Someone suggested to me that I dedicate one of my blog posts to interactions with blind individuals. Initially, I thought that there was enough material about this issue already out there, and that this was an old topic. But recently I have been working as a counselor at a camp for blind youth, and it has come to my attention that there can never be enough written about this. It is, and should remain a hot topic.
So many ways people interact with us, whether that be parent, friend, or stranger, can really inhibit our growth towards independence as a blind individual. It could be in a small way, such as a friend always telling you where your food is on a plate; to, a parent never letting you walk anywhere without a sighted guide. In both of these instances, a blind person will never learn to explore their surroundings, because they have become so dependent on someone giving them this information. If a parent gives us absolutely everything we want, or does everything for us, how will we ever become independent? Most of us would never do this to our sighted children, or they might still be sitting on our couch at 42, waiting for us to bring them their dinner.
Parents don’t do this to their sighted children, friends don’t do this to their sighted friends, and strangers certainly don’t do this to other sighted strangers. It should be the same for blind children, friends, or strangers.
I know that people are compassionate, and just want to help, but sometimes trying to help in the short term, doesn’t help us in the long term. It is also hard to know when to help a blind person. Some blind individuals may require more help with certain things, and some might not. You might have the experience of trying to help a blind person, and getting yelled at because they didn’t need your help. So maybe the next time you see a blind person, you decide not to help because you got yelled at previously. Just as sighted people are all different, blind people are too. We all require different levels of help, and we all have different personalities. One may yell at you and scorn your help, but that doesn’t mean we all do.
So how then should you interact with blind people, keeping in mind not to inhibit their independence, but also recognizing that they might need help with something?
I’ve put together a short generic list of how to nurish blind independence, whether you be parent or family member, friend or stranger.
Give us the respect you would give any sighted peer. We are still people, a disability doesn’t change that, we deserve your respect as much as the next person. Just because we are different from you, does not mean that we are less than you. So the first rule in interacting with someone who is different is respect.
ASK IF WE NEED HELP
Don’t just assume we need help and start yelling out directions, or worse, grab us and take us where you think we want to go. If you think we need help, or are not sure, just ask. If you get yelled at, or the blind individual you are trying to help, gets snippy with you, remember: we are all different , we all have different personalities, we are all people, and we all have bad days.
Also keep in mind, if we really need help, we will ask. If and when we do ask, then it is definitely your time to help. Which leads me into my next topic:
DO NOT JUST KEEP WALKING IF WE ARE TRYING TO ASK FOR HELP!!!!!
This one, though it seems like common courtesy to not do, has actually happened to me more times than I can count. Maybe I’m lost, and I need to know the street name, or maybe I’m in a mall and can’t find the counter to ask which store this is, no matter the case: it is always beyond rude not to answer. I hear you walk past me and just ignore me. It’s not like I’m whispering, or just want to ask who your favorite sports team is. Yes I realize that sometimes you didn’t hear me, or had ear buds in, or were just in a hurry, but for the love of all things, don’t just ignore us. A majority of blind people definitely don’t have the plague. We are not going to infect you with blindness! We are not contagious, or demon spawn, or whatever it is you might think! We are people who deserve to be treated with respect and courtesy just as any other.
So, stop walking, take out that ear bud, take five seconds, and listen. If you can’t help, that is fine, we will figure it out, but coming in contact with a blind person is no excuse to be rude!!!!
BLINDNESS IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD!!!
To the parents, or family members of blind children: blindness is not the end of the world. I can understand how heart breaking it would be to have a child who is different, but to be always heart broken or angry about it; to take care of your child’s every need or wish because of it; to coddle them because they have been dealt a bad hand in life, is to not accept them. To not accept them for who they are, and things they cannot control.
There is a saying, “if you love them, let them go.” But there is a better one for this occasion: “if you love them, let them grow.” For people with disabilities, this is the best way you can love and accept them. If you think about it, this is really the best way to love anyone.
I’m a parent, I get it. You want to do everything you can for your child, you want to give them everything. But if I sit there every morning and night and help my son into his clothes, how will he ever learn how to do it himself? Wouldn’t I still conceivably be helping him get dressed when he is 15? And how would his quality of life be then? It is the same thing with blind children. You must accept us and our disability, and then you will be able to help us grow. If we are coddled, and know nothing else, not know independence, what quality of life will we really have?
So, if you love them, let them grow!!!
TAKE THE TIME TO THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU WOULD DO IN THAT SITUATION
And lastly: take the time to think about what you would do, how you would handle a certain situation if you were blind, or had a disability.
Try not to just panic if we drop something, or are approaching a closed door. Instead think about what you would do if you couldn’t see. Would you stand there and wait for and indeterminate amount of time until someone comes along to save you? Probably not. If you really stop and think about it, that would be silly. Chances are, we know what to do it that situation. You cutting us off to open the door; or potentially banging heads because we both bent down to retrieve what I dropped, is not really helpful.
If you stop and think about what you would do, it will start to provide an awareness of what being blind might be like. If you can have that awareness, then you can start to understand how we might do things when you are not there to come to the rescue. If you can do this, then you can respect and nurish our independence.
However, this is not to say never help. If we dropped something and can’t find it because it has bounced clear across the room, feel free to help, as any good Samaritan would in this situation. Just try to be more aware of when your help would be help, or if it would just be a hinderance.
So, in conclusion, treat the blind people in your life with respect, and let us grow!!!
This is me! Hope you enjoyed the read. I love questions, so if you
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