‘Notes on Blindness’

What an extraordinary privilege to have found “Notes on Blindness,” a documentary by London-based filmmakers, Peter Middleton and James Spinney, on the NY Times website. In addition to the video, selections from John Hull’s audio reflections decades after recording his original diary entries, “Notes On Blindness,” in 1983. This online media presentation is a stunning example of how to incorporate a rich texture of media into journalism. Additionally, the video appears in three formats, with descriptive audio, captions, and the original format. If there is a printed transcript on the page I have overlooked, the Times has achieved an accessibility home run!

As a Vision Rehab Therapist it is my profession’s job to provide primary rehabilitation for individuals experiencing vision loss or blindness. The process of adjusting to vision loss is not linear and is so different from person to person. This process and topic is often cluttered with all sorts of cultural debris and stigma about blindness. I am so impressed with this film’s ability to grasp the profound changes vision loss brings to John Hull without denigrating the experience to either hopelessness or a categorical denial of the challenge of the scope of the transition.

This same treatment of the subject of blindness is demonstrated throughout the beautiful, engaging imagery that makes up the video portion of the documentary. So often, people are unaware that blindness is a kaleidoscope of differing visual abilities that is as different as the individual’s experiencing it—wavy as through a drop of water, washed out as in the snowstorm he describes, small pools of vision appearing indiscriminately, shadowy like a dimly lit room, etc. I noticed too from many of the comments readers posted, the fact that John is wearing glasses in many of the images confused some, because he is “blind.” It is my understanding that although John did eventually lose light perception, for several years prior to this, no doubt, he wore glasses to maximize the little functional vision he had, and protect his eyes, even though he was “blind.”

Middleton and Spinney have created an extraordinary video documentary, and a Sundance selection for 2014. Kudos to the NY Times for a well executed, accessible multimedia op-ed on their website.

The op-ed, “Notes on Blindness” is available at http://nyti.ms/1cs4wtY.

The video documentary, “Notes on Blindness” with audio descriptions is available at http://nyti.ms/1aPJlWB.

John M. Hull’s book, “Touching the Rock” is available on Bookshare.

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