Each week on Search Engine, PJ Vogt tries to answer a question he has about the world — no question too big, no question too small. This week, writer of The Country of the Blind, Andrew Leland, joins to discuss what it's like to slowly go blind.
Andrew, who has retinitis pigmentosa and has been gradually losing his sight for two decades, discusses the blind Internet, and opens up about how to deal with anxiety about the things you can't control that aren't going away.
Never having actually articulated why he wrote his book, for the first time Andrew revealed the reason, admitting, “I wrote it because I was going through this experience and I increasingly had the feeling that my ignorance about blindness was making my life worse, and was making my future as a blind person worse.” Leland noted that while, “most of us can get along pretty well being ignorant about blindness or disability... as I began to experience the reality of it more, all the fears that so many people have about it were just completely overwhelming me.”
“What began as an inkling, and then turned into the book," Leland added, “Those fears were not just unfortunate, but like actually their premises were wrong. And that the thing that I was afraid of could be grappled with so much more effectively if I understood what it was.”
In reference to a line from his book that says, “The primary problem of blindness is access to information,” Andrew discussed what it's like to use the Internet when you are, or are going blind.
“A big thing in blind culture right now has to do with audio description. Making that unimaginatively vast ocean of information that is not accessible, accessible to blind people. It really does boggle the mind when you think about what we’re talking about isn’t accessible — basically the entire visible world.”
Going on to discuss outlets that are helping to shape a blind Internet, including podcasts like Talk Description To Me, “where the visuals of current events and the world around us get hashed out in description-rich conversation.” Or Say My Meme, a podcast that literally describes the world's most relevant memes.
He also advocated for better use of alt tags: Adding a worded description to any image or meme posted on the Internet, saying there are now many ways to make the internet more blind-friendly -- It’s just about people taking the time to actually do them.
For all that and more on the informative conversation, listen to the entire episode above.
On Search Engine, host PJ Vogt answers the kinds of questions you might ask the internet when you can't sleep. If you find the world bewildering, but also sometimes enjoy being bewildered by it, we're here for you. New episodes every Friday.