Top Five Things Sighties Should Know About Blind People…And Don’t

Who’s ready for another top five?

This week’s addition of Safe Space tackles some things sighted people should seriously already know about blind people. Fingers crossed that you already intuitively understand, but just in case you don’t, keep reading. Also, be sure to comment below and share your opinion on top fives and whether or not you find them helpful. I aim to please.

Top five things sighties should know about blind people…and don’t.

  1. Blind people frequent the Internet.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people in discussion forums tell me I’m not blind because I’m using a computer, or had guys on dating aps express shock that I use technology without sighted assistance. The majority of the sighted world seems unaware of things like screen readers and voiceover. I never mind explaining how I do things on the computer or use technology, I’m just surprised most people don’t know more about accessible equipment. Anyway, to those people from discussion forums, yes I am blind, and yes my screen time is much higher than it should be. 😛

  1. Tons of blind people live alone, but asking a blind woman this question is creepy and stalkery.

Picture this. You’re sitting in the back seat of a taxi. It’s late at night and you can’t see out the window to track where you’re going. Your driver strikes up a conversation with you about who knows what and out of the blue asks you if “you live alone.” Would you be a tad creeped out? Now, 99.9% of the time these people are simply curious, many assuming blindness is a debilitating disability and that blindies need someone to take care of them. (barf) A lot of people like to ask “who takes care of you?” as a less classy but also less creepy alternative to “Do you live alone?” But I digress. When I am asked this question, which happens about 50% of the time I take a cab, I know they likely mean it in an innocent who helps you out kind of way, but it’s still an uncomfortable, sticky question to answer. Do I say yes, thereby encouraging a realistic view of blindness but confessing to a total stranger, a random who knows my address no less, that I live alone? Or, do I avoid the question and reinforce a negative blind stereotype but be safer from potential creepers? My advice? Don’t ask anyone this question, especially a woman, unless you want them to wonder if you’re a serial killer/rapist.

  1. You do not need to alter your language when you talk to us.

I’ve never met a blindy who says they went to hear a movie or feel some art. If you wouldn’t use an alternative descriptive word in normal conversation, you don’t need to use it around us. We won’t break down if you ask us to look at something or watch a movie.

  1. No matter how loud you shout at us, that will not make us see any better.

When I was about ten years old, my mom, two younger sisters, and I were taking a cab back from the mall. Our driver spoke to my sighted sisters at average volume but raised his voice to a shout when he addressed my blind mother and I. We replied at a normal volume, but he continued to shout back. I, being in the midst of my confident diva phase, leaned forward in the back seat and calmly informed him that we were blind, not deaf, and requested that he lower his voice. A beat of silence, then one of my sisters giggled and we arrived at our destination. Our driver didn’t say another word to me, I think he thought I was a terror and a brat, but he spoke to my mom at a normal volume while she paid.

When you are addressing a blindy, remember that it is their eyes that are the problem, not their ears or their ability to comprehend speech. And if your strategy is to shout at a person who is deaf in the hopes they will hear you better, I’m sorry but that’s even dumber than yelling at me. If they are fully def, shout all you want because they will thankfully never have to hear you. Actually, I take that back. Just don’t shout at anyone. It’s hella rude.

  1. Don’t automatically assume our companion is helping us, sometimes it’s the other way around.

Yes, if we’re in an unfamiliar place, our companion is probably giving us verbal directions or providing sighted guide, but way more often than not, we’re just hanging out, living our best lives. Our friend/family member/significant other is not our care-aid and should not be addressed thus. Also, keep in mind the helping relationship can sometimes be the other way around. I took my sister to the hospital the other day, and more than one person assumed I was the patient simply because I was the differently-abled one. She was in pretty rough shape, it should have been obvious who was sick, but all some people saw was the girl with the guide dog and her escort.

It boggles my mind that a huge percentage of the sighted population remains unaware of these things. Anyway, for those who weren’t, now you are. Go forth and be more awesome than you were before. 😀

Be kind, and be aware.

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