The last thing I do some nights is remove them. I flip my long hair over my shoulder and take the first one out of my ear. I tilt my head, toss my hair again and pull out the other one. I make sure to tuck the pair safely out of the terrier zone because my dogs like to chew on earbuds. I lack aa jewelry addiction instead I have a technology addiction with a predilection for podcasts. They don’t strain the eyes and they feed my brain.
Whatever my brain encounters joins a lifetime of thoughts in my gray matter to fuel creativity through writung. Other writers show me the way with their voice and style–in print and by ear. Listening teaches me rhythm and I learn new things about the world, too. It’s a win-win.
What I believe can change over time. The other day when I listened to an Invisibilia podcast episode, How to Become Batman, I was challenged to consider if internal thoughts affect other people. The smart hosts, Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel, discuss a lab experiment which proved expectations lead to affective behaviors–belief affects outcome. (Insert a Joey Lawrence whoa.)
Interesting, but at an hour long, why did this podcast continue to hold my attention? Well, it went on to introduce the assumptions our society has about blindness. They hooked me. No one, disabled or not, likes to be trivialized. People dislike it as much as being ordered around. But disability awareness can be like herding cats, mixed messages traveling in contradictory directions. If you struggle with how to act around someone with a disability, all you have to do is ask, but in my experience it appears easier for others to make unfortunate assumptions.
Lulu and Alix interview Daniel Kish, a man who lost his vision at a young age to retinal blastoma. He uses a white cane, at times a walking stick, but most notably echolocation. It is a skill that uses sound–tongue clicks–to identify objects in the environment. His proficiency in echolocation gives him the ability to do things independently like climb trees, travel widely and ride a bike.
I appreciate that Invisibilia addressed the sensationalized focus by other media outlets on his ability as a blind man to ride a bike. Kish says, “I definitely think that most blind people could move around with fluidity and confidence if that were the expectation.”
They unpack his story, revealing the unwavering support from his mother who allowed him as a child to keep going, exploring, climbing, running, riding despite descent from others like neighbors and the school. His mother said at one point, “There’s life and there’s living your life.”
Some listeners would’ve preferred more on-air representation of professionals in the blindness community and do not agree with all of Daniel’s methods, flagging his admitted bullying behavior such as in this AFB blog review. I felt including thie info about Kish humanizes him, reminds listeners that Kish is a person not a saint.
After meeting Kish, Lulu and Alix introduce us to Bob Scott, a sociologist who explained he believes blindness is a social construction. A line that stuck with me was when he recounted a paint factory employee, disabled at work, but whose employer supported him to get retraining and come back, visits a rehabilitation center only to be told, “Blind people can’t do those things.” That haunts me.
While tuning in, if you get caught up in the sensational Kish story, listen to the episode again and focus on the parts about societal expectations of blindness and the imperfect but improved system of blindness rehabilitation. Stifling independent activity and exploration leads to fearful dependence. A person must develop the new mobility skills and can’t learn if he doesn’t try. Worse yet, you can’t learn if others don’t expect it of you and therefore don’t allow you to be able to accomplish it. When I finished the episode and removed my earbuds, I agreed with Lulu and Alix, low expectations hurt people who are blind.
If you haven’t listened to the podcast, I think you might enjoy it along with the other interesting and entertaining episodes of the program. Lulu and Alix take subjects seriously, but not always themselves. It happens to be the top podcast this week as well, nudge. Here’s the link to the Invisibilia podcast How to Become Batman.
What are your expectations of people who are visually impaired or otherwise disabled? Do you think your expectations of others affects their capabilities? Tell me about it.