[nfbwatlk] understanding our reaction to proffered help

Kaye Kipp kkipp123 at gmail.com
Sun Dec 14 02:26:39 UTC 2014

I try very hard not to be rude to people, but there are times when it's
really hard, and I don't always succeed.  There are times when it's
difficult for me not to be sarcastic.  Like, when I'm in the elevator and
someone gets off at the third floor and says, "The next floor is yours" when
I've pushed the button for the fourth floor.  To me, that's a real put-down.
I don't need someone to tell me four comes after three.


-----Original Message-----
From: nfbwatlk [mailto:nfbwatlk-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Arielle
Silverman via nfbwatlk
Sent: Saturday, December 13, 2014 1:48 PM
To: Mary ellen; NFB of Washington Talk Mailing List
Subject: Re: [nfbwatlk] understanding our reaction to proffered help

Hi Mary Ellen,
A couple points you raised really speak to me. First, your example with your
friend shows that appropriate behavior is situation-specific. Her abundant
descriptions are appropriate in tai chi but over the line in your house.
Similarly, the lady who spoke to Don was making an inaccurate assumption
that day. But what if there had been a construction truck or other loud
noise going at the time?
Then, a hint about a break in traffic might have been much-appreciated.
Because our needs and preferences vary so much between situations, I
maintain that the most courteous way for sighted people to interact with us
is simply to ask if we need help and let us decide what we think is
appropriate in that moment.
Second, it's interesting how you describe rebellious independence because my
own rebellious independent stage coincided with my adolescence. I spent
several years struggling to gain age-appropriate independence from parents
who meant well but who harbored their own wrong assumptions about blindness.
Around that time I was frequently admonished not to be rude to well-meaning
peers and adults who were "just trying to help" when they grabbed me or or
were otherwise disrespectful. In fact, I still have a bit of a negative
reputation among family for being "too independent". I was rebellious then,
a little rude, but I really believe in retrospect that I had no other
choice. It was because I refused to succumb to these assumptions that I was
able to succeed in college and work and teach myself how to have high
expectations for myself and eventually find people who treated me like a
competent person. Today I reach out to parents of blind children in hopes
that these children can learn more positive messages about their blindness
and how to handle inappropriate interactions from the public. I am forever
grateful to the NFB for helping me understand how I deserve to be treated.

On 12/13/14, Mary ellen via nfbwatlk <nfbwatlk at nfbnet.org> wrote:
> It's possible to understand the underlying beliefs behind an offer of 
> help while appreciating the courteous intent.
> Don describes a situation in which a woman acts on her assumption that 
> Don would be unable to determine whether the coast was clear without 
> the information she provided.  Her assumption is incorrect in his case 
> at that time.  If her assumption had been accurate, her help would 
> have been essential.  It was not correct, so her help was superfluous.  
> That's really all Don was saying.  The woman made an assumption that was
> Assumptions like that go to the heart of one of our most significant 
> problems.  We are presumed to be less aware of what's happening around 
> us than we are.  That assumption leads to decisions that tend to 
> exclude us from things that matter.  For example, blind people are 
> still not routinely trusted minding young children because we're not 
> perceived as being able to know what they're doing and therefore are 
> thought to be unable to keep them safe.
> It's very possible to observe and recognize inaccurate assumptions 
> without being offended by them.  It's also quite reasonable to be 
> frustrated by ignorance, no matter how well intentioned.
> Rudeness did not happen in this case.  Rudeness is not an appropriate 
> way for human beings to deal with one another.  I know of no 
> responsible person anywhere who advocates that blind people be rude to 
> the public.  If some blind people choose to be rude, what can we do 
> about it?  We certainly can't tell them, "Sorry, you can't be blind 
> anymore!"
> I have personally been in situations on many occasions where I 
> politely declined help and was called rude.  There have also been 
> occasions where my frustration about the assumption of incompetence 
> came through despite my preference not to let it show.
> We need to be kind to sighted people who are acting out of 
> well-intentioned ignorance.  We also need to be kinder to ourselves 
> and to one another when we don't live up to the level of courtesy we 
> all prefer.  Every human being I've ever known has been snappish once in a
> There are times when behavior needs to be directly challenged and 
> subtle hints just don't cut it.  A very good friend teaches me tai 
> chi.  In class, it's essential that she describe the moves in detail 
> and physically show me when her verbal instructions aren't sufficient.  
> Outside of class, it can get annoying when she does the same thing.  
> Most of the time I just listen to her overabundant info about steps, 
> fence posts, and other environmental information.  A few days ago she 
> started telling me things about my stairway at home.  I finally said, 
> in an unmistakably stern tone, "Catherine, I live here."  She got the 
> point.  If I had given her a long, gentle explanation, she would have 
> felt embarrassed and the incident would have loomed large.
> Bluntness in that instance solved the problem quickly with the minimum 
> amount of fuss.
> Rebellious independence is a necessary step on the road to true first 
> class status.  It's not a pleasant passage for anyone, but without 
> passing through rebellious independence a person really cannot 
> internalize strong self-confidence.  Getting stuck in rebellious 
> independence is like getting stuck in adolescence.
> My kids are either just out of adolescence or smack dab in the middle 
> of it.
> I would be genuinely worried about them if they were always placid and 
> never questioned my authority as a parent.  I insist on mutual 
> civility (most of the time) but their sometimes snarky rebellions tell 
> me they're on the way to genuine maturity.  They are most likely to 
> get short tempered and even rude when they believe their personhood 
> and competence is being disrespected.  As a blind person, I really get 
> that!
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