The Dos And Donts of Interacting with a Blind or Visually Impaired Person

People come to my blog either because they like my poetry, or due to a post on a subject of interest to them catching their attention. Most of those clicking on this site are unaware of the fact that I am registered blind (unless they click on my “About page and see a photograph of me with my guide dog, Trigger, or they come across one of the few posts in which I talk about my visual impairment).

Not being aware of my blindness means that my readers interact with me as they would with anyone else (which is, of course as it should be for I am not defined by my visual impairment). However, when I meet people in the real (off-line world) I do come across individuals who are unsure how to interact with a visually impaired person, indeed some people are downright embarrassed.

A few days back, I came across this excellent post on “Life of a Blind Girl”, https://lifeofablindgirl.com/2019/06/02/the-dos-and-donts-when-interacting-with-a-blind-or-visually-impaired-person/, in which the author talks about the dos and donts of interacting with someone who is blind or visually impaired. In essence, as the author states, one should interact with a blind or visually impaired person in the same way in which one would interact with anyone else.

However (as the blogger points out) many people do not follow this simple rule. Examples of the behaviour identified by the author (and experienced by myself) include: speaking to the non-visually impaired companion of the blind person rather than addressing the visually impaired person directly, asking personal questions one would not address to a non-disabled person and being afraid of using commonly utilised language such as “see you later”.

In terms of the latter, I have lost count of the number of occasions on which someone has said “see you around” only to apologise to me for using visual language!

As someone who is blind, I use such language all the time and I don’t expect people to avoid utilising it when interacting with me. In fact by employing such language people demonstrate that they regard me (and other blind/visually impaired people) as individuals who are not defined by our disability.

There are too many self-appointed spokesmen who claim to speak on behalf of the visually impaired (and, I would add other groups), who say that one should not employ such and such language. Many of these people are well meaning (but wrong) while a few do, perhaps wish to use disability politics for their own unholy ends.

I commend this article to anyone who has ever felt unsure (or embarrassed) as regards interacting with a visually impaired or blind person.

Kevin

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52 thoughts on “The Dos And Donts of Interacting with a Blind or Visually Impaired Person

  1. blindzanygirl

    Kevin, thankyou for this. It all needed to be said.

    As you know, I too am legally blind, but am still learning it all and it is quite hard and stressful. You are SO right in what you are saying.

    As far as WordPress is concerened, I admit to personally having a lot of difficulties. But mostly everyone is very kind. I write about my struggles sometimes. But many do not know that I am blind, and additionally in a Wheelchair.

    I will read the Article now (I have not read it yet) and may make furthe responses.

    I find that people often run away from me in fear, because they do not know how to deal with a person who is both blind and wheelchair bound. And there ARE those who have said that I shouldn’t be out!

    Anyway, I will read the Article Kevin. Thankyou for posting it. Best, Lorraine

    Reply
    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Many thanks for your comments, Lorraine. You are welcome for the posting of the article. I’m sorry that you have had some people on WordPress (and when you are out and about) who have been rude and downright offensive. There is no excuse for such behaviour and anyone who tells you that you should not be out and about is totally out of order and is beneath contempt. I hope (and believe) that society develops that instances of such behaviour would continue to lessen, but that does not detract from the impact such abuse has in the here and now. There are, thankfully many kind and decent people in the world and its a minority who behave in this wholly unacceptable manner. Thanks for sharing the original post on your own blog. Best wishes – Kevin

      Reply
      1. blindzanygirl

        Thanks Kevin. I blew a fuse this morning lol. I have found, and I am being honest and blunt here, for I know I can be with you, that most of the abuse and bad treatment comes from the church and so called Christians. But there are many good christians too. I just dont meet them very often lol. I must read the bligs of other blind people as I have found some through you. Thankyou Kevin. Off out now for brekkie at MacDonalds lol

      1. blindzanygirl

        Thanks Kevin. I just got home- full of hash browns lol. THREE of them ha ha. No bacon or anything else. Just the hash browns. Apparenly according to Yahoo News all MacDonalds in the North of England ran out of bacon yesterday. Ha ha. They said it was something to do with Brexit. Can’t make that one out. They said that the Irish farmers are afraid because of Brexit or something. They get their bacon from there. To be honest I blame Donald Trump. I mean, he’s HERE isn’t he lol. Anything could happen! I don’t eat bacon anyway! I really enjoyed my hash browns though. Ha ha. It’s goid to go out to eat sometimes. But conventional cafes are no good to us. Bravo MacDonalds.

    2. K Morris Poet Post author

      Glad you enjoyed your breakfast in Macdonalds, Lorraine. I do enjoy a good, English breakfast, bacon, eggs, sausages etc and usually treat myself to one over the weekend, but bacon isn’t everyones choice. Its odd how Brexit should affect the availability of bacon, especially as we haven’t left the EU as yet!

