Thips for Halloween

There’s nothing I love more around this time of year than Halloween. It’s my favorite! The pumpkins, the decorations, and the costumes

Speaking of costumes here is a list of tips from braille works so you (if you’re an older kid who is blind) can stay safe while trick or treating. I always used to love that part and reading this brought back so many memories from when I was growing up. halloween safety tips for kids who are blind
Thanks for reading!

Hands Off: Defining Consent as a person with a Disability

Dear readers,
I want to address all of you today on an issue that has received considerable media attention in recent weeks in the wake of the Stanford rape case but that has largely (if unintentionally) excluded people with disabilities from the conversation. I want to talk to you about consent—more specifically, the questions and challenges that arise around the ways that people with disabilities negotiate consent.

In conversations about rape culture, we often discuss the all-too familiar problem of victim-blaming. Victims dress a certain way, speak a certain way, exhibit specific body language, consume too much alcohol, or otherwise “invite” acts of sexual violence. We also address the argument of self-defense; people question (and victims often question themselves) how they might have defended themselves against unwanted advances, which still places blame on the victim. If the victim had screamed, called for help, or physically retaliated, the attack wouldn’t have occurred. Yet any of you reading this who has found yourself receiving unwanted sexual advances can affirm that such claims fail to take into account how fear and shock can be immobilizing sensations, particularly if you’ve been physically restrained or overpowered by your attacker.

This question of self-defense holds particular relevance within the disabled community, for however independently we function, we can’t deny that our various disabilities can sometimes impact our physical mobility, including the ability to anticipate or react to threatening situations. I can only speak for myself and others in the blind and visually impaired community, and we face specific concerns regarding consent that the sighted community takes largely for granted. Anyone who has ever been physically intimate with someone, or even exchanged casual flirtation, knows that the rhythms of physical intimacy and communication rely as much on visual cues and the ability to read body language as on tactile cues. People show interest in one another, for instance, by smiling or making eye contact. The blind or visually impaired, on the other hand, can’t rely on such signals. In a relaxed social or professional environment where we feel comfortable, we often appreciate it, for example, when someone touches our shoulder or arm in a loud room if we can’t hear that person calling us by name. Yet many of us can also agree that we don’t appreciate being touched without warning, particularly by someone we don’t know well—even someone we do.

We all have varying levels of comfort with personal space. If I know you well, I will probably hug you; if I’ve never met you, I will more likely shake your hand and keep my distance. I don’t exhibit this body language out of rudeness, but more out of the desire to maintain the degree of personal space that meets my comfort level.

Physical and sexual intimacy have their own set of personal space ground rules. If you can’t see another person, you can’t see that person reaching to drape an arm over your shoulders, or to take your hand, or to lean in for a kiss. As such, that gesture might catch you off guard if the person you’re with doesn’t announce his or her intention. Recently I found myself in this precise situation. I was spending time with someone I trusted; he wanted to be physically intimate. While I gave my initial consent (initial being the operative word) to be touched, I decided not to move any further when he became rough and I felt uncomfortable. I attempted to stop him; he continued despite my protests. He insisted that he thought I was enjoying it; he insisted that I had given him mixed signals; he insisted that “nothing” had happened because he didn’t remove his clothes, so apparently, lying on top of me and pulling my hair constitutes “nothing.” His argument bore all the hallmarks of classic apologism—making excuses for his behavior that shifted the blame off of himself and onto me.

In the aftermath of the situation, I wondered what more I might have done to protect myself. Why didn’t I scream? Why didn’t I hit him? Why didn’t I fight harder to extricate myself from him? These responses, responses in which we blame ourselves for the actions of others, are symptomatic of rape culture. Rape culture indoctrinates us with the belief that victims somehow bring sexual violence on themselves through the way they dress, speak, how much alcohol they drink, ETC., ETC., ETC.

Friends, I want to make this point crystal clear: you are never responsible for the actions another person makes toward you without your consent. Never trivialize or allow anyone else to trivialize actions that make you feel uncomfortable or threatened. If you don’t consent when someone wants to hold your hand, and that person insists that “it’s just holding hands,” that argument fails to take your comfort level into account. If the person grabs your hand anyway, you’re being touched without your consent. Trivializing any action that makes you uncomfortable sets up a highly dangerous slippery slope; it’s the reason why Brock Turner only received a 6-month prison sentence for “twenty minutes of action”—a phrase that disgustingly trivialized the rape he committed.

To return to the concern I raised earlier in this post that not having the benefit of reading nonverbal body language can complicate a blind or visually impaired person’s ability to anticipate behavior, people with disabilities are uniquely situated to invite conversation about consent. While sharing my experience with a few close friends, we discussed the fact that at the heart of rape culture lies the problem that we teach the importance of self-defense without teaching consent. A clear understanding of consent would help to mitigate, if not entirely alleviate the need to practice the constant vigilance we’re taught to practice. Because the challenges of reading body language create a greater need to communicate the importance of consent, having a frank conversation with others about your comfort level with physical intimacy can be a productive starting point. I, for instance, generally like to stipulate that someone ask before touching me for the first time. Relationship experience has taught me that, like anything else, once I become intimate with someone and he learns how to communicate physical affection in ways that I’m comfortable with, asking or alerting me to the fact that he’s going to touch me becomes unnecessary. Such conversations serve the dual purpose of educating others about best practices when interacting with a blind or visually impaired person and defining the perimeters of consent. If you lay down such perimeters, anyone who disregards them is acting without your consent. End of story. Anyone who genuinely wants to spend time in your company will respect your wishes.

