The recent popular Netflix movie Bird Box has inspired the Bird Box challenge, which encourages viewers to wonder what it is like to be blind. The movie’s main character, Malorie, played by Sandra Bullock, must take a dangerous journey with her children while all three wear blindfolds. The movie shows Malorie doing many things while blindfolded, from caring for her children to moving around safely.
People worldwide have responded to the film by trying the Bird Box Challenge: attempting every-day tasks while wearing blindfolds. Videos of the Bird Box challenge show people re-enacting scenes from the movie or trying more basic activities, like walking, while blindfolded. Unfortunately, many people have hurt themselves while trying to walk around their homes, near traffic, or down escalators. Netflix is now asking fans of the film not to try activities that will injure them.
Why is the Bird Box Challenge so Viral?
Despite the danger, people have been posting videos of themselves trying various every-day tasks or re-enacting scenes from the movie. Clearly, people are curious about what it is like to be blind. They want to know how well they could do the things Malorie does, or they wonder how she does them.
Blindness Every Day
However, when people injure themselves doing ordinary tasks under blindfolds, they may conclude that the activities which have hurt them are dangerous for all blind people. This belief is not true. Real blind people, like the character Malorie, move around safely every day. They cook, clean, raise their children, climb stairs, cross streets, play games and sports, visit friends, and go to work.
How do blind people move around safely?
An independent blind person travels using either a white cane or a guide dog. Moreover, people receive specialized training, called orientation and mobility (O and M) training, where they learn to navigate their surroundings and use their canes. Likewise, guide-dog handlers go through extensive training to work with their dogs. When they travel outside their homes, people will almost always use their canes or dogs. In addition, they use their other senses, especially hearing and touch, to gain useful information about where they are, such as:
- Whether they are inside or outside
- Whether they are standing on grass, concrete, carpet, tile, etc.
- The size of a room they are standing in
- How close they are to the street, and what direction traffic is moving
When they use a cane or dog and O and M techniques, blind people successfully perform almost all the tasks that Bird Box challenge participants have been trying. (There are some exceptions, such as driving. However, while it is not safe for blind people to drive, they can easily travel safely and independently by taking the bus, calling a cab, or walking.) It is important to remember that people have taken time and effort to learn these techniques. Therefore, they have a huge advantage over people who are trying to do things without sight for the first time with no guidance.
Lessons From the Bird Box Challenge
The importance of practicing to use the other senses is highlighted in the movie Bird Box. In one brief scene, Malorie teaches the children how to recognize where sounds are coming from and how far away they are. The children in the movie, like real blind people, take the time to learn the skills they will need to succeed without using sight. With practice and training, blind people find it easy to do every-day things like the tasks people set themselves in the Bird Box challenge. However, people with no experience of being blind will not learn much about blindness from trying to complete the challenge. Furthermore, many of the tasks in the challenge may be dangerous for people without blindness experience. Such people should comply with Netflix’s recommendation not to try activities that could hurt them.