Blindness Makes Your Other Senses Stronger


Blindness Makes Your Other Senses Stronger

      "Blindness has made your other senses stronger," said my friend.

     “How many times have I heard that one? Let me count the ways.” I was out running errands and had bumped into a friend. She hadn't seen me for a while; once after I was newly blinded, going through lots of heartache and adjustment, But not since blindness training. Our conversation had started out with catching up, then too predictably morphed exclusively into my blindness. This "blindness and senses" thing had come as I was trying to change the topic by mentioning I could smell Lilacs.

     Back on task, I got moving; had many errands to complete before heading home. The reunion with my friend had occurred in an open-air courtyard, nestled in the center of a local shopping mall. Re-entering the roofed section, still thinking about my friend's opinion that my sense of smell was keener than the norm, I started giving my cane an extra hard tap. My immediate goal was a pet store and knowing from past trips, that its door was recessed, I knew I could locate it if I could get a good echo read on it.

     "May I help you?" A woman's voice in my path startled me. Then an opening door to the right brought the sound of birds and puppies.

      "ah, thanks, no." Pointing to the pet store. "I just heard what I'm looking for."

     "Oh --- ah," the woman responded, first in puzzlement, then realization. "I am always so amazed what you people can hear!"

     In the store- "I've heard that some of you can feel color." Says the sales clerk. I was rubbing the cloth of a cat blanket between thumb and forefinger; she had come over to answer a few questions I had.

     In a different Isle, lifting a package of cat treats to my nose for a quick smell (knowing how picky my cat Catty is), I jerked it away. Thinking, “OH MY GOD, get caught, she's going to ask me if I want to taste these?"

     Later- "Catty, I'm home. Brought you a present." My cat was a medium size short-hair tabby and we had a great relationship. Listening for the silvery tinkle of her collar bell, knowing her movements were so smooth that sound may not herald her arrival. Since my blindness, Catty had taken to giving me more physical contact than before. The cutest example is when she will reach out with a paw to touch me, as though she knew I could not see her and it is her way of saying, "Here I am." And I heard nothing until the warm length of her rubbed against my legs. Setting my purchases down on the hall table I picked her up and stroked her soft coat.

     "Okay, down girl. We've got other duties. Tomorrow we have company and we've got to get this place sparkling."

     First was to get the vacuum sweeper going. I had one of those robotic sweepers, and it did a great job; my nickname for it is Robby. It is a wheeled, flat disk that is 3.5 inches tall by 13 across and looks like a ground-hugging flying saucer. With its motorized wheels churning and its primitive robotic brain processing, it would independently travel around a room in a random pattern and though it took longer to complete the job, the key was, it was doing it while you went off and did something else. I pushed its start button, sending it off to do its job; closing the doors to the living room to box it in.

     Later, I ran across my package from this morning and discovered the blanket I had bought for Catty. I walked all through the house calling for her; didn't hear a single TINK of her bell.

     IN the living room, Robby was still tracking back and forth doing his thing, and still no Catty. I started to worry, "Had she gotten out?" Thinking, "Where were those near super heightened senses when you need them?" Standing there, Robby came trundling up and as he went by, I felt a familiar touch on my bare leg. "Catty!" That darn cat was riding Robby!


e-mail responses to

**1. This is Terrence van Ettinger, from Anchorage, Alaska. I am blind myself, and am an instructor of assistive technology and Braille at the Alaska Center for the Blind here in Anchorage. I have had this discussion on a number of occasions with various people. I think that it isn't so much that our senses are necessarily all that much better than those of sighted people. What does occur, however, is a combination of things. First, since our brains have less visual input to process, we have more "neurological resources" to put toward our remaining senses. Also, we are able to develop the senses we still have more fully, because of the fact that we use them more than someone with full vision. I wouldn't say that we necessarily have *better* hearing/taste/smell/touch, but I would consider that they are developed more to their full potential.

Also, I am interested in joining the forum if possible.


**2. The magical abilities of the blind are one of my favorite misconceptions I love dealing with best. It is fun to pretend that I have magical powers and often people believe me!

There is not much to say on this subject other than we do not gain abilities with our senses that we did not previously have. It is a very simple explanation. When one relies on a sense such as hearing or smell one pays more attention to those cues then when one is confronted with all the visual stimulation that life provides.
When the TP character was in the mall they did not use their vision to see where the pet store was they relied on their hearing to find where it was. Of course they could have asked directions to get there, but they were also able to independently find the location by using their other senses. This is what we often do as people who are blind. By using a combination of directions, North, South, right, left, and paying attention to the other senses we travel about and also gain information.

My husband and I recently watched "The Wrestler" and there were a lot of audio clues that gave us information. In one scene I heard panting and crunching of snow and knew the main character was running. In other scenes it was clear that he was in a wrestling match due to the crowds of jeering fans and the grunting and smacking. We use the same method when we are out and about traveling or in unfamiliar settings. It is actually quite simple and there is no air of mystery about it!

I am totally blind and I can not smell anything to save my life! I have always had a horrible sense of smell and losing my vision did not change this. On the other hand I have always had an above average sense of hearing. I was tested in my early twenties when I still had full vision and it works to my advantage now.
Again, we do not gain heightened senses we just pay more attention. When I cross a street I do not see the cars so i am straining my ears to hear traffic to understand the pattern of the traffic. When one has gone through proper training one learns how to use their senses to essentially make up for the loss of vision.

I always like to ask this question when people go on about how my senses must be keen just because I am blind, when a person loses their hearing do they see better? This usually makes them stop and think.

Being blind makes me more in tune with all sorts of things, according to many people. I am just me with or without sight. I may make modifications to my life to adapt and function without vision, but this is not who I am, it is merely what I do. We are no different than anyone else and just because we rely on our other senses more does not mean we have amazing senses or even heightened senses.

Bridgit Pollpeter NFB (and not afraid to state it)

**3. I laughed at your latest piece, knowing fully that most sighted folks think that blind people are extra this and that and that we have super senses to allow us to performing daily tasks extraordinarily in an ordinary world.

I travel with a Seeing eye dog, so this makes the scenario a bit different, but nonetheless, you still get the magical hysteria tour each time you and the dog go out to do errands or just to walk about for pleasure.

The dog does this and
that while we just hold the handle of the harness and magically are whisked through life on the Magical Disney tour.

And, when we meet up with people, we amazingly can detect whom they are by sound even though we'd not heard their voices for thirty years.

We hear hidden doorways that we pass, count out steps so as not to confuse ourselves as we walk to the marketplace. We can tell money, meaning dollar bills apart from a fifty with just feeling them. We all have perfect pitch, tune pianos, play musical instruments and remember the words to countless karaoke tunes and we have so much more than I could ever think about to brag about in such a short session.,

One or two things I'm sure of. I'm a person first who happens not to see, and as such, I am grateful that I am blind instead of being hearing impaired or a wheelchair user or a person with muscle control issues, for there are things that I love to do. I can walk to where I want to go, despite the sometimes announces of being blind. I can smell, taste and feel all that I can endure, and I can enjoy the sound of birds, music and the loveliness of special people in my life who've made a difference.
Now, where was that bottle of prescriptions I dropped? This is where the cane comes in handy and the fetching commands of the dog have been not instructed any loner.
The weirdnesses of the blind that people think we possess truly amaze, and the thought provoking scenarios which you and other writers have assembled also cause me to think. And, thus, the name thought provokers. Oh, clever.

Mike Townsend and Seeing Eye dog Brent
Dunellen, New Jersey

**4. Having been blind all my life, I get told or asked about my other senses being stronger because of my blindness. Well, I know that I use my other senses more, and I tell people that this is the case, not that they are heightened.

Yes, I use my nose, my sense of touch and my ears. They don't always work the way I want them to, nor do they always help.

