I have learned that when I feel the need to justify myself, some part of me is almost always of the opinion that others must be right and I must be wrong. Defending, explaining, and justifying my choices as a blind person is something I do more than I’d like to. Because some of you don’t know what it’s like to walk in my shoes… I wish you wouldn’t question why I walk the way I do. Here are 5 things blind people shouldn’t have to justify to anyone.
1. When we don’t want to use our white cane. Perhaps we find ourselves in a place that is familiar and safe, and we don’t want to use our cane, so we don’t. Maybe we find ourselves in a situation where we are feeling a bit self-conscious about using our cane, so we don’t. We can, and we will, let the people we’re with know that we feel more comfortable using them as a sighted guide. Our decision doesn’t have to win anyone’s approval. After all, it’s our white cane, not yours, and we will use it at our own discretion.
2. The words we use to describe our vision loss. If we are asked about our vision, it is our choice on how we respond. I have heard people say things like, bad eyesight, don’t see very well, vision disability, visually impaired, vision impairment, partially sighted, low vision. We may even use the “B word”…BLIND or legally blind. Some folks don’t like the “B word”, and prefer not to use it. Others may be okay with it, and use it more freely. Obviously…I don’t mind it! Identify your vision loss the way YOU want to and not how anyone else thinks it should be.
3. Why we need blind friendships. Our sighted family and friends are never going to truly understand our down days or daily difficulties. How could they? They’re not blind and we would never want them to be. Creating blind friendships through social media, in person, or over the phone, can build a wonderful support network for us. We like to know we’re not alone and that someone else can relate to our troubles and triumphs.
4. Why we may need a helping hand. When we ask for help, it’s because…we…want…help! It’s not because we want to annoy you. We may want assistance with something that’s very simple for you, yet difficult for us to do. If we don’t need help, we will gladly tackle the task….. but, giving someone a hand should never be too much to ask. And just in case you’re wondering…yes, yes we can hear the fake friendliness in your voice when you feel forced to oblige.
5. Why we want all the details. We want to hear what we can’t see. Why do you think they created “audio description” for movies and TV shows? Because Us blind kids want to know what’s going on. That’s why! Giving us the details about what surrounding us or in front of us is more than just small talk. You’re fueling our visual imagination and enabling us to feel included. Paint the picture and fill in the blanks….and don’t even think of leaving out the juicy details! Inquiring blind minds want to know!
Will the people in your life always support your choices and desires? No, they won’t. But you need to remember that life is not about justifying yourself; it’s about creating a happy life. A life that happens to include vision loss. Your friends and family can walk with you, but not in your shoes. So, make sure the path you decide to walk aligns with your own decisions. You shouldn’t have to justify your who, what, where, when, and whys to anyone.