Episode 2 of the NBC show Growing Up Fisher has aired and passed so now it is time for it’s biggest critic to look at the show under a microscope “Through My Eyes”. This episode was all about Mel Fisher’s portrayal of himself as a fully sighted person to his clients and co-workers, that is, all except for his right hand man Glen. For years, none of his clients knew he had any visual problems and he kept it this way until he finally realized that the value of honesty was being diminished in his son Henry, who would try anything to become a “ladies man.” The rest of the details of this episode are for you to find out when you watch it yourself. Now it is time for my favorite parts from this episode as well as a life truth depicted as it pertains to people in the blind/visually impaired community.
1. The White Cane Weapon: I thought it was absolutely hilarious that Mel used his white cane as a “back off” stick”. I am sure all of us would like to have one while crossing cross walks these days as cars seem to not comprehend the idea of stopping behind the white line. I think we would be a much safer world if a whacking stick came down and hit all the cars that stopped in the middle of the cross walk. Oh, and too all those that are saying, “your not supposed to use a cane while you have a guide dog,” I will say that I have asked others with guide dogs and some of them do this on occasion as well. Also, who are we to judge what is the right way to live in this world without vision. Just because we do something a certain way or we were taught something a certain way does not make it the only correct way to live. If you don’t use your cane as a method of defense, maybe you should try it out. (LOL)
2. Coat Checking Elvis: In his attempt to continue Mel's portrayal of a fully sighted individual, Glen must find a place to put Elvis while the two (Glen & Mel) meet with their biggest client. Mel told Glen, "you can’t tie a dog that valuable up outside the restaurant." So Glen took the other option and picked up Elvis and handed him to the coat check lady. Imagine the reacton if someone did this at a nice restaurant in this day and age.
The Blind Man’s Bluff: While watching this show if you had any questions about whether a blind person would and could pull off the bluff that he was in fact fully sighted, I will confirm that this is not a rarity at all. In fact, all one needs is a small handful of trusty confidants and it can be played off for a lifetime. Just to give more affirmation that this does happen, I will tell you about a good friend of mine named Charlie Plaskon who has the same condition I have but grew up in a totally different era. Charlie was a teacher in the 60’s and 70’s and he ran a tight classroom. Only a few people in his school knew he had any visual deficits at all. Charlie taught for over 30 years and none of his students or fellow teachers knew he lived in a world of blur. At the time Charlie was teaching there was little in the way of disability rights and he knew that if he told anyone at the school that he couldn’t see, they were sure to find some reason to deem him unsuitable to be in the teaching profession. It wasn’t until many years after he retired from teaching when he discovered opportunities he never knew existed that he opened up and shared his story to the world.
Charlie’s story is just one example of this. I would be willing to say that nearly every blind/visually impaired individual at some point plays the, “Blind Man’s Bluff” role. With the implementation of the American’s with Disabilities Act and creation of advocacy groups, I would say this role is less common to the extremes that Mel and Charlie played it. This role is very common even today during initial grieving and process of acceptance of blindness. For years, when I was younger and trying to accept that blindness was normal for me, I became well versed in this acting role. Even to this day, I go in and out of this acting role. As people that are blind we are not ignorant, we know that there are still hundreds of thousands of people that associate blindness with “weakness” or “less capable” (this association may not be intentional but rather may be from the fear of how “not capable” he or she may feel if they were in that situation.). In order to change this perception, it is often powerful to go in and out of the acting role. If we first show we can do a task without needing help and later tell those individuals that we are visually impaired, the “Oh, I see,” light bulb should go off in their head and hopefully their perception will change. Basically what I am getting at is that there is no reason to introduce ourselves to others like, “Hi, I’m Aaron, I’m blind,” but if it comes up later in conversation or would be of benefit us to educate others about how we live than I think it is important.
As the years go by and you get more comfortable with your blindness, its kind of like getting old, you begin to just not care what other people think. For me, I got to the point like Mel did where it just took to much effort and energy to keep playing the “Blind Man’s Bluff” role that it just wasn’t worth it. Now, I will typically tell anyone that I think needs to know and however they respond to it is up to them.