When I facilitate my groups where I work, too much sound is crazy-making, and I have to close the door, even if it is hot and there is no air circulating. I tell the folks it is like too much visual stimuli. If people are rustling newspaper, candy wrappers, etc., I have to ask them to stop for the same reason; it causes me to get distracted. I ask the people in my groups to sit closer to me and not to sit around the edges of the room so I can "hear their auras." Yes, I like it when I can know where they are sitting and I can hear their presences through echo location.

Smell -- well, sometimes my nose is super sensitive, and that is not such a good thing when your clientele does not shower or brush teeth. Similarly, flatulence is a huge problem in the state hospital where I work. I can smell all of that; yet, if something is burning that I am cooking at home, I don't necessarily know it quickly by smell.

Touch -- one of the most frustrating things is to use public restrooms and have to search for everything. I think restrooms should have to be designed by a certain code that would be friendly to blind folks, from the flush mechanism to the paper towels and trash receptacles.

I don't think my senses are better than anyone else's, but I use them because I can't see. And as for telling color, I have been known to do that -- it really freaks people out. (grin)

Christy Crespin

**5. Blind since birth, I have had plenty of opportunity to give the question of whether my senses are stronger than those of sighted people deep thought and contemplation. I have also actually done some research in this area and have had fun doing it.
I do not believe that blindness in itself heightens our other senses or that we are unique in having keen awareness of what we hear, touch, taste and smell. Many sighted people develop heightened senses in their line of work, in their recreation or because they live in a certain environment. Sighted bird watchers often must depend on their ears to know what birds are doing and what they are communicating when those birds are hidden from their eyes in thick undergrowth. I have heard that soldiers in battle use their senses in much the same way as blind people do. They can tell what kind of gun is being fired by using their ears alone. Women who have children have told me they often know exactly what their children are doing when there is a closed door between the mother and child.

I believe the problem that sighted people have when they watch us calmly going about our daily tasks is that they rely so much on their eyes to give them information that they see us as being helpless. Most sighted people can get by without using their senses in the aforementioned ways. People whose lives are lived without having to use other senses than their eyes can't conceive of hearing, touch, smell or taste as being well-developed senses but but they are and even sighted people can have keen eyes, ears, noses, hands and tongues and use those sensory organs in harmony with each other.

Chris Coulter: voice actress and musician
Edmonds, Washington

**6. Good ending! Very amusing, and had nothing to do with blindness!
Which is how 99% of life is...

Which is why, when people come up to me espousing stereotypes, I tend to look at them and treat them as if they were crazy. I give them the same credence I give to people who believe in the flat Earth theory, or that GWB was a *GOOD* president. Superstition and ignorance shouldn't be rewarded other than with truth and tough love.

Second: Nothing that the blind guy in the story noticed was "supernatural," or "supersensory," in that anyone who paid attention to their hearing, sense of touch or smell would miss. Blind guy paid more attention to them because his eyes were not shouting at him any more. It's like trying to pick up a radio station from 50 miles away when someone's broadcasting 50,000 watts in your front yard; vision tends to mask other senses, because of the amount of processing power
the brain uses for it, an because of the cultural bias placed on it.
We "think with our eyes," and I constantly encourage people to stop thinking with their eyes.

This one has particular impact for me, as I am steadily losing my hearing--the "next sense down," in the processing hierarchy. I use huge hearing aids in both ears all the time, but I have not given up any of the freedoms I had when I had better hearing. I firmly believe that the reason for this is my training in martial arts. I, personally, study xiao lin kempo, which is a conglomerator style of jujitzu, kick-boxing, karate and smatterings of other arts. While it has also given me greater fighting ability, by far its main benefit for me has been raising my awareness, through all my senses, to a gestalt whole. I'm sure that any style of martial arts which focuses on meditation, awareness raising, and what my sensei called "constant, restful vigilance," will do. As someone who's never had kids before and probably won't now, I strongly urge all parents with blind kids to get their kid into a responsible, traditional martial art with a good sensei who won't baby them.

Mark BurningHawk

**7. I can’t wait to hear the torrent of opinion which will spew forth from this TP – might as well get an early start on it. Yes, we have all heard the line about heightened senses, and I have certainly also heard the party line that “no, we’re just like everyone else…” Bull feathers! We are most certainly not “like everyone else.” Every organism with a central nervous system (most humans included) spend most of their cycles maintaining a model of the world by updating it with sensory information. It’s what we call reality. When you lose an input, say, sight, which nominally takes up about 1/3 of the human CNS, it’s going to change something. Is my hearing better now than before I lost my vision? Almost certainly not – too much loud music and the ever-present ticking of the clock of age. What is really different about most blind people is their brain – that engine which extracts signal from noise. I don’t hear better; I listen better.

Robert Shelton

**8. Oh, wow!! I get a big kick out of cats. I have two companions, and they are precious. They know I cannot see them. I don't know about heightening the senses, but I don't go around sniffing cat food bags and such. I think our sensitivities of smell, taste, etc. vary from person to person. Feel color? Not me! I couldn't tell you what color things are to save my life! I have to ask my sighted helper who comes in twice a week what color skirt or blouse I am buying. I am smiling when I read the cat is riding the robotic vacuum. My cats bolt when they see it coming; they hide in the other room till it comes in there, then run back out to the other room. But then, my vac is not robotic. We each have varying abilities.

Marie R. Sacramento, CA

**9. I always say, "it doesn't make our senses stronger. We just use them differently and that trains us to use them better."

Tom Rash

**10. I think every blind person will relate to this situation. I have often been told that I must have a very good memory for voices. people will sometimes come up to me in the street and ask me if I know who they are. often I don't as actually I don't have a good memory for voices which takes the wind out of their sails a bit! (smile) however, I understand that a few years ago there was a study carried out at the Wilma institute in Baltimore. the conclusion of this study was that if someone is blind then the part of the brain that processes visual images is utilised by the part of the brain that processes audible signals. therefore the brain adapts to sight loss and the blind person may hear more. before everyone jumps up and down about this let me say that this is only hearsay, that is I haven't actually read this study, it might not even exist. I thought it was interesting though.

I know it is possible to learn to utilise sound as I attended a workshop last year given by Daniel Kish. in fact only yesterday I located the clothes prop, a pole which holds up the washing line, by using a click.

Jayne Connor
Rehabilitation Officer
Carlisle Cumbria UK.

I found this quite amusing. I too have had people comment on how "good" my hearing is. They don't notice I have a hearing aid in one ear. They don't know I have great difficulty hearing in a noisy environment or if it windy and raining. My sense of hearing goes “out the window”. I know this also happens with many blind people who are not hearing impaired. I also find it amusing that people are fascinated at how I (we blind people) know where food is located on a plate or know where the waiter puts the drink. I have had adults, not just children, ask me how I bathe, dress and do my hair. I don’t think they can even think about what they would do if they become blind or partially sighted.

I find it very sad, however, that too many of the sighted world is so amazed that we can go to school and get degrees and work at profitable jobs. It is unfortunate they feel that way as I think that is one of the reasons so many blind people are unemployed-the employer just cannot imagine how a blind person can do things other than sit at home and listen to books or the radios

Patricia LaFrance-Wolf

**12. You score again! Also, I just remembered a perfect present to save up for for my roomie! I love Catty riding Robbie. Cool cat!

And interesting thing I heard a couple of years back and have tagged on my mental list of things to research further: Imaging studies of adults who are losing or have lost their vision have reavealed that the optic cortex "learns" to process information from the other senses as it loses the visual stimuli it was designed to process. Interest, what? I've been doing sleepshade work to deal with headaches from another "progression" of RP, to train my brain to stop trying to "see" so it won't keep giving me eyestrain.
But I still "see" under sleepshade. I've been lax about practicing with the thing during a period of relatively stability and minor progressions in vision loss, so it took an hour or so every day for about a week before my vision went black, then I had to go through this whole OMG! I can't see mental routine from somewhere below my conscious brain. Very annoying, especially when I'm busy that day and don't have time for all the neurophysiological nonsense. But my inner science geek (okay, I'm a total science geek from the inside out) is absolutely enthralled to be watching the process from the front rows.

