Twelve Safe Alternatives to the Bird Box Challenge
January 12, 2019 6:40 PM   Subscribe

Veronica Lewis, on Twitter (also on Threadreader and on her blog): "I've seen the #BirdBoxChallenge all over social media lately. As someone with low vision and a blindness cane user, it worries me to see many unsafe and inaccurate videos about doing tasks with no vision. Here is a thread on safe and positive alternatives to the viral challenge."
posted by mandolin conspiracy (25 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I made a habit of touching the braille on the doors at my old office, someone asked me why once and I said it might be useful some day.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:57 PM on January 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

Since I was curious what the Bird Box Challenge was, here's from Veronica's blog:
In recent times, I have seen a new social media trend flooding my timeline called the Bird Box Challenge (#BirdBoxChallenge). The concept of the challenge is that a person is supposed to blindfold themselves and then complete everyday activities such as walking, doing chores, and navigating their community, amongst other tasks. The challenge gets its name from the movie Bird Box, which is about a group of people who wear blindfolds to avoid being killed by a monster of some sort- if they see it, they die.
First I've heard of this. I've been doing things like this in a low-key way since, I dunno, early adolescence maybe, when my vision was fair but I had realized that life would be easier if I could navigate from my bedroom to the bathroom and back at night without having to turn on any lights or waking my siblings. These behaviors became a more present part of my life later when my eyesight was kinda fucked for a spell (it's better now, thanks).

I wonder a little whether this is another case of people mistaking performative activities for developing empathy, and whether once the fad passes few people will have learned anything of value. But I guess that's not a thing that's going to go away in the era of Facebook and YouTube, and I like Veronica's extensive list of suggestions for things to do that hew closer to how real-world everyday life is affected by vision impairment, even if they're not as viral-worthy as a video of blindfolded people trying to chop vegetables.
posted by ardgedee at 7:26 PM on January 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

In case anyone was wondering, the first dumb meme accident of 2019 is here.
posted by betweenthebars at 7:32 PM on January 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

Huh as a kid I would do this kind of thing but never in a way involving knives.

I will make sure and send this link to anyone proposing such foolishness.
posted by emjaybee at 7:34 PM on January 12, 2019

In general the concept of simulating a disability to engender empathy is bad and counterproductive. It makes people think that since they felt helpless and couldn't do a task that that's the extent of the abilities of people who live with that disability. It doesn't have a way to accountofr the way people who live with disabilities learn and adapt and can navigate their world in a way that an abled person has no concept of. A good blog post about this is here: Why Your “Disability Awareness” Pprograms Are Awful.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:34 PM on January 12, 2019 [22 favorites]

13. Put on a sleep mask and go to bed.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:02 PM on January 12, 2019 [5 favorites]

Oh man, that brings me back. At my old job, corporate safety promoted a list of "fun" training activities. One of them was to simulate disabilities by having people try tying a shoe with one hand, or make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich wearing gloves that had their thumb taped down or whatever. My boss was all "We need to do these!". I said no, because we have people that are missing fingers (and a leg in one case). How do you think they would feel if we did that? That we're trying to prove their life is hellacious and people should be extra careful, so that wouldn't be them?? Jaysus.

That being said, if you get behind the wheel of a car blindfolded, willingly, you need to get your license taken away for a while.
posted by Fig at 8:06 PM on January 12, 2019 [5 favorites]

Why can’t these bird brains just do the A Quiet Place Challenge? That’s the one where you go through life without making any noise, or letting anyone know you exist.
posted by valkane at 8:24 PM on January 12, 2019 [58 favorites]

5. Watch a movie or TV show with audio description

FJT mentioned this in one of the Marie Kondo threads. I was unaware of this and gave it a try, it seems like a great accessibility feature.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:27 PM on January 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Killing time between rehearsals (old seattle opera house) I decided to go for a pee in the restroom on the top balcony floor. Theaters are pretty good at keeping unneeded lights off when no audience is around, the elevator had a low light but when the doors closed, utter total blackness. I knew there were a few steps down to the door but it was really dark but not totally until the door closed and then super sensitive film processing black. Don't know if I hit the urinal square or left a mess for the cleaners but made it back downstairs without breaking anything. Slowly.
posted by sammyo at 9:38 PM on January 12, 2019

I wonder a little whether this is another case of people mistaking performative activities for developing empathy,

There are people literally blindfolding themselves while driving. There is no redeeming explanation for them. They don't have the brain cells it would take to make one up.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 12:01 AM on January 13, 2019 [4 favorites]

FWIW, I have led blind navigation workshops.

a) I'm blind, and know what I'm doing.
b) I give people blindfolds and a guide cane/
c) I teach how to use them, progressively (starting from "remember how to walk normally").
d) I get positive results (and I do check).
e) It's a 1-hour-plus workshop, very intense, customized to the exact location where I run it.
f) My notes for how to run it are public and welcome comments

See in general my page about my talk at 35C3, "Sense without sight: a crash course on #BlindNavigation".