      Reply
      1. blindzanygirl

        I know lol. I think the Irish farmers are getting nervous or something. I wasn’t quite sure what yahoo was saying. I see that Trump has told Theresa May to stick around until Brexit is completed! Don’t think she has much choice now though. Don’t know what that has got to dowith the price of fish lol. My brain is all over. I normally lovr bacon and the full English but at Macdonalds they don’t cook the bacon much and the fat is all slimey so I don’t have it there!

  2. Victoria Zigler (@VictoriaZigler)

    It’s a great post. Thanks for sharing it, Kevin. Very good advice in it, and I agree with both you and her about what the dos and don’ts are. Correcting os speach and speaking to the sighted person with me are ones I find particularly annoying, especially when you’ve politely told the person the correct thing to do several times, and they still insist on either pretending you don’t exist, acting like you can’t understand or answer for yourself so they have to question the sighted person, or making a big deal out of using the word “see” in front of you.

    Reply
    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      You are welcome for the article share, Tori. I’m pleased you found it of interest and I know that both you, the original poster and myself are all singing from the same hymn sheet on this issue. Best wishes – Kevin

      Reply
  3. robbiesinspiration

    Thank you for sharing this, Kevin. I know you are visually impaired by it certainly doesn’t reflect in any of you lovely poems and writing. I often forget about it, to be honest. Face to face, I suppose one is more aware so it is good that you have shared these tips. They are helpful.

    Reply
    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Many thanks for your comments, Robbie. It was my pleasure to share this article and I’m pleased you found the tips in it helpful. I’m delighted that you enjoy my poetry also. Kind regards – Kevin

      Reply
  4. debbiejonesalwaysamused

    A very useful post, Kevin. I had no idea, at first, that you are blind, like you say, there’s no clue from your writing. I do have the utmost admiration for anyone who has to cope with any disability & have had experience of people with all sorts of challenges, especially when I worked in a post office. We had a regular customer who was blind, he was also elderly, but had been blind either from birth or a very young age. He asked if he needed help, we never presumed, & he was very open about any particular problems he had, he taught us a lot! From a young age, in junior school, I knew the deaf alphabet & at secondary school, back in the 1970’s, we had general studies lessons, dealing with disabilities, amongst many subjects. We were paired up to see how we’d cope with various scenarios regarding disability, i.e. trying to board a bus with a wheelchair or use a public phone & toilets, etc. We were lucky, it did teach us to be thoughtful, not all schools included such things in their curriculum at that time. I think things are slightly different now, in that people with all sorts of disabilities are in mainstream schools, so the other children are used to dealing with their various problems & don’t have the hang-ups of knowing what to do or say. They see the person for who they are, not their disability. It’s certainly a start in helping to break down some barriers.

    Reply
    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Thank you for your comment, Debbie. Its encouraging to know that you attended a school where you learned about disabilities. I guess this came in usefull when interacting with the blind gentleman in the post office.

      Its certainly a good thing that those disabled people who wish to participate in mainstream education are able to do so, however its important that proper funding is provided to ensure that disabled children don’t suffer from a lack of resources. Best wishes – Kevin

      Reply
      1. debbiejonesalwaysamused

        Absolutely, Kevin! I know from friends who have a son with type 1 diabetes & my daughter, who used to be a carer in a mainstream school, for a boy with cerebral palsy, that funding & the correct support is the biggest problem. The time it takes getting these things into place can waste so much time, especially when the curriculum is so tight now. It isn’t fair how some children are missing lessons until it’s sorted & I’ve known of this in both cases. I do also think a mainstream school isn’t for every child. There have to be specialist schools for more complex needs or where individuals feel more comfortable having the full support catered for their own disability.

      2. K Morris Poet Post author

        I agree with you entirely, Debbie. I attended 2 specialist schools for the blind in Liverpool (Saint Vincents and the Royal School, Wavertree) and went on to a college for the blind in Hereford, prior to attending Swansea University. The good thing about attending schools for the visually impaired was the first class teaching by those with knowledge of visual impairment, plus the plentiful resources available. The classes where small so I and the other children received a great deal of individual attention.

        The downside to the above was that I didn’t interact with non-disabled people (other than the teachers and, of course family members) until I went on to read history and politics at Swansea. Ironically most of my friends today are non-disabled. Its funny how the cookie crumbles.

      3. debbiejonesalwaysamused

        Indeed, it is, Kevin. I’m so glad you had such first class teaching at the schools you attended. I guess you could argue that the standard & boost you gained there helped give you confidence to face the new challenges at university. But I’m also guessing you’re a pretty determined guy & dealt with it head-on anyway. Going to, & triumphing at university are big enough challenges on their own, & anyone should be proud of that achievement alone, apart from dealing with a disability..I’m sure you’re very proud of that, Kevin. I never had the inclination or “balls” haha! 😁

      4. K Morris Poet Post author

        Thank you for the compliment, Debbie. I had the Disabled Students Allowance which helped me to pay for a scanner that converted text into speech and braille, the RNIB cassette library (I’m showing my age now)! and the help of fellow students, all of which helped me along. I think that its a case of horses for courses – some people wish (and benefit from) going on to university while others don’t. Academic studies can help to open up the wonders of the humanities etc, however people who work with their hands also enrich society by producing objects of beauty, for example beautifully carved wooden objects and such craftspeople are worth their weight in gold.

