October 25, 2012
Blind ref costume outrages visually impaired
By MICHAEL MUI, QMI Agency
VANCOUVER - A Canadian society for the blind is outraged by a U.S. company for selling Halloween costumes locally that allow people to dress up as a “blind referee,” in reference to bad sports officiating.
Carolyn Gunn, president of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians’ Nanaimo, B.C., chapter, said she found the costume at the Spirit Halloween costume shop recently and confronted the manager.
“It came with sunglasses, a foldable-collapsible tapping stick and a referee shirt. I couldn’t believe it. I was completely devastated,” she said Wednesday.
“What kind of message is that relaying to kids? Or adults? There’s enough of a barrier going on for people with disabilities, this is just a mockery of the whole thing.”
Speaking as legal counsel for the New Jersey-based company’s head office, Kevin Mahoney told QMI Agency the company did not intend to discriminate against the visually impaired.
“It was not our intention to mock anyone who may be suffering from blindness or being impaired with that regard,” he said.
“The referee costume and the accessories are just to play upon the common theme or joke regarding blind referees. That’s a theme that’s certainly widespread, you’ll see other costumes sold on the Internet.”
Gunn, however, said she’s more concerned by how some may wear the costume and use the cane on Halloween, presenting a danger that drivers could get confused and disregard yielding to actual people with blindness.
According to a section of B.C.’s Guide Animal Act, “A person who is not a blind person according to accepted medical standards must not carry or use a white cane.”
A “white cane” is defined under the act as a cane or walking stick with at least the upper-two-thirds coloured white.
Mahoney said the company hasn’t made any decision yet to pull the product from shelves, but said they will investigate.
“We’ll certainly evaluate the issue.”