Two recent news items and how they were reported got me thinking about what gets reported, what doesn’t and what images of the blind are favored by the media.
The first story came from Scotland and concerned a gal blinded as an adult who couldn’t see anything unless it was moving. The neurology was fascinating and the remedy of practicing looking at things while rocking was novel. The only thing that troubled me about the story was that it didn’t tell anything about her life other than what she could or couldn’t see. It seemed like a case out of an Oliver Sacks neurology book.
The second article was about a blind young man who will get to play football in college at a division I school, I think. The article talked about all the extra coaching he’d had and all the extra practicing he’d done to accomplish this feat but also quoted him as saying he wasn’t exceptional. However, he was okay with being held up to others to help them realize “you can do anything”. I disagree. I could not do what this young man is doing no matter what! To me, telling kids “you can do anything” is equally unrealistic as telling them “you can do nothing”. The trick is figuring out what you can do and how to do it. Tiffany Carlson’s blog with its reference to a TED talk on “inspiration porn” http://blog.unlimiters.com/2014/05/27/hate-being-called-inspirational-too/ also points out the harm that being called “inspirational” does to the person put up on the pedestal.
On the other hand, just in the last week I was made aware of two stories that haven’t made it to the media and may never. One concerns the work a friend of mine who teaches blind kids did to put together a games day for one of her students. Remember the fun things you got to do as elementary school wound down in late May? Trip to the park, the zoo, etc. This lucky student got to play braille games with a grandfatherly blind person in his community, demonstrating the fun things you can do if you learn to read those dots and letting him visit with an adult blind person who lives a full life. I don’t know if they talked about guy things like how to bait a hook or what, but I’ll bet it wasn’t the unrealistic “you can do anything” tripe.
The other story that probably won’t get written concerns a statewide pattern in another state an acquaintance was describing to me of mismanagement of rehabilitation money. Blind people were not getting needed training to pursue competitive employment. When this person approached a reporter, they were told the newspaper didn’t have the resources to do investigative journalism.
So this week anyway, we get stories about curing the blind and blind superstars who are inspirational. For a truer picture, consult your friends with disabilities about the stories that don’t make the news.