Ah, Hogwarts. Harry potter fans worldwide would secretly love to receive an acceptance letter—and that includes grownups. A Hogwarts education would make my communications degree seem pretty dry in comparison. Who needs PR skills when you can modify someone’s memory after the latest publicity scandal? Who needs powers of persuasion when you can slip someone a love potion? (I’m known for my ethics. Ask anyone.)
Since we enjoy overthinking, Gregg and I put together a post that explores what it would be like to be a blind student at Hogwarts as we know it. As with most areas of life, blind people have to face the music: Hogwarts, as described in Rowling’s books, anyway, would be a nightmare. We’d soon be begging to go home to screen readers and staircases that don’t lead somewhere different every day. Speaking of which …
1. Accessibility would be a distant dream.
These days, blind people in developed countries take certain things for granted much of the time. In Hogwarts, though, most of those coping mechanisms would be quite out of reach, owing to the school’s negative effect on electricity and technology in general. Computers, the internet, cell phones, embossers and scanners would all be useless at Hogwarts, forcing blind students and their professors to find inventive ways around these limitations. We would likely be limited to braille, and would need an educational assistant who could transcribe our work and assignments for us. While sighted students could take a trip to the library in order to do research, we would have to get a considerable amount of help to find not only the books we wanted, but the materials within them.
(Can you imagine asking Madam Pinse to help you search through an entire shelf of books? I wouldn’t dare, personally.)
Classes themselves might also be tricky. Potions and Transfiguration often rely on colour as an indicator when a spell or potion has been done right. (Good luck asking Snape to help you with anything ever. Unless your last name is Malfoy, forget it.)
Divination relies very heavily on sight, since most of it seems to involve studying tea leaves and crystal balls. Astronomy might be a little easier, but stargazing without working eyes is out of the question. At higher levels, nonverbal spells which give some sort of visual signal when cast would be much harder to dodge if you weren’t able to see them coming. Courses like Ancient Runes and Arithmancy might present unique challenges, since braille signs would have to be invented for specific symbols. Overall, being a blind witch or wizard would pose significant accessibility problems which, without proper preparation, would certainly make the lives of students and staff much more complicated.
(Uh, Professor? Where is my accommodation letter?)
2. Life would be a game of dodgeball
Hogwarts offers many forms of potential misery for a blind student. Objects always seem to be dropping or flying through the air, and not all of them are as soft as a copy of the Daily Prophet. Charms class is notorious for this, as students are often asked to transport objects from one point to another. The high number of inexperienced witches and wizards around us increases the already high chance of being hit by errant and unintended projectiles. And then there are the owls. Imagine sitting peacefully at breakfast, toast in hand, only to hear a thundering mass of birds descending from on high, most of them bearing objects that they are all too willing to bomb you with as they get close. Speaking for myself, this is not my idea of a good start to the day.
(Oh, look! There’s an owl in my milk jug again!”)
Take orientation and mobility, for instance. Can you imagine how difficult it would be to try and map routes to your classes when hallways and staircases aren’t always in the same place? And speaking of staircases, how about vanishing steps? Every ascent or descent would be an exercise in both patience and luck, as we hoped and prayed that we didn’t find ourselves trapped when a solid stair suddenly disappeared beneath one foot. Many of these trials might be alleviated by helpful students and professors, of course…but what of the portraits? The halls of Hogwarts are full of paintings all too willing to lend their voices to the chaos, and it would be easy to end up in even worse trouble by following one well-meant bit of advice or another.
(Um, thanks, Sir Cadogan…but I think I’ll just follow my heart.)
3. Get ready for the practical jokes.
We all know how much students enjoy messing with each other via hexes, jinxes, and bewitched sweets that make you turn into a canary. Imagine making yourself even more of a target simply by revealing that you’re blind. The slytherins would have a field day and, let’s be honest, Fred and George might, too. We’d like to think the twins have a sense of morality, but who really knows?
We can’t see spells coming or react to them very quickly. Even if we are expecting them, we’d have to remain in a state of constant vigilance (see what I did there?) at all times. School is stressful enough without having to hide in the common room under a pile of books we can’t even read. Madam Pomfrey would get to know us in a real hurry.
Who says all the interference would come from students? We wouldn’t put it past Snape to slip something in our drinks if he suspected we’d been stealing his bezoars again. At Hogwarts, nothing is sacred.
4. Say hello to mass marginalization.
Blind people are marginalized enough in our own world, and we don’t imagine the wizarding world would be any kinder to us. Forget (mostly) harmless practical jokes: we might be facing total exclusion from significant portions of Hogwarts culture. Picture it: the Great Hall is buzzing with excitement. A quidditch match—the most important of the season—is about to begin. We go outside to the pitch, and try to follow the game using the patchy commentary Rowling’s characters tend to provide. We’d have access to tiny snatches of what’s actually happening, but pick up most of our cues from crowd reaction. This is not unlike other sports, but with other sports you have professional commentators. Oh yeah, and forget actually playing quiditch. Even if we could devise a way to play, I don’t think anyone would be willing to let us try.
(Oh, well, we would…but the paperwork, you know…)
I can’t even guarantee that Dumbledore would step in. He’s not exactly known for being on the ball. He’s a great man, we know, we know…but pensive and constantly-absorbed would be putting it mildly.
Then, there’s the darker side of the coin. The wizarding world is as filled with bigotry and hatred as our own, and since the community is so insular, it’s even worse. We already know how shabbily “half breeds” are treated; even gorgeous, powerful centaurs aren’t immune to ministry prejudice and control. Imagine, then, how blind people might be treated? At best, we’ll be “taken care of”, and at worst, we’ll be the recipients of unspeakable hatred. I don’t think Voldemort and his band of merry Death Eaters would object to polishing us off for the fun of it.
