In a recent TV show in which he appeared, Dutch cabaret perfomrer Vincent Bijlo apparently showed a dislike for use of the white cane. On Twitter, people are debating whether this has to do with him accepting or not accepting his blindness. At first, I commented that I, too, have an issue with the white cane which is somewhat related to trouble accepting blindness, but that I didn’t want to judge Bijlo’s reasons for not using a cane.
Someone pointed out that Bijlo is making himself rather vulnerable by talking about his blindness in his performances, so it is hard to find evidence that he doesn’t accept his blindness. This is true: you may like his shows or not – I for one have gotten used to them by now -, but he is rather open about his blindness.
Also, there may be other reasons for not using the white cane as often or as properly as should. I for one find it very hard to use the cane properly, and, while I do use it off institution grounds and don’t have a problem with this, I do prefer to walk sighted guide. This has nothing to do with my not wanting to look blind. In fact, I’m well aware that, as I walk sighted guide, I look more stereotypically blind than if I learned to use the white cane properly. But so what? I don’t need to look like the superblind person I am not.
And it is quite common knowledge that Bijlo is not superblind. Why should he be? Because he is a performer and sets an example for other blind people more than others do? Well, I have never felt that it is blind people’s responsibility to make sure sighted people don’t have stereotypes. And even if it were, it wouldn’t be our responsibility to defeat all stereotypes at once. In fact, it is known that this doesn’t work. And Bijlo, of course, does belong to the 25% of blind people who have a job. I don’t think he needs to bear the burden of defeating other stereotypes just because he is well-known. I do see that the sighted are seeing Bijlo as the poster puppet for blind people in the Netherlands, but as a blind community, we shouldn’t be reinforcing this.