Capacity to Normalize

Maplewood Dog

If you haven’t seen it already, Pick of the Litter is a cute, educational film.  A documentary that follows from birth through formal training at matching a litter of future guide dog puppies from Guide Dogs for the Blind out in California.  Last weekend, Tom, hubby and I attended a showing of it hosted by our regional Guide Dog Users group.  (it is playing at select locations around the country but can also be found on iTunes and I think Netflix)

At the showing, they had the film set up to play with Audio Description.  I knew audio description was a thing, but never thought it would be a help to me.  Oh how wrong I’ve been.  I had no idea how much of movies and TV I’ve been missing!  It was enlightening.  Last night we figured out how to turn on Audio Description on our TV.  I have to say I am disappointed how few shows have an audio described track, but the couple that did again WOW!  had no idea how much goes on on the screen.

Sometimes I forget how well we humans have a capacity to normalize.  I mean I experienced it all the time when I was working with clients.  I lost count the number of cases over the years where dogs had been for real biting their owners for years (real serious bites) but the people had normalized the behavior despite the safety issues.  Often what brought them in my door was some other seemingly minor behavior compared to the biting from my professional perspective, or an even more serious escalation of the behavior the family had normalized for a very long time.

And in my own case, how much I’ve normalized about life with impaired visual processing.  As well as how much I’ve normalized life with a guide dog.  After the movie I asked my husband his thoughts.  The movie shows a portion of how guide dogs are traffic trained to avoid cars and in intelligent disobedience.  My husband had no idea!  I was surprised he had no clue about that.  I guess I kind of figured he knew.  I mean he knows Tom and I have traffic checks when we are out and about, he knows they stress me out and how immensely glad I am Tom is so on the ball.  But apparently he hadn’t ever really grasped what really it means.

The experience with Audio Describe is getting me thinking, maybe I’m at a point where re-exploring some different assistive tech might be useful.  Who knows what else I’m missing that I don’t even realize.  Assistive Technology has grown in leaps in bounds especially in the past few years, maybe it’s time to take a new look at what’s out there.

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Tom dressed up as the Magic School Bus from the books of the same.  Yellow felt vest with black school bus markings and some colored sea life painted on under his guide dog harness.  For an event we are volunteering at.

0 thoughts on “Capacity to Normalize

  1. Thank you so much for this post. I didn’t know that Audio Description was a thing either. I teach university classes for my day job and I try to make my classroom as accessible as I can. This will make a difference in the videos choose to teach with. Also, have you read the book, The Two-In-One: Walking with Smokie, Walking with Blindness, by Rod Michalko? It is a challenging read but has some very interesting bits.
    Here’s the book description from Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Two-One-Walking-Blindness-Animals/dp/1566396484 ):

    “When Rod Michalko’s sight finally became so limited that he no longer felt safe on busy city streets or traveling alone, he began a search for a guide. The Two-in-One is his account of how his search ended with Smokie, a guide dog, and a dramatically different sense of blindness. Few people who regularly encountered Michalko in his neighborhood shops and cafes realized that he was technically blind; like many people with physical disabilities, he had found ways of compensating for his impairment. Those who knew about his condition thought of him as a fully realized person who just happened to be blind. He thought so himself. Until Smokie changed all that. In this often moving, always compelling meditations on his relationship with Smokie, Michalko probes into what it means to be at home with blindness. Smokie makes no judgment about Michalko’s lack of sight; it simply is the condition within which they work together. Their partnership thus allows Michalko to step outside of the conventional — and even \u0022enlightened\u0022 — understanding of blindness; he becomes not simply resigned to it but able to embrace it as an essential part of his being in the world. Drawing on his training as a sociologist and his experience as a disabled person, Michalko joins a still small circle of scholars who examine disability from the inside. More rare still — and what will resonate with most readers — is Michalko’s remarkable portrayal of Smokie; avoiding sentimentality and pathos, it is a deeply affectionate yet restrained and nuanced appreciation of his behavior and personality. From their first meeting at the dog guide training school, Smokie springs to life in these pages as a highly competent, sure-footed, take-charge, full-speed-ahead, indispensable partner. \u0022Sighties\u0022 are always in awe watching them work; Michalko has even persuaded some of them that the Smokester can locate street addresses — but has a little difficulty with the odd numbers! Readers of The Two-in-One can easily imagine Rod and Smokie sharing the joke as they continue on their way.”

    1. Thanks for the book recommendation, I hadn’t hear of this one before. I’ll def check it out. And the audio describe is really neat. Last night we watched Big Bang Theory as they have it as an option, and my husband said the audio describe made a number of the jokes even better. Lol. It is designed to support what the verbal of the program is, so it doesn’t over talk if an actor is speaking, it just describes written text, scene changes, and visual details when actors aren’t speaking. Also thanks for working to make your classroom learning experiences accessible!

    1. It is an audio track in a movie or tv program designed to support what the verbal of the program is, so it doesn’t over talk if an actor is speaking, it just describes written text, scene changes, and visual details when actors aren’t speaking.

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