(Where am I? Where am I? C’mon, guess! How many fingers am I holding up? Crucio!)
This brings us to our next point…
5. We would always be a liability.
Time and time again, we’re told how, in the heat of battle, it is difficult to dodge all the deadly curses flying about. As we’ve already mentioned, being endangered by flying things would be one of the most significant issues exacerbated by blindness. As Rowling has already shown us, Hogwarts is not a perfect stronghold. During the multiple battles that have taken place there, we would not have stood a chance. Even if we were capable of avoiding stray spells long enough to duel with someone, I doubt many wizards would allow things to get that far. Dumbledore would hide us behind reanimated statues, and the rest would banish us to dark corners where we won’t be hurt. Of course, what this translates to is “You can’t hold your own, and you’re a liability. I don’t want to have to worry about you while I’m fighting the good fight.”
The general assumption that blind people can’t defend ourselves is completely bogus, though there are some undeniable disadvantages that make us prime targets. However, all the self-defence skills in the world won’t save you from a ricocheting killing curse.
(On your left! Your left! Sorry—my le–Oops…)
It’s pretty depressing to be “in the way” all the time, and that would only get worse at Hogwarts, where people are in a lot more peril than any “normal” kid would ever be.
But wait—it’s not all bad!
With all the things that might go badly for a blind Hogwarts student, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention a few potential perks. Whether or not they act as suitable compensation for all the headache, though, is up for debate.
You might be immune to the basilisk’s stare. I say “might” because we frankly don’t know enough about how exactly that petrification spell works. And nothing stops the beast from biting you just because you can’t see it, so this is a mixed blessing.
Invisibility cloaks aren’t quite what they’re cracked up to be. In the novels, when Harry and friends don the cloak, it’s as if they disappear completely. People rarely hear, smell or sense them as they pass. Being blind means that we’re likely to be more aware of what our other senses are telling us; as such, it would be harder to slip past us while wearing an invisibility cloak.
The Mirror of Erised would be powerless against us. This device is supposed to show you your greatest desire when you look into it, but without the ability to see, the mirror would be nothing more than a sheet of glass in a peculiar frame.
So, friends all, don’t despair if you don’t receive your Hogwarts letter. You can probably put your time to better use anyway. For example, you could go out into the community and be a general inspiration! Wouldn’t that be nice? Who needs witchcraft and wizardry, anyway? Not us!
I happen to adore Severus Snape, and consider myself a Slythirn at heart, so I don’t think I would have the Snape issues with me. (I still think he fits into the Autism spectrum, but it might be me projecting myself onto my favorite character).
But am I the only on who wondered why JKR didn’t add in characters with disabilities? Well besides Remus because it could somewhat be considered one. One wizard must of had some condition that caused blindness, or deafness they couldn’t cure and others as well. But it might just be my own rambling thoughts.
I don’t think we can get on JK’s back for failing to cover all the diversity camps. It probably didn’t even cross her mind. I mean there was the fake leg and magical eye, both of which suggest straight-up curing vision and outright replacing a limb are not things magic is quite up to doing yet. That, or he simply refused treatment, I suppose.
I was Moody I wouldn’t put anything past him. I can’t picture him wanting to be fixed.
I was laughing as I read this post but you would count mad eye moodie as having a disability or was it barty crouch junior? you be the judge? the fake leg and the 1 eye that was electric blue and was moving aroune every which way even looking to the back of his own head don’t really think that’s blindness lol
This was a fun post to read. It’s super interesting hearing about life in Hogwarts from this kind of perspective! And I agree that it would definitely be difficult, but maybe what you’ve mentioned are worst-case scenarios. One of the things I love about the Harry Potter series is the pure creativity and imagination– it seems that if you think something up in that universe, it can come true.
So what about this? Sir Headless Nick or another one of the ghosts leads you around the castle until you memorize the routes (and revolving staircases by heart). You can follow his voice, or the cold trail he leaves in his wake, and you eventually learn which talking portraits are not trying to lead you astray.
And since it seems that people can make spells and charms of their own, what about safety charms? Your cane has been enchanted with a little force-field to deflect incoming objects, be them owls or something Peeves has thrown. You have a bracelet that reacts to dark magic and tugs your wrist towards the direction of safety. Stranger things exist, right?
As for quidditch matches, you make a Hufflepuff friend (they’re kind, caring, and empathetic) that quietly and quickly whispers the details of the match in your ear. Or maybe you get to sit next to the announcers one day, tell them they do a crap job of narrating, and convince them to do better!
And although it’s true that you might be a liability in some cases, maybe, just maybe, you’d be a great asset. Who can hear the advancing army? You can! Who can smell Bellatrix from ten miles away? YOU! Who has had to work harder than the others, training yourself in novel ways, in order to keep up? You. And it’ll pay off, I’m sure.
This is just meant to be fun food-for-thought. At a place like Hogwarts, I’d like to believe that everyone would be welcome (for the most part, of course… it’ll be hard to change the minds of those death eaters). There’s just so much magic, you know? Even if living there would bring its own set of difficulties, I’m sure you’d end up adapting and innovating, making you one of the best wizards of them all.
Hi there. I’m glad you liked the post! It was definitely meant to be humorous and, for all intents and purposes, it focused on what it would be like to attend Hogwarts as set out during the time Harry Potter was there. I’m sure that, given time, a blind student would spur the staff to find ways around many of these pitfalls. Not sure how curable vision is in that universe, as a few have pointed out, but I expect that if there are still wooden legs, magic is not yet perfect. The accommodations you mentioned are very creative indeed. I’m impressed!
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I think Dumbledore would try to accommodate us. He did everything he could for lupin and there is no risk of turning people into blind people if we bite them . Wereblind people? But anyway, this gave me a good chuckle