What do blind people have to do to be seen?
In reporting the recent trial of a man who carried out an acid attack the media focused exclusively on the disfiguring injuries suffered by victims.
Both TV and radio reports chose to focus on the life-changing scars inflicted on the young women caught up in this horrific, senseless attack.
Their stories were heartbreaking and as the father of two daughters in a city that is no stranger to acid attacks, I could only shudder and think, there but for the grace of god.
But something was niggling at the back of my mind, and set me scouring the newspaper reports.
Sure enough, my memory hadn’t been playing tricks on me. I discovered that two of the victims of the attack had been blinded in one eye. They had received permanent, irreversible sight loss.
And yet no TV report or radio bulletin carried this news.
While I in no way want to downplay the horrific damage, mental and physical, that these innocent victims sustained I do have to question why the media chose to focus on disfiguring injuries over those that are disabling.
Has our society become so fixated on visual perception that the worst possible crime is to despoil beauty and render it too painful or disturbing to look at?
By extension does that mean that the media cannot bear to feature stories in which vision is destroyed?
Let’s face it, blind people are almost absent from our TV screens. If they do appear it’s always in the same clichéd roles of stricken victim (usually female) or sonically superpowered hero (usually male).
It’s the same battle that ethnic minority and gender equality groups have fought so hard to win. But campaigns for disability rights and recognition – especially for those with sight loss – have failed to achieve the same impact.
Nowadays it would be unthinkable for a white actor to black up for a role. And yet sighted actors are still employed to play the few blind roles in film and TV.
Some of us are trying to change this sorry state of affairs. In Fight for Sights new TV advertising campaign a group of us who are really blind invite viewers to ‘Look me in the eye and tell me that sight loss doesn’t matter.’
Let’s see whether the great British public can bear seeing blindness on TV or whether it’s as much of a turn off as the media seems to think.