Glam Canes and Blind Pride: Disrupting Vision Loss Stereotypes


Host Anita Rao speaks with three people from blind and visually impaired communities about sight loss and breaking stereotypes about blindness through their creative work. Dr. M. Leona Godinauthor of “There Plant Eyes: A Personal and Cultural History of Blindness”, discusses how blind characters are depicted in fiction and the effects these depictions have on real blind people in their daily lives. James Tate Hillauthor of “Academy Gothic” and “Blind Man’s Bluff,” shares stories of the 15 years he spent hiding his blindness from others, as well as how he finally decided to claim it as part of his identity.

Award-winning recording artist Lachi also joins Rao for a discussion on glam canes, ableism in the music industry and how she made the Grammy Awards more inclusive in 2022.

Many thanks to Margareta Claesson, Evelyn Valdez, Alexander Castillo and Michael Smith for contributing their voices and perspectives to this episode.

Three types of blind characters…and their impact on blind people IRL.

#1 – Mr. Magoo from the comic and cartoon of the same name

Blind characters as comic relief.

Mr. Magoo’s severe myopia leads to various mistakes and accidents… and is the main source of humor in the story. Advocacy groups including the National Federation of the Blind have criticized Mr Magoo for perpetuating harmful stereotypes about the blind.

#2 – Mary Ingalls from “Little House on the Prairie”

Blind characters as childish as they are angelic.

Blind characters are usually depicted as older adults…or as innocent, angelic children like Mary Ingalls. There isn’t often a middle ground between these two extremes, which means blind characters rarely have the opportunity to develop their character in any meaningful way.

#3 – Madame Web from the “Spiderman” Comics Blind characters as superhumans.

Blind characters are often depicted as having special powers…specifically the ability to see what sighted people cannot see. The pervasive myth of “superblindness” in fiction leaves no room for the truly blind to simply be normal.


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