What is Blind Culture? Similarities and Differences within the Blind Community

By Roqayah Ajaj

As a blind, Saudi Arabian woman living in the United States, I have traveled and noticed that there is a blind culture. Individuals who are blind or visually impaired share, like other cultural reference groups based on race/ethnicity, gender orientation, religion, etc., a common experience of oppression, beliefs, expectations, and a vision for the future. One of the key pieces of the shared experience of people who are blind or visually impaired is navigating a world that is not built for them. For example, accessing information like books, signs, websites, etc. is a primary challenge that people who are blind, regardless of their level of vision, face. Another common challenge is accessing leisure activities as many events, activities, and public spaces were not designed to serve non-sighted people. For example, I have attended different social events where I felt excluded and isolated because the activities required vision to see the demonstration, the other participants, or the instructions. The feeling of loneliness and isolation is another common shared experience among people who are blind or visually impaired. Since they experience the world differently than sighted people, sighted people might not understand their experience, which can lead to a feeling of loneliness. This is one of the reasons why people who are blind or visually impaired are really comfortable talking with each other as they fully empathize with each other’s experience. The shared lived experience outside the majority gives people who are blind a shared culture that needs to be further investigated by scholars. The Deaf culture has been well-researched and is widely-recognized, unlike blind culture.

People who are blind or visually impaired have to overcome similar obstacles throughout their life. Because their abilities and needs are varied based on their educational, socioeconomic, and ethnic backgrounds, they will approach these obstacles differently. From this view, I believe that the blind community is very complex and heterogeneous, as some people who are blind read braille, some use screen readers, others depend on an assistant, and some people use multiple tools to read, depending on the situation. The majority of people assume that all people who are blind read braille, and that is a common mistake. In fact, some sources state that 10% or less of people who are legally blind read braille; however, recently questions have arisen about the accuracy of this statistic. When it comes to navigation, some blind people use a white cane, some rely on a guide dog, and others depend on a sight guide. Although the white cane is a symbol of independence, not all people who are blind use the white cane. In fact, the Perkins School for the Blind estimates that only 2%-8% of people with visual impairments use a white cane. Many rely on sighted people or guide dogs.

From my own experience as an individual who is blind, I have been questioned a lot about my ability to see and how much I can see, since I have some level of vision and open eyes. People assume that all people who are legally blind cannot see anything, but, in reality, only 10% of people who are legally blind do not have any level of vision, while the others have some level of vision. I read by using a screen reader on my smart phone and my laptop. This also confuses people because of the assumption that all people who are blind read braille. People often make assumptions and judge my ability in everything I do. Many people doubt that I have the ability to go to a coffee shop independently. I often do this. I try to depend heavily on feeling of the texture of the floor on my white cane and differentiating between voices of the customers and the cashier. Sighted individuals make this assumption because they either think that the world is not accessible for people who are blind or they cannot imagine how non-sighted people live their life. Sighted people questioning the ability to complete a simple daily task independently is a shared experience among people who are blind. Repeatedly experiencing judgement of one’s abilities can impact the self-esteem of the individual. Blindness does not dictate the individual’s abilities; it is the world that hinders their abilities.

When interacting with people who are blind, keep in mind the common experience that people who are blind face and their individual abilities. Always ask the individual how you can help them without making any assumptions. The shared experience might make all people who are blind seem the same; however, as you have learned, they have the same shared experience, but just as any other individuals, they have different needs, skills, and abilities. Culture has a significant effect on the individual’s behavior and view of the world, and without understanding the culture of people who are blind or visually impaired, allies will not be able to promote equity and social change. 


Braille Institute. (2020). About Vision Loss and Blindness. https://www.brailleinstitute.org/resources/about-vision-loss-and-blindness

Chouinard, J. A., & Cram, F. (2020). Culturally responsive approaches to evaluation. SAGE Publishing.

Envision. (2019). Challenges blind people face when living life. https://www.letsenvision.com/blog/challenges-blind-people-face-when-living-life

Graves, A. (2018). Braille literacy statistics research study: History and politics of the “braille reader statistic”: A summary of afb leadership conference session on education. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 112(3), 328–331. https://doi.org/10.1177/0145482×1811200314

Hood, S., Hopson, R. K., & Kirkhart, K. E. (2015). Culturally Responsive Evaluation. In Handbook of Practical Program Evaluation: Fourth Edition (pp. 281–317). Wiley Blackwell. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119171386.ch12

National Federation of the Blind. (2019). Blindness Statistics. https://www.nfb.org/resources/blindness-statistics

Perkins School for the Blind. (2015, October 15). “10 Fascinating Facts about the White Cane.” Accessed on January 14, 2019, from https://www.perkins.org/stories/10-fascinating-facts-about-the-white-cane.

7 thoughts on “What is Blind Culture? Similarities and Differences within the Blind Community

  1. راااائع رقية رااااااااائع
    فعلااااا نحتاج الى مثل هذه المقالات
    ياليت لو تهريبها
    و تحطي لك عمود او صفحة في جريدة او المواقع الاجتماعية الحديثة
    لكن من جد مقاله استفدت منها على الصعيد الشخصي و العملي
    ربي يوفقك
    و المستقبل واضح وجميل أمامك ان شاء الله


  2. اقصد ياليت لو تعربي المقالة يعني تنقليها للغة العربية حتى يستفيد قراءنا الأعزاء


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