Woodworking for the Blind

Woodworking and Home Repairs

Woodworking and home repairs as an enjoyable and safe hobby for blind and visually impaired persons

By: Gil Johnson

The smell of saw dust from a freshly cut board; the sound of a sharp tool shaping wood; the touch and feel of a completed an individually designed and crafted, one of a kind wood project; the satisfaction of repairing a malfunctioning item in the home�these are the challenges and rewards of working with your hands. Many people wince and shutter when visualizing or actually seeing a blind person operating a power tool such as a table or radial arm saw. They imagine blood and missing fingers. Many will say �oh, I have always wanted to build things but just never got around to it.

Acquiring the skill and confidence to design and build a piece of furniture, install a shelf, make a game board, repair a leaky faucet, or re-roof a building takes perseverance, accepting failures and occasional mishaps. But its rewards for those who stick with it is a sense of accomplishment and self pride that is matchless.

I have had the joy, privilege, and occasional disappointments of working with my hands with wood, metal, electrical wiring, concrete, plumbing, and thousands of simple and complex home repair projects for more than 50 years. I still possess all of my fingers (although with a few scars and deadened nerve endings). I can look around my home and touch the desks, book cases, dressers, night stands, and other items that I designed and created. This is very satisfying to me and of some pride to my family.

Although acquiring the tools I have in my shop has cost some money, almost every hobby has associated costs. I know that I have �saved� some money by not needing to hire repair persons because I was able to �fix� something myself. Some of the furniture I built costs less (not counting the time I spent doing it) and is of better quality than would generally be available in most retail stores. But this is not the primary reason I work with my hands. The personal satisfaction I receive goes well beyond any monetary measures.

The fact that I have done this as a totally blind person for most of my life has caused me to devise some, but not many, alternative techniques. Figuring out how to accomplish something that usually requires vision is part of the challenge and contributes to a sense of satisfaction.

Do I think that every person who is blind should take up this hobby? Absolutely not!! Nor would I say that every blind person should take up water skiing, running marathons, fly fishing, or any of the many hobbies that blind persons are engaged in. I would only wish and hope that every person, blind or not, could find a pass time that has brought as much satisfaction, pride, and self confidence as working with wood and other materials has for me.