I went to the ophthalmologist…

I have begun to notice the term “negative space.” I’ve seen it several places lately, usually in reference to art.  I doubt the term is cropping up any more frequently than it ever has, though; I’m probably just noticing. The same way your own name jumps off the printed page at you, negative space has been catching my eye.

My husband is a tactful guy. He’s measured and thoughtful, and much more likely to suggest something than to insist on it. But this summer he practically forced me into an eye appointment. If he had tried this earlier in our marriage, I might have bristled at him. But his honesty turned out to be more reassuring than indiscriminate positivity could ever be. I needed some help. 

I have read that negative space is a vital component of art. The play between positive space and negative space–the work’s main object and its surrounding space–informs with dimension and perspective.   My reading says that without negative space, the main object lacks meaning, and that balance is the key.  This sounds right.

But my ophthalmology appointments tend to be a deluge of negative information. The message might be encrypted in medical detail, but the punch is the same: we have no cure, we have no treatment.  Yes, well, I don’t see the point in going if there’s no treatment.  I take the– if you can’t help me, at least don’t bring me down– approach.  In the end, I tell my husband, you live life in your own headspace, and the insight I gain from an eye exam doesn’t improve the quality of my headspace. It just throws me off my game.

It’s a fair point, I think.  My vision is decreasing, and in some ophthalmologic consistency with “the medium is the message,”  my doctors concentrate on what I cannot see. The tests that they send me for are the ones they know I’ll fail. They order scans that will show the malfunction. They measure, analyze, and quantify my negative space. They may be doing their job, but it’s depressing. I leave oddly ashamed of my failure. It doesn’t matter that it’s irrational. Still, I read that the use and study of negative space is vital, increasing the appeal of a composition through subtle means.  Maybe that’s true, but this praise assumes the existence of enough positive space, and if balance is really an essential element in all this, then my ophthalmology appointments need some tweaking.

I have avoided seeing an ophthalmologist for years. In rebellion, or an attempt to control some aspect of this, I’ve looked for optometrists who would be willing to do a quick refraction and supply me with disposable contact lenses.  I’d wear a single pair for months, to delay the next appointment. I know. Bad for the cornea. But it left me alone to manage my disease, and that was the point. I can run my own headspace. The problem with this plan, I know now, is that it created an exhausting undercurrent of thought. I tried to remember how everything looked, and tried to make peace with it being gone.  I stared at the things I thought would be most difficult to remember–colors, shadows,   water–and wondered how my husband could ever describe these things to me, and whether the descriptions would make any sense when I couldn’t see, or couldn’t remember seeing. It was my way of working ahead, to blunt the trauma of going blind.  It didn’t work, by the way.  I  may have changed it a bit, but it was still a unbalanced picture.  Sure, negative space is vital, but only in proper proportion. And assessment of proportion requires perspective–impossible to achieve from inside the painting.

My husband didn’t just find me an ophthalmologist.  He got me an appointment with a retina specialist at Wilmer Eye Institute, a division of Johns Hopkins. I’d never been to Wilmer before, but from the school of “past performance is the best indicator of future performance,” I was expecting my ophthalmological information to be delivered clinically. The gravity of the topic, the ripples of personal affect, the emotional weight of blindness were handled by my previous ophthalmologists with astonishing detachment. Stunningly unhelpful.  So, I braced for a clinically exacting experience at Wilmer too. One that would yield a file of disturbing data, delivered at a safe emotional distance for the comfort of my doctor. Bastard.

I tend to translate bad appointments in my head.  Narrow visual field means no driving, eventual cane.  A comparison to my previous visual field test reveals my rate of loss. A quick calculation can reveal whether I’m likely to see my kids’ graduations, grandchildren, wrinkles, if retirement travel might include seeing Paris or just smelling it. I could still go for the bread. I could wear my hair in a bun. I could probably fix a bun with my eyes closed. I’ll try that when I get home. I won’t even need to flip the bathroom light. Ever. Geez. Lower power bill? I’ll end up spending it on Uber. I really should be living somewhere with better public transportation. When I zone back in, I realize I’ve missed the lecture on rods versus cones, or something about the macula. It doesn’t matter. Sort for meaning as you walk to the elevator. Sure, the buttons have braille, but how will I find the buttons? I read that negative space may be used to depict a subject in a chosen medium by showing everything around the subject, but not the subject itself.
Pretty much.

