Blindness in the media

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Blindness in the media

Ever since I became a part on the blind and low vision community I realised that many of us around the world have so many shared experiences. As I became known as The Blind Poet and talked about every aspect of living life as a person slowly going blind I’ve listened to the stories of others and the one phrase I hear repeated is “you don’t look blind”. It’s something lots of us hear on a regular basis from people when we are out. Most times it’s said in a polite way but sometimes it’s used as an accusation, calling into doubt the validity of our disability. These situations can be the cause of isolation. They can be a factor in the reason someone maybe hesitant to use a cane or apply for a guide dog and though this lack of education and awareness might not be the fault of the person believing the misconceptions I believe there is something that needs to change if we have any chance of improving things.

When most people think of someone who is blind they think of a person who cannot see. They are probably wearing dark glasses and if that person was to take those glasses off then it’s would be easy to tell they are blind by the way their eyes look. They wouldn’t be able to make eye contact or their eyes may be filled with a milky whiteness from the blindness. More than likely that image of a blind person most people have would be using a cane of a guide dog and it would be clear that they couldn’t see at all by the way they navigate around it sing their other senses to fill in for the missing vision.

This is generally the way blind people are depicted in books, films, tv and commercials. It’s the easy sell to the watching audience to show this person is blind. But the reality is far more complex. Blindness is a spectrum meaning there are many different shades and stages to blindness. Many different ways people lose their sight. I have Retinitis Pigmentosa which generally starts with a loss of peripheral vision. Those with RP can live most of their lives with some form of remaining central vision which allows them to be able to read text, watch a movie and look people directly in the face. Yet dependant on the amount of peripheral vision that remains they could be classed as partially sighted or legally blind. That doesn’t mean that they see nothing. There are lots of other conditions like for example Stargardts which people lose their central vision but keep their peripheral. A large percentage of people with Stargardts are able to navigate without the use of a mobility aid. In fact only around 8 percent of people who are visually impaired use a cane and only 7 percent of visually impaired people have no light perception yet it’s that 7 percent which is the perceived image of blindness for most people.

In the media blindness is portrayed in a way that simply isn’t a true reflection and that is why today we still have so much confusion around it. Even some of the biggest blindness charities and organisations play to those stereotypes as an easy explanation to advertise the services they provide.

We need to show more people like the 93 percent in the media. We need to educate people around the world that blindness isn’t something you can see by simply looking in someone’s eyes. Raise more awareness that 75 percent of disabilities are invisible disabilities and that many of the 75 percent often faces discrimination and judgment when going out. Lots of blind people can see a little bit, we can look you in the eye. We can use our cell phones. We don’t all need mobility aids.

Just maybe in the media helped give us our voice all these things would finally be known.

My Blind Secret

I have a secret from the world,

that most of you don’t know.

Won’t hear it in the way I talk

and eyes no clue will show.

If you listen to my story,

something new to learn you’ll find.

For though I’m looking straight at you,

I’m legally blind.

It’s not a simple yes or no,

I’m more a shade of grey.

I rarely venture out alone,

as things get in the way.

For what I see affects my days,

in much more ways than one

and this for some continues,

until little left has gone.

But still this pains invisible,

to those that pass us by.

Theres some afraid to hold a cane, because of questions why.

Accused of making up our claim and made to feel a fraud.

Feel drained of all my confidence, feel trapped behind this door.

Now hardest thing to come to terms,

that makes my days feel long.

It holds us back,

knowledge they lack,

for all who’ve got it wrong.

To hear they’re judge and jury,

even though their facts aren’t straight.

Feel misdirected fury,

wish opinions now could wait.

To take the time to get to know,

the visions that we share.

Come join me in this tunnel,

hold my hand and show you care.