Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

What’s New, Magoo?

Mr. Magoo and DogWith three young children, silence in my house means one thing:  trouble. Last week such an event occurred. Peering into the living room, the image on the television horrified me. My arch enemy, Mr Magoo, was brushing his teeth with his glasses. He is back. 

For those not acquainted with Mr Magoo, allow me to provide some background. Quincy Magoo is a fictional cartoon character created in 1949 who, as a result of his extreme near-sightedness, gets into a series of comical situations. Throughout the fifties and sixties, Magoo featured in theatre shorts, television shows and Academy Award winning movies. Whilst these shows may be considered a relic of a bygone age, it seems almost incomprehensible that Disney purchased the rights and produced a live action movie of Mr Magoo staring Leslie Nielsen in 1997. The revival of this movie provoked the National Federation for the Blind (NFB) to demand filming to be cancelled. A number of NFB members recounted the teasing and name calling that they were subject to as a result of the original cartoon. Sabrina Yamini (Cited in Pierce, 1997) describes how her stepson committed suicide at the age of fourteen due to the daily taunts, teasing and beatings associated with being visually impaired. Barbara Pierce remembers how older boys started their own playground chant:


Where am I at?

Mr. Magoo,

What'ya tryin' to do?


Perpetuating Negative Stereotypes of People with Low Vision

So here is the question that has been bothering me: what must the world be like for Mr Magoo to make a reappearance with 39 new episodes in 2019? If Magoo perpetuated negative stereotypes of another group would he still be on TV? I don’t think so. 

We have come a long way over the past fifty years, but outcomes for many people with visual disabilities remain concerning.  

Several weeks ago, my newsfeed was awash with the news that Lego are creating braille bricks. Don’t get me wrong, this is great news, but for me this is an example of the false veneer of inclusion that exists in society. The New York Times said ‘Lego Is Making Braille Bricks. They May Give Blind Literacy a Needed Lift’. These poor blind children have been struggling for so long and all they needed was some braille Lego, finally they will have something to play with! The problem has never been resources; the problem that needs addressing is low expectations perpetuated by negative stereotypes and a lack of understanding. 

Posted on July 16, 2019
Updated on: August 6, 2019