Guest Post: Challenge Accepted!

As promised, I’ve got a special post for you lovely people, a guest post!

A friend of mine recently suggested we do a blog swap, where we post on each other’s blogs. You can check my article on how trust can improve productivity here. And here on the dark side I’d like to introduce to you Austen Jeans, creator of Focus Weekly. This is where Austen shares productivity and self-improvement tips and tricks.

I challenged Austen to pick a familiar task and do it while blindfolded, then write about his experiences. My one stipulation was that it had to be something he could do SAFELY, and he chose a great one. Read all about his experiment below.

Intro:

Being fully sighted, I am unfamiliar with articles on the subject of visual impairment. However, your usual host has kindly lent me this space and challenged me to discuss my brief experience without sight. For this challenge, I decided to try a task I was familiar with, playing the guitar. I’ve been playing the guitar for some years now, some might even say I’ve become fairly good at it. However, to make this interesting I tried playing fully blindfolded. And although a blindfold doesn’t even come close to the reality of living without the full use of sight, here’s my experience and what I learned about the perspective of those who are visually impaired:

Relying on Muscle Memory:

I’m sure this comes as no surprise, but during this challenge, I discovered how big of a role muscle memory plays in our ability to navigate our daily lives.

I’m pretty sure everyone knows what muscle memory is but just in case, here’s a quick definition: When searched on Google, the official meaning of muscle memory is: 

“The ability to reproduce a particular movement without conscious thought, acquired as a result of frequent repetition of that movement.”

Many attribute the ability to retain the knowledge of certain movements to the muscles themselves. However, a study conducted by Malene Lindholm of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm proved that our muscle tissue does not retain the “memory” of our previous repetitive actions. In fact, according to biopsies taken during this study both the “trained” and “untrained” muscles appeared to have the same physiology. Instead, the information we retain about activities we do is stored in our brain, not our muscles.

Naturally, over many years we build up a large number of neural pathways that help us take “mental shortcuts”. So then, how does muscle memory affect our day to day lives? When I took away my sight I found myself trying to find notes on the fretboard using the feel of my guitar’s neck. I relied on determining where my fingers were based on my familiarity with the guitar. You can find examples of muscle memory everywhere. It’s the reason we can walk without thinking about it and is a huge factor for navigating the world.

The Importance of Sound:

The other sense I heavily relied on was sound. Using my Echoic memory (the sensory memory bank that registers specifics to auditory information/sounds), I found that I could relate my position on the fretboard based on the pitch of the notes I played. For example, if I was aiming for the middle of the fretboard and played a note with a higher pitch I would know where I was and in the same way, where I had to go.

This got me thinking, not only could sound be related to place but also time and character. For example, when we hear crickets chirping we know that it’s starting to get late. And when we listen to the tone of someone’s voice we can immediately judge their character. If someone was talking to you in a normal and calming way you probably wouldn’t think anything of it. But when someone yells at you in an angry and thunderous fashion, you immediately acknowledge that they are mad and potentially start to feel that way yourself.

My Reflections on How the World Changed For Me Without Sight:

Although I could never hope to talk about what it’s really like to live without the full use of sight, I am hoping to convey what I thought about how it feels. Certainly, a lack of sight would make a lot of common tasks seem impossible which is why I commend each and every person who lives without it. The main thing I picked up on during this challenge was how important the use of other senses become. I found myself relying on muscle memory, touch, and sound far more than usual. 

Thanks to this experience I now realise how much I take mindfulness of my senses for granted. Anyone who lives with a disability of any kind is 100 times stronger than anyone else. I hope I can encourage each and every one of you to go after your dreams no matter where you come from, how old you are, and how wild your dreams may seem now. Just know you can achieve absolutely anything you set your mind to.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post, I hope you enjoyed it.

I also hope you enjoyed reading about Austen’s trip to the dark side. What I loved most about his post is how he focused on what he could still do, and do very well, rather than on how worrying, frightening, or restricting it was to temporarily lose his sight. He really highlighted competence, rather than isolating awe or amazed pity.

I’d like to issue the same challenge to each one of you. Find something you enjoy doing, feel pretty confident about, and can do SAFELY with a blindfold on. Write about your experience and send it to me and you can try your hand at being a blindfluencer, too!

8 Comments

  1. I’ve been wanting to write an article on accessibility for people with sight issues for some time, ever since finding out that predestination crossing some times have a spinning cone under the box that people with sight issues can use to know when it’s safe to cross. They use them when there’s a number of different crossings close together. Like your guest blogger, I don’t have sight issues either, but the world could be and should be more accessible than it currently is

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great article, the experiment is something I would try, but I’m having trouble working out what would be safe for me to do, but I’ll keep thinking. I found the use of the other senses fascinating, and the article is well written. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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