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YeonAh
05-29-2012, 01:13 AM
One of my main characters has been fully blind since he was eight (he is now 25), and I'm wondering what kinds of habits he might have picked up on in those years. He doesn't get outside often, not without someone else with him, and he doesn't own a guide dog because he's petrified of dogs.

Could anyone who knows someone who is blind (or who is blind themselves) help me out? Realistically how independent can he be, both in an environment he's been in his whole life and in completely unfamiliar environments. He's a character who if he can do something on his own, will get highly annoyed if someone tries to help him or persuade him otherwise. He also tries his hand at cooking at one point, the outcome of that is still to be decided.

Siri Kirpal
05-29-2012, 01:58 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

The fully blind often use a white cane to tap out the number of steps from the curb to where they need to go. And they use the bus.

When I was in junior high school (equivalent to today's middle school), we had a group of blind kids, who would swing their braile typewriters as they walked in the halls between classes.

Blind people rarely directly face someone they're speaking to and often look slightly above the person's head.

I think it would be possible for a blind person to cook, but everything in their kitchen HAS to be in its correct spot and easy to reach.

Even the fully blind can tell the difference between night and day. One who couldn't see light at all could tell the difference between the humidity of night (higher) and day (lower).

Hope that helps.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Kitty Pryde
05-29-2012, 02:22 AM
Hang out with some blind people or you will get it hilariously wrong. Seriously. I've read book in which the author spent weeks at a school for the blind and STILL messed stuff up. Blind people in 2012 have loads of technology to help them out, like mini braille computers for notetaking, talking GPS guides, devices to tell them what color their clothes are, JAWS, and of course Siri (the iPhone lady, not the AW member posting above!). In fact, iPhone and iPad both have modes for blind users, as well as many apps for them.

My good friend is blind. He whittles, splits logs with an axe, builds his own fires, lights his own grill, barbeques his own steaks, bakes his own cakes, rock climbs, and works as a physical therapist. He can, and does, do more stuff than most sighted people I know. While the average blind person might be less accomplished, my point is don't sell your guy short. It's going to take a lot more research than a post on AW for you to have any clue how a blind person gets through life.

Snick
05-29-2012, 03:01 AM
Kittie has good points. There are blind people who do noting, and there are blind people who many different things. Your character has been blind for long enough to have been educated and to have developed interestes and a circle ofr friends. Have the character do whatever you want the character to do. Try writing a little piece about the character and see what comes out.

Medievalist
05-29-2012, 04:03 AM
http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=200242

I note that they make braille labeled ovens, that you can get around even in unfamiliar urban environments using a cane, that sonar canes are nifty, that many towns have traffic signals that use Wifi and or audio. . .

lorna_w
05-29-2012, 04:16 AM
If he can't cook, how does he eat?

I worked for one blind person (a prof when I was an undergrad had me read from professional journals to him) and with one (another prof when I taught, who graded typed papers with ease, even fifteen years ago, using tech available then). I also went through an interesting two-weekend-long (40 hour) training when I volunteered for a Lighthouse for the Blind. (And still, I don't think I'd ever try a blind character.) The gal I helped mostly needed help with mail and writing checks for bills, and tech has helped that situation out tremendously.

Some issues: If you're blind, how do you know which clothes you're putting on? Either all your shirts are blue, or you tag them somehow by color, perhaps cutting notches in the tag or sewing a little button somewhere hidden, and someone has to help you with the tagging process. And you'd better be buying nothing delicate or difficult to wash--gotta be able to toss it in all together. And into what? You own a washer, you keep it set to neutral temps. You go to a laundromat and they change machines...you're in trouble. And how do you discover there is a tiny rip in the seat of your pants?

If you don't cook, you go to restaurants. This is one thing we did in Lighthouse training, blindfolded--had to get there, order, and eat. You have to remember what the waitress says as she reads the menu, and when she brings the plate, you have to ask. "Where is the salad. Where's the mashed potatoes? The chicken?" A waitress who had a blind person as a regular knows to use the clock to describe. "Your rice is at four o'clock, the broccoli is at eight o'clock and the ham is straight up at 12." And as you eat, you have little idea is there is food on your face. (if there's an iphone app for that, I'd be surprised.)

Also, if there's an iphone app for negotiating strange restrooms, I'd be surprised.

