Tag Archives: visual impairment

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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Faces

Being blind
I find
No traces
Of faces
In the loud
Blank crowd
Which might, my memory spark.

My world is not dark.
I see
The outline of post and tree,
Though I can not see
The individual She
(Other than an outline
I am unable to define).

I recall the feel
Of a girl’s high-heel
And the dress
I felt
(‘Twas more belt
Than dress).

I recollect a caress
(Sometimes meant)
And girl’s sweet scent.
And the click
Of heels
As the clock’s tick
Unnoticed, steals.

I can grasp
Elements of the past,
But I am unable to trace
The individual face.
Though, with my sense of touch
I have much
Done, in love or fun.

Another Day

Yesterday, I took my usual route into work with my guide dog, Trigger. The route to my local station entails passing the Queens Hotel, on Church Road in London SE19. On reaching the hotel, Trigger stopped dead in his tracks due to a large crowd of tourists blocking the pavement. The word ”Achtung!” (meaning attention or take care) rang out and a section of the crowd moved to allow Trigger and I through. I did, however have to say “excuse me” several times as others in the crowd had apparently, not heard their tour guide’s  “Achtung!”.

 

On such occasions I try not to let my frustration show, as I know that we British block walkways when abroad and while meandering our way around this sceptered isle. Nonetheless its frustrating when people block pavements, particularly when they can see a visually impaired person approaching with a guide dog or white cane.

 

My irritation soon subsided when I remembered that the French author, Emile Zola had stayed at the Queens Hotel during its glory days, https://insidecroydon.com/2015/01/08/zolas-exile-in-upper-norwood-and-case-for-two-blue-plaques/

Zola bravely wrote an articl accusing the French authorities of antisemitism for imprisoning a French officer, Dreyfus, (who was of Jewish descent) for providing secret information to Germany. Dreyfus was, in point of fact innocent and was later pardoned by the authorities. However Zola’s criticism lead to the imposition of a fine and a prison sentence. Rather than submit to French “justice” Zola fled to Upper Norwood. (Anyone interested in the “Dreyfus Affair” can read about it here, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreyfus_affair).

 

On reaching my local station, I took the train into London Victoria. On arrival in Victoria I was faced by a number of busy roads and was grateful to a lady who helped me to cross 2 of the busiest ones. We chatted briefly and I learned that her name was Marianne, which made me think of Leonard Cohen’s song “So Long Marianne” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZI6EdnvH-8, but, not knowing my helper well I decided not to mention either Cohen or his song!

 

As I walked along Victoria Street, Trigger suddenly made a dive for the food being eaten by a person who was (I assume) homeless, as they where crouched down by one of the pillars which support the canopy that overhangs a number of the shops. All I could do was apologise! I did, of course feel incredibly guilty as I continued on my way. Trigger should not have taken the food. However whatever was being eaten was at his level and its extremely tempting for any dog (even a guide dog) to help himself in such situations. Also, to be fair to Trigger, given that the food was at his level he may have thought that it was being offered to him.

 

So, all in all an eventful trip into central London!

 

 

 

 

the 4th of July Is …

4 July is, of course best known for being American Independence Day. But enough of such trivia, for any school child can inform you that today is the day when America broke away from the United Kingdom!

Of far more importance to me than the above, is the fact that, on 4 July 2011, I became the proud owner of my 4th guide dog, Trigger, a beautiful brindle Labrador/retriever cross. Trigger goes everywhere with me, whether that be into restaurants, the office or the pub. I hasten to add that, in the case of the latter, I strongly dislike pubs and it is my four-legged friend who drags me into such dens of iniquity on an all to frequent basis …!

Joking apart, Trigger does a wonderful job and safely conducts me through busy London streets.

Given today’s date, I wanted to share 2 poems about Trigger. The first is entitled “The Hungry Hound”, while the second is called “To My Dog Trigger, Who Lay On My Book”.

“I am Trigger.
My stomach is bigger
Than you think.
Your lunch will be gone in the blink
Of an Eye.
Then away I fly.
Should you ask “who stole my lunch?” I reply
“Nnot I
But, dear reader, I lie …!..
I have been known to eat plastic.
My reach is elastic.
You think your food Safe?
My friend brace
Yourself for a shock
For I will gobble the lot!
Be it ever so hot!”.

