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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Challenges to activities of daily living

I am working on a project at my university to design an assistive device for the blind. I was wondering what some of the challenges are to daily activities in the blind community and if there are any needs in particular that could be met with a new design?

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excellent invention

The following builds on SmartPhone technology and will allow me to get through airports without sighted assistance.

we can change the world

If you say "blind people" rather than "the blind" we change from being objects to being human just like you, except we can't see.
We become individuals with personalities rather than projects or amazing outsiders for whom you can design products. We stop being experiments for your science class and become people. I know this is uncomfortable for sighted folks to read. It is meant to be. I want you to "look", really look at yourself and at fellow disabled human beings and join us in changing the world. It is far more uncomfortable than that science project where u invent something to make my life easier. I am asking you to feel, engage your heart as well as your scientific capability.
There are subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which sighted folks keep clear of us.
This may be true for all folks with disability. I don't know. I can only speak from my own experience.
I an obviously blind. No way can I fake seeing some. I was that way as a child. So, other children immediately "saw" me as different. I won't go through the litany of school bullying, sitting by myself in the cafeteria and later no dates, no friends.
I learned to be successful and learned to be alone, very alone.
So, if you really want to do some good in the world, please seek out the disabled students going to your university and get to know them. They are amazing people. They are creative people. They are courageous but you already know that. But being courageous tends to put the person on display. "See how well she does" is just a step away from "See what cute tricks my pet monkey can do. He is so clever. He is almost human." We disabled folks have been "almost human" for too long.
With all of the technology improvements during the past forty years, our lives have become much easier.
But people still don't hire us. The unemployment rate is fifty percent for blind people and has been that way since the 1970s despite the introduction of computers we can use.
All the technology in the world can't change this. It takes social change. It takes one to one courage on the part of sighted people who are willing to get to know us as friends, and do the things friends do together. We job just like some of you do. We swim. We go to concerts and are musicians. We eat out at restaurants and in your college cafeterias. And we do many of those things alone.
People stare at us, admire us but rarely socialize with us. We don't make eye contact with you, wave at you from across the street or smile at you across the room.
Sighted men have told blind women friends of mine that they would be embarrassed to date a blind woman. "People might see us and think that was the best I could do."
Apparently, there are a whole group of amazing people sighted people are embarrassed to be seen with.
Who would date a person who is blind and uses a cane or partners with a guide dog? Who would date a person with an obvious physical disability when you could go out with somebody who "isn't deformed?"
Who would have the courage to get to know that person? It might be hard. So much easier not to sit at her table at lunch. If you walk past me and don't say anything, I won't smile at you and wave you over to a seat by me. You won't have to see me as a person.
The fact that the disabled person is bright, funny, and interesting isn't as important as the obvious physical disability.
Forty years on, and it is still happening. We can all change the world together if we want to.
Inventing something is easy. Changing the world takes real courage. How many sighted people do you know who have the courage to be friends with a blind person?

Re: Challenges to activities of daily living

Professors seem to love giving out this assignment. It certainly shows up a lot as a question on these message boards. Good students need to do good research. So, please check out product catalogs from organizations such as ls&s and Independent Living Aids. These catalogs will do several things for you. First, they will give you an idea of the kinds of products which already exist and which people find useful. Next, knowing about what already exists prevents you from re-inventing the wheel. Also, research into what is already available may give you ideas. Making home appliances accessible may be something you want to investigate. For example, Whirlpool has raised circles on some models of dstoves and microwave ovens which make it possible for blind people to use flat Touch Panels. Other appliances may possibly be controllable using IOS technology since VoiceOver works well for blind people using Apple products. Hope these ideas help. Up-front research into what is already on the market and into what is really useful will pay off and save you and others from spinning your wheels unnecessarily. If you do have additional questions, the catalogs may give you an idea of what life is like for blind and low vision folks. Certainly come back to these message boards if you have further questions and folks will answer you.

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