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11 Wrong Ways to Respond to My Blindness

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I’m probably one of the only blind people you know, if not the only one, and naturally, you’re curious about how I get around, get through school and live my life. I understand you have several questions you want to ask me, and that’s OK. I also know sometimes you don’t know what to say or how to act, so I wrote this to give you some ideas. I’m not trying to reject all your questions, but you do need to know that some things just aren’t OK.

1. Talking about/for me like I’m not there.

This is more of a scenario than a question, but it’s extremely hurtful. I am a person just like you, and I deserve to be treated as such. I am blind, but I can talk, and I need to be asked questions like if I need help, what I want to order at a restaurant and especially questions about my disability. Talking for me and about me like I’m not there is what you’d do to a pet or animal, but certainly not to another human being. It makes me feel less than human when people interact with me like this. You can avoid this by just asking me. Treat me like any other person. I can’t stress that enough.

2. Asking, “Hi honey, do you need help?”

This question is usually asked by complete strangers, which is, well, strange. Honey, sweetie, dear and sweetheart are all words you would use with someone you have an affectionate relationship, a small child or an especially cute pet. Since I don’t have an affectionate relationship with most of the people who ask me this, it means you’re treating me like a small child. If you would talk to any other teenager like that, than go ahead, but I doubt that’s the case. Please just ask, “Hi, how are you? Do you need help?”

3. Not respecting me when I decline help.

When I decline help, it’s nothing personal, it’s just that I don’t need assistance at that time. So please respect that, go on about your day and don’t act wounded like a kicked puppy. I appreciate your offer, but when you act hurt after I decline, it makes me feel guilty for my independence. I’ve worked so hard to be as independent as I am, so please don’t take that away, and don’t make me feel guilty for it.

4. Taking advantage of me.

Yes, this has happened to me, but I’d rather not go into detail about the most embarrassing experience of my life. I’m thankful it only was an invasive touch, not something more severe, and that the guy was punished — but that does not make it OK! Under no condition is it ever acceptable to take advantage of a disabled person sexually and use the excuse that you were, “helping” me. Your unwelcome touch made me feel dirty, like something was taken from me. You saying that you were trying to help me makes it seem like I asked for it, like I needed it, like you were doing some kind of good, and worst of all, it made me hate my blindness for a long time. No one should hate part of themselves because of the actions of another. How to avoid this? Really, just don’t do it.

5. Asking, “Do you need help drinking that?”

This was an isolated incident where a guy asked me if I needed help drinking my milk at school, and he proceeded to lift the carton to my face as if he were going to put the straw in my mouth and give me the milk like a mother gives a baby its bottle. I know he was probably trying to be nice and helpful, but there is no need for that.

6. Asking 20 questions at once about blindness.

This is when people barely know me, and every question they ask is about my blindness and nothing about who I am as a person. I don’t care if you have questions, but ask respectfully, and also try to get to know my personality and not just the blindness.

7. Asking, “How do you kiss someone?”

This is awkward, embarrassing and just weird. Please don’t try to pry into my personal life like that. Please, just don’t ask; some things are better left unsaid. If you really want to know, I haven’t done a lot of kissing in my life, but it’s just like any normal person.

8. Asking, “How do you sleep?”

OK, I only have one response to this: creepy.

9. Asking, “What do you drive?” or “Do you drive?”

The closest I come to driving is using my cane. This is just insensitive.

10. Coming up unannounced and guiding me by pushing/pulling me in different directions.

This genuinely scares me when strangers come up and guide me like this without my knowledge. Please give me space, ask if i need help. If I say yes, let me take your arm, and we will have no issues.

11. Playing tricks on me.

This is just plain unacceptable! Even in high school, I am asked how many fingers someone is holding up, or someone will tell me they’re someone else to see if I can guess who they really are and to try to trick me for  their own amusement. That is selfish and cruel! I am a person, not a circus act.

What to do instead: Treat me like any other normal person.

This covers everything in this article. Please, just treat me like anyone else. If  you don’t act like there is something wrong with me, and you give me a chance, I could be a good friend to you.

To my friends and family who have stuck by me and who do accept me, I can’t thank you enough.

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Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: November 17, 2015
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