Isolation is one of the biggest problems that faces us who are blind on a daily basis. For several decades now, the data has shown that about one out of every hundred people is totally blind and the partially sighted population is twice or three times that. In a busy country like the United States made up of three hundred, twenty-nine million folks, that’s not very many of us. It’s easy, then, to let our lives close in, our sense of world events seem so distant unless they affect us personally.
When I was a little boy going blind, my parents made sure that my brother (who is sighted) and I saw a huge portion of our country. Along with trips to visit our grandparents and other relatives, they took us all over the Eastern United States. So out the car’s backseat window, I saw the long mountains of the Alleghenies. I watched the sandy beaches of Florida come into view as we flew into Miami. On the way home from that trip, we flew through the clouds which loomed large outside the glass through which I looked while sitting aboard the plane.
Of course, if you’ve never seen or haven’t had that kind of experience, your frame of reference may not be so refined. When you hear of events happening in Ukraine or about the approaching storms on a weather forecast, do you get an idea of where these things are taking place? Of course, many of us who depend upon GPS to navigate the streets of our hometown or Kindle for our reading pleasure may have limited our orientation of world events, too. Geography isn’t emphasized as it was when my parents were in school. For us, information comes in bites and segments.
Still wars and storms happen. We do travel and take in the local scenery when we’re away from home. So, having an awareness of our surroundings becomes vitally important.
What about us who are blind? Do we want left out or participating in our friends and family’s discussions? Do we want to keep up with what’s being talked about? Well, having a reference of where things are makes a lot of sense.
Of course, we can ask questions about the bus route we’ve planned to get across town for work or to visit someone. We can listen to the traffic reports on the radio and gain some understanding of the town in which we live. But, even so, do we really embrace it, feel it, live it?
From the standpoint of teaching blind students, the Perkins E-Learning blog gives suggestions for making the headlines come alive at our fingertips. https://www.perkinselearning.org/technology/blog/touching-news-tactile-graphics
Now, some of us have read those old atlases from the American Publishing House for the Blind. They’re great and I used to spend hours traipsing around the world with my fingertips. But, many of them now are out of date. While the borders of most nations remain the same, populations of towns and cities have changed a lot. Where shifts in borders have happened, a general atlas in braille only shows the highlights due to the size of dotted labels for coordinates. But, as the link explains, someone who is sighted, a teacher or parent or friend of someone who’s blind can assist in broadening our concern and knowledge of what’s going on by creatively showing us where it’s happening.
After all, when we want to be boldly blind, we want as many ways to cut through the isolation as we can get.