On this episode of Missy’s View, Missy ponders one of Helen Keller’s well known quotes; “Blindness separates us from things, but deafness separates us from people.” Just what does this mean to a Deaf person, and is this quote still relevant today?

Debating Helen Keller’s Quote

28 Comments

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  • Susie
    Reply

    Educational system has changed to accept deafness into the mainstreaming program throughout the 70’s. Still a barrier for most of the majority of deafness getting along with hearing society as whole at that time frame in the 70″s. In the 1990’s time frame more and more deaf people are involved in life settings in the hearing world now compared to the time of Helen Keller time. More and more Deaf actors are taking stage now compared to along time ago. WHOA! That is a miracle. It takes progressive deaf people to really conquer their strong beliefs to get involved in Deaf Nation, NAD, and many diversity of unity groups to grow. The more solitary the deaf person is feeling no connection has a lack of information where the events are. For example, Deaf Expo have to have a certain number criteria of people must show up in order for Deaf Expo to be in a certain states to run the Expo yearly. So, it would require other deaf people to travel to other states to stay connected for those who do not have deaf expo or events in their home town or rural town. It doesn’t change the fact that some or less deaf people do not have the income making capabilities to travel or really get involved more of this activities the world has to provide. It takes a true special intelligent deaf people to make it in this hearing world requirement Helen Keller has a point ” deafness separates us from people. ” For instance, like missing out on a conversation of a family conversation or events or stories or human voice of a caring heart. Words coming out of a person has a touch meaning of caring as well as words coming out of our fingers for total communication. There are some hearing people who are not fond of sign language because they have never been exposed to it. It is a word of comfort saying we are alive and worthy. Remember every individuals of deafness has his or her own yellow brick road of how they view deafness is in a positive way or other thoughts that comes their life. Your view is GREAT because you have a very strong unity for the deaf people in whole!! Missy…. Thank you for your view!! Keep it up!! Smile Susie

    • myself
      Reply

      I disagree with Missy. I’m the only deafie in my family. Even though I’m profoundly deaf, no one in my family signs, except for my wife. When I go over to see my family, I’m always left out because I can’t lip-read everyone. Etc.

      Deaf accessibility is the most complicated of all disabilities because it requires money and technology to be accessible. The blind have had Braille, audiobooks and text to speech for years. Some theaters have captioned movies but not all. Why? Cost to install equipment or they need to agree to show OC movies. All a blind person needs to watch a movie is a cane or guide to get to a seat. Smartphones are great for communications but are expensive. Blind people are fine with a cheap phone.

      Videophones require high speed internet which isn’t available in all areas. A deaf friend prefers to live out in the middle of nowhere but got tired of using aircards for videophones and just moved to the city.

      Even today, I (and friends) have a hard time getting medical personnel to provide terps. Blind people do not have any problems.

      The blind have their rights. We are still fighting for ours.

      Etc.

  • sheri hostovsky
    Reply

    I understand your point missy and that is our deaf world point of view. We are absouletly fabulously fine with deaf people. However, I think what Helen Keller meant with her quote “deafness seperates people” was in real world we will never feel “connected “with hearing people who does not know deaf or sign language. When we go to grocery shopping, to post office, places everyday we go we interact hearing people and we do not automatically communiate fluently and that seperates us. She was a presenter all over the world, she always had to bring her assistant Anne Sullivan with her all the time. We have to remember she knew 7 languages and she was famous for speaking with people all over in the world. Communication was very important in her life that was why she prefers being blind over deaf she does not care about things she cares about people. By the way agree with the flowers you were standing by, OMG they are goregous. I can not imagine being blind I love seeing beautiful garden, animals and people! I prefer Deaf over Blind too. Thank you Missy for sharing that quote dilemma with us.
    Sheri

    • Lisa Jones
      Reply

      “She prefers being blind over deaf she does not care about things she cares about people.”
      You hit it right on the head! It was her perspective and what she cherished. PEOPLE. Thank you Sheri.

