The Myth of Helen Keller’s Feats*

The Accomplishments and Debunking of Helen Keller


Michael Andrews

Helen Keller is a myth; she is a real person but most of her stories are exaggerated.

*This article is an opinion piece based on information for that viewpoint.  The information found is to not discredit or slander Helen Keller or anyone with a hearing or visual impairment but to consider another perspective on her accomplishments.

Helen Keller was a woman born in 1880, on June 27th, she became fully blind and deaf just 19 months after being born. By the age of nine she learned to speak and read lips by feeling with her fingers and eventually lead to a very successful life full of crazy achievements. 

She began to be taught by Anne Sullivan on March 3rd, 1887. They began working on braille and speaking by feeling lips with her fingers that they called “lip reading” by the age of nine she was able to fully understand braille, sign language, and what people were saying by lip reading.

In 1946, after wishing she could fly a plane all on her own and learning to pilot it all by herself, Helen actually did. She flew a plane with some help from an instructor. She flew up at 2,600 feet in the sky, but she didn’t actually fly the plane all by herself like some articles may say. Her instructor took off and landed the plane for her; Helen was just simply breezing through the clear skies with nothing in the way to interfere. But to make it seem more unbelievable and incredible writers and critics made it seem like she flew it all on her own—when looking up “When did Helen Keller fly a plane?” you find: “1946: the year Helen Keller piloted a plane herself.” Which in my opinion is just misleading considering she didn’t really fly it on her own she had help with steering, taking off, and landing—she merely just held the controls still as the instructor made sure the plane didn’t hit anything. 

Years after she flew a plane she said her first word. After running her hands through a running water pump she spelled the word water with her hands (sign language) then said, “Water.” Her not being born blind and deaf gave her a slight remembrance of the English language and she somehow remembered the word water out of all words. Her teacher Anne Sullivan was almost fully blind by the age of five and became fully blind after having a stroke when she was 35, someone who was also blind taught another blind person who was also deaf how to speak and read and assisted her to so much more.

After attending school and college Helen Keller began writing a book called The Story of My Life and some people, myself included, would think that since it says she wrote a book that she hand wrote a book, that is not true. She had assistance writing the book, she would say something she would want added to the book and Anne Sullivan would write it down. Well Anne almost never understood what Helen was saying she said she could get the idea of what she meant but she would just fill in the book with some things she thought Helen was talking about. So Helen technically isn’t an author and did not write a book but the book is about her.  

Now here’s why I call it the “myth” of Helen Keller. There is no way someone who is blind and deaf could even learn any languages or maybe even braille. Unless they invented braille it just isn’t possible. Because she would need to have something to base the word off of to understand what it is, I’ll give an example. The word “Que” in Spanish means “what” in English  so for someone who only speaks English you would have a language to help learn another language so your teacher would say, “que means what” or “what means que,” but since she didn’t know English to a certain degree she wasn’t able to base braille off of anything. Now maybe she used some other training techniques that we don’t know.  She wouldn’t be able to say words because she wouldn’t know how to pronounce the letters and form it into a word or a sentence if she never had an exposure to langage.

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