Compelling New York Times Documentary About Legally Blind Artist Aims To Help Expand Our Definition Of Blindness

Yvonne standing next to a boat on a beach.

The general perception out there when it comes to vision is that you either have it fully or you’re completely blind. If someone loses vision, we tend to think that a switch was flipped to the off position, causing them to lose all of their vision. However, there are many instances where an individual may lose sight gradually over a long period of time. In fact, 85% of legally blind people can see some light and their vision can change throughout the day. They may be able to see a person quite well in one moment and in the next, perhaps not so much. This documentary aims to show the audience what it’s like to slowly lose vision.

In the first episode of a three part documentary series, New York Times features Yvonne Shortt – a talented sculptor who is legally blind, losing her vision slowly to an optical disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa. She is able to see some things some of the times, depending on ambient lighting, her distance from the object, where the object is in her line of vision, etc. In this episode, Yvonne starts with the question that many people tend to have when they meet her – you don’t look blind! She shares with us the moment in her life when she realized something was wrong and what she found through further investigation and talking to five doctors – that she will lose her vision altogether in the future. In the 13 years since her diagnosis, she has developed many ways to adapt including “scanning”. She also talks about how her perceptions towards the white cane changed when she joined a support group.

Descriptive audio is available for this video. In YouTube, go to settings – audio track and select ‘English descriptive.’

Through her artwork that involves installation, sculpture, and paint, Yvonne’s subjects of exploration are community, disability, race, equity, and equality. Check out her work on her Instagram and website.

Source: New York Times, Laughing Squid


  1. Hello, we would like to know if this documentary is available for rent and if so, what are the costs associated with it and how do we proceed? We are creating a tactile exhibit in 2025 and looking for ancillary programming and this certainly fits the bill. Fingers are crossed! Thank you for any consideration. I am the Executive Director of Ocean City Arts Center (NJ)

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