Why I am proud to be blind
I often mention on my Mosen At Large podcast that I am proud to be blind. Recently, I was challenged by a listener and asked how I can possibly be proud of having a serious, debilitating condition.
I am glad to say that disability pride, and blind pride as a subset of that, is on the rise. Yet it is an incomprehensible concept to some.
I keep a gratitude journal, where I write at least 10 things every day for which I am grateful. So it was easy for me to consult that journal, where I have often written of things relating to blindness for which I am grateful and write this piece on why I am proud to be blind. You can hear the audio of this in Mosen At Large episode 119, and I have also uploaded the audio to this page, but here is the text of what I said in case you prefer to read it.
I am profoundly proud to be blind. I am proud of the fact that as a kid, when my older siblings would have been found out for reading at night, I read in the dark as much as I liked, a Braille book tucked under the covers on winter nights.
I am proud to be blind, because it connects me with a proud history. I share a characteristic with a man who gave us the priceless gift of functional, efficient literacy. Louis Braille was an example of “nothing about us without us” in the 19th century, long before we used that phrase. His genius invention was derided by sighted people who were certain they knew what was best for us. He was ridiculed. His code was driven underground and his books were burned. But he prevailed, because he was blind. He devised his code for himself, he gave it, at considerable personal cost, to all of us.
I am proud to be blind, because of all the other blind people who followed in Louis Braille’s footsteps, blind people innovating and inventing for our collective advancement, imagining a better future and making it real. Whether it be Larry Skutchan with his methodical mind and interminable patience, or Ted Henter with his zeal and entrepreneurship, or David Costution and Glen Gordon who believed that Windows could be truly useable and then made it come true, or the blind people now working on the inside of mainstream companies who are our champions, we dreamed it, we created it.
I am proud to be blind, because blind people are the reason the 33 RPM record was developed, initially so talking books could be distributed more efficiently.
And speaking of talking books, I am proud to be blind, because blind people are the reason talking books exist. Now, sighted people are using them too.
I am proud to be blind, because the original reading machine was created for us. We started the journey of digitising printed text that resulted in the scanners that are still commonplace in offices today.
I am proud to be blind, because long before the term PDA was in the lexicon of sighted people, we were taking notes, keeping track of appointments and reading books on devices like Keynotes and Braille’n’Speaks.
I am proud to be blind, because we were one of the reasons computers started to talk. Technology is better because of blind people. There are so many examples of technology when we, proudly, have been the blind who led the sighted.
I am proud to be blind, because I am not influenced by someone’s physical appearance, but instead gain information from the tone of a voice and the words that are said.
I am proud to be blind, because it has made me a more lateral thinker, developing and refining alternative techniques to access a wide range of information so I can thrive in a largely sight-dependent world.
I am proud to be blind, because even though my other senses aren’t sharper than anyone else’s, in fact I have a dual sensory loss, like many blind people I use them well. It makes me smile when I can tell what type of audio processor is being used on a radio station, or when another blind person can tell the kind of car that’s passing by simply by the sound it’s making, or when a blind person gives another blind person an instruction like, “when your cane hits a pole on my street that emits a fifth octave A-Flat, you’re outside my house”.
I am proud to be blind, because of the legacy of great blind civil rights leaders around the world. Often ostracised and branded radical troublemakers, they confronted, and are still confronting today, the tyranny of low expectations and the disabling decisions society has chosen to make. They challenged the damaging, fundamentally flawed notion that we had neither the ability nor the right to achieve self-determination, that it wasn’t necessary for society to be accessible, or inclusive, or accepting. Their belief in a fairer tomorrow unshackled us from institutions and shattered disempowering paternalism. Their tenacity has seen the increasing availability of better training, much of it driven by blind people ourselves, and increased opportunity through civil rights legislation.
I am proud to be blind, because as a subset of the world’s largest minority, disabled people, blind people led the way in the disability movement, securing legislative victories long before they were common for much of the rest of the sector. I am grateful every day of my life for those blind people who took on those difficult causes, displayed tenacity and stated their cases again, and again, and again until progress was slowly but surely made. I am proud of the personal responsibility I feel as a blind person to always cherish and defend, never take for granted, and constantly build upon the legacy of civil rights victories that I have inherited and benefited from. I am mindful that they must not be squandered, and I am proud to stand up, be counted, and do my moral duty to advance that legacy so that the next generation has even more opportunity than I have had.
I am proud to be blind, because it has shaped who I am, it is part of my identity and it has helped define me. I accept that. I embrace that.
I am proud to be blind, because in being blind I contribute to the rich tapestry and the diversity of humankind.
I am proud to be blind, because no matter how many negative signals are sent, I know that being blind makes me no less a person of worth.
I am proud to be blind, because the opposite of pride is shame, and my blindness is nothing to be ashamed of.
I am proud to be blind, and therefore share a characteristic with talented people from all walks of life. Blind people are parents, devoted, loving parents, some of whom have had their babies literally snatched from their loving arms, an atrocity no capable and loving parent should endure, and all for no other reason than people getting it horribly wrong about blindness. I am proud that we as blind people show those parents love, solidarity, and a steadfast determination to get those children back where they belong.
Blind people are in factories and farms, law practices and legislatures, sandwich shops and start-ups. I am proud of the blind teachers, software developers, businesspeople, mechanics, transcribers, musicians and even medical doctors. There is very little we can’t do and there are few professions where you can’t find a blind person, often to many people’s surprise. The only trouble is, the world doesn’t necessarily know that. And that’s the biggest reason I am proud to be blind. Because every day, just by getting on with my life, I defy the odds in a disabling society, we defy expectations where there is little disability confidence. When people tell us we can’t, we show them yes, we can. It can be exhausting sometimes. We may get knocked down, and sometimes we may feel like we’re out for the count. But eventually, most of us get up again. We apply for that one more job. We work around that inaccessible website. We keep calm and carry on when we’re treated like a helpless child in the street, or when walking into a store, or when yet another ride share driver declines to take our guide dog. That takes guts, it takes tenacity. The odds are stacked against us, but we march on, we make progress. Go us!
Yes, I am proud, proud, a thousand times proud to be blind.