My latest appointment was different, and I’m grateful. This team of doctors asked me what I needed. They asked me about my life. We still talked about the details, but it wasn’t crushing or disorienting, because the details weren’t the point.  For these doctors, the details were just the raw data they needed to begin a larger process of care. With no rush, they shared a perspective on my situation that I hadn’t been able to find.  I’m hopeful about the state of research now. The details about my vision have context. They infused the worrying implications of my disease with some hope. I thought I was there to meet a team with astounding knowledge of the retina. I was, and they do. But it was their balance of knowledge with compassion that changed my perspective. This appointment actually helped.

There is an art to being a physician, apparently, and some of its power lies in its ability to balance us.  It’s taken me days to get used to my new outlook, and it feels like Christmas. I didn’t realize how hard I had been working at coping until these doctors made it feel safe for me to stop.  With one conversation, they turned off a humming undercurrent of thought in my head.  I hadn’t even realized was there until it was gone.

I didn’t sleep the night after the appointment. I sat up on the window ledge at the hotel. I wasn’t thinking. In truth, I was blank. I just looked. By sunrise, I was staring at an angle of light created on just one side of a steeple.  I’ve seen steeples before, and sunrises, but this one was different.  Beauty wasn’t bittersweet anymore, because I wasn’t trying to remember it, or picture it gone.  It was just pretty.

There have been dozens of these adjustments in the last couple weeks, and they all boil down to the same thing. Negative space isn’t crowding out the positive images anymore. And it took other people, presenting positive and negative space in artful proportion to restore a balance to my worldview–a balance that skewed so long ago, I couldn’t sense the change, and didn’t know it had happened.  I’m grateful for the art in healing.

Advertisements

In defense of the arts

I teach piano lessons, and I don’t care if your children are particularly talented. Music might just save the world.

I get an up-close view of kids’ grappling with the discipline of arts every afternoon, and the results it can yield. It isn’t pretty. It’s too real to be pretty. It’s closer to breathtaking.

Students of mine schlep in unprepared, lying about being prepared (this is my karma) or practiced, but mostly the first two. I hear about their week: school, friends, family. If the parents knew what their kids happily reveal about their home life, they’d probably die. Kids are wide open.

The under-eights come to lessons fresh off the school bus. For this crowd, music lessons are a wonder, once they settle. Their learning is swift, if they’ve practiced at all, and they all swear they have. I have ears, I tell them. Be real.

The tween and teen students are a force. There’s no pretense with this group either; they walk in elated or openly annoyed, with the stress of the day still on them. Sometimes, when they play, it’s an unfocused attempt. An assortment of notes. Sometimes, though, with practice and a certain commitment to the moment, they find something- something that’s really good. The real triumph is that they absolutely know the difference. For these kids “I hear what you’re trying to do- trust your instincts” is the comment that floats them. Screw the perfect playing- this is about the confidence to be creative. To get lost in it. They want to be encouraged to be brave. 

I got a card from a mom of a piano student the other day that read:”Yesterday I dropped off a sullen teen for piano, but picked up a centered, articulate child. Yes. art.” Today a chirpy girl announced to me that when she starts to fight with her little brother, she goes downstairs to practice the piano. “It calms me down,” she said.  This past winter, a bi-racial middle school student walked through the door asking why she should be required to attend a school named after the man who opposed its desegregation. There are no words at these moments. She just opened her book and played. Thank the world of music and the gods responsible–the kids shake off their day. Or they reorder it into something more manageable. Her music didn’t change the subject. She wasn’t using it to change the subject; she was using it to elevate it. Brave.

Do you know what’s wrong with kids today? Nothing. They have a stunning capacity to create and share and give. They aren’t immune to the stresses of life, but they also aren’t impervious to beauty that can neutralize its sting. They feel both and absorb both like sponges, and the honesty  they apply is breathtaking.

Through the arts, I’m watching children choose nuance over brashness, vulnerability over defensiveness, and sincerity over opportunism.  So let your aspiring architect, teacher, attorney, and businessperson study in the arts. Talent be damned. Let this bravery inform public policies, business deals, environmental concerns, and every interaction. Arts can foster the critical thinking that solves global challenges, encourage a spirit that breeds inclusivity and a wideness that witnesses incidents but identifies trends.

Musical prowess is secondary, and maybe even further down the list than that. Most of us aren’t going to change music. Music changes us. I’ll take it.