I remember a moment in class with that old prof, and his dog was doing something odd during his lecture, and we all started tittering. He finally asked, "what is going on," and everyone stayed silent, embarrassed....except for me, after about three seconds of thinking "oh man," sort of getting a bit of his POV in a flash, and I described it for him. Probably why he offered me the job, come to think of it. But anyway, if everyone around you is tittering, don't you think it's you? Even sighted, don't you worry about that? Wouldn't he check his fly? Blush, worrying? If you don't ask for help and you're blind, you are making it harder. And it's hard already.

Also, when you're blind, people raise their voices at you, as if they think you're hard of hearing instead. It's very odd, but it happens more times than not.

Try going through a couple days imagining every little thing you take for granted and doing it without sight. don't hurt yourself...just imagine. You know when you hear your name called in a crowd, and you turn around, and you don't know the speaker...what if you were blind and heard your name?

veinglory
05-29-2012, 04:20 AM
Blind people can certainly navigate the wider environment, known and unknown, without a dog. It has more to do with temperament and motivation and the willingness to be lost and embarrassed and take risks than anything else. And technology can fill a lot of gaps. I have written a guy who was nearly a shut-in, but not blind. I have written a guys who went blind and it barely even slowed him down. The trick is not to make too many assumptions. Follow the character, not the disability. But research the disability and how people compensate for it.

Medievalist
05-29-2012, 04:24 AM
And for the love of all that's holy, don't make the blind person a superhuman.

Puma
05-29-2012, 05:46 AM
Thirty years ago I had a blind friend at work. She was amazing. She could read standard written text using an opticon - a device that transferred the individual characters into squiggles she could read with her finger; she could cook and did very well at preparing meals to bring to work - not standard meat and bread sandwiches - things like beef stew; she could tell what paper money she was using by the way she folded it - each denomination had a special fold to distinguish it from the others. Sometimes we'd go out to eat at lunch and I was invariably embarrassed - not at her, at the stupidity of the sighted people we encountered. Waitresses almost always asked me what she was having instead of asking her. People rushed up to pet her guide dog (a no-no when the dog is working). One time we were walking on the street downtown with her guide dog and some A-hole cut his engine deliberately so it would backfire. He thought it was funny - she and her dog were terrified. He's lucky I couldn't get my hands on him. As I said, she was an amazing individual. Puma

vivalalauren
05-29-2012, 06:50 AM
Disclaimer: I’m extremely cynical about any representation of blindness (and disability in general) in all forms of media. Except for Kerry Weaver.

As said above, no blind person is going to be exactly the same as another. I am totally blind, and have been roughly since birth. Still, my experience is going to be drastically different from someone blinded later in life, even at eight. Those blinded at birth often develop certain mannerisms (cleverly called blindisms) such as rocking, clapping, or rubbing their eyes - to make up for a lack of stimulating behavior. Sadly, many never grow out of it, because people are too afraid to tell them they’re being an idiot. I was born premature, so I spent the first 12 weeks of my life with very little physical contact. To this day, I’m not fully comfortable with prolonged full body touching. There is also the issue of not being able to communicate nonverbally, so I’m either catching someone off guard, or being startled when touched unexpectedly.

Honestly, your character sounds pretty contradictory.. He never goes outside on his own, but is fiercely independent? How does that work? There are intensive rehabilitation centers where adults at any age (a majority who have gone blind suddenly) can go to learn basic orientation, cooking, and home repairs. For teens, many states have summer programs similar to the rehab centers.

If you have specific questions, I'd be glad to try and help. I know this post is kind of long and rambling, and I’m not sure if it gave you any insight at all. I didn’t disclose my disability on public forums for the majority of my teens, so I’m not as adept at answering these questions as you might expect. OH, and as for cooking, I make a damned good coconut cream pie.

debirlfan
05-29-2012, 08:06 AM
For what it's worth, I recently happened to see an ad on tv for one of those cooking reality competition shows (I think it may have been with Gordon Ramsey, but I don't recall the name of the show) and the clip they showed involved a blind contestant. If you're in the US, you might keep an eye out for it.

