Question 83: Blind characters

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giulia0494 asks: I've noticed many inaccuracies in stories regarding blindness. How can I share my experiences as a blind person to help other writers produce accurate stories?

Blindness is fascinating to sighted people because it's difficult to imagine going through life without an entire sense available. It's understandable why many would want to write stories about such a character. However, we must always proceed with caution when writing about something outside of our personal experiences. Doing your research is important. (If you need a refresher about why it's important, go back to Chapter 5: Be Authentic).

Giulia has kindly stepped forward to offer information about blindness. Here's what she shared:

First of all, there are different conditions and illnesses which cause bindness, at different times. Some have glaucoma, some others have Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), like me. I went blind in the first months of life. Nowadays I don't know if this illness can be cured at birth, but for me it wasn't possible. Some others have Retinitis Pigmentosa. Illnesses should be researched before starting the story. They have to be understood (or, at least, authors have to understand the one they choose for their character).

Second, some people think that we, as blind people, are sad all the time because of our disability. Wrong. I mean, I was born really premature and blindness was a consequence, and yes, there are times when I feel different, inferior to other people who can see. I know I'm not, but I feel it. Especially when people on the street sometimes say things like:"Poor thing, she's blind!" But blind people are happy and sad like everyone else.

Third, there is this belief that blindness means that people are always at home. Okay, for me unfortunately this is basically true. I have no friends near me and my parents work, so I don't go out often because I can move only around my house, for now at least. But there are blind people who go alone walking, who take the bus, who do various sports, active people who have a great life full of things to do.

I'm not saying that being blind isn't difficult. It is, if a person is not autonomous yet like me. For example, I can heat food in the microwave, feed my two cats, make the beds, and take a shower, but I can't cook. Anyway, in many stories blindness is treated like a reason for pity, and no one wants to be pitied.

Authors should do a lot of research, write to associations which help blind people (they exist!), research about Braille writing, about how blind people use the computer (normally they have a normal PC and a thing called Braille display, a device which raises different combinations of pins to produce what appears on a portion of the screen). It is connected by a standard computer by a special cable. Really, authors can Google Braille technology and they'll find it. It's not that difficult. There are even images to make it more understandable.

Blindness isn't always a difficulty. There can also be advantages to being blind. For example, I listen more carefully to voices and I instantly know if I like that person or not based on their tone, I can hear noises my mom can't hear sometimes, and the same goes for smells.

Thank you, Giulia, for sharing your experiences with us! Writers, if you have questions or comments for giulia0494, be sure to tag her or message her directly. Untagged comments will only notify me. And remember to be nice! She's doing everyone a favor by offering us this valuable information.

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