April 2020

Vol. 48, No. 2

Musings from the Blind Birder: Seeing While Blind

Martha Steele

People often convey their admiration for how I cope with being blind and how I refuse to let my vision loss interfere with my passion for birding. Nonbirders raise their eyebrows when I tell them I am a birder. I can feel their skepticism and confusion, wondering how I can possibly bird when I cannot see the birds. Perhaps some birders wonder the same or even feel a little sorry for me, watching my guide dog, Alvin, and me walk quietly listening for birds.

Yet, I rarely get questions about my blindness, particularly in the context of birding. Most often, the few inquiries come from little kids, curious and uninhibited. "Why do you bird when you can't see anything?" That might be followed by a parent whispering into the child's ear, presumably admonishing him for his "impoliteness." My response is to welcome such inquiries, "That is a great question." We can then proceed to have a wonderful discussion about how a blind birder can enjoy birding as much as anyone with vision.

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