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The Psychology of Blindness - 11 Misconceptions about Blind People
According to the American Printing House for the Blind, there are approximately 59,355 legally blind children in the US. This includes children and young adults up to age 21 and includes those that are legally blind. Legal blindness is a level of vision loss that has been defined by law to determine eligibility for benefits. According to the 2009 American Community Survey (ACS), there are approximately 485,502 children with vision difficulty in the US. According to ACS there are 235,800 girls and 249,702 boys under the age of 18 that have vision difficulty in just the US alone. Misconceptions of blind people are varied and contradictory. Most misconceptions derive mostly from being uninformed and unfamiliar with blind people. Follow is a list of misconceptions: 1. [U][I][B]Blind people can't do sports[/B][/I][/U]. Every one has heard of the Olympics. Unfortunately most Americans have not heard about the Paralympics (not to be confused with Special Olympics). The Paralympic athlete has physical disabilities not intellectual disabilities and competes in the Winter and Summer Games. Judo is one such sport that is a natural for blind or visually impaired individuals. In 1964 Judo was added as an Olympic Sport. It wasn't until 2000 that the US Paralympic Judo Team won 2 Gold Medals for the US. The US Olympic Judo Team has never won Gold since Judo was introduced in 1964 except by the blind team. 2. [U][B][I]Blind people have superior hearing.[/I][/B][/U] This is not true. Blind or visually impaired individuals are not distracted by sight. However, they are significantly better listeners. Blind individuals learn to concentrate and interpret lots of meaning from sounds. It is not necessary to speak any louder to the blind person as it is to a sighted person. 3. [U][I][B]Blind people need to be spoken to in a very loud voice or they might not know you are speaking to them.[/B][/I][/U] Most blind individuals ignore loud voices as they find it rude and impolite. Just speak in a normal voice when addressing or speaking with blind or visually impaired individuals. 4. [B][I][U]All visually impaired people are blind.[/U][/I][/B] There are many levels of "blindness" from totally blind, legally blind or other variances of visual acuity. Some individuals can't look directly at a subject to be able to see it. However, their peripheral vision can actually see the subject matter. Others have focusing difficulties. Therefore, there is a misconception about blindness. 5. [U][I][B]All blind or visually impaired individuals read Braille.[/B][/I][/U] Unfortunately Braille is not learned and incorporated routinely in the blind community. Consequently illiteracy is a problem. One Lighthouse for the Blind told me that only 10% of blind people read Braille. Of the 10% over 90% of those individuals gain employment. This is a problem and many organizations are working to overcome this problem. Many times when one learns to read at an early age and through time become blind, resist learning Braille. With that said, many blind people are scholars. 6. [U][I][B]Private Schools are the only place for children.[/B][/I][/U] There are State and other schools for blind children but not the only place one can secure an education. Many blind individuals attend colleges or universities with many providing scholarships for blind or visually impaired individuals. 7. [U][I][B]Figurative Speech must not be used with speaking with blind people[/B][/I][/U]. Here again, speak to a blind or visually impaired person just like you would speak with anyone else. Using expressions like "did you see that on TV?" or "I see your point" or "Did you happen to see the special report in the newspaper?" Using figurative speech has nothing to do with actual vision. 8. [U][I][B]Counting steps is an effective tool for traveling.[/B][/I][/U] This is another misconception on how blind individuals travel or walk to get around like most other people. This would be like learn the number of revolutions tires turn on cars to know where one is located. Blind individuals get to know familiar patterns in the home, work place or other areas by "walking around" to familiarize themselves but it is not a routine habit in all situations. 9. [U][I][B]Guide Dogs can take hundreds of commands.[/B][/I][/U] It is interesting to note that Guide Dogs only know four to six commands that the average dog doesn't know. Forward, right, left and stop are parts of the additional commands. The blind person still needs to navigate to specific destinations. Many blind people strictly rely on their white cane and not a dog. 10. [U][I][B]All blind people love music, play an instrument and appreciate music.[/B][/I][/U] Like all people, some like music and play an instrument. There is no documented evidence that music has any particular preference in whether one can see or not. 11. [U][I][B]Most blind people have magical characteristics.[/B][/I][/U] There is a perception that blind people accomplish things through some sort of amazing magic. Blind individuals employ many techniques for getting a job done. Things sighted people consider mundane are accomplished by blind individuals like cooking, playing the piano and much much more. The Executive Director of a blind organization just completed driving a vehicle. Don't count blind individuals out because they can't see or have partial vision. Get to know a blind or visually impaired person and you will be amazed how blindness doesn't hold them back from having a productive, active and exciting life.
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