Thursday, April 16

Blind Culture

A few months ago Terry and Mia went to a production of the musical Pippin. They rarely want to see musicals and never had a desire to hear someone belt the piano-bar-ballad Corner Of The Sky; in fact they went to hear as little as possible. The play's direction was based around making the night accessible to the deaf, with several deaf actors singing and all of the dialogue signed out as it was spoken. Terry and Mia said that at the end of the play, everything went silent and then the principle character, alone on stage, performed the last monologue with just his hands. Near the closing of his monologue, all the deaf and otherwise sign-language-literate members of the audience burst into laughter; Terry and Mia sat quietly and grinned.

Deaf culture is strong and unified, birthed from an active community and use of the word "handicapable." Such is not the same with the blind, although not because of difficulties relating to one another. They all use the same color cane purposely, and shop in the grocery store [alone] in the same way; having tried to memorize the layout of the shop, they'll go to where the peanut butter generally is, wait for someone to walk by, and then ask the shopper to hand them a jar. However, because of how hard solo actions can be, it's harder for them to get together on their own.

Many of them are illiterate, by which I mean that they can't read Braille. "Why waste the time teaching Braille when so many audio books are available?" goes the argument. And while listening to an audio book still probes the imagination, there is something in the effort that it takes to interpret a tone on your own that makes reading all the more enriching in the long run.

Reading Braille must take longer than with a printed language, at least for new readers, and I've often wondered if it's more satisfying to finish a Braille book because of the extra time invested. Then I've wondered if jokes are much funnier in Braille because of how long the build up is to the punch line. Last week, after coming home from Mains d’Œuvres, I spent an hour sitting on the floor, scouring YouTube for videos of blind people reading a sentence in Braille and then laughing.

I found tons of videos of kids pretending they couldn't see and then running into walls with shopping carts, and one video of a girl pretending to read erotic Braille and touching herself and then getting teased by another girl who could see her doing it and was also able to read Braille. It made me think of idioms like, "the blind leading the blind," and "you'd have to be blind to," and "are you blind, bitch?" Those poor people! They deserve so much more respect, and in the meantime, a solid Braille joke book.

I solemnly swear to write one one day but until I do, David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day is available in Braille for $44.95. The man is quite a miracle worker.

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