Why I Call Myself ‘Fake Blind’
Fake blind. That’s me! I finally found my niche.
I read an article in which the writer was trying to figure out to which camp he belonged. He had too much sight to relate well to the blind but not enough to fit in with the sighted anymore. He wrote, “It’s a weird place to be stuck.”
Yes, you can count me in that group. But I rather like it. It gives me a kind of identity. Maybe just some place to call “home.” Or at least a place to hang my cane. In fact, a quick Internet search showed that there are a lot of people that fit that description. 80 percent of people who are legally blind have some remaining vision. That shouts out real loud: fake blind.
Ever since I realized that I was fake blind, my friends and I joke about it. In a way, that makes me feel better about my vision loss. Losing your sight is a scary thing, especially when it happens over a long period of time. You’re fooled. You think it’s not happening. Then all the sudden, you’ve lost a big chunk of sight and you’re what–?
You got it. Fake blind!
When people first see me walking with my cane, they think, “Here’s a blind person.” In their head, I am a hundred percent blind. But when they see me waving at someone, or seated, reading a book, they do a double-take. When they see me take out my cell phone, actually LOOK at it and punch some numbers in, that’s when their perception changes. They begin to think, ” Wait a minute. She must not be completely blind. She can see some things.” My movements signal the difference.
It’s not all or nothing. It’s a continuum. There’s lots of “in between” for the 80% of the legally blind population.
This is a shocking, or at least, a surprising discovery to many people. I myself remember when I first learned that “blind” doesn’t mean that a person is 100% blind. I also thought that when I saw someone with a cane, they must be completely blind. That’s one reason I was in such denial when my mobility instructor referred to me as blind. One moment I was completely sighted in my head and the next, I was blind. It was too much to take in. But now that I’ve had a chance to process the idea of blindness being a continuum, I can both understand and cope with varying terms. It doesn’t scare me anymore. THAT is a huge benefit to me. I didn’t have to go from sighted to blind a single moment. Being fake blind is an interim stage for me.
Frankly, I think it is a gift from God. It gives me time to adjust my mindset and time to learn how to get around better. My mobility instructor pushed me very hard, in blindfolded mobility training, to prepare me for the real thing. In short, I was learning how to cope with the worst case scenario. It took me awhile to adjust to that idea. But when I did, I realized the blessing.
In fact, I think being fake blind offers the best of both worlds to me now.
- For one thing, I can see the wide berth others make for me. What a power trip!
Sometimes when I walk, I feel as if I’m Moses parting the Red Sea.
- I can also work my way through any congested area (like festivals and fairs!) without standing in any lines.
- I don’t have to worry about getting directions to go anywhere in a car. I don’t drive.
- People almost always open doors for me.
- I can practice my numbers with friends who count the steps I climb or go down. Practice makes perfect!
- I can also cheat when playing Go Fish in Braille with my real blind friends and no one is the wiser.
- I can wave hello to people and let them wonder how I know they’re there!There are also some everyday disadvantages to being fake blind.
- I sometimes even fake out myself and think I don’t need my cane.
That’s when I walk straight into a cement pole, get caught up in the roped-off area after leaving a bank teller’s stand, knock over a low “CAUTION: WET FLOOR!” sign or walk into a stationary grocery cart.
- I can’t see the words to the songs on the overhead at church and have to just mouth the words.
- I sometimes think at a far glance that a fire hydrant / white post / big tree / steel pole is a person.
Don’t I feel foolish when I call out a cheery “Hiya, nice day out, huh?”
- I also find myself constantly smiling at those same things or even a paper waving in the breeze as I mistakenly think they are ALIVE.
- I once mistook a big rat for a cat and called it over to me. Thank goodness it scampered in the other direction!
- I fight to be independent. People mistakenly rush to do things for me when I can still do many things for myself. It’s difficult to be be pro-active and tell them what I need help with and what I don’t. It’s definitely been a struggle.
I do get a lot of funny looks as I go about living out the adventures of my daily life but overall, I feel that being fake blind is really what keeps me sane. On good days being fake blind cheers me. On bad days, being fake blind morphs into being a fake teacher, fake writer, fake runner…whatever is not going well! But at least I don’t take myself so seriously. The jokes keep me grounded.
I’m not blind. But I can’t see. So what do you get?
Fake blind. That’s right.
In fact, I really should celebrate something next September. No, not my birthday.
You got it. It’s my fake blind day! I’ve been waiting to celebrate it without knowing it for more than twenty years.
Thank goodness that you can see me, even though I may not see you. There isn’t any sign to warn you of impending danger, however. If there were, it would say, “Caution: Fake blind area!”
Come to think of it, my cane is kind of like a moving sign.
Most people give me a very wide berth and those who know me, shout out warnings even when I don’t carry (ahem, USE, my cane).
Stop! Wait! Watch out! Slow down! Don’t run me over! Do you even know where you are?
“Yes, of course I do!” I smile, give you two thumbs-up and wave. Wait a minute…that’s not you. That’s … a tree!