Will the Real Blind Person Look at Me? 

How Much Can You See? 

Will the real blind person look at me?
Will the real blind person look at me?

35-Day Author Blog Challenge – Day 23, Ultra / Ultimate Blog Challenge

October is Blindness Awareness Month. Look at the picture. Who would you guess the blind one is? 

You might think it’s the second photo because there is a little part of a cane sticking up. The truth is … each one of us in the photo is blind.

Blindness can’t be measured on a set of scales with a needle, one pointing to BLIND and the other SIGHTED. Yet, it’a often believed that it’s like that. Either you can see or you can’t. So when onlookers see an individual using a white cane, many times the thought that accompanies it is, “that person can’t see anything.” 

But then the same blind person looks at a watch, checks messages on a cell phone, looks both ways when crossing the street, makes eye contact with the onlooker, orders off a table menu, walks around a number of barriers while dragging the cane behind, or simply smiles at him or herself in a mirror. 

You can see! You’re faking it. You just want attention. You must want a free bus pass. You’re playing tricks. Snea-ky!  Hey, look this way.And the most famous response is … But you don’t LOOK blind!

People have often voiced these thoughts aloud to me – much later, of course when they can laugh at their misconceptions. Sometimes strangers even voice these thoughts out loud. While it might seem strange, some vision-impaired people may unconsciously follow these same fallacies. I don’t look blind. AM I faking it? Are people going to think I am? I struggled with it certainly. That’s one reason it is so hard to pick up a cane and use it. 

Those who are not familiar with blindness often have a certain idea in their minds of what a blind person looks like. When I ask them what that is, it might be, “Someone with thick glasses.”  The answers vary; sometimes silence follows.

The truth is, you can’t tell  if someone is blind by looking. 

I’ve had people try to “catch” me by snapping their fingers quickly to see if I notice the quick movement. It’s equivalent to “Look at me! Gotcha!”   

I wonder why people want to catch us. What’s in it for  them? 

When I trained in Orientation and Mobility, I learned that “blindness” encompasses a whole continuum of varying degrees of sight to no sight. A lot of people are visually-impaired and no one even knows their struggle because they have enough vision to get around without a cane or a guide dog. But the struggle is real.

Yes, some people can make eye contact. Some can’t. 

Some can look you straight in the eye one moment then turn around and spill a large glass of water the next. There’s a gap in their peripheral, or side, vision. Some can see where you’re standing, but not your hands. So you go to shake a hand and the person stands there unaware. “What a snob,” the thought is. Another gap. 

In Erie County, Pennsylvania,  where I live, there are about 290,000 citizens. 15 % of those people are legally blind. That means there are about 43,500 people who cannot see what a typical person should  be able to see. That’s a lot of people! 

I never minded people thinking I was clumsy or air-headed. It was an easy blame. It was much harder to admit I couldn’t see. Maybe you know someone who is having some struggles. Maybe it’s their vision. Be kind. And if you see someone with a cane, don’t “test” them. Don’t “wonder.” It’s hard to pick up a cane, believe me.  If I wanted attention or a free bus pass, I could solve that in other ways. 

Today’s truth: blindness is a continuum with a large span between legally blind and completely blind. There is no one look to being blind. – you can tweet this. 

Do you know anyone who is visually-impaired or blind? If you could ask them one question about their vision, what would it be? 

You have just read, “Will the Real Blind Person Look at Me” by Amy L. Bovaird. Copyright October 5, 2015. Please take a moment to let me know what you thought of my post’ Thanks! 

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6 thoughts on “Will The Real Blind Person Look at Me?

  • October 6, 2015 at 11:03 am
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    Great description Amy, clear and informative. Sorry you have to deal with so many stupid people.

  • October 6, 2015 at 4:42 pm
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    Thanks, Rhonda!
    I think the great majority of people are misinformed more than anything. Hope you are well and so glad to see you stopping by! I’ve missed hearing from you!
    Amy

  • October 8, 2015 at 4:07 am
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    I used to have so much more sight than now, but I never faced much of a lot of what you talk about here.
    I used to see enough to get around my small school, out in the country, without a cane. I know it was hard when I admitted I couldn’t do that so easily anymore and that a cane was needed.
    The worst is when people ask, “guess who?” I hate that. Always have. Just tell me.
    Why make it into a game, as you say.

  • October 8, 2015 at 1:20 pm
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    Hi Kerry,
    Are you referring to the parts in my post about how people challenge or test those with a cane? I’m so glad you brought up that your experience has been different! It’s good to be reminded that each person’s experience is unique. What I wrote about is probably something that is specific to RP because we have in inconsistent vision. It varies according to the time, place, day etc. Someone who has variable partial sight might be able to relate as well. I was sensitive to it because I was dealing with people’s responses in conjunction with my own changing responses at the same time. My immersion in the blind world came all at once. In my mind I went from fully sighted (though I actually had had partial sight for so long) to blind and with a cane. It was such an abrupt transition mentally and the cane and vision inconsistencies and people’s doubt only fueled my defensiveness. Now I think I am coping much better with it emotionally and can explain it to others without taking those responses so personally. I just love it that you are part of my community because you give me excellent insights, pose great comments about vision, travel AND writing!
    Amy

  • October 10, 2015 at 10:14 pm
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    Wow, Amy, you’ve been busy writing. I haven’t commented on others but decided to chime in on this one. I have been most fortunate not to face much ridicule, but I found myself being more proactive in teaching others rather than hiding. Unlike you, I didn’t like being thought of as clumsy, but it still was humbling to use the cane due to my narrow field of vision while having the ability to detect events occurring right in front of me. I believe one of the toughest things for me was before I carried a cane. College friends thought I was stuck up for not saying hello as I passed by. The wide spectrum of vision loss is most difficult for the sighted world to understand. It’s kind of funny, for me, many things have become easier without sight yet I still think of myself as sighted. My only blind friends are those on-line. Sorry for rattling on. Blessings to you.

  • October 10, 2015 at 11:30 pm
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    Jena,
    You always have so much of value to add! Yes, I think it’s difficult for the sighted world to understand the wide spectrum of vision loss. You are so right! I love how you point out these details. It’s probably as difficult for them as it is for us to admit there is a problem. I still think of myself as sighted too. It’s as hard to give up that thought as it was my driver’s license. I don’t use it but I don’t want to give it up! Ha ha! How lovely to hear from you. I’m not sure when is the best time to call you. Thank you so much for calling me a few weeks ago to say I was on your mind. I so appreciate that!
    Amy

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