In my communication with blinds from all over the world I have been able to see some common views and behaviours among them and in this article I am going to address this important question, regarding that perceiving such people as detached from the world would strongly affect our attitude to them and would lead us view them as “social outcasts”.
A research was carried out in Bulgaria recently (by Angel Sotirov) on how the others view the blinds and although many people pitied them, some came out with the statement that these people live in their own unreal world. Each of the participants stated in some way the idea that they lose track of 75-80 % of the environment (with different expressions according to their professions) and there were these only a few people demanding their world is unreal. Is this right? Can we accept such a radical view?
Firstly, I will try to give a possible answer to the questions whether the blinds accept their physical state. As we all know, if a particular problem cannot be solved, the only way out of it is to accept it. If we refer this to the blinds, we should divide them into two main groups – blinds from birth and recently blinded. Another distinct group are the one with low vision who cannot be joined to any of these groups but also have specific problems related to their condition. Those who are blind by birth almost always accept their state, that’s why they don’t feel any tension when being asked about their diagnosis or related topics. However, the second group is more likely to be struggling with this issue all their life. Because of their acquired blindness they lose their job, social status, salary, even some of their friends. This is the point where they may need psychological help or support from their genuine social group in order to feel confident enough in themselves. However, some of them after finishing school have already managed to become independent and to maintain good social contacts and when they do it, others may be sure that these people are strong enough to achieve success in their career and personal life in the future even better than those who don’t struggle with such problems. I will describe the third group as well, as they often have problems with their education, at this age, as they aren’t accepted in specialized schools (where a vision of 20/100 is needed (including correction) and also in public schools where their vision is considered too low). These people along with their low self-esteem receive a large disapproval and incomprehension among their peers. They are definitely unlikely to accept their condition without suitable help from the outside.
Referring to their needs, all of these people at the beginning have to face the reality of being different, as well as the difficulties in taking care of themselves. If their siblings don’t pay attention to developing a basis for a healthy self-esteem in them from early childhood, these children may not be able to stand on the usual insults and mockeries from their classmates. And without being convinced in their own value and abilities, it will be harder for them to attain the necessary results in school and in their chores which will make them even weaker and inept in the eyes of others (and we know this is a sensitive period of children’s development). Most of those who are blind are unable to find job and this makes them feel incompetent and inefficient and decreases their motivation to live and defend their right of having an adequate life. More than others they need to be accepted, cared for, loved and have a family, as their inner necessities have been unsatisfied from the beginning of their life.
Reality… From a psychological standpoint we are unable to sense the world around as completely objectively and only our inner perception is “real” in terms of direct access to knowledge. This is what the German psychologist Franz Brentano points out in his book “Psychology from an empirical standpoint”: “The so-called external perception cannot be proved true and real even by means of indirect demonstration” (Brentano, F. (1874). Psychology from an empirical standpoint. Routledge, p. 70). So people cannot judge others for sensing something (or not), as it is not real for anyone more than for anyone else. And even if we have some disabilities, we cannot be accused of being “different” in a negative meaning. The world wouldn’t be the same without some people as Albert Einstein and Leonardo da Vinci who were dyslexic and Beethoven who was deaf and many other kinds of “different” (and often more skillful) people.
To sum up, it is true that 75% of the information (which is visual) is inaccessible for them but they do have many other ways to gain it. And reality is as known to us, as to them and any other person.
(Photo taken from http://www.jonathanbyoung.com/15-million-blind/)