I’m used to bad portrayals of blindness and blind people—portrayals that fail to recognize the huge extent to which the challenges associated with blindness are created by negative attitudes, misconceptions about blindness, and badly designed products, services, and institutions. What I’m not used to is such a blatantly offensive and exploitative representation of blindness. This is truly one of the worst of recent years.
The link below will take you to a video on Youtube that advertises the services of a public relations company.
It is difficult to determine the videos content through listening alone, so here is a description of the content that I received:
A blind man sets himself up in what appears to be a train station. He writes feebly on a sign which reads “help me I am blind”. here and there, people toss change and/or throw change at him, often not even making it into the can he set up for himself. This woman
then walks over and rewrites something on his sign. She writes “it is a beautiful day and I cannot see it”. with that the coins fly out of peoples pockets, much to the amazement of the blind man. the lady comes back, and he asks “what did you write?” And she tells him “the same thing with different words”. she then walks away.
This really is a disgusting portrayal of blindness. It plays on stereotypes about blindness as incapacity, an inability to work, and blindness as helplessness, and it plays on pity, the blind man is missing out on witnessing the beautiful day. He deserves pity and charity because his limitation prevents him from seeing how beautiful the day is.
The real problem of blindness is not the inability to see a beautiful day—something that can be experienced in thousands of non-visual ways—the real problems are the negative attitudes and misconceptions about blindness. These attitudes make it harder to find employment, to make friends, to be involved in community activities, and so on. And it is these attitudes that are expressed in, and reinforced by, this video.
If you agree, I would urge you to write to the company that is responsible for the video to express your opinion. This sort of misrepresentation of blindness and blind people hurts us, it undoes all of the progress that has been made, and it has to stop.
The company is called PurpleFeather, and you can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.