On a side note, I want to add that we tend to discuss sexual violence along gendered lines of male aggressors and female victims; this wrongly implies that men aren’t victims of sexual violence. As a woman with a disability, my understanding of and response to this issue is naturally informed by my experiences as a woman; however, the rules of consent apply to both genders, and the concerns surrounding consent that I’ve raised here are by no means specific to women. Men with disabilities can and do share these concerns.

Question

How can people with disabilities find voice in the conversation about rape culture and sexual violence? Share your thoughts!

Greetings, All!

Hello and welcome…

My name is Meagan, and I’ve been graciously invited to join the other bloggers here on Living Blind Blog. I hope I can bring fresh and informative insights to the site, so watch this space for posts about, well, living blind.

Get to know me…

I’m a professional communications student at MacEwan University, hoping to pursue a career involving writing and editing. I have all the usual interests: music, reading, creative writing, and of course, socializing. I’ve enjoyed taking part in many little corners of the blind community, and this is just one more adventure on what should be a very long list.

I’m usually to be found drinking tea (caffeinated, of course), writing furiously, and chasing my tail as deadlines loom. I’ve also been known to go to pieces when cute, fluffy creatures are around. If I’m not doing that, I’m probably curled up with my newest great read.

If you like what you see…

If you’re curious about what else I get up to in the writing world, you can find me at wheresyourdog.com. If you love books as much as I do, feel free to join me on Goodreads. You can also check out all things Meagan on Twitter. I’d love to hear from you!

Happy reading!

Because she had too (Audio Version)

I’m proud to present
“Because She Had To”
in it’s most splendid format so far. I enjoied making this just as much if not much than I enjoy doing my show each week. And now, please enjoy Ms Stephanie Surratt’s Because She Had To.

Five Things to Remember if You Know Someone Who's Blind: Blogging Against Disablism Day 2015

Once again it’s Blogging Against Disablism Day, a day that bloggers set aside to discuss issues related to ablism and how to combat ablist behaviors and attitudes. Since our mission here at the Living Blind Blog is to raise awareness and bridge the gap between the blind and the sighted, Blogging Against Disablism Day seems like a useful moment to open a conversation about how to interact with blind people. We’ve talked about this before, of course, but since I often find myself answering questions about the dos and don’ts of dealing with blindness, perhaps a little cheat sheet wouldn’t hurt. So: here are five things to remember when interacting with a blind person. Whether you’re meeting someone with a visual impairment for the first time, or you’re the friend, family member, colleague, or significant other of someone with a visual impairment, being mindful of these tips will improve your relationship and comfort level with the person. More importantly, such mindfulness will combat some of the disabling myths that the blind and visually impaired have to face on a daily basis.

1. We don’t like receiving unsolicited help

I don’t say this to sound rude or unappreciative, but the truth is that as blind people, we struggle every day to prove to the world that we aren’t helpless. On a much more serious note, jumping in to help a blind person who hasn’t asked for it can be disorienting and even harmful, particularly when the help involves physical mobility. Moving my wine glass so I won’t spill it is a nice gesture, but if you do it without telling me, and I search for it, I’m probably going to wind up spilling it anyway because I no longer know where it is. That’s a perfectly pointless waste of good alcohol, wouldn’t you say?

Also, reaching out to touch, grab, or maneuver a blind person without asking is extremely unnerving. Not only are we suddenly being touched, often by a stranger, but if we’re spun around or grabbed hold of suddenly, we lose our sense of orientation. How would you feel if you were stepping off the bus, and some well-meaning person, assuming you were going to fall, grabbed you by the wrist? This actually happened to me once when I was in graduate school, and I did fall, because of the woman who grabbed my wrist to keep me from falling. Thanks a lot, lady. Or, you know, not. Most blind people won’t object to help when they need it, but they’d much rather you ask first instead of assuming that they can’t climb down a flight of steps independently.

2. We sometimes have a hard time reading body language

If you’re fully or even partially sighted, you know that conversation isn’t just verbal. Speaking and listening to others involves a myriad of visual cues, including eye contact, hand signals, and nodding. Most people who’re used to spending time with a blind person know to speak directly to us, addressing us by name to get our attention if we’re in a room full of people because they can’t make eye contact to get our attention. However, sometimes the nuances of conversation fly right over our heads, particularly when facial expressions are involved.

