Technologies for the autonomy of the blind: when the disable person becomes homo technologicus

Monday March 15th, 2021

On his website and personal blog, Giuseppe di Grande made an interesting roundup of the “bullshit”, as he defines it, that students, companies and startups have invented in recent years for the blind.

Here is his interesting introduction, taken from his website.

They can, and they do. Sometimes they are happy to get five minutes of limelight with an article in a newspaper, others aim for funding to give themselves a job in the name of solidarity with those who do not see and need, according to them, yet another technological device that gives them “autonomy”.

It is the group of innovators dazzled by the visual impairment, who want at all costs to allow the blind to see. And so they invent the impossible, odd objects and solutions that listed all at once, draw a grotesque picture of the blind person dressed in glasses, shoes, hats, helmets, bracelets, necklaces, rings, vibrating bands …
I swear I have not found all the technological “innovations” and “primogeniture” that I have read during my life as a blind man, because there are still so many missing, such as bandanas and vibrating girdles.
What I present to you is an exhibition of horrors. Sometimes developed of their own spontaneous “creativity”, others with the complicity of the blind themselves, the wearable and less wearable innovations that I exhibit, after the initial sense of bewilderment, arouse bitter hilarity.
But it does not last long, because then indignation takes over; the piety with which these “good works” are stuffed penetrates the skin and metaphorically affects the vital organs, because it is understood that once again they have been exploited.
Maybe the protagonists of these stories really believe in it, but the fact remains that we are faced with the classic “banality of evil”, that is, a complete unawareness of what their actions mean and what destructive effects they can have for the people who indirectly suffer them.
Those that I present to you (at his website) are only part of the meteors that in the last ten years have darted into the sky of visual impairment. I remember others, but Google did not allow me to find them.

I have omitted the most common devices and apps, which have made little news or which have gone almost unnoticed, or other industry flops that have hammered the gonads of the blind for months, and then disappeared into thin air.
I have left alone, in a manner of speaking, those sensationalist inventions, those that have struck the naive soul of journalists and readers who are easy to be moved. The visual impairment sector, however, is studded with these inventions. There have been in the seventies, eighties, nineties, two thousand. The older blind people certainly remember all the miraculous discoveries of some savior lent to the world of disability for a short time, fortunately; fake inventions developed in good or bad faith. However, the results of such actions converge towards a single attitude: the arrogance and ignorance, overt or hidden, of some people who presumptuously believe they are innovators of the life of a group of people who try every day to extricate themselves from all sorts of barriers. physical, mental, cultural.

Perhaps I have also become cynical because of all the tearful news I have read in recent years, which have fallen on blind people without even asking them for their opinion. My feeling is common to that of other blind people. The fact is that now I smell the bullshit starting from the title: it’s just a matter of survival.
It is unfortunate when the blind ones are the promoters of these initiatives. Compassionate is when students are exploited to commit in the wrong way towards disability: instead of training them to offer them a model of cooperation between disabled and non-disabled people, as it should be, we take the simpler path of assistance. I should go around it, I shouldn’t use such direct words, I know, so as not to antagonize disabled and non-disabled people. Because as in the classic Stockholm Syndrome, sometimes it is the blind themselves who are enthusiastic about these exploitation, those blind people who, instead of reacting and participating in the development of ideas, feel inferior to the rest of the world, compared to that mass of capable individuals. to tear them to pieces with the ravenous rhetoric of pietas towards the weakest. At least there was only one blind man who had found a job thanks to the funding of one of these “innovative projects”!

I am more and more convinced that to avoid all this it is necessary that the visually impaired take their own life in hand, that they are the creators together with others of the tools and technologies; without waiting for others to build technology and tools for them, precisely because those who do not live with disabilities will never be able to build something to improve their quality of life.

Instead of simply asking for rights and chasing the accessibility of the technologies of the day, the visually impaired people should begin to demand the duty to be active participants in the technological and social construction of the world. Rather than being the excluded recipients of a good or a service, being the included producers of the good and the service. Rather than being the passive recipients of the welfare actions of others, being active participants in the construction and shaping of everyone’s future. Only in this way will there be tomorrow a world also suitable for the disabled people.

Certainly, beyond the list itself, Giuseppe is right when he says c that the visually impaired should claim the duty to be active participants in the technological and social construction of the world, as we (NoisyVision) always say too. Inclusion is not done in one sense only, but together and must start from planning, from ideas. Otherwise we risk letting inventors use us as guinea pigs to transform us into technological men, loaded with vibrating devices, talking glasses, jumping rings. Why instead of imagining objects and solutions to overcome vision problems, one does not ask oneself first: would I use it?
Maybe the answer could be: no, but the blind man already has to use the cane, he might as well put on the helmet I invented.
The blind sometimes find it hard to accept the white cane, which is now an object that only serves for mobility but also for identification and signaling. So before putting on a helmet it should be made sure that the helmet was recognized and identified as a helmet for the blind. In short, it took 100 years for the white cane to be recognized, so before introducing another object that not only helps in navigation but allows the persone to alert “be careful, I can’t see you” it would take a good communicator or a stroke of genius. Or maybe one day we will all be like Robocop, clothed in technology and then everyone will have the vibration and information they need.

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