Do you feel a sense of discomfort when you need to interact with a blind person? And, therefore, do you try to avoid the interaction totally? Or simply allow someone else to interact instead of doing it yourself! I know you are always there to help us, but, interacting socially, with us blind persons, is a complete different ball game? Certainly, you feel that helping a blind person is important, but, surely, interacting socially by choice with us, may not be on you to do priority list. And, on top of that, you yourself, have enough other non-blind people to interact with around you, you actually don’t require to, simply interact with us without reason! Plus, you don’t know how to break the ice? I know you don’t wish to hurt or displease us, so most of the time we are only stared at and left out! This way, not only complete inclusion may never happen successfully, but, we visually impaired feel lost and lonely in mainstream society, and try as much as possible to stay away from going out and interacting with mainstream sighted society completely! I know of so many blind people, who just don’t go out anywhere socially, their life is only limited to their home and work place; that is, if they are employed, in the first place! And, if they are not working, which very easily could be the case, which then leaves them to spend their whole life, locked up and lonely within their four walls, getting them to become depressed and hopeless! This does Not happen by choice, for most sighted people, other than close family members of the blind, do not have the faintest idea, as to, how to communicate with the blind around them; nor do the blind themselves, knowhow and with whom, they could proactively start up a conversation proactively, for, they may never know if the person they are trying to speak with, is interested in talking with them or not!
Then, also, there are many families of blind people, who don’t even encourage their blind family member to accompany them to social gatherings and other outings! The excuse is: “what will they do there anyway? They can’t see and on top of that we have to keep carting them around unnecessarily! It gets so difficult to cater to them in crowded places, like, get them food and drinks, then take them to the toilet and stuff! Also, the whole world out there is forever staring at us and it feels so awkward”!
Can you imagine, if this is said or even thought about you, by your own family members, how would you feel? As is it one is blind and has been facing so many additional challenges and then even your own family and friends think and even talk about you like this? Of course, broken and unwanted!
So let us see what we together can do about this strange situation, rather than just complain and feel bad! Let us come together and spread some happiness around, and have fun doing so!
Here are some tips and ideas that you may like to learn and adopt, whenever you are in company of a blind person!
Here they are:
What to do and what not to do when you are interacting with a person with a visual impairment.
Whenever you encounter a person with a visual impairment, or you happen to share living quarters with a person who has difficulty seeing or can not see, please use sound to greet the person or make an audio signal to make your presence felt. Sometimes you may just get a flying kick if you don’t consciously make sound!!!
If you wish to shake hands with a visually impaired person, please say so to the person. May be you can say, “May I shake your hand or please extend your hand, I would like to shake hands with you”.
When you are visiting the home of a visually impaired person, please do not displace any thing from the place you found it in. The host may get into serious trouble for example, if you have used the knife and after use have put it in a different position, the visually impaired person may cut himself or if you move furniture, he/she definitely will fall over it and hurt himself / herself!
If you are accompanied by your visually impaired friend / family member, please make sure you keep an eye on the direction the visually impaired person is facing. For example, you can tell him / her in which direction to face / look so that the person is not looking in the wrong direction and making a spectacle of himself / herself. This is particularly important when you are at a place where a loud speaker is in use. The visually impaired person will automatically face towards the direction from which the sound is coming and often, the person who is speaking, is always behind the mike and the speakers are else where. You don’t have to physically handle the person in question, all you need to do is to tell your companion the direction verbally using the hands of the clock i.e. you can say, “The person who is speaking is at eleven o clock or at two o clock from you.” You can apply the same method to tell a visually impaired person of the position of food items on his / her plate.
If you are looking for a gift for a person with visual impairment, along with the look of the gift, you can take a closer look at the texture and smell of the gift. You can also find something that sounds good or is a utility item, don’t go for a looking glass / mirror!!!
If you have a visually impaired visitor, please inform him / her of any dangerous items around. For example, if you have candles burning around the room or thorny indoor or out door plants, do not hesitate to inform your visually impaired visitor of the same. This would help to ward off any unnecessary accidents. If you are serving a hot drink, please say so and don’t just stand there holding the tray in front of your visually impaired visitor, you may be in real trouble. Please say, “I have here a tray with a hot cup of tea for you, so be careful”. Allow the guest to manage to get the cup for herself / himself. The other option would be to gently put the cup into the hands of your visually impaired guest. It would be a good idea to do the same with any other beverage as well.
