Introduction to Blindess (06:52)
Rosemary Mahoney describes her journey from being uncomfortable with and frightened of blindness, to learning about and being so inspired by blind people that she wrote a book about it. She was skeptical about interacting with blind people, but at the school for the blind in Tibet, she met Sabriye Tenberken, who struck her as confident, capable, and intuitive.
Identity and Misconceptions of Blindness (07:34)
Through working with blind people, Mahoney has learned how much information from her other senses she misses because of her dependency on vision. Sabine Kastner explains that a third of the brain is involved in vision and most people create their identity based on their visual perception. Tenberken has always been a visual person, despite losing her sight at the age of nine.
Brain Rewiring: Benefits of Blindness (08:54)
Tenberken explains that blindness does not mean darkness, and in contrast the world becomes more colorful; though she went through denial at first, acceptance of her blindness led to living more fully. With fewer distractions she could focus, solve problems, and memorize better. Kastner explains that the brains of blind people reorganize, developing new cognitive functions in what was the visual cortex.
Using Senses to Visualize the World (06:51)
Tenberken describes how she uses her hearing in new ways to reconstruct the spatial map of her surroundings. Through synesthesia she connects numbers and letters with colors, and dates with patterns—this connection has allowed her to maintain visual memories and her visual imagination.
Navigation and Gratitude (07:06)
Mahoney describes a blind pianist who sees or visualizes the world, while another identifies people by their voices rather than their faces. Many people struggle with blindness, but Tenberken argues that it is a gift once one accepts it. She describes a gathering in darkness which she organizes for new people at her school, and how variously people cope with it.
Education for Blind People (05:36)
Tenberken reflects that her optimistic upbringing helped her overcome the depression, discrimination, and self-pity involved in going blind. She attended a school for the blind which taught self-confidence and placed high expectations on students to achieve. At the school in Tibet, Tenberken passes on this training and empowerment to the blind children.
Habitual Actions of the Blind (04:36)
Mahoney describes the "blindisms" of a pianist she met, arguing that these characteristics have perpetuated the idea that blind people are stupid, increasing discrimination. Tenberken agrees that blind children should be trained early on to behave acceptably, though they might be struggling to release pent-up energy. Kastner speculates whether these actions may have an important function in making up for missed sensations.
Blindness and Mindfulness (03:42)
Mahoney recounts the story of John Hull, who experienced improved brain functioning and a higher sense of consciousness after going blind in his forties. Though Tenberken does not practice meditation, she argues that focusing in each moment is a kind of meditation which she has to do throughout her day. Mahoney expresses a new appreciation for blindness and how it can be a positive experience.
Credits: The Social Worker for the Blind (00:03)
Credits: The Social Worker for the Blind
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