1. I think that trying something like this without expert guidance (either an O&M instructor or an experienced blind person) is a horrible idea.
2. I also think that it is possible to do well, in a way that creates real (not fear/pity or inaccurate) empathy, if done carefully.
posted by saizai at 2:59 AM on January 13, 2019 [29 favorites]

So, wait, how much money is Jake Paul making, encouraging kids to murder/suicide by automobile? Can we send him the medical bills?
posted by eustatic at 5:56 AM on January 13, 2019 [4 favorites]

I went to a boarding school that had a mid year special projects week where students proposed and did an independent project of any kind and wrote about it. One guy blindfolded himself for an entire *week* and was quite consistent about it. Not sure how the blind community would feel about it today but it was neat to see him progress from “this is a lark” to actually adapting and starting to be able to live that way while walking around campus, going to meals etc. he didn’t drive though ...
posted by freecellwizard at 6:01 AM on January 13, 2019

I didn’t know people were doing a “challenge”, but I did really enjoy the linked blog post and I’m going to try going through most of the things in there. I suspect I have some inaccurate assumptions about low-vision accessibility- I probably assume some things are worse than they are, and other things are better than they are?
posted by Secretariat at 8:55 AM on January 13, 2019

I worked as a driver a few years back for a nonprofit that provided services to blind people. They had a "Dining in the Dark" fundraiser every year, where a several-course meal was served in a pitch-dark room by SWAT-team members with night-vision equipment. There's a five-minute training at the beginning where they teach you how to not knock your water-glass over or saw your finger off with a steak-knife. At the end of the evening they bring up the lights and everyone can see whether they had chicken or steak, (which a lot of people can't tell without looking) and how much of it they may have spilled on their eveningwear. I can't say how well it might have done at long-term empathy-and-awareness, but it sold out every year and raised a ton of money for the nonprofit.
posted by Cookiebastard at 9:09 AM on January 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

Coming into this thread blissfully ignorant of the "Birdbox Challenge", I at first imagined something like making a sandwich blindfolded. But... driving? Running through traffic? How do people this stupid exist?
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:36 AM on January 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

How do people this stupid exist? We need entries for the Darwin Awards every year.
posted by TwoStride at 4:20 PM on January 13, 2019

My local Land Rover club put on "blind trial" some years ago. The stage was a very easy off road stage with gates marked with sticks, and an extremely generous time limit. The idea was that the driver was blindfolded and the copilot had to verbally instruct them how to drive to pass the gates without touching the sticks. Everything happened in first gear low range, which is the offroad speed of the average turtle, and the marshalls kept an eye on both contestants and the the spectators.

It was both hilarious (as a spectator) and butt-clenchingly scary (as a blindfolded driver). Every little bump felt like you dropped off a mountain, and every little sideways slope felt like you were on the verge of tipping the car.
posted by Harald74 at 4:39 AM on January 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

chicken or steak, (which a lot of people can't tell without looking)

Derail, but Seriously?
Panko-crusted and fried to oblivion, or ? Either way that's either an indictment of the cook or a whole lot of people should just stop eating meat, since it's clearly wasted on them.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:49 AM on January 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

Now that I’ve actually watched Birdbox, I have to take some of my outrage back- I am slightly tempted by the blacked-out windows driving idea! I don’t have gps and proximity alerts built in to my car like that- but if I did, I think it’d be a fun thing to do, slowly, on a closed track or blocked off area where you know you’re not endangering other humans.
posted by Secretariat at 8:59 AM on January 14, 2019

I think it's good for people to get familiar with the assistive aids available and the experience of being without a sense for a time. I just don't think it should be performative. I think most people who are lucky to live long enough will experience some form of ability loss as they age, be it eyesight, hearing, smell, motor control, or balance. If more people knew about our current assistive systems, we might be able to improve them.
posted by domo at 10:06 AM on January 14, 2019

Er, to clarify, people should do these tests for their own benefit, as they may need this knowledge to adapt to changing life circumstances. Not for likes on social media. It is good to know that you can do it. And it gets you thinking about how to improve the tools we have and make more things accessible. Using a wheelchair for a day will infuriate you in most cities in the US.
posted by domo at 6:53 AM on January 15, 2019

Derail, but Seriously?
Panko-crusted and fried to oblivion, or ? Either way that's either an indictment of the cook or a whole lot of people should just stop eating meat, since it's clearly wasted on them.
posted by aspersioncast 2 days ago [2 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]

Quite seriously. They didn't tell you which you were getting in advance (and made sure when people signed up to list food sensitivities/allergies/etc.) But totally understandable to me. If you're not used to being in the dark, it can throw your other senses out of whack - especially for something as sensory-loading as eating a meal in a crowded room with a lot of conversation. You're using touch and hearing in different ways from what you're used to, keeping track of who is sitting where using a different method, keeping up with conversations and trying not to stab yourself in the face with your fork. The food was also all around pretty bland, which didn't help. I was able to correctly guess, but it took a lot of effort under the circumstances. I had to really concentrate on taste.
posted by Cookiebastard at 10:49 AM on January 16, 2019

Wow now I totally want to do a blindfold bland steak vs. bland chicken breast taste test.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:58 AM on January 16, 2019

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