I recently had one of those random encounters with a stranger that got me thinking. Thinking about the comfort – actually, the discomfort, that some people have when it comes to saying the word “blind”. Is “blind” a bad word?
Based on my past, and most recent experience, there is clearly a hesitation when it comes to saying the word “blind” to describe someone who is…well, blind.
My recent thought-provoking encounter happened a few weeks ago. I’ll try to keep the story short. Ha ha ha! Anyway…. We bought some new patio furniture, and a couple of the store employees were kind enough to help us carry the furniture out to our car. I stayed back in the store, with my white cane in hand. I figured I would wait until all but one chair needed to be taken out. I asked the gentleman taking that last chair, if I could walk out with him. He was ok with it, so that’s what I did.
As we were walking, he said, “So, I used to know a girl like you.”, (awkward pause), “She was, you know, Uhh…”, (more awkwardness). I knew what he was trying to say. The poor guy was obviously flustered. I thought I could say a few things to keep the conversation going. I could say, “She was sexy?”, or “She was blind?”, or “She was the sexiest blind girl you’d ever seen, until you saw me?”. Well, I chose to behave myself and went with, “She was blind?”.
With a sense of relief in his voice, he said, ”Yeah. Yeah, she was blind.”. At the car, I thanked him for his assistance, but, I was left wondering why he was so flustered over what word to use.
It took me a while to add the word “blind” into my vocabulary. And over the last 4 years, I have gotten comfortable using and hearing the word. Accepting the word “blind” into your life happens differently for everyone. It’s especially hard when you lose your vision suddenly and unexpectedly with no chance to prepare yourself. This I know. It’s a process, like every other adjustment we have to make.
I suspect many people in the blind community are quite used to hearing the word “blind”. I also suspect that many sighted people are not used to having a conversation with a blind person. In turn, the word “blind” is unfamiliar to them. It may provoke the unthinkable thought of going blind. Perhaps they don’t know if it’s appropriate or PC to use these days. The unfamiliar, unthinkable, and unknown can take anyone down the path of feeling uncomfortable. Could these be reasons why people hesitate to say this word to those who are blind? Does this uncomfortable feeling hold people back from having conversations with the blind? I’m going with, probably. I wish it wasn’t that way. –”Blind” is not a bad word.
The word “blind” is used in my life on the daily. I expect it to be used in a way that is appropriate, courteous, and respectful. I know that won’t always happen. Rude people and ignorance does exist.
I imagine there are lots of people in this world who don’t know what to say to blind people. Take the awkward encounters as a chance to educate. Offer up your preferred “description” and create a more comfortable conversation. As for me, I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m totally fine being described as “blind”, or better yet, “blind and sexy”! xx