What’s It Really Like?

                A friend wants to know what it’s really like to be blind. I’ve offered to give her a blindness 101 two hour experience under the blindfold. We’ll bake cookies, take a walk down the street (but not cross any streets), play a computer game which uses sounds called Crazy Tennis and look something up on the Web with my talking computer. I want her to experience the earthiness (feeling the cookie dough to determine if it’s mixed), the using nonvisual cues to know when she’s back home from the walk, and the sense of accomplishment from little successes in daily living skills under blindfold. I also want her to realize the frustrations of things taking longer, being only partially accessible and costing more (maybe we’ll price a braille watch.)  

                I can’t think of any way to get her other peoples’ reactions unless I role-play the overly helpful passerby.  And she won’t be “blind” long enough to have the nagging self-doubts of “Am I giving enough to balance out my needs for extra help?” “Am I asking too much?” and “Am I being too sensitive?” She’ll be so busy surviving she won’t have time for self-doubt.

                Disability simulations are problematic when the person just experiences the frustrations of a newly imposed disability. However if they learn a few coping techniques and realize how much can be done with universal design like a dial on the microwave instead of a touch screen, it can be a learning experience.

 Of course we’ll talk afterwards about all those “how do you…?” questions she’ll have. Then we’ll eat the cookies she’s baked and celebrate the common bonds of friendship, food, and fun we share.