Blindness For Dumbies


Blindness for Dumbies

     "Dumb, Dumb, Dumb!" I thought, not daring to say it aloud to this guy who without asking, had just taken my arm and tried to help me cross the street. I know people like him mean well and I don't wish to offend him, but for heaven's sakes, "DUMB!" Where is their common sense? Why is blindness so, so … mind numbing or dummying? I mean, this sighted guy can't even believe what he sees; he'd just followed me across one street that I negotiated without any assistance and now he's asking me if I need help crossing the next one?

     "No thank you, I'm okay." I was thinking while talking, here was a window of opportunity, I'd try and do a little education. "These downtown streets are pretty easy, I don't need any assistance crossing them. But, if we were out where the highway intersects with this same street, over there it can get really wild and loud, then I might be asking you for help. But here, no. The way you do it if you're blind, you use a modified version of the old classic 'Stop, Look and Listen,' it's a 'Stop, Listen and Think'."

     The traffic changed and before I stepped out I said, "Thanks again for asking, that was nice. So watch if you need to, but learn."

     Later, after shopping, I met up with my daughter for lunch. "Busy," Mag said, offering her arm. "I think they'll have to take us way in the back, through a maze of tables."

     "Afternoon, ladies," a female voice said at our booths opening. "First let me tell you about today's specials …" And she did, looking back and forth between the two of us. Then with her voice directed to my daughter she said, "What can I get for you today?"

     She was smooth, competent, but I started to pay a little more attention to her. I mean, with my gray hair and more mature looks, I was obviously the older of the two of us and as we all know, the norm for the code of social decorum would have dictated she would look to me first. However, I kept quiet, being nice, giving her the benefit of the doubt. And when still looking at my daughter she started to say, "And what would your ...," I just knew what her next word was going to be so I jumped in. "Yes if you please, I'd like the special, with coffee. Thank you." Then as an afterthought, added, "Decaf."

     "Whoops, she didn't get that last part! She's gone, Mom." Laughing a little, Mag continued, "When she was taking our orders I could tell you could see that one coming. Isn't it sad how dumb people can be about a disability." She paused, then, "You know, maybe you guys should put out a how-to-do book, like … ah, 'Blindness for Dummies'. The first items could be, 'Don't be a dummy and think the blind person needs someone to talk for them'. And, 'Don't be a dummy and walk off without telling the blind person you are leaving'. What do you think, Mom?"


e-mail responses to

**1. It seems to me that we send mixed messages to the public. On the one hand we make fun of, or get frustrated with, the waitress who speaks to the other person. The message we are trying to deliver is, "Just treat me like anyone else. Follow the rules of ordinary social decorum."

Then, we change all the basic rules by saying that the sighted person should notify us when he or she walks away. Really? Is that what we want to do? I mean, yes, it's a bit embarrassing to speak to somebody who isn't there, but, do I really want society to learn a special set of rules for interacting with me? I think not. My blindness is for me to deal with, not the rest of society, unless I can find no other solution.

I feel the same way about the teaching of sighted guide (as it's called) techniques. I don't want the sighted public to be taught such things accept as a momentary matter when I say, "Here, I'll take your arm if you don't mind." The rest of the technique is for me to manage. If I'm still using my cane instead of regarding myself as a piece of baggage, "Here, I'll take your arm" is quite enough instruction.

Then there are those who say that instructions like: "Tell the blind person when you enter a room that you're there. State your name." I guess what I'm trying to say is that if there's going to be a "blindness for dummies" book, it ought to place most of the responsibility on the blind person and as little on people who are sighted. We deal with blindness every day and should be the experts, not expecting people who can see to give it much thought. The more thought they have to give blindness, the less likely they will be to regard us as normal people who happen to be blind. The less thought they give blindness, the more likely they will be to hire us, or socialize with us.

Mike Bullis Baltimore Maryland

**2. It appears to me that we human types all suffer from the same disability. The medical term is, Centerus Universia. In layman's language it means, "the world revolves around me". We who are afflicted, and that is most all of us, have the delusion that, since we are the center of the known universe, everybody in the entire world should know everything about us, and how to treat us. Never mind that we don't know much of anything about them. It is the same disabling condition that spawned Kings, Emperors, Czars, Sun Gods and the like. All attention and consideration must be paid to me, for I am the Great One. And if you don't understand that, you are offensive in my sight. It must be some sort of a bug. How else can we explain such a strange illness. One that leaves us incapable of understanding that other people have many things going on in their lives and knowing how to act around a blind person is not one of their areas of expertise? But whatever else, it is not a matter of being dumb. Nor is it a case of not caring. Most anyone of us, suddenly caught in an unfamiliar situation, are apt to act as if our brain flew out our ears. We want to believe that we can teach the world how to treat us. But we are such a tiny number of folks in this huge population. What real chance is there in our changing societies attitudes when they still struggle with their beliefs about people of color, or different Faiths? We would do better to attempt to train our own blind brothers and sisters in how to treat those who bumble and fumble in our presence.

