Why Project Ray Is Wrong About Marriage Considerations for Blind People
Today, I was on Twitter, following blind people and organizations that purport to represent our interests.
However, some of the organizations that claim to represent us betray our interests, and encourage blind people to become dependent on sighted people, and increase their dependency on sighted people.
These organizations are antithetical to my philosophy of blind power and empowerment.
One such organization, known as Project Ray, published an article entitled, Marriage Considerations for Visually Impaired People.
Because of the blatant falsehoods of the article, and the minimal accuracy in other parts of it, it is necessary to quote the article entirely and analyze it, line by line.
The article may be accessed at the following link:
First, the title of the article is telling, Marriage Considerations for Visually Impaired People.
Many organizations often mistake blind and visually impaired as being interchangeable, when they are not.
Blindness means no vision, or vision that falls into the category of blindness under the medical definition.
Visual impairment refers to people that use magnifiers, glasses, and contacts, whose vision differs from blind people.
While there are numerous references in the article to blind people, the mention of visual impairment only in the title is suggestiv.
First, it stereotypes all blind people as being visually impaired.
It also suggests that all blind people want to be known as visually impaired people, rather than as blind people, and that it is acceptable for sighted people to label both blind and visually impaired people as such, when identification varies from person to person, and without the consent and agreement of the people being labeled.
While some may see this as another redundancy in discussing labels, it is by labels that the Pandora’s box of oppression is created, then unfurled.
There is also a disparity in the categorization and utilization of the label of visual impairment.
The term indicates, both expressly and impliedly, that there is something wrong with people who are visually impaired, when there is nothing wrong with people classified as such.
The term also indicates that visually impaired people are incapable of functioning, according to the normative, shallow biases of society, when people so classified function normally in their own way.
While everyone functions in their own ways, society labels and oppresses people who function in ways that they feel don’t conform to their social, political, economic, and cultural norms.
To illustrate the ridiculousness of society’s quest for conformity, normalization, and elimination of differences, learning style differences are a prime example.
The educational systems in the United States, along with other systems globally, require students to learn using vision only.
This normative programming is oppressive to the blind, the people society classifies as being visually impaired, the dyslexic, those who are considered cognitively impaired, and sighted people who just may not learn best under a visual system.
Does that mean that people who learn orally, hands on, in braille, large print, demonstrative learning, or learning in any other medium other than vision wrong because they learn differently from visual learning?
According to society, the answer is yes.
However, the correct answer is no.
Everyone learns and functions according to each person’s own set of unique learning styles, and the styles that each person uses are the methods for how they function.
Society has also placed numerous labels on us, such as partially sighted and visually challenged, all without our consent or identification.
I identify myself as blind, and I am proud of my identification and the power that radiates from me, as a result of the confidence of who I am and my capabilities of contributing to my community and thus, the world.
There are other species that people consider as blind, such as bats.
Bats function normally, without regard to the labels society has placed on them.
This is how I view myself.
I function in my own ways, independent of society’s labels, classifications, stereotypes, pejoratives, prejudices, and the limitations they have placed on themselves and their development and evolution, which I have not.
The article opens with an inaccurate statement about blindness, because it assumes that everyone is born blind, that people learn techniques at a young age, and that they then become independent.
For the purposes of blind people knowing where the beginning and ending of quoted text is in this article, parentheses with the words, (beginning quoted text), and (quoted text end), will be displayed respectively.
(Beginning quoted text) “Throughout their younger years, blind people dedicate a great deal of time learning how to adapt, in order to enjoy the same independence as sighted people do.
They go to school to get the same type of education as their peers.
They learn to read, write, and acquire skills that will earn them a job.
As they grow, their family grows with them, and learns how to adjust their own attitudes as their loved one continues to gain independence.” (Quoted text end.)
People become blind at different stages in their lives.
Each person’s blindness is unique, just as each person’s life and navigation skills vary.
The circumstances for how people become blind are not necessarily a beginning, nor an end to their life stories, but an integral and important part of them.
Some people, such as myself, were born blind.
Others became blind later in life, as a result of many variables in circumstances and stories.
Because every story and circumstance of blindness is unique, so too are the perspectives, resources, and the degree of available supportive people, since all human beings, even when environments are not the most favorable, receive a degree of support, albeit not always optimal.
As far as learning to adapt, all organisms that adapt are the ones that survive.
Learning to adapt is not peculiar to blind people.
Even children who are sighted, who learn from a visual system, learns fluency in the language of print.
Turning next to the assumed equality of educational opportunity and full access to the curriculum, this is another erroneous assumption.
90% of children who are blind are not learning braille, and there is an epidemic shortage of teachers of the visually impaired, (TVI’s), that are capable of providing regular one on one support to blind students to teach braille.
There is also a shortage of orientation and mobility specialists, who teach cane travel skills to blind students.