I dunno. Can we see color? If so, I'm not there yet. I spent enough time under sleep shade this round to discover that my adaptive skills are just fine; it's my mindset that gets me in trouble. And to notice that I start thinking differently, not just about what I'm doing but about those minor philosophical issues and stories or article I want to write without the distraction of sight.

Now that I'm back to using dark glasses or even going without again (more comfortable in summer), I've noticed something else. I still have residual vision to lose, but it's just not usable enough that the progression is making a difference in how I interact with the world. But my brain is still as weird about it as when the progressions did make a difference in how I had to adapt. I've heard others with RP talking about being "off" for about six months after a big loss of residual vision, but I thought I was past that stage! Only some deep part of my autonomic brain believes things are off, so I guess I'm stuck with being "off" myself until my nervous system gets it worked out.

I still imagine things visually, and am loving the sight of Catty riding around on her new toy!

Tami Smith-Kinney

**13. SENSE-ational

The world always seems to require an education when it comes to blind individuals. Although my patience is occasionally tested, I do try to approach questions and assumptions with humor. Here are several moments:

1. Artists came frequently to my classroom when I was a blind teacher of blind children. I loved it! Once, a painter believed I could tell colors by touch. When she produced large fabric samples, I dramatically ran my fingers over them. Pretending to close my eyes tightly, I took guesses. Blue! Yellow! Black! The artist became a believer based on the fact that I had been correct half of the time. I laughed through the project, and went home to dress in purple. I learned my shirt was purple when I bought it. I adore fashions, and attempt Never to buy two identical pieces. I am becoming more forgetful, however. That is Not due to blindness. Isn’t everyone growing older? (I still feel fabrics, too.)

2. One of my students had difficulty listening to learn. Although he was born blind, listening was not an automatic skill. For THE SCARLET LETTER, which he could not finish in Braille, he fell immediately asleep. So, I assigned one television task. Watch one “All in the Family” episode. Humor will keep you alert. He returned to class, singing the opening song. He reported he had fallen asleep immediately after that. He was blind, but also a terrible listener. Surely no one could call Nathaniel Hawthorne boring.

3. One student told me he always recognized me by my scent. I told him I wanted him to stop twirling while we conversed. He could not understand how I knew he was twirling, until I twirled and talked simultaneously. Scent and sound are excellent partners, aren’t they? (This student is a famous musician today. I am sure he twirls appropriately.)

4. Dr. Maurer once talked about a piece he found which indicated blind people could not enjoy food without the vision to see food’s color and shape. He told the audience to look around and note the obvious. Indulging in food is a skill well practiced by the blind. They do not need to see it to like it!

5. While in Sand Francisco with a fellow employee, we entered a tiny shop. After roaming crowded aisles, I grabbed an elbow wearing a shawl. I thought I was walking with my friend, until she spoke to me from the other side. Afterwards, I pictured a stranger with her family. Might she have said: “this blind lady grabbed my elbow and walked around the store with me. I just didn’t know how to get rid of her!"

6. When I walk to the corner bus stop, neighbors like to point me out. “That’s the blind lady who lives at 222. You know how well those blind people can hear!” She says that as I walk by, hearing all, compliments and criticism. Don’t they realize they are talking about me, the neighbor who is blind with superior hearing!

7. I believe I note excellent smells, and love them. In New Mexico, there is nothing as wonderful as green chili roasting on an outdoor grill at the grocery store. In New Jersey, it is the autumnal apples which thrill my nose. Steaks on the grill or beer on the breath please me. Cigarette smoke itches at my former addiction. I want one. Coffee and popcorn are better at “smelling” than at drinking and eating.

8. A hug, a handshake, a shampoo by trained fingers, dishsoap bubbles, lipstick, sand and ocean waves are fabulous feel-ables! Blind, I replace the joy of sight with these feelings. Life is then fulfilling!

9. When I tell humorous tales, I love the sound of laughter. When my daughter was born prematurely, tubes prevented her from crying. I shall remember always the first sounds I heard from her little lips! Today, I love her adult voice, which sounds like her mother’s. (And we both have mastered the art of talking!)

10. Now in New Jersey, I long for the taste of red and green chili from New Mexico. Nothing here replaces that! Hot! Hot! Hot!

11. I love the sound of my daughter’s boyfriend’s rock music. I was afraid I wouldn’t, but I do. And I adore the sound of the crowd at a basement bar in New York City. Hugs and handshakes happen regularly at these rock concerts. Music, voices, laughter and instruments create a magnificent, miraculous melody for me! I celebrate sound and touch.

Why can’t we relax with the thought of superior senses? Because of our blindness, we allow inferiority to slip into our thoughts. No! No! Vision does not make others superior. Our other senses provide us with pleasure, information and skill. I simply adore the fact that I can hear and smell and touch and taste! Maybe I do it better than some others. Perhaps.

Pat Harmon NJ

**14. Loved your story on lightened senses and cleaning the house.

The idea of Robby is great but how do you know that it works right and picks up everything?

Do you bring in people to dust, clean bathrooms and such? I have started once a month to have someone clean for me.. I still do laundry and cook but cleaning has never appealed to me even with good eyesight.

Now I have a great excuse but there is nothing like a clean and fresh smelling house. Any tricks?

Phyllis Slater

...FROM ME- I have written everyone back with the note that Robby is real, is actuallly called Roomba by the company that makes him. The web address for this sweeper is and they have other robots that do other househould chores. Ours works very well and I know because I go around and check the results. Also, I'm one of those people who likes cleaning; I put on a good book and have fun.

**15. I remember reading a story once. Two people were walking down the street in New York City. One of them heard a cricket chirping in a window well. His companion was amazed that he could hear the cricket. (I should remark that neither were blind)
"There is too much noise" his companion thought to allow you to hear anything as soft as a cricket's chirp.

"Watch this!" The cricketer took a dime out of his pocket and sent it over the heads of a crowd. When that dime hit the concrete, three people dived for it.

What are your ears tuned too?

As a blind person I'll use my nose and ears to navigate. I'll open a door and sniff to try and figure what store I am at both on a street and on a mall.
One of my grate navigation points at the local Mall here in Fargo ND is a Manicurist's shop. The place stinks like a mad scientist lab but it's a useful land mark. Yet to me a car sounds pretty much like a car. I know people who can listen to a car's motor and diagnose problems just from the sound. I know people who can identify flowers by their smell. I can't but I can tell you a lot of different stores by their smell.

Sincerely Yours:
Duane Iverson

**16. What a cute picture I got in my head, with the cat riding "Robbie". Anyway as we all know just because we have lost our sight, or at least most of it does not mean we get out of doing chores. Don't I wish! Why is it if people don't treat you like you are invisible then you are placed in the group of "those people"? I have often wondered that myself, since I as in the story was once sighted and now am legally blind. Once when my mom asked the has your hearing gotten better, I actually thought about it when I answered her. I answered no, but I now rely on it more. I actually think she asked the question because people were probably asking her about me. I do think my sense of smell has improved since I do seem to smell things others don't.

But I do want to mention the most interesting question I have gotten since my adventure into legal blindness. Once when I was waiting for a train I started talking with a nice gentleman and he asked me if my memory has gotten better. That question actually took me back and I had to really think about an answer. I said that I do think that my memory has gotten better, it, in my opinion, has to improve or I will be running into things and all the time searching for things.

So, I now have a question of my own. Do you think that people with other disabilities are treated like they are invisible or have a secondary disability? I swear that people think I am either deaf or dumb since they always seem to ask the person I am with about me. One of these days I am going to get a tee shirt made that says I am blind but not deaf, and I graduated with honors so I'm not stupid either. Do you think the shirt would sell?

