A British theater company is performing a staged version of Jose Saramago’s novel “Blindness” as a special pandemic event. The novel is built from the premise that a mysterious virus has blinded the world’s entire population. The book trades on all the worst ideas about disability in general and blindness in particular. Non-disabled people often believe that proximity to the disabled will in fact harm them.
Am I disgusted? You bet. Surprise? Not so much. Ableist tropes are everywhere in popular culture.
Yes, the audience will wear blind folds.
I wrote to a friend this morning and said I now understand I’ll go to my grave having failed to see progress where disability employed as a demeaning metaphor is concerned.
I truly believed when the ADA was passed some thirty years ago we’d be further along by now.
Blindness lends itself to a host of cultural significations–lack of knowledge or knowledgeability; a figure for unreason or rage; lack of affect; to be bereft of intelligence.
I once had a cab driver in New York City tell me that I was obviously the victim of a dark spell.
Not long ago a faculty colleague at Syracuse University called me an ignoramus because I told him his behavior toward me in was essentially ableist. Of course I’m ignorant. All blind people are of lesser intellectual capacity.
Don’t stand next to them. You might get it too.