If you are anything like me, then your social media will have been flooded with the Bird Box Challenge over the last week or so, memes, videos, thoughts…you name it, it’s out there. For those of you that don’t use social media, or have no idea what I’m talking about then where have you been? In all seriousness, let me explain…
The #BirdBoxChallenge was inspired by the Netflix film Bird Box, the film sees characters navigating through a forest to try and get to safety wearing blindfolds. If they look at monsters, then they will be made to do bad things.
The film prompted the creation of the #BirdBoxChallenge whereby sighted people are attempting to go about their everyday lives whilst blindfolded.
What started out as a meme, has gone beyond that, some people have put themselves in danger, some have filmed themselves doing daily tasks and put them online, some videos have even gone viral.
Some of the things that people have been doing are extremely dangerous!
The nature of the Bird Box Challenge has sparked discussion amongst the visual impairment community, my Twitter timeline has been filled with people sharing their thoughts.
I love to educate people on sight loss and tackle the common misconceptions surrounding visual impairment, so I decided to ask my Twitter followers what they thought of the Bird Box Challenge in the hope that it may educate sighted people and give them a better understanding on visual impairment, I’ve put some responses together to give you an insight as to what blind and visually impaired people think of it all.
What do blind and visually impaired people think about the BirdBox Challenge?
To start off, I thought I would share my thoughts with you all. I’m always completely honest with my readers, so this is no different.
I think it reinforces misconceptions and stereotypes which some of us
try so hard to tackle. As a blogger, I try to educate people on sight loss and tackle the common misconceptions surrounding visual impairment and disability, this is something that I am passionate about but I think the Bird Box Challenge goes against what some of us work so hard on.
93% of blind and visually impaired people have some useful vision, so for a sighted person to put a blindfold on completely misses that point, it isn’t an accurate representation of sight loss at all as every blind or visually impaired person sees differently.
When sighted people are trying to do daily tasks with a blindfold on, they are struggling, this portrays blind and visually impaired people as helpless which couldn’t be any further from the truth. They have no
prior training like we do, so this is hardly the equivalent of knowing what life is like for blind/visually impaired people.
It takes years of hard work and training for us to be able to safely, confidently and independently navigate the world around us, so putting a blindfold on and expecting to be able to complete daily tasks like we can will not happen.
The original idea of this challenge may not have been to simulate blindness, but it still puts wrongly perceived ideas and assumptions on sight loss in people’s heads.
I didn’t want to just share my own thoughts on this topic, here is what some of my Twitter followers had to say.
“I think it’s good that it sparks conversation about vision impairment but at the same time, it’s a very unrealistic representation of reality. Perhaps entertaining the idea of more misconceptions? Making blind/VI people out to be helpless which definitely isn’t the case. It can take years of adapting to sight loss, training and support is essential. Working towards being able to carry out tasks safely and having mobility training in order to be independent can be tiring and I don’t think people understand that” – Elin
“I think the #BirdBoxChallenge could potentially give people a level of understanding. However, in this context it is done around fear and a game. I think it reinforces stereotypes due to the challenge not being centred around sight loss” – Chloe
“I’ve seen the #BirdBoxChallenge all over social media lately. As someone with low vision and a blindness cane user, it worries me to see many unsafe and inaccurate videos about doing tasks with no vision. Here is a thread on safe and positive alternatives to the viral challenge” – Veronica
“To me it depends on what people draw from the experience. When I train guiding volunteers, I bloody scold them and get them to perform some tasks and they often find it rather emotive. So in that case I find it rather positive” – Nathan
“I think it has kick-started well-needed Conversations, but it isn’t a true representation of the life led by someone with a visual impairment. This isn’t made overly clear, but I’m unsure as to how this clarity could be made, as after all, Birdbox is designed for entertainment” – Kel
“I don’t like it as I feel mocked. It doesn’t represent reality or respect the amount of training, practice and support we have. It encourages the view we are helpless, and blindness is scary” – Charlotte
“For what it is worth, I have opted for avoidance coping regarding this bad boy. I have deliberately not watched the movie or interacted with anything relating to the bird box challenge. Ableism is everywhere and I can’t buy into all of it” – Megan
