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The phrase "blind spot" has been called ableist. For someone looking to avoid it, what are some good alternatives?

Sample sentences:

  • We need to be aware of our blind spots to make sure a competitor doesn't surprise us in the market.
  • Employee morale has been a blind spot for us in the past, but Sarah is doing a great job of tracking it now.
  • Quentin has good ideas when it comes to pricing strategy, but she has a blind spot when it comes to the best way to present a proposal.
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  • (There's a past question in english.stackexchange.com/questions/325850/… but it seems rather a different request, despite the similar title.) Mar 15, 2021 at 23:41
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    The phrase "blind spot" has been called ableist – by whom? Is this a prevailing view within the disability community and deserving of consideration, or an extreme view by a tiny minority and should be dismissed? Please support your statement with suitable evidence so that we can better judge how to respond. :-) Mar 16, 2021 at 4:57
  • PS in all three examples, an obvious candidate to avoid the anatomical reference would be "weakness" (or its plural). Synonyms such as "vulnerability" or "difficulty" would also fit. I'm posting this as a comment rather than writing an answer, because basic research (consulting a thesaurus) would readily supply my suggested solution. Mar 16, 2021 at 5:06
  • “Officer the other car was in my willful ignorance.” Nov 30, 2021 at 3:59
  • Is 'oversight' superheroist? Nov 30, 2021 at 13:43

4 Answers 4

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A Blind Spot is not a term about blind people but the anatomy of the human eye. The optic nerve that brings information from the retina to the brain is off-center of the eye, not directly opposite the lens. Where this bundling occurs the light sensing capabilities of the eye are very weak. With binocular vision the weakness in each eye is compensated. Even with one eye it is so slight that one can barely notice. It takes closing one eye and staring with the other at a particular target to notice the weak spot off to the side in the peripheral vision.

And for what its worth blind people happily use "See you later" and related expressions with no fuss or aggrieved embarrassment. Those hoping to find forgiveness by correcting their "ableist" thinking can never wash the sin from their hands this way. I was told this by my piano teacher, yes blind, among others.

To answer Sophie's considerate comment I will add that it is not etymology but accurate anatomy that is the solution to the question. Blind Spot is a perfectly accurate and acceptable use of a human anatomical shortcoming. One of many we have and of which we must humbly admit when describing complex interactions where we may fail to see all the incoming information. I am happy if sorry to admit my limitations. Blind Spot needs no apologist nor apology. Thank you.

I would normally agree strongly with Chappo Hasn't Forgotten Monica and thanks for the comment. But no apologies this time. This is not the question of which term might be better. The premise is mistaken and pernicious. That is to control speech or what we use here, writing, in order to solve a fictive problem. Things move rapidly from preferred speech codes to required speech codes and they do so starting right here.

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    I'm quite aware of the etymology. What you've written is informative but decidedly not an answer to the question – perhaps you'd like to add it as a comment instead? Mar 16, 2021 at 1:36
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    +1 Challenging the premise of a question has long been an accepted way to answer questions. Here, exposing the faulty premise has been done very well.
    – Lawrence
    Mar 17, 2021 at 12:53
  • Blind Spot doesn't refer only to the anatomical phenomenon you describe, in my experience it is also commonly used in situations where some external object is partially obstructing a (typically small, but sometimes crucial) part of one's view, such as the blind spots car drivers need to allow for.
    – nnnnnn
    Oct 7, 2021 at 8:02
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Here is a very well written article about why ableist language is harmful: https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20210330-the-harmful-ableist-language-you-unknowingly-use

And a great resource for alternatives to common everyday ableist phrases: https://www.autistichoya.com/p/ableist-words-and-terms-to-avoid.html

From that resource, some good alternatives could be:

  • an area of weakness
  • lack of knowledge
  • willfully ignorant
  • deliberately ignoring
  • turning their back on
  • overcome by prejudice
  • doubly anonymous (specifically for double-blind studies)
  • had every reason to know
  • feigned ignorance

Your sample phrases could become:

  • We need to be aware of our understanding gaps to make sure a competitor doesn't surprise us in the market.
  • Employee morale has been an area of weakness for us in the past, but Sarah is doing a great job of tracking it now.
  • Quentin has good ideas when it comes to pricing strategy, but she lacks expertise when it comes to the best way to present a proposal.

In all of the cases above, using different phrases has led to a more accurate description of what has caused the area of weakness: a lack of information vs skills gap and so the phrases are in fact more accurate and powerful than with the harmful ableist phrase "blind-spot".

All that being said, language is complex and continually evolving and it will, personally, take me many years to adapt my own phraseology and that is all the more reason to start now and become increasingly conscious of the marginalizing effect our language can have through our own subconscious biases.

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    "Employee morale has been an area of weakness for us in the past," - This losies the original implication that blind spot conveyed that the company was not previously aware they had a problem with morale.
    – nnnnnn
    Oct 7, 2021 at 8:05
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I am fascinated by this conversation... as my friend Lisa says these phrases, beyond being ableist, are just lazy use of our language. And we could be much clearer in our meanings.

By saying that "Employee morale has been a blind spot for us ..." gives the impression that it just IS... while "Employee morale has been an area of weakness..." leaves me with the feeling that we are going to do something about it...

so we're 1) not being ableist, AND being clearer in our meaning.

that said, the poster above is right that word "blind" does have multiple meanings; however it doesn't mean we can't be more thoughtful about how we use it.

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I would not necessarily agree that it's ableist language, but I think "dead angle" is pretty much a drop-in synonym you could use instead, if you wish. Wiktionary offers this definition of the term:

An angle or space which cannot be seen or defended from behind the parapet of a fortification.

This usage is definitely less common but is attested in other places; for instance, this article makes reference to a "dead angle mirror" where we might otherwise see "blind spot mirror."

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  • A disadvantage is that readers won't understand it. By contrast, the figurative use of "blind spot" is well known.
    – Rosie F
    Nov 30, 2021 at 6:37
  • @RosieF Yes, "blind spot" is the most familiar term, but if you wish to avoid it you will have to use a less common one. If I search for the phrase I do turn up results for, for instance, "dead angle mirrors" for sale.
    – Casey
    Nov 30, 2021 at 6:41
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    That said, you could say that about any term that someone wishes to avoid. If enough people see it your way eventually the alternatives won't sound weird anymore.
    – Casey
    Nov 30, 2021 at 6:50

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