Welcome to The Invisible Vision Project’s Blog!
February is Low Vision Awareness Month and this week, Feb 3rd to 9th is also White Cane Week. Just in case you didn’t know, I’ve had low vision nearly all my life (and I’m Legally Blind now), BUT I’ve only started using a white cane for the last 3 years (3 years and 4 months to be exact). I’m fortunate to say that I haven’t had a lot of experiences of backlashes as a white cane user. However, I HAVE definitely had experiences of what I call it “funny moments with strangers” as a white cane user. And today, I’m sharing with you 5 of those moments in this blog.
Funny Moments #1: “Hey, I’m blind. YOU KNOW! I’M BLIND, TOO!”
This happened one day when I was walking home. A lady walking opposite of me stopped and jumped in front of me and suddenly she yelled “Hey, I’m blind. YOU KNOW! I’M BLIND, TOO!” I was very startled by this at first, but I kept on walking, ignoring her. In my head, I was thinking, “Seriously… I’ve seen MANY blind people around the city and NO ONE behaves the way you just did…going around and scaring people like that.” Honestly, I don’t know what her intension was but, I don’t think she’ll jump right in front of a sighted person and yell “HEY I’M BLIND!” I don’t know what’s making her to believe that it is OK to jump in front of a blind person to do that.
Funny Moments #2: “Where is your dog? Doggie~ Doggie~ Doggie~”
This also happened while I was going home. Out of the blue, I heard a man’s voice, and I knew he was talking to me because he asked as I approached, “Where’s your dog? Doggie~ Doggie~ Doggie~” Initially, I was like, “What in the world is going on…Are YOU okay…” Obviously, I didn’t say that to the stranger man, and if you know me, I don’t usually talk to strangers, especially the unfriendly and awkward ones. I know, I could’ve said to him, “I don’t have a dog, sir.” and move on. But then again, why should I? It’s not like he’s interested to know about that. So, in this kind of situations, I just pretend I didn’t hear or see anything and hurry moving on.
Funny Moments #3: “So…how blind are you?”
I was asked about this only once, at a gathering. There were a lot of people at the gathering, some I knew and some I didn’t. At one point, a younger gentleman walked up to me to have a conversation, we had a fairly decent conversation, until at one point, he asked, “So…how blind are you?” At first, I didn’t think of this as offensive or rude. I just thought, he was probably interested to know about the degree of my vision loss. But, because this was the first time I was ever asked about my vision loss, especially in this way, I didn’t have an answer to him right away (mind you, this was also before I became an activist, I know my vision loss but I didn’t know how to explain it to people, especially strangers, at the time). There was a long moment of silence (As I was gathering my thoughts on how to respond to this person). Then, he and I were both interrupted by someone that wanted to talk with him. After being left to stand there alone, I chuckled at the question and thought to myself, “I think that whoever is interested to know about my vision loss will probably need at least half a day to hear my story, because it is not as simple as “yes, I’m blind” or “no, I’m not blind.”” I guess, why I was also laughing at the question was because, I bet no sighted person will EVER be asked, “So…how SIGHTED are you?”
Funny Moments #4: “You can cross now!”
This one happens quite often. It happens when I’m standing at the curb of the sidewalk and waiting to cross the street. At least 3 or 4 out of 5 times when I stand at the curb, people will tell me that “it’s safe to cross now.” Some of those times, it IS really safe to cross. HOWEVER, there were a handful of times, it WASN’T really safe to cross…
If you didn’t know this about me: I’m VERY strict about crossing the street safely. And, this is not just because I’m visually impaired, but also because I’ve had a mild incident related to crossing the street when I was younger, the sort-of traumatic memory of that incident stuck with me. Generally, I don’t really need a sighted person to help me crossing the street, because I’m capable of doing that safely and independently. So, I don’t usually listen to or pay attention to when people tell me that it’s safe to cross, I can make that judgement on my own. Also, just to add: there is absolutely nothing wrong about assisting a blind/visually impaired person crossing the street, provided that when you do it correctly.
Funny Moments #5: *Me asking for directions*
Me: “umm…excuse me… where is [insert location]?”
Person: “Oh, it’s just over there. There! Do you see it?”
Just because for the most part, I can travel and navigate my surrounding confidently; I can cross the street safely; and I can do many things independently. As a visually impaired person, I’ll sometimes struggle, especially in new environments. When I’m in a new environment or places I don’t go often, I’ll need help and I’ll ask for help. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to assist someone with vision loss. For instance, never say something or someone is “over there” to a blind/visually impaired person because, chances are, we’ll not know where “there” is because, it’s very broad. And, even if you point to the “direction,” it’s also likely that we won’t be able to see where exactly you’re pointing at. Instead, you could provide direction cues such as “left” or “right” or “straight ahead” Or, if you have the time, and if you could kindly guide the blind person to their destination, that would be so helpful.
Here, this concludes the 5 Funny Encounters with Strangers as a White Cane User blog post. I hope you’ve had a good laugh and enjoyed reading it!
Thank you for reading to the end!
By: The Invisible Vision Project