The Blind and the Media
By Bob Branco
Have you ever spoken to the news media about an accomplishment that you’ve made? If so, did it seem as though the reporter put too much of a spin on what you did, especially if you are blind? In other words, though your achievement was similar to that of a sighted person, the media had to regard it as special or different.
Recently I published a cook book where every recipe was submitted by a blind cook. Other than that, the book is an ordinary cook book that everyone in the entire world would enjoy reading. There is nothing special about it. I was interviewed by a local newspaper reporter, and I explained what this cook book really was. Several days later, the headline in the paper appeared, “Sightless Author Creates Cook Book for the Blind.” Not once did I say, or even imply, that this was a cook book for the blind. The fact that this cook book has recipes from the blind doesn’t mean that only the blind can benefit from these recipes.
As a result of the news media putting this spin on the cook book, I’ve already heard a sample of public reaction. Several days after the story about the cook book was published, a woman purchased a copy, but she only bought it for one reason. Her daughter has a blind friend who knows how to cook. Therefore the book would be useful to this blind girl. I pointed out to the sighted woman that the book would benefit her as well.
How can we convince the media that the blind can do ordinary things without being extra special? Aside from some adaptive technology, did the cooks who submitted their recipes perform anything unique or out of this world? Did they use ingredients that only a blind person can use? Of course not. Therefore there is nothing special about this project or any other project a blind person performs. We are ordinary people with ordinary ideas, and if we want to do something extraordinary or special, it’s not because of our blindness. It’s because we want to think differently. From what I understand, a former governor of New York has a visual impairment. Does this mean that the only people in New York who benefitted from all of his legislative decisions are those with vision loss?
If we, the blind, need to meet with the news media about our achievements as people, we must focus on how general our accomplishments are, and that our blindness doesn’t factor into what we do. I could have created this cook book with recipes from the blind even if I had sight. It wouldn’t matter.