Happy New Year to Us: The Real Trend Setters

A graduation ceremony at the carroll Center for the Blind - lots of white canes are raised in tribute and triumph.
A graduation ceremony at the carroll Center for the Blind – lots of white canes are raised in tribute and triumph.

People who wear eye-catching clothes or drive fancy cars may be trendy, but they are not trend setters. It is the people who live on the edge, in the margins of society, who are often the real agents of change, because we know what is lacking. We can talk about vision loss with authority and without fear.

Knowledge through all the senses

All of us with sight loss, many millions of us altogether, have this advantage of living on the edge. We get information through our ears, hands, and skin instead of only through eyes. We can recognize both sighted and non-sighted ways of thinking and doing tasks. It is an advantage you can only get through disadvantage!

Disabled at the center

Xavier Le Pichon, a French geophysicist talking about the fragility of the earth on National Public Radio in 2009, was discussing the risks to the planet. He spoke of the need to put the disabled and the weak in the center because the more rigid geological and human structures become the more liable they are to violence.

Blind Heroes

Weak is not how we want to think of ourselves, nor is it often true, though sight loss does leave us vulnerable. But there is nothing weak about Steivie Wonder, musical prodigy, song writer and activist; nor about Sabriye Tenberken, who runs successful schools for the blind in Tibet and India, or or a thousand others doing good work from tough beginnings.

Pushing towards the center

I am not sure that Professor Le Pichon thought of the disabled as prime movers in this fight for greater involvement, but we must be. Pushing for change at the center of society involves perseverance, open communication and sharing. Who better to do this than we who live with a pressing need for accurate specific speech, and who share our skills with each other so open heartedly.

Stigma and prejudice

And there is another side to this. We can speak from experience about the problems of prejudice and stigma and about the way people in groups can behave in ungenerous and ugly ways.

This blog is for all of us as we learn to live on the edge and also push towards the center. Happy New Year!

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