Thursday, June 11, 2009

Why i prefer "Blind" to "Visually Challenged"

This has been a long topic of discussion.
In general, words do not mean negative or positive. Over time, we load words with negative or positive connotations. Then, when the negative impression becomes difficult to handle, we simply replace the word with a new one, and start loading that new word with the negative connotation! How cool is that?!

What we should be doing instead, is getting rid of that negative connotation in our HEADS! For instance, take the word "blind" - its a statement of fact. Someone who cannot see. Thats all there is to it. I love this word. Being blind means i am different, not that i am in any way less or more than the next person. I dont have eyes that see as perfectly as the next person. I may have other gifts or talents.

Over a period of time, what do we do? Make "blind" a bad word, and come up with gems like "Visually disabled" and "visually challenged" . NOW it becomes a problem. disability means "the lack of ability" Challenge means.. well, challenge. Not being able to see is a statement of fact. I much prefer it to these euphemisms. We do not need euphimisms, we need to get rid of that bias in the head!
Whenever i talk to people about Esha, and mention that our beneficiaries are blind professionals, the person sometimes corrects me politely, "you mean you work with visually challenged people" In the same polite vein, i answer "No, i mean i work with people who cannot see. They are neither challenged nor disabled. The only challenge we have is that the rest of the world finds it a problem to accept them as they are."
And that, really, is my problem with euphimisms. To be deaf-mute is a factual state. To be termed challenged because of that, is really a function of an environment that makes it challenging. NOT a function of whether i am comfortable with the rest of my senses.

The rest of us do not hear or smell as well as a dog, and a dog would find us horribly challenged. But the dog is too polite to say that. And we do not think we are inadequate in any way. So why should the blind or the mute be made to feel that they are inadequate?

23 comments:

Varun said...

Why did you choose the name 'Esha' ?

Mampi said...

Fabulous post HDWK.
And I am impressed with your logic.

Balvinder Singh said...

Challenge is something which can be met. In my opinion by calling blind as 'visually challenged' we are giving him or her a hope that his/her disability can be overcome.

And moreover in our day to day life we never call anyone by his/her class or category. Like a man is a gentleman, woman is a lady and so on and so forth.

Swati said...

I agree with you 100% ..no..101% ..I dont think "blind" is a bad word at all. Calling day = day and night = night cannot be bad or abusive. Its all in our mind. In fact I hate the word disabled.

Swati said...

I agree with you 100% ..no..101% ..I dont think "blind" is a bad word at all. Calling day = day and night = night cannot be bad or abusive. Its all in our mind. In fact I hate the word disabled.

(¯`•._.•[Raaji]•._.•´¯) said...

I see your point but I dont think that is necessarily a bad thing. You never know may be someone blind takes offense when you call them "blind" and sometimes "Visually Challenged" are not exactly blind people. That is a broad word for so many conditions.

rabbit said...

that was good re..
i loved the last two line the most...

too good

tc

J P Joshi said...

I personally tend to agree with your line of thinking but we live in a 'sugar coated pill' world.

Mayz said...

do words really make a difference?? i think finally its wat v have in our own thoughts that matter

btw y esha??

mathew said...

hmm..sometimes people try to be politically correct..though in reality they are just faking it up!

Z said...

People can give away their own unconscious prejudices by refusing to use a word because of the negative connotations they put on it, when it's not a negative word at all.

For example, in Britain some people won't say 'black' or 'white' coffee, choosing to say 'with milk' or 'without milk'. But when has it been racist to refer to black coffee or to drink it white? They give a negative connotation that simply isn't there.

Being blind is an absolute, at any rate - I can see the point of 'visually challenged' if your sight is extremely poor but you aren't actually blind.

I was at the local school yesterday and some teenage boys were really trying to trip me up - they referred to a boy as 'fat' and asked me if I knew who they meant. I didn't fall for it of course.

How do we know said...

Hi Varun: Why does everyone ask me that? :-) aise hi.. when i was choosing a name, the name did not seem important, the objective did.. thats why..

Hi Mampi: Thank you!

Balvinder sir: But my basic premise is that, just because one sense is less developed, there is no "disability" . Difference, yes. Disability, no.

HI Swati: me 2. me 2.

Hi Raaji: Well, in all the interactions i have had with my beneficiary group, they have always referred to themselves as "blind" or "partially blind". They seem to take no offence at all!! To them, it is simply a state of being.

Hi rabbit: thanks! ur blog is nice too.

How do we know said...

Joshi sir: Haan, ye to hai..

Hi mayz: exactly my point!

Hi mathew: Bingo!! You said it.

Hi Z: "People can give away their own unconscious prejudices by refusing to use a word because of the negative connotations they put on it, when it's not a negative word at all." - so very true!!

D said...

Wow, you do have me thinking. And your logic is absolutely in place. I don't think 'dumb' would even be a problem if we hadn't started using the word for, well, unsmart people! I think a word grows layers of meanings over time and it's difficult to de-layer it. Which is why we need to find a more politically correct alernative.

Aparna said...

I never thought about it until I read your post. To me. saying visually challenged was a more correct and polite term. Something we used to cause less hurt to a blind person. Now that I have read your take on this I am thinking may be i was wrong...

Onkar said...

Simply wonderful. Very thought provoking.

kj said...

this is a wonderful statement! and you are correct that it's usually preferable not to use two words when one good one will suffice. so i agree with you. plus i work in the field of disability and one of my good friends is blind. that's not ALL she is by any means, but she is indeed blind.

love to you,
kj

The Rat... said...

My sentiments exactly... all this Physically challenged, Differentially abled makes me irritable... why cant we accept the truth and call a spade a spade.. why is it seen as a derogatory term???? sheesh

San said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
San said...

HDWK, i don't have a specific opinion about these words..

But i appreciate the end result - which is Esha and its work..
so let it be Esha - people for the cause... let people choose the word they are comfortable with, for 'the cause'

How do we know said...

Hi D: Find a politically correct alternative and then load that with layers? :-) Just a cycle methinks..

Hi Aparna: You'll be suprised. the blind never refer to themselves as "Visually challenged" or anything. They just say "Madam i m 100% blind" or that "i am partially blind." To them, its a statement of fact. No more and no less. :-)

Hi Onkar: Thank you.

Hi kj: Precisely my point!

Hi Rat: Am with u all the way! :-)

Hi San: You'll be happy to know that Esha added another product to its portfolio this month. :-)

~nm said...

I so understand what you me and I totally agree with you.

Sidhusaaheb said...

Hmmm...

Call a spade a 'digging instrument' and it still does the same job, so why not call a spade a spade?

Makes sense...

:)