On social aspects of the usage of guide‐dogs and long‐canes1

Shlomo Deshen*, Hilda Deshen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The paper argues that discredit pertains not only to individuals, but also to the implements of aid that discredited persons use to overcome their situation. Focusing on the mobility aids of blind people, the paper demonstrates that as a consequence of the diffusion of discredit, the users of guide‐dogs and long‐canes mould their usage practices in particular ways. Namely, according to norms which the users conceive to be unobjectionable to sighted people. Thus cane‐users considered the sound that their canes emitted to be embarassing, and tried to avoid causing it. Also guide‐dog usage was inhibited as a result of traditional Middle‐Eastern attitudes towards dogs. In concluding, the ambiguity of blind people toward their mobility aids is juxtaposed with their accepting attitude toward television sets in their homes. The latter are conceived by blind people as a natural element of the material culture of the sighted environment. Consequently, even blind people for whom television sets are manifestly unsuited introduce them into their lives. This leads to the conclusion that material artifacts are conceptualized in society generally, according to practices that are attuned to the dominant social stratum. The data are drawn from observations made in the course of ethnographic field‐work in a population of blind people in Israel.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-103
Number of pages15
JournalSociological Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1989


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