Blind Like Me
Updated on November 21, 2005, 10:06 PM - Written by Tim Buttner
For a day, competing with my daily and mediocre schedule, I chose to take on the task of being blind and discover the effects it had on my view of life. To accomplish such a task I asked my teachers if it was okay with them for me to conduct this experiment in and during their class. I chose a day where it did not require the use of a computer because that would be anti-productive of my plans. The teachers on that day agreed to the circumstances in which I could be blind and the experiment began.
To accomplish the simple feat of making myself blind, I took a pair of ski goggles and placed paper towels inside the lenses, checking to make sure that nothing peeked through except for light, counting in the fact that not all blind people see only blackness. I fixed the goggles over my eyes for a test run and it worked; I was unofficially blind. I decided that the next day I would also not where my contacts but instead my glasses. When I had the goggles on, I removed my glasses and was practically blind even more.
The next day I drove to school without the goggles over my eyes, or else that would be reckless driving, and for which I could serve some time in the joint for endangerment to the life of others. Nonetheless, I arrived at school approximately at 0715 hours, forty-five minutes before school was to begin. I decided to take the extra time to finish the hot chocolate I had purchased on my way to school, and to get a bit of breakfast; I knew that while I was blind I was not going to get any food considering I loathe the school food. I entered into Ms. Chiefsky's room (a teacher who has been kind enough to let her students loiter or have meetings in her room before school), went to the cafeteria quickly, and returned. I then had a senior committee meeting, which I could have done without sight, but was too lazy to begin at that time.
The meeting ended, so I headed off to the senior lounge. There, at about ten before eight, I put on the goggles that would remain over my eyes for another seven hours. As I stated before I could see a white light through the paper towel, but could see nothing else. Because I had removed my glasses as well, there was no possibility for me to cheat. I chose to close my eyes and take in my new surroundings.
I took the time to get acquainted with this new world, but barely needed to. I found it peaceful, like a meditation in the forest. I heard the sounds that I normally could hear when I quieted my mind and focused on the world about me. I found that this was almost not a wholly new experience, considering the time I have spent meditating most of my life. It was time to take it to a new level…
I walked to the room where I have my independent study in film history: Mrs. Tarleton's. I found navigating to be not too difficult, I had spent my years at Woodstock Union High creating a mental map of this school. When I walked normally I had my hand against the wall and had memorized each brick, nook, and cranny. I walked down the center of the hallway, to create a larger challenge. I had no sense of balance because I had no visual field to run on. No matter, I knew where I was still.
The first hall is a long one and usually when I navigate it, it is at a brisk pace, barely ever counting my steps. I did not truly know when that first hall ended to turn into the Middle School atrium, but lucky for me I could ask some passersby what the distance was to the stairs, and if I needed to adjust to the right or left. They graciously helped. I made it up the stairs easily.
The atrium space in front of the counseling office is rather intimidating if you have no clue where you are going, but I, I had a purpose and a familiarity as to where to go. I knew exactly when to turn to meet the hallway to half middle school classrooms and half high school classrooms. The next part was a cakewalk. I walked the rest of the way precisely to where Mrs. Tarleton's room lay and turned precisely in through the door. I did so on a basis of mental memory and hearing. I mentally knew the distance I needed to travel, and I mentally could see where I was headed. Not to mention the fact that I could hear into each classroom and decipher which I was passing.
After I held attendance in my independent study, and got my assignment, I got up to leave. I ran into a few chairs, and the trashcan on my ay towards the door, but to me that was nothing if significance. When I walked out the door however, I walked right into the lockers that line the wall opposite the door. I smiled and readjusted myself. I was absolutely fine, though Mrs. Tarleton did ask, "Tim, are you okay?"
All I could to respond was, "Absolutely." And continue on my trek back to the senior lounge. It was easy getting back to the atrium near the counseling office. There I decided because there was no one around to tell me where the stairs were, I approached the elevator. I took that down with no difficulty. Getting out though I walked into the Middle School office instead of through the French doors that lead into the High School main hallway. I apologized and readjusted where I was going. I made it back down the hallway with little difficulty, save for walking into a few lockers by mistake. It all didn't matter to me; I found the experience very peaceful and calming.
I arrived at the senior lounge where my fellow seniors were. I asked, "Where is there an open chair?" They told me and based on my motion memory and visual memory went precisely to that chair. I sat there listening and engaging in conversations, as though everything were normal, because to me they were. Time passed as it normally does and before I knew it I had to get to advisory.
