Caitlin's description of the image: "A selfie a sighted friend took when she and three other sighted friends put on blindfolds and watched a movie with me using video description."

9 Baffling Questions I Get Asked as a Blind Person

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I was born totally blind, and accordingly, have enjoyed 25 years of people’s baffling, strange and sometimes downright ridiculous questions.

Let’s skip over the “Who takes care of you?” and “Where’s your helper?” questions, shall we? Life’s too short for y’all to endure one of my epic rants. Onward!

1. “How do you dress yourself?”

This question, I suppose, is rooted in the sighted person’s belief that looking at things is the only efficient way to get things done. I can understand this intellectually, but I always wonder why dressing oneself is the issue sighted people seem to fixate upon. Cutting steak without looking like a cavewoman, crossing a street without becoming roadkill and negotiating a crowded room without smashing into unsuspecting randoms, though certainly doable as a blind person, are much more anxiety-provoking for me than choosing the right clothes.

The answer: If you’re a classy blind person who has their life together, you put Braille labels on your clothes with colors/descriptions/suggested outfit combinations, learn all the rules about color coordinating and/or arrange your closet in some meticulous order that you’ve magically memorized. Or, if you’re me, you just grab whichever T-shirt and jeans you get a hold of first. Or you can FaceTime your mom. Obviously.

2. “Can you see in the rain like Daredevil?”

No. Seriously, people, it’s a freaking fictional story.

3. “Do you want to touch my face?”

Are you coming on to me? Every time I get this question, I can’t help but feel like it’s an accidental (and bad) pick-up line. The blind face-touching trope has become such a fixture in Hollywood that even when it’s actually totally appropriate to touch someone’s face — like an adorable baby or, you know, an adorable lover — blind people are often too ashamed to do so.

Fun fact: For someone like me, who was born totally blind and, thus, has never seen anything, touching someone’s face doesn’t actually yield a mental snapshot at all. However, for people with low vision or who were once sighted, I’m told touching someone’s face can sometimes give the visually impaired person a clearer idea of what the face looks like.

4. “Do you do that thing where you rub the paper?”

I was asked this by an eager, well-meaning paratransit driver last year, and it made my entire day. Yes, I do read — and love — Braille. But sadly, not all blind people read Braille — a long, depressing story, which involves a combination of a severe shortage of well-trained Braille teachers and increased access to audiobooks and screen reading technology — so this is actually a valid question and can lead to interesting conversations.

Fun fact: To be read quickly and smoothly, Braille actually requires a light, deft touch. Literally “rubbing” the paper, therefore, wouldn’t do much good.

5. “When you roller blade, do you tie a rope around your waist and tie the other end around a friend’s waist so you can follow them?”

One of my beloved friends from UC Santa Cruz asked me this when I told him how much I love blading. Hilarious, but no. I just link arms/hold hands with someone sighted, use my cane or skate solo and empty-handed, if the terrain’s flat and not crowded.

6. “How do you have sex?”

When I’m done being embarrassed by strangers asking me this question — seriously, it’s so awkward — I explain that intimacy is about our other four senses as much as, if not more than, sight. Granted, without eye contact and visual cues like nods and facial expressions, intimacy with a blind person may require a bit more verbal communication than is typical. Still, I’m reasonably confident in assuming that the disparities end there.

Fun fact: Partners get megapoints if they agree to keep the lights off in intimate moments. Sometimes I like to be on even footing in that way, especially while still getting to know someone.

7. “So I bet you have super amazing hearing since you’re missing a sense, right?”

There are all sorts of studies about blind people’s senses and the active and inactive sections of our brain. Don’t ask me about this; I was a freaking literature major, so I don’t know jack about this stuff.

What I think, though, is that blind people often pay more attention to our other four senses because a) we kind of have to, out of necessity and b) visual distractions are omitted for us.

8. “How do you find your mouth with your fork?”

I just… do.

I honestly don’t even have a good answer for this question, but I’ve been asked it many times. Do sighted people watch their forks for every bite? I really don’t even understand this question.

Fun fact: Google “dining in the dark” and see if it’ll be in your area. It’s the best! Also look for Groupons, unless you have lots of bank.