Ableism

Ableism is getting a lot of attention lately. It was defined in 1981 as “discrimination or prejudice against people with disabilities.” Before that, it wasn’t even a word. I suppose that’s some indication of how much it was discussed. I’m glad it’s being addressed with some ferocity today, though. It’s the right thing to do. And sure, I spend time thinking about the injustice of ableism now, but you want to know the uncomfortable truth? I didn’t start thinking about it very seriously until it affected me. Well, crap.

I’m losing my vision to a genetic eye disease. I figure I’ve got about five years of vision left before I’m blind. The physical loss of sight is gradual, and as such, isn’t shocking. Appalling, but not shocking. There is one shocking aspect of this process though- society’s perception of people with disabilities. And the worse my vision gets, the more rankled I am by the misconceptions and pervasive attitudes toward blindness. It’s pretty negative. Think Mr. MaGoo.

Want to hear the worst part? I am not getting it right either. I don’t treat everyone the same, do I? Well, no. I am less engaged with people who I believe are different from me in ways that challenge my sense of self. It’s a sobering realization. My behavior isn’t aggression- it’s more like avoidance. Am I making effort to include people different from me? Eh-not often. Shouldn’t I know better, being a person with a visual impairment? You would think. The fact is, I don’t fit neatly into the category of one who discriminates or one who is discriminated against. It’s more fluid than that. It’s complicated. But okay, isn’t this what I’ve been saying when it suits me? That, though I have a visual impairment, I would rather not be labelled? That I don’t fit into one category? That I will not be reduced in the eyes of society to a two dimensional conduit of disability?  That I’m a person, dammit?  But I can’t be on both sides of this argument. If I’m a person who can’t be boiled down to a disability, neither am I a person who can be summed up as virtuous on the subject of ableism. We’re all human. We marginalize those who are different and distance ourselves to stay emotionally comfortable sometimes. And we change our definition of “different” never to include us. How convenient.

I’m not insinuating that it’s intentional, exactly.  It’s a learned way of coping with insecurity, right? It’s the “we” vs “they” game we all play. “They” are the people who are different from us in ways that threaten our preferred sense of self. “We” are, well, us. We never put ourselves in the “they” category, because “they” lose. And we don’t want to lose. No, thank you. We will say “we.” In fact, we will happily rewrite the rules of the game and the definitions of the groups to ensure that “we” stay “we.” Never mind that it’s inconsistent and um, mean.

But small children don’t behave this way.  Through inexperience, they hold some wisdom. They are open and accepting in ways that reduce us to tears. Right? It’s later, through experience that we become self aware and learn to form protective groups. Playground politics. And we are still doing it. We form adults cliques, we judge based on appearance, we exclude, we marginalize, and we hide behind, “I can’t really relate to them.” It’s okay not to relate. The conceptual wrong is in equating relating with respecting. The reality is that a seemingly innocuous, “It’s not happening to me, so I’ve never really thought much about it before” is the gateway to ableism, and these conceptual wrongs spawn unjust actions.

Five years after my diagnosis, I sat in a class at university with a woman who carried a white cane. I never spoke to her. I thought about talking to her. In fact, I’m still thinking about it- with deep regret. But she scared my sense of self and I was nervous I would say the wrong thing. My behavior came from a place of self protection. It wasn’t aggressive, perhaps, but it was selfish. I was a less visually impaired person, avoiding  a more visually impaired person, even with the knowledge that I would, in a few years, be in her position. She was “they.” Now I am. So I quickly redefine my parameters to make me “we.” Really? Gah. Not my best.

Here’s my sobering reality. The very thing I rail against in my low vision world, the assumptions, the categorizations, the uncomfortableness and lack of inclusion I sometimes feel, I catch myself doing toward others. And if you think you don’t ever do it, you probably aren’t watching yourself very closely. To which group do I belong? Am I a person with a disability or a person who discriminates? Uh huh. We are all people, and we all live on the same sliding scale. We all have different challenges, and even our challenges are continually changing. With my disease, I have some power over whether my disability is obvious. In a dim restaurant-it’s obvious. On a bright morning over coffee? You would never know my vision is crap. This won’t last as I lose more vision, because life is fluid. You are aging while you read this. My compromised retinas are burning out while I write it. Our bones are becoming more brittle. We are all one accident from paralysis, and one test result from a thudding diagnosis. And if you don’t have a disability now, you either will someday, or will die in the attempt. We aren’t living such different lives from one another, we’re just switching places and taking turns. Our young versions are getting it right, intuitively. Maybe that’s why their behavior stirs us, making us proud and ashamed. 

