10 Things you shouldn't say to a blind person
It is difficult for sighted people to imagine what a blind or visually impaired person is going through. Naturally, we get curious and would like to know more about their disability. It might not be your intention, but some things aren’t nice to say. Here are 10 things you shouldn’t say to a blind or visually impaired person. Always stay respectful!
1. How many fingers am I holding up?
It is plain rude to ask people who are blind or visually impaired this question. It comes from the curiosity to ‘check’ how blind they actually are. You are implying that you need validation in order to believe them. But, you don’t have the right to ask someone this question. Even if they were to answer, correctly or incorrectly, it doesn’t validate their disability.
2. I feel so sorry for you
We, as humans, don’t like it when people pity us. This goes the same for people who are blind or visually impaired. Just treat them like you would everyone else. By saying you feel sorry for them you assume they don’t live their life like anyone else does. They have adapted to their life with sight loss. That doesn’t require sympathy for people with regular vision. It is crucial to understand that living with blindness means you have a different life. It does not mean your life is worthless.
3. It’s over there
People who are blind or visually impaired will not understand where ‘over there is. For all they know, it could literally be anywhere around them. If you want to tell them where they can find something, be specific. Help them locate an item or destination by giving them directions. Such as it is directly in front of you or it is about two meters to your left. By doing that you give someone the independence of locating it, without them having to guess or ask for help.
4. Do you need help?
Being helpful and offering assistance is a great quality to have. That is not what we mean by asking people who are blind and visually impaired if they need help. It depends on the situation. If you see a person struggling with a task and you are able to offer your help, it is always nice to do so. The thing is, don’t ask this question right away. Sighted people might assume that someone needs assistance when people who are blind or visually impaired are quite capable of doing the task themselves. If you don’t see that a blind person needs help and they don’t ask for it, don’t assume that they need it. You wouldn’t assume the same thing with sighted people.
5. You don’t look blind
There is not one specific look a person who is blind or visually impaired should look like. Everyone is unique in their own way. Saying this also implies that it is a compliment. But why would you take it as a compliment when you are told that you don’t look like something, that you are? Another issue with this statement is that you don’t always see a person’s disability on the outside. That doesn’t make the disability less validated.
6. Is there a cure?
If there was a cure for their disability, they probably would have already gotten it. It’s meant with good intentions; you would wish there was a cure for them. But not all people who are blind or visually impaired want to have a cure. Some people have been living with sight loss for a long time, some even their entire life. Constantly thinking about cures and ways to ‘get better’ set them back in the process of accepting their disability and living their life.
7. Guess who?
This is very rude to say. The idea that people who suffer from sight loss have better hearing doesn’t apply to everyone. Some people might experience an improvement in other senses, some don’t. Besides that, it is very difficult to guess who someone is just by hearing their voice. Even if people who are blind or visually impaired recognize your voice, you shouldn’t put them on the spot by having them guess. You should just introduce yourself when walking into a room or starting a conversation.
8. How do you live?
Asking this question implies that they don’t get to live their lives like any other person. People who are blind or visually impaired have learned to adapt to their lifestyle and can live their life perfectly fine. If you are interested to know what adjustments they might have and what makes their life different from sighted people, ask them in a respectful way. For instance, ask them what adjustments have had a positive impact on their lives.
9. You can’t see, you don’t need to … (do your hair, get dressed, wear make-up)
You should let anyone do what makes them happy. You are not entitled to tell someone what they should or shouldn’t do based on their disability. If they like to do a certain activity or task, let them do it. Just because people who are blind or visually impaired don’t see their own physical appearance, doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy looking good. Sighted people don’t see themselves every minute of every single day and we get dressed, do our hair and make-up. It makes us feel better so why shouldn’t that be the same for people that suffer from sight loss?
10. Do you ever do … by mistake? (eat something wrong, bump into things)
The curiosity in us sometimes gets the better of us. Because we don’t know what it’s like to do everyday tasks without our vision, we want to understand what it’s like. But don’t try and get answers by asking this question. You are assuming that they are incapable of performing certain tasks. While people who are blind or visually impaired are often independent and live a normal life. Even if they did struggle with some things or they have previously knocked over a vase or bumped into a table. It might make them feel uncomfortable or insecure talking about it.
So, ten things you shouldn’t say to people who are blind or visually impaired. We hope that by reading this blog you gained a bit more insight into some saying that could come the wrong way. Don’t let this discourage you to ask questions, show interest, and learning more about people’s disabilities. Be considerate of a person’s feelings and stay respectful!