A friend shared this on Facebook, and it hit everything so unbelievably spot-on that I had to post it here. The last few posts, sparse as they’ve been, have largely focussed on that silly teaching thing. So this seemed like an appropriate time to pay a little attention to the “in the dark” part of the blog. They’re not separate, but it’s midnight or later and I don’t care to enter into that philosophical discussion right now. And it’s my blog. So there.
Now that I’m done being five years old, here’s the post. These were written by someone who teaches blind and visually impaired children. Milage may vary a little on all of these of course, but over all, pretty much every blind person I know has dealt with over half of these and found them really bloody obnoxious. So read, learn, and don’t forget to laugh. They are a funny writer, and it’s okay. You have my permission to be amused.
I’ve put a * by the comments that are mine. I am aware that the formatting for this has probably been shot to hell. It’s been copied and plain-texted and everything else about five times, so just stick with it and try to enjoy it anyway.
Pet Peeves of the Blind and Visually Impaired
1. The Guessing Game. “Hey [insert name here]! Do you know who I am?” Oh, please don’t do this. I’ve seen adults do this with students (a lot) and frankly, it’s just rude. Don’t put that person in a position to be embarrassed just in case they don’t remember. Yes, they will recognize familiar voices, and you may know they recognize you, but please resist the temptation to prove it to others by quizzing them. Don’t you think you’d feel a little stressed if you thought you’d be tested about people every time you went out? Be considerate and identify yourself!
*I cannot express in words my levels of hatred for this game. You can be my own mother, and if you walk up behind me and make me guess who you are, I will instantly forget every single association we have ever had. An extra level of fun people like to add to this is changing their voice when they ask the question. There is a special place in hell for anyone who does this. It makes my INFP self want to wither and die, and I will forever hold a grudge against you and your descendants.
2. Being afraid of the “S” word. Someone can be talking to a blind or partially sighted person and say something like, “Let’s go see what’s for lunch.” Then they gasp and think, oh no, I shouldn’t have said “see”! Lighten up. Everyone uses “see” and “look” and “watch out!” Even the blind or visually impaired person.
*I will mock you, mercilessly. Usually I try to be understanding, and assume people have just not learned how to use their brains or common sense yet. But if you ask me to go listen to a movie, I will laugh in your face.
3. I’m blind, not deaf. HELLO, HOW ARE YOU?? Which goes along with one of my own pet peeves: “You teach blind kids? So you must know sign language?” Um, NO. I know braille. I wish I had a dime for every time someone asked me that – to include administrators during an interview. Sometimes they “get it”, but sometimes they don’t, but that’s okay because I’ve just deducted 5 IQ points from them. 🙂 And, for the record, I have taken sign language classes, but since I don’t have any deaf-blind students, I have long forgotten it. I wonder if teachers of the hearing impaired get asked if they know braille…
*This has, thankfully, actually never happened to me. I don’t think I would have a good response, except maybe to wiggle the white cane at them. People do try to give me the close-captioning box thingy at movie theaters though.
4. Blind people can hear everything. The flip side of #3, people assume the visually impaired have so much better hearing than the rest of us. No, but they do rely on it much more, so they are probably listening and paying attention better. Not necessarily paying attention to the teacher, though. They also don’t have visual “distractors” so to speak, so they can focus more on what they hear. Unless they don’t want to hear it, of course. They are human, after all.
*I tell my students I am Dare-Devil, and leave it at that. I find it works better to instill respect through fear if they’re wondering if I can hear their inner thoughts, and don’t care to disabuse them of the notion that I can hear the clicking of their touch-screens.
5. “I don’t really believe he’s blind, even with that white cane. I’m not moving from this side of the hallway.” That attitude will leave you sprawled out on the floor when the person barrels into you. Here’s a good rule: Don’t play chicken with a blind person. You will always lose. Instead, get out of the way, or at least make yourself known by saying something or making a noise.
*All it takes is a cough or a shift or a rustle. I am an introvert; trust me, I understand the deer-in-the-headlights thing that happens when anyone is approaching you down a hall at speed. I am guilty of just stopping and staring in silent horror as someone comes crashing down upon me. But please, if you can at least make some sort of alerting squeak, you will save us both a lot of embarrassment and lengthy apologies.
6. Holding out your hand to shake theirs without touching their hand. If that person cannot see your hand, how is he/she supposed to know where your hand is? Answer: They will often extend their hand in anticipation, but if not, tell them you would like to shake their hand and then reach out and take their hand. Same thing goes for handing them something. You would be amazed how many times this happens. “Here’s your homework” and then you hold it out in space. Or, even better, don’t say anything at all and hold it out. Again, exactly how is he/she going to know where it is? Grope about for it? Sometimes groping is okay, like for finding a dropped item. But when handing things to the visually impaired, please touch their hand with it so they know where it is.
*Happens to me most often with credit cards at restaurants. People at counters will just hold my card in the void. This would be fine, except I am also holding my hand out to receive the card. This sort of stand-off has lasted for far longer than it should ever be allowed to. I have a wonderful friend who will give them about 30 seconds before she will just yank the card out of their hand and put it in mine. Translation: you are an idiot and I am going to help you out while I wonder if you can feed yourself.
…I very specifically try to avoid 99% of opportunities for my students to hand me things. We are all happier this way.
