Regular readers of my blog will know that one of the main aims of my blog is to educate others on sight loss and disability, so I thought I would share some of the top 15 things not to say to people with a visual impairment.
This post is not meant to cause offence, it is simply to highlight and educate others. It’s important to ask questions, but some are often quite invasive.
1. How many fingers am I holding up?
You wouldn’t ask a sighted person this so what gives you the right to ask a blind or visually impaired person this question? It’s not funny, especially when we can’t see how many fingers you are holding up.
2. Guess who?
Honestly, this is just rude. Why do you need to test a blind person on whether they know who you are or not? For many blind people including myself, we are often familiar with people’s voices that we see on a regular basis, but for people we have only met once or twice this may be a bit more difficult.
3. It’s over there.
The problem is, I can’t see where ‘over there’ is, it could be north, south, it could be in front of me, to the left or to the right, I have no idea. Just describe where something is such as ‘it’s to your left’ or ‘it’s in front of you’.
4. I feel so sorry for you.
We don’t want your empathy or pity, we just want to be treated like everyone else. Blind and visually impaired people can live a normal life, so there’s no need to feel sorry for us.
5. You’re so inspirational.
How does doing a simple daily task make me inspirational? Being called inspirational is something that I have discussed in a previous post. Just because a person has a visual impairment, and they go about living a normal, independent life, it does not mean that they are automatically inspirational.
Think about it for a minute, what is the definition of ‘inspirational’? Is it an average person that may have a disability completing everyday tasks? No, it isn’t, it’s people that do amazing things, people who are doing something that have a significant impact to people’s lives, those who are changing the world.
6. Can I pet your guide dog?
This is something that I haven’t personally experienced as I don’t have a guide dog but know many blind and visually impaired people that experience this on a daily basis.
Please remember that if you want to pet a guide dog when it is working, you are distracting the guide dog, therefore putting the blind or visually impaired person at risk. Some people are okay with this, but it can have consequences. If you are wanting to pet a guide dog at any time, regardless of whether it is working or not, please ask first and do not be offended if the person says no.
7. Why aren’t you using your cane?
There are situations when we don’t want to use a cane, or we just can’t use it in a specific environment. Do not dictate when a blind or visually impaired person should be using it.
8. You’re so brave.
This is quite a personal one, some people like being called brave and others don’t like it. Personally, I just don’t get this one at all. We adapt to life with sight loss, so why does this make us brave?
9. Is there not a cure for your blindness?
If there was a cure, then I most probably would have had it by now…we get that you’re interested but asking this is just silly. Also, think about the fact that not all blind and visually impaired people want to have a cure.
10. It’s only a word/joke (referring to something offensive said about the person’s disability)
IF a blind or visually impaired person, or any disabled person for that matter, says that you have offended them, then take their word for it.
11. You don’t look blind.
You wouldn’t say that someone doesn’t look stupid, so why do people tell a blind person that they don’t look blind like it’s a compliment? If you want to read my thoughts on this topic then you can check out the post that I wrote all about this topic.
12. Don’t let your visual impairment define you.
Some people may disagree with this, but it’s impossible for us to not let our disability define us in one way or another, granted, I don’t think it should rule your life, but it has significant impacts on your life, and these are often far from bad.
13. What’s wrong with your eyes?
A visual impairment can affect a person’s eyes in many ways, they may look different, for example Nystagmus may make a person’s eyes look a bit different as they involuntarily move. Asking anything overly personal is not okay. This can often make people think that the first thing that you noticed about them was their disability, which can be quite upsetting to some.
As you get to know someone, you might start to talk about their disability – but remember some people might be very comfortable talking about their disability, while others may not be, so take cues from the person themselves.
14. Let me do that for you.
This is a bit of a tricky one as everyone, regardless of their disability, can do with some help now and again. You may want to help someone with a visual impairment or disability to make things easier for them, it’s also important to respect their independence. Offer to help but don’t make it a big deal if they say no, and don’t be offended by that either. There’s a difference between offering to help and taking over.
15. Do you know this blind person?
People with a visual impairment or another disability don’t all know each other, the disabled community is huge, so it would be impossible for us to know everyone.
So, there you have it, my top 15 things not to say to a person with a visual impairment. If you have a visual impairment or another disability then please share yours in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.