In the United States, the federal government is required to fund 40% of the administrative costs of the funding required by school districts in each state, for the purposes of Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, (IDEA), funding.
Yet, the federal government is only allocating 12% of its statutory obligation of 40% to schools.
Consequently, blind students are denied full access to the curriculum, braille instruction, and orientation and mobility services and supports.
Because of the disparities in the educational attainment of blind people, the inaccessibility of various business technology products and services, and the rampant discrimination by employers, blind people face a staggering unemployment rate of more than 76%.
Next, the article assumes that families with blind children grow and adjust their attitudes as their blind family member gains independence.
The composition of families, their attitudes, roles, patterns, behaviors, traditions, habits, and interactions are all different.
There are families in which parents and offspring are both blind.
In those cases, adjustments in attitudes towards blindness are not a factor as it is in the case of sighted family members.
When one parent is blind, and the other is sighted, the sighted parent may support the autonomy of the blind parent, or be the blind parent’s nemesis, which affects how children, sighted or blind, perceive blindness.
(Beginning quoted text.) “But then, love comes along, with sight, and suddenly, an important person in their life has to learn to adjust to their blindness, as they must learn how to relinquish some of that independence they worked so hard to achieve.
Marriage for a blind person is just like any other, full of compromise, caring, and commitment to make sure that both partners’ needs and desires are met.” (Quoted text end.)
Love does not “come along”, either for blind or sighted people.
Both blind and sighted people face rejection initially, must learn to accept that the rejection has nothing to do with them, and work to improve their confidence in attracting and seducing partners.
This requires humility, an open mind, a desire to explore and venture into the unknown, and to cherish the good experiences, while learning from the negative ones.
When people, both blind and sighted, are solid in their understanding of themselves and the kinds of relationships they want with others, they are more poised to position themselves confidently with success.
Their communication skills will also reflect on their abilities to articulate and achieve their desired outcomes.
There are blind people who feel rejected initially, and some prospects will use blindness as the reason for their rejection.
Although this has happened to me, it has not occurred often, and I have no desire to be with someone with a closed mind, so I am okay with their rejection, because it is not a reflection on me, but them.
Understanding that value is not determined by the subjective view of others, but by the value I place on myself, loving myself and all that I am increased my confidence and my attractive magnetism.
The article assumes that blind people will marry sighted people.
Blind people marry other blind people, and have wonderfully strong marriages and families.
Blind people also marry sighted people, and they too may enjoy wonderfully strong marriages and have families.
Similar to the discussion on family composition and variable dynamics earlier in this article, blind people that are in relationships with other blind people don’t have to adjust to each other’s blindness like the cases of blind people and sighted spouses.
Although blind people may have different types of blindness and techniques, the commonality of being part of the blind community means that adjustments to blindness are only matters of learning how each of them functions, allowing for a deeper connection and intimacy, since blind people share the same world.
Even though families with blind family members may have some familiarity with the blind world, sighted people outside of the nuclear family vary on the degrees of interaction that they may have had with blind people in the past.
Many sighted people have had little to no interaction with the blind, so blind people in relationships with the sighted often have to spend considerable time educating their sighted partners on functions, techniques, and achieving mutual fulfillment.
While the article denotes the enormity of the adjustment of the sighted, it also fails to account for the laborious and stressful aspects of the blind having to educate their sighted partners.
Additionally, the article fails to point out that when the blind people are in relationships with sighted people, they also have the task of educating the family members and friends of their sighted partners, and the opinions of family members and friends of the sighted can affect the quality of the relationship.
The article then states that, in order to enjoy a happy and successful marriage, blind people must relinquish some of their independence.
This is the most hazardous advice that this article contains, and the reasons will be articulated in the next paragraph.
The article also states that the marriages of blind people are just like any other, completely ignoring the dynamics of the people, their families, and friends, along with the inundation of preconceived notions of sighted partners, their families, and friends, and the preconceived notions of the sighted people in the lives of their blind partners.
Since both independence and preconceived notions are inextricably linked with the dynamics of blind and sighted partners, this will be covered in the next section.
Marriage From the Perspective of The Blind Partner
(Beginning quoted text.) “By the time the blind person reaches a point where they are ready to commit to marriage, they have most likely become accustomed to the disability and comfortable in navigating most situations alone.
It is difficult to then merge this world with a sighted person, but not impossible.
For them, they have to realize that now, there is someone else in their life who loves them and wants to keep them safe.
The idea of their blind partner crossing streets or cooking dinner alone is going to be scary at first.
The best thing a blind person can do is allow a certain level of over nurturing at first, until their partner becomes accustomed to their independence, as well as their limitations.
By indulging the need to help one or two times, the sighted partner will learn faster just how capable their blind spouse is.
(Quoted text end.)
The first line of quoted text above is mostly accurate, but there is an important distinction that must be made.