I walked to advisory without the aid of anyone; it was in the same direction as Mrs. Tarleton's room, though I did have trouble with bumping into people. They patted me on the back and redirected me in the right direction and I thanked them. I made it up the stairs with no trouble again, and found my advisory instantly.
At advisory some underclassman asked me how the experience was going and I told that I was "…finding it to be very peaceful and fun." They were also very interested in the fact that I was navigating the school by myself.
They asked me, "Aren't you finding it difficult?"
I smiled and alleged, "Well, I have created a mental map of this school." I could hear them laughing and I could tell that they were shaking their heads in disbelief. I left early to make my way back to Mrs. Tarleton's room for Psych class. I made it there without too much trouble. I walked into the door when trying to enter the room, but I remained undeterred that I was still fine.
In class, Mrs. Tarleton asked those who were blind in class about how they were feeling about their experiences. When she got to me I told her, and the class, what I had told everyone else. She asked if I was having anyone lead me around. When I responded, "No." she said to me that I should at least have someone watching over me. So, for the next class, while traveling to it, I had someone watching over me and making sure I was safe.
Later, she offered candy to the class for a price, because she was conducting a fundraiser for a trip. I bought a Crunch bar. Someone commented, with some surprise, "You are navigating very well!" And I was. It might come from the fact that I was practically blind from having to wear glasses and contacts. My eyesight is very poor, so when I navigate my house without my contacts in or glasses on it is as though I were blind.
In class we listened to Mrs. Tarleton describe a project we will be undertaking and we watched a movie. For the movie I really only listened and used my imagination. What else could I have done? I didn't mind listening and not seeing the movie; I knew that I could see it anytime. For the rest of class we were to work on our projects that she had assigned, but because I could not see, I did nothing. Well, I did socialize with my fellow classmates.
Class ended and I headed out to Fiction. When exiting from Mrs. Tarleton's room, I walked right into the same lockers that I had before. What a pity? I really did not give a flying rat's @$$. I continued on. This time I took the stairs down because I could ask people around me how close I was to them. I navigated down them successfully. I got through the hall fine, only bumping into the wall twice.
When I got to Fiction, I found the room set up differently from how it usually is. The desks where set up in a circle for us to hold a guided meditation for the class. I quickly was able to readjust and make myself comfortable. From the beginning of class to just before lunch I participated in the guided meditation. Though, because I meditate on my own so much, it was difficult to allow my teacher, Ms. Flynn, to guide me when I wanted to go in my own direction. I went off what she was having us do, and really resented when she asked us to come back and write down what we saw.
Despite her wishes to have me remove my goggles and write with my vision, I stayed blind and wrote to my best ability. I didn't do too badly. Attached is the paper I wrote on for you to gander at my writing while blind.
During lunch I sat in the senior lounge and did nothing, but listen to the conversations of others. I returned to class where everyone else shared what they wrote from their guided meditation. I, well I gave a summary of what I saw. Then, we went to another teacher's room to use her computers, but I did not do anything because I could not see the screen to write. That to me was an inconvenience, but not a major one because if I really did need to get something typed while blind I would easily get someone to type it while I dictated to them.
Class ended and I returned to the senior lounge where I resumed my meditation for the rest of my hour and fifteen minutes. Some of my fellow classmates, because of my great navigation skills, decided that I might have telekinetic powers that I am tapping into. One of them tried seeing if I could tell what number they were thinking. He said that he thought of the number "5" before picking another when I said that. No one would believe this so he had to write down the number and place it in front of me. Surprisingly, I was able to guess the number "7" So, next he decided to draw a simple picture and see if I could see it. He drew a stick figure, but I guess a house and then, a boat. Finally, they let me be to meditate. Though, one girl who was talking to me thought I could see her because I was following her with my head. I had to remove my goggles, making sure my eyes remained closed and covered with a glove, to prove that I couldn't see out of them.
My time was up. I lasted seven hours of being blind and it was time to see the light of day again. When I removed the blindfold light came flooding back to me. Yet, everything was blurry. I forgot that I had to put back on my glasses. I put them on and noticed that the colors were more vibrant than they were before and that everyone looked slightly fatter. Not to mention, my balance was slightly off. Otherwise, everything was easy readjusting to.
In the end of it all, I learned that if I were blind I could survive, but yet, I don't I would be able to last very long. I found it a calming experience and a great escape from the bustling world of today. Where it really counts though, I want to be a filmmaker and I could not be a filmmaker if I was blind because how would I be able to visualize of stories on screen? I have great respect for those who are blind in life and wish that they could see what we get to everyday. We really do take for granted with the things that we have in life. I believe that everyone should at one point in their life live this experience to gain a full understanding and respect for this impairment.
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