Yvonne from PA
ACB NABS Listserv

**17. Hi Yvonne, I have been legally blind my whole life but lost most of my useable vision by the age of twelve or thirteen. I get those questions that you are asked asked of me all the time as well. I think in some social situations people do think we're invisible because they don't come up and talk to us at all. This actually happens in my large extended family on my Mom's side. Isn't that sad, that at family get togethers your relatives will say hi, how are you doing, and ignore you for the rest of the evening? I don't think I hear better since I lost most of my vision but it's more in tune. I've always had a good memory so I don't think that's improved.

Yvonne, I love the idea for your shirt. It might be a little politically incorrect because you may offend deaf people and those who have cognitive disabilities, but besides that I love it!

Sarah ACB NABS Listserv

**18. I don't think our senses are any better than other people. We just use our senses more as blind people to make up fore loss of sight. A sighted person doesn't use their hearing as much because they have their eyes.

Anne Mauro from New York

**19. I am breaking with tradition this time to comment at the beginning of the TP month rather than the end. As you know, I am currently working on a series of articles on Braille literacy for American Chronicle. Three have been posted:

I was working on these first three simultaneously, and something was said to me that relates to this TP and it changed the way I wrote the first article.

This winter, I came across a new study on the role of the visual cortex (a sophisticated region of the brain which interprets what comes through the optic nerve) in blind subjects. In short, this study, funded by NIH and the VA, proves that it does not lie fallow but is recruited to work with the sense of touch, and this transition happens both in early and late onset of blindness.

I was glowing. I thought this was divine providence having this study come out so close to the release of the Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar. I thought it underscored the validity of Braille as a primary tool for blind people and that it would be a good scientific tool in the battle to get educators, parents and blind people themselves to take Braille seriously.

Then, I happened to mention it to one of the people I was interviewing. She wasn't pleased to hear of the study. She felt it would add to the stereotype expressed by the shopkeeper in this TP, that we are somehow gifted in our other senses. She mentioned teachers who refer to blind students as "tactually gifted, when they exhibit better results than the teachers' low expectations would have expected. No one ever witnessing my Braille reading would ever make this mistake. I had only ever experienced this prejudice with regard to hearing. I have an old joke -- a true story, actually -- about that, and perhaps, this is the time to dust it off.

Walking home after a shopping trip to Strasbourg, Pennsylvania in the early '70s with my first guide dog, I met a short, elderly woman -- I could hear that she was short and elderly -- coming from the opposite direction. We were on a pedestrian walk on the bridge connecting Strasbourg and East Strasbourg, so we couldn't walk out of our way to avoid a meeting. We exchanged pleasantries and then...

"Is it true," she asked not unkindly, "that blind people can hear better than the rest of us?"

I am often unable to squash my devilish impulses. I cupped my hand around my right ear and replied, "Huh?"

She took a deep breath and yelled, "Is it true that ..."

I was amused by the fact that she didn't allow first-hand evidence to get in the way of her mythology. Anyway, I know there's a prejudice that insists we be either put on a pedestal or trodden under foot. Science is science, however, and I wanted to know the truth about this connection between the visual cortex and the sense of touch. I contacted the lead author of the study, Krish Sathian, at Emory University, and we went back and forth by e-mail.

The truth is that the brains of blind people process sensory information differently than those of the sighted. The visual cortex is active in both hearing and touch, as confirmed in numerous studies using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FMRI). This particular study did not find that this activity results in increased tactile ability, but other studies have shown increased accuracy in both touch and hearing. Scientists don't know why this happens. At the present, they feel that it is most likely due to the fact that blind people are using these senses and have become better because of practice. They also think it could be that the blind people benefit from the higher functions of the visual cortex, such as language and cognitive ability. Being able to automatically place what we hear or feel into a language-based structure may facilitate a higher level of accuracy.

But, they don't know. It would be nice to be able to say that we are in every way just like everyone else, but that would be a denial of scientific evidence showing that our magnificent brains do attempt to help us out. The re occurrence of the practical information which our TP protagonist gleans from his working senses demonstrates both the brain's survival skills and the benefits gained from practice.

The public perception, however, is not based on science. I think of it as an attempt to place what they view as an impossible situation -- the loss of sight -- into a context where it can be managed. Perhaps, it's extreme awkwardness gone a muck; some people may feel they need to show us the bright side or compliment us in some way. It also feels sometimes like a way of washing their hands of us. It also represents an old-world romanticizing of the unusual. A recent New York times column discussed the way thinking has changed about genius. It used to be thought of as almost an other-worldly giftedness, a special window into transcendent truth. Now, in this practical era, it is viewed as the ability to focus for extended periods of time. As is typical with any relatively new thinking, it takes the general public a while to catch up. What say ye?

Donna Hill

**20. Reading this Thought Provoker raised a question in my mind. Why do people
believe in Heaven? I mean, we only know of one person who claims to have been there and come
back to Earth.
And He lived some 2009 years ago. So why do we insist on clinging to this
notion about eternal life in Paradise?
Fear. Fear of death. As my dad always said, "No one is going to get out of
this alive". And so we believe in Heaven as the just reward for those of us
who have led good, responsible lives. Naturally most of us believe that
this means us.
All of this brings me around to why people insist that we blind folks have
super senses. They have no real proof that this is so. They simply believe
it because it makes them feel good. They come to this belief because of
Fear. Fear of becoming blind. They know that they would crash and burn if
they were to be stricken with blindness. They know that they would find
themselves helpless and a burden on their families. They have no proof that
this is so, but they believe it, nonetheless.
When a blind man or woman walks down the street passersby are suddenly
confronted with one of their deepest fears. People react in different ways
to fear. There is flight. Upon seeing a blind person, some people turn and
flee the scene.
There is Fight. When suddenly confronted by a blind person, some people
become angry or even belligerent.
And yet, despite other feelings, most people want to make everything better.
Not only for the blind person, but for themselves. Blind people Must have
super senses to replace their precious sight. If that is not so then we are
all doomed to eternal darkness.
People stroke us, telling us how, "wonderful you people are". They are
amazed at how well we get around because they don't believe they could do
it. And yet they desperately need to believe that if they became blind they
would suddenly find their other senses increased.

So what do we blind people do about this?
We just go about our business being amazing and doing wonderfully well.

Carl Jarvis ACB-L Listserv


**22. From a psychological point of view, I often refer to this as "collective compensatory fantasy," the fantasy manufactured by the collective consciousness that needs to believe in "equality through compensation."
Never mind that "equality" is not sameness but rather is found in individuality and uniqueness.

Karen Rose ACB-L Listserv

**23. Actually, there are studies that do indicate that our senses do become sharper or more enhanced when we lose our vision, provided that particular sense is also not damaged. So the good folks hanging around who just know this is true have not been too far off the mark.
Secondly, the very fact that an individual hones in on a given sense because of inability to use another can sharpen that sense.
So again, these people are not so far off the mark.
However, they are surely missing the boat if they believe that just because a person loses his / her sight, he may also have perfect or above normal hearing, smell, touch or taste.

But, why on earth do we expect so much out of a person who has no sensory impairments of any kind? How would they know one, what it is like to have one, and two, what truly does happen to the other senses when one is impaired? I agree, part of the reaction is the fear thing, part is simply not knowing.
Do we, as blind people, ever wonder how a person with no arms performs tasks that they do? Or the guy in the wheelchair still works on his car? Or the deaf person still manages to work and carry on normal conversation even though they cannot hear, or well?
If you don't, maybe its time to get out of your own little shell and start wondering about the many mysteries of the world because they happen, and are truly there.
I work with people who have mental illness that, somehow, even in the midst of a deep psychosis have convinced people they are perfectly okay.
I am working with a deaf lady who does as I described--because she reads lips extremely well.
And you better believe I asked how they manage these things. I'm curious and interested in people and so, yeah, if I cannot figure it out myself, I'll ask. And I may indeed be amazed as well, just as they may be about me.

