Thursday, February 4, 2010

Book thoughts: As if we didn't have enough privileges to deal with...

Saw a link this morning through @PWKidsBookshelf to a Salon article: Why is Braille Dying?.

Apparently only 10% of blind kids today learn Braille. Apparently even the governor of New York doesn't read Braille. Instead, blind people are relying upon audio books, text-to-speech translators, or good old fashioned personal assistants to convey the printed word to the visually impaired. The Salon bloggers (the byline is for Stephen Towey and Helen Cota), however, seem to think this is a great travesty, because their minds wander while listening to audio books and there are studies that show we process audio information differently than printed information. There is no mention however that this difference in processing is inferior, or if these studies have been conducted using people who don't have the option of reading visually.

Ultimately, the entire blog post comes off as the biggest piece of ableist blogging I've seen in a long time.

What do I mean by ableist? This article totaly privileges the neurotypical and physically typical reading experience. Now, if it were a pair of blind bloggers bemoaning the lack of Braille literacy that would be one thing, as the NYT article that inspired the Salon bloggers includes, but judging from the Salon bloggers' home blog, they wear glasses but aren't legally blind. This is akin to people with normal hearing insisting cochlear implants are necessary for deaf children, or a white person explaining to everyone upset by Bloomsbury that the publishers didn't actually do something racist, or a man mansplaining feminism to us poor little women.

I'm sure the authors meant well - after all, all of us who care about books and reading are invested in improving literacy and wanting as many people as possible to share our passion for the written word. But to claim that our way of reading is superior to other forms of information attainment is able-ist and patronizing.


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