The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Monday, December 15, 2003

VISUALIZING FOR THE BLIND
I've noted before my interest in the topic of blindness. But because it stems from my experience with failing eyesight while growing up, it's of a narrow focus: Namely, the prospect of starting life with sight, then losing it, and being left with just the memory of that sense.

It's quite another thing to be blind from birth. In that situation, not only are there no memories of vision, there's really no frame of reference. All you know of the world is how it sounds, feels, tastes and smells; the visual world simply never comes into play. This isn't necessarily a drawback--you can't miss what you never had, and obviously, blind people are able to live and thrive without the use of their eyes. But considering how much sight is the primary medium for most people when experiencing everyday life, it's a hard concept to wrap your mind around unless you're living it.

One way to imagine how it feels is to try explaining a purely visual phenomenon to someone who's never had sight. It's amazing how quickly you have to re-orient your mind and substitute certain descriptors.

I think this is a good example of how to bridge the communication gap:

Anyway one time I told her if she ever wanted to see the stars, she should put her hand out when it's raining and feel the little points fall down on her palms. Because rain falls so quickly it can also have the effect of 'twinkling'.

One of my first exposures to this concept was in a story featuring the origin of a lesser-known Green Lantern Corps member, Rot Lop Fan. (God, I feel like such a geek...)