Scientists Discover How Blind People Know So Much About Appearances guest author Sarah Sloat

The philosopher John Locke, who believed that true knowledge of the world could only stem from sensory experiences, thought that blind individuals could never understand the concepts of light and color. Locke, it turns out, was wrong. In a recent PNAS study, blind people demonstrate that they do understand what sighted people process through vision, proving that “visual” ideas don’t actually require sight.
In the study published Tuesday, scientists demonstrated how blind people make visual sense of what they cannot see. While previous studies suggested that the most efficient way for a blind person to know that, say, a flamingo is pink, is to memorize that fact, this study demonstrates that blind people instead look at the world like scientists and make sense of the visual world through a catalogue of clues.
“First-person experience isn’t the only way to develop a rich understanding of the world around us,” co-author and Johns Hopkins doctoral candidate Judy Kim explains. “People often have the intuition that we can’t know what we can’t see.”
This intuition is wrong, as Kim and her colleagues showed by testing 20 blind and 20 sighted adults, all around 30 years old, about their knowledge of animal appearances. The participants were asked to order a variety of animals by size and height and to sort the animals into groups based on shape, skin texture, and color. They were also presented with a group of animals and asked which one was not like the others.
The study design.
In most cases, the sighted and blind people performed equally well on the test. They sorted the animals in predominantly the same way, and both agreed on which physical features comprised the predominant description of each group of animals. For example, both blind and sighted people described dolphins and sharks to be of similar shape.
What the two groups disagreed about the most was, strangely, the factor that the researchers hypothesized would be the most agreed upon: Color. Sighted participants sometimes had trouble describing the shape of an animal, but they always readily provided its color. Blind people did not. This outcome refuted the “learn-by-description” hypothesis, which posits that blind people learn about objects by hearing the way other people describe them. If this were the case, then the blind participants should have been able to identify color easily, since sighted people seem to always include color in their descriptions.
But color is what blind individuals were least able to identify. And so, the researchers argue that the “learn-by-description” hypothesis must be incorrect and that blind people must gather visual information in a different way: By deducing it from existing knowledge about an object and details related to it.
“In the absence of direct sensory access, knowledge of appearance is acquired primarily through interface, rather than through memorization of verbally stipulated facts,” the scientists write.
How would you describe “pink” without having seen pink?
In other words, blind people take the scientific approach and infer appearances through other properties like taxonomy and habitat. This strategy works well for features like shape and textures; for example, birds have feathers and wings, so it’s implied that this holds true across bird species. Color is less easy to infer. Since there are a lot of animals that are the same color, it’s hard to deduce that, say, bears and ravens are black, based on the other things you know about animals.
But color inaccuracies aside, the research proves what blind people already know: You can have a rich and accurate sense of the world without actually seeing it.
And sometimes, the approach blind people take actually helps them be more accurate. Here, 55 percent of the blind participants and 20 percent of the sighted participants said that sharks have scales; the majority of that group said they have skin. In reality, sharks have fine scales — they are just difficult to see.
Abstract:
How does first-person sensory experience contribute to knowledge? Contrary to the suppositions of early empiricist philosophers, people who are born blind know about phenomena that cannot be perceived directly, such as color and light. Exactly what is learned and how remains an open question. We compared knowledge of animal appearance across congenitally blind (n = 20) and sighted individuals (two groups, n = 20 and n = 35) using a battery of tasks, including ordering (size and height), sorting (shape, skin texture, and color), odd-one-out (shape), and feature choice (texture). On all tested dimensions apart from color, sighted and blind individuals showed substantial albeit imperfect agreement, suggesting that linguistic communication and visual perception convey partially redundant appearance information. To test the hypothesis that blind individuals learn about appearance primarily by remembering sighted people’s descriptions of what they see (e.g., “elephants are gray”), we measured verbalizability of animal shape, texture, and color in the sighted. Contrary to the learn-from-description hypothesis, blind and sighted groups disagreed most about the appearance dimension that was easiest for sighted people to verbalize: color. Analysis of disagreement patterns across all tasks suggest that blind individuals infer physical features from non-appearance properties of animals such as folk taxonomy and habitat (e.g., bats are textured like mammals but shaped like birds). These findings suggest that in the absence of sensory access, structured appearance knowledge is acquired through inference from ontological kind.

Why the Kenyan Disability sector is yet to celebrate Uhuru in 2019: Author Mugambi M. Paul.