  5. LindaGHill

    Thank you for this, Kevin. I know a few blind people online, and I always try to remember to describe pictures I post, especially when they contain text. It was something I never really thought of before one of my blind friends mentioned that they were missing out on so much. It’s posts like this that help us be more aware!
    As for dealing with people in public, I have a son who is Deaf. When people talk to him and expect an answer from him, I explain that he can’t hear them and they invariably apologize to me. I’ve never been able to understand that one.
    Anyhoo, it’s nice to have met you through Chris’s reblog! I look forward to reading your poetry!

    Reply
    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Many thanks for your comment, Linda. Its good to meet you and thank you for checking out my poetry, I very much appreciate you doing so. I’m pleased you found my post helpful. As you say, people can certainly behave in peculiar ways, the example of people apologising to you, when you inform them that your son is deaf is a prime example of the old saying that “there is nout so queer as folk!”. Thanks again for your comments. Best wishes – Kevin

      Reply
    2. K Morris Poet Post author

      I meant to add, its great that you are describing the photographs on your blog as it makes the life of blind people like me so much easier. I have (very recently) started to use Instagram which, until very recently I always thought of as being purely visual. However photographs on Instagram are tagged and I’m now following a number of people as well as having my own profile.

      Reply
    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Sue. I agree, the same rule applies when interacting with people in wheelchairs or, indeed most other disabled people. The only exception that I can think of is where a person has very severe learning difficulties which means that they are incapable of meaningful interactions with other people. Having said that, many people with learning disabilities are able to interact in a meaningful way with others and participate in society through social activities and/or in the field of employment and should, of course be aforded the dignity one would accord to any human being.

      Reply
      1. K Morris Poet Post author

        I did, of course mean that all people with learning disabilities/difficulties should be accorded full human dignity irrespective of whether they can interact with other people. Dignity flows from the fact that they are a fellow human being.

      2. Sue Vincent

        I think you just have to treat people as you find them… and never pass a judgement on how they will behave before giving them a chance to be themselves.

      3. Donna W. Hill

        Sue, I think that’s true and it works both ways. I also think it bears remembering that half of the population have below-average IQs, and many have intellectual disabilities.

  6. williamrablan

    Greetings Kevin, and thanks for an excellent post. often times when people come across some who’s blind, deaf, or mute, they haven’t a clue what how to act. I’ve actually seen people talk louder to a blind person (don’t ask).

    several years back I was working for an internet company and some folks came in needing help. It was deaf/mute couple and everyone wigged. They had no clue how to communicate with them. I knew enough sign language to be able to ask them to join me at my desk. got them chairs, coffee, and then opened notepad. I guess the made they assumption that just because they couldn’t speak or hear, they couldn’t read or write. I found out what was going on, and got them fixed up in no time.

    Now, here’s one you might be able to relate to. When I was in college, I had a room mate that was blind. This was about the time the first Star Wars movie came out, and he wanted to “See” it. So we took him. It tripped people out seeing a blind guy in line to see Star Wars. He loved the movie! As he put it, it’s about the experience.

    Reply
    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Many thanks for your comments, William. Its great that you where able to help the couple and its a pitty that your other colleagues didn’t have any idea how to deal with the situation. Yes, I can certainly relate to your story about Star Wars. As you say, its about the experience. Today (as you know) there is audio description on a growing number of movies which means that visually impaired people can enjoy films (and other audio described programmes) independently. I have audio description enabled on my television and its good to be able to appreciate programmes without having to ask sighted friends or family what is going on! Best wishes – Kevin

      Reply
  7. vanderso

    Thanks, Kevin. This is the second time you’ve educated me on disability issues. Holly’s post was important and incredibly helpful; I shared it on FB via her share tab. I will go back to learn more about accessibility issues on blogs. I’ve been way too remiss so far! Thanks again!

    Reply
    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      I am delighted that you found Holly’s post helpful and thank you for sharing it on Facebook. It was my pleasure to share her important post. We are all on a learning curve to some extent, including me. Best wishes – Kevin

      Reply
    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Thank you for your thought-provoking thought/comment, China. I don’t know the answer to your question. There is, however something (in the UK) called the Living Paintings Trust, which provides a description (for visually impaired/blind people) of paintings, together with a copy of the original painting. I have some residual vision, being able to perceive the difference between light and dark and perceive the outlines of objects. I also have some limited colour perception, for which I am grateful. Kind regards – Kevin

      Reply
  8. Liz Gauffreau

    Thank you for this post, Kevin. I am always eager to understand the perspectives of people who are different from me. (And aren’t we all different from one another in our own way?)

    Reply
    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      You are welcome for the post, Liz, and thank you for your comment. You are right that we all are different from one another, which is what makes this world such an interesting place in which to live! Best wishes – Kevin

      Reply

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