In the Eye of the Beholder


An interesting and enjoyable part of my work at the Ruderman Family Foundation (RFF) is reviewing the short videos periodically forwarded to us by colleagues and friends.

This week our colleague Rotem Weiner at Lotem sent us the link to a video from the UK that generated surprising controversy in the RFF team.  Some of us found it deeply touching, while others were more than a little uncomfortable with the messages it conveys about people who are blind.  We find this is often how we learn the most about varying perceptions of disability issues: from honest disagreement among trusted colleagues.

You can view the less-than-two-minute video, “The Power of Words,” here.

What do you think? Does this video impart positive or negative messages about people with disabilities?  We invite you to join our conversation by posting your comment below.

And as we approach the new calendar year, the Ruderman family sends you warm wishes for a fully inclusive 2013.

–Jay Ruderman



Filed under Blog, perceptions of disability, YouTube

9 responses to “In the Eye of the Beholder

  1. Barry C-L

    I think the positive message came through, beautifully and sweetly

  2. Debbie

    I think it makes more of a point about fundraising than about blindness. Though I admit that as I write this I am still in shock that the website of the Center for Deaf-Blind Persons here in Israel ( was justed hacked by the Gaza Hackers, apparently to prevent end of the year donations. Perhaps that too is a type of inclusion – that they hack NPO websites and not just banks, etc. ??? Perhaps that’s taking inclusion too far…

  3. APS

    I don’t like the implication that blind people would get more help if they asked differently, but I do not think most people will take that away from this video. Clearly they mean that they can help deserving people get their message out and increase donations or revenue.

  4. We at Yad HaChazakah-The Jewish Disability Empowerment Center had this discussion. We think that this perpetuates several stereotypes:
    1) That of the blind beggar.
    2) Blind people cannot sense or appreciate a beautiful sunny day.
    3) Blind people are sad or necessarily feel deprived of sight.
    4) That not yet disabled people know better and they can change our signs or move us about without conferring with us.

  5. Shelley Cohen

    Sharon as always, we learn best about disabilities by listening to people with disabilities.

  6. Long before the video was available I had seen and was using almost the same message in my fundraising for the vision impaired. It did raise the awareness of those who saw it in print. The original wording without the video I think gave a different picture and as our work is with Israel’s vision impaired of all ages it gave a very significant message. Sometimes the video does not portray what words alone can do just as a picture can sometimes also portray more than words.

    I used the original wording in an Overview of Beit Yael’s variety of short term live-in programs. I’d be happy to send the original which does differ from the one in the video if anyone would like to see it.

  7. First – yes, one should ask bind and visually impaired people their opinions (and blind beggars as well for that matter).
    I agree strongly with Sharon Shapiro-Lacks points.
    But a strong message to learn from the video is that it’s important to get your message accross in a way that can really express the suffering or pain that people might be in, as opposed to just the fact that you should support them only because they have a disability. I still would not donate to the blind person in the video after seeing the new message because he did not state any concrete purpose (like I need food or a help in getting a job….), but just another general (but much clearer) way of saying “I’m blind, please help”. He would still stay helpless – and not empowered – by my donation.

  8. I very much agree with Elias Kabakov’s points. He’s not begging because he’s blind… He’s begging because he’s poor and needs a job, food, clothes, and perhaps housing… not because he’s blind and is thought to mourn eye-vision [which both his sign and her sign implicated and played upon]. His ask should be based upon his lack of work and income, how that affects him, and how the donations will help.

    Yes, his blindness might have something to do with why he lacks employment, i.e. job discrimination, lack of technology, or lack of competent and accessible vocational training venues. That’s a social/political or systemic issue, needing a separate sign with a different ask.

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