Published by Little, Brown on 1/14/2014
Buy from IndieBound
At the start of For the Benefit of Those Who See, Rosemary Mahoney explores the work of Braille Without Borders, an international organization focused on teaching Braille to learners with blindness in developing countries. After visiting one of the group’s founding schools in Tibet, Mahoney is determined to learn more and commits to spending three months teaching English at a Braille Without Borders’ adult school in India.
Both in and out of the classroom, Mahoney is consistently surprised by the ways her students are able to adapt in order to thrive in the world around them. Their senses of hearing and smell work overtime, allowing them to recognize their teacher by the speed of her typing on a keyboard or the smell of her beer glass from across the room. Soon, Mahoney comes to appreciate the patience and fearlessness within each of her students, as she begins to question her own.
“Sight is a slick and overbearing autocrat, trumpeting its prodigal knowledge and perceptions so forcefully that it drowns out the other, subtler senses. We go through our day semi-oblivious to a whole range of sensory information because we are distracted and enslaved by our eyes. Taste, touch, smell and hearing can hardly get a word in edgewise to the brain. Those of us who have sight do not realize that our experience of life and the world is overpowered by our vision. In this sense, we too are handicapped. “
Between Mahoney’s experiences with her students, she recounts a history of the study and social treatment of people with blindness throughout the world. While these sections are filled with wonderful information that often parallels the stories from Mahoney’s classroom, as complete chapters removed from the central pulse of the book they feel slightly off. Still, For the Benefit of Those Who See is both a fascinating look into the world of the blind and a reminder of the strength of human spirit.