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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Young Author Eagerly Seeking Help

Dear AFB Members,
I am a young author currently plotting a fantasy book series for young adults. In this series, the main character's husband, Jason, is completely blind from a curse (he was sixteen when he lost his sight). However, as I currently do not know any visually impaired people, I cannot be for sure that I am portraying a blind person realistically. I would hate to present this character in a false/inappropriate way, and have been reading many blogs and stories attempting to get a realistic grasp on what it is like to be blind, how to live independently (or as much so as possible), and how to interact with a blind person. For instance, the most common misconception I have run into so far that I have been led to believe is false (please correct me if I am wrong) is that running their hands over someone’s face does not help the blind person “see”. I first ran into this in one of Anne McCaffery’s Dragonriders of Pern books, Dragon Fire. The character in this book was also completely blind (born that way), and had elevated senses (another false fact, yes?).

I want Jason to be believable, to anyone reading the books. But Jason himself won’t be enough, if his wife cannot interact with him correctly, as well as his environment.
So if you have a moment to spare, and if you don’t mind, could you please help me with the following questions I have not been able to answer?

~ Is there anything I should be considerate of when writing about a blind person? I would hate to offend anyone, visually impaired or not, or present false facts about blindness.
~ What habits may Jason form? I’ve heard that some completely blind people have something called “non-24-hour sleep wake disorder” or “non-24”. Could this affect Jason?
~ Is a cane handy inside of a house when he’s lived there for decades, or should it primarily be used for unfamiliar or new environments?
~ Is there any books or blogs or stories out there that would help me understand what it would be like to go blind after leading a very active life (somehow I don’t think it’s a good idea for Jason to go jumping hot-headed horses and hunting boars anymore)? Anything would help, and I’m willing to take the time to learn.
~ What considerations should his wife, Irene, keep in mind, or habits that she should form to help Jason?
~ Jason can play many instruments, such as piano, flute, and harp. He composes his own music. While he could have a scribe to write down his music for him (that way he won’t forget his compositions, and can sell them for money), I would prefer if he could be able to do it himself, as Jason attempts to live as independently as possible. Would embossing paper work? For instance, the paper would have raised lines, the staff, on it for the notes to be placed upon. Then, with an embossing pen, Jason could press music notations into the lines, creating raised notes for him to read and refer back to.
~ What other activities could Jason do easily that do not involve modern technology (their technology is based upon Renaissance technology, aka the 15th century)? I thought about knitting, but upon learning, and talking to others (granted, they were not blind or visually impaired, but at least they’ve been knitting for decades, not a few weeks), I’m not entirely sure if a completely blind person can knit easily. Could he? My mother says that crocheting might be easier, but I haven’t tried that yet. In light of this, I’m on the hunt for other indoor and outdoor activities he can do besides play music.
~ What environment considerations should I keep in mind when designing his apartment? He lives in the same place for several decades, so he will be able to learn the layout and move with certainty on where things are. For instance, should I prevent the place from having too many sharp corners, or will that not be a problem? I am a very clumsy person and ram myself into sharp corners all the time, so I mean not to offend. I just want to make sure Jason doesn’t accidentally get placed into an environment that could potentially injure him, or make his life harder than it needs to be. I’m also attempting to keep everything in the same place by tracing the bottom of objects on the floor and tables. For instance, in order to keep a table in the exact same place, Irene (his wife) could take a paint brush and trace around each of the table’s legs. That way, if the table is ever accidentally moved, it can be placed in the exact same place. For many objects that are sitting upon, say, the table, the painted rings could have numbers inside them, in case the objects are alike in size and shape. The objects themselves could have the numbers painted on the bottom. After all, no one wants to mistake the salt for the sugar just because they have the same shaped jars but swapped places! His wife can make sure that everything lines up with their tracings, that way Jason can always find what he is looking for and never bump into anything.
~ Keeping in mind that their technology is 15th century based, fire is used as a heating and cooking element. What safety considerations should Jason and Irene keep in mind? For instance, would fireplace screens be a good idea, that way he doesn’t accidentally stumble into the fire?
~ Is there anything else I missed?

Please, I invite critiques and questions! If I’ve messed up on something, I need to know! I know that Jason is only a fictional character, but I want him to be as lifelike as possible. That means treating him like a real person with real problems in a real environment. In a couple of months I will be moving to college, and I’m going to see if there is a club or organization I can get involved with. While the Internet is good, face-to-face interaction is the best way to learn, as well as a great way to make new friends! But until then, I hope you don’t mind me asking questions and reading all of the message boards!
Thank you for all of your help,
Hope you have an awesome day,

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crafts and pre-industrial societies

Lots of people have learned to knit and crochet when they have had no vision and have created very intricate sweaters, afghans and so forth. But if your character is a skilled musician and a bard with a good memory, the richer sort will support him without his writing down his music. Paper is inexpensive in pre-industrialized societies and so books are expensive since they are hand-copied. Moveable type is heading toward industrialization. Few people may be literate. They don't need to be. They barter with little coinage ever showing up. Lots of skilled musicians never learned to read or write music and they could see.

Re: Young Author Eagerly Seeking Help

Being a writer myself just for fun I also collect BJD's (ball Jointed dolls) that i have created for my characters I am visually impaired and have a visually impaired character. I think part of being a good writer is understanding that not all visually impaired, low vision, blind people are the same. Some of us have other issues as well that play into our personalty and what works for us or doesn't.

authors have the power to change the world

If you portray going blind as a "curse" you will be buying into one of the major stereotypes of Fundamentalist Christians. They come up to us on the street and offer to pray for us, to release us from God's curse and free us from either our sins or those of our parents. They say we are blind because we do not accept Christ as Our Savior.
"You are blind because : your mother sinnned, your father sinned, both your mother and father sinned, you sinned."
So let's stop with the blindness being brought on by a curse, shall we?
You will benefit the real life blind people who are harrassed by Fundamentalist Christians, grabbed by them "We are laying on of hands to heal you" in the middle of busy traffic and so forth. This kind of stereotype actually injurs people. It says, you are cursed with an affliction which makes you less than I am who is not cursed because I am not disabled. As a writer, you have power. Please use it to assist folks in waking up spiritually.
If you want to create a blind character, that is another thing altogether. We can help you create a believable fictional blind character if you like.
Please think seriously about the kinds of insidious ideas fiction and games can pass along to a whole new generation.
If I am cursed, I can be bullied by teens in my school as a way of doing God's will and punishing me.
Please please do something valuable with your fiction and your characters by ending the cycle of psychological and physical violence against us "cursed" blind people by you so called "normal" "non-disabled" folks.
Here are some good resources for you writers who want to include a blind character
in your fiction. Please notice how different the people in these autobiographies
are from one another. They have different personalities, different interests in life
and live in time periods which influence who they are just as the culture of different
time periods influence their sighted peers.

You fantasize about multiple realities. Your blind character has experienced at least two -- vision and no visual input. So though he thought he was cursed, he is now more aware. He probably also notices how people reacted to him before and after he had vision.
Blindness may make him a more powerful character, not in the fantasy sense where he has superhuman powers but in the sense that he has to be more capable so he can live well in a world not set up for people without vision.
You probably will find it hard to resist having him drive. They did that in movies 15 years ago and now with Google Car I suppose it will happen some time.
You may also find these links to previous messages thought-provoking.

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