“It’s a weird 1 because some of the stuff they do in the film couldn’t actually be done blindfolded so in that respect it’s a bit unrealistic, but then as has already been said it starts people talking which is mainly a good thing. Also the danger is people taking things too far which has been more widely documented than the actual film – but it’s a good watch, I recommend” – Luke
“I do not like how people are doing #BirdBoxChallenges to see what it’s like to be blind. I’d rather have people find correct information by going to training centres, reading blogs from people who are visually impaired or ask questions and get answers from people who are visually impaired or professionals such as eye doctors, or instructors who train people to gain independence despite having sight loss” – Amanda
“I’m not a fan. Visually impaired people go through training to be able to learn mobility skills and trying it without proper technique is dangerous and silly” – Casey
“If greater awareness of disability is the goal, talking with us and being around us is a far more effective way to gain knowledge of our experience than perpetuating false, preconceived notions on camera” – Allie
“This isn’t the first potentially dangerous thing that people are being encouraged to do to fulfil some kind of challenge, and it probably won’t be the last. My main concern is that people are taking unnecessary risks with their safety just to get some likes or comments. Is it really worth running the risk of ending up in hospital for that? Whilst some people see it as a chance to talk about blindness, I don’t think most people who are doing the challenge are doing it for that reason. If they are, it only gives an unrealistic view of life as a blind person. Putting on a blindfold just shows you what it would be like if one of your senses were suddenly taken away. It doesn’t take into consideration all of the skills that people build up, or ways to make tasks easier when you can’t rely on a functioning pair of eyes. Blind people learn how to carry out tasks safely, relying on our other senses, technology, or tools such as a white cane. We develop strategies and draw on our own experience to help us navigate the world around us. Someone who is doing this challenge has none of these things, and nobody to give them tips on how to make things easier or safer. Every task is lightly to be much more difficult for them, giving an inaccurate and incomplete view of what it’s really like to be blind.
That is a problem, but to be honest, I don’t think many of the people doing the challenge are thinking that deeply about it!” – Kirsty
“I like it because it gets people talking about how we do things, however it can also challenge us to explain it, because it doesn’t represent reality or respect the amount of training, practice and support. It encourages the view we are helpless and blindness is very scary” – Abdul
“I think the challenge is good because it gives people a glimpse into what blindness is like and it gives them the chance to ask any questions they might have” – Miranda
As you can tell from the above responses, the thoughts amongst the visual impairment community are very mixed, some people think that it is ok and isn’t doing any harm, Whilst others like myself, think that it is reinforcing stereotypes.
I don’t think I need to tell you that you shouldn’t try the Bird Box Challenge at home.
Many people may now be curious about sight loss and want to find out more.
How can you learn more about sight loss?
I have a passion for educating non-disabled people on visual impairment and disability, so I want to share with you some of the ways that you can learn a bit more about visual impairment, rather than doing the Bird Box Challenge.
- Talk to blind and visually impaired people.
No one knows what it’s like to live in this predominantly sighted world better than what we do. If you have questions then reach out and ask us, many of us would be happy to answer questions that you may have.
2. Engage with the visual impairment community on social media
Social media is a great place to find out more on blindness/visual impairment, by engaging with the visual impairment community, you get first-hand experiences from blind and visually impaired people.
3. Research assistive technology
One of the most frequently asked questions that I get asked is how I use a phone or computer. Do your research into these things so you have some idea of how we complete certain tasks.
4. Watch a tv programme or film with audio description
If your favourite tv show or film has audio description, then why not turn it on to find out what it’s like?
5. Contact visual impairment organisations
If you have specific questions, then why not contact visual impairment organisations and keep up-to-date with what they’re doing?
6. Read blogs by blind and visually impaired people
Many of us document our experiences on our blogs to educate others on sight loss, reading people’s blog is a brilliant way of learning more about visual impairment.
So, there you go, some thoughts from the visual impairment community on the Bird Box Challenge and some alternative ways to find out more about visual impairment.
What are your thoughts on the Bird Box Challenge? Let me know in the comments.