[nabs-l] People are weird when it comes to blindness

Teal Bloodworth tealbloodworth at gmail.com
Wed Jun 24 02:12:35 UTC 2009

Actually Arielle I have had some ofthe same things happen. Different people 
would randomly tell me just how beautiful I am but i never really put those 
2 things together and it makes since. Sometimes afterwards they make a 
comment like "I just dont know what i would do if i were blind" and that has 
made me think it before but never really put that together.
As for people thinking we are not able to really do things i have had people 
really grab onto me before or at times nearly pick me up down stairs. I 
would joke and ask for a piggy back ride but you cannot really be offended 
by it. Even I had never met a visually impaired person before my going blind 
therefore i have an understanding of not knowing the human bodies way of 
compensating and abilities. You really do just have too  educate them and 
let them kno how to help you. My favorite cheerleader saying will always be 
"good girl". This makes me wonder if a pat on the head will follow. To look 
on the positive side atleast you hav people who care enough to help you out 
oppose to ignoring your questions on the street.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Arielle Silverman" <arielle71 at gmail.com>
To: "National Association of Blind Students mailing list" 
<nabs-l at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Monday, June 22, 2009 9:44 PM
Subject: Re: [nabs-l] People are weird when it comes to blindness

Hi Jim and all,

It sounds like you’ve stumbled upon the more entertaining side of
cane travel! Rest assured that all of us have experienced this
weirdness at some point, to varying degrees.

You’re right also to be a bit puzzled by the compliments you’ve
started getting for merely walking down the street. This happens to me
too, and  I find it irritating for two reasons. First, I don’t believe
the comments arise from people’s belief that I am fully competent and
capable (as you mention). This is because in my experience, sighted
people who actually believe I am capable of getting around don’t make
these comments. On the other hand, upon further questioning, it often
becomes apparent that the people who do make the comments don’t have
much faith in my abilities after all. Rather, I think that when people
tell me I’m admirable or amazing for walking a couple blocks down the
street, they’re merely saying that I’m more competent than they
expected, not that I’m fully competent. This also explains why people
make the remarks even after we’ve made some travel mistake. Even if we
mess up, bad, we’re still better at it than they expected, so it’s
natural to feel like they didn’t expect much to begin with.

The second reason it bugs me is that it seems like sometimes people
feel like they have to offer me  encouragement or “cheerleading” by
saying things like “You’re doing great” or “You’re OK” as I walk by
minding my own business. It’s almost like what you would say to a
little kid who’s learning something for the first time. Similar is
being patted on the shoulder by a stranger or being asked “Are you by
yourself?” at the airport. Of course, it doesn’t feel good to be
thought of either as childlike or as so depressed or unstable that we
need their encouragement.

So we do have the right to be annoyed by this stuff, but we also
don’t have to be bitter or discouraged by it either. A sense of humor
can be your best ally in these kinds of situations. Often when
something like this happens there isn’t time to respond directly to
the person, but we can laugh about it later (either to ourselves or to
friends) which helps us realize that the subtle insults implied by
this behavior don’t really mean anything. A couple weeks ago I was out
at a restaurant with my boyfriend when a lady at a table next to us
approached me and said out of the blue, “I know you don’t know who I
am, but I just think you’re so beautiful!” Of course I had no idea
what to say back to her so I just said “thanks” kind of awkwardly and
after she walked away we both just started cracking up. In that
situation it wasn’t even really clear that her comment was
blindness-related (after all maybe I was just looking really great
that night!) but it was strange enough that blindness seemed to at
least partially factor in. She could have thought that just merely
seeing a blind woman at a restaurant on a date like a normal
24-year-old was just so incredibly beautiful that she felt compelled
to tell me (and after all, she never told him he was handsome!) But,
in any case, we laughed about it and realized that in the grand scheme
of things it wasn’t a big deal.

Sometimes, there is time to turn the encounter into an educational
opportunity. Once when I was at the airport and asked someone whether
I was going the right way to get from baggage claim to the ground
transportation exit on the other side of the terminal, the woman
confirmed I was going the right way and then added, “But it’s scary!”
Now, this route literally involved me walking in a straight line
across flat tile. I’ll admit the outside curbs where all the shuttles
and buses pull in can be a little scary, but this definitely wasn’t.
The woman was going the same way so I tried to explain to her that
actually I did this kind of thing a lot and to me it wasn’t really a
big deal. I think by the end of the conversation she mainly started to
get it at least a little bit. Sometimes just saying, “Thanks for the
compliment, but for me it’s really not that big of a deal” and then
elaborating with a little more detail about how cane travel  works is
enough to get the main point across. I also think there’s a lot to
teach just by example. The guy who says he admires you might at first
be saying it out of low expectations. But if he sees over time that
you’re a good traveler, those expectations are likely to slowly get
ratcheted up.


On 6/23/09, David Dunphy <djdrocks4ever at gmail.com> wrote:
> That's OK. Someone who saw me walking with my cane the other day said that 
> I
> need to activate my sonar so I can cross the street. Go figure that!
> >From David
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