My first impression, gathered from the article I read, was that the state licensing board was acting out of prejudice:
Meng-sheng Lin is the licensure committee chairwoman, and the Dallas acupuncturist said she's inclined to repeat her vote against [Juliana] Cumbo's application.
She said she's trying to fulfill her duty to protect the public.
Lin said acupuncture can lead to bleeding that if unnoticed could pose a contamination risk.
Good grief. A blind acupuncturist might cause bleeding? Heck, my sole experience with acupuncture was with a sighted acupuncture student, who seemingly mistook me for a voodoo doll. I have complete confidence that a blind person couldn't do any worse, and might potentially do something novel, like pay attention to what they were doing. I would sooner try it again with Ms. Cumbo.
But maybe I'm just being silly. Maybe, like piloting a starship*, acupuncture is one of those things that blind people just can't do.
But, no, apparently my first impression was the right one. Google Book Search brings me Understanding Acupuncture, by Stephen Birch and Robert Felt. In Box 3.2 on page 96, they relate Birch's "good fortune" in studying with a blind acupuncturist. Perhaps the Texas licensing board should buy themselves a few copies of this book.
There's a whole tradition in Japan of acupuncture being done by blind practioners. Some fellow named Waichi Sugiyama invented the insertion tube for the needles way back in the 1600s. Did I mention he was blind? He then went on to found acupuncture schools to teach the craft to others who were blind. Both the Kiiko and Toyohari acupunture styles were developed by blind acupuncturists, though also taught to those who have the misfortune of being distracted by vision. A third of all Japanese practioners are blind.
I'm now seriously wondering about the credentials of the Texas acupuncture licensing board if they don't know this history already.
edited 2/9/08 when I finally remembered the wording I was going to use
*Star Trek, Original Series, "Is There in Truth No Beauty?" Dr. McCoy reveals Miranda Jones' blindness when she demands to be taught to navigate the ship. I rather like the episode overall--McCoy felt that her blindness was nobody's business up to that point. Maybe few writers in the 1960s just could imagine adaptive technology well enough to consider that perhaps blindness might not be the barrier they thought it must always be to driving anything? Aside from that, the message of the episode, that pity is inappropriate and serves to hinder the person objectified with pity, is well done. Jones has the regular assemblage of human failings, which drive her relationships and behavior, but among them is not her blindness. If she has a "handicap," it would be her telepathy--the superhuman sense she has--because it makes her extremely uncomfortable around other people. But that, too, is accepted as just part of "infinite diversity." OK, enough geeking out. Well, for the moment.