Back, by popular demand, here are a few more tips for sighted folk dealing with blind people:
Okay, I grant you this: that drunk driver changed a lot about my life, but he didn't change who I really am. First and most important, I still love God. I also have the same quirky, dry sense of humor I always had. I'm still the biggest bookworm I know, although my reading method has changed (more about that another time.) I still insist on watching "Jeopardy" in peace, six days a week if I can get it. Some things are different. The core of who I am is the same.
Doesn't your heart ache when you look at some poor, helpless soul? That isn't me. I did go through a "bad patch," as the English would say. During that time, I needed all the help I could get. Pity, on the other hand, doesn't help anyone. It only makes you and the object of your pity both sad and weak. Save your energy for something more practical, thanks.
I've lost count how many people seem genuinely surprised that I can do even simple tasks, just because I'm blind. I admit, there are things I can't do anymore, like drive. But the list of things I can do is long and growing longer. Yes, I take care of my personal needs, including washing and dressing my own hair. Yes, I choose my own clothes, with occasional color confirmation. I'm probably safer in the kitchen than hubby, and am better at planning meal prep. I get raves over my Jiffy-mix cornbread, lol! Obviously, I can and do use my computer; more about that later. Suffice it to say, I'm far from helpless!
The issue of "how much help is too much" is one of my pet peeves. When you see a blind friend, coworker or family member "miss the mark" and butter his paper towel instead of his toast, don't snatch it away and butter it for him. That will not only make him more dependent, it will damage his self esteem. It'll probably also make him insufferably lazy! Because I work, believe it or not, I've gotten into the lazy habit of letting hubby do most of the cooking. I know I'm bound to regret that someday, probably sooner rather than later!
There are skills I haven't learned yet. Hubby knows I'm not brave enough to iron my own clothes yet, for example. Because we have pet dogs, I rely on a human sighted guide when I venture into the world outside our door. My ideal sighted guide notices and warns me of obstacles and compensates for my poor balance on curbs. Hubby got kudos from me the last time we went out because instead of dragging me along (lol), he led me to banisters and let me make my own way.
Do blind people have supernatural abilities in their other senses? Nope. When I'm not focused, I can miss as much as anyone. Since the loss of most of my vision, however, I've learned to shift information-gathering to my other senses. Oftentimes that includes what some would call my "sixth sense." You can still sneak up on me sometimes, but not often!
My husband once asked the president of my National Federation of the Blind (NFB) chapter how she remembers so many facts, calendar events, etc. She answered simply, "I have no choice." He was also impressed at how much of my original "Ten Commandments of Dealing with the Blind" speech I recalled. When you, as a sighted person, give a speech, you can glance at notes; whether on a notebook, printed page, or (like Sarah Palin,) on your hand. My visual impairment has robbed me of that ability,and I find it difficult to listen to a recorded note and speak well simultaneously. My memory hasn't improved because I wanted it to, necessarily. I've simply had no choice. I'm frankly glad for the increased skill level. You would be, too.
Even without most of my sense of sight, I'm still acutely conscious of the importance of appearance. If, for example, you and I went to dinner together, I promise not to gross you out by doing something embarrassing or with sub-par table manners. While said table manners probably aren't nearly as refined as folks who've been blind all their lives, they're not heinous. My sister-in-law balked at eating in public with me recently. Specifically, she voiced concern that I'd knock my drink glass into her lap. Thankfully for all of us, I managed to avoid that humiliation (whew!)
I'll love it. In the seven years since losing most of my sight, there are a lot of things I've missed seeing. Sunsets, rainbows, and faces are tops on that list. Instead of saying "He's handsome" or "She's beautiful"; why not tell me "He's about 6 foot tall, with curly dark hair." or "She's short and slim, with long, straight, strawberry-blond hair." And PLEASE don't just tell me, "there's a chair over there." I can't SEE where the chair is, for goodness' sake! Try instead, "There's a chair a couple of steps ahead of you and a little to your right." Best of all, you're welcome to take me by the hand and lead me to that chair. Place my hand on the back; I'll do the rest.
