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The Bird Box Challenge

A woman, blindfolded, sits in a row boat with two blindfolded children next to her.

By Dave Brown

The Netflix film Bird Box has set social media ablaze since its release over the holidays. There have been about a million memes and a whole mess of fodder across many social media spheres. The film is about monsters that make you want to kill yourself if you see them, so protagonists in the film blindfold themselves whenever they go outside. It has spawned something called the Bird Box Challenge where people are blindfolding themselves and trying to do a series of random tasks without their sight. And of course, because it’s 2019, they need to film themselves doing it, and it needs to be posted on social media so everyone can see their #EpicFail . 

Some folks in the blind and partially sighted community have posted their thoughts saying that it’s offensive and that it needs to stop. Some organizations have shared their trepidation with the Bird Box Challenge. And, of course, some members of the community don’t really care.

It’s worth commenting on, because it is actually a bit tricky. I don’t see it as a black and white issue. I empathize with people wanting to try something they see on TV or wanting to test themselves. I’ve tried writing with my right hand, because I’m curious. After watching The Walking Dead, I ponder how I’d do in a zombie apocalypse. Spoiler alert: probably not well. I believe that the reason this challenge took off has to do with a natural curiosity we have as humans. We want to experience what it’s like to live differently. And, often times, we encourage people to walk a mile in our shoes to develop empathy. I don’t believe the challenge is mean or offensive in its nature.

That said, it is insensitive. It doesn’t take into account that orientation and mobility is something that blind and partially sighted folks work on from birth or from the onset of vision loss. It can be rife with challenges and failures. Those moments are not funny. Those moments are indeed extremely difficult emotionally. They are not fodder for comedy and clicks. It can take years to develop certain proficiencies, so obviously if someone is trying to hike blindfolded for the first time in their life, it is going to be a challenge. They have the option to take that blindfold off and move on with their life, for someone working on orientation and mobility, they have to keep going until they get it right. It’s not a video or sketch, it’s how we live.

I consider myself to be a solutions focused person. And, because I empathize with the curiosity that sits at the root of the Bird Box Challenge. Here’s my idea. What a great fundraising opportunity it would be for the CNIB, the CCB, or the FFB to do a “Bird Box Challenge” event. Charge people a mess of money, give them some orientation and mobility training for a few hours, educate them about orientation and mobility, and then let them loose on an obstacle course. If people are going to act like fools, you might as well educate them about it, and make some cash.

At least no one was eating Tide pods. I’d say this social media craze is an improvement on that front.

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Image courtesy of Netflix.