Different Blindness Myths that You Should be Aware of

blind trying to cross a street with out assistance
blind trying to cross a street

In this post, I am going to list some of the things you may have considered facts about blind people for a long time. Below are some things that should make this whole blindness thing a little less confusing for everyone particularly the sighted people:

  • The word “blind” is not (should not be) offensive.
  • Blind people are not amazing.

Blindness does not directly result in depression, anger, sadness, bitterness, or really any other negative emotional state, though loss of eyesight can take some people longer to cope with than others, particularly if vision deteriorates later in life; the grieving process should be respected.

It is perfectly fine to use words like, “see”, “look,” and “Watch,” there is nothing offensive about any of these sorts of words, nor is there a useful substitute.

Blindness does not always mean total darkness

Being blind does not mean that a person necessarily has no usable eyesight; it just means that for the majority of situations, the eyesight that person has is not reliable, so using things such as a white cane or Braille is a better, more efficient alternative.

Yes, it is called a “cane,” not a stick, or a pole, or a staff. Most canes don’t shoot out laser beams, or make noises, or have built-in GPS; they are simply a fiberglass or aluminum sectioned tube with a handle and a cane tip.

Not every blind person owns a guide dog

Not every blind person has or wants a guide dog especially those who live in the Philippines. In fact, the majority of blind people choose to travel with a cane, and some prefer to rely on their limited eyesight.

Yes, if the blind person does use a guide dog, you shouldn’t pet, feed, or speak to the dog, but it would be perfectly fine to speak to the blind person if it appears he or she is not occupied. Petting the dog and acting like I don’t exist is incredibly rude and disrespectful. What someone I know has labeled “Stealthpetters,” are also highly irritating. You know, the person who sneaks in a pat on the head or a scratch behind the ears just because they think
the blind person won’t know. All it takes is one distraction at exactly the wrong moment to put the dog user in danger. Bottom line: Watch from a distance and ask questions when we’re not busy.

Blind people do not count steps

As far as I know, no blind person counts steps. The only people I know of who count steps are the sighted actors on TV and in the movies who incorrectly portray the part of a blind person. Although they can incorporate this on their mobility training, the general recommendation for them is to avoid it as much as possible.

No, blind people do not want to feel your face

Again, I don’t know any blind people who want to feel your face, or anybody else’s face for that matter. Again, this is one of the myths perpetuated by inaccurate representation of competent blind people in movies.

No, our senses of hearing, touch, and smell are not incredibly sharp

Actually, they didn’t magically increase their sense of hearing just because a person is blind. For example I have learned to use my other senses to make up for the one I lack.

No, not all of us have ESP

As far as I know, neither does anybody else, but of course, I haven’t met everybody else yet.

Oh, that reminds me: I really don’t know all the other blind people in the world. Now, if your uncle, aunt, and other relatives, as well as other people you met are blind, it may be possible that I know them through other people or that I’ve heard their name somewhere, but I’m sorry, chances are, we’ve never met.

Speaking to me loudly and slowly really doesn’t do much for me, except making me wish you would speak more softly and hurry up

By using my cane, I can locate things such as poles, walls, trees, cracks in the sidewalk, curbs, and stairways. So, while it is very kind of you to tell me I am about to run into one of these things, it is normally not necessary; I may actually be looking for one of these things, like the stairway or the pole for the bus stop.

Now, sometimes I do need some information, and usually when I do, I’ll ask for it. I also don’t mind if you ask me if I need some assistance, especially if you are willing to accept my answer. If I say no thank you, then you can rest assured that while I appreciate your offer, your assistance is not needed. I would much rather hear, “How may I help you,” if your offer of assistance is accepted, or, “May I help, or are you okay,” than, “You’re about to walk into that pole; let me help you.” Automatically assuming I can’t handle certain tasks just because you think they’re difficult for me, and doing things for me without giving me the chance to either accept or refuse help is undermining my personal space and my right to say “No.” This is not okay.

Actually, I can cross the street unassisted, and in nearly every situation, do it just as well as anybody else, whether it is a quiet street, or a busy one with a traffic light. Again, if you want to ask me whether I need some assistance, that would be fine and we can talk about it, but probably if I need assistance, I’ll seek out someone to ask.

I don’t really have any problem answering questions regarding my blindness, but it is a lot more comfortable to do so after I get to know the person asking the questions. Now, please consider how uncomfortable you would feel if a person you have just met asks you things such as how you eat, know where you are walking, care for and keep track of your children, brush your teeth, go to the bathroom, take a shower, or even how you have sex? I’m serious; I’ve had total strangers ask me a couple of these questions.

As I said, I don’t have any problem talking about blindness with really anyone, but please remember it isn’t the only thing I am able to talk about. I have opinions and knowledge in a pretty wide variety of subjects, so try me.

Now, please allow me to be blunt about the following: Not all of us can sing or play a musical instrument. Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and other famous blind performers are very talented people that happen to be blind, but their talent did not result from them being blind, and there are many of us who are living proof that being blind does not endow anyone with musical ability.

Please, do not grab hold of me, unless my life is in immediate danger. Consider how it would feel if somebody did this to you, especially if you weren’t expecting it. Don’t be surprised or offended if I wrench my arm out of your grasp. It’s an automatic reaction that should send the message loud and clear without me having to say anything. If medical professionals are going to be doing anything to me, I appreciate a warning and being told what is going to happen. By the way, some of us blind folks are trained in self-defense, and that may be one of the things you should consider before you decide to grab hold of one of us.

Please, don’t jump in and do things for us without asking first, even if you are convinced we can’t do it for ourselves. Consider how you would feel if you were doing something you are perfectly fine with doing, perhaps enjoy doing, and somebody jumps in and takes over for you?

Finally, please, do not offer me money for example when you see me walking on the street. Please do not feel obligated to reward this behavior.

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