The other day, I must have been wearing a sign that said, “Grab My Wrist And Pull Me!”. Oh wait, I wasn’t wearing such a sign. I only had my white cane.
As I was entering the building to go into work, someone was holding the door for me but did not say a word. As I tried to find the door handle, he grabbed my wrist and started pulling me to the right. But since the open door was to my left, and he was holding the door open and standing to the right of it, I kept trying to go to my left to go through the doorway. But this man kept pulling me to the right.
I was so confused because, why would he hold the door open and stand in the doorway? Each time I pulled my arm away from his grip, he reached for it again and on his third attempt, I felt him grip my wrist tightly trying to pull me to the right. I choose to stand my ground when things like this happen and do not allow anyone to move me around as if I were a rag doll.
He continued to pull me as I said, “it’s OK, I got this”. He then announced himself as the school safety agent whom I know. I replied with the acknowledgment that I knew it was him — and that I didn’t like to be pulled by anyone. You would think he would let go of me at this point, right? Nope. He kept pulling me, telling me that he was just trying to help me.
After that very awkward exchange, I was finally able to walk through the doorway. I was victorious, or so I thought. I did not allow my body to be pulled in whatever direction someone else saw fitting. But in my gut, I knew that whole interaction would be misinterpreted. I knew it would be misinterpreted negatively on my behalf. Later on that morning,
I ran into another colleague, not literally, just figuratively, haha, and she let me know that she had heard all about my interaction at the front door. She told me that the school safety agent said that I was very defensive this morning. I responded that I was not defensive but that I just don’t like to be pulled around in that way. She told me that I should understand that he was just trying to help and I acknowledged that I already knew that. I replied that everyone wants me to understand that they are trying to help.
But no one tries to understand me.
No one tries to understand that I am confident in my abilities to do things on my own.
I said to her that it was unfair that the expectation of understanding was solely placed on me when I don’t go around making assumptions about the abilities of others. I reminded her that this is my place of employment and I should be treated like any other professional in the building. The door being held for me is very different than trying to pull me through it. That type of help is only being done because I am blind, and I guarantee no other professional gets pull through doorways.
Sometimes, I feel like I live in a world where I am not allowed to do things at my own pace and in my own manner, and then I am expected to understand that others want to help even when they are infringing on my personal space, crossing body boundaries and insinuating that I need help to accomplish basic functions. It’s amazing, how I feel today, 2 1/2 years after losing my eyesight. I don’t feel helpless. I feel like I can accomplish most anything that I set my mind to. I may swipe my white cane left to right, hitting things around me and although it may look like I need help, I am doing what I need to do in order to figure it out. That is the one thing that I wish people would understand. My way of doing things is NOT wrong.
My way of doing things does not necessarily warrant immediate help from others.. It is my way and unless I ask for help, I don’t want it. But I cannot change how people think. I can only try to educate others. And I will not allow the perceptions that others have about me because of my blindness, to fester within me, and upset me.
Sandra is a school social worker and works fothe education department in New York City. Her primary eye condition is uveitis and as a result, she has had cataracts, glaucoma, retinal detachments and a cornea transplant. The works, as she calls it.