9. “Do you feel like you relate to people differently because of your blindness?”

This is my absolute favorite strange question. So few people ask it, which is tragic, so I always light up when the topic comes up. Yes, I do think I relate to people a bit differently, and — not gonna lie — it kind of fascinates even me.

I can tell so much about a person just from the way they talk to me, touch me and engage with me. Their tone of voice and turn of phrase can often give me a sense of whether they’re distracted, nervous, preoccupied or genuinely tuned in. The way someone touches or hugs me can feel distinctly warm, connected, patronizing or hollow. How someone walks with me often gives me clues about whether or not they’re awkward, anxious or completely at ease.

I also gauge that, sometimes, random sighted people are more readily comfortable around me, and that’s almost certainly due to my blindness. Maybe it makes them feel better to know that I’m not going to laugh at the pimple on their nose or the ratty sweatshirt they threw on that morning. I’m a fairly captive, non-threatening audience, too, and people probably think I’ll be a good listener (I do always try to be).

I’ve had friends tell me they appreciate there’s no social pressure to make eye contact with me. And even though my ability to pick up on someone’s emotional stress signals might seem a little freaky at first, loved ones have commented that my intuitive check-ins and the resulting conversations can be refreshing.

Keep the quirky questions coming, my silly sighted acquaintances. Maybe we’ll be able to swing a round two!

Author’s note: I absolutely do not mind when people ask me questions; in fact, I applaud them for it. Often, this is a nice first step toward getting to know me and understanding how I do things. I don’t at all mean to discourage questions, or to make fun of anyone’s lack of understanding. However, it’s always appreciated if you get to know me as a person before requesting a crash course in Blindness 101. If you hang out with me, you’ll inevitably be able to answer a lot of your questions on your own.

Caitlin's description of the image: "A selfie a sighted friend took when she and three other sighted friends put on blindfolds and watched a movie with me using video description."
Caitlin’s description of the image: “A selfie a sighted friend took when she and three other sighted friends put on blindfolds and watched a movie with me using video description.”
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When I Hear People Make Jokes About My Disability

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Enough is enough. There are so many students with disabilities, and I know I’m not the only one. Some may be visible, some may not be. Yet there has not been a week that went by without me overhearing a joke about ADHD, Helen Keller or being deaf. What people don’t realize is that others around them might have a disability.

Personally, I am legally blind, and while some people may not realize it, others may make fun of it. Some time last year, I remember stumbling over words on the ever popular Cards Against Humanity game when someone remarked, “What, are you blind?” Yes, actually, I am to an extent, I remember thinking. I used to shake off those remarks like they didn’t bother me. In reality, those words hurt – not because I have a disability, but because the attitude that person had about it.

I have to wonder why those remarks are even worth saying and what someone would gain from it.

Having a disability, it seems like people either categorize me as a hero who overcomes it or a person who is unable to do anything at all because I’m different. At least that’s how I interpret people’s actions and attitudes. This mindset is actually quite harmful.

Someone says hurtful things like a blind joke and might try to cover it up by saying, “It’s a joke.” But I believe every joke has an element of truth for the person who said it. I’d like to think I’m as perfectly capable as any other able-bodied person in this world. I just have to adapt to my surroundings in ways others don’t. Hearing blind jokes makes me feel set apart from everyone else, like having something to deal with in life is something to laugh at. This should not be the case.

Not everyone has interacted with someone with a disability, however, so maybe the problem isn’t the people who say them, but not knowing the jokes are a problem in the first place.

“Did you hear about the new Helen Keller doll? You wind her up and she bumps into the furniture!”

This is not the worst of the most common jokes about Helen Keller I’ve heard. I’m sure some of you reading this may find that joke funny, but to me, Helen Keller was an incredible woman. She achieved so much despite many people thinking she was incapable of doing anything. The truth is, every person has things to overcome in life, whether they’re financial problems, family problems, or a challenge that might be related to his or her disability. None of these are a laughing matter, so why make it that way?

No one likes to be seen as different or incapable compared to other people, and this is exactly what joking or teasing can do to a person.

Personally, I don’t mind talking about my disability, but I don’t like people staring or making jokes about it, and I don’t believe anyone else does either. I often hear people exclaiming, “Wow, I’m blind!” when they can’t find an object that happens to be in front of them. More often than not, that person is actually not disabled, and it bothers me because they know nothing about that disability.

No matter how much a disability affects someone’s life, I believe every one of us would rather be looked at as a person with interests, values and opinions just like anyone else. Having a disability means we adapt to our surroundings in ways others do not, and that makes us unique.

People should be more aware of what they say, and remember that age-old saying of “think before you speak,” because what you say does actually matter.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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What People's Stares Mean to Me as Someone With a Vision Impairment

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“Oh! Are you training her?”

This is one of the most annoying questions I get asked. I usually reply with, “No, she’s mine,” or, “No, she’s my guide dog. I’m legally blind.” Almost every time, the response to my reply is, “Oh. You don’t look blind.” I haven’t been bold enough to ask someone what blind actually looks like, but that’s exactly what goes through my head. The stereotype and perception the world has about people who are blind is that they a) always wear sunglasses, b) have wandering eyes and don’t make eye contact or c) don’t have a life much outside of the home. Because I don’t fit any of these stereotypes, I get a lot of questions and a lot of stares.

I have a progressive, degenerative eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa. I was born able to see and still have some sight, although not much. Most people notice they have nonexistent or limited night vision first. Then comes the loss of peripheral vision. As the disease progresses, you lose more and more peripheral vision and often become completely blind. In my particular case, it’s destroyed most of my peripheral vision and a lot of my central vision, but I can still have some central vision. I can still make eye contact with you, and my eyes do not wander. I wear sunglasses every once in a while, but I don’t wear them inside. I lead an active life and I’m fairly independent (aside from driving).

I don’t fit the image people have in their minds of what a person with a visual impairment looks like. I used to take it as a compliment when somebody told me I didn’t look blind. To me, that meant I was functioning well and appeared confident and independent. I liked this, but I don’t like the perception that others who may “look blind” due to their eye conditions are perceived as not having this level of independence, confidence or functioning.

I went to Subway recently with my good friend, Kellie. As we moved through the line, the sandwich artist kept asking Kellie about what kind of sandwich I wanted — what kind of bread I wanted, what size, what cheese, what meat, what size drink, etc. She rarely even made eye contact with me. When she did, she told me, “The bread list is over there.” (Don’t ever say “over there” to someone with a visual impairment, even if they are partially sighted — it’s little to no help.) Meanwhile, the rest of the Subway staff stared at me. Kellie wouldn’t answer the questions for me because she didn’t need to — I’m capable of ordering my own sandwich.

When we got back to our table and talked about the interaction, Kellie mentioned that if she and I could clearly hold a conversation with each other, what led the Subway employee to think I couldn’t answer her questions myself? This woman had no idea how to talk to me, and the rest of the staff just stared. While we ate our sandwiches, almost every person who came in the door looked at my guide dog, Makiko. Then they looked up at me and back down at Makiko. Next, many would look at me straight in the eyes. I’ve had this happen enough times to know what a lot of them were probably thinking: “She’s not blind.” They then went back to their tabled and continued to stare while they ate.

This isn’t an isolated incident. We get this wherever we go. People stare at us to figure out why I have a guide dog. People will even stare at us while moving forward and bump into other people or objects. I have just enough sight that I’m able to see them looking at me. I don’t take it personally, and the only reason it ever bothers is because of the stereotype and common misconception accompanying those stares.

These false stereotypes about people with visual impairments aren’t just insulting; they’re harmful to the wellbeing and livelihood of people with visual impairments. It’s partly due to these stereotypes that so many people with visual impairments live off government benefits because they can’t get jobs even though they’re intelligent and capable of working. I have friends who are blind who have several college and master’s degrees each and are absolutely brilliant but can’t find jobs because nobody is willing to hire them and take the time to learn about the accommodations they need to become successful.

