Monday, May 08, 2006


Working blind

Recent silence here is largely due to the latest in a series of retinal detachments, necessitating another visit to the operating theatre. When the surgeon mentioned that the operation had a failure rate of 1 in 20 and since my other eye is pretty much wrecked as a result of past misfortunes, I had cause to reflect on the prospect of blindness.

Happily, it didn’t come to that but even if it had I could still at least count myself lucky to be in the right line of work. Conference interpreting is a path well trodden by the hard-of-seeing – there are at least four blind colleagues in the English booth in Brussels, for example. Not that four is such a huge number but I cannot recall ever once having come across a blind person in any other walk of life.

There seem to be a lot of blind singers and musicians of course. It appears the blind have a natural advantage over the sighted when it comes to the ability to hear a note, although this advantage applies only to those blind from birth or from very early in life. A more mundane explanation for the apparent over-representation of blind people in the musical sphere may be the fact that there are simply more of them trying their hand at musical careers because of the discrimination and natural disadvantages they suffer in other fields of employment. See Wikipedia article here.

Presumably the same factors account for the relatively high number of blind interpreters.

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