5 Shocking Ways the Modern World Screws Blind People

By J.F. Sargent, T.L. Swedensky
August 19, 2014

Due to a rare genetic disorder, my father and three of my uncles are blind.
So even though Ive had sight my whole life, I know that most peoples
definition
of blindness (Uh their eyes dont work, right?) misses a huge chunk of what
going through life without vision is really like. So while youve probably
already figured out that blind folks arent all ninja warriors like Daredevil
and the guy from The Book of Eli, you may not know that

#5. People Are Constantly Accusing You of Faking

Lets say youre at a fast-food joint and a guy comes in with dark sunglasses
and a walking cane. He goes up to the counter, looks at the menu, and orders
from it with no problem. At that point you might think one of these things:

A) Hes just come from a costume party where he was dressed as a blind guy.

B) He was just pretending to read the menu, because he thinks its funny.

C) Hes running some kind of scam.

D) He has mastered echolocation and is in fact part bat/orca.

Thats because the average person thinks youre either blind or youre not the
moment your blind friend compliments your haircut, your first reaction
is, What, is that sarcasm? Youre blind. The reality is a lot more
complicated. Like cheap liquor, blindness comes in a huge variety of flavors
and varieties
and while all those flavors are vaguely reminiscent of butt, they do all
have their unique takes on it. Legally blind, for example, doesnt mean your
eyes dont work, it just means theyre one-tenth as powerful as they should
be, which effectively means that

you cant see below the big E on an eye-doctors chart. So even a lot of
legally blind people can read books, provided they use a computer screen or
anything
with a massive enough font.

You can, in fact, gather 50 blind people and not have any two of them see
the same way. Thats because there are
several dozen conditions that can cause blindness, all in different ways.
Even my uncles, who suffer from the same rare genetic disorder, lost their
sight
very differently: One lost his peripheral vision in his teens, while another
lost his central vision in his 20s.

Only 18 percent of visually impaired people are classified as totally blind.

And having people toss you stuff to see if you catch it gets old real fast.

And yes, this disparity between what blindness is and what everyone thinks
it is causes all sorts of ridiculous problems. Years ago, my father had a
co-worker
who saw my fathers partial vision as proof that he was faking blindness, and
would passively hassle him with tests like moving his work supplies.

In Italy, meanwhile, people have turned harassment of the blind into a
national pastime.

Because of their economic problems, Italians have taken to spying on
neighbors drawing blindness benefits to catch them doing things that sighted
people
believe blind people shouldnt be able to do, like walking across a street
without getting hit by a Scion. These fakers are reported to the police and
have their benefits taken away until they can prove in court that theyre not
faking.
And god help you if youre walking around with a cane, regardless of what
country youre in for some reason people freak the hell out at the sight of
it. When my dad was learning how to use a walking cane (which isnt as easy
as you might assume)

a bystander called the freaking police, thinking he was an armed maniac on a
rampage.

That happens all the time in 2012 some well-meaning citizen in the U.K.
alerted the authorities that a man was walking down the street with a
samurai
sword the police showed up and shot him with a Taser, despite the fact that
the samurai was

Colin Farmer, a 63-year-old blind man with a cane (the cops were not
charged).

In 1989, California police beat a blind man standing at a bus stop when they
saw him put his foldable walking cane in his pocket and assumed they were
nunchakus. Shortly after 9/11, Six Flags held three blind men
at the gate for hours as they tried to assess the threat these men posed
with their canes.

Seriously, is this something youve ever heard about? Is there really an
epidemic of people faking blindness just to get in on that sweet sympathy
and
cane action?

#4. Handling Money Is a Nightmare

Now heres something Ill bet youve never thought about: How does a blind
person tell a $1 bill from a $20?

You sniff to see how much cocaine is on it, of course.

Well, luckily blind people like most people are kind of amazing. They
generally fold their bills differently depending on their value, or store
them
in different folds of their wallets. They even have apps that help identify
bills using a smartphone camera
though of course these apps require proper lighting and angle to work, and
are operated by smartphones with completely smooth, featureless screens.
Close
your eyes and try to take a selfie. Did it work out? If you said no, then
blind people are better at using smartphones than you are.

Of course paper money is hard to use for blind people, some of you are
saying, you cant see the numbers! Nothing can be done! Actually, it would be
as easy as incorporating raised numbers, or a variety in bill size both of
which are fairly easy and would help keep thousands of Americans from
accidentally
handing $100 to an unscrupulous gas station attendant for their Doritos and
six-pack. So easy, in fact, that the U.S. is the only industrialized nation
that doesnt do exactly that.

