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Negative Fund Raising Campaigns: Blindness Misrepresented Through Simulation Activities

January 24, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

I just read an article entitled Being Blind For A Day! posted today on PRNewswire regarding an event called “Kindness Beats Blindness”. I found it quite disturbing and upsetting as I learned that 496 more children are going to be taught the wrong things about blindness!

On Thursday, January 27, 496 middle school children will simulate blindness in a way that exemplifies thousands of years of misconceptions all in a single day. Half the children will wear blindfolds while the other half will act as “seeing eye kids” presumably to guide the “blind” children. The story emphasizes all the negative misconceptions about blindness as though they are truths. One of the children interviewed for this article tells us that he gets a “beautiful, indescribable feeling” from helping the needy. Sadly, unless he is made aware of the truth, this child may become a barrier to our progress in his adulthood.

Campaigns such as this should be conducted in a way that improves society’s attitudes about blindness and breaks down the negative misconceptions. If I were advising the planners of “Kindness Beats Blindness”, I would give them the following advice:

  • Cut out the “seeing eye kids”! They feed in to the misconception that the blind are completely helpless and dependent upon the sighted.
  • Invite confident, competent blind people from the community to work with the children, demonstrating how the alternative techniques of blindness (assistive technology, Braille, orientation and mobility skills) enable them to participate in society. Provide hands on examples of daily living skills such as cooking and preparing simple meals. Have the children walk around the school grounds with blind buddies using the long white cane. Show the children how assistive technologies such as Braille displays and screen readers enable blind people to communicate. Play a descriptive video.
  • Engage the children in their normal school activities while blind mentors show them how to successfully complete them as a blind person.

By focusing almost exclusively on the negative characteristics of blindness, The planners of this event have missed the opportunity to make life better for blind people everywhere. The stated goal of this campaign is to raise money for the Foundation Fighting Blindness, an organization working to implement prevention, treatment and cure of eye diseases. Some may feel that the only way to successfully raise funds for these medical organizations is to emphasize the negative, pitiful aspects of blindness. These negative campaigns are carried out solely at our expense. We are not inherently helpless or “needy” based on our physical lack of eye sight. Our 75 percent unemployment rate and overall poor socioeconomic status have nothing to do with blindness. They do have everything to do with the artificially imposed consequences of inaccessibility, lack of transportation options and negative social attitudes regarding our blindness.

It is important to note that Sovereign Bank, the primary sponsor of “Kindness Beats Blindness”, provides reasonable accomodations to its blind customers through such features as an accessible web site, automated telephone banking and talking ATM’s. We applaud all businesses that do the right thing by providing equal accessibility of their products and services to the blind.

This is yet another call to participation. What can we do to insure that blindness related fund raising campaigns avoid damaging the blind community? How can we convince event planners to emphasize the positive rather than the negative?

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7 opinions on “Negative Fund Raising Campaigns: Blindness Misrepresented Through Simulation Activities

  1. Bravo, Darrell! I think you took the first step by alerting other people to the problem. Some people might not even know that this stuff is going on. I think the only way we can counteract this stuff is to simply do this kind of stuff ourselves. By the way, I started a blog myself. It is at It will feature technology stuff but also stuff about my life, which includes technology. Great blog.

  2. I am an elementary principal and just read your comments about the student activities at Harrington Middle School. I’m curious as to why you can see all of the good that can come from an event such as this. I agree with all of your suggestions except one. Having students pair up with a “seeing eye” student is probably a safety necessity for students who are untrained with the techniques of blindness mobility. Imagine having 496 impetuous (meaning normal for Middle School-age student) children being unguided in a school. Given today’s litigious society, a chill went up my spine as a principal. I have had a number of blind students in my school over the years, and all experiences have been positive. Lessons were learned by all students and staff. I applaud the efforts of Harrington Middle School, and I’m sorry that you cannot.

  3. Well Darrell, you’ve managed to take a good thing and spin it into a negative experience. You have entirely missed the point of Kindness Beats Blindness Day. My child is one of the children who worked diligently since September, 2004 to arrange for this day of understanding and acceptance. This group of 30 kids met on their own time outside of the school day to do something good for this world. They did not plan the day to “become a barrier” to your progress. They planned this day to give the sighted 13 year olds a chance to see with their hearts.

    You pulled quotes out of the article, yet ignored the mission statement which deals directly with your concerns. Written by one of the 13 year olds, it states, “We hope to annually raise money alongside The Foundation Fighting Blindness through the use of our diverse skills. All of the Heroes believe that blindness is only a challenge, one that shouldn’t stop anyone from taking those steps toward their full potential and more importantly, greatness.”

    Having a “seeing eye kid” enabled the students to navigate the school safely. The thought of arming 500 adolescents with white canes in hallways 6 feet wide is just plain dangerous. As for using them in the schoolyard, we are in New Jersey and presently have over a foot of snow on the ground. The “seeing eye kid” enabled the blindfolded child to attempt to successfully complete their daily activities. This was meant to be a realistic learning experience, and it was.

    The Foundation Fighting Blindness held an assembly and instructed the students properly. They were given expert guidance and education on the alternative techniques. Braille books were brought into classrooms. The T-shirts that were created especially for the day were also written in Braille.