Jessie ACB-L Listserv

**24. Carl, Your email is very well taken. When I was growing up, I learned to do sign language and proceeded to stop talking for a while. So going deaf was not a big issue as I knew how to communicate. However, my having thoughts of going blind were a nightmare. Now not only being hearing impaired, but I am also significantly vision impaired. Thank goodness for the screen readers, and hearing aids, not to discount all of those that were blind before me.
As you pointed out, we continue to find ways to do things that continue to amaze our friends and acquaintances.

Thanks for the sharing the NEW THOUGHT PROVOKER #146- Blindness Makes Your other Senses Stronger

Michael Groat ACB-L

**25. Of course the misconception is that our senses are stronger, but rethink the definitions that most sighted people, or people outside of our general realm of information, might use. They use better or stronger, or whatever they happen to prance upon at that very moment of surprise and pleasure; is this all together incorrect? If we are to use those words and understand them to mean "More Detailed", then our definitions, overlapping slightly, would both be accurate. We can hear what they can not, as they do not hear the sounds, but a jumble of sounds that they think of as background noise. We do hear "better"
than they, as they do not listen quite as well in most ways. We are trained, whether by personal choice or by personal experience, to listen to things that they would never think of hearing, so we do inessence hear those things with a near super human clarity in contrast. Have you ever asked a sighted person to use echolocation, or to use their fingertips to identify which way a key would go in a lock? Usually they can do it, but only when you explain what they should be hearing or feeling. Interesting point to make, really.


**26. Blindness may strengthen your other senses only if you're using them constantly. You become more attune to them because those senses are the only other resources you have to rely on. Likewise, if a person is deaf and blind, then the other three senses are the only ones they have left to rely on. However, I don't think that this only pertains to blind or deaf/blind people. If a sighted person is constantly using all five of their senses, then all of those senses are much stronger for those kind of people than for those who aren't using all of their senses. Likewise, if a blind person or a deaf/blind person isn't always staying attune to what's going on around them through their remaining senses, then their senses aren't going to be as strong as those who always stay attune to what's going on around them.

I heard someone talking on the phone to somebody else about John and I and our grandsons deciding to stay longer at our local county fair. I said to the person that they must have been talking to So-And-So (I don't give out names). Alluding to my keen sense of hearing, they asked me how I knew. I explained that I overheard what she was saying, the subject matter, and that she located us at the bus stop with no problems. It hadn't occurred to her that these cues can indicate to someone who knows the subject matter who they must be talking to. Another time was when one of my dates and I were watching a movie. I indicated that the main characters were at another character's house. He asked me how I knew, and I explained that the main characters were talking in the previous two scenes that they were going to go over to the other character's house. He was utterly amazed with this method of watching a movie.
Paying attention to what's going on around you is what makes it seem to sighted people that blindness strengthens your other senses. Whether you're sighted or blind, all of your senses can be very strong if you're using them all the time. A sighted person can gather the same kind of information I gathered just by listening closely. As someone once told me, "You learn more about people by listening instead of talking all the time."

Linda Mn

**27. I can't count the number of times I've heard the phrase that blindness makes my senses stronger. It's usually quoted by people who don't understand the organization of sensory perceptions. That would be just about anybody. I am not entirely convinced that blindness makes ones senses stronger, I am of the strong opinion that as a blind person I can more affectively organize my surroundings by sensory perception. Smell is a bit deceptive however, especially if one is passing a shopping center and realizes that marketers use fake smells to gather people to particular spots. I suppose a pet store is not yet a manufactured smell, but give marketers time they'll come up with that one. But darn it if I'm walking by Jack's Doughnuts in the morning, I know it not by smell, but by the location next to Subway which always tends to smell like fresh bread. The doughn ut shop is identifiable most days by its open door and knot of Spanish speaking older men congregating outside it's door or just inside at the small round tables. Now Starbucks is a different story entirely! The smell of coffee once the store is entered is overpowering, and the music coming from its outside speakers is also a big giveaway. OH and it is located on the L-shaped corner of the intersection nearest work and has remained there for quite some time. I do think however that if it ever moved locations it wouldn't be hard to find.

What about touch and sound! This comes from personal experience from having cats, since we were talking about cats. First things first, I can't stand the fact of bells on my cats. I do not want to hear them. There is one blind person I know who says that despite having a bell on her cat, the cat is sometimes undetectable. It must be, if we want to stereotype, due to the fact that cats are good hunters and know how to disguise their whereabouts.
I am perfectly ok with the fact of my cats hiding themselves. They will come to me when they want me and if I think they've gotten out, well, they're not goign to identify themselves because it's a cat/human game. Can she find me?
Cats play tricks on their sighted owners, too, just ask them...the owners, not the cats. I do have one cat who meows when I walk in the same room where she is currently making herself queen, but that's only if she wants me. the other cat just figures I'm goign to bed eventually and she'll wait untill I'm there before sneaking up to say hello. Well, I'll take that back. She will come rub herself against me, but it's always on her terms. I don't know if the cat knows I'm blind or not, someone will have to ask her. I'm sure Brandy has a well thought out answer.

I dont' know about color. People have often asked me if I know color. I don't have a visual concept of color though I do think visually. I do however associate colors with different moods. My favorite color is red.
That's another essay entirely. Feeling color? Definitely not. I did have a friend ask me as we were in our local Target store if knowing the color of storage containers was helpful. We were looking at clear containers and purple ones. I said what the color told me was that the container wasn't boring. We both thought that was pretty funny. I ended up, by the way, buying the clear ones because I thought they were more sturdy. If that same container would have been available in purple I definietly would have bouth it.

Smelling coffee and using it as an identifying characteristic? Perhaps. I once knew a blind person who thought the smell of molasses was a new perfume. No, I said, it's molasses in one of those premade oatmeal packages you can purchase in a supermarket. Do you think his sense of smell accurately informed him of what the object was? No. I can't imagine any marketer using molasses as a base for a perfume. Yuck! However, I can always find the cat's litter box, chuckles.

Listening to traffic to help guide me? Yes. Finding a building by getting an echo read on it? Not intensionally though I may be using this practice and don't know it.

Well, guys it's time for bed. So I'll go locate my computer tower using my sense of touch, go through the place and make sure all is put away by using touch to tell me if something is clean, or clutter free. I'll then retire to my bed and hopefully find a kitty there. I'll know she's there by the feel of her weight as she jumps up on my bed and flings herself against me as if to say, well, mom it's about time. Pearl will join us eventually and we'll all be happily snuggled in one big famly bed. After all they know who feeds them and they know I know how to find them. How I do that is probably a huge combination of organized sensory perceptions, and perhaps a bit of thinking like they do. yes, the blind human is outnumbered by the sighted, sneaky cats.

Shelley Alongi

**28. My wife claims that I have "no sense of smell" and that I'm part deaf. So much for my incredible senses. But, just last Friday a client told me that there is "scientific evidence" that loss of one sense makes the others greater. I answered by asking him if he lost a toe if he would gain some other limb; after some reflection he agreed that blind people probably didn't become super hearing, super smelling super feeling super heroes.

JD Townsen

**29. Blindness may change some things -- but cats stay the same regardless!
You have certainly captured the essence of "cat." (Well, so did the floorboards of my first house collect essence of cat when one of our males decided to mark his territory, but that's another story. Sorry. On with my

My friend Mary Joe gave our blind coworker Craig a cat. Smoke the cat alarmed Craig by leaping past him to arrive first at the top of the home's stairs whenever Craig ascended.

"Why does Smoke do that?" Craig asked Joe, puzzled.

Joe enlightened Craig immediately. "Because he can," Joe declared.

I have a good friend who is a linguist. She once told me humorously that she believed cats understand as much human speech as dogs do; they simply respond differently to what we say. "Dogs want to please you," Julie explained. "Cats treat what you say as information."