The stares themselves don’t really bother me. Getting asked if my guide dog is in training doesn’t really bother me. I’m never bothered when people ask questions and genuinely want to learn more about my visual impairment or how my guide dog helps me. However, people staring because I don’t fit inside the little box they think of when they think of blindness and being frequently told I “don’t look blind” does bother me. People with visual impairments are capable people no matter how they look. 

These negative stereotypes are harmful to the wellbeing of others and their ability to work and be productive members of society. But I will continue to smile through the stares and ignorant statements I get on a daily basis so I can keep educating the world around me about blindness.

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Follow this journey at The Way Eye See the World

The Mighty is asking the following: “Staring” is a topic that comes up so much in our community. Tell us about one unforgettable “staring” experience you or someone you love had that’s related to disability, disease or illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Colorblind Man Uses Special Sunglasses to See a Sunset for the First Time

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This man is seeing things in a new light.

Aaron Williams-Mele is colorblind. Colorblindness, or color vision deficiency, is a condition that affects approximately 1 in 12 men (8 percent) and 1 in 200 women in the world, according to Colorblind Awareness. It can be genetic or it can occur over time as a symptom of another disease or condition. Most color blind people can still see things clearly, but just cannot fully see red, green or blue light.

For his birthday, Williams-Mele’s parents gave him a pair of Enchroma Color For The Colorblind glasses, which use optical technology to make colors more vibrant, even for those who are color blind.

Williams-Mele decided to use the glasses for the first time during a sunset at Whitehurst Beach in Norfolk, Virginia, according to the YouTube video below. He has an intense reaction to the experience and releases a slew of profanity as he chokes up and becomes emotional at the sight.

It’s weird,” Williams-Mele says in the video below. “I’m shaking… This is a lot different than what I thought it was going to be like.”

Watch Williams-Mele experience the colors of a sunset for the first time, but heads up, he uses a lot of explicit language: 

h/t HuffPost Good News

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23 Truths Blind and Visually Impaired People Wish Others Understood

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More than 20 million American adults reported experiencing vision loss in the 2012 National Health Interview Survey, according to the American Foundation for the Blind. That’s a big number, so The Mighty decided to team up with the American Foundation for the Blind to start a discussion about visual impairment. We asked our readers who live with blindness and visual impairment want to world to understand about them.

This is what they had to say.

1. “People need to see us for who we are and not our disability. Yes, we are blind, but does that mean we can’t do anything? No.” — Michael Chopra

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2. “Please always identify yourself when speaking to a visually impaired individual. Same goes when speaking to a group if there are visually impaired individuals in that group. This is basic info that a person requires to take the next step — whether it be a simple conversation or perhaps forming the beginning of a friendship.” — Carolyn Sparacino Taylor

3. “Just because we are blind does not mean we can’t do everything a seeing person can.” — Nancy Olson

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4. “Blindness isn’t something to be ashamed of or to be embarrassed about.” — Jael Espinal

5. “I may or may not know that other blind person you know.” — Katherine Schneider

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6. “I like to be judged by my abilities and not my disability. I want to be treated as an equal — I am a mother, grandmother, friend, sister, so why should I be any different because of my disability?” — Pauline Wade

7. “We, like many people, have challenges, however all of our problems in life are not as equal or the same as the sighted… No two people with blindness or visual impairment do the same things or have the same mannerisms.” — William Odonnell

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8. “I wish people could understand how frustrating it is when you are losing your sight, but what we have to do is find ways to adapt, and this makes it easier. We are not to be put out to pasture yet because there are still things we can do.” — Evelyn Jeanette Morton Bishop

9. “The world and my life are not dark because I am totally blind.” — Linda Hunt

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10. “Losing one’s eyesight is not a fate worse than death. Life without vision still holds many joys. Challenges and difficulties, yes, but also much happiness and fulfillment as well. There are non-visual ways of doing most things. It seems like it’s hard for people with normal vision to imagine how those of us with low vision or with no vision can do things like comb our hair, dress ourselves, clean our homes or even eat.” — Candy Lien

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11. “It’s important that people understand the fear that comes with losing your eyesight. When your world starts to go dark, you really need kindness to keep you going.” — Sarah Elizabeth Baggett-Poole

