15 things not to say to a person with a visual impairment

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.

A photo of Holly holding a purple cane with the sea in the background

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.

A photo of Holly

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.

Holly x

12 Comments

  1. September 9, 2018 / 7:43 pm

    Loved this post as always babe. I hear most of these all the time as well, hopefully this post will raise awareness and people will realise how ridiculous it is to say some of these things!xxx

    • lifeofablindgirl@gmail.com
      Author
      September 9, 2018 / 8:52 pm

      Thank you so much lovely, fingers crossed! Xxx

  2. September 10, 2018 / 9:13 am

    All of them happened to me. A Woman at a bus shelter offered me her glasses once. Seriously? I was also asked by a random stranger where I was going and a man tried to lift me into a bus once.

    • lifeofablindgirl@gmail.com
      Author
      September 10, 2018 / 8:16 pm

      Oh gosh how shocking!

  3. September 10, 2018 / 10:16 pm

    I had a strange comment said to me the other day – My ambition is to become a journalist and this person said “if you loose all your sight you won’t be able to be a journalist” So according to her if I loose the remaining 30% of my vision, my career dreams are over! She has obviously never heard of Peter White?! Lol

    • lifeofablindgirl@gmail.com
      Author
      September 12, 2018 / 12:08 pm

      That’s definitely a strange one!

    • lifeofablindgirl@gmail.com
      Author
      September 12, 2018 / 12:08 pm

      Thank you

  4. Nathan Tree
    September 12, 2018 / 2:27 pm

    I don’t mind the ‘it’s over there’ comment. It’s sometimes refreshing to think that people are not treading on eggshells and sometimes say what comes naturally. I even have blind friends who do it.

    But all these points come with some kind of feeling or emotion when said to me, sometimes people may get a short and snappy response depending on how I am feeling.

    Great piece if reading!

    • lifeofablindgirl@gmail.com
      Author
      September 13, 2018 / 8:34 am

      Very true actually. Thank you so much

  5. September 13, 2018 / 5:41 pm

    Great post! I’m on Disability pensions for Severe Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. http://bit.ly/SevereOCD is the collection of all my blog posts on my OCD life. And, like you said, in your article, I’m one of those who does NOT want a cure. I wouldn’t be who I am without it. Also, I’m 50, and don’t want to have to learn how to live all over again.

    • lifeofablindgirl@gmail.com
      Author
      September 13, 2018 / 8:33 pm

      Thank you! Yep I completely get what you mean

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