Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Blind Man on Second Avenue

I was walking up SE 2nd Avenue from SE 1st Street toward Flagler about noon today. On the sidewalk coming toward me was a youngish man with a white cane, a blind man, and he was talking on a cell phone as he walked. I thought that strange. I thought hearing was very important for blind people, and here he was walking along the city sidewalk next to a busy street, on his cell phone.

Is it a sort of bigotry that makes me think that this is more bizarre than people driving their cars in traffic while on the cell phone? It's risky behavior for both. The driver thinks he is seeing everything because his eyes are open, even as his attention is focused on what the phone. The blind man thinks he is hearing everything, while he listens to his cell, and feeling whatever he feels with his cane, even though his attention is on his phone.

On second thought, it's not quite the same thing. The driver relies on his sight, and he is doing nothing to impair his sight with his cell phone use (if he is not dialing or texting, of course). The problem is that his attention is distracted. But as sight is to the sighted, isn't hearing to the blind? By listening on the phone, isn't the blind man especially impaired? I don't think I was being bigoted when the blind man's behavior seemed particularly bizarre to me today.

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