You lay on my book.
Perhaps you mistook
It for a bone
And discovering your mistake, left it alone!

You creased it’s pages.
Oh the ages
I took
To write that book!

You lay on my book
But look
I have many more,
And ‘twas entirely my fault for
I should not have left it on the floor!

Dogs have such short lives
While the poet’s work survives
Long after master and friend
Have come to their end.
You lay on my book,
My faithful old mutt”.

Writing Blind

Earlier today, (Tuesday 26th June), I came across a fascinating podcast in which blind poets Giles L Turnbull and Dave Steele discuss sight loss, their lives and their work.

I found Turnbull’s vivid evocation of colours in the poem he read both moving and beautiful, while Steele’s composition on the subject of his hereditary eye condition, RP also touched me deeply. In the latter poem Steele hopes that his young children will avoid inheriting his RP, however, if they do so he makes it crystal clear that they will still enjoy fulfilling lives.

I lost the majority of my own vision at approximately 18-months-old as the result of a blood clot on the brain. While I can see outlines of objects, I am unable to read print nor can I recognise either family or friends (other than by the sound of their voice). Given my own visual impairment the podcast was of particular interest to me. However it will also be of interest to lovers of poetry more generally.

To listen to the podcast please visit, https://www.rnib.org.uk/community/1689/topic/47582.

Eyes I Can Not See

Eyes I can not see
Look back at me.
A man can be
Without sight
Yet penetrate the darkest night
If he chooses.
But oft times he loses
Courage and says “let it be
For I do not wish to see
What has become of me”.

At other times he sighs
For his inner eyes
Perceive
That within himself, which causes him to grieve.

I do not need to see your eyes
To know the lies
That hide behind
For I find
That mine
Are as thine.

Does he take sugar?

Yesterday evening, while out for a meal with my friend Brian, I was reminded of the former programme on BBC radio 4 entitled “Does he take sugar?” The programme derived it’s title from the question posed to the non-disabled companion of a disabled person, as to whether the person with a disability wanted sugar in his tea. The obvious point being that the question should have been directed to the disabled person (not to their companion), as by addressing the non-disabled individual the man/woman posing the question was patronising the disabled person.

To return to my meal yesterday evening. As a blind guide dog owner I have been eating in this restaurant for approximately 18 years. The food is (almost invariably good) and the service (usually excellent). Yesterday evening our waiter was attentive and the food arrived promptly and tasted as a good Indian curry should taste. However the waiter proceeded to address Brian (who is fully sighted/non-disabled) and asked “Is the dahl his”, “is the chicken his”.

The above was most odd as I have (as I said above) been eating in this restaurant for some 18 years or so. I sometimes pop into the place alone and enjoy a quiet meal and on these occasions the waiter in question has interacted with me in a civil and friendly way. It is, therefore most bizarre that yesterday evening he chose to basically ignore me and interact with my non-disabled friend.

To ignore a disabled person and interact with their companion is deeply disrespectful. It is, in effect treating the person with a disability as a non-person (as though they where incapable of thinking and acting independently). In the vast majority of cases those with disabilities are more than capable of answering for themselves and treating them as non-persons is deeply demeaning. There are, of course exceptions to this. For example a minority of people with very severe learning disabilities are not capable of making decisions for themselves and do need others to act and speak on their behalf. However many other people with learning difficulties do live independently and are capable of speaking for themselves and the assumption should always be that an individual is able to represent him/herself unless their exists strong evidence to the contrary.

Some people fear what they have not encountered and this may help to explain why they disregard the person who is disabled and choose instead to interact with their non-disabled companion. More education is needed to drive home the point that those who are disabled are persons in their own right and are possessed of thoughts, hopes and desires in the same way as are their non-disabled peers. I will, I feel sure encounter other incidents of this nature. It is deeply depressing and all I can do is keep my temper and politely request that the person doing the patronising please address me and not my non-disabled friend.

Kevin