A week or so ago, a friend of mine sent me these two complaint letters from a group of blind people who call themselves the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians. One was complaining about the commercials that the CNIB put out that say “not everyone who looks blind is totally blind. 90% of the people we assist have some vision.” and show either a woman using a white cane and ogling a construction worker who takes off his shirt or a boy waving his hand in front of a dude with a cane and then getting a shock when the dude waves back. The other complaint letter was in reference to a proposal to have a channel which would have an audio description of all its programming instead of people needing to press the sap button to turn it on.
When I first received the letters, I couldn’t bring myself to read them. I was already mad. I love the fact that these advocacy groups exist, when they advocate for reasonable things. Some of them are very extreme and they’re the ones that get attention. Usually, they try and say they speak for all of us, which they obviously do not. They claim that their way is the only way to do things, and refuse to believe that everyone does things differently. Somewhere in the US, I forget where and wouldn’t even know where to begin to google such a thing, there was a proposal to put audible signals, the chirpy cuckoo things, at every traffic light. I figure hell, if that’s what they want to do, and they can do it, go ahead. That wasn’t the stance of the NFB, National Federation of the Blind. They decided to stand out there protesting, saying that this reflected a feeling that we couldn’t cross the streets on our own. Only in your opinion, buddy. People who can see don’t have to follow traffic patterns. They watch for the little white man with the walk sign. This is just the same. But they stood out there making a scene, saying that none of us wanted this. Hey dude, if you don’t want it, there’s a simple solution, don’t push the button! What if your mom just went blind and hadn’t mastered listening for traffic and the audible signal made her feel safer crossing streets? Sure, I think you should learn how to listen in case the chirpy cuckoo thing breaks, but if a city wants to put the signal in, for god’s sake let them!
This isn’t the only time the actions of theNFB have pissed me off. They have training centres across the states, and I’ve heard more than a few rumbling rumours that if people come there with guide dogs, their dogs are shunned because they are looked down upon. They are forced to be separated from their dogs and train with a cane! Um, excuse me? If you got a dog and went to a decent school, it’s because you were good with a cane. This is a pile of bullshit.
So, it was with more than a little bit of dread that I read these letters to see what they had to say. I was going to slow-roast them here, in that light. But now that I’ve read them, I’m more torn than ever.
Let’s start with the CNIB commercials. Ok, I’ll admit when I first saw the commercial, I was offended. I thought, “So what are the totally blind clients? Chopped liver? Do we not matter? Is it more important to have vision and be served by the CNIB than to be totally blind?” I already felt like a lot of the products sold by the CNIB required you to have vision to use them even though they claimed to talk.
But then someone told me what the commercials were like, and I laughed! I thought it was great that the tables got turned on the kid who waved his hands in the face of the dude at the bus stop. People get so confused about blindness. They think we live in a world of blackness, and they can’t understand that there are degrees. Some of us see light, some of us see light and shadows, some of us can see better at night but worse in the day, some have the reverse problem, some can see objects but don’t ask them to read a sign, some of us need large print, and up it goes.
When I asked someone at CNIB about it, they said it was because they were hearing that people who had some vision loss felt they couldn’t approach the CNIB because they weren’t blind yet. So these commercials were trying to make them feel there was a place for them.
So I thought, great! The commercials are jokingly saying, we’re not all totally
blind. I thought that, as a side benefit, maybe it would stop the staring that goes on every day. To the people who stare and gawk, don’t think I don’t know. Sometimes I’m with friends who either stare back or tell me what’s going on. So I thought maybe these commercials might make people think twice about staring at me like I’m some kind of circus act.
But the letter objecting to the commercials is claiming the opposite is happening to them. People are actually getting stopped on the street and told that the person stopping them on the street has seen the commercials, and now they know the truth, that the blind person really can see and is just pretending. Some kid tried to mimic the commercial, and unfortunately got a nasty surprise when the blind guy grabbed his hand and told him to stop it. So people are actually noticing an increase in bullshit because of these commercials. Part of me thinks the people doing the harassing would have found another reason to do it anyway. Dicks are dicks, and one commercial isn’t going to cause a transformation from decent guy to super dick. But it sucks if it’s contributing to crap. I’ve never had anything weird like that happen, but maybe I’m just lucky.
Another claim made by the complaining group is that if the CNIB is trying to make it clear that they have services available to people who have some vision, why aren’t they mentioned. Ok, obviously these people haven’t worked in advertising. Neither have I, but I know that if you spent a whole commercial just listing services, you’d get the attention of exactly no one.
Their last claim is that the white cane will lose its effectiveness as an indicator of low vision because people will think of the commercial and think the person using the cane can see anyway. If people do, they’re stupid. It says right in the comercial, *some* vision. Already, some people have no regard for the white cane, or for the pedestrian for that matter. Steve’s cane that got turned into a pretzle at a street corner is a testament to that. I don’t think the commercial will change the minds of anyone with, well, half a functioning brain. And the rest are already stupid.
And then there was the other letter that got sent about the audio description being added to a channel. They’re claiming that adding it to only one channel promotes segregation, and it should be automatically on on every channel. Ok, whatever.
First off, I don’t think your average TV-watcher wants to have what they’re seeing described audibly, the same way they’d be irritated if everything they were hearing was automatically scrolled across the screen as if they were deaf. Description is becoming available more and more through the TV’s secondary audio program, you just have to push a few buttons, and if the description is that important to you, you’ll figure out the buttons you have to press.
Second, just adding it to one channel is going to cost approximately $25 a year. Are these people actually thinking we can all afford $25 per channel that exists? That’s a lot of dough!
The point of this channel is it’s a neat idea, having it on automatically. If you go to it, you know you’re going to get description. But it would be ridiculous to have it on everywhere. You would piss off more people than you would help, and why do that when the SAP option is perfectly available on most TV’s?
Ug complaint letters. Somehow I feel like this post has gotten away from me. I don’t know how to feel about the first one. I think it’s over the top, but if this commercial campaign is actually causing problems, then the CNIB should know about it. The second one is just ridiculous. What they’re asking for is never going to happen and they look like whining babies.