  • Peter Hershon
    Reply

    I can’t agree more with you on your debate regarding Helen Keller’s quote. I did not realize that quote even though I have debated the question as to whether you prefer being blind or Deaf with people I met in my life. Their opinion varies. For myself, I preferred being Deaf because I can’t live without things I see. No way. People, who prefer being blind, is insane!

  • Theresa
    Reply

    I agreed with you what you were disagreed of what Helen Keller’s quote.
    I dont agreed when she were stated Deaf seperated from people which is untrue.
    I think she was meant for hearing people and seemed have not experience to socialize amoung the Deaf and Deaf /Blind community. She has always being with her teacher/inventor (everywhere she go).
    My grandfather met her throught a teacher who are related to my family. He mentioned that he disagreed that quote but Anne ( teacher she agreed with Helen). My grandfather felt it was a mistake. In fact he was right even thought he was hearing later deafness at the older age. He have seen me throught my life ( I was born with Deaf) He observed me of how I social with hearing and deaf community without help. I wish he would write a book of how he view but he passed away 24 years ago.
    I think Helen need to be more clarified of what she meant for.

  • Joe
    Reply

    Helen never experienced seeing things therefore she doesn’t understand what it is like to be a visual deaf person. It is understandable in her limited condition. Although, she failed to credit the deaf community for help giving birth to her cognitive power when she first learn sign language. Without signlanguage and she probably wouldn’t learn 7 languages.

    I met a deaf-blind person. He once confided me that he prays every night ask God to restore his eyesight. I asked what about his hearing? He doesn’t care. He doesn’t want his hearing restore. Interesting. He born deaf and later became blind. Perceptually, he is well adapted as a deaf person than he is as a blind person.

  • Martha
    Reply

    My mom became blind at later age. She told me that she wish she was deaf instead being a blind person. She raised me a deaf person.

  • J.J.
    Reply

    Hi Missy,

    Funny that you did this vlog just now because recently I participated in a message board thread, on one forum that I frequent, where the title was, “Blind or Deaf?”. To my surprise, the majority of participants said they would rather be deaf than blind. Now, this was a NFL football forum and these are people that WATCH a lot of football. Nonetheless, I was surprised because as you said, I have always known hearing people would rather be blind than deaf until after they met a deaf person.

    In addition, the Keller quote needs to be considered in two contexts:

    1.) She probably meant deaf people were cut off from the “hearing world”, not ALL people.

    THIS is partially true. We have the deaf community and prefer to hang out with deaf people over hearing people (usually). So, put us in an elevator with hearing people…we wouldn’t have a conversation with them unless we wrote with pen/paper or texted or gestured or lip read/spoke..all of which are difficult.

    2.) When did she say it? I assume some time between 1910-1950 (she was born in the late 1800’s and died in the late 60’s).

    Keller wasn’t alive when the Internet came around and I believe that technology has allowed deaf people like us to connect with the hearing world more than ever before. For example, at work I have conversations with co-workers all the time via instant messaging/E-mail and call other hearing people all the time on VP. In addition, there are more interpreting services available than ever before (my doctor offers interpreting without me requesting it).

    -J.J.

  • MM
    Reply

    Unless you have experienced the loss, how can you compare ? Curious someone born deaf and blind can give an view on being with or without the other !? Deaf people would rather not be blind, blind people would rather not be deaf ? all sounds negative either way.

    • Rob V.
      Reply

      Thank you, MM, for stating what I have always said for years: “You’re really relying on the opinion of a person who never experienced the sense of either hearing or sight to validate your argument?”

      I’d be the first to say that if Keller was magically (we’re in unicorn land now, people, bear with me!) given, for one minute each, the ability to hear followed by the ability to see, she’d be a screeching banshee asking for sight over hearing.

      She was incapable of comprehending what is essentially “noise pollution,” the unavoidable beeps, buzzings, passing traffic, whirring fans, barking dogs, etc that drive hearing people nuts.

