YES BLIND PEOPLE READ BOOKS, WE WRITE THEM TOO

Yes, Blind People Read Books. We Write Them, Too.

 

Hello readers everywhere.

First, I’d like you to read this. Then, I dare you to share it.

It is about time someone adjusted the attitudes of many.

 

Yes, Blind People Read Books. We Write Them, Too.

 

Laurie Alice Eakes  Reprinted from the HUFFINGTON POST

 

“Windy, let’s get some coffee,” I suggested, in need of an iced latte.

 

My Seeing Eye dog swerved right, tension through the harness  increasing as she skirted a corral of outdoor tables. She knew exactly  where she was going, eager for the praise and pats she’d receive when  we reached the door.

 

Knowing to head for my favorite coffee shop just because I suggested  it is not part of Windy’s training, and if anyone had heard me, a  common misconception would’ve been satisfied.

 

“My daughter is going blind, but she doesn’t need a dog, because she  already knows her way around,” an elderly woman told me on the bus  earlier that morning.

 

“The dog doesn’t know the way around,” I politely responded. “I give  her directions. It’s her job to get me to my destination safely.”  The woman’s vague “uh-huh” told me she didn’t believe me.

 

No matter how many people we inform, many still believe blind people  are clueless about their directions, their surroundings and anything  else requiring sight–which, to the sighted world, is just about  everything. Plenty of others also seem to forget that blind people  communicate and consume media as would any other hearing person. We  use expressions like “see,” “watched” and “looked at” all the time  (they’ve taken on the meaning of “absorbed” and “observed”). We have  cable TV. We go to movies and subscribe to Netflix and Hulu. We have  favorite shows.

 

And we read books.

 

Two hundred years ago, when books were rare and expensive, people  read to one another in a group and, afterward, all claimed to have  “read” the book. An audiobook is no different. Many blind people also  read braille books. Some of us read via our Kindle apps on our  iPhones, which have Voiceover to make them accessible if a person  can’t see.

 

Blind people write books, too. I have 27 traditionally published  books to my name and more coming out. Many of them are historical  novels that I researched via more books–scanned books, recorded  books, digitized books.

 

Reading and writing books is no more difficult for a blind person  than for a person who can see. It’s the publishing part that’s not so  easy.

 

The first agent who offered to represent me stopped sending out my  work to editors when she learned I was blind. Other editors wouldn’t  work with me, daring to tell my agent it was because of my blindness.

 

One went so far as to think she should rewrite my book for me and I  should accept it because of my “visual problems.”  And my favorite incident–the one time I dared write a realistic  blind heroine who wasn’t all sunshine and light about her condition or  how people treated her–the editor told my agent a blind woman  wouldn’t fear being a parent because she, the editor, had seen  otherwise in the media.

 

Seriously?

 

Though I have to admit, she had a point. The media depicts blind  people as super-spiritual beings. Books–and their authors–rarely  make their blind characters angry with the world for being ignorant.

 

Nor do they give their blind heroine a drop-dead gorgeous man to  romance. On the contrary, she generally falls for the ugly dude whom  others shun despite his goodness, which only she sees.

 

Historically, blind characters are never shunted into dark corners,  hidden away in institutions or left uneducated because the world  believed blindness meant one wasn’t capable of learning. Blind people  are supposed to be like John Milton and Fanny Crosby, writing  beautiful poetry and hymns designed to inspire. Readers follow blind  characters who are blithely living their lives despite their  condition, gaining insights others don’t have, to remind them just how  well off they are. I may be worried about making rent, but it’s  nothing compared to being blind. What an inspiration this protagonist,  and this author, is.

 

Frankly, I’d rather be told I’m snarky. That, at least, would make me human.

 

I confess I too once fell into the trap of writing a happy-go-lucky  character with a disability. I wanted to write a blind hero who lived  in the 1890s because of a tidbit of history I’d read while researching  other books. Of course, I made sure the character had a ton of money  and was content with his lot. That suited the plot much better than  the realism of blind people dependent on the government or others for  support.

 

Because many are. According to the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of  Labor Statistics, an alarming 75 percent of blind or visually disabled  people are not part of our country’s labor force. My husband, a blind  attorney, and I, a blind author, are incredibly blessed to have jobs  and a house of our own in a fantastic location, but we are the  exception.

 

Even when gainfully employed, the industries we work in can make our  jobs unnecessarily challenging. I’ve seen some encouraging signs  recently that change is coming to the publishing industry (including  making trade association websites more accessible to blind users and  ensuring physical barriers to conferences and workshops are removed),  but general attitudes have remained stagnant.