Carl Jarvis ACB-L listserv

**3. No matter what group we belong to, or associate ourselves with, we always seem to wish that others were more aware and understanding of us and our particular situations -- as if we and our group were, for some astounding reason that should be obvious to everyone, somehow more worthy and deserving of such attention than literally any of the other millions of special interest groups that exist in the world. And when we realize that we are not particularly special in the eyes of anyone else, we actually find ourselves to be somewhat dumfounded and dismayed.

"Everyone should already know," the thought begins, "about us and our particular needs and wants. And if they don't, then that's downright rude and inconsiderate of them. Someone ought to teach them!"

Yeah, and this should be a perfect world, too. But it isn't, and it never will be. So get over it.

Just what is it that makes us and our particular needs and wants so special anyway? Should our desires supersede those of everyone else?

And just who is going to take the time, money and effort to educate the other six billion of us who also happen to inhabit this planet?

What about the war crimes that are taking place in Darfur? What about the price of oil? What about the Middle East? What about the economy? Surely these and hundreds of thousands of other things deserve a place in the consciousness and concerns of all of us. And if matters of this magnitude seem to go unnoticed, or appear to be of little concern to most people, then what is it about our pet project that makes it so all-fired important and deserving to be at the top of everyone's Google search?

In the grand scheme of things, everything is important, and nothing really is.

George Cassell RPlist

**4. I don't think a dummy book would work. The people who most need to read it are the ones who would never see it, never buy it, never read it if you gave it to them, and never believe it if someone read it to them.

The people who would read it are people who don't need to. Either they already know what you'd write in such a book, or they know that they could ask about what they know that they don't know. They might not know how to ask, but generally we know when someone wants to ask, and probably even anticipate the question. And generally, we're happy to answer it too.

T. Joseph Carter NFB NABS Mailing List

**5. Not a bad idea. If only we could figure out how to get people to read such a book. I think the dumbest of the dummies don't read.

Mary Ellen Ottman Daytona Beach

**6. I am a very independent blind person and yet in my 70 years, I have not fully educated to the abilities of a blind person to my own siblings, children, relatives and friends. I do not go through life believing it is my job to teach and train everyone about blindness, but rather I go through life living it to the fullest and letting others extract from my life what they choose to.

Albert Morlock ACB-L listserv

**7. People are amazing!" Just when you think I have heard it all" You here comments like, Look at that blind dog isn't it cute! Or Does the dog know when the light is green? Maybe they think one bark for red! and two barks for green! Yes it is time one writes a book and soon!!


**8. If anybody would read it!!!

People just seem to have their preconceived ideas about disabilities. I have found through diligent examples and association with a person who has a disability, people are willing to see you as human. Sometimes a bit of training doesn't hurt. I feel things will only get better for us if we continue to go about our daily activities in the public eye, educating those we come in contact with gently. and keep going. My husband and I, both blind, went to a restaurant near our home for breakfast recently. The young waitress placed my order of coffee near the edge of the table. She did not mention she'd put it down or anything. Smelling the drink I reached forward for it. only to almost bump it off the edge onto my dog. When the other waitress came by I asked her to mention to the young lady to next time just say she's putting our order down and not place it at the edge. I've encountered that same young lady since. She was very polite and did say what she was about.


**9. This one is easy, for me!

Sometimes, dealing with people can get a little frustrating. I always encounter people who don't know about blindness; want to take my arm rather than offering theirs; talking to a sighted person who is with me, etc. But, over the years, I've learned to not let this bother me. I just work with the situation. It's always an opportunity for a little education, and that's the best way to teach them.

I believe we always have to remember that, even though we are familiar with other blind people, and perhaps our circle of friends is largely blind; many sighted people have never come in contact with a blind person. They have no first-hand experience. So, they're not dummies. They have just never had the need to know about assisting a blind person.

On the other hand, I've met some people who were no more familiar with blind people than the "dummies", but who had great insight into why I ask them to let me take their arm, rather than allow them to grab mine. They seem to understand, very easily, why my cane is as long as it is, and it doesn't seem unusual to them.

So, while a booklet might help people, if they're distributed wisely, I believe there is no real replacement for the one on one, personal education we can give, gently, through our daily lives.

Sometimes, it might be hard, because we're busy or don't want to take the time. But, it's not really much time, and I believe the lesson will stay with the person much longer than something they've read in a book.

Cindy Handel Willow Street, PA

**10. I have been in both of those situations. I was given some advice long ago by a mobility instructor, and that was if someone offers assistance, take it. He said the reason being that there might be a time when you really do need assistance and someone is going to stand back and think to themselves, she has never wanted help before, so I'm not going to offer. While I agree that educating someone is a good idea, I can see both sides to this issue. As for the restaurant thing, I would have done exactly the same thing. I don't appreciate when people talk around me as if I am not there. A Blindness for Dummies book might not be a bad idea, problem is if someone is too dumb to read it.

Toni & Lenore

**11. I think it's simpler than this. If it's rude, don't do it! If it's rude to grab a sighted person out of the blue, why is it not rude to do it to a blind person? The double standard is the problem, not the need to educate people. I personally don't choose the task of educating the sighted people I come across who are particularly ignorant--I move on and leave them behind as nicely and frictionless as possible, but it's not my responsibility to educate them as to how blind people do things--I don't know how most blind people do things, and I'm too busy with my own life and agenda to stop and educate every person. Drop in the bucket; why bother? The only education that is needed is respect for each other--nothing to do with blindness or using a wheelchair or deafness or anything else--if it's rude, it's rude. No excuses.

