[nfbwatlk] class essay

Mary Ellen gabias at telus.net
Sat Jun 18 05:43:43 UTC 2011

Our daughter Joanne is a linguistic anthropology student and was assigned to
do a one page essay on the ways society reenforces discrimination.  She
could have chosen a number of groups and picked one from any number of ways
that discrimination and bigotry is permitted to continue.  Here's what she
said about language and the blind.
Don't Turn a Blind Eye on the Discrimination Against the Blind

By Joanne Gabias

                North American societies are trying more and more to be
accepting of disabilities. They do so by adding Braille to elevator buttons,
adding closed captioning on television, and making sure there are wheelchair
accessible parking spaces. These actions may alleviate discrimination to an
extent, but in everyday society, discrimination is far from extinct. As we
know, language creates, transmits and perpetuates culture. In our society,
expressions that refer to someone as being naive, inattentive or stupid all
use the word blind.  Discrimination against the blind can only diminish once
our language removes these connotations (of being naive, inattentive or
stupid) from the word blind.


                 "What are you, blind?" This statement is normal in everyday
speech in our society. No matter the context, this phrase is degrading, and
indicates the person is subpar.  Until this expression is out of our
linguistic vocabulary, it is impossible for a blind person to be treated
with respect and not be cast in these stereotypes of being naive,
inattentive or stupid. 


                "In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king" -
Desiderius Erasmus. This famous quote, once again or almost more so, shows
the blind as inferior human beings. This quote implies that the blind can
never achieve greatness. They will always be lower than everyone else. In
fact, having no sight rather than a small amount of sight is more
advantageous, since having a small amount of sight can be unreliable in many


                The English proverb "the eyes are the window to the soul"
implies that people whose eyes don't work, don't have souls, and souls are
required to be human in our culture. In other words, the blind are not
human.  Our society puts so much importance on sight that it is difficult
for a blind person to show the world they are just as able as a sighted


                The list of linguistic discrimination towards blind people
is abundant. Until the connection between blindness and naive, inattentive
and stupid is removed from our language, discrimination towards the blind
will continue to be transmitted and perpetuated throughout our culture.  As
Mark Twain once said "The difference between the right word and the
almost-right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug."


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