Why? Who knows. Maybe were too busy entertaining the idea of trillion dollar
coins. Maybe resizing our cash register trays, ATM slots, and wallets is
too ambitious an endeavor for a country that cant even be bothered to go to
the moon anymore, even though its right there. Even a U.S. judge found that
the Treasury was discriminating against blind individuals by printing paper
money with only visual features. The Treasury responded by raising the print
on Ben Franklins shoulder. So yeah, never mind, that totally solved the
problem forever.

#3. Braille Is Impractical and Rarely Used

Since I brought up The Book of Eli, remember how the twist-ending reveals
that Denzels bible is written in braille, so evil Gary Oldman cant read it?

In real life, braille is so inefficient with page space that getting the
whole bible down takes 37 volumes, meaning old Denzel wouldve been stuck
lugging
a U-Haul library across the wasteland and thats assuming he could read
braille in the first place, which would have been against the odds
considering
only 10 percent of the blind can.

While braille is an excellent language code that gives many blind
individuals independence and the ability to read printed words, for the
blind its actually
about as convenient as playing street hockey during rush hour. First off,
teachers are harder to find than, well, a complete 37-volume Bible in the
middle
of an apocalyptic wasteland (heh, I just came up with the single most
irritating Fallout side-quest ever). On top of that, the process of putting
these
books together is incredibly expensive, largely because the pages are so
delicate that the books have to be assembled by hand.

It consistently comes down to a conflict between convenience and
inconvenience, and inconvenience tends to win. Printed braille labels could
be useful
for differentiating between your groceries (have you ever conditioned before
you shampooed? Its a nightmare), but

braille printers are stupidly expensive, with most quality models starting
around $5,000 and going up to $40,000. Even the cheap-o
models are a solid grand. For the cost of a braille printer, you could pay
your rent and have enough left over for an e-reader and a bad-ass sound
system.
Why clutter up your home with 5,000 volumes of braille Dungeons & Dragons
books when you could listen to Ice-T read them to you in glorious surround
sound?

#2. You Could Wind Up in a (Legal) Sweatshop

All right, things are about to get fairly depressing around here:

Imagine youre blind and a job has opened up in your city, just for you. The
work is full-time or part-time, your choice, and they are willing to pick
you up from your home and drop you off! Your environment is fully equipped
to your needs, and you are paid based on your productivity! Sounds good so
far?
Now imagine it pays only a quarter an hour.

This example isnt from a third-world country. This is the United States,
where federal law gives companies permission to pay less than minimum wage
to
workers who are blind, deaf, or have other disabilities. So, high school
students in these categories are sometimes groomed to work in factories and
assembly
lines where they are paid next to nothing to manufacture goods and provide
services that are bought by the government and other upscale companies like
L.L. Bean and Barnes & Noble.

Though a few of them are transitional facilities designed to prepare people
for the professional market, research has found that theyre not very good
at doing that.

How the hell can this be possible? Well, these sheltered workshops are
protected by a law that was established in the 1930s, and while the rest of
us have
moved on from depression-era work conditions, apparently thats not the case
for those who, say, were born with non-working eyeballs. Today, more federal
money goes into segregated, sheltered workshops than integrated employment
programs. The state of Missouri straight-up brags about how cost effective
their sheltered workshops are.

And dont get me wrong, it is a great deal for some people. Just ask the CEO
of Goodwill, who makes a six-figure salary while paying disabled workers as
little as 22 cents an hour.

But really that just brings us to the final point, which is

#1. Lack of Sight Isnt the Problem People Are

You might have noticed that all these problems have less to do with actually
being blind and more to do with how the blind are treated by other people.
If society wasnt so weird about it, youd find that most people could get
around without eyesight just fine.

See, Hollywood views blind people in two ways: They are superheroes or they
are helpless.

If you are not Daredevil, you are Blinkin and as per usual, the truth lies
somewhere in between. For example, when my dad was young and had sight,
someone
taught him to work on cars, and after losing his sight, he still can work on
cars. Ive personally seen my father change brake pads, brake shoes, replace
car batteries, and change oil. Hes like Geordi La Forge, if Geordi worked on
minivans and wasnt afraid of getting his hands dirty.

Again, my dads not some superhero. Hes just a guy who happens to be blind.
Other blind people have mastered skills that youd think require sight:

Ralph Baker is a blind, homeless street photographer who took pictures of
tourists in New York, and those tourists didnt even know he was blind. He
eventually
moved on from photography and managed to steal a building from a man of the
same name.

He was truly a Renaissance man.

Think about it this way: As a species, we all managed to overcome our lack
of hair, low physical strength, and slow speed by inventing clothes, robots,
and gigantic catapults (what how do you get to work?). In other words, we
adapt. Its the one single reason were at the top of the food chain. The
blind
are no different, and they can get around just as well as you, with the
right tools if only everyone would stop being such dicks about it.

This was constructed from an interview conducted by JF Sargent. He is an
editor and Dick Joke Journalist at Cracked.

Tags: