Interacting With Blind People
September 22, 2011
These comments have been percolating for quite awhile. Please excuse if some of them strike you as a bit snarky (acerbic and smart-alecky).
- Blindness ain't for sissies! Apologies to late actress Helen Hayes who originally said "getting old ain't for sissies", but this is true. It takes a special sort of mental, emotional and spiritual toughness to deal with suddenly being blind. Not that it doesn't take a similar toughness to deal with being born blind, of course. We live in a world designed for the sighted and able-bodied. It's not easy, but it can be done.
- Blindness takes a lot of concentration. I admit it freely that I was born an airhead, and I suspect I'll die an airhead. I was also born a visual learner; I learned best by reading. Of course, that was in my life B. C. (before the crash). In my life A. D. (after the disaster) without much vision left, I now rely mostly on my senses of hearing, smell, taste, touch and of course, my memory. It can be downright exhausting! It sometimes makes it difficult to multi-task, too. I miss multitasking.
- I have to speak for myself. Along with having been born an airhead, I was born a "mouse." That is, I was born shy. Thanks to my experiences these past eight years, though, I know I won't die a "mouse." My time in the hospital away from everyone who could and did speak for me, forced me into a new pattern. It was then that I realized, no one knows what I need or want better than I do, and no one can express my thoughts and feelings better than I can. How liberating is that?
- My blindness makes people nervous. I still recall the evening my family attended an event at my former high school. My five children had also attended this school, so I'd memorized much of the layout; especially the area around the auditorium where I'd spent a lot of time as a drama and choir mom. However I created a small panic, simply by attempting to walk to the ladies' room unattended. What did they think I'd do, run for home? In the past couple of years I've learned not to go too far without an attendant, just to spare my family and friends that sort of scare. I don't like it, but I do it.
- Toying with obnoxious "normies" heads can be fun. Last Mother's Day, my older daughter took me shopping. I was daydreaming a little while as I waited for her to find something. Suddenly I realized a stranger was literally in my face, repeating "excuse me, excuse me" in a nasty tone. My daughter pointed out something the woman apparently hadn't noticed, my blindness. Then I gave in to the impulse to reinforce my daughter's message by showing the white cane that had been folded, and put into the front of the cart. My daughter told me later, the shock on the woman's face was priceless. Boy, did she beat a hasty retreat!
- My sense of humor still catches people off-guard. Sorry, folks, it's just that I was raised to laugh, rather than cry at every opportunity. My blindness is no exception. Many times when people say something like "I can't see (whatever)." I say in my best Ben Stein impersonation, "That's okay, neither can I?". The shocked silence that often follows such a remark is too funny!
- It's okay to use "sight" words around me. You don't have to walk on eggshells or apologize if you use a "sight" word in my presence. My pal Eleanore once joked about "sneaking in and robbing us blind." Of course, I cracked up. She was mortified when she realized what she'd said. That only made me laugh harder. Sorry, Eleanore!
- It's okay if you forget I'm blind. Actually, I consider it a compliment when people forget my vision loss. That means I'm doing a good job compensating!
- "Over there" is a foreign concept to the blind. I recently read (well, listened to) a hilarious commentary on the concept of "over there." The author wrote that his long white cane could find many things, but not "over there." Even my hubby does it; and I can never decide whether to smack him or laugh and ask him to be more specific! Please, please tell me the chair is a couple of feet to my left and ahead, not "over there!"
- Waiting for sighted assistance is a pain! I can't count the number of times when I've asked one of my sighted family or friends to help me solve a "vision-critical" problem or drive me somewhere; only to hear, "Does it have to be done right now?" Since I hate inconveniencing anyone, I often just cancel the request. That's limiting and extremely frustrating, but has only strengthened my resolve to learn to independently do everything I can. I may never be 100% independent, but hey, I can try!
There's a lot more I could say, but I'll keep to my "rule of ten." I hope I've enlightened someone today!
By Lelia Jo Cordell from Springfield, OHRead More Comments
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June 1, 2010
Back, by popular demand, here are a few more tips for sighted folk dealing with blind people:
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So I'm blind. My eyes don't work as well as yours. That doesn't make me any less human than you. Please don't talk down to me or be condescendingRead More...
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