    You assume that these kids focused “almost exclusively” on the negative aspects of blindness. Did you bother to contact anyone in the article to confirm that? No, instead you focused on the quote of one 13 year old kid trying to do good for her school, community, and people as a whole. You are hung up on the word “needy”. It blinded your comprehension of the rest of the article. You associated the word “needy” with “poor socioeconomic status”. I can assure you this child did not. She used the word to describe a feeling she experienced in doing for others and not focusing on herself. This child went out day after day to various local and not so local businesses to gather donations for the cause and prizes for a raffle. She and the other 30 kids did this with no other motive than to raise money in the hope to find a cure for RP.

    She and the other Heroes were motivated by a child their age with RP. Rebecca lives in South Carolina. They learned about her through their mentor Thomas Baldrick. He is a close friend of Rebecca and her family. They did this for a girl their age, who they had never met. The blindfolds, handmade by the group using materials from the FFB, gave them Rebecca’s vision for a day.

    How dare you state that what these 30 kids did to “Pay It Forward” and show random acts of KINDNESS is damaging to the blind community. What they pulled off in these 4 short months is nothing short of miraculous. Thirty 13 year old kids managed to raise $10,000 for the Foundation Fighting Blindness and learned one of life’s most valuable lessons–life isn’t all about you, it’s about human beings as a whole.

    So, Darrell, these kids went out to “Pay It Forward” for the Foundation Fighting Blindness. How are you going to “Pay It Forward” in your life? Remember, it isn’t all about you. Think outside the box.

  4. As a middle school teacher, one of my curriculum responsibilites is to teach Character Education. The six “pillars” of this program are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. All too often I see children bullying others, showing lack of respect towards their elders, and taking on the “it’s all about me attitude”.
    When I read about the Harrington Heros, it reaffirmed why I went into teaching in the first place.
    These thirty-three students demonstrated all the “pillars” of Character Education. They spent hour after hour fundraising, organizing commitees in which to divide up responsibilites, and showed a dedication to a very valuable cause. Why would anyone criticize that? These students should be applauded for their hard work. They have raised over $10,000, and are continuing with their fundraising. Their “Day” was the first day of many to come in other schools around the nation.
    As the song goes, “Children are our future, let them lead the way.” Without them, there will be no leaders to raise money for important causes, there will be no scientists to develop cures for the countless number of diseases, and there will be no educators to teach about the importance of diversity, tolerance, respect, and kindness.
    To all students I say, “Seize the opportunity to make a difference!”

  5. Don’t you think it would serve the “Blind” community much better if you adopted a positive outlook on life. There are many, many wonderful people and programs out there helping many blind people in various situations. I have read many of your blogs and I am baffled that you seem to focus so much on the negative bordering on being dangerous with your lack of information. If you listen to other negative people who are uninformed or take bits of information from other sources and run recklessly with it, you are being dangerous and irresponsible. Get your facts before you repeat things you may hear. Many people out there have opinions… it doesn’t mean that there is always truth in them. Then again, some people rather just complain.

  6. Excuse me. But maybe not everyone likes to view things so negativly. We took time ourselves afterschool and planned this day to raise money to help the cause. Reading your article i was wondering if you do this with everything. I mean someones trying to give a little and you just ruin it because you want more. Not everything can go above and beyond. Yes, I am one of the students that was involved with Kindness Beats Blindness Day. And it breaks my heart to hear someone could trash something like that as you did, I mean after all the work me and my fellow classmates put into this! It took a lot of effort but so many people took the time to plan, collect money for the cause, then spend a day without one of the most amazing gifts we have been blessed enough to get. On that day I was simulating a blind student. Not only did I need my “Seeing Eye Kid” for guidence but also for protection. Now I don’t know about you but I experience how crule some teenagers can be everyday. And when I was blind for that day I got pushed, poked, an hit because it humored them that I couldnt see who was doing it. And without my friend guiding me that would have been blown to an extreme and i wouldnt have had anyone to shoo the kids away.
    Now I still think that what we did was a great thing no matter what some mean man writes. I still cant imagine how it is possible for you to be so selfish and not understanding. Id like to take a moment of your time to read this, and feel extremely horrible. Because you have no right to publicly trash us. You werent there. You didnt see how at the end of the day, as we unmasked ourselves, how great the feeling was. After 9 periods are struggle to get around and understand I finally understood and felt a drive to help more. Now please, either write something telling me how possibly someone who wasnt even there could understand what we did and have the right to talk about it like you have. Or you could write an apology. Because I strongly believe what you have wrote was rude.

  7. I actually am going to do a film project where i will simulate blindness. But I’d like to thank you. This article is very eye opening. I’ve decided to step my project up a notch. Your right, I want to promote understanding not sympathy or minunderstanding, or anything like that. While I’m blind the only assistance I will have is my cane and a blind friend who will teach me how to do the essential things like cross the street, cook, clean, ect. From what I’ve read the simulations in the past aren’t intense enough, so I might just go it alone for most of the film-no assistance. Sure its dangerous-I could get hit by a car, burn myself while trying to cook, anything. I’m young-I’m only 20. I can handle it. Plus, I’m not injuring the blind community by having “sighted guides” am I? thanks for writing the article because now I know what to do with my project. thanks a bunch!

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