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5 Things People Need To Stop Saying To Me Just Because I’m Visually Impaired

I’d like to talk about a few etiquette guidelines while interacting with a visually impaired person. People usually think it is not being able to see people’s faces, the inability to drive, or write with pen and paper, etc. that the visually impaired find daunting. They aren’t. There are many ways of circumventing those problems. It is usually the little things people do every day that strains my patience to the limit. In other words, it is not the disability itself which is the problem, but society’s prejudices and negative attitude toward disabilities. In an attempt to alleviate this negative attitude at least a little, here are 5 things not to do while speaking to a visually impaired person:

1. “Who am I?”

This has got to be the single most annoying question that the visually impaired people face. Every day, many, many people come up to me and ask “who am I?” just because they find it amusing to verify whether or not I can recognise them. This is wrong. It’s not amusing but merely irritating. You might think you’re the only person who does this, but you’re wrong. Many people ask me this, and then follow it up with, “but I talk to you all the time! You still can’t recognise me?” I’ve got news for you: I talk to many people all the time: at college, in the hostel, etc. etc. That doesn’t mean I have superhero abilities that enable me to recognise every person’s voice. The next time, just let me know who I’m talking to, without all this guesswork, and then we’ll have a long chat, yeah?

2. “How many fingers am I holding up?”

Do you have an ophthalmologist’s degree I don’t know about? I absolutely don’t mind questions about the amount of vision I have, or any other aspects of my disability you are curious about, but please understand that I am not a monkey doing tricks at a carnival freak show, and I don’t appreciate being made to feel like one. The next time you are curious, just ask.

3. “How does she navigate the stairs?”

It’s impolite to ignore me and talk to my companion about me or my impairment. I can hear you just fine, and I can understand and answer questions too. On a similar note, it is not necessary to yell either. I’m blind, not hearing impaired.

4. “It’s over there.”

Sorry… Where? It’s helpful to give directions in a way that I can understand too. Say “on your right”, or something like that, instead of using phrases like “over there,” “that way,” etc.

5. “The Ayurvedic doctor at XYZ hospital performs miracles. You should go try it out.”

I spent my whole childhood being shuffled from one doctor to the next, one experimental treatment to the next, until one day, I finally put my foot down and said no more doctors or treatments. Right now, I have absolutely no problem with being blind. Why should I? It hasn’t yet stopped me from doing anything (except driving perhaps). So I won’t be encouraging any talk about any doctors or wonderful treatments because I’m too busy living my life as a blind person to bother to track down every treatment that claims to cure blindness.

I hope this article has made at least a small difference in the way you will treat a visually impaired person in the future.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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