Too often than not, I get the stares and comments as a person with a severe visual impairment, my face planted inches from the computer monitor or being nose to nose on the smart phone tends to send wandering eyes into a tizzy .
I often refer to the thought associated with the stares as a predatory like feeling. As if I’m lunch for someone’s alligator, the alligator in question known as curiosity.
Curiosity can be a good thing if handled right. If I’m offered help or a “take your time”, I will gladly be more open to my needs.
But when it comes to question upon question or ignorant comments regarding my intelligence and my ability to read, that’s when I feel trapped in the jaws of the gator, in which I tend to shut down.
I have been trying to focus on being more open to explaining my disabilty to others, but too often, it becomes a hassle, a round of 20 questions that never end past question 20.
I only have so much patience to deal with such situations, and if not asked right, I simply don’t answer due to too much heartache.
Here are some tips for approaching me or anyone with a visual impairment.
– Don’t state the obvious. -Things like “Are you blind?” Irk me to no end. “No, my nose pressed against my phone helps me get good reception.”
–Don’t question my intelligence– My eyes might not work correctly and it effects my ability to read small print or cursive writting. It doesn’t mean I don’t understand the context of what is written, I just can’t see it. Plain and simple. Make the print bigger, print instead of write, and offer to help read to me. Which brings up my next point.
–Help Me! – Some things are just not in my control when it comes to the print handed to me. I am struggling and if I ask for help, kindly offer it. Don’t belittle me because I’m having a hard time. I’m sorry I’m such an inconvenience. But sometimes, things like this are an inconvenience to me. Be helpful and patient.
–Go easy on the questions– I am the kind of person who doesn’t appreciate having to answer so many questions about what I deal with. I am a “Cliff Notes” kind of girl and perfer to answer the bare basic facts about my condition. Unless I know you on a personal level, I’d rather keep the conversation people focused and leave the disabilty as a second thought. Now, in this case, your results may vary depending on the personality of the person. I’m more of an introvert and need to get to know you better before I answer any questions in detail. Now if you’re a child, I might tweak that train of thought a bit. Children are curious and that’s a good learning opportunity for them to learn.
–Introduce yourself to me, even if I already know you.– Face recognition is not one of my many traits. If you are staring at me because you might know me or get mad because I don’t acknowledge you, don’t take it personal. I just can’t see who you are. Even when you wear a name tag, it still doesn’t help. Treat me like a new friend every time until I can pin point who you are by voice or repetition.
Again, and I can’t stress this enough. A visual impairment effects my eyes only. Not my intelligence.
And although I may not see you doing it, I know you’re there. It’s like a sixth sense. Come up and say hi. Treat me like a person first. Ask questions if needed but don’t make it a big deal. Focus on what I can do, worry about the rest later.