Example: you’re at a party and someone spills his drink. He’s particularly accident-prone, so your friends are all rolling their eyes and giggling. You have no idea what’s going on because you didn’t see the accident, nor can you see your friends making faces at each other. When you ask why everyone’s laughing, someone responds, “It’s nothing,” or, the much more hurtful, “You wouldn’t get it unless you could see it.” At the risk of sounding childish, this makes us feel shut out. It can be hard enough to keep up with the conversation without visual cues, and sometimes we accidentally interrupt people because we can’t follow the visual cues that allow us to spot an opening to interject. Alternatively, we might wind up sitting in silence for most of the evening if we find our endeavors to join the chatter are being rebuffed, albeit unintentionally. So the next time a blind person asks you what just happened, tell them. Allow them to be an equal participant in the social environment.

3. We don’t get offended when people use words like “see,” “watch,” or “look.”

I wish I could tell you that nobody has ever been afraid to use these words around me, but I’ve actually encountered people who’ve mistakenly believed that I’d burst into tears if they asked me whether or not I’d seen the latest movie in theaters. (I do go to the movies, by the way. I even write film reviews. Because you were wondering). On the one hand, as an English teacher and a writer, I appreciate the sensitivity to the impact that language has on whomever it’s directed toward, and within disability discourse, we often call into question the political correctness of expressions like “being blind to the truth” because such expressions stigmatize disability, associating blindness with negative character traits like ignorance. However, we can only guard our language so far. Words that denotatively refer to vision also connotatively refer to comprehension and awareness. How often during a conversation have you endeavored to explain something to someone and concluded with the question “Do you see what I mean?” You aren’t literally asking them if they see; rather you’re asking them to confirm that they understand.

I once had a professor in college who stopped me in the middle of a conversation after class to observe (do you see what I just did there?) “I notice that you use visual words a lot. Like, you’ll say, I saw so-and-so yesterday.’ That’s really interesting.” The implication that blind people don’t, or that they shouldn’t use visual language is problematic because it implies that we haven’t accepted our blindness to the point that we can’t acknowledge that we live in a visual world. We’re more likely to take offense when we hear comments directed toward us along the lines of “you can’t see this incredible sunset, so you just wouldn’t get why I love photographing nature.” Maybe we can’t see it first-hand, but we can experience the world through our other senses, not to mention, as several of my friends will tell you, the running descriptive commentary of others. Think Mat Murdock and Foggy Nelson here.

4. We really hate guessing games

No, seriously. I don’t know whether or not I speak for all blind people, but I challenge you to tell me that you’ve never met at least one blind person who hasn’t told you a story about someone who always came up to them and talked in funny voices to try to fool them. News flash: this isn’t funny. It’s disorienting and disrespectful. I knew someone who used to think this was hysterically funny, and trust me, after I’d spent two hours in a classroom discerning all of my students’ voices during a heated class discussion, the last thing I wanted to do was play a game of “guess who” in the elevator. I just wanted to go home, grade papers, and shove my head into a bucket of vodka.

I can’t deny that my friends have occasionally had fun at my expense; I had a friend who used to take me to the Cheesecake Factory and give me fork-fulls of whatever cake everyone had ordered to make me guess the flavor. If you overlook the fact that this probably did my waistline and cholesterol no favors, it really wasn’t something I felt in a position to complain about. In a volatile economy, I appreciate the value of free food and free entertainment as much as anyone, but don’t take advantage of this. People with disabilities aren’t circus freaks with strange and mysterious powers. If my sense of smell or touch is keener than yours, it’s not because I enjoy party tricks. It’s a survival skill to compensate for what I can’t see.

5. We’re perfectly capable of living alone

While most blind people will tell you that they don’t mind answering questions about how they function, when you do have a question, it’s important to be attentive to the tone and the language in which you ask the question. The question that I find the most frustrating, and often the most offensive, is “who takes care of you?” contrary to popular misconception, blind people can, and do, live independently. We also have spouses, children, and pets (in addition to the guide dogs that some of us work with). So not only can we care for ourselves, we’re also fully capable of caring for others. I once dated a guy who probably wouldn’t ever have eaten a home-cooked meal if I didn’t feed him. He was fully sighted.

Thanks to adaptive equipment and devices ranging from braille label-makers to smartphone apps like TapTapSee and BeMyEyes, the blind and visually impaired have ways to cook, clean, and perform any number of tasks to run their households and care for their families. To ask someone, “How do you cook breakfast” expresses genuine understandable curiosity about how someone can function independently without sight. To ask “Who does your laundry” assumes helplessness, and whether intentional or not, such perceptions perpetuate disablism because they emphasize lack of ability rather than capability to survive and thrive.

I realize that I’ve probably only scratched the surface, but what I’ve covered here addresses some of the most common instances of disablism that I encounter daily. I share them here today in honor of Blogging Against Disablism Day as a reminder that open dialogue about disability is one of the simplest and yet most powerful ways to break down barriers of discrimination.

Question

Are you blind, or do you know someone who is blind? Can you think of any other advice that might be useful? How do you address these issues in your own life or with the blind people in your life?

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