A wide shot of the Andes Mountains with a snow covered Mt. Ausangate in the center. The 2020 team of eleven are hiking in the foreground on a beautiful day.

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No Way Am I Going to Lose to a Blind Guy!
22 Aug
2011
By 2020
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The actual quote is, “It would be humiliating to lose to a blind guy!” and it comes from a commercial for the series Expedition Impossible which features an adventure competition that includes a totally blind man, Erik Weihenmayer. I’ve heard an assortment of reactions to this advertisement, including some very offended friends who perceive it as belittling. The truth is that it doesn’t resonate discord within me personally for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, the challenge of blindness is not insignificant and for many tasks the benefit of sight would be a significant advantage. Sure, there’s a humorous counterpoint in the idea of attempting tasks in the darkest of night to even out the playing field, but the reality is that many tasks are more challenging without sight. A second point is taking into account the humor with which many (myself included) “view” blindness and its impact upon our lives. Despite spending frustratingly long moments searching for something I’ve dropped right in front of me, I’ve often teased sighted friends in their similarly frustrating searches with a “What are you, blind?” or “Want to borrow Quinn?” Making light of things is not an uncommon response to dealing with challenge, and when done in the right environs, the respect is understood.

When a comment is intended to be insulting or to underestimate the keen awareness of ability which is so much at the core of my beliefs, I feel a little remorse for the (pardon the expression) short-sightedness of the opinion. The reality is that the ability to excel can come from a variety of factors, and whether or not someone’s age, gender, challenge or any other aspect not necessarily related to the task is used as a judgment for their potential success, the performance may be quite surprising. Of the thirteen teams starting on the Expedition Impossible, five remain, and sure enough one of them has Erik: team No Limits. Absolutely he has had help and support from his team, the intended essence of the competition. However, Erik has already managed some incredible achievements on his own and likely changed the perspective many people have on blindness and its limitations on one’s abilities.

Ultimately, the quote and the commercial are controversial, which often promotes ratings. In my opinion, the statement is inaccurate: there is no humiliation in losing to a blind person or to anyone. Humiliation more likely comes from giving much less of your effort than you have the capacity to give. It comes perhaps from making a statement which is intended as demeaning and is based in ignorance or lack of consideration. Whatever the basis for the quote, humor or earnest, the show has provided for many a small glimpse at just how capable one particularly talented blind man proves himself on a regular basis.

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