What is "the soft bigotry of low expectation?”
Whether attributing subnormal or supernormal qualities, all stereotypes of people who are blind / visually impaired achieve one end. These assumptions remove the person who is blind from the realm of the ordinary, everyday world of plain people, where the blind person is without responsibility, without rights, and without society.
Myths and misconceptions
1. Blindness is a tragedy. For people who suffer from blindness, life has lost all meaning.
2. People who are blind or visually impaired are mentally slow or less informed.
Response: With proper training and opportunity, the average person who is blind or visually impaired can compete in terms of equality with the average person who is sighted. In other words, the person who is blind or visually impaired can be as happy and lead as full a life as anybody else.
3. People who are blind or visually impaired are helpless and require supervision in their daily activities for safety's sake.
Response: The blind are much more independent than others give them credit for. Many are mobile and independent. Many view their blindness as a mere physical nuisance and not a disability. Again, good training makes the difference.
4. Being blind means having no vision at all.
Response: The majority of people who are considered blind have some sight, rather than no sight at all. That is, they have some residual vision, whether it is light perception, color perception, or form perception. Some legally blind people have enough central acuity left to read large print.
5. A person's other senses become more acute after the onset of blindness.
6. People who are blind or visually impaired have "super" hearing.
Response: Blind people are just like everyone else. With good training, they learn to pay attention to their other senses. Some blind people also experience hearing loss. Some have a poor sense of balance or tactile feel because of MS or diabetes.
7. People who are blind or visually impaired often possess a sixth sense and are psychic or able to foresee the future.
Response: If you believe this, blind people see bad things ahead for you.
8. All blind people are musically gifted.
Response: Sure, and all blind people know Stevie Wonder personally and see bad things ahead for you.
9. All people who are blind or visually impaired know braille.
Response: Only about 5 percent of people who are blind use braille. Most use large print, magnification, "talking" devices, and volunteer readers. There is a braille revival going on, because braille is the best way for kids to learn grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
10. All blind people get a guide dog.
Response: Not all blind people like dogs or want to care for an animal. Blind people need good travel skills before being trained to work with a dog guide. The dog responds to simple commands, but doesn't know when it's time to cross an intersection.
11. All people who are blind or visually impaired use a cane.
Response: Less than 2 percent of Americans who are blind or visually impaired use a cane for orientation and mobility.
12. All people who are blind or visually impaired wear dark glasses.
Response: The need for any type of low vision aid (e.g. glasses, magnifier, etc.) is contingent upon the individual situation and preferences of the person who is blind or visually impaired. The reason to wear sunglasses may be cosmetic or the person may be extremely sensitive to light.