Thursday, May 3, 2012

Useful or Useless?

This article talks about a developing technology that may one day allow some of the blind to see.

Although I find the concept interesting my concern is that it will have a negative impact in the interim on those having trouble dealing with their blindness. The societal norm towards the hierarchy of sight is problematic enough. From my own experience I know that before I got a handle on my blindness through the positive philosophy of the NFB I would have neglected much needed alternitive techniques in favor of dreaming of full sight.

A friend of mine who is blind (she calls herself night blind) refuses to use a cane and insists on relying on her children and husband to assist her in various situations. When I have spoken to her about blindness skills and their importance she has stated that her family doesn't mind assisting her and one day her vision will be correctable so blindness skills don't matter. Apart from the diminutive impact this line of thinking must have on her sense of self worth (not to mention the tention this must create with her family) her level of independence is lessened by belief in a technology that at this point is in an infancy stage at best. Articles like the one above only increase my friend's belief that blindness is horrible and can only be mitigated by restoration of sight. In the meantime she dreams about "useable vision," misses out on life, and causes unneeded tention with her family.

I also must point out that "useful" vision is a subjective term. Being able to see dark shapes on a white background is hardly useful. I prefer Dr. Kenneth Jernigan's definition of blindness- if you have to change a substantial amount of daily activities in order to function because your vision is poor then you are blind. With this definition the patients in the above article are still functionally blind. Why rely on scanty amounts of vision to complete a task when you can do so more quickly without? When I was in high school I insisted on useing a CCTV as opposed to useing Braille. My work was slower and even painful as I tried to squeeze every drop of useable vision I had out of a set of increasingly nonfunctioning vision. I should also add it was somewhat sad to read of the latter patient's thrill at having colored dreams again. Do I object to his joy? Hardly, I merely think it a sign of a deeper problem- notably clinging to the hierarchy of sight.

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