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Sunday, 27 March 2011

Smashing the myths surrounding Blind people

I'd like to take the time to talk with you about Myths.

According to the sighted people around me, I've been letting down the blind community. I don't appear to be fulfilling all my obligatory requirements as
a fully paid-up member of the blind brother and sisterhood. I'm not sure how far back in time blind typecasts and myths evolved, but I don't seem to be conforming
to any of them. I'll explain.
Contrary to the myth that blind people have heightened audio talents to make up for visual loss, I am living testimony to the opposite. When I sing I sound
like a camel with a hernia, rumbling my way through a song. Mark, my blind musician friend, said that he didn't believe in people being truely tone
deaf. He thought that if someone could hear and appreciate a piece of music, they couldn't possibly have a problem. Then he heard me sing. Mark reassessed
his theory and made an exception in my case. He went a step further and added: "Ian, your singing is against human rights and it should be immediately
band from public areas.
When it comes to playing musical instruments, it's no different. Frustratingly, I've had a go at a number of instruments over the years with no success.
I'm so bad, I can barely get a tune out the radio. Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, George Shearing and Jeff Healey have done me no favours and I feel I've
let everyone down by not fulfilling my blind stereotype.
Another myth is that when moving around, blind people look like the walking dead, arms outstretched in front of them, at shoulder height, in order to feel
their way. In a room that I'm familiar with, I don't do this, although, admittedly, I have walked into the occasional door, but I'm sure someone must have
moved it while I was out. Another "bad habit" I've got is looking at people when I speak to them. Now I think I am just being polite. Let's be honest,
it's not hard - all a blind person has to do is to turn their face towards the voice, but doing this doesn't half confuse people. "Is he blind? I knew
he could see a little, but he seems to be looking straight at me."
Now, this next myth always makes me laugh. People are always disappointed when I don't ask to feel their face, so that I can get a better understanding of
what they look like. Going around seizing people's ears and inadvertently sticking my thumbs up their nose to get a better understanding of a stranger's
looks isn't for me. We can blame a 1980s pop video (Lionel Ritchie)and  for this fallacy. 
Oddly, those people who do offer their face for examination (usually drunks and idiots) - are not generally the kind of people I would like to get my hands
on anyway.
I don't even have the basic blind tools such as a Braille
watch or an audio liquid level indicator. It appears that the only blind stereotype I do conform to is having a guide dog; thankfully, this is one symbol
of blindness I am more than happy to have. 


  1. Hi Ian,
    I am looking forward to seeing 'Born to Lead' I started to board guide dogs last year and my first one was Renton! He stayed with me during his 'Chasing balls / cats period' so was returned to Forfar for further training. It's great to hear that he was placed with you, as you will now know that he is a fantastic dog! Incredibly clever and a big softie! As you say a great companion!
    Kind regards

    Joan Dignan

  2. Hi Joan, he has turned out to be a a really great guide dog, incredibly bright but, he still is in his chasing cats phase!!!

  3. Hi Ian,

    I probably have to watch 'Born to Lead' on BBC i-player as I don't think it shows on BBC UK.

    I'm currently fostering a dog for Dogs Trust and also have a border collie. Your boys are beautiful both Moss and Renton.

    Love your blog, great sense of humour.

    best wishes.


  4. I'm hoping to see "Born to Lead". :)

    My first puppy's partner has some sight and looks straigh at people when they talk to him, so his blindness has been questioned on a few occassions. One person even went as far as to almost throw him out of the store for lying about being blind and bringing a "pet" into their store. Guy probably felt like a jack*** when Mr.L pulled out all the necessary paperwork for Freya and his Disabled Veteran card.

  5. I've experienced this also - some people just need to stand back and think of the bigger picture..thanks for posting this

  6. Hi Ian, we are first time "puppy trainers" for Dogs with Wings in Alberta Canada. We are so excited to be part of the guide dog community here in Alberta and encourage others to consider taking up this amazing volunteer role!

    It was our daughter's idea and although much of the role has fallen to us as parents (as we take the puppy to work every day), Samantha does her share of training, grooming and loving this beautiful dog. She is a black lab, and probably the most wonderful dog we have ever met (oh, are we biased?). I would love to see your documentary here in Canada, would it be available online somehow?
    Cheers, Anita

  7. I love your blog, I must remember to check it more often.

    Its lovely to read all the positive comments about the programme and you beautiful boys. I hope your very proud of your wee family, including yourself!

    With regards to your blog, please come into work with your arms outstreched, more for my own amusement than anything else. Some mid week entertainment would be good, especially during an election campaign. Your Zombie impression will be a show stopper.

    As for 'touching faces', dont be touching me, I'll call HR if you do! I can only imagine where those hands have been!

    Sharyn (possibly using my other halfs log in)