By Andrea Scarpino
I’m a pretty big fan of the Planet of the Blind blog, and include my correspondent status in my bio for readings and poem publications. In the past year that I’ve been blogging, I’ve had many people comment and ask questions about it. One person introducing me said, “I can barely read my own handwriting; I feel like I’m on the planet of the blind right now!” Another introducer had gone to the website and added some kind comments about its content.
But this weekend, my introducer riffed a bit about blindness, said that having a blog about blindness seemed a little counterintuitive. “I mean, how could the blind people read it?” he asked. Then he inexplicably said something about pornography for blind people and called me to the stage to read my poems. It was a fundraising event, and didn’t seem like the time for a lecture on assistive technology or the ways in which culture creates disability. It was supposed to be a good time, with drinks being sold at the bar, music, glamorously dressed audience members.
So when I got to the microphone, I told about the time I bought a copy of an old Playboy magazine written in Braille for $5 at the Cincinnati Public Library, how “porn is written for everyone.” Even though I can’t read Braille, I loved having the thick magazine in my apartment, loved bringing it to class to discuss with my students. Then I read my poems about death and grieving and left the stage for another reader.
But that moment sits uneasily. I believe in teachable moments, but I can’t tell if that was one: a bar with drinks being served, music in the background. I looked for my introducer after the fundraiser wrapped up to speak to him privately, but couldn’t find him anywhere. What I would have liked to say to him is that there’s a difference between physical biological limits and being seen as a having a disability, that his ignorance to the fact that people who are blind are able to surf the internet demonstrates our low disability IQ, that in truth, almost every one of us will experience some sort of disability at some point in our lives. That joking about how a person who is blind couldn’t possibly surf the internet isn’t even much of a joke, doesn’t even have much of a punch line.
Instead, I’m left preaching to the choir. I’ll play triangle. Steve, you sing baritone?
Andrea Scarpino is the west coast Bureau Chief of POTB. You can visit her at: