My Response to 'But You Don't Look Blind!'
Man in Target: “Why can you bring your dog in here?”
Me: “She is my guide dog and allowed under federal law.”
Man: “But you don’t look blind! Are you sure you just aren’t faking to bring your dog in?”
Me: “Not all disabilities are visible.” *and walks away*
Me: *walks out of dorm room directly into a college tour*
Lady: “Oh! You can have pets?”
Me: “She’s a guide dog.”
Lady: “Wait, you’re blind?”
Lady: “Oh. I’m sorry, but you don’t look blind!”
Women working the order counter at a restaurant: “What side would you like with that?”
Me: “What are my options?”
Women: “They are written behind me on the menu.”
Me: “I can’t see the menu. I am blind. Could you please read them to me?”
Women: “You don’t look blind! I just assumed you were lazy.”
Teenage boy: “Why do you have that stick thing?”
Me: “I’m blind; it’s my cane.”
Boy: “But, you look normal, not blind.”
I am blind, but I will admit I don’t match society’s perception of what blind looks like, and because of this I have these conversations on an almost daily basis when in public.
Before I say anything else, please never ever tell someone they don’t look blind/sick/disabled! Ever. Many illnesses and disabilities are not visible, and when you tell someone they “don’t look blind/sick/disabled” you are not complimenting them. Just don’t do it.
As a sociology major we talk about society perception of different minority groups a lot, but rarely do we discuss what society perceives about people with disabilities. Here’s what I believe society’s perception of blind people is. Society thinks we, as blind people, are incapable of living successful lives and looking “normal.” Blind people are portrayed in media as having no eyes, deformed eyes or eyes that are always closed, and for many people this is just not the case. Society expects blind people to be incapable of doing simple mundane things such as walking and eating. It’s not “amazing and inspirational” that myself and others who are blind get up every day and participate in simple aspects of daily living. A person who is blind is just as capable of being a fully functional member of society as someone who is fully sighted.
Most people who identify as blind are not actually completely blind. The vast majority of people who are considered legally blind (A visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better-seeing eye with best conventional correction or a visual field of 20 degrees or less.) see something. This “something” could be only light, only shadows, rough outlines or enough vision to function without the use of assistive technology. It is important to remember that someone who says they are blind may have some residual vision. If a blind person ever asks you for help, assume they have no vision and adjust the amount of assistance you provide as they tell you.
Not all people who are blind/visually impaired use assistive devices such as canes, magnifiers or guide dogs. The devices someone uses is based solely on that person and their needs. Don’t assume that since someone doesn’t use a cane or guide dog they have perfect vision. If someone says they are visually impaired and ask for your assistance, give it to them. Don’t question their need for that assistance.
The bottom line is, never judge someone’s abilities or disabilities based solely on their outward appearance.
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