Unusual Ideas about the Blind
By Bob Branco
I have a blind friend who shops, cooks, cleans, raises children, does home repairs, and basically goes about his day not letting his disability get the best of him. As a result, many sighted people in his life make unusual inquiries. In this case, I want to take it a step further, because common sense is in question.
My friend is often asked if there are any grocery stores for the blind, and if these stores actually have Braille on the meats and dairy products. What makes this question so ridiculous is that we all spend our lives learning our geographic surroundings, so we know darn well that grocery stores with Braille meats and dairy products do not exist. Have you ever seen one? Does the average sighted person suddenly get the urge to ask that question the moment he sees a blind person, thinking that the blind have secrets about the infrastructure of their cities and towns? My friend asked his sighted acquaintance where these blind grocery stores supposedly are, and the response was, “Over there.” Where is “Over there?” Well, according to myth, these special stores are hidden in some of our taller buildings, and where many of us never go inside, we don’t know about these stores. My friend takes great pleasure when he sarcastically describes how he pours milk into his Braille machine so that he can Braille it for the purpose of recognizing it. These grocery stores for the blind supposedly include sensors along each isle, so that when a blind shopper approaches a grocery item, a voice tells him what the item is.
You would think that the concept of grocery stores for the blind would be the product of sighted people with limited intelligence. According to my friend, this topic didn’t come up during social time with his sighted neighbors over a beer. These myths came from home care providers, teachers and doctors.
I must also point out that grocery stores for the blind would prove to be discriminatory. Imagine if there were grocery stores for the blacks, for the French or for tall people?
One day a professional asked my friend if he ever uses his blind stick. My friend is fully aware that the white cane is mentioned in the rules section of this professional’s driver’s manual, so why refer to the cane as a blind stick. Another professional refused to offer my friend therapy on his back, using the excuse that the Commission for the Blind is the place to go for such therapy.
We live in tough times, which means we must question common sense as well.