I’m becoming more and more aware of something some sighted people tend to do because I’m legally blind. I don’t think they even realize they do it. They probably don’t know just how annoying and uncomfortable it can be. It’s a “touchy” subject, but I suspect I’m not alone on this one.
I’ve noticed that Some people feel the need to “poke” or “draw” on my arm, hand, or leg with their finger to further describe something during a conversation.
Also, some people feel the need to grab and forcibly pull my hand (or hands) towards something so I will better understand where it is and/or what it feels like.
And then, there are some people feel the need to grab me by the shoulders with both hands and spin me around to point me in the direction I asked to go.
For. the. love.
It’s annoying and uncomfortable.
I have personal boundaries just like you.
Please use your words, not your hands.
Not to sound like a bitch or anything – but, didn’t your mother or kindergarten teacher tell you to “keep your grimy little hands to yourself”? It’s a simple concept and one that should be easy to understand. Especially as grown adults.
I’m pretty sure there are at least a billion or so words in the english language to choose from. All you have to do is string a few of them together to form a sentence that describes a person, place, or thing, and speak. Have you heard of “audio description”? The key word there is “audio”.
When I was a young girl, my friends and I used to play a game. We would take turns drawing simple images with our finger on the back of each other’s shirt. One kid would have to guess what the image was as it was being drawn on their back. Hey, we didn’t have cell phones back then – so, we had to make up our own entertainment. If you grew up in the 70s – you get it, right? Anyway… We had to use our imagination and visualize the image the other person was drawing on us. Yep. Oodles of fun as a kid. But now, as an adult, not. so. much. I would prefer that you speak to me, not draw on me.
Since losing my vision, I’m the first one to reach out to touch and feel something. I’m like a naughty little toddler that has to touch everything! Just ask my kids after a trip to Target – they would agree! I use my hands to gather the tactile information I can not see. I might feel an object or the surface of something for size, shape or texture info. I might feel around on top of a table or countertop to find something – like a glass, a bowl, my phone, or a cork to a bottle of a fine cabernet, etc. etc. And you guys, I might have, just maybe, mistakenly felt up a live human or two. I mean, is it a human or a mannequin? The struggle is so damn real!
I need you to understand that my hands serve as my eyes. Notice how I use the word “MY’? Yeah. MY hands, not yours. Grabbing and putting my hands to place them somewhere or on something is not ok with me. Me, myself, and I, will use my own hands as I SEE fit. (No pun intended!) I would prefer that you speak to me, not man-HAND-el me.
And lastly, if I ask which way something is located, I want directions. Please suppress the urge to grab and spin my whole body around until I am facing the direction I want to go. I’m all for fun and games, but most likely this is not the time!! I would prefer that you speak to me, not spin me. If I’m not understanding you, then for sh*t sake, offer up your elbow and guide me!
As always, I am so thankful that you all do what you feel you need to do to describe and show me the things I can not see. I really do. It is not my intention to discourage anyone from offering assistance to me, or to any other person with a disability. Nope. But. for. the. love… try to resist poking, drawing, grabbing, pulling, or spinning me for descriptive purposes. It’s usually not necessary, or appreciated without my consent. Please use your words. Lots of deliciously descriptive words. Because quite frankly my dear, I’m not a fan of your hands!
P.S. I don’t speak for every legally blind person here. So, if you don’t mind the whole touchy-feely-pokey-grabbing-spinning thing — well, to each his own! xx
Great post as usual Maria. Have to admit I’ve never thought of this before and hope I’m not guilty of doing it. I totally get what you are saying. Thanks for bringing it to everyone’s attention.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and all your family.
Thank you Pat! As, I said…. I don’t think most folks know they do it to the extent that they do. We appreciate it, bit, we like our personal boundaries too!! xo
Maria, well done as always. I can totally relate to each and everything you said in this blog. Fantastic as always. I to remember that game you were talking about Wayback win when we didn’t have cell phones etc. Drawing on each others back’s to visualize what the picture was supposed to be. Wow, that brings back a lot of memories. Thanks for sharing this one well done as always 😘👍🦋
Thank you Lisa!!!! How funny that you played that game too!!! xo
People have no concept of personal space. It aggravates me too!
Hi Lindsey! Yep. I hear ya!!!
Absolutely, Maria. I’d say I can’t imagine it, but I’ve had people grab my wheelchair (never once helping), and last week a guy grabbed ME. I did not appreciate it and said so quite loudly.
Hi there! You can certainly relate in your own way! Why don’t people understand that we have personal boundaries just like anyone else!!! Sheesh!!! There is an ongoing campaign on twitter that says it all, #JustAskDontGrab!
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Good to know. I don’t really know any blind people in real life. but I would never want to offend anyone!
When I had laryngitis, I would write something on a sheet of paper and the person (friend, classmate, sale assistant) would grab the paper and write back, even though I hear just fine. It’s like people mimic you when they’re confronted by someone outside of their range of everyday experience.
Hi Melanie! Thanks for reading! Like you, I did not know any blind people, until I became blind. I had no clue what to do with myself and no friends or family had a clue what to do with me. As your point about the note writing confirms… I think folks get all flustered and awkward when put into a position they are new to, or did not expect! Just another reason why I write this blog!!
Hi Maria –
Thanks for that P.S.A. It’s sad that it even has to be mentioned in 2018, it should just be plain common sense; but I guess it does.
I just subscribed to your blog today. Also, I recently heard about your blog via your guest appearance on the podcast “Ability Stories” W/ Tara Briggs. (I don’t know if this is the place for questions) Do you know If that podcast is still on going?
I will make sure to keep up with your blog. As I enjoy your informative, humorous, and yes slightly irreverent approach/style… Thanks
Hi John! Thank you for subscribing!! I appreciate your kind words about my writing style. I just try to tell it like it is…. without offending too many people! 😉 I do not know if Tara is still doing her podcast. Last time I checked, there has not been any new episodes posted. Do you listen to any other podcasts about living with sight loss?
Hey Maria –
I listen to all kinds of podcasts. ( well, a few anyway.) I really enjoy the medium. Do you specifically have a podcast?
I personally, happen to experience spastic Cerebral Palsy. I’m 39 years old, I do use a motorized wheelchair for mobility. Further, I’m quite nearsighted and use bifocals. So, podcasts associated with abilities & advocacy do interest me. Would/could you recommend any Blogs and/or Podcasts to me?
Hi again! If you go to my blog and click on the PODCAST tab, there is a list of them, along with blogs. I need to update the list, but it will be a good start for you!
oh girl… this made me think of how people feel the need to touch a pregnant woman’s belly – so intrusive! Again, you’ve shared your experiences with humor, wit and grace. Well done!
Thank you Kirvy! And yes, very similar to the whole invasion of one’s pregnant belly!! xo
This! Just, all the way this. I have a hungry six year old using her words very loudly in my ear, so I can’t be as eloquent as I might wish to be, but this post is so dear to me, because I deal with this sort of thing all. The. Time. Why! Just don’t touch me! Really simple! I want a zap field sometimes just so when people try fondling my hands or arms or whatever, they get a good old shock merely to remind them to maybe ask first? Thanks for sharing this!