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Misconceptions

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      Photo of a person who is blind jogging on a trail past a lake

      In our society, there are many misconceptions about blindness and about what a blind person can and cannot do. Many believe a blind person cannot cook a meal, clean their house, take care of their children, manage their finances or work in a competitive job. This is simply not true.

      At the Iowa Department for the Blind, we have found the real problem of blindness is not the physical loss of eyesight but the misconceptions society holds about the loss of sight. 

      Overcoming the Misconceptions

      With proper blindness skills training and the opportunity to implement those skills independently, the average blind person can accomplish the same tasks as the average sighted person. The Department's programs focus on a positive approach to blindness that reinforces learning how to complete everyday tasks without the use of vison. When our clients put these blindness skills into practice, they gain confidence in their abilities and develop a more positive attitude about blindness. In turn, the blind person makes life choices and career goals no longer based on perceived limitations of blindness, but on his or her interests, skills and abilities.

      Read stories about our clients who have overcome misconceptions and are living full, independent, productive lives.

      How Do I Interact with a Blind Person?

      (Information below is from the American Foundation for the Blind web site)

      As with a person with any disability, the best approach is to interact with the person, not with his or her disability. In general, what you would do or say with a sighted person is appropriate for a person with a visual impairment. However, to be most courteous, here are some hints:

      • Introduce yourself by name and make eye contact when speaking.
      • Speak in your usual conversational voice.
      • When a blind person enters the room, identify yourself.
      • Indicate the end of a conversation, and let a blind person know when you are walking away.
      • Feel free to use vision-oriented words such as "see", "look", and "watch."
      • Be specific when giving directions.
      • Don't grab the arm of a person who is blind or visually impaired: offer yours instead.
      • Don't interfere with a blind or visually impaired person's cane, and don't pet or feed dog guides
      • When in doubt, just ask.

      Myths About Blindness

      The following are some examples of widely-held myths about blindness:

      • Myth:  Blind people see only darkness, nothing else.
        Reality:  Only approximately 18 percent of people who are visually impaired are classified as being totally blind and the majority of them can still differentiate between light and dark.
      • Myth: Blind people have special gifts: a "sixth sense."
        Reality:  People who are blind or visually impaired are not endowed with a sharper sense of touch, hearing, taste, or smell. To compensate for their loss of vision, many learn to listen more carefully, or remember without taking notes, or increase directional acumen to compensate for their lack of functional vision.
      • Myth:  Most blind people are proficient in braille and own a dog guide.
        Reality:  Only a small percentage of blind or visually impaired readers are completely fluent in braille; many know enough braille for functional use, such as reading notes and labels. Most people who learn braille as adults do not develop the skill to read rapidly. Only a small percentage of blind or visually impaired people use a dog guide. They are invaluable tools and companions for those who do use them. Dog guides are trained to lead the person safely through crowds, across streets, and around obstructions. When the dog guide is harnessed, it's on duty. Once out of harness, the dog relaxes because it's off duty.
      • Myth: People who are blind or severely visually impaired can't work or hold a job.
        Reality: With the proper training and accommodations, people who are blind or visually impaired can work competitively.  The Iowa Department for the Blind has helped many blind persons go to work in a wide variety of jobs.  See a list of the types of jobs our blind clients currently hold.
      • Myth: People who are blind or visually impaired cannot access print or handwritten materials.
        Reality: The advent of computers and technology has made nearly any kind of print accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired. Computer software can translate print into speech, magnify screen images, and enlarge text to a readable size. Occasionally human readers take care of the rest.