Dealing With Vision Loss

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Dealing With Vision Loss Excerpt

DEALING WITH A BLIND PERSON FOR THE FIRST TIME

The following are suggestions to keep in mind when dealing for the first time with a person who is blind. We are not super-human. We would like to be thought of as being just like you with the exception that we have a significant vision loss. We are not helpless, but we may not be able to do everything you do in the same way. Our limitations may be more evident, but we all have limitations, don’t we?

  1. I am not deaf. It is not necessary to raise your voice when speaking to me.
  2. If we are in a restaurant together and the waiter or waitress asks you a question about me, or what I want, please tell them to speak to me. A response such as “I don’t know, why not ask him?” would be in order.
  3. Do not assume I can not do something simply because I am blind. If you want to know you can always ask.
  4. Do not pay any attention to my dog guide. Do not talk to him/her. My dog may be lovely, wag its tail, look directly at you, however it is working. When it is in harness, it is working. If you feel you must pet my dog guide, please ask if it is okay first, and if I say no, please respect my wishes. If you talk to my dog, you are distracting it from its job.
  5. Blindness does not automatically ensure that my other senses will be improved. Any sensory development on my part took lots of time and awareness to develop. It doesn’t happen because I can’t see, I have taught myself to rely on my other senses instead of my vision.
  6. I probably will not want to touch your face to determine what you look like, but feel free to tell me if there's something on the floor that needs to be cleaned up, or my shirt's a mess and needs to be changed.
  7. Do not avoid the words watch or see; I use them all the time.
  8. Yes, I do watch TV and I do go to movies. If we go to a movie do not feel compelled to tell me what is going on. If I need to know, I will ask you.
  9. Just because I may be blind doesn’t mean I can’t afford to buy my meal at the restaurant.
  10. Do not feed my dog, it is fed daily and does not need table scraps.
  11. If my dog is doing something it ought not to be doing, please let me know so I can discipline it myself.
  12. If you see someone petting my dog, please let me know so I can inform them as to whether or not it is okay for them to do so.
  13. There is no such thing as a dumb question except the one you don’t ask.
  14. I may be glad to give you some information about being blind, however if you take the time to get to know me, you will find that I have many interests, hobbies and other activities which I pursue.
  15. Because I have not ever been able to see, I do not see pictures of anything at any time, not even when I dream. However if I had been able to see at one time, I would retain those visual memories, and although they might at some point become out-of-date, they would be invaluable to me because having been able to see, I would retain the ability to visualize.
  16. >Blindness is not contagious. In most cases it is not hereditary and is not passed down through the generations.
  17. Every single person who is blind is different. Each blind person you will meet probably has a different type of vision loss and probably sees things differently. Some are more capable than others. Some will be able to travel independently and some will ask for assistance. We do not all learn to play musical instruments at an early age and some of us can only play the radio. Please treat us with the respect we deserve and be sure to treat us as the individuals we are.

If you’re sharing your life with a person who is blind you’re in for a world of discoveries and growth. You’ll learn that “treat me like everyone else” means that “yes, I’ll need some adaptations but don’t do one more thing for me than what I absolutely need.” You’ll learn to be more descriptive in your language; you won’t say “over there” you’ll say “on the dresser” or “six inches to your left” and you’ll learn to do it in a way that is casual and natural and no big deal. You should keep your expectations high; because people who are blind can cook and make your coffee and take good care of you, too. You’ll learn to describe anything and everything you notice that is interesting or unusual or helpful. You’ll find ways to show all the beauty that you encounter through touch or sound or smell. On the other hand you could well be treated to a unique perspective: the difference between a mother and baby robin’s call, the first cricket of the season, or a dove just taking off. You’ll learn to pay close attention to the wonders of all your senses. You’ll learn that being fully human doesn’t depend upon the possession of sight. Expect to enjoy the learning process because it can go on forever.

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