Suspend Your Disbelief

Shop Talk |

On Writing Blind


I just finished teaching for the term, and this past class was a bit unusual: I had two legally blind students. All of my students were phenomenal, but I was particularly floored by the dedication of those two—one of whom did the class reading by listening to his computer read the stories aloud.

This all got me thinking about the many things I take for granted, including the ability to stare at a blank page waiting for inspiration to strike. Voice recognition software has come a long way, but it’s still not the smoothest tool for writers, as novelist Justine Larbalestier explains (via):

Now, yes, when I’m typing that gorgeously crafted sentence in my head it frequently turns out to not be so gorgeously crafted but, hey, that’s what rewriting is for. And when I’m typing the sentence it always has a resemblance to its platonic ideal. With VRS if I don’t check after every clause appears I wind up with sentences like this:

“Warm artichoke had an is at orange night light raining when come lit.”

Rather than

“When Angel was able to emerge into the orange night Liam’s reign was complete.”

Which is a terrible sentence but I can see what I was going for and I’ll be able to fix it. But that first sentence? Leave it for a few minutes and I’ll have no clue what I was trying to say.

I’m ashamed to admit that I never thought about the complexities of writing while visually impaired, and how difficult it must be, and I thank my students wholeheartedly for making me do so.

Can I leave you with this more heartwarming story about another, very lucky blind writer? Trish Vickers of Dorset, England, writes in longhand, but one night her pen ran out of ink. Neatorama explains how the police helped her recover her lost work:

“We battled with various ideas until we thought of the police.

“We rang them and asked to speak to their fingerprint section. They said if there was anything they could do they would be happy to help.

“I was gobsmacked and so happy.”

Her son drove her and the blank pages to Dorset Police HQ at Winfrith and waited to see what would happen.

True to their word officers in the department worked in their spare time, during breaks to try and crack the puzzle and Mrs Vickers got her manuscript back last week.

Literary Partners