12. “I am more than my visual impairment, I am a complete person. Being visually impaired is just a minor challenge, and we all have challenges. It doesn’t make me less of a person.” — Alexandria Knox

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13. “I have a visual impairment. [People assume] blind and visually impaired persons are deaf, [so they] talk really loud. This is not true. Being blind does not mean we are deaf. We hear just fine. It is true, however, that some blind persons have hearing impairments. But they do not go hand-in -and.” — Kim Leis Moberg

14. “We experience joy just like everyone, and it would be nice to have some authentic friendships.” — Denise Vestman

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15. “I hate when people think I’m making it up when I can’t see something obvious to them — ‘Are you serious? You really can’t see it? It’s right there!’ No, I can’t always see it.” — Hayley Swann

16. “In public moments I just need some help, not to be treated as a dumb kid.” — Ana Karina Velázquez Villalobos

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17. “We dream just like anyone else. We have goals and we experience all the feelings in life the same as the average individual. We can surprise you when you least expect it.” — Donna Browning

18. “Don’t be afraid to come up and chat. I would much rather have someone ask me questions about my blindness than avoid talking to me at all for fear of offending me.” — Caitlin Hernandez

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19. “Blindness isn’t synonymous with helpless. I may have to adapt and do things a different way, but I can still do them. And when I want or need your help, I will ask. But believe that I can do things first until proven I can’t.” — Rhianna Lynn Martin

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20. “My baby is a baby first. Love and fawn over her like any baby. Talk to her. Ask me questions. Don’t let her blindness define or limit her. We have high hopes for her and want you too as well.” — Nicole Vallier

21. “There are lots of different types of ‘blind’ or visual impairment. Not all forms of vision impairment come with a guide dog and a white stick. Some little ones take longer to learn to see than others and sometimes it’s the brain, not the eyes.” — SarahandLayne Coates

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22. “Please, for the absolute love of God, don’t ask to try on my glasses (no, they aren’t a toy and will probably give you a headache).” — Collette Kerr

23. “I am happy the way I am and don’t want to be ‘fixed.’ I don’t want or need people’s pity.” — Lina Coral

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What would you add? Let us know in the comments below.  

*Answers have been edited for brevity. 

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How One Dad Takes His Daughter's Eye Patch From Meh to Masterpiece

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Layla Grubb is an 18-month-old whose ordinary medical accessory has a remarkable twist. The toddler wears an eye patch for a small cataract in her left eye, so her dad, Geof Grubb, puts his artistic side to use and decorates her patch each day, he told the “Today” show.

Did we just become best friends? #carebearstare #goodluckbear #laylaspatches #eyepatch

A photo posted by @laylaspatches on

 

Layla wears a patch for two hours a day to strengthen her vision, her dad wrote on his Reddit account. She’s worn the patch since she was 10 months old, and her vision is developing well.

Grubb draws colorful cartoons, like Cookie Monster and Pokemon, and recognizes holidays like St. Patrick’s Day and Earth Day. While most patches get thrown out at the end of the day, Grubb archives Layla’s daily patch on his Instagram account, which has more than 7,000 followers.

We try to keep [the patch] part of her regular routine so it bothers her less,” Grubb told Mashable. “After all these months, most days she doesn’t even notice it.”

You can see the rest of Layla’s Patches here. Check out some of our favorites below:

Who you gonna call? #ghostbusters #girlpower #laylaspatches #eyepatch

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Happy Fathers' Day! #fathersday #laylaspatches #eyepatch

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Turtles are friends, not food #cannibal #squirt #findingnemo #laylaspatches #eyepatch

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This wee Wonder Woman @eyepowerkids #wonderwoman #dccomics #laylaspatches #eyepatch

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Getting her LEGO on! #lego #duplo #laylaspatches #eyepatch

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Blech! Dog germs! #snoopy #peanuts #charliebrown #laylaspatches #eyepatch

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Layla and Hobbes! #calvinandhobbes #hobbes #laylaspatches #eyepatch

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Happy Star Wars Day! #Maythe4thbewithyou #princessleia #padawan #laylaspatches #eyepatch

A photo posted by @laylaspatches on

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