Mark BurningHawk

**12. Loved this month's thought provoker. There's only one problem: Those who desperately need to read a book titled "Blindness For Dummies
" will never even give a thought to reading such a book.

Kimberly in KC

**13. A lot of this stuff is more of the same, tired issues that most blind people talk about. However, not everyone is that ignorant. I've been having conversations with a blind woman named Kelly, and I tell her what I've learned. She kept saying, "Finally! Somebody understands me!"

What you guys need is an ambassador.

David Lafleche

**14. How about this one? You are walking down the street towards the mailbox a block and a half away from you and some well-meaning sightie tells you you are headed for the levee and turns you completely around? You end up lost, and someone else like the trashman comes along in his truck, stops and asks you where you want to go. The trashman tells you to turn around and head back in the right direction and then you realize you are finally heading to the mailbox to send off the outgoing mail. There is another tip for Blindness for Dummies. Why do people delight in getting us lost in our own neighborhoods or anywhere where we happen to be walking? That's another reason why I am afraid to walk around the neighborhood. Coupled with a hearing loss, being turned around or given wrong directions really make me very nervous and unsure of myself. What do they gain from doing that to u?


**15. I have had the problem of people not paying any attention to me when my wife and I sit in a restaurant and the wait staff attempts to take our orders. It's like I don't exist. I can never understand this activity. The same even happens in a doctors office. When my wife comes in with me, every question is addressed to her, even thought I am the patient. Just unbelievable. Do people believe that because I am blind, I am also unable to speak or hear?

John S. Thomas, Pine Island Florida

**16. Been there, done that, couldn't find the T-shirt to buy it.


**17. I send your thought provokers around to others, and this is one from Edwin Cooney that you might want to publish. He said I could pass it along to you. I'm very much in sympathy with both the crossing street story and the restaurant story. However, it's just possible that our gray-haired Granny has missed a step in her crossing street story. One of the things that bothers sighted people a lot is when we veer ever-so-slightly out of the cross-walk whether we veer toward parallel traffic or toward the cars that are waiting at the red light Hence they see a problem that we have little sense about. If we veer, even ever-so-little, they think we've had serious trouble crossing the previous street--even if we don't think so. Many times I hear my fellow pedestrians gasp when I am crossing the street and at times someone will shout "be careful sir" or someone will blow his or her horn if I get too close to their automobile. (Sometimes--I suspect--it's because they're afraid of what my gently arching cane may do to their "beautiful wax job.") This lady's points are well taken except for one vital matter. We are often as ignorant about other people's disabilities as they are about ours. Even worse, we don't realize it primarily because we're so wrapped up in our own.

Edwin Cooney, Alameda Ca.

**18. It would be just as easy for a waitress to say, "I'll put in your order right now", and you'd know she's leaving. Other irritants: Hollering at you. You're blind, not deaf. Pointing and saying, "Oh just go past the flabberding and take a right by the rest rooms. You can't miss it. "It's over there."

etc. etc. etc.

Carolyn Gold FL USA

**19. I agree that a book for sighted would be helpful. While in college, I learned quite a bit about the blind while dating a blind girl. I can remember many lessons she taught me, especially about holding her arm while walking. It is indeed an art and a science to be able to communicate the upcoming three-dimensional objects to someone who cannot see. However, in line with your episode about crossing the street...I was coming out of a bank is SW Washington, DC one day and was having difficulty myself seeing where the sidewalk ended and the parking lot began, And, if that were not bad enough, the traffic pattern was very bizarre for the vehicles in the lot. I noticed an older woman with a cane headed into the parking lot, thinking, I am sure, that she was on the sidewalk. Remembering my other experiences, I approached her as asked if I could be of assistance and where was she going. As I thought, she was going to the bank I just came from, but was headed 90 degrees away from the entrance. After telling her that the entrance was, essentially, to her right and behind her, I was able to guide her by using her arm (gently of course) to the entrance. She used her cane
to "discover" the relatively low curb separating the sidewalk and the parking lot.

Ralph RP in Dale City RPlist

**20. Hey, all the power to you! If you write a book called Blindness For Dummies, the "dummy" name will catch peoples eye. There are several very popular books on the market that are written like that. I bet you could ask all of us to add to the many pages that it would take to cover the important stuff.