 

Agents and editors with whom I’ve worked in the past have made me  paranoid about “coming out” regarding my blindness or attending  writing conferences. Once, the marketing person for one of my  publishers introduced herself to everyone at the book signing except  for me. She skipped right over me, as though I were invisible. Like I  was wearing my own invisibility cloak.

 

That cloak doesn’t extend to my wonderful Windy; at a recent writers’  conference, more people talked to my dog than to me. Most people know  not to touch service dogs, but they don’t realize they shouldn’t talk  to them, either. If Windy gets distracted, she gets corrected, and  that’s not fair to her (but is necessary to keep her focused on her  work). When I asked attendees not to talk to my dog, I was either  ignored or treated as though I was in the wrong.

 

During the Jane Austen era, one could ruin someone’s social career by  employing the “cut direct,” in which one acknowledged the person with  a look, then turned away, thereby erasing them.

 

That’s how I feel sometimes–erased. No one cared that I was wearing  a pin that said I’d been a finalist for the highest award in the  romance genre, the RITA. No one cared I was wearing my “25 Books  Published” pin (next pin is 35). No one cared I was presenting at a  workshop that week or that, just maybe, we had more than just writing  and books in common. Instead, they talked to the dog, because  apparently a creature with a brain the size of a walnut is more  intelligent than a woman with a master’s degree who can’t see.

 

I currently have both an amazing agent and an incredible editor. They  are supportive and understanding that sometimes certain software and  social media platforms don’t always work for me. They knew I was blind  before taking me on and liked my writing well enough not to care.

 

The publishing industry needs more agents and editors like them, but  true change will require more than just that. As of 2015, only eight  percent of industry professionals had a disability. We need people  with disabilities at all stages of the publishing process, including  authors, agents, editors, sensitivity readers, marketers and  publicists.

 

I look forward to the day when I attend a writers’ conference and  people talk to me instead of my dog. In the meantime, you can find me  working on book Number 28.

 

NOTE: Laurie Alice Eakes is the bestselling author of more than 25  books, both historical and contemporary romantic suspense. She writes  full time from her home in northern Illinois.

 

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10 Responses to YES BLIND PEOPLE READ BOOKS, WE WRITE THEM TOO

  1. HeyPatty, I will share this, because it proves that blin people can be successful if we work for what we want. I don’t have an agent, but I am writing a book to help aspiring authors who are blind and sighted alike learn how to publish on Amazon. If I can do it with a little help formatting, then so can other authors.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patty says:

      You don’t need an agent if you’re self-publishing, just holler at me if you need help with marketing. I’ve got several good package plans.

      Like

  2. Pingback: YES BLIND PEOPLE READ BOOKS, WE WRITE THEM TOO | Ann Writes Inspiration

  3. Your words touch close to home. A close family member is legally blind and people are dismayed when they find out he can drive a car, on the roads, just like they can. Granted he has restrictions, (daylight only). but he has received comments like “so if you are ever in an accident it is your fault”
    Thank you for your honesty. I hope people listen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patty says:

      You’re welcome.
      I can’t take credit for the writing but I get a lot of the same junk.
      Once I told someone I had a daughter and grandchildren.
      They wanted to know how I managed to get pregnant.
      My answer?
      “Gee don’t you do it in the dark? Isn’t that kinda a touchy feely sport?
      🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • LOL love your response. I am always amazed by what tumbles from peoples mouths.

        Like

      • Patty says:

        Well, ask a stupid question…

        Once I had someone ask…

        “How do you eat?”

        I said, “With a fork, spoon, and my mouth. How about you?”

        Another one I got once while walking through the store with my Seeing Eye Guide Dog…

        Passerby…

        “ah… There’s one of those blind dogs.”

        I couldn’t resist…

        Me as I turned around…

        “No. Ma’am. The dog sees fine, it’s the human that’s got the trouble.”

        Her friend to her…

        “Now, don’t you feel stupid?”

        A friend of mine heard someone say that once while getting onto a public bus and she said as she stompped in mock anger up the steps with her dog…

        “Damn it! I told that school I wanted one that could see next time.”

        LMAO!

        Liked by 1 person

      • LOL love your humor. It is sad, but sometimes you have to make people feel a little foolish in order to get them to think.

        Like

      • Patty says:

        Yes, but if I can engage them by making them laugh and open the door to conversation rather than their very unwanted pity they learn much more.

        Liked by 1 person

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