Erotica For Everybody?

It would seem that erotic images really do sell and that they infiltrate our society from all directions.  Aside from the obvious venues for erotic images and films, pictures of handsome individuals in provocative poses are plastered all over our cities and flashed, it would seem, at every conceivable opportunity both on the internet and on television.  However, images are for those who can see, which means that a substantial population is “spared” this constant barrage of depictions.  Questions of morality aside, pornography sells!  In fact, Lisa J. Murphy’s Tactile Mind is one example of how erotic imagery continues to fill newer and more numerous social niches.  Murphy’s Tactile Mind is “a handmade thermoform book consisting of 17, 3-D tactile photographs on white thermoform plastic pages with the visual image and descriptive Braille accompaniment” (see website).  The book is sold for an extravagant $225, but single pages can also be purchased for $25 a page.  Another example of such “niche-filling” is “Porn for the Blind,” which is

a website which purports to offer sexual stimuli for blind people over the internet.  The website is composed of a white background with a list of links to mp3 sound clips of pornographic content contributed by volunteers.  A ‘translator’ will watch preview clips of videos and give a play-by-play of the events.  Contributors are not allowed to use sexual words when describing existing videos and must give purely clinical descriptions of the events. (see citation)

Although, on the one hand, it might be argued that erotic images are inappropriate even in socially sanctioned contexts, it does seem a bit paternalistic to do those who can only read braille a moral favour by denying them access to erotic material.  From my understanding, the two examples I provided above are quite censored as it is.  The images in Murphy’s book lack faces and are featured only in single poses while the mp3 descriptive recordings do not use sexual words in their descriptions.

There is certainly a debate over the appropriateness of pornography (see Natalie Purcell’s “Feminism and Pornography: Building Sensitive Research and Analytic Approaches”), but at least now it’s everybody’s discussion!

Limelight Film Festival: Edmonton

The Limelight Film Showcase, Day 2, is TOMORROW, i.e., Tuesday 18th October, 2011, at the University of Alberta campus in Edmonton.  All events are in Myer Horowitz Theatre in the SUB Building, and the festival runs from noon until around 10pm and includes not only short and feature films, but also live dance and movement performances.  Check out the schedule via the festival page here.  All events are free and open to the public.

Disturbing Portrayal of Blindness

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.

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Abuse Claimed by Ex-Students of The W. Ross MacDonald School for the Blind

In yet another example of alleged abuse of vulnerable populations in residential schools, this Chronicle-Journal article describes a class-action law suit filed against the Ontario government on the grounds of negligence and breaches of fiduciary duties by the school staff.

Robert Seed, 64, is the representative plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit, which claims the staff at the W. Ross MacDonald School for the Blind, in Brantford, Ont., bullied, humiliated and abused — mentally and physically — the plaintiffs in the 1950s and 1960s. The lawsuit is still in its early stages. The claim was filed at Superior Court in Toronto last month.

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Court Rules Blind Father Cannot Take Son to Disneyland

In this Global story from last September, the reporter describes a court decision to refuse to allow Karim Lakhani to bring his son to Disneyland.

With a love of travelling, Lakhani’s dream has been to take his son to Disneyland. In June, a family court judge agreed Lakhani could take his son on the trip. But there was a condition – one that Lakhani was unaware of.

At the time, two adult family friends, who live in California, were going to meet with Lakhani and his son at Disneyland. However, these friends have since changed their plans, prompting Lakhani’s ex-wife to go back to court. She says Lakhani cannot properly protect their son at the amusement park without his sight.

This is the first time his blindness has been an issue when caring for their son.

The judge ruled that Lakhani can only take his son to Disneyland if someone of sight accompanied him.

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Federal Government Plans to Waste More Money Trying to Evade its Responsibilities

As some of you will recall, Moyra Lang posted on a federal court decision that required the government to make its websites accessible to blind internet users.

The government has now announced plans to appeal that decision.

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Stem cells give sight to blind mice, raising hope for aging humans

High above the downtown clamour, in one of Toronto’s shiny glass towers, modern medicine’s pioneers have put a whole new spin on an old nursery rhyme.

Using stem cells salvaged from the retinas of human cadavers, researchers with the University of Toronto have restored sight to the eyes of, well, three blind mice. The feat, aside from indicating a quirky sense of humour, has been repeated several times over the last year and marks an important step toward the goal of restoring sight in people.

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Feeling Guilt for Feeling Hope

One of the most common questions random strangers at bus stops, cab drivers, airport staff, and anyone else in my presence long enough to make the absence of small talk slightly awkward will ask me as a blind person is: “so there’s nothing they can do?” There are some very interesting assumptions built into this question.

This question assumes that, if “they” could do something, then I wouldn’t be blind.  It assumes that I want them to do something.  It assumes that it is someone else that needs to do something, and because the “they” refers to doctors and/or scientists, the question assumes that the “thing” that needs doing relates to treatment and/or cure.

I’ve been thinking about this more lately because of a couple of emails sent to my inbox in the last two days.  The first was forwarded to me by a family member.  It was originally sent out by “the Foundation Fighting Blindness”, and the second was a CTV News story sent to a blind-related listserv I subscribe to.