Ron Balton MA

**21. Where to begin? I think the number one thing to tell people is that we who are blind or visually-impaired are just like anyone else in society, in that we come in all different flavors. Some of us have been blind all our lives and have therefore never known what it is like to see, while others have lost their sight later in life. This loss of sight could be due to an illness of some sort or injuries sustained in a car accident, etc. Some of us only have light perception, while others have enough vision to sense colors or objects close up. There is no "right or wrong" to blindness. For instance some people travel with the assistance of a guide dog, while some of us prefer the long white cane to aid in getting around. Some of us choose to watch a movie or television program with audio descriptions, while others may not like the audio descriptions and may in fact find them very interfering. There are a whole host of other things I could mention here, but the important thing to remember is this. Treat us just as you would want one of us to treat you. I think it should be up to each individual to decide whether they want to know when a person is entering or leaving the room, but personally I find this most helpful in preventing the person who is blind or visually-impaired from talking to someone who isn't really there. To summarize, just be yourself around someone with low or no sight, because we are human beings too. We are not at all contagious--you will not contract our visual impairment. Don't be afraid to say "see you later," or any such thing. I have occasionally found that certain people get very up-tight about their visual impairment, and are therefore rather arrogant and self-serving. I personally find this not only most annoying, but I also think it makes the questioner feel very uncomfortable and unwelcome in the presence of somebody who is blind or visually-impaired. For example, a complete stranger might come up to me on the street and strike up a conversation about my blindness. The last thing I'd want to do is turn that person off by yelling and screaming at them in an attempt to get rid of them. I am proud of who I am, and I'm not in the least bit ashamed to be blind. We need to educate people in the skills of blindness, and we need to do so with common sense and courtesy. Finally, please do accept us into your circle. We are nice people, or at least the majority of us are nice people and fun to be around.

Jake Joehl

**22. I've heard sighted people say that they're afraid to offer help to a blind person because someone got angry with them at one time and now ... I've done my share of spouting off to people. Once a girl was helping me navigate a familiar sidewalk and I was letting her do it rather than explain things as did the woman in this story. Then the girl said, "you probably don't know your right from your left."

My response was, "true; I can't tell up from down or front from back, either." This snippy response benefited no one (though I felt happy delivering it at the time). She may not wish to help another who really needs it. Yet, I'm equally certain that people don't often listen when things are being explained. They're so nervous about a mishap such as tripping or stumbling their thoughts aren't on my comments. So, while I'm usually not in a mood to become the great educator for every person who missteps in a store, in a restaurant or on the street, I take each incident as it comes and these days I give people a little information in the friendliest way I can, when I perceive they're really listening.


**23. This is an idea that has been presented in previous Thought provokers, and honestly, I don't understand why anyone would be so offended an upset by someone trying to help. How is a person suppose to know that a blind individual needs no assistance when crossing the street, but needs help maneuvering through a restaurant? Be glad that there are still people willing to help someone. I once held a door for a woman who was behind me. She refused to enter and mumbled something about not needing any help from a man. I offered her the chance to carry my groceries, but she didn't think that was funny. The waitress at the restaurant is in need of training. Her actions were rude, but again, don't let it ruin your day. Most servers receive little formal training in proper decorum. I'll bet that less than ten percent of servers know that the old lady gets to order first. The daughter should have deferred to her mother, if it's such a big deal, and the lack of a tip might let the waitress know that she had done something wrong.


**24. I think the first one should actually be, don't make assumptions, ask. People who are new to the blindness gig, senior citizens with little or no access to instruction may actually need more help. Some people who were born blind have more difficulty orienting than others. Looking at the world through a haze or a crack can make some things tougher than one would expect while hearing loss, balance issues or glaring light can complicate things too. So, not all blind people are at the same level of competence or skill at this blindness game. What usually makes me lose my sense of humor and willingness to educate is the person who just assumes I am helpless. I went to a church for five years and one evening at a potluck event, four people complimented my sighted husband on the dish I had brought. Needless to say they didn't mean to offend me, but it made me start to look for a new church. They never bothered to find out that I like to cook and at that time did all of the cooking for my family. I am fine with being asked questions honestly as long as they are not something rude they wouldn't ask a sighted person. So when in doubt, ask.

deAnna Quietwater MO USA

**25. So very few people offer assistance, why not grin and bear it. When at the other side, thank the person with enthusiasm, appreciation, and good humor. These folks think they are doing a good deed and should not be led astray. That person you need at the noisy area is probably the same person you turned down. Kindness begets kindness. Have a sense of humor and add it to your "war stories" for retelling hysterically later. The solution to a restaurant is different. Tell the waitress you are paying for the meal, talk to you, tap you on the shoulder when she is leaving, and present you with the check. Mention you will tip accordingly. Then do so. Compassion, kindness, good humor, human warmth, and politeness are the means to combat ignorance. That person helping you across the street might be the one who needs help. He might be one step away from suicide and a rebuff might send him over: Not even a blind person will let him assist: What worth does he have, etc. Can't even do a good deed without a reproof. Tsk.Tsk. This is not good. Show appreciation, laugh inside, see the funny side of things, and enjoy the human touch for a bit. "Help" the ignorant along, why not?

Dr. Scott Wendell Bray

**26. I kind of understand the lady's frustration with the way some people relate to those of us who are blind. Looking back at my experiences during the last fifty plus years, some were rather humorous, such as the time that a restaurant server talked to my dog instead of me or my friend, who uses a wheelchair. Frankly, many people, including some who are blind themselves, don't understand and are fearful of blindness. As a result, I believe that they think, "I'm fearful and can't cope with such a condition, so that blind person surely cannot." As someone once said, people tend to believe anything that is negative. The capable blind person may be seen as "super blind", where as the incapable and apparently helpless one is considered the usual. Many years ago, I developed the following rather simplified informational sheet for hotel staff, when conducting sensitivity orientation sessions. Of course, this is my view and not everyone agrees. I try to see each instance as an opportunity to educate, rather than one to criticize the inappropriate actions.