Society’s Fear of Blindness

No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear. –CS Lewis
Fear is a driving force in the characterization of the blind in our society. Losing sight is statically more feared than deafness or loss of limb, ranking fourth behind AIDS, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. (https://goo.gl/8CLvy9) It’s a physical loss that is damned scary. But something more is afoot in our world-because society’s characterization of blindness is rarely limited to physical loss. Instead, blindness has an implicit relationship with character, and always has. With our words, our myths, and the literature spanning centuries, blind are routinely cast as being extreme in character, whether evil, wise, inept, virtuous, wicked or tragic. Society continues to perpetuate and actively clings to this damning misconception. Why? By casting blind persons as extreme in character, they bear little resemblance to the sighted’s sense of self. Even more damaging, by recasting blindness as a predictable consequence of moral defect, society means to assure itself that blindness is not random but earned. In other words, it won’t happen to them.

It has been said that history is a record of what we have done and literature, a record of what we think.  Well, crap. Even a cursory glance at literature shows an unapologetically extreme view of blindness and the blind. The blind are evil in Stevenson’s Treasure Island, stupid in Shakespeare’s King Lear, confused in the Old Testament with Isaac, vapid in Charles Dickens’ “Cricket on the Hearth”, and the most pitied of characters, in Schiller’s William Tell, Kipling’s “The Light That Failed”, Conrad’s “The End of the Tether,” and D.H. Lawrence’s “The Blind Man.” And then there’s Greek tragedy. Here blindness is strongly associated with shame, usually a punishment for sins against authority or for sexual deviance. Think Metope, blinded as punishment by her father, or Polymestor, blinded for murder, or Alcmena, whose eyes were mutilated as a humiliation. Erymanthos was blinded after he saw Aphrodite bathing. Stesichorus was blinded for insulting Helen. Orion was punished for rape. For Oedipus, blindness was a punishment for incest. Shakespeare’s Gloucester was blinded for adultery. Even today, the myth that masterbation can result in blindness is perpetuated. The culture concerning blindness around the time of Christ is summed up in the ancient Hebrew saying, “Better off dead than living blind” and it is from this perspective that the disciples ask Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Neither, was the notable answer.

One could argue that many sighted characters in literature are portrayed as evil, confused, inept, corrupt and vapid too. That is true. The important distinction is that sighted characters run the gamut, from balanced to extreme, simple to complex, and in whatever way the author chooses to stunt the character’s development, it is not implicitly linked to a physical disability. By contrast, blind characters are most often two dimensional figures, lacking complex relationships: stock characters that are bloodless conduits of disability, and deserving of it.

Seem extreme? It is. Webster’s dictionary has eight definitions of blindness. The first speaks to an inability to see, physically. The second, third and fourth: lack of discernment or judgement. The fifth: defective.  Perhaps our dictionary’s definition of ableism could reference its own definition of blindness.

The obvious point is that the myths are untrue. Blindness is a physical state, and nothing more. There is seldom anyone to blame for a physical challenge, and those with an impairment are no different in temperament or character as whole than the rest of society. Yet, our world implies otherwise, in a white knuckled grasp at self preservation. It’s instinctive to comfort ourselves with differences between others and ourselves. When we hear that someone has lung cancer, we ask, “Did he smoke?” especially if we don’t. Random shootings are more disturbing to us than acts of domestic violence, even if the casualty numbers are the same. The obituaries that trouble us are the ones nearest our own age. The homeless person must not work as hard as we do. Distance and blame are our protection from vulnerability. Or so we think.

But it’s not working.The myths about blindness do not reduce anyone’s anxiety about blindness-blind or sighted. It intensifies fear. When blindness is seen as a dehumanizing condition, anxiety toward blindness rises, because the very dehumanization wielded as a protection is the greatest source of anxiety. Isn’t this powerfully acknowledged every time society employs it as its ultimate distancing tool?

In the end, the narratives about the tragedy of blindness have little to do with being sightless.

If there is tragedy in blindness, it is that it can stand between a person and his fully evolved potential, complete with authentic understanding, given and received. If there is virtue in it, it is that the vulnerability of it could be used to connect authentically with the parts of life a person holds dear. Either way, the blindness is not the problem or the prize. Being physically sightless is what it is, but let us not create the tragedy of ableism by misrepresenting visual impairment as something more than a physical condition. And let us not create tragedy within the sighted by chasing self preservation at the expense of humanity. This game has no winners.

