In the greater scheme of things, I am a “roll with the punches” kind of person and you really have to go the extra mile to seriously rain on my parade… I am used to life not going as planned… Let’s face it, who really factored blindness into the equation when plotting the course of their lives? So when it comes to ignorance, stereotyping, insensitive comments and being treated like I have a contagious disease, I am able to shrug it off without too much of a fuss. People are who they are and it will take more than one blind girl asking for change to actually get them to see the light.
However, in both the sighted and blind communities, there are things that drive me insane and make me wonder whether I have ever really been comfortable with the “smile and wave” approach, or do I just convince myself that It’s who I am when I am too lazy to speak my mind.
A lack of accommodation, is at the top of each list concerning my grievances against the sighted community together with the fact that the designers of this inaccessible society, never learn from their own or each other’s failures, nor do they care. The simple truth is that they don’t think of the needs of disabled people because to them, we are mere inconveniences. They can’t recognise that we have thoughts or feelings or opinions worth their attention and so we keep swimming against the tide, hoping that eventually things will go our way.
It’s a battle, collectively fought by disabled people and at least the discrimination doesn’t feel personal and I’m stronger, because we are united in our desire for equality.
If only we knew what emerging from the shadows would cost us. Before we started to publicly address the recognition of our rights, we were almost invisible, pitied and ignored… Now I often wish that someone wrote a guide for dealing with disabled people, before embarking on this journey of enlightenment. So in an effort to bridge the divide and avoid a full on rant, let’s just start with the basics:
“how many fingers am I holding up?” I am blind, not concussed and the very definition of blind, is that I cannot even see your fingers!
“Do you know whose talking to you?” Should I? are you that significant that I should have memorised the sound of your voice? Do you remember the name of every face you have ever seen? Are you trying to be funny or to humiliate me in front of all your friends? Seriously, just introduce yourself before you start talking to me…
Asking the person next to me, whether I’d like something to drink. Do you think that my companion can read my mind? I can speak for myself thank you very much.
Touching or feeding my dog without my permission or after I asked you not to! I spend all day with Luca, I know what he needs and you are not doing us any favors by messing up his training because you assumed that you know better. Luca is a service dog, before anything else, this does not mean that he doesn’t get time to be an ordinary pet, it simply means that sticking to a routine and ensuring that his behavior is exemplary, is more important, because it keeps us safe.
Talking to me, without saying my name or indicating that I am being spoken to, when I am not the only person in the room with you. Should I have guessed that you were talking to me? I cannot make eye contact, I cannot intuitively feel that you addressed me specifically. I won’t answer if I’m not sure that the question was put to me.
Making blind jokes when you are not blind, we are not good friends or you do not have that kind of relationship with me. In other words, making blind jokes to laugh at me, instead of with me. The rule of thumb in this situation, is that if you do not know if I will think you are funny or just trying to make me feel bad, just don’t go there.
In the sighted world, there are all these pleasantries which must be observed. Despite the fact that I can’t see you, I make an effort to look your way when I talk to you, I do not treat you like a child because we are not the same. I do not point out that you have an annoyingly shrill voice or sweaty palms and I make an effort to know more about your situation, interests and common ground we may share, before I venture into personal territory with you. Is it really so inconceivable that I may expect you to do the same?