Bird Box Challenge

If it has not come up before, my father was completely blind from a disease called retinitis pigmentosa. This meant that by the early twenties, his vision started to fail as the retina could no longer sense light. By the time I was born, he had absolutely no vision left.

My older brother and sister were subjected to something similar to The Bird box challenge. For one day, they were unable to see and had to see how difficult it actually is to be blind.

A few examples to consider:

  • Open your wallet and tell the denomination of each bill
  • Identify the contents of the refrigerator
  • Eat a plate of spaghetti
  • Use a public restroom
  • Cross a busy street at a crosswalk
  • Order a meal in a restaurant
  • Read the newspaper (or Drudge report)

Now imagine dealing with this for the rest of your life, not just a single day.

Unfortunately, my brother’s wife has no empathy and encouraged my mother to “stop being a slave”, which ultimately pushed my parents apart. You can’t make your spouse completely dependent on you and then suddenly announce you are “on your own”.

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9 Responses to Bird Box Challenge

  1. briand75 says:

    When in Pittsburgh, my office was next to the agency providing assistance to the blind. I asked them some of those same questions that Fred shows: How do you know what denomination your bills are? Given the “chirping” signals on the streets, how do you know which direction to proceed in?

    Today, I actually heard a PSA asking folks to not take the “Bird Box Challenge” while driving. Really?

    • CC1s121LrBGT says:

      Wow. Who knew? I would expect the only people taking the “Bird Box Challenge” while driving would be “Kids” in “Karz”. 😉

    • Fred Stiening says:

      My father knew he was going blind, but he didn’t do as much training as he probably should have.

      The way he dealt with the bills was to have the clerk count the change into his hand to see the order of the bills. He had a wallet with compartments and kept the denominations in different pockets.

      One thing he didn’t know that I taught him was how to tell dimes from pennies. Dimes have a serrated edge. Of course, this was a very long time ago.

      Not all crossing signals have the chirping which at least tells where the crosswalk ends. Walking “straight” across a road without any vision is tricky, but requires experience. Cars stopped for the light will generally have their motors running. But a dog or a “seeing eye child” makes it easier.

      A lot of eating just means accepting that your hands are going to touch the food. A universal waitress behavior that can get old is the waitress looking at the sighted person and asking “so what would he like?”, but if you have limited experience with blind people, you just don’t know. #2 on the list is talking loud, assuming that blind people also can’t hear. Activists want to have education programs for wait staff, realists just accept it and smile.

      • briand75 says:

        It is amazing how humans react to gifted folks. Blindness is a form of gifted – I know a couple of folks and they can tell you everything about yourself including whether you are smiling or anxious or relaxed. Last I saw, they both used a lR wand that gives the hand feedback based on distance to an object. Pretty cool stuff.

        In Pittsburgh, they have lines in the cement at the corners, You apparently use the cane to get the direction of the line(s) which tell you where to cross and in what direction.

        I am amazed that the vaunted U.S. Government hasn’t figured out how to put a braille strip in the bills to determine the denomination 🙂

        • Fred Stiening says:

          There are technology solutions for some of the issues. Since vending machines can tell a $1 from a $20, the technology is pretty simple. Within the blind community, there is a sharp division of opinion. The American Council of the blind focuses on providing tools and training while the National Federation of the blind tries to improve things mostly by using lawyers and advocating for legal change.

          My father spent time in Oakland at the Shelter for the blind. This seems to be their current incarnation

          Originally, my parents were going to live in Oakland after they got married, but the deal fell through and they ended up living with my father’s parents. It could be that my parents said they intended to have children, which social service agencies might have discouraged – but I don’t know for sure.

          • CC1s121LrBGT says:

            As Karz and roads get smarter, it will be interesting to see the different ways to interact with them. For example, although I may have a green light ahead of me at an obstructed corner, I’d like that green light to go red even though it is my turn if the device senses another car barreling down the road at 70 miles per hour with no indication that it will obey the red light.

            It could also sense a child straying into the street and “advise” someone that wants to cross the street. Likewise, that person may be able to signal his intentions to cross the street and have a conversation with the traffic signal about when to do it. With everyone having smartphones, the yellow post with the “push to walk” button will go to the same junkyard as the pay phone and phone booth that has been in its proximity in decades past.

            • Fred Stiening says:

              Emergency vehicles are going to be one of the challenges for self driving cars – since humans perceive them mostly from the sounds (although completely deaf people can drive). Avoiding collisions when the emergency vehicle is running the red light is one issue – the EV having the right to ignore the signal is a legalism, not something the car would understand. Also, there is the issue of an emergency vehicle coming up from behind, expecting you to clear a path.

              Presumably the ultimate solution is the emergency vehicle will communicate its intentions. Some places have it so the emergency vehicle can control the lights, but that is not universal and the Reddit types think it is cool to spoof the signal.

            • CC1s121LrBGT says:

              Emergency vehicles are an issue, as are emergency situations such as evacuations were all lanes go in the “out” direction so more people can leave an unsafe area.

              I am reminded of the hurricane that hit South Florida a few years ago. Gov Scott had the Florida Highway Patrol provide police escorts from the Georgia border down to Miami for the gasoline tankers so they could refuel gasoline stations and enable residents to evacuate. (It was before Rep Waters urged confrontations at gasoline stations.)

              Emergency vehicles are an interesting topic. I had a colleague who was a volunteer ambulance driver. He told me two interesting things: 1.) At least in our state, while he would not get a ticket for driving an ambulance above the speed limit, through red lights and stop signs, it if caused an accident, the other party was not responsible for the accident, he was. 2.) From driving an ambulance so many years, he occasionally found himself running a stop sign or red light out of habit – forgetting what he was driving and while in no hurry, his mind was just following the wrong set of rules for the situation. I understand that completely. After driving a few thousand miles in the UK on the other side of the road, I had found myself driving on the left side in the US a few times after returning home. Dangerous stuff.

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