What do you think the outcome will be if every child who thinks that playing baseball is fun, is told that his or her goal should be becoming a professional baseball player; or perhaps, any child who is interested in science is told that he or she will only be a success when awarded the Nobel Prize? “But no one would ever do that,” you protest. Unfortunately, it happens; and any of us may be one of the guilty parties.
Putting the issue into the “can’t see” context, all of us who can’t see have been challenged in exactly this way. If you check out the previous episodes of Blind How, you will find a few examples of me doing it to you. How? I suggest a skill you might want to add to your personal skill set, and then I do it to you. I tell you that there are people who can’t see who have mastered that particular skill. Either implicitly or sometimes explicitly, I suggest that you can and probably should develop the skill, getting as good at it as those who have mastered it.
Why would I do such a silly and maybe even cruel thing to you? Why would I imply that you will only be successful when you have mastered a particular skill? I don’t have any excuse. I realized that an hour or so ago.
My sudden insight came a few minutes after I ran into the corner of a door, banging my forehead. Yes, it was my bedroom door. Yes, it was on my mental map of my house. Yes, I knew the door was there, just where it always is. Yes, I wasn’t paying attention to where I was and where I was going. And yes, I’m pretty good at getting up and around; and I’m not quite the master of that skill as I may have led you to believe. Nonetheless, I’ll still be walking around, trying not to bump into things, even though I’m not yet a master at it.
In the last episode of Blind How, I suggested that learning Braille would likely be a useful skill for you. At least I didn’t go on to say that you should become proficient at reading and writing Braille, at the level where you are easily writing long essays and reading books. Sure, if you want to do that, go for it. I left it at suggesting that learning a little Braille can be very useful. It comes in handy for me to label this and that, to read the labels on medicine bottles or when I need to tell someone what my credit card number is, when ordering something over the phone. Mastering Braille just doesn’t interest me at this point in my life.
This is what I think the take-away is. For the most part, those of us who can’t see should consider developing those skills we need to do what we want to do, at the level sufficient to get the job done for us. For example, developing mobility skills takes some level of time, effort and commitment. But we only need to progress enough to come and go where and when we want to come and go. We probably don’t need to master mobility. There are a lot of skills we need, to do what we want to do, but we may not need to master any of them. “Good enough” is usually sufficient for our purposes.
Why am I bringing this up at this point in our journey? Think cell phones in general, and smart phones in particular. Yes, you can make phone calls on smart phones, but if that’s the only reason for having one, an old-fashion land-line phone is easier and probably cheaper. But making phone calls is not the reason why you likely should have a smart phone, if you can’t see. It’s all the other things you can do with a smart phone that makes having one so useful.
Try this. Think of ten things you want to do that not being able to see prevents or makes especially difficult. I suspect that a smart phone can help with at least seven of those things. The key here is that you don’t need to master the smart phone or become what they call a power user. You only need to have enough skill to get the smart phone to help with those things you want to do.
Since I’m not a smart phone power user, I’m not going to try to teach you how to use a smart phone, but I am going to suggest resources you may want to consider for this and other things you want to learn. In the last episode of Blind How, I included the Internet address and phone number for Hadley. Here, I’ll give you a couple of additional numbers for good learning resources.
• American Foundation for the Blind (AFB): 212-502-7600
• National Federation of the Blind (NFB): 410-659-9314
Either of these organizations will be willing to point you toward the resources and services you need to learn to do what you want to do, including using a smart phone. I will include other excellent resources for this and that as Blind How proceeds and our journey continues.