Today’s Reminder That It Isn’t All That Difficult To Treat Blind People Like Human Beings

Carin and I have covered much of this stuff through the years, but another well written reminder for folks to stumble upon can’t hurt. So…Pet Peeves of the Blind and Visually Impaired

The title alone is important. I want to be called blind, not visually impaired. My vision isn’t impaired, it’s nonexistent. Ditto for Carin, other than some colours and the occasional amusing blob story.

There are ten things on the list, but here are a couple of the most important ones.

7. Low expectations. This includes: the “pity” person (Oh, you poor blind child. You must have a terrible life.), the “know-it-all” (Dr. so-and-so can work miracles. I know because my grandmother/nephew/dog has 20-20 now.), “Mr. Helper” (Let me do that, I know it’s too hard for you.), the “excuse-maker” (I don’t want him/her to learn how to make a [insert food here] because they might cut/burn/make a mess. You can’t go on that field trip because there might be a terrorist attack and I would worry.), the “denial/embarrassed person” (Don’t use your cane at the store so people won’t know you’re blind.), and unfortunately, the list goes on and on. Low expectation is probably the worst thing one person can do to another, regardless of abilities. If you aim for low performance, that’s likely what you’ll get. Don’t be an enabler. Being too over-protective will dramatically hinder the VI’s progress toward independence and living a happy, social, productive life. Step back. Allow them to fail, get a minor injury, and make their own mistakes. That’s how we all learn. Don’t forbid them these opportunities.

I know quite a few parents of blind children that I wish had been given that advice, and others that were given it but didn’t listen. Sorry, but the fact that your blind child isn’t as independent as most of his friends isn’t all his fault. Much of the blame falls squarely on you. There’s something to be said for succeeding in spite of your surroundings, but they didn’t come up with the saying about apples not falling far from trees for no reason.

9. Rudeness. It’s usually just ignorance, but don’t assume that any VI person automatically needs help. Grabbing the person’s arm and pulling them along is wrong on several levels. We know you’re probably just trying to be nice, but don’t. First, always ask the person if they would like some assistance. Then, use the sighted guide technique correctly. Offer your arm and let them hold it, usually right above the elbow. Also, if there are several people with the VI person, speak directly to him/her, not through an “interpreter”, as if the VI person is not there. Say his name, so he knows you are talking to him.

And to add to this, don’t tell me that my helper and/or worker can do it for me, especially if I’m alone. It’s bad enough when people assume that the friend or helpful stranger I’m with is somehow in the employ of the agency that has me in captivity for my own good, but it’s even worse when you can clearly see that I’m able enough to have gotten to this point unassisted.

Note: As I was writing this, I couldn’t help but think of the ushers from Centre In The Square. We’ll be there tonight. I wonder if they’ll kinda wig out again.

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  1. Carin and I have had several conversations on the do’s and don’ts beginning with “blind” or “visually impaired”. She is my go to etiquette person.

    I think the majority of us want to do the right thing – we just need to know what the right thing is. Columns like this one help.

  2. Hope I’ve been helpful. I now hear my one friend’s catch phrase in my head. “Never attribute to maliciousness what can be attributed to ignorance or stupidity.” That probably applies in lots of cases. I just wish some people would think, “Now, if I were on the receiving end of what I’m about to do, how would it feel?” I think a lot would be stopped if people did that one thing. I.E. How would I feel if, without warning, somebody grabbed me and started pulling me somewhere? Or, how would I feel if, instead of talking to me, people chose to talk about me to my friends?

    I had a moment like that at CSUN. I met a guy who is deafblind and spoke through an intervener. As I was talking, I couldn’t help but think “Gee, I change direction in my sentences a lot.” I wanted to apologize to the intervener for being such a disjointed speaker, but I knew if I addressed the intervener, the guy would probably get pissed off, thinking I was talking about him. Perhaps if I’d had more time, I could have asked him what’s the proper way to say something directly to the intervener, but for the moment, I thought I’ll just not bother apologizing for my probably difficult to communicate speech because it would probably be awkward and off-pissing for him.

    I guess that’s my long-winded way of saying if people just thought about how it would feel to be on the other end, things would probably be better. I just hope I can help make things make sense. Oh, and if people realized we’re all our own person and do things in our own way, it would be easier. I can’t count the number of times I’ve met people who say “I met a blind guy and he never left his straws in his drinks, so I just assumed you all needed your straws out.” or “Oh you still need help finding that place? I knew another blind guy who learned everything really fast.” Guh. We’re all people with our own strengths and weaknesses. It would be ridiculous to hear “Oh you don’t like blue? I knew another sighted guy who liked blue so I thought you liked blue.” What the? Just ask if we need anything/what would be helpful. We’ll tell ya.

    Hope this doesn’t seem super complicated or something.

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