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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.