      Whereas, with sight, if she sees something visually “unpleasing,” she simply looks away or closes her eyes.

  • Simon
    Reply

    I’d like to inform you that that famous quotation made by Helen Keller was not yet found in any literature. Two or three years ago I contacted the Helen Keller Foundation and asked for its accurate source or book reference. However, they couldn’t trace the exact quotation in any literature that Helen wrote! Possibly, it was paraphrased or re-arranged by someone else. I shall greatly appreciate it if anyone who has found the source of the famous quotation let me know the info. Thank you.

    Simon

    • Steve
      Reply

      Missy, pls find out for us exactly where that quote came from? I’d like to read the whole context where that quote is as told by HK. Pls give us name of book or letter or diary entry…I’m sure her stuff is catalogued some where in a HK collection. Thanks!

  • Eleanor
    Reply

    Missy, you said it all!!! Helen was raised in a totally different enviroment so obviously her experince was very limited. I am DEAF!!! I can see, I can drive, I can see everything, watch TV, see my family, see my precious children and grandchildren. So much more!!!

  • MM
    Reply

    Well Simon I agree with you but we can often see deaf people using that ‘quote’ to justify the fight against the antagonism towards deafness (NOT deaf people). If it isn’t quoted then someone needs to tell deaf people as this can pitch the deaf against the blind. Who has the worse disability etc… you can go online now and find these debates still going on. Whether she said that or not it is probably an truism for late-deafened and those who then don’t belong as an result to any specific social grouping. ‘Chinese whispers’ you can’t solve it can you ?

  • Robert
    Reply

    I remember a Priest saying this quote ages ago: “Seeing people treat blind people with sympathy; Hearing people treat deaf people with annoyance.” This quote perhaps was true in the times before 1950’s…. what would you say about this?

  • James B Eckber
    Reply

    I recall that Helen Keller eventually realized that she made a wrong statement as she preferred to being blind. Later, he realized that being deaf was better off.
    I cannot recall a date.

  • Rob V.
    Reply

    And after a cursory review on the web, there really isn’t a direct attribution of the quote cited by the lovely Ms. Keast.

    However, I was thrilled to find this quote of Helen Keller’s which is much more likely to be legitmate:

    “Of all the senses, sight must be the most delightful.”

    Hey! I just indirectly proved my own opinion as to what sense Keller would have preferred!

    *Smugly pats self on back*

  • Sandy
    Reply

    My understanding from Helen Keller is somewhat I disagree and agree with her.

    DISAGREE:I disagree with HK about the deaf world. Yes, I agree completely what the comments from above. We do feel freely to communicate and drive cars, motorcyles, bikes, etc. and other things like that. We can do anything except hear. I personally prefer to be deaf not blind. I can say more and more but the comments from above is enough.

    AGREE: In today world, I still feel oppression by the hearing people. They try to fix deaf to become hearing. How can we prevent that? I remembered in the past the doctor invented something to make the blind people see. The blind people heard and spoke up. They stopped doing investing on that project. But now, they are doing on the deaf and the deaf didn’t speak up enough. So, now the CI had spreaded around the world to fix the deaf hearing. In this situtation, I feel separation from most hearing people because they did not listen to the deaf. (BUT I know there are few hearing people understand and respect…I applaud these specific hearing people…interpreters, working with the deaf using ASL, etc.)

    Also, why the government decided to close deaf schools at the various states due to finance? They seemed they did not care and want to send deaf to their local public schools. They do not understand what the deaf’s needs. I personally wish that the majority is deaf and the minority is hearing and they will/might understand.

    I work at the public school and I feel oppression by the county and they did not care about the deaf at mainstream schools. They did not listen to the deaf voice. They focus on political thing not deaf thing and deaf’s needs. I am deaf and I am frustrating about this situation.

    BY THE WAY, I feel it is not enough explanation what HK meant.