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The EyeWriter

This little tool kicks ass.  There’s no other way to put it.  Thanks to the EyeWriter development team, $50 and little hardware hacking will produce a fully functional eye tracker that allows the user to express themselves with art by only moving their eyes.  Check out the video to see for yourself: Continue reading

Universal Design, Technology, and Blind Users

T. V. Raman of Google, who is a pioneer in customizing technology for blind users, is sittting at a computer desk wearing wireless headphones and typing on a keyboard. His guide dog lies attentively on the carpetted floor behind him. Raman’s PC reads text aloud at triple normal speed. Photo by Peter DaSilva for the New York Times.

Published: January 3, 2009
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.

T. V. RAMAN was a bookish child who developed a love of math and puzzles at an early age. That passion didn’t change after glaucoma took his eyesight at the age of 14. What changed is the role that technology — and his own innovations — played in helping him pursue his interests.

A native of India, Mr. Raman went from relying on volunteers to read him textbooks at a top technical university there to leading a largely autonomous life in Silicon Valley, where he is a highly respected computer scientist and an engineer at Google.

Along the way, Mr. Raman built a series of tools to help him take advantage of objects or technologies that were not designed with blind users in mind. They ranged from a Rubik’s Cube covered in Braille to a software program that can take complex mathematical formulas and read them aloud, which became the subject of his Ph.D. dissertation at Cornell. He also built a version of Google’s search service tailored for blind users.

Read the full article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/04/business/04blind.html?th&emc=th

Canadian swimmer breaks own record in Grand style

Image

With both hands raised and signalling “V” for victory, Canada’s Valerie Grand’Maison celebrates her win in the women’s 100-metre freestyle at the Beijing Paralympics on Wednesday Sept 10, 2008. It was her third gold medal of the Games.

The Star.com/Toronto Star

September 11, 2008

BEIJING–Swimmer Valerie Grand’Maison picked up her third gold medal of the Paralympic Games yesterday by breaking her world record in the women’s 100-metre freestyle for the visually impaired.

Lauren Barwick added gold in equestrian and wheelchair athletes Chantal Petitclerc and Dean Bergeron raced to victories on the track as Canada picked up four gold medals on the day.

Grand’Maison finished first in 58.87 seconds, taking more than a half-second off her previous mark of 59.57 set at the 2006 world championship. The 19-year-old from Montreal, who won gold earlier in the 400 freestyle and 100 butterfly, said her preparation has been the key to her success.  “I’m eating and resting properly and I’m not letting myself be bothered by any distractions,” Grand’Maison said.   “I’ve been pretty nervous for the races but the crowd has been absolutely great.”

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Canadians sweep podium in Paralympic pool

TheStar.com/Toronto Star

September 7, 2008

THE CANADIAN PRESS

BEIJING – Valerie Grand’Maison got Canada off to a flying start at the Paralympics, leading a podium sweep in the 100-metre butterfly for the visually impaired on the opening day of competition.

Cyclist Jean Quevillon captured Canada’s first medal of the Games earlier in the day, a bronze in the men’s individual pursuit for cerebral palsy athletes.

Grand’Maison, from Longueuil, Que., Kirby Cote of Winnipeg and Chelsea Gotell of Antigonish, N.S., finished 1-2-3 in the butterfly. The 19-year-old Grand’Maison clocked a Canadian record one minute 6.49 seconds in her Games debut, less than a second off the 12-year-old world record.

“I’m so happy, I’m speechless right now,” said Grand’Maison, who won five gold medals at the 2006 world championships. “It’s a dream come true. Every single morning I have thought about winning Paralympic gold and it has now finally happened.   “And it was extra special to share the podium with my teammates. It’s a proud moment for us.”

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To Caption or Not to Caption

that is, no doubt, not THE question, but a question, one asked by Seek Geo in the captioned video appearing below the fold that shows its author signing a message that is also captioned. I would be curious to know if anyone with a screen-reader can read this (and those with them who cannot, which I suspect is most if not all, let us know)–and what they think about either the medium or the message (or both). And to know what deaf readers think about the same. And what sighted hearers also think. Continue reading

CFP: Two themed issues of Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

The Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies is seeking proposals for 2 themed issues: “Blindness and Literature,” which will be guest-edited by Georgina Kleege; and “Disabling Postcolonialism,” which will be guest-edited by Clare Barker and Stuart Murray. For more information please visit www.journalofliterarydisability.com

Blindness

A still shot from the movie with one seeing woman leading a train of blind people behind her

A still shot from the movie with one blond, seeing woman leading a train of about 7 blind people behind her through cars parked haphazardly on a street. The people she leads seem to be walking with a hand on each others shoulder, or else by holding hands. One child has his eyes shut but the others have open, unfocused eyes. The image is overexposed, making colours look pale and washed out.

What happens when an epidemic makes people turn blind suddenly in the middle of their everyday lives? Well, you lock them up in an abandoned mental institution, tell them to distribute rations as they see fit, and a “Lord of the Flies” situation ensues (because blindness makes you lose your sense of humanity, perhaps) until, of course, the one person who can see infiltrates the blind exiles and saves them!

The promo page has a video and written synopsis. The video is audio-visual, no captions, but the synopsis below it roughly explicates what happens in the images. The official website (called Blindness- this fall, our vision of the world will change forever) is rife with bad jokes- you can choose to “see more” to go on to other pages, or “spread blindness”(!) to email it to your friends. The images are harsh and white, fogging in and out with overexposed photographs. The Guardian offers some more written review. I get that it’s supposed to be a horror movie, and no doubt widespread, sudden blindness would be horrible. But I wonder about how people feel about the fact that they require a seeing person to save them.