Can Vision be Taken for Granted?
by Bob Branco
For most of my life, I did not have enough usable vision when doing manual
chores. Yet almost every sighted person that I know would ask me to keep a
light on in the room while he did the same chore as me. A perfect example
is dialing a telephone. I know that there are adaptable telephones on the
market for a blind person. They have bigger buttons, and in some cases a
voice tells you what number button you are pressing. Fortunately, I can
handle a regular phone without these adaptations. Yet when a sighted person
is in my apartment, and needs to use my phone, I have to put on a light.
There is no way that he could dial in the dark the way I do. I’ve asked myself why that is. The obvious answer is that I am used to the dark, and
adjusted to it because I had to. A sighted person, obviously, depends on
his vision, because he has it to use, so when he is presented with a
situation where light is absent, and tries to do a chore like dial a phone
or look through a silverware drawer, he is not used to the darkness. Would that be considered as taking vision for granted? Maybe. If you have
something valuable that you’ve been counting on all your life, you would
probably think you can always use it to accomplish your goal.
Whenever someone tells me to put on a light because she can’t see in the
dark, I always feel like telling her that it’s not difficult to get around
without light, but then I stop myself when I remember how the sighted
individual never had to deal with my situation.
Let me explain a classic case of how a large group took their vision for
granted. Several years ago, I was invited to a formal event, which included
dinner, speeches, and music. The speeches lasted nearly one hour, and could
have interested me if I heard what was being said. During the speeches, a
crowd of people all around me were talking to each other, making it
impossible for me to pay attention to who was talking on the stage. When
the event was over, I told the event coordinator that half his audience
never heard his presentation because they were too busy talking. The next
day, I confronted someone about it. I asked why people in my section had to
talk over the speeches, leaving me unable to hear what was being said. I
could have guessed the answer. Apparently, the people who were talking
around me could not see the stage. So, in other words, because they
couldn’t see the stage, they felt they weren’t going to get anything out of
the presentation. Well, I can’t see the stage either, yet I always want to hear who’s talking or performing.
Can’t people with vision resort to just listening without looking? You can
look at a stage all night, but if you can’t hear what’s going on, it’s
pointless to even be at the event.
This problem kept me away from this annual event for a long time, because I
didn’t want to buy tickets to go there, eat, and not hear the speeches
because a large group of 100 people near me can’t see the stage and would
rather talk over the speeches.
Ask yourself if this is taking sight for granted. I would love to hear your reactions.
(originally published in Matilda Zeigler Magazine)