I read in Scientific American that, milennia ago, humans did not domesticate cats per se; cats decided that the mouse harvest generated by humans' grain storage was a good deal and chose to move in with us. By both human and feline standards, we were the lucky ones!

My favorite line in The Canterbury Tales involves an ill, impoverished man with a cat. I believe it is The Pardoner's Tale. An arrogant church worker shows no compassion toward the suffering man, but instead comes into his home, chooses the best seat in the house uninvited, and proceeds to try to coax money out of the patient.
How do we know the church worker took the best seat in the house?
Chaucer says only, "He moved the cat."

Don't'cha love it?


Janice Stallings

**30. In some regards I would agree that our senses do increase as one sense no longer works. Early on, I learned to use echo location, not to the extent of not using my cane or guide dog. But I used it to locate buildings, to hear doors, and other objects. When I started to loose my hearing this was the first thing I notice was gone. And now that both senses hearing and vision are severely impaired, it makes life even more interesting at times. I have had others, tell me that they do not understand how I can listen to jaws at that speed or the weirdness of how it sounds. But just like every thing else, when you are forced to use the computer with jaws instead of using your eyes, then you adjust to it. Many times the public can not even imagine how we read Braille, but I think that as we must read it, our fingers get use to it after a while. It is not that we are any more sensitive, or that our touch is super. We use our senses in a different way than the sighted. We are more in toned to the good senses we have. And even though I have a hearing impairment in addition to a visual impairment, I still use the little bit of hearing I do have, to the best of my ability. And I would say that most blind people do the same too with what ever the case might be.

In the story, I thought the cat riding the robot vacuum cleaner was incredibly funny, so thank you for the laugh!

Marsha Baltimore, Maryland

**31. First off I like the closing line. FUNNY I can see my mum's cat doing that.

Now as for my senses being stronger I ALWAYS here people saying "Since your blind, your other senses are stronger aren't they?"

Where did this stereotype come from?


Sean and
Southeastern Guide Dog: Franklin

**32. I have never believed that. I think that what gives people that perception is the fact that we, as blind people, have to work harder to identify our surroundings.

Most people in my humble opinion, don't use a quarter of their senses because of the lack of need, i.e. if you can see a flower, you don't need to smell it to know it is there.

Where can I get a "Robby?" :-)

Keep the TP's coming.

Jim Theall, Longmont, CO

**33. In 1972, Stephen Van Matter published a book with the American Camping Association called Acclimatization which took summer camps by storm during the years ahead. Stephen's premise was that if kids are blindfolded, they grow in sensory knowledge and learn to use their other senses of touch, hearing, smell, speech patterns, taste, and even some extra senses that lay dormant in seeing people. Is this true? We took campers into the woods blindfolded, had them form a relationship with a tree, led them out of the woods, took off the blindfolds, and sent them back to find their trees. None ever failed to find their tree. The book is still available from the and should be part of every newly blind person's library.

This Thought Provoker is a lot more than other senses taking the place of eyes, however. It is the eternal question faced by all blind people, do we suffer fools blindly? Do we continue to allow seeing people to operate orientation centers like the plantations of old? Do we continue to be the slaves to seeing people with the personalities of porcupines, the brains of nits, the smells of rancid swamp water, the laughter and insight of rocks, and the compassion and sensitivity of crab lice? Do we continue to be silent as the heads of blind organizations continue to be hired who are not blind and are patronizing and condescending in their thinking and who know in their hearts that any decision they make for a blind person is better than the decision the blind person can make for him/herself? When will blind people stand up and throw off the yokes of slavery and oppression that still pervade many of our states. All other disability and racial groups have voiced their right to self-control, but the blind are passive and accepting plantation workers, so proud of the masters who daily drive out in their Cadillac's to oversee the plantation. Yes, where would the blind be without them?

I suggest, that if a single blind orientation center in America is still in the hands of seeing people after this year, then the march to the ovens cannot be far behind. Organizations ran by seeing people for blind people are sweltering with the heat of injustice...sweltering with the heat of MLKing Jr said long ago. In 2009, the blind are the last oppressed group in America, passive and meek in the face of small-mindedness of others who think they can make better decisions for others than others can make for themselves.

I care not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty- or give me death!

Dr. Scott Bray

**34. Hi, Just read the endnotes; is this the first time they've been there?
- about name, location, etc. One more example (as if I needed another) that my senses are not only minimal, but diminishing with each passing day.
So, I'm Kat from Guam, blind since about 5, from the midwestern U.S., working in the special education field as an itinerant teacher; also, a freelance writer, and language arts teacher.
Now I'm almost too tired to keep writing here.
Anyway, another example of confused senses involves an incident this past weekend. A horrible, noxious smell was noticed,in the house, kind of like a combination of rotten eggs and vinegar; I thought, since soot was all over stuff when we came out of the movie, that there was probably just another volcano on a neighboring island. But, disgusting as it seems, I located the brimming bucket under the kitchen sink, long after it should have been emptied and the pipe repaired. Now, you'd think that anyone with extraordinary senses would have tracked that one down straight away.
Then, there's the selective listening I've practiced for years. When someone says something particularly patronizing, I pretend my hearing has gone; it works, because I seldom hear most of those comments now.
And, then, there's the music - how we're all incredible musical geniuses - (I wish); would I be drudging away with little pay if I could (play, sing, orchestrate, arrange, etc.?) Then, there's the one where someone yells your name in a crowd, and you just don't know from what direction...
Or, the times your senses tell you the truth ("you're lost; nothing here is familiar") but you ignore those messages, tamping down your annoyance at having your latest reverie interrupted by those pesky thoughts of o&m gone awry.
And, last, but hardly least, there's synesthesia; maybe that's another one; if someone's name has a color similar to another it's all too possible to confuse them - I confused Debbie and Dorinda one time.
But synosthetes aren't necessarily blind, or, vice versa; and thank goodness. Sorting out the sounds and smells and touches and tastes of this world, takes all the concentration available. Wouldn't those who proclaim astonishment at our super-abilities be surprised?
Or, would they merely think we're being modest?



**35. The responses of sighted people to us about our senses being heightened are quite understandable and most often, not intended to be rude nor invasive.

Truth is yes and no. Some experimentation does suggest that a blind person's brain makes accommodations in time and some of those visual processing areas are given to other functions. So, it is possible that we actually smell or hear a wee tad better. But mostly, we simply pay more attention to the senses we have since we can't see, or see well. I explain this to people and they usually are happy to have a semi-myth exploded.

Dan Blind-X Listserv

**36. I get this comment almost every few weeks from friends and even family.
I don't think our senses are stronger. We just learn to rely on them more. Sighted people could do it also. They don't realize how much they rely on other senses besides vision.


**37. But does it? Only if the other senses are fully functional, and then I don't think it makes one's senses stronger. Rather, one may learn to make fuller use of them than people who are sighted and don't focus on them (no pun intended). But some blind friends of mine don't hear, or hear well, and can't use that sense. Often those who don't hear well also don't have much of a sense of smell. Some people haven't got enough sensitivity in their fingertips to read Braille. This TP can be misleading, especially to an undereducated public who know of blindness only from Hollywood.

Carolyn Gold FL

**38. What an entertaining story--and one that I thinkk all of us blind folks can relate to on one level or another.
I too get the question/comment about my other senses being keener as well, and while I agree that some of them are, I usually have to explain that while I was born blind, I wasn't born with a stronger sense of smell, taste, touch, etc. Rather, I explain that I developed these senses to a sharper point because I relied on them more.
Also, what a lot of people don't know--and admittedly I didn't either until I studied psychology--is that if one of your senses "doesn't work" so-to-speak, the part of your brain which controls that sense "reprograms" itself, simply put, to do other tasks. My best friend usually teases me about this: "Your oxipital lobes don't work, you know, so you have all this extra brain power--think what you could do with that. You could control the world!"