What Are We Missing?

If you’ve got RP, you probably spend part of your time explaining what you can’t see, but also assuring people of the things you can. Because we are losing vision in strange ways, right? Ways that cause other RP types to nod in agreement, while non RP types will answer, wait- I just saw you check your phone-so what do you mean you can’t see me standing beside you?

For me, and I think it’s pretty typical, actually, I was told “classic” (well, thank you)  I have a small circle of central vision and some, okay, many gaps-to the sides, above and below that see nothing, and then some peripheral vision at the very outer edges. So I miss a perplexing assortment of things. 

1. Handshakes. They happen below by usable central vision, so if I’m looking  eye to eye with someone, I don’t see the extended hand.  I do scan for it though, if I think we at getting to the part in the introductions where a person might go for a handshake. Sometimes I extend mine first, just so it’ll be done with and I can stop looking.

2. Whatever people are pointing to. I might see the shoulder go up, but that’s it. I have to follow the arm and hand all the way out with my central vision to see what’s being pointing to, and that usually takes longer than the person holds the position. What works best is for folks to say it in words. “Look at that tree” is much faster for me than “look at that.”

3. Wet floor signs. My family calls this kind of sign a “kick me” because if there is one anywhere around, I will kick it. I’ve decided to embrace this one. I try to look as if I enjoyed it. 

4. A darting toddler. This one makes me feel awful. I once mowed over a toddler trying to get through a crowd. He was fine, I was horrified and his mother was furious. And I should have explained it to her, honestly. I wish I had. 

5. Whatever is left in the middle of the floor. Thank goodness my kids don’t play with Legos anymore. Sometimes I see them skittering in from of me to move their shoes or a backpack. That’s love. 

6. My left hand, if looking at my right, and vice versa. I’m a pianist, and it’s turning into a challenge. I’m working on playing with my eyes closed anyway. Great pianists throughout history have played with their eyes closed, right? Doesn’t it connote special concentration or depth of feeling? Or something?

7. Unexpected steps. I know. This is what a cane is for. I’m working on wrapping my head around that truth. But still, would it hurt to put those helpful stripes on the front edges of steps? Please?

8. Stars. I’ve never been able to see them. If you have RP, you’ve never seen them either. I remember seeing a movie showing stars when I was a kid and being baffled. I thought Hollywood was exaggerating, or that it was all a hoax-like astrology. Also stars, right?

9. Anything else in the dark. If you have RP, you get this too. It’s inky black outside and people are moving around freely. What kind of reckless stunt people run around in the dark? Oh, that’s right. They can see. 

10. The whole movie screen at once. If you are ever looking for anyone you know at the movies, if they have RP, they’re in the back row. I promise. 

Simulated Blindness Experiences: There’s Bad News and Good News

Retinitis pigmentosa is taking my vision. So I’m adjusting. I walk rather than drive, and scan my surroundings to compensate for what I can’t see. I’m contemplating a cane. (Not yet.) What I’m discovering is that my impairment has two facets: the physical and the societal. And in all my thinking about what a significant visual impairment might be like, I underappreciated how remarkably negative the societal implications would be. Here’s why: society is getting a lot wrong about blindness and blind people.
As ancient as fear of the dark, blindness has always been among the most dreaded of conditions, and its associations are as strongly negative as the emotions that fuel them. Added to our ancient fears, we now have a modern source of anxiety and damaging stereotypes: blindness experiences. From dining in darkness, blindfolded plays and blindfolded concerts, people are being offered ways to experience the challenges of blindness. Sounds good, right? There are good aspects of it, certainly. It gets people thinking. In some cases, it raises money for research to cure the conditions that lead to blindness. This is exciting. I want them to cure blindness. But here’s an uncomfortable truth: events like these may be raising money while undermining dignity.
Simulations are quite different from blind life in presentation and execution. Most visually impaired are losing their vision gradually. It’s not a sudden moment. And most people who are considered blind still retain some vision, if just the ability to see motion, or perceive light. We adjust incrementally, physically and emotionally, and get training along the way. None of this is true for simulated blindness. Participants are submerged into complete darkness instantly with a blackout mask, and try a task-one they have probably only ever tried sighted.

