People say the funniest things, don’t they? They can also say the most ridiculous things. I’ve personally heard both forms of phrases when it comes to some people’s comments about me and my vision impairment.
As I’ve mentioned in many of my previous posts, there is a significant amount of lack of understanding surrounding the topic of vision impairment and this does result in people making quite a number of comments to those of us who are living with sight loss.
I started losing my sight nearly 17 years ago and during that time I’ve come across people who are kind, caring and understanding about it and others who are simply ignorant to the topic and how it affects people’s lives.
With this in mind, I thought I’d take the opportunity today to talk you through the top ten phrases or questions I hear as a blind/VI person.
“You don’t look blind.”
This is by far the most common thing I hear as a blind/VI person and it’s one of the most frustrating things to hear. It’s also a comment that I never know how to respond to and I think that’s because I don’t necessarily understand what people mean by it, it’s such an enigma. I think many people expect for the eyes of those who are blind/VI to look different and that this must be the indicator to knowing if someone is visually impaired or not. Although this is true due to some eye conditions, it isn’t for others. There are many stereotypes surrounding how a visually impaired person should look but many of us don’t fit into this notion, I think this is something many people don’t realise.
“It’s such a shame.”
I think sight loss is often considered to be a burden and some people assume that we as blind/VI people live miserable and unhappy lives. I personally am quite a happy and positive person as I know many other blind/VI people are also. But I have my down days, I go through spells of feeling scared, upset and anxious but overall I try to approach life in the most positive way I can. I don’t consider it to be a shame that I’m visually impaired. Although there are many negative aspects, it’s also brought a lot of positivity into my life, something I’m so grateful for.
“Are you blind or something?”
This question has occurred a couple of times when I’ve been out and about with my cane. I’m not quite sure why the people who asked me this thought that it was a good and valid question, I don’t think anyone would be walking around with a cane just for fun. My cane isn’t something that I just happened to stumble upon one day and decided that it would be a cool thing to use and walk around with, there is quite an important purpose to it.
“You’re pretty, considering.”
I’m sure there’s a compliment in there somewhere, right? But why does the word ‘considering’ have to be said at the end of that sentence? It’s as if some people assume that those of us who are blind/VI can’t be pretty, that we can’t look presentable. I know of many blind/VI people who love to make an effort with their appearance, me being one of them. I’ve also heard things like “You’re outfit is nice, considering.”, “Your hair is nice, considering.” Why considering? Living with sight loss doesn’t mean that someone can’t be fashionable, that they can’t have nice hair and makeup and look nice. Being visually impaired doesn’t mean that someone isn’t pretty and that our ability to look presentable is taken away from us.
The amount of times I’ve heard this is ridiculous. I’ve experienced some people coming up to me in conversation and saying “Guess who!” or asking “Do you know who it is?” or “Do you know who I am?”, It’s as if they’re trying to test me and it can be a little awkward especially if I don’t know the person well and can’t recognise them by their voice. Testing someone on their ability to recognise you might seem fun to you but I can assure you that it’s not for those of us who can’t see you.
“Bless you, it must be so hard.”
This is a sentence that I’ll normally hear when people first learn that I’m visually impaired. Many people have instantly assumed that my life must be so difficult due to my eye conditions and although I can’t deny that it can be hard at times, it doesn’t mean that I’m unhappy or that I find everything difficult.
“Why don’t you make eye contact?”
Some people don’t always realise that I’m visually impaired as it’s not something that always comes up in conversation so when people realise that I might not be making eye contact with them, this question will often arise. And then of course, after I explain that I can’t see, a number of other questions will follow. I understand that’s just because people are curious and I’m always happy to answer any questions regarding my disability. When in conversation with someone, I will try my best to look in their direction as I can hear where their voice is coming from. I can sometimes see where someone might be sitting or standing due to having some remaining vision but I can’t see any detail or their features unless there is particularly good lighting which might then allow me to see where their eyes are etc. But most of the time I can only detect where someone is by following their voice and turning towards them when they’re speaking meaning making eye contact isn’t the easiest of things for me to do.
“What is that white stick?”
This is a question that often comes from children which is completely understandable as someone of a young age won’t necessarily have come across sight loss before. When I’m out and about using my cane, I will often hear a child asking their parents or guardian this question and some have asked it directly to me. Now, I don’t know how someone who isn’t blind/VI would explain what the cane and it’s purpose is to a young child but if I receive the questions directly I normally explain by saying that I can’t see and therefore my cane is my wand of power which allows me to go out on my own without crashing into things. Some children have been intrigued by this, instantly envisaging my cane to be a magic wand. I don’t expect them to fully understand but as long as they have an idea, that’s the main thing.
“How many fingers am I holding up?”
I’ve received this question so many times, normally after someone discovers that I’m visually impaired or after I try to explain my vision to someone. It’s again like someone is trying to test me on the ability of my vision. It can be frustrating at times as it’s like someone doesn’t believe me when I say how little I can see.
“See you later… Oh sorry.”
Every blind/VI person who I’ve met or spoken too don’t ever seem to be offended by the words ‘see’ or watch’ and that’s because they’re general terms that everyone uses in their day-to-day lives. The fact that we can’t see or are losing our sight doesn’t mean that we’ll be offended by these words. You don’t have to change the terminology you use when having a conversation with someone who is blind/VI.
Has anyone ever told or asked you any of these phrases or questions? What are some of the most common things you hear when it comes to your disability? Let me know as I would love to hear from you.