0

In academic contexts, what is the consensus on whether we should avoid using "blind" as a category of persons, or should we avoid using it as an adjective (or both or none)? Does it vary between distinct academic communities?

CONTEXT: In a scientific project and its report, I was using the term "blind experiment" (defined by https://www.thefreedictionary.com/blinds as "2a. Performed or made without the benefit of background information that might prejudice the outcome or result: blind taste tests used in marketing studies."). A colleague recommends to replace the word "blind" (for the sake of inclusiveness) by "masked", "hidden", "anonymous", or "unbiased", as a form of respect toward "blind people".

ISSUE:

  • I have seen in the past the expressions "non seeing people" (which I think is a negative definition, a problem in itself) or "people with visual impairments" used as alternatives to the expression "blind people".
  • The request from my colleague seems to be about replacing the use of the adjective itself, which describes many situations not related to visually impaired persons (e.g. "blind spot" in the mirror, "blinding light" which prevent you to see, "blind experiment", etc.).

I am completely willing to do any language change, but I am confused about whether there is a consensus about replacing the adjective "blind" in all its applications, or about replacing the name used to refer to a category of people. Changing both seems overkill, and not having a clear policy WILL lead to severe miscommunications (of content), when the original purpose was to reduce miscommunication (of connotations) to begin with.

(I am not sure if this question should belong to Academia or to English, feel free to vote to move it to another category if this is inadequate. I am interested in answers in the academic context, but me asking is probably related to my non-native-English-speaker status!)

(I am not trolling nor trying to convince anyone here, and I respect any opinion that anybody could have, and in particular people with visual impairments.)

11
  • 8
    'My understanding was that for inclusiveness purpose, (some) "blind people" might be more comfortable being referred as "non seeing people' So what? Other blind people might find it strange or even ridiculous to be referred to as "non-seeing people" just so someone can get to signal their "inclusiveness" and prefer to be referred to as "blind people". Unless you have some particular reason to believe that the first group is more numerous than the second, the vague claim that "some blind people might prefer X" has no bearing on anything. May 19 at 10:32
  • 15
    Maybe its because I come from a non-American background, but I always seem confused by these things. Isn't "blind" a descriptive of someone, with no historical bad connotations? They are just... blind? Maybe also tall and blonde. Happy to be educated about this, but I am just surprised this is a thing. May 19 at 10:44
  • 7
    @Arno: Though one should probably add that (i) the definition given of a "double blind experiment" in this text does not seem to reflect how the term is actually used in, for instance, medical research and that (ii) the text claims that the term "double blind experiment" promoted a "negative [...] idea of blindness", while it seems more likely that most researchers (i.e., the people who mainly use the term) probably have a rather positive connotation when they hear "double blind experiment". May 19 at 15:27
  • 2
    @AnderBiguri Yet, OP's profile suggests they are Chilean, so your guess seems to be off base. May 19 at 16:17
  • 4
    @AzorAhai-him- oh, you misunderstood (aside from the obvious, Chile is America). I am saying that this is an American driven culture thing, not that American-born people do it. I still think everything I said about this side of the pond is true... May 19 at 16:45

2 Answers 2

6

The consensus is that pejorative and prejudice terminology should be changed. "Blind," in my experience, is neither.

"Blind experiment" means an experiment where something is hidden to make the experiment more reliable. That's a positive thing.

"Justice is blind" means it is fair. That is a positive thing.

Contrast that with "blacklist" which is a list of unwanted things. "Blacklist" could be interpreted as associating being unwanted with a group of people. People's opinions on the use of "blacklist" are unrelated to the phrase "blind experiment."

When referring to a person's vision, the term "visually impaired" is preferred by some because it clearly includes people with nonzero vision.

Grammatically speaking, "blinded experiment" would be more accurate than "blind experiment" and should make it even more obvious this has nothing to do with any identity group.

2
  • 2
    Just to give a counterpoint, I did find one well-reasoned argument taking the opposite viewpoint. I think the issue is less about these descriptions being negative, and more about the underlying assumption that if you can’t see something then you don’t know anything about it. But I don’t think there’s a strong consensus here the way there is with some of the other examples you give. May 20 at 10:01
  • @NoahSnyder I do not agree with those who say "blind" is being used in a way that equates blindness with ignorance. "Blind" is used to refer to postponing knowledge intentionally for a valid purpose. That's not like ignorance. May 20 at 12:56
1

what is the consensus on whether we should avoid using "blind" as a category of persons

I am not an expert on this topic, but a look at this page suggests that “blind” and “the blind” is how blind people in the United States most commonly refer to themselves, at least in the names of their associations and advocacy organizations (e.g., National Federation of the Blind, American Foundation for the Blind). It seems reasonable to infer that this is also how most blind people prefer to be referred to by others.

For other countries, see this page.

1
  • I think this summary is correct (the "most" is important!) and if you poke around on blindness advocacy websites, you can often find more direct statements of preference for identity-first language ("blind"/"blind person") as opposed to person-first ("person who is blind"/etc.) For instance, this article. Deaf and autistic groups tend to have similar preferences but this doesn't automatically translate to other forms of disability. May 20 at 22:45

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .