Lessons from a man suddenly blind

18 11 2013

I am intrigued by a TED talk entitled:  Chris Downey: Design with the blind in mind

chris downey ted talkIt is delivered by an architect who had successful surgery for a brain tumor but who, as an after-effect of the surgery, totally lost his sight after three days. His talk (only 11 minutes) offers what he calls “outsights” (contrasted to insights) he has gained learning to get around the Bay Area as a suddenly unsighted man. Here is what stands out to me:

1. Cities could be better for all if designed with blind people in mind. They would have wider, more consistently designed sidewalks, with fewer cars. More people would walk. More stores and services would be offered at the ground level.

2. Chris gets a lot of encouragement when, as a white man, he walks through downtown Oakland (where many non-whites walk and work); this does not happen, he says, in San Francisco as much. I surmise that the church background of many blacks contributes to these frequent expressions of “Bless you brother.” and “Way to go man.”

3. It is said that there are two kinds of disabled people: those who know they are disabled and those who have not discovered theirs yet. Chris suggests that if we accepted our particular disability, we would experience greater community that would lessen the divisions of race and class. Sighted people pay less attention to others.

4. Chris testified that which we have heard before, that when one sense is lost, the other senses rise to actually enhance our experience. Sounds, smells, textures increase to better inform life. These help people know where they are, how to move forward.

I smell the essence of the gospel in this talk. “On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary” (1 Cor. 12:22). Naming and embracing our “disability” enhances community, breaks down barriers, and draws forth mutual understanding. Hubris counters all of these.

I believe God is continually redesigning our experience. As each of us gropes for Him as if in the darkness, may our spiritual sensitivities be enhanced. May more of us experience the redeeming work of Christ, which replaces every loss with something better.


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