Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Blind Leading the Blind

After several weeks here in Hannover and riding the tram almost every day, I continue to be amazed at how many blind travelers I see. They get on and off the tram by themselves; they walk across the streets and up and down the sidewalks, their long, white canes in front of them. By themselves.

One day Donica and I were in a neighborhood restaurant and saw two blind people come in together for take-out. Both had their walking canes and both were as nonchalant as any other two customers, including us. I watched them leave and cross the street together.

Perhaps just as surprisingly is how matter-of-fact and ho-hum this appears to be to the sighted Hannoverians. Everyone goes about their own business, not as insensitized bystanders but as true believers in the fully capable independence of their blind neighbors. If ever help/direction is given, it's the usual kindness expected of anyone: "There's an empty seat to your right (in German, of course)." And the response, "Danke!"

This triggered research for me (but of course!) and led me to this wonderful article on teaching blind persons cane travel...by a blind instructor. I'm appalled at the "constant discrimination" against blind instructors by sighted instructors and the lack of commensurate remuneration, in spite of the success of many blind independent travelers taught by blind instructors.

Talk about getting an education!

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