Doug Hall FL USA

**27. In the 1970s, I taught blind and visually impaired students at a school for the Blind and a few of my colleagues were also sight impaired. As a result, I did learn a lot from them. However, I was sighted then, so I really didn't understand blindness as I do now. As the old saying goes, "You don't really understand someone unless you have walked in their shoes." I am learning to be patient with people, most of whom don't normally have any contact with blind persons and I have noted that most do tend to learn fairly quickly how to act and react around those of us with diminished eyesight. If some kind person offers me assistance, I now accept their help, even if I don't need it; if I refuse, they will probably be reluctant to extend their generosity to the next blind person they meet and that individual may really need their assistance. Furthermore, it probably makes the sighted one feel good and they will likely have a better day as a result.

Just my 2 cents worth.

Don Moore RPlist

**28. I must say first that the term "Dummies" is a rather strong term. I don't even like those titles like "Windows for Dummies". Perhaps the real term to be used instead is "For Those Who Would Like To Learn More". Thus, such a title would be "Windows for Those Who Would Like to learn More" or, in this case, "Blindness for Those Who would like to learn more." Yes, it is a rather long and wordy term, but It sounds more palatable to my ears and seeing it on paper or on a screen. Second, what is defined as "dumb" by one person may not be defined as "dumb" by someone else. Just because the first person in the narrative can easily manage the streets in the downtown area better than streets being intersected by highways does not mean that the next blind person is able to manage the
"easy" streets as easily as the first person could. Perhaps the sighted man saw another blind person previously have difficulty with one or both crossings, refused to ask for assistance, and nearly got hit by oncoming traffic. When the sighted man saw this person in the narrative, he decided that he would offer assistance so that a near-miss wouldn't be repeated. At least the person was not rude to the man offering assistance. What it boils down to is that there really isn't a one size fits all. I have had many experiences similar to the one the mother and her daughter had in the coffee shop. Of course, I spoke up immediately with my order. Likewise, John has had the same experiences when we've gone out to eat. He and I decided to go to Red Lobster for Valentine's Day dinner eleven years ago. We walked into the restaurant with my cane in hand and he in his wheelchair. Once we were seated and had looked over the menu, the waitress returned to take our orders. She confidently asked me what I would like. However, when it came to taking John's order, the waitress asked me what he would like. I responded and smiled, "Hell if I know. You'll have to ask him." I honestly couldn't remember the name of the platter John was ordering, which was rather embarrassing. It worked out anyway because it gave him a window of opportunity to give the waitress his order just as I had given mine. Even if I had actually remembered what he was ordering, my response would've still been the same. We never went to another Red Lobster since; not because of our experience when we were ordering our food, but because the service and the food were terrible. It was near the last Holiday season when John was going to physical therapy sessions in hopes of finding devices to fit his legs that might help him walk better. He was given a brace for his right leg, which did not work out for him. We returned to the physical therapist with the brace in hand and showed her the blisters he had developed on his feet. As we were telling her about the blisters and how I had instructed him to soak his foot in very hot water, the therapist commented that the blisters weren't seeping with infection. When I told her that I didn't see any seeping, either, she replied, "well, of course, you wouldn't see it seeping because you cannot see." Then, she suddenly corrected her statement by saying, "Well, I suppose you could see. You just see with your hands." I could've taken her comment as an insult and shot back at her. Instead, I figured that she was either not thinking about what she was saying, or she sincerely didn't think of the concept of seeing as seeing through other senses of feel, smell, listening, etc. until she corrected herself. It's similar to when people ask, "Did you see that movie on TV the other day?": If I did see it, I'll automatically reply that I did. Even when people correct themselves to say that I "listened to the movie", I'll correct them that I still use the word "see" in my vocabulary. Even I, as a blind person, had to learn how to use the words "see" and "read" in different ways when I was little. I think I was about ten years old when my mother and I were at a friend's house. One of the adults in the house was blind. She was arranging her plants and repotting them. Curious with what she was doing, I asked her about the plants and how you repot a plant that was already in a pot. She said as she moved the tray towards me, "Here, see?" She knew that I was also blind, but I couldn't understand why she used the term "see". When I asked her, she explained how seeing comes in different forms through other senses. About a year later, my vision teacher and I were talking about books because I had to do a book report for class. Somewhere in the conversation, she said, "As you read the book...". Since the book was on cassette, I asked her, "Wouldn't I say that I'm listening to the book?" Like in the incident with the plants, my vision teacher explained that reading comes in different forms--reading Braille or print, or listening to a book on cassette--because the same concentration needed when you read a book in Braille or in print is the same concentration needed when you're listening to a book on cassette. You are not only reading and/or hearing the words, but you have to understand the plot of the story, know the characters, etc. What it comes down to in my illustration of different events I've experienced is that the best book is us through conversations with people, or actually writing books about our experiences and how we handle them.


