Tim Truzy is a rehabilitation counselor, educator, and former dispatcher from North Carolina.
Addressing Flawed Perceptions About Others
Myths persist about different groups. Infrequent contact with these groups contributes to misunderstanding by the general public. Fear plays a part in keeping those myths alive. Long-held assumptions become flawed perception in the general population. People with vision loss represent such a group that faces a flawed perception.
Sharing information is the best way to increase understanding. Truth tears fiction into pieces and promotes harmony. I am trained as a rehabilitation counselor as well as a Teacher of the Visually Impaired. In addition, I live with a visual impairment. Here are some myths about people who are visually impaired. Facts to counter those misconceptions are included as well.
Myth: Blind people would be happier if they could see like everyone else.
Truth: As with any disabling condition, there is no conclusive evidence this would be true. Adjustment to disability is a personal situation. There are neurological, psychological, and social factors which would have to be considered and addressed. To assume happiness would follow for the entirety of individuals with visual impairments if vision loss could be corrected is false. everyone does not cope with change in the same manner.
Myth: All people who are visually impaired use dogs for travel.
Truth: In fact, nearly 3% of people with vision loss use white canes (shown in the first photo). Others may use a dog guide. Many people with visual impairments do not like having to take care of a canine (cleaning up poop, feeding, grooming costs, etc.) Dogs also must be taught routes by their owners and/or specialist who work with them on travel. Furthermore, other people are often guides for people with visual impairments. Miniature horses can also be used as guide animals. With appropriate training in travel skills, people who are visually impaired make the right choice for their specific needs.
Myth: People who are visually impaired have cognitive problems; they are not well-informed about the world.
Truth: People with visual impairments can use a variety of computer technologies, like the laptop shown at the beginning of this section, to access information. Other technologies available for individuals with visual impairments include braille displays, screen-reading software, and magnification technology. They also read books and magazines in large print, audio formats, or braille. They attend universities and earn degrees. Their option to be informed is a matter of personal choice like everyone else. With adequate opportunities and appropriate training, there is no reason for the person with a visual impairment to function successfully in society.
Myth: People who are visually impaired are lonely and isolated. They must be supervised and protected for their own safety.
Truth: People with visual impairments can be active in their communities. They enjoy recreation and participate in cultural events. They may have a great number of friends, too. They attend sport events, concerts, and movies. Usually, their level of socialization is a personal choice.
Myth: All blindness is the same.
Truth: The term “blindness” is often used loosely by the general public. Professionals use the phrase “visual impairment” to refer to a permanent loss of some or all eye sight. The phrase "visual impairment" encompasses many different types of vision loss. For example, there are people who are totally blind. some people may be color-blind. Legal blindness is also a common description of a certain type of vision loss.
Myth: People who are visually impaired have better hearing or other heightened senses.
Truth: Specialists work with individuals who have visual impairments to help them learn to give the other senses more attention. Yet, some people with visual impairments may also have hearing loss. There is a condition known as “deaf-blindness” which impacts some individuals. But on average, people who are visually impaired are just like fully sighted individuals with regard to use of their remaining functioning senses.
Myth: People who are blind do not dream.
Truth: People who have visual impairments do dream. This includes those who are totally blind. People who are totally blind tend to have dreams consisting of use of their other senses. Some individuals who lose their vision after birth still dream with vivid images much like fully-sighted people.
Myth: Children with visual impairments must be separated from other children.
Truth: Some students with visual impairments may attend a specialized residential school during the week in the United States. However, children with visual impairments do attend public schools with their peers. They receive specialized educational services. These children with vision loss are usually taught the same courses as their peers. Many of the tools they use at school will help them in adult life.
Myth: People who have visual impairments cannot work.
Truth: Individuals with visual impairments work in different fields performing a variety of jobs. They can be found in almost all areas of the labor force. They contribute as active employees. People with visual impairments can be found in professions, trades, and unskilled labor sections of the work force.
Myth: Closing your eyes is like total blindness.
Truth: Total blindness means a person has “no light perception.” Basically, a person who is totally blind cannot see anything. Depending on when the vision loss occurred, this means a person who is totally blind cannot even see or recognize “blackness.” That’s an important distinction when comparing total blindness to closing your eyes.
Myth: All blind people use Braille.
Truth: The majority of individuals with visual impairments read large print. These individuals have “low vision.” They may also use magnifiers to enlarge regular print. About 6 percent of people with visual impairments read Braille. People who have visual impairments may use audio recorded materials in conjunction with other formats to read.
How Do Misconceptions About People With Disabilities Begin?
Although there are different theories as to how people develop inaccurate views about others, cognitive approaches address how these fictional perspectives are rationalized. In short, myths begin as a lack of knowledge about a group forces the population to come to conclusions which are not based on evidence. This may lead to stereotypical beliefs, bias, or prejudice. Essentially, people strive to make sense of the world around them. Without adequate information, people fill in the gaps with questionable data.
For example, during the life time of Helen Keller (1880-1936), a common belief was people with dual-sensory impairments could not be successful. Helen Keller was blind and deaf as a result of an illness. However, she made great strives for people with disabilities. (A picture of her statue is shown.) Because of the efforts of individuals like Keller, strategies to instruct and communicate with this population evolved. Along the way, societal perceptions began to alter as well in part due to professionals working with people with disabilities and active involvement of communities.
Nevertheless, misconceptions about people with disabilities will persist. As long as there is fear, people will create stories with incorrect details to fit their worldview. New myths will emerge and others will fade into the void of ignorance. Movies and popular culture will frequently get facts wrong. For these reasons, interactions with these groups and reading texts from reliable sources is the best way to combat fiction and elevate facts.
Henderson, G., & Bryan, W. V. (2011). Psychosocial aspects of disability. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.
Holbrook, M. C., & Koenig, A. J. (2000). Foundations of education. (2nd ed.). New York: AFB Press.
This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on January 25, 2019:
As public exposure to people with disabilities has increased, a common myth that once existed has lost power in the public's perception. Now, less likely than before, the idea that individuals from a particular group are involved with every other person from that group has began to be corrected. Also, in America and many democracies, the belief that individuals who have physical and/or mental disabilities should be locked away is no longer acceptable. Education at every level is the best tool for fighting questionable tales.
Thanks for reading.