Augmented Illusions: Tapping

Alex de Jong recommends headphones for the full effect of tapping. The video is accompanied by this text:

Natural behaviour of blind people is all too often seen as deviant. Many who are are blind are told not to click, tap their canes loudly, or stomp slightly. These are all echolocation methods and are all looked down upon as making the blind seem more helpless or ungainly. The view of these instructors is that the blind need to sort of hide themselves in the seeing community to try to “fit in” without causing too many waves. Until these sorts of obstacles are removed many in the blind community may never be able to use echolocation, or even be aware of it.

My white cane has elicited some ridiculous responses in the attitudes of others, but I was shocked to learn that an orientation/mobility instructor would tell Alex not to tap and listen. It makes me grateful that I eluded the rehab system some 35 years ago. Where’s Amy Winehouse when we need her?

Thanks so much for sharing your videos, Alex. I know you will find a feast for the senses when you get back to Paris. Until then, here is a white cane story for you:

I should explain here that I have been an ad hoc cane user for years. I use the cane as an orientation and mobility too only when I need it, depending on the situation. This usually means when walking at night and traveling in unfamiliar or unpredictable environments. Some airports are familiar to me, some are not. All airports are unpredictable places, so I’m sure to use the cane to navigate through them.

Over the years I have strenuously resisted the suggestion that I should always use a white cane, if only to alert others about my visual disability. It’s a mobility tool, I reply, not a symbol, not a stigma.

It was 7:05 when an airport worker arrived with a wheelchair to take me to the shuttle bus. I politely declined the wheelchair. Then, to my amazement, he took the tapping end of my cane and proceeded to walk away, expecting me to follow him. He didn’t know it was a folding cane. I stood my ground. When he reached the furthest stretch of the elastic cord inside the cane, he turned around to see what was wrong.

“Let go,” I said. “”The cane is my tool, not yours.”

I remembered a photo that I saw years ago in Natural History magazine. In it, a child towed an old blind woman with a stick. Each of them grasped an end of the stick, which was about five feet long. They lived in a remote village in Guatemala where onchocerkiasis, a parasitic disease also known as river blindness, was endemic. A stick picked up off the ground seemed like a simple, readily achievable accommodation in that context, but it also served to maintain a safe, prophylactic distance between the guide and the guided. Read more.

Alex de Jong blogs at Augmented Illusions. The video was originally uploaded on his Flickr site, where you will find other videos and still photography.

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