**29. A how-to-do book couldn't hurt. I suspect, however, that its effect would be minimal. Consider how little most of us know about, say, diabetes -- until we have it! (grin)

Mike Freeman NFB NOBE Mailing List

**30. Thanks for sharing. I had a great one last Thursday. I have a new group of students the last period of the day. One of my students said that he had a bunch of questions. He said, "Please, I hope you don't mind that I ask dumb questions."

"No," I replied. "There is no such thing as a dumb question." My Para, Denora, was in the room too, helping students.

"Well, I have a question." was the response. "So, does Denora live with you and take care of you?"

I know you are not supposed to laugh at students, but I had to chuckle. I explained to the student that I was married and had a 13-year-old daughter.

"I just thought you needed someone to take care of you," he said. "My mom has cancer and has a nurse come in and take care of her," he went on to say.

I shared this with my wife. We both got a chuckle, but as she said, "It's too bad people still have this image of blind people." I am glad that this situation took place, so I could use it as a teaching moment.

Darrell Walla NFB NOBE Mailing List

**31. I think it is a good idea to write a how to book on what to do when talking to blind people. I have been talking to some one and have had them walk away from me countless times and find it very annoying. well those are my thoughts.

from Mich Verrier from New Liskeard Ontario Canada

**32. This thought-provoker brings up more questions for me than it answers. I like the idea of the book but there have been books, brochures and a myriad of other publications like this over the years and people either don't read them or don't pay attention when they do. Now,

here's the 64000 dollar question. How did the idea that blindness makes us dumb and unable to make decisions become so firmly entrenched in the fabric of our society? It is so imprinted in sighted people's DNA and maybe even blind people's DNA as well that no amount of education helps them to get rid of it or helps us to be less afraid of going out in public.

I believe that what happens is very similar to what the blind mom in this example did. She spoke up with a powerful voice but not a loud one. Yes, it's our voices not the words that are printed in a book that will change the hearts and minds of the sighted as well as of the fearful blind. When we stop being too strident or too mute, that's when the people who treat us as the waitress and the fellow pedestrian did will get the message. It's about steady, powerful voices.

Sincerely, Chris Coulter ACB-L listserv

**33. Your story is typical, I'm afraid, of so many situations. But both the Braille library in L.A. and the CCB office have hand-outs which tell people how to work with the blind.

Patricia LaFrance-Wolf

**34. I might have excepted the man's help crossing the street out of politeness. The lunch situation is typical of most sighted people. I sometimes talk to people that have walked away. I have learned to only speak when spoken to unless I know the person is sitting near me. I can only see shadows, and light perception. I think sighted people some times treat us as if we do not know anything. Thanks for the opportunity to respond.

Edwin Yakubowski

**35. A book by the name "Blindness for Dummies" might be a good addition to what is out there for people to read. We all know that not everyone will read the same things, and so this "dummy" one might catch some people's eye. So get to it!

Marsha Wright

**36. It is amazing how this one really get me going. First we blind people feel that we do not need any help and the sight think we need help. Each side have there points. We want to be independence but we forget our manner at time. The sight person does not ask how to guide us first they want to take bear hug hold us so we cannot move properly. We feel we beyond help. Now each side can teach each other but we fail to respond correctly. Person whom want to help if we say no they feel we are reject there help. If we accept we feel we can do it without help.Yes, I repeating myself. We bind need accept the help and show our appreciate that someone want to held us. You know allot people will not held us at all. Oh that poor blind person. Make someone day let them serve you. Of course there are limit there also. Be patient that one thing blind people sometime forget to have with sight people. This one thou helping hand that want to move things around in your house or room figure that would be so much better. Will you leave things where there are. After they leave you spend next several hours found move item back where you had it. Both side need to learn from each other how to help. Good manner and common sense go long ways.

Dexter Terry

**37. Hmm I've thought about doing that one, anyone willing to help me out on that? I'm thinking about doing in a audio drama style also. Well I liked this one allot, gave me allot of ideas.

Sean Moore
Contact information

**38. Perhaps a little humor would be well placed in this case. This is an article I received many years ago, but its point remains pretty current.

Jeff Altman


People who use their eyes to receive information about the world are called sighted people or "people who are sighted." Legal "sight" means any visual acuity greater than 20/200 in the better eye without correction or an angle of vision wider than 20 degrees. Sighted people enjoy rich full lives, working, playing and raising families. They run businesses, hold public office and teach your children!


People who are sighted may walk or ride public transportation, but most choose to travel long distances by operating their own motor vehicles. They have gone through many hours of training to learn the "rules of the road" in order to further their independence. Once that road to freedom has been mastered, sighted people earn a legal classification and a "Driver's License" which allows them to operate a private vehicle safely and independently.


Sighted people are accustomed to viewing the world in visual terms. This means that in many situations, they will not be able to communicate orally and may resort to pointing or other gesturing. Subtle facial expressions may also be used to convey feelings in social situations. Calmly alert the sighted person to his surroundings by speaking slowly, in a normal tone of voice. Questions directed at the sighted person help focus attention back on the verbal rather than visual communication. At times, sighted people may need help finding things, especially when operating a motor vehicle. Your advance knowledge of routes and landmarks, particularly bumps in the road, turns and traffic lights, will assist the "driver" in finding the way quickly and easily. Your knowledge of building layouts can also assist the sighted person in navigating complex shopping malls and offices. Sighted people tend to be very proud and will not ask directly for assistance. Be gentle yet firm.


