Challenging the Fear of Blindness
By Mark Riccobono
In my banquet address at this year’s national convention, I talked about fear and how “if we resolve ourselves to face our fears, respect the power within those fears, and turn that power into action, we can take control of our own destiny, diminish the negative fears of others, and raise our expectations.” I also outlined the ways that the conditioned fear of blindness is used as a tool to generate funding, sell unnecessary products, and limit the rights of blind people. A new campaign has been launched that plays to the conditioned fear of blindness, and I am calling on blind people to push back on this harmful campaign by telling the world about blindness through social media.
There is a social media campaign using the hashtag #HowEyeSeeIt. The people using this hashtag are making videos of themselves attempting to do everyday tasks under blindfold with the misguided view that this experience will help them know what it is like to be blind. The motivation for the campaign is to raise funding to eliminate blindness. We in the National Federation of the Blind know that blindness doesn’t hold us back. We also know that living with blindness requires learning the techniques blind people use to do everyday tasks without vision. We are not opposed to medical research, but the way to generate interest in medical research is not by further spreading the fear of blindness and strengthening misconceptions about the lived experience of blind people.
The current videos being circulated with the #HowEyeSeeIt campaign are perpetuating the idea that blindness is something to be feared and that blind people adhere to low expectations. Some of the tasks people are encouraged to do in this campaign are having a friend give them an unidentified amount of cash and then, under blindfold, attempting to pay for a meal with this money. Another particularly outrageous example is people are asked to attempt to take care of your child for one minute while blindfolded. At a time when we have launched new efforts for blind parents who have their children taken away because of misconceptions about blindness, this is dangerous and offensive. These examples and the dozens of others used in the campaign rely on the notion that vision is a requirement for success but we know the truth—blindness does not define us or our future.
I urge you to join me in changing the perception that blindness is scary and that we are limited by this characteristic. Now is the time to turn our fear into power and that power into action. We have the opportunity to change what it means to be blind in a commanding way. All you have to do is:
Make a video of yourself accomplishing an everyday task as a blind person. For example, show how you dance, sing, exercise, care for your children, go to school or work, play sports, manage your finances, travel, participate in social events, enjoy your hobbies—in short, take a video of yourself living the life you want.
At the end of your video, say that you’re a proud member of the National Federation of the Blind, and tag three friends or family members to keep the trend going. You can also urge your audience to make a donation to the NFB.
Upload your video to social media using the hashtag #HowEyeSeeIt. Make sure to link to our website, www.nfb.org, and tag the NFB in your tweet, Facebook, or Instagram post. If the people you mentioned in your video are on social media, be sure to tag them too. You can find us on Twitter at @NFB_Voice, on Facebook by searching “National Federation of the Blind,” and on Instagram at NFB_Voice.
Together, we can show the world that blindness is not what holds us back by demonstrating how we live the lives we want. Please be sure to share with me other ideas you have about how we take this opportunity to demonstrate the truth about blindness. Send me an email with your ideas to [email protected].