this section. you listed a number of things that you did in your sighted life (and I assume that you have continued many of these activities). totally blind people have done these same activities for years on end. They derive as much pleasure from these activities as their sighted friends. It's been my experience that the real handicap of blindness is social conceptions that prevent our full participation in society to the level that the sighted are allowed to try their strength and talent.

I would like to share my experience as someone with low vision. I was born partially sighted at birth, but my vision has declined somewhat (I expect it to decline further). I was lucky in that my mother gave me access to Braille and the white cane very young. However, that doesn't mean that I stuck to the program per scribed to me, and that's not to say that my teachers didn't encourage me to use my vision. There were times when I'd just as soon leave the white cane at home and forget Braille as it felt more like a hindrance than a help. For a time, I preferred to use magnifiers and monoculars (small telescopes) to get information about my environment. Little did I know that I was literally fostering dependence on inaccurate visual information. As someone with low vision, you no doubt understand the frustration of seeing something that wasn't there or not seeing something that was.
Had I stuck to my blindness program which emphasized non-visual techniques over visual ones, I would have had a more accurate understanding of my environment and thus would be more comfortable moving in it.

I graduated high school and went immediately into blindness training at the Louisiana center for the Blind. While there, I made an important discovery. I learned that there are two major methods preferred by those of us who are partially sighted. The first is a vision first approach where vision is the primary sense and blindness skills such as hearing make up for what vision cannot detect. I submit that there is a better way. That is to say that blindness skills most certainly offer a better representation of the world than poor vision. By learning non-visual skills (just as totally blind people do), we gain a proper picture of the world and learn to supplement that with our residual vision. In this way, those of us with low vision are equipped to handle any situation whether we can see it properly or not; we are also equipped to handle changes in visual ability and thus do not require constant retraining to adapt to our new circumstances.

When it comes to learning blindness skills such as using Braille and the white cane, it's not about being totally blind when you're obviously not. It's about being totally functional. Non-visual skills provide the basis for my information gathering and my residual vision supplements said information gathered through my other senses.
Sometimes, I find that I don't use my vision at all. sometimes, my vision really comes in handy, especially where severe accessibility barriers exist and there is no one to assist me. I think a blindness skills first approach is more helpful than a vision first approach because I am always ready for new environments and I'm never left guessing about what I can and can't do.

You suggest that many of us don't have sympathy for those with partial sight. As a low vision person who sees myself as blind, I do feel much sympathy indeed. It's frustrating to me to be treated like an invalid when sighted people see my cane. It's frustrating to face discrimination based on perceptions of blindness. On the other hand, I'd rather deal with these frustrations than feel like my life is limited by what I can and cannot see.

On a completely different subject, the movie "Blindness" was more than just art. I have been studying the origin of blindness images throughout Western thought. "Blindness" is really no different (and neither is Mr. Magoo or the portrayal of Governor paterson) any different than portrayals of blind people in ancient past. We blind are still seen as totally detached from reality and completely unable. The blind have been portrayed as evil and dishonest if not victimized by the world around them. In preparation for the film, actors and actresses were taught to empathize with their characters by experiencing severe disorientation while wearing blindfolds. In order for "blindness" to e a modern parable, there has to be something still existent in human consciousness to make the metaphor work. I submit that feelings of fear and shame toward blindness are at the root of this prejudice, the very same feelings that low vision folks are faced with when making decisions about how to cope with their vision loss.

     Thank you very much for listening.

Respectfully Submitted,
Jedi Bellingham, WA

**29. Just a quick response to #24 (Virginia S.). First, I think all of the criticism offered in the TP's is of the constructive kind and is used by rehab professionals in dealing with the many scenario's presented to them in their work. Second, I was partially blind for many years before becoming completely blind, and believe me, learning the skills needed in total blindness is much easier during partial blindness than when you are totally blind with mno more light perception. Third, and most important, Virginia S. has had the opportunity (and has obviously availed herself of ) to be critical (and I am sure she construes as constructive) about other blind people. I agree that we should try to help each other, whether it is in providing material to professionals, or to other blind people, and we should not curl up in our own little world spewing anger upon those who are desperately trying to help those blind people who find themselves unable to be as independent as Virginia S. I understand your anger, Virginia. Been there, done that, but at age 76 and having been legally blind for over 60 years, and totally blind with no light perception for almost 30 years, I think I know of what I speak, and you and I should be allowed to express those feelings without incurring the wrath of our peers. Lighten up a little. Life is more fun that way!

Jim Theall, Longmont, CO

**30. In a message dated 12/28/08 7:15:17 PM, writes:

Why do I have to learn to function as a totally blind person? Do they have to learn how to function as a semi-sighted person?

Something to think about; Why cripple yourself in the name of "Passing" for sighted? Master all the tools available to you! You'll need them, and it's easier to learn while younger.