JoNightshade
05-29-2012, 08:20 AM
I'll add my little bit of experience, which is to say that there is a vast difference between a person blind from birth and a person who has become blind. Of course there's a continuum depending on at what age the person was blinded, and a ton depends on individual personality, how they were brought up, etc. But overall those blind from birth tend to be far more competent and confident in getting around. Those who were once sighted seem to have more of a mental block in terms of figuring out how to do things; for the person blind from birth, it's always been one way, but for a person blinded later in life it's a huge adjustment.

I worked for two different dudes who were blind, one from birth and the other who had lost his sight as an adult. Even though they had both been blind for years and years, the second guy was far less functional in daily life. The dude blind from birth had no fear; he was totally confident and secure in his surroundings. He identified people by voice, walk, etc. Told me stories about how he rode his bike around when he was a kid, and his only problem was parked cars because he couldn't hear those like moving vehicles! Meanwhile the other guy had none of those skills, had to ask about everything, felt his way around and really had to work at memorization and recall of various details.

I think for someone blinded as a kid, a lot would depend on the people around him. Did they help him whenever he needed it, or did they expect him to be independent and figure stuff out? Kids are pretty adaptable, but they can be hampered by adult expectations.

StephanieFox
05-29-2012, 08:25 AM
I have a blind sister-in-law and brother-in-law. He has some sight but she's been blind from birth. When they come to visit, they insist on going to Mall of America. She has no sense of color, of course, but she want's you to help her by describing clothes and particularly what goes together. She also loves infomercials and buys a lot of stuff that way because they describe things so well. They both feel around on their plates to see which food is in which part of the plate, especially in restaurants, but they do this with some care so it's not messy.

She reads braille and uses a white cane. He carries a white cane for political reasons (blind power) but he really doesn't know how to use it. He once got himself arrested, along with other blind activists, because he wouldn't put away his cane when flying.

There is a lot of politics in the blind world. You might want to check out the National Association for the Blind and a few other organizations. Their attitudes differ considerably.

vivalalauren
05-29-2012, 01:04 PM
There is a lot of politics in the blind world. You might want to check out the National Association for the Blind and a few other organizations. Their attitudes differ considerably.

I think you mean the national federation of the blind :)

Also, what exactly does "blind power" mean? I feel I may need to get this on a t-shirt...

To the OP, I hope you're not becoming discouraged with all this conflicting information. As Stephanie said, there are several different schools of thought in the blindness community.

Nymtoc
05-29-2012, 02:15 PM
I defer to vivalalauren on all this. However, I did used to work with a blind man (totally sightless since age three), who never used a dog or cane or technological aid and went about the streets of New York City alone--at least in areas he was familiar with. He counted steps and knew exactly where he was by the distance he had covered. More than once, I have seen him come down the street (no cane, no dog, nothing) and turn into our building at exactly the right place, enter the lobby, walk to the elevator, take it to the correct floor, get off and walk down the hall to his office. If I happened to say, "Good morning," he would launch into a conversation, using my name.

People are amazing.

YeonAh
05-29-2012, 06:09 PM
Thanks for all the information! This is really helping, the last thing I want to do is butcher his character by misunderstanding how he would live. I don't know of anyone with visual impairments aside from a grandfather, and if I'm understanding one thing from all this it's that someone who became blind as a child would behave VERY differently from someone who just started losing his vision a few years ago.


Honestly, your character sounds pretty contradictory.. He never goes outside on his own, but is fiercely independent? How does that work? There are intensive rehabilitation centers where adults at any age (a majority who have gone blind suddenly) can go to learn basic orientation, cooking, and home repairs. For teens, many states have summer programs similar to the rehab centers.This is the part I'm having trouble working out. For a little background, his parents had been trying to help him adapt and be more independent since he became blind, but his parents are removed from the picture almost ten years later. For the following seven years he's had two 'big brother' figures who treat him like he can't even walk up and down stairs by himself, insisting on doing everything for him for fear he'll injure himself or something.

I'm trying to figure out how this would have affected him (besides wanting to box both their ears in). Is it possible to fall out of all those habits that help in being independent?

I'm not discouraged at all, this is far more help than I thought I'd find (:

veinglory
05-29-2012, 06:17 PM
And to show even more variability I know someone who went completely blind as an adult and was pretty much fearless. She lost her sight entirely between the second and third year of her bachelors degree but still finished with the rest of her class and with straight A's. She required no accomodations from me as the lecturer, as she used a printer that made raised impressions to read graphs and a laptop for the rest.

mccardey
05-29-2012, 06:18 PM
[SIZE=2] For a little background, his parents had been trying to help him adapt and be more independent since he became blind, but his parents are removed from the picture almost ten years later. For the following seven years he's had two 'big brother' figures who treat him like he can't even walk up and down stairs by himself, insisting on doing everything for him for fear he'll injure himself or something.