Here, at the end of this list, we come to one of my major pet peeves. If you're leading me somewhere and have to step away from me, PLEASE don't just drop my hand and leave me standing in open space with nothing to touch. Since I don't see what's around me, I'll feel as if I'm in the middle of a wasteland, devoid of all solid objects. That's an INTENSELY uncomfortable feeling! We blind folks have something called the "anchoring instinct." That is, we're MUCH more comfortable when we can "anchor" ourselves in space by touching something solid. A wall will do, if nothing else is readily available. I'm not clinging to you because I'm trying to get freaky, I promise!
Thanks for your kind attention. I sincerely hope you've gained some insight into what blind people really go through. Perhaps it'll help you feel more comfortable next time you're faced with anyone different from you, in whatever way.
By JustPlainJo from Springfield, OH
Editor's Note: Please share your own experiences with us in the feedback.
Once again, thanks. 2 thumbs up and thanks for making me smile. My best friend who passed away 2 years ago at the young age of 84 was deaf since she was 5 due to complications from measles. Her Mother taught her to speak. She taught me to sign and had a fabulous sense of humor.
I have closed caption on my TV which she really enjoyed. When we'd go to a restaurant she would tell the waitress what she wanted and the waitress would ask her a question she didn't quite catch(reading her lips)so I'd tell the waitress she was deaf. The waitress or a store clerk would repeat in a louder voice. I'd smile and once outside I'd tell her why and we'd burst out laughing. Not so funny to others but that was our humor.
I wish she had written a book of her experiences. She was a college graduate and had several degrees.
Thanks again for your writings. Keep em coming.
Thank you for the wonderful information you shared with us.
My friend and former boss was losing his sight. He was, believe it or not, the head of the Oregon Dept of Revenue kitchen. All Oregon state buildings have to have their kitchens run by the Commission for the Blind.
One day, before the sun even came up, we all arrived for the beginning of our day, and I asked them if they had seen that gorgeous moon behind the clouds this morning? She said nothing, but he asked her what it looked like. She just said, "It looked like the moon".
I could see he was let down. When she was not around, I leaned over and said "It looked like a light bulb behind a lace curtain". He smiled and I could see him imagining it.
Your ten commandments are perfect and well thought out. Thank you for them.
As a long time sighted guide for The Canadian National Institute For the Blind, these commandments are right on. I also found that if you notice someone is abut to pass close the blind person you're guiding, let them know by saying something like "Someone is passing us on the right" Since I love description, I really enjoyed the part where you can describe the surroundings to the person you are guiding. Kind of opened my own eyes to details I might not have seen otherwise. It's also important that when you see a blind person with a white cane to make sure they need your help before just assuming they do. I also recommend to the sighted who are assisting the blind, to try blindfolding themselves and letting a stranger(or even a casual friend) lead them somewhere. You get a taste of how scary trusting someone else can be.
I love all this great feedback, and I'm definitely not too shy to discuss how my life has changed. It gives me great pleasure to use my God-given gift for words to educate those around me, and understanding the needs of the blind is so important! The main reason I've articulated my points so well is that I've had seven years of experience to draw from. Someday, God willing, I will write about my experiences and how all this happened to me, promise! Meanwhile, I'll be working on other articles like this.
My boyfriend has been blind since he was one year old. I do not do things for him, he's very independent, when we go on a walk together I have to ask him to slow down because I can't keep up!
Skayc, that is funny! Hubby and I are arguing more now that I'm trying to be more independent... he's very much a caregiver and sooo enjoys doing for me. Sometimes I feel like a bratty toddler yelling, "I do it!" lol!
I am a visually impaired individual who has adapted her lifestyle around her disability. Most people forget that I am visually impaired because I have learned to adapt with the help of others to my surroundings. The only difficulty I have is with these people who forget that I am blind and don't respond well when I inform them of my limitations.
Wanda, that's where my sense of humor comes in handy. When hubby asks a stupid question like "did you see that (insert interesting visual?) I simply respond, deadpan, "Nope." Or, if someone is talking about something visual, someone's outrageous hairdo, for example, I've been known to chime in with a smart aleck comment like "I hadn't noticed." It really throws folks off their guard when you joke about your limitations!
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