In case you have an appointment with a person with a visual impairment, please do not loose your temper if the person is delayed. Please do remember, our environment is not barrier free and thus any thing could have delayed him / her. For example, he / she may have got on to a wrong bus or missed the turning and it will take him / her much longer than a sighted person to retrace the path. If you happen to see a visually impaired person standing at the edge of a street or a road crossing, please do not hesitate to ask him / her if you may assist in any way. Also go ahead to assist a visually impaired person to get into the right bus or train. There is no harm done if you ask a visually impaired person if she / he would like any form of assistance. But if the person in question declines your offer, please do not get offended or on the other hand also do not insist on going on forcibly to assist anyway. They manage most of the time well enough. But as I mentioned we don’t have a barrier free environment any where and life is difficult for any one with a disability.
While watching television or a movie in a hall or even if you are out watching any kind of play or show, please fill in the silent gaps where there is only music or no sound at all with a description of what’s going on. Try describing verbally whatever you may find interesting to your visually impaired companion, for example, the scenery while driving or the sign boards you see. I would be interested even in knowing what people around are dressed in or what hair style the people are wearing. The idea is, be in the audio mode all the time when you are with a visually impaired person.
At the end of this entire list of information as to what to do and what not to do, I would like to tell you a secret and that is, persons with visual impairment just can’t see with their eyes but they can see with all the other senses. So try not to block their sight by unnecessary loud sounds or camouflage the environment with unnecessary strong smells. This can be inhibiting. The actual act of processing the information received by the window of eyes is done by the brain, do remember, the visually impaired brain also does the same thing only the windows from which the information is transmitted are: ears, nose, skin and tongue. So the receivers are different but the process of seeing is the same.
I also wish to point out here, that we blind people probably notice much more, and ‘see’, much more than a sighted person does! However, there is absolutely no truth in blind people having a sixth sense! The only difference is that because we can’t see with our eyes, we normally train our other senses to function at their full potential, and when all four senses work at their optimum capacity, it seems like that sixth sense is playing out! You see, this world is so very visual, and there is so much to look at all the time; your eyes are sending so many multiple and mesmerizing signals, to your brain, that the signals that are passing through the other four senses, often get ignored by your brain; and, the stuff that is to be perceived by the other senses, usually goes completely unnoticed, unless you are a person with an extraordinary sense of all round awareness!
Also, I would like to say here, that the other senses don’t automatically start functioning at their maximum potential, like many sighted people say and believe! These senses have to be properly trained and used, and only after a lot of hard practice, these senses learn to kind of help us blind to get around nearly as well as the sighted do! For, as I often say, this world is made by sighted people, for sighted people, and the blind were never even thought about during the process! And hence, not much can easily be accomplished without eyesight, without proper coaching, practice and hard work by the blind!
However, if any child / person loses eye sight, please instantly don’t go around looking to find a cure somewhere or other in the world! Sure, you can keep trying and exploring ways and means of correcting that lost eye sight, but, please don’t just focus on these curing efforts alone! Instead, please do remember, this child / person, has lost only one sense, the other four senses are still alive and working! Please don’t think that if a someone cannot see, that is the end of their lives! That they are now going to become dependent for everything on others! Don’t think that without eye sight, life for the person / child is over! Just continue to get the child / person, who may have lost sight, to remain independent in most functions of life! And, soon you shall see that the person / child, who has lost sight, is able to perform all functions with sense of touch, hearing, smelling and taste! And, for doing this, this child / person, need not be an extraordinarily exemplary human!
Then, every blind child need not be gotten rid of by sending her / him to a school for the blind! They can, very easily be sent to any mainstream school near your own home! In case, a person loses her / his eye sight at a later stage in their lives, they need not be thrown out of their jobs or work! With small adjustments, modifications and a bit of, not very expensive, assistive technology, these persons can remain productive in their jobs and even household duties! And, of course, they still can and must have all the fun living just like any sighted child / person!
All that is required, is a spot of common sense, to get on in this world without eye sight! And, for further information or suggestions, feel free to reach out to me!
There definitely are jobs and functions that a blind person / child may never be able to do; like, driving a car and flying an aero plane, but, not all sighted persons drive? And not all sighted fly planes as well! So then why should we feel that the blind is not capable, just because we require help and support at times? But, again, can a sighted and totally non-disabled person, live and function in this world with help and support of others around?
And, a spot of encouragement for someone who is not able to see: a part of what you can do or you can’t do, is also up to you too! We do need to take the initiative to live as independently as possible!
But, please note: I am saying independent, not alone! We all need to be a part of the mainstream society, without looking for excuses to draw that line, which exists between the blind and the sighted world!
And for my sighted friends: please don’t hesitate to go say, ‘hello’, to a blind child or person you meet out there! Only speak clearly while looking at this blind child or person! Be as vocal as you can, and do not take offence, if your help has been denied by a blind person! Let that not discourage you from asking others, and try teaming up with the blind, you may end up have great fun and finding your best friend or soul mate!
So friends, that is all for now!
Preeti signing off right here! Feel free to reach out to me on the below contacts:
Mobile Phone: 91 9871701646