  • Michelle Osterhout
    Reply

    I agree with Missy. Yet, I agree with Helen’s sayings because she is simply saying those things as a Deaf/Blind person, of the early 1900’s, who has never heard ‘sound’ nor seen ‘sight’ since birth. Therefore, she’s entitled to her own opinions. Does that mean we are to accept her viewpoints? Absolutely not. We are entitled to our opinions and fact findings with what makes us tick in this world. How we view the world. There are no two alike: persons in the world. No two minds alike in that sense, too.

    Had she been hearing for a brief time before losing it or able to see before losing her eyesight, she may have said it differently….

    Helen astounded and impressed a lot of people back then. Thus, she became famous for it. She does not represent for the Deaf community, rather, she is a historical figure that I’ve read, researched, and admire. Does she define what Deaf is today? No.

    Just an interesting viewpoint to check on. Thank you for bringing that up.

  • Ronald Hays
    Reply

    It may mean that if Helen was given a second chance by God, she would rather to be blind and hear than be deaf and able to see since she said deafness separates from people but blindness separates from things so obviously she felt she had more “human contact” via blindness than deafness. A very interesting perspective though because she lost these two important senses when she was a baby, however, if she didn’t lose it until later on in life THEN there’d be the possibility of a vice-versa preference. Ahem !

  • Nancy Vinacco
    Reply

    I agreed with Missy 110percent as I have same opinion as Missy as I am from Deaf family. Thank God.. as I met a deaf/blind person (used to be Usher’s syndrome) as she rather be see than be hearing.. I asked her why? INDEPENDENTLY and do anything…Isee the point as Helen Keller had no experience seeing whats out there as she was born completely blind and had no idea what was out there.

  • Tom Posedly
    Reply

    What’s like being born both fully blind and deaf? Hard to imagine not being able to see colors and language. Helen was born in a very wealthy family and always had someone at her elbow everywhere, anytime. I don’t think she travelled alone. Still it’s hard to imagine not being able to hear and see at the same time. Maybe Helen meant to say that deaf/blind is separated from BOTH things and people. I saw a deaf/blind couple sitting all alone in a deaf community center some time ago. It was a full house and this couple was still alone. One deaf/blind guy wrote a book and I think the title was “My World on My Fingertips”. I think his name was Smith or something like that.

  • Danny
    Reply

    I’ve heard this quote many times. I don’t think she was trying to state that being “deaf” is worse than being “blind.” It was a reflection on her feeling of being accepted in the real world. It depend on other people how they perceive this message about being separated from things and from people. Being blind does not affect one’s ability to speak and communicate with the hearing. Being unable to talk, that’s another whole story. It is not often that every hearing individual would drop everything just to learn sign language and communicate with us, the Deaf. Suppose, one tries to talk to me and finds out that I’m blind, s/he would keeps talking to me, but when one finds out that I’m deaf, often s/he would say “Oh, I’m sorry” and walk away.

    The quote itself is a very powerful message not only among the Deaf community but the actual world out there. Again, it is not a fact but a feeling being spoken by Keller at the time where there were limited opportunities for the Deaf.

    Love your views, keep it up. :)

  • chad swaringam
    Reply

    All deaf people are different that is because in different local of Education of field that their loved ones whom are their parents and teachers too. Why? Because in the field where I went to when I was when I was little boy my parent wanted the best so it cost more?? Yes it does.. Teacher has to do what my parent said to do it not our choice it is the parent’s choice what, who, how, when and on because they paid Teacher a lot money to do these well think back time.. Keller’s parents had a lot money to pay the teacher to work with Hellen Keller. Now What matter today all the deaf now day they are not getting these why? Because the Government jumped and took in and control them teacher when did this start? It was a Government Job for teacher, Principle, and counselior and these schools it started in 1950 now what different? Keller had to pay teacher on jobs because there was no Government Laws!!!

  • BALTAZAR MBWALE
    Reply

    How world is tested? is it only by eyes or ears? I thing we better think what makes an individual full test of the World, before prefering one of the disability to the other, the World of Hellen has passed, we are in new generation in wchich every one under National and International guideliness will access in human right accordingly

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