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Follow-up on my blindness experiment

About two months ago I did a blind for a day experiment and the feedback I got afterward was overwhelmingly positive. A quick online search shows that I wasn’t the first person to do it, which was expected, but it also points to the other side of the experience—negative reactions to the experiment from the visually impaired or reasons why sighted people should not do it. It boils down to comments like this:

I really find these whatever for a day experiments really patronizing and irritating. People tend to walk away with a smug satisfaction that they know how it is to be blind/deaf/in a chair, but they can take off the blindfold whenever.

And then bro fisting:

Yeah, these blindfolds/glasses are only good for a short time. They don’t let you experience visual impairment like we all have different versions of. I can imagine that smug look and it pisses me off!

Whoa! Really?

I can understand some people are frustrated by their current condition and that some sighted experimenters behave like they’ve accomplished world peace, but comments like these are not helping anyone. Why not try with “Hey, there’s more to it than it seems. Would you like to learn about it?”

Luckily, there are positive stories where both sighted and unsighted people work together to build empathy. For example, there are “Dialogue in the Dark” exhibitions where …

… visitors are led by blind guides through a specially constructed and completely darkened space. Conveying the characteristics of a familiar environment such as a park, a street or a bar, a daily routine turns into a new experience. … Conducted by blind coaches and facilitators, participants are guided through a set of experiential learning activities and experience a reinforcement of their collaborative mind-set and emotional intelligence.

The second positive example I found was an article by a young blind programmer. To introduce his world to others, he describes how he codes, what tools he uses, and what problems he faces. There is even a recording of a screen reader going through some source code; it’s utterly incomprehensible to me, but fascinating how someone’s brain can pick that up.

To close with something inspiring, have a look at the first reaction of a blind patient fitted with bionic eyes. Technology does wonders when used in a right way. And who knows, in a couple of decades this article may be an interesting historical record in a new world without blindness.

Previous blog post:
Technology and politics in the middle of an ocean

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