Being a Blind Person is Kinda Fun!
Edited By Stephanie Dawson
Being a blind person is kinda fun. You weren’t expecting that, were you? See, people expect it to be miserable (and sometimes it is, though not for the reasons you may think) and treat people with visible disabilities accordingly. And honestly? I find it endlessly entertaining.
People react differently to blind people than almost any other visible disability – there’s a sense of fear there that isn’t usually present when they encounter someone who is in a wheelchair or deaf.
There are people who treat you like you don’t exist. Ask them a question, trip them with your cane, nudge them on the bus – YOU DO NOT EXIST TO THEM. I don’t know what sort of psychology this is, I pretend they’re like a child with a “If you can’t see me, I can’t see you” kind of mentality. Sometimes this backfires because it takes all I can to NOT play peek-a-boo with them.
There are the overly helpful people. These people will offer to follow you to a destination, grab your cane arm (PRO TIP – don’t do that) and point it in another direction or pull you somewhere, or try to guide your free hand somewhere. To this type of person, don’t get me wrong. I understand you come from a good place and you just want to help, but treat us like you would anyone else. Don’t touch unless given permission. Don’t touch my cane, don’t touch my arm, don’t touch my dog. Don’t tell your children how brave I am and to be like me. It’s kinda weird. I’m just on the bus trying to get to my destination, just like you.
There are the angry people. These people, for whatever reason, are pissed off because YOU can’t see and are CONVINCED you are faking it. They will shout abuse, throw things at you because they think it’s funny, and generally be a big bully. I once had a guy who followed me for six blocks, tormenting me, waiting for me to trip and when I got where I was going, said I was obviously faking my blindness because I knew where I was.
There are inquisitive people. These people can be annoying, but I really do like talking to them. Any day I can enlighten, even just a little bit, is a great day for me. I love imparting knowledge. Curious people are like my catnip. They will ask, sometimes at great length, what it’s like to be blind. They want to know how much I can or can’t see, how the cane works, what the most annoying part of my day is, how I eat at restaurants, how Braille works, where to get Braille books, what’s it like going to the movies, how I get dates, how I pick-out my clothing… anything and everything, they want to know about it. Sure, it can get out of hand, just like with anything else. Heck, one guy even asked me when I knew to quit wiping after going to the bathroom! But it’s part and parcel. Changing how visibly disabled people, in my case blind people, are perceived starts with talking with people like this and being candid. If you sugar-coat things, it won’t help anybody.
No matter where I go, though, people notice me. They notice the cane and write me off. When I walk on a busy sidewalk, people part like the Red Sea. When I’m on the corner waiting for the light to change, people tell me when it’s safe to go (again, I know your heart is in a good place but I got this under control. Thank you for your concern).
I’m constantly aware of my appearance because the National Federation of the Blind has drilled into my head that I represent them. I represent all blind people when I’m outside. I have to show people that YES, it is possible to lose the majority of your vision when you’re 22 and survive. Blindness isn’t a death sentence, it’s an inconvenience. Like having to take the stairs when you’re used to taking the elevator.
No matter where I am, what I’m doing, who I’m with, in the back of my mind, I know I’m being stared at. This isn’t paranoia, this is an actual thing. It’s all the attention of celebrity with none of the perks. And you know what? It took me a long time to get here. Stare all you like.