Do’s And Don’ts When Interacting With A Blind Person

Humans are curious by nature and that’s why we get into the trouble that we do consistently. Our curiosity can lead to some wonderful finds and knowledge and at the same time lead us into a dangerous situation. Thankfully we have intuition and common sense to help protect us from most dangers.

Curiosity can also appear in just everyday normal circumstances that normally wouldn’t be such a big deal but thanks to language and the lack of understanding, curiosity can even get us in trouble in these small situations as well.

If you are blind or visually impaired and use a white cane then you have probably heard the following question at some point, “Do you need help?” For me this question as it is phrased has a deeper meaning from the inquisitor than most probably know.
Now, listen to the question again but this time worded differently, “If you need any help, just let me know.” In both instances I’m sure the questioner is coming from a good place but after hearing the second version of the question, there is a clear deeper meaning behind someone who thinks you need help right off the bat versus the truly selfless person who is just honestly offering their help if you were to need it. The second question allows and disarms any confrontation of assumption that the blind individual needs help. Imagine hearing that question everyday for the rest of your life. Try and let that sink in for a minute. On a one on one moment it may not seem like a big deal but when the questioner gets a snap remark from someone who has heard this question all of their life, it should not be such a wonder why this blind person just snapped on them.
The second questioner understands on a deeper level of human interaction and social interactions and understands that there are other people with feelings beyond themselves.
The first questioner is most likely a self serving type whether it be subtle or on a more demanding selfish intent.
Obviously not all people are exactly this way but like I started off in this article, that is why we also have intuition and common sense to help us determine these types of situations.

So, if you got triggered during this article as one of the questioners then I would say, “No, I don’t want your help.” However if you are the second questioner then I would respond with, “That’s thoughtful of you and thanks. I’ll let you know when I do.”

Moral of the story? Every blind person is different and some of us can communicate easier than others. Some have had to put up with these questions all their life and are just tired of hearing it from the angle it is asked. Don’t take it personal when you get a rude comeback response from a blind person. You probably just don’t know much about how to talk to people in general. There is nothing wrong with wanting to help someone who may look like they need help but when it comes from a place of selfish reasons like an ego boost then it really doesn’t help anyone and can actually get someone hurt.

Imagine you are walking up to an intersection and you see a blind person just standing there even though the crossing signal may have come and gone for them so you approach them and ask the question. Simple right? Not exactly.
Try and put yourself in their shoes for a moment and think how it would be for someone without sight standing at a busy intersection crosswalk. The first available sense is hearing. What would they possibly be listening for? Patterns. Specifically traffic patterns and the time that parallel traffic and perpendicular traffic cycles through.
One of the things my orientation and mobility instructor taught me was that people are ok to talk to for the most part and don’t be embarrassed to ask someone for assistance when you need it and I think that is common sense so if you had an O&M instructor that did not tell you this then you might want to get some new training. Point being that we as blind people are perfectly capable of asking for help. There is no medal or award or positive check mark waiting for you at the Pearly Gates so stop trying to do things for yourself rather than doing good things from your heart.

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