Tag Archives: political correctness

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.


“Check your Privilege”

“Check your privilege”, can not be said
To the dead,
But if it could, Kipling would
Remain the same,
A man of his time,
Who some would like to arraign
For the heinous crime
Of writing rhyme

Whats in a Word?

I am registered blind. Recently I was in a room with a group of other people with various disabilities when one of those present refered to people “suffering” from dyslexia. I let the use of the word “suffering” go unremarked, however when he continued to employ it during the course of the meeting I politely remarked that I considered it’s utilisation to be inappropriate, a view endorsed by several others present.

To suffer is to endure pain or discomfort. While some disabilities may entail suffering, for example a person who has broken their leg will suffer pain during the course of their temporary disability, many disabilities do not involve suffering. The fact that I, as a blind person can not see to read a newspaper is an inconvenience (I’d love to be able to buy a paper, sit on public transport and read my newspaper along with my fellow commuters, however my inability to read print does not entail suffering. I can go online and access the newspapers using access software which although not as convenient as being able to read a print paper is, none the less far better than not being able to access a newspaper at all.

Societal barriers rather than a disability in and of itself can cause people with disabilities to face inconveniences. For instance the lack of ramps affording access to buildings may make it difficult or impossible for wheelchair users to access them. Any inconvenience “suffered” is, in this case down to the lack of access rather than to the fact that the wheelchair user is unable to walk or, at any rate is only able to walk for very short distances before having to return to their wheelchair.

Not all issues surrounding disability are capable of being resolved by society making adjustments. I can not see paintings and however good my friends description of a picture is their descriptive powers will not furnish me with the capacity to appreciate visual art as a sighted person does. However, in my view I do not “suffer” through my inability to admire paintings. Granted I feel regret but that is not the same as “suffering”.

I am not arguing in favour of policing the English language. People should be able to express themselves freely unless their words are aimed at inciting racial or other hatred. However we all should consider whether our use of language is appropriate.


My collection of short stories, “The First Time” is free in the Kindle store until 8 October. Please visit http://www.amazon.com/The-First-Time-ebook/dp/B00FJGKY7Y/ref=la_B00CEECWHY_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1380885715&sr=1-4