Why the Kenyan Disability sector is yet to CELEBRATE Uhuru in 2019:
Author Mugambi M. Paul.

The third eye on Disability policy implementation in Kenya 2019
In recent past, Kenya has been a global leader in developing and advocating for better disability policy framework. This is well articulated on the contributions made to the African disability policy framework, UNCRPD resolutions etc
Yet much is to be achieved in local policy development and implementation.
background:

In a chronology of events demonstrates that it has not been an easy ride for Kenyans with disabilities.
This is because the enactment of the
persons with disability act 2003 took place after the 3rd president was involved in a grisly road accident and took oath of office on a wheelchair.
Furthermore, the Kenyan disability policy has ever remained in draft formats.

All these indicators show It has been a tumultuous journey to have a repeal of the act or even actually develop a strategy of ensuring the realization of the rights of disabled persons in Kenya.

Actually, more than 20 versions of the amendment bills have been put across for the last 14 years.
This is not to say some sort of change has not taken place though it’s a snail pace.
, some piecemeal amendments have been achieved.
For instance, the sign language recognition.
With this notwithstanding, several questions policy makers have to ask themselves.
Who will actualize the implementation of beautiful disability global policies in Kenya?
When will persons with disabilities in Kenya receive and access services without overburdening them? when will the Wanjiku with disabilities stop facing surmountable of challenges in accessing services?

Short term reforms
Some of the actions taken after advocacy include:
Development of
action plan on accessibility 2015
gazettement of adjustment orders, participation on Kenya report on the implementation of UNCRPD 2015etc.
Additionally, in 2018 the ministry of labour has an interagency implementation of the resolution of the global summit held in London 2018

All these actions by the different policy makers are aimed at creating a more inclusive society that enables Kenyans with disability to fulfil their potential as equal citizens.
It is also the main way Kenya implements the United Nations
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Kenya, making sure people with disability can participate in all areas of Kenyan life.
As a public scholar I suggest the interagency organ of the ministry of labour develops a strategy which can address the existing gaps for policy implementation and enactment of 2020 disability act. It will be a great relive for many persons with disabilities.
If the interagency is offered the necessary resources and support, it can have development of a long-term strategic plan which can become a shared commitment by national and county government to work together to improve the lives of Kenyans with disability.
The interagency can guide governments and
other organisations to build the wellbeing of people with disability and their care givers.
Through this process the Ministry of labour and parliamentary committee can ensure the budgeting processes are disability inclusive.

There has been a lot of change to disability policy and service delivery since the enactment of 2003 act.
Some findings from disability researchers, bloggers and experience faced by persons with disabilities have established that the current act has lots of gravy areas.
This is because of systemic failures, lack of execution and resource allocation.
It’s prudent that ministry of labour and the stakeholders bite the bull by its horn by coming up with a long term 10-year disability strategy for Kenya which can be reviewed after five years.

Consequently, we need to make sure a new strategy reflects the changing policy environment and builds on opportunities available today as well as what may emerge over
the next decade, this includes considering the findings from KNCr reports the recent UNCRpd reports,
.
Public participation

constitutionally speaking the parliamentary committee, the ministry of labour should adopt public participation models which will enable persons with disabilities to contribute to the new strategies as a way forward.

This will ensure Consultation people with disability are at the centre of the design of the new strategy and have a leading role in modernising policies and
programs affecting their lives.
The needs to be a clear timeline of the consultation.
The policy makers need to adopt range of options available to ensure that persons with disabilities to have a say.
Importantly, all consultation should be accessible to people will disability.
This can be through the following:

list of 3 items
• an open public survey
Since some part of the population are able to access internet and more so the social media.

• face-to-face community workshops in every county
Media awareness.
• and online forum
The ministry of labour and the stakeholders should ensure that at all times.
The Consultations should be accessible.
This is by ensuring when registering persons with disabilities
provide details of any adjustments or special requirements they might need
key responsibilities:

Obviously, nominated parliamentarians with disabilities need to rise to the occasion and speak with one voice.
Its high time they realized disability is a cross cutting issue and doesn’t know the party lines.
They need to be accountable to persons with disabilities. At all cost.
The parliamentarians with disabilities need to think outside the box and develop bills targeting different aspects on disability not just targeting the reappeal of the 2003 persons with disabilities. For example, enactment of a carers act, braille and access to adaptive technology act, mental health act etc
We have evidently not seen the top law makers with disabilities drumming support for Legislation and policies underpinned by data disaggregated by disability which can make a difference by promoting meaningful
leadership, and consistently challenging harmful attitudes and practices.
.
For instance, the much hyped Huduma number and the upcoming census.
As policy expert I also orate that the disability persons organization are not playing their rightful role efficiently.
This is to say that an alternative view for better advocacy needs to be realized.
This is through continues research, surveys and serious consultations among membership.
Its true that most disability persons organizations have restricted themselves to Urban townships when consulting with out reaching out to the rural remote areas where even basic service to a Kenyan with disability are situated.
e
Conclusion