Lori Stayer Merrick NY

**31. I think that whether the blind person attends a public school or a school for the blind, he/she should be encouraged to look as normal as possible but also be encouraged to use his/her cane and read braille if they cannot read any size of print. Though the cane may be visible, at least the person won't look abnormal--bumping into and tripping over all kinds of obstacles the cane would pick up before the feet would. Whether the blind person is being portrayed this way via the media or just being seen as an example walking down the street. A person walking down the street with their cane, reading braille or large print (whichever he/she can read best), etc. is the best portrayal of blind people.

Linda MN

**32. I think the idea of Braille and its benefits should be explained to any partially sighted person, especially if their condition is not stable, and even "marks" and "dots" can be felt if they are placed correctly.

I went to school with a friend who had very good partial vision; I don't recall her eye condition, but Indiana did teach her Braille; now she is totally blind,but even then, she was given special projects to do for the whole school that involved Braille.

As for not carrying a cane, or using a dog, that is just plain silly, though I empathize and think the grieving process of vision loss needs to be validated, the use of a cane should be explained; perhaps, initially, they will use their eyes more, but as they realize the unreliability of the data they receive, they will begin to use that cane which will make them look more confident and graceful and perhaps, save a life.

Some of the reason you see situations like the one described here, as many teachers within and outside schools for the blind, made it clear that people with partial vision were better than totals.

Now, if I had just applied myself a bit more, I could have had a nearly perfect GPA, but I found other ways to fit in that haven't served me particularly well, but such is the folly of youth.

In closing, I hate seeing anyone forced to use a blindfold to learn independent living skills, though, again, I think an explanation of why the blindfold and how some of the alternative techniques work, might make some think twice about that blindfold.

If you force everybody, you run into attitudes, and frankly, the RT's job is to teach independent living skills. So what if the person needs a refresher course once their vision is deteriorated.

Darla Rogers Blind-X listserv

**33. This TP couldn't have come at a better time. I saw the movie "Blindness" at the end of last year, and I read the press releases from the American Council of the Blind and others concerning certain people taking offense to the media's comical portrayal of blindness. Before going any further, I want to mention that I consider myself pretty well-versed and informed. I had an excellent education, and for that I am thankful. I hope nobody takes this as bragging, because it's not meant to be. I have been blind since birth, and I'm going to be 35 this week. I have other minor challenges too. While there are a lot of things I know how to do by myself and I get them done, there are also some things I don't know how to do very well or at all. I'm not going to go into detail about those things on here, because I think it would be rather counter-productive. I'd also like to mention that I'm not a member of the American Council of the Blind or the National Federation of the Blind, nor have I ever been. I had debated joining one of them, but I don't think at this point I want to join either group. I'm happy with that decision. I did however, order "People of Vision: A History of the American Council of the Blind" on cassette from my local talking book center and I read it. I realize that there was a lot of serious turmoil within the NFB around the late 50's and into the 60's, but the logical approach would seem to be forgiveness for what happened. This would eventually lead to reunification. After all, that is what happened in Berlin, Germany. The Berlin Wall was eventually torn down and East and West Germany are now one. In addition, the whole Nazi party has been wiped out. There are still traces here and there with respect to support of that party, but the Holocaust is over. So I have to ask what the problem is with the ACB and the NFB that they can't come to terms with one another. Might it not be ironic that the same year the Berlin Wall went up was the same year the ACB and the NFB split? In some respects it seems to me that one group has tried successfully to manipulate the other group's thought processes concerning the media's portrayal of blindness. I won't mention which group has done the manipulating, because I think people might be able to figure it out for themselves. Having said all that, I don't think we should get hung up on the media's portrayal of blindness. Let's just lighten up and have some fun now and then. I'm not saying we should go out of our way to make fun of people, and I do in fact very much dislike it when people poke fun at other people due to something that is beyond their control such as disability. Admittedly there are people who have lost some or all of their vision later in life, and those people I think would somewhat disagree with me here. My response to them would simply be that it is their right to have feelings and to feel sorry for themselves and all that. I think all this can be contrasted with, say, the movie "Tropic Thunder." The reason is that the "R" word is used in "Tropic Thunder. I think everyone knows which word I'm referring to. That word is actually a grave insult to people, especially those who have cognitive delays. Speaking of insults, I find it interesting that a lot of people throughout the blindness community talk about "partials," "totals," etc. I personally find those terms pretty insulting. What happened to people-first language? Aren't we all human after all, and don't we all make mistakes? That seemed to be the case last time I checked. I'll never forget the very first time my brother and I walked with our mom into our cabin at Lions Club camp. The counselor approached us with these words: "Hi totals!" My brother and I are both blind. I have light perception and he does not. Why should those "blindness" terms be accepted when something like the "r" word used to describe someone with cognitive delays is strictly forbidden? What's wrong with just advocating for all people who are blind or visually-impaired despite minor differences which may exist? Other disability groups have done that, and I don't understand what's so hard about it. I heard from my former roommate that some members in the deaf community are against cochlear implants, but that is just one small thing. What's happening today in the blindness "community," and what seems to have been happening for several years, is that certain people are being singled out due to additional disabilities which we may have. This has gotten so out of control that it has become a far greater problem than the one I just described, where certain members of the deaf community oppose cochlear implants.

Jake IL