Imagine you’re 10 years old and you’ve just got your first slippers from a social worker. Not because your family could not afford them, not because you cannot walk, but because you are blind.
My first reaction when I heard the story many years ago was, “wait, did I hear this right? What does blindness have to do with walking?” Yes, it turns out I did not mishear anything. It turns out that in many countries in the world, especially in villages, people who’re blind are hidden from the society’s view. They stay home, often tacked in bed, with no educational opportunities, with no outlet for social development.
The reasons for this state of affairs are complex. Partially, the parents of blind children are afraid for their safety. But partially, they’re afraid of being stigmatized by the community they live in.
When I was taking classes for my PhD, I wanted to describe this situation and started looking for English-language articles in so-called scientific literature. Can you image my disappointment and sadness when I did not find a single article on the topic? Because the studies would usually look at rehabilitation programs for people with disabilities, which means that the people or “subjects” of the study were already out and about in their community. Or the studies would focus on blind/low vision children who received a mainstream education. Again, these kids have already moved on on their path of growth.
What really bothers me is that there are topics that are super important, that affect people’s lives, and yet, they’re not widely discussed. They’re neither examined by academic institutions, nor are they the topics that the media clammer to pick up. They’re there, in the grey space between existence and non-acknowledgment. So I’m hoping to spread the word. Just because an issue is not talked about does not diminish or erase its existence, right? So let’s talk! 🙂
Hubby and I were recently interviewed by EyesonSuccess about our experiences of teaching in Southeast Asia and India. Please listen to the podcast if you’d like to find out hear our impressions and adventures: