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Community & Domestic Life
From Unique to Familiar: Experience in Everyday Life
As we go through our daily routine, we perform many tasks without even thinking about them. Locking the door, setting the alarm clock, checking the weather--all are ordinary day-to-day chores. However, many of the same common activities performed by blind people have been publicized in newspapers and magazines, making them seem extraordinary and amazing. Simple tasks such as walking across the street, or even frying an egg, were considered great feats when performed by blind individuals.
Why have daily activities been publicized when performed by blind people? The answer lies in the way society has perceived the skills and abilities of blind persons. In Western culture, the sense of sight has been assumed to be the primary physical sense. Vision or sight has been used metaphorically in literature and the arts to convey intelligence, wisdom, and intuition. So important is sight that those “blind prophets” of literature are deemed to have “second sight.” Those without sight were to be pitied as dependent and helpless. The fear of vision loss had both a positive and negative impact on American culture. The impact was positive in that it spurred the advancement of medical technologies and treatments to prevent or cure blindness, and negative because this fear influenced the development stereotypical attitudes about the capabilities of blind persons. Social changes and advocacy by blind people have in many ways changed the public’s opinions on the capabilities of the blind. Instead of working in sheltered shops or in specific vocational trades, blind people developed skills that made them both competent in the home, helpful in the community, and competitive in the workforce. Blind Iowans can learn the alternative skills of blindness through the Iowa Department for the Blind's Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center, Independent Living program, or its Vocational Rehabilitation program. Many blind people find they still need to educate the public that they have a wide variety of interests, skills, insights, and opinions - just like others in their community.
Although everyday, non-visual techniques used by the blind may differ from those used by sighted individuals, they are not difficult or amazing accomplishments. Use the links below to read more about the methods blind people have used over the years to perform these everyday tasks and about their experiences growing up, raising children, learning to be independent, enjoying recreation, and participating in community activities.
Image #1: Photo from 1973 Annual Report of the Iowa Commission for the Blind. The caption in the annual report reads: A blind mother is pictured here reading with her sighted child. This is made possible through Twin Vision books borrowed from the Commission Library. Print and Braille texts placed side by side on the page are called Twin Vision books. They enable blind parents and sighted children to read together - an important activity in the lives of both parents and children.