Francesca M. Marinaro

**39. I have only two responses to this TP. First, when people ask me if my senses are heightened or when they make that assumption and I feel the need to clarify, I usually just say that my senses are not better than average, but that I do tend to pay more attention, of necessity, to the ones I have left. I usually quickly add that my hearing is anything but heightened, due to a minor deficiency that resulted from a childhood ear infection. My second response is to generally ignore these sentiments whenever possible as they are so pervasive as to be unworthy of notice.

Ron Brooks Phoenix, AZ ACB-L listserv

**40. My initial impression of this narrative is how the sighted population interprets the blind.

To the sighted person, existing there life as a blind person is a frightening proposition. I won’t expand upon this; rather let me address this narrative.

Because the blind aren’t afforded the sense of sight, right away our other senses are superior than our sighted counterparts. This is only a parable, with wrongful beliefs. Ones hearing doesn’t increase its sensitivity because of blindness. A blind person relies on their hearing, more than a sighted person. In fact we depend on all our senses more than the sighted community.

We’ve the reader has learned that this blind person, male or female we do not know. What I have issues with is this person’s use of echo location. I’ve been lucky enough to have developed this skill over the many years that I’ve been blind. No O and M instructor can show you how echo location can be learned. Our blind person says after learning blind skills, he can now use echo location. The likelihood of this blind person picking up this skill after a short period of time we are talking about is not realistic. Certainly I was educated about echo location, however not all blind people can ever possess this skill; it’s not something that can be learned.

When the environment I find myself is noisy, I can’t utilize echo location, there are just too many other factors to contend with. I can differentiate with my ears the sounds if something is close to me. However as I stated I can’t utilize this tool if it is noisy.

We read that this blind person is tapping his cane louder on the floor so he or she can hear the difference the sound will make when looking for this recessed opening to the desired store. I reject this because the mall is too noisy, and he or she won’t be able to distinguish when the sound changes. My question is why would this blind person even want to use echo location to find this store, when we are afforded the many diverse sounds coming from the pet shop? Lets be real here, lets give us the blind some respect to have the skill to think. Why would this person use echo location when he could plainly hear the sounds from the desired store. My other reservation is why didn’t this person just ask somebody in the mall where the pet shop is?

Finally we find our blind person in the pet shop, shopping. I didn’t read that this blind person had asked for assistance. I first thought that this blind person had some usable sight. I rejected that, because of how this person was searching for the pet shop.

OK now our blind person must have examined every shelf and there wears until he found what he was looking for. Why should our blind person feel that if he smells something, that somebody will come over and ask if he would like to taste it? What are we portraying the blind as animals, like that appalling movie Blindness?

If we the blind smell a mans cologne, or a woman’s perfume, is somebody going to ask if we want to drink it?

After reading Roberts TP again I saw something else. Not all of you will agree with me, and perhaps for all I know I was the only one who felt this way. I lost my vision in a motorcycle wreck. I also learned mobility, and the skills a blind person uses. However when sighted going places wasn’t even a thought. However venturing to a crowded mall was just something I felt I couldn’t do alone. Was I scared; I was terrified to venture out on my own. Gaining confidence in myself wasn’t something I possessed right after I learned skills for the blind. So this newly blinded person just walking through the mall with all his knew skills, I have my reservations about.

Now we have arrived at the blind person’s residence. He tells his cat that tomorrow he is going to be entertaining, so he has to start cleaning. Robert please tell me where he bought that vacuum, I hate vacuuming, loll.

Up until I read this portion of the essay I just believed this blind person of the twenty first century is facing the same issues we all are.

However where did this vacuumed come from? He says he named the vacuum Robby; Robby the robot. If any of you ever saw the movie Forbidden Planet that is where we first were introduced to Robby the Robot. Is this an indication of the century we find our self’s? Or is our blind person just a Si Fi junkie?

We end this story with the cat surfing by on Robby. If for nothing else this little segment was touching, especially when the cat reached out and touched his master on the way by.


**41. I do enjoy reading your short stories. This gave me such a tickle. Thanks for sending this along.

Reinhard Stebner

**42. Of course the misconception is that our senses are stronger, but rethink the definitions that most sighted people, or people outside of our general realm of information, might use. They use better or stronger, or whatever they happen to prance upon at that very moment of surprise and pleasure; is this all together incorrect? If we are to use those words and understand them to mean "More Detailed", then our definitions, overlapping slightly, would both be accurate. We can hear what they can not, as they do not hear the sounds, but a jumble of sounds that they think of as background noise. We do hear "better"
than they, as they do not listen quite as well in most ways. We are trained, whether by personal choice or by personal experience, to listen to things that they would never think of hearing, so we do inessence hear those things with a near super human clarity in contrast. Have you ever asked a sighted person to use echolocation, or to use their fingertips to identify which way a key would go in a lock? Usually they can do it, but only when you explain what they should be hearing or feeling. Interesting point to make, really.


**43. lol -- well is this thought provoker about blindness and the other senses, or about the intelligence of a cat?

But back to the topic at hand, I usually tell people that a blind person's senses are not necessarily more acute than a sighted person's, but the blind person of necessity learns to listen for nonvisual cues.
I especially don't like when people try to put the super-sensitivity label on me, especially since I have a severe-to-profound hearing loss that thankfully is correctable by hearing aids -- my hearing is NOT sharper. It actually scares me that some sighted person will assume I hear better than I do.
I once read the biography of Helen Keller and Ann Sullivan by the historian Lash (can't remember his first name or the title of the book). It was quite an excellent read by the way, if you are looking for a good bio to read.
But in this book, Lash mentions that someone did a study with Helen to see if her senses of smell, taste and touch were indeed more acute, and it turned out they were not. What was especially interesting was Helen's reaction -- she was disappointed. She was able to identify many smells and tastes, but the test showed her accuity was not significantly different from the average sighted person. The fact that Helen was able to navigate the world so well and identify smells, tastes and objects, with the same accuity as a sighted person who was not able to match her skill, actually is more complimentary than if the test had identified her as supersensitive. She just liked the stereotype of the supersensitive blind person.
Well, breathe deep and enjoy the view...*smile* --

Laura Eaves

**44. Unlike a lot of people on here, I am both blind and have a hearing impairment so when people say "oh you must have a good sents of hearing." I am kind of annoyed because I wear hearing aids so obviously my hearing is no better. I also have tactual desensitization in my finger tips, so it makes feeling the tecture of things a bit dificult, I have to run my fingers across something a few extra times to fully identify it.

However, I know that its not what the story's main point was, I do have to say, I had a dog for a pet, (RIP), and he knew I was blind. Animals are so amazing. I remember when he was a young pup and I had not fully gone blind yet and I was playing basketball in my drive way by myself. On one shot, I could not see where the ball went and my dog ran over to it, and barked to let me know where it was.

Jonathan Albert

**45. I don't know how this myth got started. But, it's something that many people believe to be true.

I usually just smile to myself and explain that my other senses aren't, in fact, better than a sighted person's senses. I just rely on them, since I'm blind.

We're just like everyone else...Some of us have particularly good hearing; others have hearing loss, and still others have adequate hearing, but can't hear things in certain ranges. The same holds true for the sense of smell.
I can smell some things my husband doesn't notice. But, other things don't catch my attention.

I hope that explaining these things to people really makes an impact. But, I've been blind all my life and people have told me that my other senses are better, because I'm blind, all my life. So, I think this is just one more thing that we'll always have to educate the public about.

Cindy Handel Willow Street, PA

**46. Okay, stereotype city. If I had a penny for every time this subject came up, I could
pay off the national debt.
I knew that "compensation" was a myth a long time ago. Blind people had often
written to Abigail Van Buren's column, "Dear Abby." At least twice a year, some blind
person would complain that their hearing did not improve.
That bit about "feeling color" was a hoot. That comes from Marvel Comics. There
are a lot of other stereotypes I've heard that can't be repeated on a gee rated blog.
In my own case, I know my senses are shot. My vision isn't getting any better. I
buy a new Bible every ten years. I bought a new one last week, and the print had to
be bigger. My ears are constantly ringing, so weaker vision isn't doing my hearing any
good. But, hey, I'm 42. I'm not getting any younger.

