GETTING IT WRONG TO GET IT RIGHT

It happens all the time. A blind person is walking to some specific destination, and somehow ends up going the wrong direction. Either he gets turned around, or misjudges the angle and veers off the mark, in either case he fails to take the direct path which would seem to a sighted person the obvious way to go. Often before he even realizes he has made a mistake, he is approached by a sighted person anxious that he be steered back on track.

This sighted observer, unfamiliar with our methods, is doubtless only trying to be helpful, but sadly the blind person gains nothing from the experience but the nagging awareness that he made a mistake and was not able to correct it. To our sighted friends, if you see us headed in what to you is obviously the wrong direction, and we’re not headed into danger and don’t appear upset, a far better course may be to grit your teeth and let us struggle!

Algebra is a challenge with which most of us, blind and sighted alike, have grappled. Whether we passed it with A’s or barely squeaked by, we cannot count the problems we got wrong before we finally figured out how to get them right. We miscalculated, performed steps out of order, put factors in the wrong place, and made innumerable other mistakes we can’t even identify. Eventually however, most of us learned to get enough problems right to at least get a passing grade.

But it was the problems we got wrong which ultimately lead to the ones we got right, and so it is when blind people are learning to travel independently. All those wrong turns and miscalculations ultimately lead us to learn the right path, and those self—taught lessons are ones we are unlikely to forget.

So, beginning blind travelers, go out there and get lost with confidence, because in travel as in Algebra as in life, it is not how often you get lost which matters, its your ability to get unlost.