I believe that its high time the disability persons organization developed a serious advocacy framework with all organizations that care about the human rights and wellbeing of people with disability.
The human rights bodies and agencies need to be speaking up about the broader systemic issues that
need to be confronted, to ensure that people with a disability can have a good life.
going forward, it is not just the responsibility of the disability sector to make sure people with disability were included in the
community.
as Richardson a disability advocate says,
“This is about whole of community, and whole of government working through how best to include and embrace people with disability in all aspects of life,”

The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization. Mugambi Paul is a public policy and diversity and inclusion expert.

Don’t Believe the Media’s Lies: Disability and Beauty Are Not Mutually Exclusive By medicarepublic.com Additions by Mugambi Paul

This isn’t a feel good story. It’s not an essay on the virtues of strength and bravery, neither is it an attempt to inspire you with tales of overcoming
adversity. It’s not a lesson on looking past disability and discovering some inner beauty bullshit. This is a call to action. This is about acceptance
and inclusion, about seeing and celebrating. Like all diversity, disability can be beautiful.

Diversity is a hot topic. It means recognizing our differences, seeing what distinguishes us from the majority and then throwing a party hat on it and
embracing it. In recent decades, Western society has made great strides in challenging stereotypes and acknowledging diversity in skin color, size, age,
race, sexual orientation and gender. We’re still far from equality on any of these issues but the conversations exist and progress continues. We see these
identities depicted in media and when we don’t, or when we see false, corrupted versions of them, we are justifiably outraged because we understand that
representation matters.

What we observe in television, film and advertising is critical to our understanding of all aspects of society. Media has a direct and profound impact
on how we think about ourselves and others. The inclusion of disability into our socially acceptable model of diversity is an area where we still have
a lot of work to do. Across multiple media, disability is underrepresented, misrepresented, or just plain ignored. In fact, where disability is concerned,
mass media is telling us a big, ugly lie.
#In Kenya we are not yet in existence in the great media and entertainment scenes. Most artists with disability are used us charity objects. Our music royalties are not paid on time and we lack actual marketing and promotion.
I wasn’t born with a disability. But as an adult, I find myself needing to create a new identity that includes it. My search for positive examples to inspire
this acceptance of a new way of being has as much to do with how I feel about myself as it pertains to how others perceive me. In the absence of representation,
the message can only be that disability cannot be beautiful and I refuse to accept that. Fashion and beauty are where we look to see the heightened, idealized
versions of ourselves that help shape our style which is so critical to identity. Yes, fashion is fantasy but in a world where none of us are perfect,
we should all be able to find something recognizable, something that reminds us we belong.

I’m looking for the people who look like me, who look better than me. I need more than just Iris Apfel or vintage Madonna to show me how to style a cane.
I need to see the cool girl with the walker so that I can think, wow. She looks hot. I can look hot too. I’m just as vain and superficial as everyone else.
This frivolous, materialistic, self-obsession is part of my North American birthright and I want in.
In Kenya at most we don’t have artist to look upto just the short stature of Likobe and Mwala we can talk about other disabled artists are either not in existence or never granted the opportunity.
So, just where are these pretty people? In movies and TV, disability is almost always used as a plot point and not as something a real person happens to
live with. In the world of entertainment, disabilities are turned into stereotypes of victims and burdens, heroes or freaks; lazy tropes that are used
to make us feel specific emotions. These careless characterizations are not just hurtful, they’re dangerous. They inform how we see disabled people in
real life and lead us to believe they are low status individuals who cannot be happy, lead productive lives or be self-sufficient. This sucks. It’s also
wrong.

The Victim stereotype is meant to elicit pity with stories about the plight of the disabled that reinforce the idea of how awful their lives must be. Dickens
did it with Tiny Tim in such an overt characterization that even the boy’s name evokes pity. Victims can also be packaged as burdens whose lives aren’t
worth very much. Or at least not as much as that of the burdened person. By contrast Heroes elevate the status of disabled persons, putting them on pedestals
for simply living their lives. Their accomplishments tell us that if disabled persons just try hard enough, they can triumph, overcome their obstacles
and live ‘normal’ lives.
In advert we are not involved even in courses which we can advocate for ourselves the ableism mentality is spearheaded by even those we think are with us in this agenda. Cmpanies in Kenya have now followed soot on this non empowering agenda.
Daytime talk shows and reality TV have become modern day freak shows. Disability is the spectacle and as it turns out, we haven’t evolved since the days
of PT Barnum’s biological oddities. Meanwhile, physical deformities are used to portray super villains driven to crime or revenge through their unfortunate
fates. From Captain Hook to Darth Vader, movies have us socializing children to fear and associate negatively with disability. From a young age we can
be convinced that disability is a punishment for being evil, or that disabled people probably want to kill you.

All of this is, of course, crap. These are not my people. Like most disabled persons, I don’t see myself reflected in any of these stories. While I would
love to blame my chronic bitchiness on Multiple Sclerosis, people tell me I was bitchy well in advance of my diagnosis. And while it’s true that some children
are afraid of me, doctors tell me ‘super villain’ is not actually a symptom of MS.
These stereotypes are not how the majority of the disabled population experience disability or life in general. But these ideas are so pervasive and powerful
that they’ve become normalized. We believe these harmful lies without questioning them.

Part of the problem is that disabled people have little or no influence on how stories are told. It’s a population that is under-employed in every sector
and media is no exception. Stories are most often not written by disabled persons and the number of actors in leading roles with disabilities is not a
number that exists. Even when the story is about being disabled. Imagine if this were still true for other marginalized groups. Our false convictions are
so strong and so deep that most of us don’t even see a problem with this.

In addition to what we think disability is, we are left with what we think disability is not. The media wants us to believe that persons with disabilities
cannot be considered attractive, desirable or sexual.

In the fashion and beauty realm, there is no narrative. Disability is altogether ignored, as if it doesn’t exist; as if we don’t also have budgets for
things like lipstick and lingerie. We are lead to believe that disabled people are not also girlfriends, boyfriends, lovers, parents and partners, workers,
travelers and friends. We don’t recognize disabled persons as contributing, participating members of society.

It’s thus become accepted that disability disqualifies you from being beautiful. When someone does describe a woman with a disability as attractive, it
can feel like a loaded statement. Maybe it’s being said with shock and surprise. Or perhaps it’s qualified with something like “You’re pretty, for a disabled
chick” or “What a waste of such a pretty girl to be in a wheelchair”. The people saying these things actually think they’re doling out compliments. When
I was in the process of being diagnosed, someone who thought she was being supportive said to me, “Don’t worry. Pretty people don’t get MS.”

WTF? Wherever did we get that idea?

Society would have us believe this demographic doesn’t matter anyway because it doesn’t affect that many people. But according to the 2009 US census, 9.9%
of working aged Americans had a disability. That means 1 in every 10 Americans aged 18-64 reported significant difficulty with hearing, vision, cognition,
ambulation, self-care or independent living. Yet we don’t tend to think of this population as visible minorities worthy of accurate and careful representation.

If we don’t truly see the diversity, we don’t see the injustice. In race or gender this translates to things like discrimination and income inequality.
In disability this can mean lack of accessibility, or issues of employability. Transgender bathroom rights are in the news every day recently but despite
the ADA (American’s with Disabilities Act) having been around since 1990, PWD act of Kenya 2003 of NO. 14 there are many public spaces in both North America and more worse in Kenya that don’t have accessible bathrooms
at all. While we are arguing and passing laws about who gets to pee where, there is a whole segment of the population that has nowhere to pee. Why aren’t
we outraged about that?
In Kenya we get free county toilets which at most a time are not even accessible.
It’s time to get real about the stories we tell about disability. Why is it that we’re more comfortable seeing the undead eat brains than we are hearing
about an actual human with a colostomy bag? Disability is a normal part of the natural diversity of the world. It’s not going anywhere and we need to make
room for it. Increasingly positive media examples have lead to the rising status of several diverse groups over recent years. The acceptance of disability
should be no different. Media not only influences societal trends, it practically dictates them. The arts are by nature forward thinking and innovative
and have a real opportunity to change ideas in a massive and meaningful way. People with disabilities live full lives and are many things, including beautiful.
It’s time to tell these stories.