Listening to Blind Canadians: a documentary


The Canadian Federation of the Blind (CFB) held their 2018 convention in Victoria last May.

Writer Thelma Fayle and her partner Daryl Jones signed up to volunteer, hoping to help out wherever they were needed.

“Two of our closest friends,” says Fayle, “are very strong activists in the blind community, and so, over the last 10 or 15 years, we’ve learned a lot.”

“Thelma and I have done a lot of volunteer work for CFB” says Jones, “and we suggested that they might like to get some videotape.  And so, we did some videotape of the conference, and then also, we asked for volunteers, and thought we would just ask them a couple of questions, and get some feedback.”

The project has become a seven-minute documentary, Listening to Blind Canadians.

Fayle explains what those ‘couple of questions’ were.

“The first question was ‘Is there anything that sighted people do that drives you crazy?’  And what really struck me there was that most people started laughing right away, and they’d say ‘Are you kidding? How much time do you have?’

“The second question” Falye continues, “was ‘What do you think is the biggest challenge in Canada for blind people today?’  And that brought out a lot of interesting insights.  Mainly, we need more training in Canada for blindness skills for working-age blind people.

“And the third question was ‘What’s the biggest challenge in your life right now?’  And I wanted to ask that question because I wanted the audience to get a sense of looking at this person, not as a blind person, but as a person.  A person who is challenged by, as a young person, lack of confidence, or as a middle-aged person with a busy family and kids, or as a senior person adjusting to retirement… so I wanted to capture those kind of things, things that we all face.”

By the end of a day of filming, Fayle and Jones has collected seven hours of compelling comments.

“We had about ten people sit down with us,” says Fayle, “and it was very powerful.  They were honest, and they were full of vitality, and brought great insight.”

Oriano Belusic is past president of the Canadian Federation of the Blind, and he’s pleased that Fayle and Jones have taken on this documentary.

“It’s a wonderful project” says Belusic.  “It’s quite a refreshing expose of the real feelings and thoughts of younger working-age blind people.

“We have a lot of talented blind folks with tremendous education behind them,” says Belusic, “and it’s a shame to have such individuals sitting idle at home when they could be participating in the communities.”

“A lot of sighted people don’t really have any blind friends,” says Jones, “or don’t know any blind people, so simply by filming some of the issues that they face, and some of the challenges that they face, we thought they could enlighten a sighted audience.”

Fayle is hopeful that their seven-minute ‘short’ will lead to something bigger.

“Daryl and I are just retired people trying to cobble together a film here, and we hope that this small film would entice a larger broadcaster to do a [full-length] documentary.”

One of the comments within the documentary, made by Alex Jurgensen, powerfully sums up the philosophy of the film.

“Dignity will only come when the sighted community recognizes the potential of the blind.  The potential we all know within ourselves.”

You can watch Listening to Blind Canadians here.

Veronica CooperVeronica Cooper

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