The person who is sighted relies exclusively on visual information. His or her attention span fades quickly when reading long texts. Computer information is presented in a "Graphical User Interface" or GUI. Coordination of hands and eyes is often a problem for sighted people, so the computer mouse, a handy device that slides along the desk top, saves confusing keystrokes. With one button, the sighted person can move around his or her computer screen quickly and easily. People who are sighted are not accustomed to synthetic speech and may have great difficulty understanding even the clearest synthesizer. Be patient and prepared to explain many times how your computer equipment works.


Sighted people read through a system called "Print." this is a series of images drawn in a two dimensional plain. People who are sighted generally have a poorly developed sense of touch. Braille is completely foreign to the sighted person and he or she will take longer to learn the code and be severely limited by his or her existing visual senses. Sighted people cannot function well in low lighting conditions and are generally completely helpless in total darkness. their homes are usually very brightly lit at great expense, as are businesses that cater to the sighted consumer.


People who are sighted do not want your charity. They want to live, work and play along with you. The best thing you can do to support sighted people in your community is to open yourself to their world. These Americans are vital contributing members to society. Take a sighted person to lunch today!

**39. Why are people so clueless about blindness? Let's give people the benefit of the doubt and recognize that for many sighted people we might meet, this is their first experience with a blind person. Unless people have actually learned something about blindness because of growing up with a blind child, going to school with a blind person, maybe working with a blind person, they are not likely to actually try to find out about blindness and how we actually do things as competent adults. When messages about this are transmitted, they often reflect the ignorance and fear of well-meaning adults, often parents, who themselves no very little about blindness. Children are wonderful. While still young, they will often ask direct questions of the blind person. This is before they get the message from their adult guardians that this is impolite, discourteous, mean, etc. We need to encourage their questions, give honest answers, show them blindness techniques when they express interest. I remember one friend of mine back in Connecticut who made a classic mistake with me, and later I found she had a grandfather who was blind, but the message she got from adults while she was growing up was that the subject was not to be discussed.

Ignorance also breeds fear. I'm not aware of any physical disability which scares people more than blindness. Look at the people, especially here in Florida, who certainly shouldn't be driving as age claims their eyesight, but refuse to acknowledge it. There is the fear that they will totally lose their independence, will have to be cared for by those around them, and, worse, might not be able to live on their own, but might instead be relegated to a nursing home. This fear is also fed, in some cultures, by ideas about blindness being related to God's desire to punish the person, or somehow being related to the devil. Yes, I have actually seen that, believe it or not.

So, given all this, it is not surprising to me that when a sighted man or woman meets an independent blind person, they are absolutely clueless about how to handle the situation. I am absolutely convinced that this kind of fear that suddenly must be dealt with as the sighted adult wonders what to do in this situation, robs that person of the ability to think and use their God-given intelligence. I think this is even true with highly educated professionals. I think as much as possible, we need to be patient with such people and do our best to educate them, like this narrator in this thought provoker. But I am the first to admit that I don't do this perfectly, and that there are some people who, for a variety of reasons, simply are not educable, and what makes that worse is that they often refuse to recognize that they are clueless. But I do think that the road to progress starts with children, encouraging their questions, visiting them in their schools and showing blindness techniques when the opportunity presents itself, and educating the adults who mentor these children as well that questions are not to be frowned upon, that we are not fragile and most of us will not be offended by honest, open questions. Those questions should be seen as a healthy sign, that this person wants to learn and is taking responsibility for his/her learning.

Mark Tardif

**40. My name is Gwynne, and my husband and I are both blind. All four of our kids have their sight, and they would always get compliments on how they were helping their mom and dad. It sometimes gets pretty annoying, especially when a waitress asks the kids what we want. I know that people can tell by the look of my eyes that I am visually impaired, but I don't have a stupid sign on my forehead. I think even the waitress part bothers me than the navigation. I've been approached with that issue sometimes, but when people assume that I'm deaf or don't have a voice, that is really demeaning. If there were a book Blindness for Dummies, it would certainly be an enlightening piece of literature.

Gwynne Widhalm

**41. Well, just going with my gut feelings here, my reaction is this. Who ever decides to write and/or publish and market this book is going to have quite a time convincing sighted folk that they need to read this, as I just don't think your average sighted person cares all that much. Now when I say the sighted don't care about us, I don't mean that they are making an effort not to care, as in trying to be cruel, but I do think that because we are perceived as not being similar to sighted folks, we go under their radar. This is just an impression I have, so I can't back this up, but I feel that most people grow up not expecting to encounter anyone too different from themselves in their lives. Yes, it's foolish and short-sighted on their part but I bet lots of average people believe this. So I hear blind people shouting about how we need to educate the sighted, but I guess the question is how in tarnation are you going to make them care enough so the education sticks. Why should any sighted people care about how to interact with us when they believe they have nothing in common with us. Whoever does this project had better be a master manipulator or be really in tune with human psychology, as you will have to find a way to tap into the greed and mindless self-interest of the sighted people you want to buy this book. Most people go through life not even thinking they'll encounter a blind person at all, and even if they do, all they might end up doing is help them get somewhere. The idea of taking such an encounter even a step further and having a blind person as a regular part of your life can seem even more alien than a mere one-time encounter. So write the book if you must, but you've got your work cut out for you.