I'm sure you have an answer, but why did they do that (after his ten years?) And more importantly, why did he let them?

YeonAh
05-29-2012, 06:38 PM
I'm sure you have an answer, but why did they do that (fter his ten years?) And more importantly, why did he let them?

They have issues with being overprotective and stubborn, so the blind character caved before they did over the years. There are also plot-related reasons why he wouldn't be allowed out of the house without someone watching him. He does manage to gain back mobility through the house and various things, but there are some things they still stop him from doing (if they catch him).

mccardey
05-29-2012, 06:53 PM
They have issues with being overprotective and stubborn, so the blind character caved before they did over the years. There are also plot-related reasons why he wouldn't be allowed out of the house without someone watching him. He does manage to gain back mobility through the house and various things, but there are some things they still stop him from doing (if they catch him).

Good, then - as long as you've considered the whole character (ie: not just the blindness). From my perspective, someone who's lived with an issue from age 8 to 18 - if I'm reading you aright - with supportive parents is likely to be able to stand up to or reject outsiders who try to manipulate him via said issue from the age of 18-25.

If you've considered this and solved it - fine. If not, it might be worth revisiting.

Puma
05-29-2012, 11:55 PM
Another question for the OP: what about school? The character would have been in school at age 8 and, in the states, there are provisions for disabilities - including special schools and programs for the blind. How would he have escaped the educational system helping him learn how to cope with his disability? Puma

vivalalauren
05-30-2012, 02:08 PM
Another question for the OP: what about school? The character would have been in school at age 8 and, in the states, there are provisions for disabilities - including special schools and programs for the blind. How would he have escaped the educational system helping him learn how to cope with his disability? Puma

Sadly, schools can only do so much. I went to mainstream school throughout my education, but I still left for college unprepared, both academically and socially. It's very easy to fall into an accepted routine and allow yourself to become stagnant. People treating you with kid gloves slowly evolves into you thinking, "They think I can't do anything. Maybe I really can't."

A very common phrase for blind people to hear is, "let me do that, it'll be faster." People mean well, but teaching a blind person the most basic of skills requires a lot of hands on patience that is not always easy to give. To answer the original question, schools can teach the basic skills, but unless those are reinforced and supported at home, they won't do any good. Some people actually develop a disturbing sense of entitlement, and expect everything to be done for them. I met a teenaged girl last summer who could literally not claim a shelf in a shared fridge because "she was blind." She let her disability completely define her, and her parents enabled that thinking.

Katrina S. Forest
05-30-2012, 02:59 PM
Okay, this is going to be a long post, but I'm hoping this set of anecdotes will be helpful to you. Like has been already said above, everyone's different and this is just my own set of experiences with my friends. Also, just to echo:


And for the love of all that's holy, don't make the blind person a superhuman.

On the flip side, do not attempt to blindfold yourself and navigate your house to get an idea of how a blind person would do it. You've used sight your whole life, so of course, it will be disorienting to you and you won't be terribly good at it. Someone who's grown up without it has already adjusted and is much more skilled than you are.

My best friend is legally blind, though can read regular print if the font is big enough and she can bring it close to her face. I took notes for her throughout school on this cool note-taker that made a copy of everything I wrote. My notes were always filled with little doodles and in-jokes.

One thing about school was kids often came up to me asking questions about her. "Can your friend see?" "How much can she see?" I don't remember any kids being mean to her, they just really wanted to know and somehow thought the tactful solution was to ask me. Though they weren't always as fully out of her earshot as they seemed to think. Now, I know I asked my friend some dumb questions myself. She took everything in stride and told me when we were older, "It's okay, you were curious." Even now, when my toddler just got glasses (his great-grandmother sees better than him), I get asked the same silly questions, "Well, how does everything look to him? Is it fuzzy?" (How would I know? For that matter, until he got the glasses and had something to compare it to, how would he know?)

An amusing story -- one time, my best friend and I went to Disney World together. We told the staff member at the start of a show that she couldn't see and we needed a seat up front. The staff member was very nice and seated us (we cut the line almost completely!) and then brought out the closed captioning screen for her. We didn't want to hurt her feelings, but we kept laughing about it.

