Today’s post is going to be a little more different to the usual posts you see from me, but it is going to show me being 100% honest about a subject which over the past few weeks, since the start of this month has flooded my Facebook newsfeed and my email inbox. VI bloggers big and small have all being giving their thoughts and ironing out the misconceptions caused by Bird box. The movie which stars Sandra Bullock and features people being blindfolded to hide from a creature and therefore do some pretty dangerous daily tasks which could really put their lives at risk.
A brief overview
The whole idea of the challenge was started by the Netflix film Bird box. For those who are not aware of the film, in summary, it is about some people who cannot leave their homes unless they are blindfolded. They have to navigate through a forest to find their way to safety. If they look at the monsters around them they would be made to do bad things. Just that description alone has discouraged me from seeing the film for myself. Creatures and monsters are not my thing, and neither is the whole idea of the film.
The film began the social media craze, the Bird Box challenge. Youtube alone must feature at least 100 different videos of people completing dangerous tasks such as driving, crossing a road, or using an escalator blindfolded, and that’s Youtube alone, bring Facebook, Twitter, Instragram and other social platforms into the mix and the world has gone mad about something which creates yet more steriotypes about life with a visual impairment.
So what’s the big deal?
No wonder people have been told to not try the challenge. I must have seen at least 6 visually impaired bloggers all sharing their thoughts, and I was not surprised to see a pattern. I never saw a blog post from anyone who agreed with the challenge, although each blogger gave their personal thoughts on the subject everyone was passing on one message: the Bird Box challenge does not give a true representation of how a visually impaired person goes through life. Only a small percentage of the visually impaired are completely with no vision. Blindfolding someone so they see nothing is not actually reflecting the wide spectrum of eye conditions. Most visually impaired people have at least a little vision, and that could be as little as being able to see the difference between light and dark. Most of us, from a very young age, go through very intensive training to learn about strategies to live independently and most of all, as safely as possible. We are taught to use mobility aids such as a white cane or a guide dog, so crossing the road blindfolded like some people have been doing online is the the complete opposite of how we are taught. We have specific ways of doing daily tasks which, unless you are taught you are unlikely to know. Nobody who has, or is thinking of trying the challenge is likely to have a single clue about any of the training we receive, so of course you’ll find every thing extremely hard because you have little to no idea about how we adapt ever day. You are therefore going to think that we can’t do anything for ourselves, that we’re a bunch of helpless people who can’t even be left on their own for a few seconds, and when you come across someone like us in the street you’ll wonder how to approach that poor blind person about to cross the road. For years there have been plenty of misconceptions about blindness because of films, and Bird box is yet another spreader of the same. Doing the Bird box challenge will not help you learn about sight loss, it is instead going to put you in danger with no positive outcome.
So what can you do instead?
Rather than putting yourself in danger, why not use some different ways which are both sensible and will actually help you gain an understanding of visual impairment?
The first and probably most obvious way is to ask the people who know and live with it. I am someone who strongly encourages discussion and accepts questions about anything you might want to know about us. I am not going to be offended one little bit if you ask me any question about being visually impaired, instead, I will feel happy that you have gained the right information as opposed to walking around with the wrong perception about people like me.
Another way you could learn about different eye conditions is to attend events run by local charities for the visually impaired. There, you can try sim-specs, glasses which are made in such ways as to simulate different conditions such as glaucoma, diabetes and others. If you work for a company or you run a company, or if you have a business of your own where you might come across visually impaired clients, such charities could offer visual impairment awareness training, this is a course which, again, uses sim-specs and other equipment to help educate people about what it is like to be visually impaired, and sometimes you are able to try out simple tasks as if you were with the condition under the supervision of a qualified trainer.
Another way which you could try either at home or with friends is to watch a film with audio description. You don’t have to put on a blindfold, most places such as Netflix offer audio description for most shows and movies, and as visually impaired people we encourage this.
So there you have it, my thoughts on the Bird box challenge and some alternatives to it. My question to you the reader is, what is that burning question you just have to ask but you wouldn’t dare get out there and ask?