7. Low expectations. This includes: the “pity” person (Oh, you poor blind child. You must have a terrible life.), the “know-it-all” (Dr. so-and-so can work miracles. I know because my grandmother/nephew/dog has 20-20 now.), “Mr. Helper” (Let me do that, I know it’s too hard for you.), the “excuse-maker” (I don’t want him/her to learn how to make a [insert food here] because they might cut/burn/make a mess. You can’t go on that field trip because there might be a terrorist attack and I would worry.), the “denial/embarrassed person” (Don’t use your cane at the store so people won’t know you’re blind.), and unfortunately, the list goes on and on. Low expectation is probably the worst thing one person can do to another, regardless of abilities. If you aim for low performance, that’s likely what you’ll get. Don’t be an enabler. Being too over-protective will dramatically hinder their progress toward independence and living a happy, social, productive life. Step back. Allow them to fail, get a minor injury, and make their own mistakes. That’s how we all learn. Don’t forbid them these opportunities.
*…there are too many instances of this for me to count or describe. Just never do this; you are actually smothering the life out of someone. This has, however, translated into my teaching, as I have actually had students write “for a blind person, she is a great teacher,” or “I know she is blind, and I admire her for that, but…” in their evaluations. It is patronizing as hell, and usually has nothing to do with the “but”. They just have a built-in need to give me cudos or something. Either that, or they’re worried that some organization will throw them in prison for being mean to me.
8. Would you like to feel my face? Whoa. Do you ask sighted people if they’d like to feel your face? First of all, a blind person is not going to get a lot of information from feeling a face, other than maybe the shape of your nose. There are times when it is appropriate, such as when learning parts of the body. But if you are not immediate family, allowing a blind or partially sighted person to “feel” you is very inappropriate. And there are some who will attempt to do just that because they know many people aren’t sure about that protocol. Their hand needs to stay in a handshake, and not move up your arm, and certainly nowhere else! If you wouldn’t let a sighted person feel you, don’t let a blind one. I’ve answered this question a lot from sighted people who have felt awkward allowing this to happen. Well, they feel awkward for a reason! It’s not socially acceptable! Feeling your hair, or the lack of it, can be appropriate depending on the circumstances. I’ve also had this question from a parent: How will my son know what a particular girl looks like? Answer: His friends will tell him!!! Oh yes, they will. 😉
*…never ask me this. Seriously, never. I will explode from embarrassment. Honestly, unless someone is sculpting a marble bust to preserve your image for the sake of posterity, I can’t really think of a situation in which this question *isn’t* awkward. I’m sure there are exceptions, but unless you are very very very sure, please assume, for everyone involved, that your situation is not one of those exceptions. And if you don’t ask me to touch your face, I in turn promise that I will not grope your arm. This reverse is also seriously weird, and if anyone, sighted or blind, starts groping you without permission, please please gently disabuse them of the notion that that is okay very quickly.
9. Rudeness. It’s usually just ignorance, but don’t assume that any blind or visually impaired person automatically needs help. Grabbing the person’s arm and pulling them along is wrong on several levels. We know you’re probably just trying to be nice, but don’t. First, always ask the person if they would like some assistance. Then, use the sighted guide technique correctly. Offer your arm and let them hold it, usually right above the elbow. Also, if there are several others with the person, speak directly to him/her, not through an “interpreter”, as if the person is not there. Say his name, so he knows you are talking to him.
*I feel like my mockery of the people in the faculty lounge pretty much sums this up. Most of the time, I know you have the best of intentions. But before you do these things, do what the little children are taught to do, and consider if you would want someone to do it to you. And not an imagined blind and “feeble” version of you, but the you that is standing there debating whether you should man-handle or rudely ignore a stranger to ask their “friend”.
10. Pure meanness. Placing obstacles in the blind or visually impaired person’s path, throwing things at them, rearranging furniture, moving or taking their belongings, calling them names, taking them to the wrong place and leaving them. Yes, it is mean – and it happens all too often. There will always be Sith among us, but educating ourselves and our children about disabilities may help reduce the bias, discrimination and ignorance.
*This happens less now that the hell of middle school is over, but, surprisingly, sometimes it still does happen. Usually it’s semi-close friends, who know that I love making blind jokes and who think it’s funny to join in the game. And sometimes it is. My best friend’s family will occasionally move their kitchen stool into my path, because I am magnetically drawn to the stupid thing and will trip over it no matter where it is. So eventually they just started moving it around to screw with me. But instances of this being funny are rare—this one is only funny because there is a decade plus of history behind it. But normally… I do not like to trip over crap or lose my stuff. Here is a good test: if the result of your “joke” will end with the person making an ass of themselves, or will injure or embarrass them, it’s probably a bad idea. I love making blind jokes, and I don’t mind other people doing it too. But if the result of the joke is that I look like a stereotypical “blind” person embodying all the worst stereotypes, or have made a fool of myself, I’m not going to find it funny. Would falling over a coffee table be fun for you? No? Then assume I’m not going to love it either.
Hopefully this has been enlightening. The long and short of it is: don’t be dumb. Treat people like people. You don’t need to be scared of us, but do please try to use your common sense. I have failed to do this in plenty of situations and regretted it for years and years and years (remember INFP?), so I feel your pain. But save everybody some anxiety dreams and just try to chill out and use your brain. The whole world will love you for it.
Here is a link to this lovely teacher’s page, where the actual genius was originally posted. I thank them for putting this up so I can make excessive commentary on things that are already wonderfully said.