The damage of stigma is all around us. This stigma causes us to be blind to the individual, and see a blurred stick figure in witch to gawk at. There are so many of these stigmas and misconceptions, it is hard to keep track of them all.

As I do with other types of stigmas, I will tackle one of the biggest, but one of the most invisible forces around. The stigma of the blind. Many people do not know a blind person, or has only seen them in passing or in movies, but the misconceptions about them can be damaging.

Below is a quick history of the members of our society that often go unnoticed by many people, and as a result, are often misunderstood.

Do not fall for the stigma. Do not fall for old outdated concepts to cause you to dismiss a class of people. The below will help you understand more, and not fall for the trickery that any stigma plays on you. This history may not be pretty at times, but what minority has had it easy?

Blind Overview.

According to historians, many blind people in parts of the world during the time of antiquity were killed due to their blindness. In old Prussia, young boys would execute their older and infirm parents, and Fathers would subject children who were blind to the short end of life. Even if you showed signs of squinting, you were often shown the sword. Masters would often torcher their sightless and lame servants. Some blind people were able to become the exception, becoming philosophers and lawyers in places like Roam, but the vast majority of those without sight lived in degradation. Blind boys were slaves, and blind girls were put into prostitution.

Most blind people were homeless with no possessions except the rags on their back, a staff or dog, and maybe a knapsack. Many slave masters made good money off of their blind beggars from do gooders. Once again, Roam was the place where you could find exceptions to many of the rules. Grease was another place where things were a little better. Some people there thought that blind people had super powers. In the area that is present day Israel, blindness was seen as the most debilitating of all forms of disability, and many people regarded blind people as the walking dead, and as contagious.

Slow progress.

In China and some other places, blind people were story tellers, musicians, and suth Sayers. In places like India, Buddhists preached tolerance toward the poor and so called physically deviant.

By the first century AD, the Christian church became one of the main care givers to the blind. Rich Christians took blind people in, and as the church gained power, blind people became part of the church charity. By the 1200’s, blind people in some parts of the world were living in church run asylums. Soon, blind brotherhoods were popular in many parts, and known for their musical ability, however, many of these brotherhoods were still under control of the church. Even with the church control, and eventually, some local charities, many blind people were still homeless beggars, and many charities would not help the blind due to a belief that blindness was a punishment for crimes, and it was believed that many of these crimes were of a sexual nature.

By the 1500’s, the idea of the blind being able to contribute valued labor to society had had its birth in Spain, and slowly made its way around. During these times, blind people had made advances in the art of massage, religious related activities, and literature.

Education.

In 1784, the first major school for the blind opened in France, and soon, there were imitators. By 1819, a code for the military called night writing was developed in France, and the developer introduced the idea of using it in the schools for the blind. While the school thought that this new code would be unworkable, a blind man named Louie Braille was able to take it and rework it. By 1834, the Braille system was perfected, but the school did not except the new Braille code until 1854, 2 years after Louie Braille died. By the end of the century, the code was in universal acceptance.

In the United States, educators fought for the right of the blind to attend public schools and universities in the 20th century. In 1940, the National Federation of the Blind was formed. Due to the Rise of the NFB and later the American Council of the Blind, blind people had an increasing power over the direction of laws associated with the blind in the US.

Seen, but not heard.

While the blind have seen their power as a group grow, they continue to face gigantic challenges in everyday society. They are constantly fighting for equal treatment in schools, work places,, transportation, and accessibility with everyday consumer products. At the same time, they have to deal with the lack of equal treatment by the everyday public. Education of the everyday public can seem like an insurmountable challenge at times. The laws may say one thing, but in an individual blind person’s life, they have to deal with family, friends, and others who have faults perceptions of them.

Equal Empowerment.

Many blind people are very well capable of independent travel, and in today’s world, blind people are Lawyers, business owners, parents, journalists, state Governors, athletes, and everything in between. Yet, the belief that blind people are less capable is still a widely held sentiment.

Some people may be shamed by having a blind family member or by being seen with a blind person. The blind person is considered a bourdon that constantly needs to be looked after, therefore, an impediment to the life of the sighted person. In social settings, blind people are often ignored with the exception of the “good sighted person” that asks if the blind person needs assistance.

Don’t fall for that!

Do not fall for the false perception that lacking one ability means you lack all others. Do not fall for the lies that would have you treat your fellow man with a lesser degree of respect. Reject all ideas, religious or otherwise, that would have you take away a person’s dignity, opportunity, sexuality, or any aspect of who they are.

When you look to understand differences instead of negatively classifying them, you grow as a person. You would not want somebody to dismiss you because of your height, color, weight, or the number of times you ate Frosted Flakes per week.

Think ahead of the stigma. What things do people judge you about. What things do people think limit you? Are they true. This is only the beginning…

How do blind people travel?

Speaking about blindness

Print Friendly, PDF & Email