What conclusions will participants draw from this? The risk is that they will find blindness overly negative, resulting in an overly negative view of blind persons. Since the advertised notion is that participants are experiencing blindness, they may reasonably conclude that their experience is a realistic recreation of blind life: that the blind are as anxious and incapable as they are. New research agrees. Simulations, “intended to be bridge-builders resulting in greater compassion and understanding-can sometimes harm rather than help. [They] highlight the initial challenges of becoming disabled [and] decrease the perceived adaptability of being disabled and reduce the judged capabilities of disabled people.” Of course it does. The fallout? The blind may have fewer opportunities for integration, both socially and professionally. Unhelpful.

But there’s more, and here’s where we go from unhelpful to distressing. Dining in the dark participants are encouraged to dispense using utensils to feed themselves. They are instructed to eat with their hands. Bridge building? This is the infantilism of an already under respected community. If these experiences are having success in getting a message out about blind persons, it is almost certainly the wrong one. Sighted are exposed to the most shocking version of blindness, and encouraged to respond to the challenge in a manner that is at best infantile, and is at worst, animalistic. This is marketed and sold as blindness awareness, to help the blind.

But then I read about a blindness experience that gets it right. I was so impressed that I contacted the instructor. Mickey Damelio, faculty member at Florida State University teaches a class called The Blindness Experience. It’s an elective, one as wildly popular as the beer and wine tasting class. Imagine. The difference between FSU’s Blindness Experience class and the experiences mentioned above, like blindfolded dining, is the difference between exploiting pity and shock of blindness and promoting meaningful understanding. The students who are lucky enough to get into this class experience a semester long challenge of blind stereotypes. They interact with fifteen guest speakers during the course, all blind: parents, Ph.Ds, a prosecuting attorney, a former phone sex operator. That’s right. The class participates in blind simulations too, but never for shock value. “When you first put on a blindfold, you almost can’t help but put yourself in that first beginning stage of grief. But imagine how well you would do with this after ten years of being blindfolded” they are reminded. The perspective offered here is not shallow or cursory. Damelio is himself an orientation and mobility specialist, and teacher of the visually impaired, and has headed up the orientation and mobility program at FSU since 2010. So why offer this class? “It’s a public service, really,” says Damelio. “The whole reason for the class is to give students so many experiences with blindness that they are unable to stereotype it. About mid-way through the semester students conclude that the idea of generalizing two people with a visual impairment is as ridiculous as assuming two people with blue eyes must be the same kind of person.” And if that isn’t a big enough sigh of relief for the visually impaired, Damelio has another goal. “Many of the students who take this class will be leaders and in a position to make hiring decisions. Changing the perception of blind people with these students may give blind people essential opportunities.”

Blindness awareness is a worthy goal, but depending on the perspective offered, it can help blind persons or make their lives difficult. Awareness activities that underscore shock do little to promote inclusion of the visually impaired community. In reality, it diminishes our opportunities to integrate socially and professionally. Hearing about courses like The Blindness Experience restores some equilibrium to the process of vision loss for me. If I can’t see well, being understood well may be the next best thing. When the perception of visual impairment has been limited to a physical challenge, only then we will be experiencing accurate blindness awareness. Interested in a blind perspective? Use the FSU model. Talk to lots of blind people. Talk about everything. Maybe even blindness.

Five Misconceptions about Blind People

1.  They can’t see anything. Counterintuitive, right? But truthfully, only a small number of blind persons can’t see anything at all. Many of us have terrible acuity, or very narrow feels of vision. Some can only see motion, or light. There are many degrees of blindness, and only a small percentage of them is the darkness you are imagining.

2.  They don’t want to talk about it. Nope. We already know we’re blind, and in as much as it creates understanding and inclusion, we’re happy to talk about our vision. I promise. Of course, we want to talk about other things too. Just like you.

3.  They aren’t smart. Here’s the problem, and one of my biggest gripes. Blind people miss visual cues, so there’s some stuff they can’t know. Our inability to see is not the same as an inability to understand. I know it can look inattentive. It’s anything but.

4.  They are victims. All people are on a sliding scale with this one. You probably know people who feel victimized by rainclouds and others who grateful for their messy, complicated lives. Feeling victimized isn’t about blindness.

5.  They are heroes. People are on a sliding scale with this one too. They may be heroes, but it probably has nothing to do with their blindness.

The only true assumption you can make about a blind person is that their vision is crappy. Anything else you discover is probably more about the person and less about the blindness.