Chris Swank from Seattle

**42. Guess what? This might be the answer for our concerns with the Hybrid vehicles. Just might be. I've received a lot of help crossing the street. I just smile and say thank you. Besides, this just might be the way to meet another pretty girl, boy. So, don't shut out your chances, that is, if your are looking.

This being ignored is for the pits. I become personally insulted with city, state, and federal employees when treated like that. I gladly let them know just how insulted I feel when treated like that. Maybe some day, we can get all those people educated. I know, I know. Just hoping.

On one occasion, after handing the clerk at cash register my debit card, and then having her try to hand it to my companion, instead of me, " I said next time when a blind person hands you their debit card, make sure that you hand it back to them. ".

All these dummies are in the 95% employed and the blind are part of 78% unemployed. Doesn't make any sense, not at all.

Jack E. Mindrup

**43. After I read this, I realized we'd come up against it ourselves. My husband has recently been spending a lot of time in the dentist's office. The staff somehow had the idea they had to tell me how he should take care of his teeth. He got annoyed, and wrote a letter to the dentist to educate the office. The dentist loved it, and made sure everyone in the office read it. We haven't had the problem since. I just hope he keeps this staff.

Lori Stayerhe Merrick, New York

**44. Just finished reading the up date on the most recent thought provoker. After having read them I have come to the conclusion that if anyone writes the book, "Blindness for Dummies," they ought to be sure it is also available in Braille and other alternative formats.

Janis Stanger

**45. I certainly can empathize with the lady, but I'm not sure at all if such a book would be of great value in correcting the situation. What would probably be the best solution, is one on one education.


**46. As far as comments heard from people when I say I teach at a school for the blind and vi, my favorite is "oh you must know sign language then." People don't always stop to think or process when they first meet someone. So during a brief casual encounter, you're not going to make much of an impact with instruction.

Deborah Eves

**47. There are various responses that caught my interest here. Resp. 38's posting about "What To Do When You Meet A Sighted Person" lends itself well in that we blind people have to be open to how sighted people operate as well. I have met many blind people who talk about what sighted people need to learn about blind people, yet they fail to try to understand how sighted people operate. One person I knew wouldn't turn her living room and front lights on even though she knew that the visitors coming to her house were sighted. Rather than expect my husband, John, or any other sighted person, to tell me in terms of using hot keys with Jaws how to click or double-click onto something, I let them give me the instructions in the language they know, and then I translate
it in my head to terms I know to execute the command. In turn, I also show John what I have to do to click or double-click so that he can get an idea of how I operate the computer with the keystrokes. Both of us working together with our own computer language not only helps bridge the gap between the blind and sighted world, but he also learns my language so that he can better assist me.

As for sighted people leaving our presence while we blind people are talking to them, I think that the reverse happens to sighted people as well, or it's another sighted person leaving the room while the other sighted person is talking to them. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it isn't on purpose. Rather, the person we're talking to might not realize that you're still talking to them, especially if you pause for a long time to gather your next set of words you want to say to them. I remember when my mother and I were talking one day. She paused for a long while in the middle of the conversation, so I thought that she had finished talking and our conversation was over. I had left the room when she started talking again, but I didn't hear her until she asked me where I was. She didn't realize that I had left until she asked me a question. Thus, she had to repeat everything she had said in the fifteen minutes I was gone from the room so that she could repeat her question. There is, however, that one percent who are downright rude, as Resp. 14 illustrated.

The other response that caught my interest was Resp. 30. He was the one who ad a student asking him about blindness and having to be taken care of because the student's mother was ill with cancer and had to be taken care of by a nurse. I don't know how old the student was, but the student's situation made me sad to the point of tears; not because of the student's question, but the fact that his mother was ill. It sounded like the student loved his mother very much and was very concerned about his mother and illnesses and disability in general. In the student's mind, the respondent's blindness was compared to an illness like cancer. If the student was told that his mother would soon die, perhaps he became concerned that the respondent, too, would soon die of blindness. So, yes, the respondent's encounter was a teaching moment. I hope that the student realized that blindness an cancer are two totally different things, and that people don't die of blindness. As other respondents have pointed out, there is nothing wrong with people asking us questions about blindness. People ask because they just want to know, because they're scared, or they're in similar situations the student was in. So, if a book on blindness for dummies is to be written, then the fact that blindness is not an illness that you could die from must be emphasized. As for whether such a book will reach more people than public-speaking or training services might, I think that a book may reach some people, but we still have to take responsibility to educate people through lots of dialogue and/or training. People learn in different ways through reading or hands-on, so we cannot stop talking just because there's a book out there in every bookstore or library.


**48. Number 38, apparently unaccredited, is the best piece of writing I've ever seen on the subject; it will hit my outbox to all my "light dependent" friends. I've seen something similar years ago written by a friend of mine named Paul -- wonder if it's the same person?

Robert Shelton