While blindness is often considered a disability, the term disability in and of itself is a pejorative, because the term was invented by society, and litterally means lacking ability.
Applying this definition to blindness has cumulatively negative effects.
The stigma by society is that, blind people lack ability, are unable to care for themselves, others, have children, and do anything.
Blind people have a long history of being oppressed for thousands of years.
Blind babies have been aborted or killed at birth.
Blind people have been cast out of cities, made to beg for sustenance, have been institutionalized, involuntarily sterilized, marginalized, denied access to business and government products, programs, and services, have been denied employment, social, and economic participation, have been discriminated in numerous other ways and methods, and have been murdered.
Unfortunately, much of this oppression is still occurring, because society still believes that blind people lack ability, and thus, are of no value.
Blind women face additional types of oppression, including misogyny, rape, and sexual harassment.
Blind people of color also face discrimination because of the color of their skin.
We need to eliminate the term disability from the lexicon, and speak of blind people and others in ways that place value in and on their lives.
The article also mentions the difficulty of merging the blind and sighted worlds, which is correct, but not in the sense of the objectives of the goal of merger by this sentence and the sentences that follow it in the quoted text.
There can be no merger of the blind and sighted worlds.
Symbiosis is the theoretical ideal, but not always possible.
The reason is that sighted people have preconceived notions of blindness, and sighted people insist on their preconceived notions ruling the relationships between the sighted and the blind in all aspects of life.
Sighted people may not see marriage to blind spouses as a problem, but they insist on dictating the terms of the relationship, along with what blind people are allowed to contribute.
As someone who has been in relationships with sighted people in the past, including two marriages, I can attest that my experiences with having relationships with the sighted were pure hell.
No matter how much I demonstrated proficiency in independence, I was rarely allowed to cook, was told how I would contribute, and was rebutted, silenced, ignored, or dismissed when I tried to meaningfully and equally contribute to the relationships.
I felt like I was not understood, was misunderstood, and that my sighted partners did not care to understand my perspectives.
I also felt that I was not receiving enough affection, both in physical touch and the lack of detailed attention during sex.
I felt that the sighted world, along with my sighted partners, were holding my head underwater as I was attempting to swim and breathe.
I am only open to love within the blind community, because I know that I am appreciated for who I am.
Even when I may disagree with members of my community, I still love them and we understand each other.
Because of my experiences, I testify that relinquishing independence in any degree with a sighted person will end your independence and individual sovereignty.
If a blind person wishes to have a meaningful relationship with a sighted partner, boundaries of interdependence need to be articulated, and the sighted need to understand that by accepting their offered help, blind people are not relinquishing their independence.
When blind people relinquish their independence, they lose control over their freedom and what they contribute to a relationship.
Marriage From The Perspective of the Sighted Partner
(Beginning quoted text.) “Unless they grew up with a blind sibling or parent, a sighted person has no idea how much work has gone into gaining independence.
While on one level, they do view their partner as an equal, there is an underlying need to protect them from harm.
Some of the best practices a sighted person can develop is to respect their spouse’s independence.
This may be difficult at first, but blind people are well aware of their own limitations, and will know when it is the right time to ask for help.
Beyond this, the only real difference for the sighted partner is the need for a heightened sense of awareness in the home.
Furniture should not be randomly moved around, objects should always be put back in their rightful space, and they may find themselves directing their partner in the right direction more often than in other relationships.
Yet, these compromises will soon become second nature, as the sighted person learns the subtleties of keeping the home functional and comfortable for a blind spouse.
The old adage that “love is blind” is very true, and there are couples all over the world who are working together at being a family and raising children with one partner who does not have sight.
The important thing is not to lose sight of what really matters, which is the love and commitment that has been promised to one another.
(quoted text end.)
I mostly agree with this section of the article, although there are additional noteworthy points.
Understand that blind people function in the dark just fine.
Don’t insist that we turn on lights or part the curtains or blinds, unless you need the light.
Understand that we have our own ways of functioning and navigating the world.
We also have our own culture and language.
Appreciate our world and who we are.
Allow us to contribute fully to the relationship.
Be aware that there are blind people, like myself, who want you to be affectionate with us.
Be willing to explore and massage our bodies with your hands and your tongue.
We also may be more affectionate and adventurous than what you are used to.
We are thorough, giving, passionate lovers who want to satisfy you as much as we want you to satisfy us.
Communicate freely with us.
We will ask questions if we don’t understand something or need clarification.
Become interested in our world.
Study up on our politics, history, technology, culture, and language, so that you can better understand us.
Finally, there may be times when we want you to advocate on our behalf.
You may have to stand up for us against family, friends, and enemies.
If you want to love us, you must be willing to fight for us, without reservation or hesitation.
I hope that this article helps blind people in standing your ground in your independence and what you want in a relationship.
For sighted people, I hope that this article helps you better understand and love your blind partner.