On -isms: Not Too Blind to See

By | Thursday, February 19, 2015 Leave a Comment
One of the interesting little side-bits that I caught during the Scott McCloud talk last week was that one of his daughters is blind. At least, that was what I thought he said. I did some digging and found a post from a few years ago where he noted that she's not completely, can't-see-anything-at-all blind, but she's "pretty significantly" visually impaired. A little more digging, and I see that he's talked a few times about his father's blindness. So it's a condition with which he's pretty familiar.

Even so, the side-bit that he mentioned at the talk was that he was watching some talking heads on television, one of them said something that ran completely contrary to all available evidence that had already been presented to him, and McCloud shouted at the TV something to the effect of, "I can't believe how blind this idiot is!"

At which point, his college-age daughter reprimanded him for using the term in a derogatory way, subverting the actual definition.

Now, my family has had its share of eye problems, but nothing nearly so extreme as what McCloud's experienced. So when he mentioned the anecdote, I cocked my head to the side a little and said to myself, "Huh." Because I've never actually known anyone who would be considered blind. I'm aware that there are blind people, of course -- there was even part of an interesting story I caught on NPR a week or two back about blind people who used echo-location instead of a cane. But because it's always been well beyond my day-to-day purview, it's not something I've really given real consideration to.

My day job for the past 15-20 years has been in web design and development in some form or another. For the past decade in particular, I've been conscious of and have worked to ensure all the projects I work on meet ADA requirements. That is, that someone who can't read a computer screen in the same way most people can will still be able to get all the same information, often through a screen reader program. When I was first pointed to the directives, I saw that most of them are either just basically practicing good design and good coding, so it was fairly easy to adopt everything as regular practices. Most of it is second nature any more.

And yet, the notion of using "blind" as an insult (which I'm sure I've used on occasion myself) never occurred to me as possibly offensive.

About 1/2% of the globabl population is what would be considered blind, and over 80% of those people are older than 50. So it's not very surprising that I don't know anyone who would qualify. But while that can explain my ignorance of first-hand experiences, that doesn't excuse my lack of thought on the subject.

Comics are a way of connecting with other people and sharing stories and experiences that we ourselves can't or won't get to personally experience ourselves. That's actually true of stories in general for that matter. And that includes off-hand anecdotes that get thrown in with a broader discussion of comics theory and history. Provided you're willing and able to keep yourself open to hearing them.
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