Okay, Larry King didn’t quite put it like that on his show last night when talking with Governor David Paterson of New York, who is blind. Instead, in talking about the rumors of a personal-scandal story at the New York Times that supposedly would force his resignation — a story that never materialized — King asks Paterson whether he was, er, blind to the story until someone had to read him the headlines from other newspapers and media outlets. Because, you know, it’s hard for blind people to, er, read them for themselves … awkward!
“The fact that you’ve been, not a pun intended, blind to this. In other words, people have to read the headlines to you, right?” Yup. He really did ask that.
King succeeded in blindsiding Paterson with that question, who initially couldn’t figure out what King was getting at. Initially, Paterson replied, “I don’t think my legal blindness has anything to do with it.” Even after that, Paterson politely avoids answering King’s question, preferring to offer somewhat of a non-sequitur about how his condition forced him to get tough. Why King thought Paterson’s blindness had anything to do with this is hard to explain.
However, it’s hard for me to be too tough on King for this uncomfortable moment, although it’s pretty funny. My wife is totally blind and has been for almost 30 years, and I’ve seen more than a few people trip over questions just like this in normal conversation with her. Heck, even I did when I first met her; I kept fumbling for different ways to say “See you later” and “Good to see you,” until the First Mate put me at ease with it. Our first few dates involved the symphony, dinners, walks, and so on — until I ran out of ideas that didn’t involve movies, and she explained that a good movie on occasion was fine by her.
So, to make it clear, blind people can’t read headlines in the newspapers. They do, however, have ways of reading them through adaptive technology, just as the First Mate will read this post on her computer thanks to Jaws software, others through Kurzweil scanner technology, and so on. If Paterson can be governor of New York, he can get the news on time, too. But that won’t keep people from wondering how the blind manage to do it, even occasionally on prime-time television.