While her hearing obviously isn't superhuman, it's definitely more keen than mine. She's heard conversations that I've missed completely. When we were walking down a poorly-lit hallway, I warned her were were close to the door, and she said, "I know that." She explained her voice sounds different to her when there's something getting close to her face.

I had two friends in my Christian club at college who were fully blind. One had been blind since birth. He walked with a cane confidently, about the same speed I would walk. There was one crosswalk in particular at our college that people were notorious for speeding through and often made me nervous. He'd go right through it with the attitude that hey, he's got the cane and he's in the crosswalk and they better dang well stop. (By the way, if you've never seen a cane up close, they do break into sections like a tent pole and can be easily tucked into a backpack or something when you're not using them.)

When he graduated, he made a point of going out to breakfast or lunch with each member of the club before he left. I remember him talking about how in other countries, he might be cast aside or isolated and he was really grateful for the opportunities he had.

Now, my other friend from club had only been blind a few years. She didn't walk nearly as fast. However, she had a great sense of direction. I was driving her home at one point and didn't know the area. I got lost at least three times. Every time, she asked me, "Okay, tell me what street/landmarks you're near." I'd tell her, and she'd direct me back to the correct route.

Usually blindness doesn't come up in our conversations that often except to remind someone of an accommodation needed or just to vent about someone being clueless: "Um, hello? Can't see!"

There's a funny scene in Avatar: The Last Airbender where someone holds up a flyer up to a blind character and demands, "What's this?!"
Her reply: "Well, it sounds like a piece of paper, but I assume you're referring to what's on the piece of paper."

People do make mistakes like this in real life, sometimes even when they know the person. It took me a while to gauge how big/up close something had to be before my best friend could reasonably read it.

Like I said, I know all this is long, and I know I can't personally describe how any of my friends felt during any of these scenarios, but I hope it's helpful nonetheless.

trickywoo
05-31-2012, 02:57 AM
I have a blind friend (might want to check the terminology, too. He referred to himself as non-seeing) who was able to do nearly everything. He was a graduate student, lived in the dormitories, took classes, travelled the world. He did have a dog, which I think was a big asset, and he also would walk around with a cane.

I think you could go lots of different directions with this. Of course, your character could be isolated by their blindness, but, as others have pointed out, there are many, many resources that make the world navigable. He had audio on his computer that would read e-mails, facebook, etc. It worked fairly well, although occasionally, I'd have to get very odd replies when the message had been garbled on his end.

Also, there can be physical characteristics. This man's eyes were always crossed. He would face you if you were talking, but of course would be looking beyond or in a different direction. Also, he relied on feeling alot, so was much more comfortable grabbing someone's arm, asking for me to guide him/help him with something, and asking me to describe what I saw.

I don't see why cooking would be a problem.

This particular person was very comfortable in his known environment and had no problems traveling into unknown environments. In fact, he was a bolder traveler than I am. Often, he would come to events alone, although a friend might drive him and drop him off.

Hope this helps!

skylark
05-31-2012, 07:48 PM
An amusing story -- one time, my best friend and I went to Disney World together. We told the staff member at the start of a show that she couldn't see and we needed a seat up front. The staff member was very nice and seated us (we cut the line almost completely!) and then brought out the closed captioning screen for her. We didn't want to hurt her feelings, but we kept laughing about it.

It's possible that she's encountered someone like my friend, who is legally blind but has some vision at extremely short distances. She watches her daughter ice skate with a video camera, because while she can't see the child dozens of yards away, she can see the image on the camera screen.

(Or it's possible that she had a no-brain moment, of course :) )

Katrina S. Forest
05-31-2012, 08:26 PM
It's possible that she's encountered someone like my friend, who is legally blind but has some vision at extremely short distances. She watches her daughter ice skate with a video camera, because while she can't see the child dozens of yards away, she can see the image on the camera screen.

(Or it's possible that she had a no-brain moment, of course :) )

My friend is the same way. But the closed captioning screen just displayed the text of what was being said on stage. It was definitely for someone who had trouble hearing, not seeing.

I took it as a no-brain moment. If I had to work in 90 degree weather, I'd have them a lot too. It was still amusing, though. :)