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Community and Domestic Life: Family

Many people wonder, but are sometimes afraid to ask, how blind parents take care of their childern. Blind parents, just like any other parents, are young or old, rich or poor, responsible or irresponsible. The articles articles and audio excerpts below show that blind parents rely on their other senses when minding their children, paying close attention to any discrepancies in their child's daily routine. Unlike sighted parents, blind parents must also frequently deal with nurses, doctors, family members, and others who don't believe in their capabilities as parents. The fears of these well-intended people are ultimately unfounded, and the children grow up in an environment based on the parent's philosophy on child-rearing, and not on any false inadequacies.

Most blind parents avoid depending on their young children for assistance. In the past, some newspaper articles described sighted children as  “watching out” for their blind parents. To avoid giving too much responsibility to the child and taking authority, some blind parents are careful not to ask their young children to, for instance, read the clock or find a type of food in the refrigerator for them. Of course, with teenagers, chores become a valid part of every child’s upbringing!

Childhood is a time of learning and exploration, whether you’re blind or sighted. Over the years, blind Iowan’s experiences have differed because of their parent’s and peer’s attitudes on blindness. Some blind children grew up without realizing that they were in any way different, and can recall the moment they first realized that they had a disability. Their parents didn’t see their blindness as anything but another characteristic, like being blonde or left-handed. Others recall knowing from their first memory. These children were not allowed to help around the house, work at an after-school job, or go places on their own. As they grew and started to go to school (whether at Vinton or in public school), these children went through many of the same trials as sighted kids. Grades, friends, clothes: these are always concerns for adolescents. To read more about school for the blind, visit the Iowa Braille School- Vinton and Integration Into Public Schools pages. 

Over the years, several articles were published concerning blind parents methods of and ability to raise their children. Notice the difference in the parent's philosophy on blindness from the first article to the second:
Boy, 2, Watches Out for His Blind Parents (1953)
All the Sight I Need (1956)
Parents Need to See the Light (Date Unknown)

More resources are available in the Iowa Blind History archives, such as “Iowa Department for the Blind: Children’s Video – Lets Talk About Blindness”.

Blind Iowans Talk About Their Experiences as Children and Parents:

Jim Snowbarger
Roger Erpelding
Shirley Wiggins
Debra Martin
Pat Hamling
Susie Stageberg 
Sandy Ryan

To hear the full narrations, read transcripts, or find additional oral histories in which blind Iowans talk about raising children or their experiences as a blind child, visit the Oral History page.

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