David Lafleche

**47. I think every blind person will relate to this situation. I have often been told that I must have a very good memory for voices. people will sometimes come up to me in the street and ask me if I know who they are. often I don't as actually I don't have a good memory for voices which takes the wind out of their sails a bit! (smile) however, I understand that a few years ago there was a study carried out at the Wilma institute in Baltimore. the conclusion of this study was that if someone is blind then the part of the brain that processes visual images is utilised by the part of the brain that processes audible signals. therefore the brain adapts to sight loss and the blind person may hear more. before everyone jumps up and down about this let me say that this is only hearsay, that is I haven't actually read this study, it might not even exist. I thought it was interesting though.

I know it is possible to learn to utilise sound as I attended a workshop last year given by Daniel Kish. in fact only yesterday I located the clothes prop, a pole which holds up the washing line, by using a click.

bye for now.

Jayne Connor Rehabilitation Officer

Carlisle Cumbria UK.

**48. this is as usual very well written. I like the humorous ending.

what I usually say is: "I hear the same things you do, I'm just better at getting information out of it."
certainly a month doesn't go by without hearing this mythology about blind people.
of course, mythology about blind people is nothing new. american indian people groups, some of them, held that blind people had a closer contact to the supernatural. some other world cultures believe that blind people are more likely to have their prayers answered, so people will ask them to pray for them just because they are blind.

James Canaday kansas STYLIST NFB WRiters' Division Mailing List

**49. I expect senses become honed when you have to depend on them, but stronger?
If that were the case we would have no deaf blind citizens. As for me,
I note that my sense of smell is stronger than my husband's, and I have a deal more vision than he does.

Lori Stayer New York STYLIST NFB Writers' Division Mailing List

**50. After reading Thought Provoker #146, I did a Google search with the terms "remapping visual cortex" (omitting quotes). There have been some studies showing that the visual cortexes of blind people are remapped. The visual cortex is the part of the brain that processes visual input from the eyes. I am not a psychologist but my thought is that there are blind people with both a heightened awareness of their surroundings and enhanced sensitivity due to a remapped visual cortex. This will vary depending on the onset of blindness.

Robert Jaquiss STYLIST NFB Writers' division mailing List

**51. I also tell people that it's a difference between hearing and listening.
You know, there are sighted people who look and sighted people who see. We blind folks listen--now that doesn't mean we do it all the time.

Barbara Hammel STYLIST NFB Writers' Division Mailing List

**52. It's not that your senses are naturally better, it's that they are sharper; honed to a finer edge. There are exercises to increase the different senses. Blind people have to rely on their other senses more; making them more reliable. I can follow the gist of two conversations at once; as well as increase my ability to here through breathing. If one concentrates, he/she will find that their awareness of their surroundings is hitened, and the next time you hold a cane, especially the one that you regularly use in your hand, stop, and see if your senses are a little sharper. Sit quietly and see if you can feel the room that you are in.

Justin Williams STYLIST NFB Writers' Division Mailing List

**53. I agree with the others who responded to this Provoker. Of course our remaining senses don't automatically get gbetter when we lose our vision. If we did, wouldn't our hearing get better as our vision reduces? As has been mentioned earlier, it is just training and practice that enables us to seem to hear or smell better than others who are sighted. When I was in college, majoring in experimental psychology, I performed an experiment to assess object perception if vision isn't used. I had people walk toward a wall and stop when they perceived it's presence. Subjects who were totally blind sensed the wall and stopped many feet from the obstacle, while the blindfolded sighted subjects almost walked into it before stopping. We had the subjects repeat the exercise several times with the result that the abilities of people who were blind remained about the same, but those who were blindfolded improved their performance.

If our other senses improve when we lose our sight, how do we explain those who are deaf/blind? During my years as a rehabilitation instructor and counselor, I've known many clients who were blind and experienced hearing loss, reduced sense of smell or neuropathy.

Doug Hall (Daytona Beach, FL)

**54. Blindness does not make the other senses stronger. People naturally use whatever senses they have available. Some peoples' senses, and their ability to use them, are better than others. It is possible to learn how to better use our senses. Common sense says that it is unnatural to deny the use of any available sense, even if it is diminished.

Reasonable people understand that the same solution does not work best for every person or situation. Common sense is a struggle for people unable to see or perceive things in more than one way. These insensitive folk can only think in terms of black or white. They believe that if there is any impairment, that sense is not reliable, and should not be used. This nonsense approach is offered by people that never had sense, and by those that lost their sense too early in life.

Today, 1% of all visually impaired people, or about 10% of the legally blind, are totally blind. About 0.7% of the visually impaired, and 3% of the legally blind, are currently under 18 years old. The largest and fastest growing group is over 65 years old. Even so, many blind leaders today have been totally blind most their life. It is no wonder they can only offer a single solution that works best for a small percentage of people.

Specialized services and support makes sense for the blind. Sensitivity to all kinds of different blind and visually impaired people needs to be natured and strengthened.

Just Mark

**55. I liked Resp. 5 citing how even bird-watchers often have to rely on their hearing for the different kinds of birds when the bird's hidden in an underbrush. John and I were outside one day, listening to birds while on a nice stroll. We heard the different birds, and I helped him identify which were which by the sounds they were making. However, I didn't realize until I started pointing in the direction from which the bird sounds emanated that birds are often invisible to the eye because they're often very high up in the trees and hidden by its leaves or underneath an underbrush. Birds do this to hide themselves from predators. Thus, the sighted person often has to look up the picture of the different kinds of birds to know what it looks like so that they'll know what it is they're looking at when they finally see the bird peak it's head out or fly through the air.

Another thing is heightened sense of feel. Because John's sensitivity in his fingers are dulled from diabetes neuropathy and because John doesn't have depth perception, he often solicits my help when it comes to picking up something small off a flat surface or he needs me to sand some wood for a wood project he's working on. I don't mind, though, because it makes me feel useful and I've always loved working with wood. I cannot say whether or not my sense of touch would be any worse or just as good if I were sighted, but I do know that there are many sighted carpenters who are able to sand wood to a mirror finish the way I'm able to. However, I'm not able to thread small needles with or without the aid of a needle threader, but I'm able to thread large ones.

Linda MN

**56. It’s definitely an issue of training. I know at least for touch it is possible to gain tactile “acuity.” Many people cannot feel well enough to count a line of braille dots but after lots of practice and reading they can easily separate dots and characters. I know for a fact that I could not read the raised print letters on certain of my household appliances and after working as a full-time braille proofreader, where I did nothing but read for eight hours a day for months, I could all of a sudden read those letters very easily by touch. Maybe it is possible to open the nerve endings or something.

I disagree that echolocation cannot be taught—just look at what Dan Kish does. He teaches this skill to blind children all the time. And growing up I was not taught echolocation but was expected to use it in my mobility lessons, which I did, doing things like finding mailboxes, doors, and telling the difference between vans and cars parked along the roadside. I think it cannot be taught by a sighted teacher but a blind one shouldn’t have any problem teaching it to any blind person with normal hearing.

Mike Sivill

**57. Discussion of the idea of sighted people being also able to learn to develop their other senses as well reminds me of a client I had aboutt a year and a half ago. She grew up in the far north of Alaska, where winter days rarely get light at all. When she was a child, she had to perform all her daily chores often with little or no light to see by, as there was no electricity and the only light source they had was seal oil. I learned all this when I commented on how well she was adapting to the tactile skill of reading Braille. Because she had nneeded to use her sense of touch so much more in her youth, she had developed it well before she even began to lose her vision, and was able to apply that to her Braille training with excellent resuults.

Terrence van Ettinger, Anchorage, AK