Dear Sighted Reader,
First a little disclaimer: I don’t mean to offend. I’m a tell it like it is kind of girl with a wicked sense of humor, and I want to both make you think and make you laugh.
With that said, here it goes.
The things I, and countless other blind people, really wish you knew.
Our level of skill at a given task probably has nothing to do with our blindness.
I’m an excellent writer. I absolutely suck at organizing. I know blind people who are super organized but aren’t good writers. It’s not a blindness thing, it’s a human thing.
We have developed countless ways of perceiving the world that doesn’t involve eyesight. We may be at varying stages of learning those ways, but once we learn them, those ways enable us to live a full, productive, and independent life — just like you.
Unless of course, things are designed in such a way as to necessitate eyesight. For example, when at the airport, an overhead sign that says, “flight 158 to Denver will be leaving from gate C13” is not helpful to us — particularly if we’re not even aware the sign exists. If we’re hanging out at gate B-32 because that’s the gate we were verbally told to go to, we’re not getting to Denver. “Welcome to flight 905 with service to London…” “Wait… no! What do you mean we’re already taking off?” Ok, I’m sure it wouldn’t come to that, but you get the picture.
We have the same rights to personal space as you do, and frankly, we’re really getting sick of having to tell people this.
It’s like dealing with children — “No, don’t grab. Don’t touch. Don’t pull on the white cane.” Ask yourself, would you touch or grab a sighted person like that?
We have interests that don’t involve blindness.
Some of us like football. Some of us hate football but love to watch movies. Some of us like to knit, while others love to cook or work with wood. The point is, just like you, we have varied and fascinating interests that don’t involve blindness. If you want to get to know us, ask about those first.
However, sometimes it is relevant to ask about blindness. Go ahead and ask us “How do you do this,” or “What techniques do you use to do that.” This implies that you believe we can do it, but you just don’t know our methods. We get that. We are a small minority after all. Avoid saying, “CAN you do this?” which implies that you don’t believe in us, and that may make us feel sucky and not want to interact with you.
Stop doing things for blind people.
Ok, pick your jaw up off the floor, I didn’t mean it like that. But what we really need is collaboration, not charity. Do things with us, not for us. Find out what we need and help us help ourselves. That’s empowerment.
When we ask you to help us in certain ways, please respect that. When we ask that products or services be made accessible, we want nothing more than to participate equally in society. Involve us in the process and I guarantee you that accessibility for us will benefit everyone, including you.
We are human just like you.
Remember, we all share the universal experience of being human. We struggle with bills, experience financial success, love our children, get mad at our children, do great work and make mistakes. Blind or sighted, we’re all riding a big spinning ball through the solar system and just trying to figure out life!
So, let’s grab a coffee! – Angela
Angela lives in Northern California with her 13-year-old son, her dog and her cat. She works for a community college and makes and sells several flavors of beef jerky. She loves football, grilling, and is quite the true-crime junkie.