Using comedy to tackle misconceptions of blindness

Post date: 
Monday, 19 December 2016
photo shows georgie performing her show

Georgie Morrell is a comedian who debuted on the Edinburgh festival circuit this year to wide acclaim with her show about losing her sight, A Poke In The Eye. She writes about why she got involved with our #HowISee campaign.

What I have loved about being part of the How I See campaign for the RNIB is the openness, good humour, honesty and lack of animosity from those blind or partially sighted people who have contributed. 
 
Let me elaborate...
 
Here are some questions I am often asked - not from qualified professionals, I might add!

"But you don’t look blind!" 

"How many fingers am I holding up?"

"Why don’t you wear an eye patch?"

 A personal favourite of mine -"You carry it very well."

 
Now I feel no shame or bother in talking about how I, Georgie Morrell, literally see and most partially sighted and blind people don't in fact.  I’m lucky in that I have created my own platform to speak about it.  As a comedian I turn my eyesight and disability around, and chat and make jokes about it, and that's how I raise awareness and tackle misconceptions.
 
However, not everyone who is blind or visually impaired has my insane level of confidence and career choice to do this, which is fair enough. I'm a one-eyed comedy menace! However, until now there has never been a platform to present the world with the facts regarding blindness from the people who know, but now finally there is.  In order for people to be less presumptive, we need to speak about what being blind is. How I See has provided a platform for those who would not normally have the opportunity to speak up and thus educate those who don't know what blindness is. We don't need to change our approach to blindness; it is society that does and one way to do that is through knowledge and discussion.
 

Blindness is on a sliding scale. Fact.

Although I have many witty answers to all these questions which I thoroughly enjoy, I must admit it gets a bit wearing.  Not being funny - I’ll never tire of that! I mean the lack of knowledge towards blindness. The assumption is often, as you will find when listening to the How I See contributors, is blindness is not seeing and there is not variant of that. It is quite the opposite. Blindness is incredibly varying and individual to the person involved. It is a very grey area - no pun intended! 
 
Let me break it down. Blindness is on a sliding scale. Fact. An eye is way more complex than most of us realise. I am still trying to wrap my head around what are essentially complicated and over worked cameras rolling around in our heads! It only takes one area of an eye to be affected from a disease, condition or trauma to impair a significant part of the vision. Resulting in loss of depth perception, detached retina, shadows, double vision, loss of central vision, to name a few. These are all varying degrees of blindness. Now that was little bit technical, but needs to be said. Blindness is completely dependent on the individual and what their eyes have been through and sustained. It is not for wider society to question.
 

A campaign like this has the ability to bring us a step closer to disability being a norm in our society.

Now 99 per cent of what people say, as exhibited by the How I See contributions, does not come with bad intentions necessarily; instead it comes from lack of knowledge as to what blindness really is. So never presume until you know. Knowledge is power. However there is a gap to be filled. How can people know about something without being told from those who know best?  This is where the RNIB's How I See campaign comes in. 
 
I use humour to tackle people's lack of knowledge, and it has forged my career, but this is only scratching the surface of what needs to be on a wider public scale. How I See does. It also has a wider responsibility, not just to break down dated conceptions of blindness but for disability in general. A campaign like this has the ability to bring us a step closer to disability being a norm in our society.  It's the beginning of people not being afraid to talk about disability and for wider society to see the individual, not the disability, therefore not making them feel like an outsider. 
 

I am proud of how I see.  How I see is who I am.  

People need to know the variants that are blindness, because it's not all black and white. So listen and let us tell you, then we can all move on and break down some barriers that are long overdue demolishing.
 
If you want to hear more about what Georgie's been up to, follow her on Twitter or visit her website pokeintheeyeproductions.co.uk
 
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