Good Reading : October 2009
30 goodreading ı OCTOBER 2009 There's a representation of people with disabilities that annoys Ryan Knighton. It's seen clearly in the Al Pacino movie Scent of a Woman, i n which Pacino plays a blind man with heightened prescience as a result of his disability. 'That doesn't represent anything of my experience of blindness,' says Ryan dryly, as we discuss it in a Vancouver city pub over a couple of Guinesses. 'I can't hang onto your credit card and tell you how much debt you've got, or tell you what soap you used a week ago. That's "Super Blind" ... That role has always been there, and it's there to comfort sighted people, to tell sighted people, "If your body betrays you it will be okay." But it doesn't really tell us anything. It's cheap.' Ryan first became famous for his bestselling memoir, Cockeyed. Published in Canada, the US, the UK, Australia, China and Germany, he recently sold the movie rights and is working with Jodie Foster, who wants to direct the film version. The book tells the story of Ryan growing up and falling in love and finding a job and doing all the stupid, cocky things young men do, but compounded by the backstory that Ryan was diagnosed with retinisis pigmentosa on his 18th birthday.This condition means that he has been slowly going blind since birth, and there is no cure (although Ryan believes there will be one very soon, it will be too late to cure his blindness). Today, he has about one per cent of his sight, which, he tells me, is represented by blurs of colour every now and again. In person he's generous, funny and quick with an amusing anecdote. When he talks about the preconceptions people have of him because of his blindness, or the ways blind people are often portrayed in popular culture he's dismissive, but he doesn't seem angry. It's as if he's long since come to ter ms with all this, and he knows he will always have to deal with prejudice and assumptions. I ask him if his blindness will always author profile 3 RYAN KNIGHTON explains to SARAH MINNS that his blindness is does not define him, but does give him an interesting point of view.