Skip to Content

AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Concerning Literature and Language

Hello all,

Since high school, I’ve had the desire to pen a fictional narrative featuring a blind protagonist. I am, however, at a distinct disadvantage in this regards as I happen to be sighted. Thankfully, in the interim years, the internet came into its own and I now have the luxury of visiting blogs reviewing depictions of blindness and blind characters in literature and eavesdropping on related message boards. Although I intend to continue my own investigation with my good buddy Google, I would greatly appreciate input from members of the AFB. My apologies if this is a repeat; I didn’t find a pre-existing related thread. My main areas of curiosity are:

1) What pitfalls, subtle faux pas, or just plain overused tropes do you find in literature featuring a blind character?

2) Are there any particular fictional narratives that you think portray visually impaired character(s) extremely well?

3) What are your thoughts regarding a sighted author penning a blind character?

4) What turns of phrase would you most like the general public to drop?

While I’d like to think that I’m cognizant of the most blatantly visual biased phraseology, there are other less obvious preferences that I would not have intuited prior to reading certain blogs. For example, I did not previously think that describing a person with a disability and their accomplishments as ‘inspiring’ was offensive.

There are currently 6 replies

Sort Replies Oldest to Newest

Re: Concerning Literature and Language

Thank you so much, jadwiga, for the recommendation and I most definitely look forward to any future suggestions. I prefer to read something that doesn't sugar coat the situation even if it does make me squirm. That sensation is nothing new to me. I have a penchant for making a bit of a fool of myself right out of the gates. So, I greatly appreciate your patience and thank you again.

resources for your research into people with disabilities

You certainly can choose to write about a blind person rather than writing about somebody like your frend who also has a disability. You will give up the valuable asset of running your fiction about her disability past her. If you want some cultural information, here is one book. I will list more biographies and autobiographies in later posts. You really need to read things blind people write about themselves rather than things others write about us if you want to get a certain kind of knowledge. It may be more uncomfortable for you to read such material, since it is not filtered through the experience of the larger society in the same way.
Images of Blind and Visually Impaired People in the Movies, 1913-1985: An Annotated Filmography with Notes
Diane Wolfe
Wendy Erickson
Listed in this book are the titles and other information about movies that include characters who are blind or visually impaired.

Re: Concerning Literature and Language

Hello again,

Thank you for your replies. I most certainly understand why someone with a disability would not care to be described as 'inspiring' when they're just making the most out of life as anyone might. I'd just not thought of it previously. I mentioned it in my initial post as an example of how I'm still in the learning process and admittedly have a ways to go: hence my request.

It is true that I don't know anyone who is blind. My motivation for writing about a blind character stems from my observations of peoples' reactions towards individuals with disabilities and in particular, observing people around my best friend who has cerebral palsy. Whether its books, music or movies, what people consume as entertainment has a great capacity to influence their outlook and there is a general deficit of characters with a disability. In specific, I can only think of a few where a disabled character is shown as a successful, integrated member of a more diverse team or society. If the public at large encountered more novels or video games that featured such a character, I would hope and expect the frequency of nervous stuttering and side comments, or even those whispers of 'inspiring', would dwindle.

being inspiring because I am blind

Here is somebody else's thoughts on being inspireing and being blind. I agree, by the way.


Some blind people may be a bit creeped out at the idea of your being on blindness related message boards so that you can study them. Some people dislike the idea of being "inspiring" because it feels sort of creepy to them. You as sighted person are observing the blind person and being inspired. Sort of feels like being in a zoo doing cute animal tricks. Performing seals can be amazing too. Is that different from inspiring?

writing about what you know

Please consider your motivation when writing about an experience you know nothing about. You do not apparently know anybody who is blind. Please ask yourself where the idea came from. You may want to read this comment from another person who reads these message boards about writing and blind people.

Log in to Post a Reply