Looking Blind


Looking Blind

     "Do I look BLIND," the young man wearing dark glasses exploded.

     "sorry...ah, you...you all looked blind," the pedestrian said, releasing Bob's arm. Without an invitation, she had grabbed Bob as she offered to assist the three friends to cross a busy downtown street. Apology said, she sped off.

     "Guys, what is this 'you look blind,' thing?" Bob addressed his two friends, Jose (partially blind, a dog guide user) and Jamal (totally blind, a long white cane user). "And I'm sorry guys. I was...ah, shocked. That's never happened to me before. I mean --- I know it is respectable to be blind. And hey, where was this sweeping generalization coming from --- all blind people will need help to cross a simple not too busy street? But for real, when this woman came up to us, put the vice-grip on my arm, thinking we all 'looked blind,' I was just...flabbergasted. Guess I flipped-out, felt I had to prove to her I wasn't blind. I lifted my shades, looked her in the eye, even dangled my car keys in front of her nose and...said what I said. I've just never had that happen before and now I know what you guys mean about how sometimes you are treated."

     "Bobby boy, my fully sighted friend," answered Jose, his teasing tone stressing the Hispanic accent in his voice. "And ah..." pointing first to himself and his dog, then over to Jamal and his cane, "you with your dark sunglasses and no travel tool, I'd say the lady saw three blind men and you were the dude who really needed the help."

     "Huh," responded the now self-conscious Bob?

     "Yeah man, that was priceless!" Jamal chimed in. "Didn't your mama ever warn you that you become who you hang with?" Chuckling, his tone slipping deeper into the accented tones of the African American vernacular of the neighborhood of his birth. "With them shades, if we rub a little color onto your lily white skin, next time, she'd be see'n you as a Brother."

     "Come on you guys, I'm serious," irritation was again showing in Bob's voice. "You can't always tell by just looking!"

     For a couple of beats the two blind guys said nothing, just staring at their sighted friend. Then Jose spoke first. "Well...you are right and wrong. For example, take Jamal and me. You strip us of our obvious blindness related stuff," jiggling the handle of his dogs harness, "and look at us just standing here, then no. Like even if they come up and look us in the eye, then maybe. Hear what I'm saying? But sometimes, it pays off to be recognized as blind. Before I started using a dog guide, back when I was young and full of foolish pride, I wouldn’t be caught dead with a cane. So man, I’d play it cool and fake it. Guess we might as well call a stereo type a stereo type, I tried to look sighted. Then one day I finally had too much. I was out here trying to cross a busy street with my little amount of screwed up sight, couldn't do it and couldn't get anyone to help me. I mean get real, a good Samaritan like that woman would have looked at me and seen this young Hispanic dude with the spiked up do, and she’d be think'n of newscasts about Mex gang-bangers."

     "Yeah," Jamal added, "Some times it pays to be looking blind. Remember that Mac Donald's commercial I was in? They wanted a blind guy with a cane. I wasn’t about to allow them to dress up a sighted guy."

     "Ya, Ya, YA," jumped back in Jose. "Like let’s get real, dude! It's okay or should be to look like what you are. It’s not your look that is the problem, it is how the guy doing the looking is thinking that is the problem." An expression which could only be labeled as “inner-examination” came over his face, then he finished with an earlier impulse, "And get'in personal and real. The problem with this cause and reaction thing, also lies within the blind guy, too. So ah, Bobby Boy, we got to work with you on your response to the judgmental public."


e-mail responses to newmanrl@cox.net

**1. There is much to be said about your post sir. There are advantages to looking blind and the cane and dog are a clue to let people know we are blind as well as to give us needed information.

For me the more interesting issue is that many of us look blind regardless our mobility tools and I am not certain there is anything to do about it. There are times when I feel serious and want to show concern, and people who know me the best, if we are in a heated discussion, will say, "You are smiling." That comes close to making me furious. because the last thing I am feeling is a smile. I may be feeling anger, concern, or tremendous empathy, but they see a smile. Do I have problems with facial muscles? I don't. But I have not seen the faces of others and have not observed my own in the mirror. Perhaps, for really inappropriate actions or expressions, we can be taught, but I will never make good eye contact and will never respond appropriately to a wink. I have to be okay with that, and I have to understand that people will respond to what they see. I look somewhat different from the man who went blind at 25. He knows things I do not know about controlling his own facial expressions, and so I understand when people tell him he does not look blind but do not tell me the same. I'd like to know what he knows, and am open to help, but I fear that to really master facial expressions and other gestures will, in the end, leave me like the deaf person who can talk - he talks, I understand, but anyone who listens to him knows he has not heard what he is working so hard to imitate. He does not understand intonation or inflection - things which come natural to listeners. If his goal is to communicate, he has met it. If his goal is to try to eliminate any clue he is deaf, he has not.

Gary Wunder MO

**2. This TP is quite interesting and brings up many emotions for me.
What is it to "act blind"? Do we speak a certain way? Do we look a certain way? Move a certain way? I often am told that I must be an exception to how blind people usually look and behave because I am normal. I was not aware that as a totally blind person I should look and behave in any way different from how I always have. Is there a guide book on this? I believe that often people who make such comments are merely projecting their own ideas of what they think a blind individual should look and how they should act. How many times have we heard that blindness is the worse possible thing? So of course those who think so will already have a preconceived idea of what being blind means.

As a blind person we are suddenly stripped of our individuality and clumped together. Sound familiar? If a person is sloppy as a blind person they would most likely be sloppy as a sighted person. As a blind female I am organized and chances are that I would still be organized if I were sighted. Yet people want to put me in a box and tell me what I should and should not do. If I screw up, it is because I am blind. If I likewise do something like receeve straight "A's" in school, it is amazing that a blind person can accomplish such a feat! Whether I like it or not my life revolves around a physical inconvenience.
Normal is what normal is to you. However, there must be some measurement at which to begin where normal is. If we refuse to attain the skills, such as long white cane travel or Braille, because we think we will stick out and be abnormal, then there is an issue. Can not normalcy be measured by living as independently as possible able to function along side our sighted peers? The alternative techniques that have been implemented in good, proper training facilities give us the ability to do so, thus making us normal and able to live normal lives.

I wish all friends could experience discrimination first hand such as Bob did so they understand what it is like to be blind. Slow your roll because I know many will cry outrage at my using the term discrimination. However, did the "Good Samaritan" approach any sighted people? Or at least people they thought were sighted! *smile* When a stranger grabs my arm and tries to provide unsolicited assistance, yet they do not offer such assistance to any sighted person, is this not a form of discrimination? I can't wait to hear responses on that question. By the way, my tome on that last comment was sarcastic!

Bridgit Pollpeter, NFB Omaha, NE

**3. My sister introduced me to her priest. I held her arm as she brought me to him. He shook my hand and said, "How wonderful it is that you allow your sister to assist you."

At that moment I was thunderstruck. I never looked at it quite that way. I ponder his words often, especially when someone arbitrarily grabs my arm in an effort to help me.

I have learned to reframe the concept of a stranger coming up to me to offer assistance. I don't balk or get angry as I once proudly did. All I ask is that the person allow me to take their arm instead of grabbing my arm. In the few minutes it takes to walk across a street or be assisted to a ladies room, I have discovered that I AM NOT THE ONE BEING helped. No, I have very good blindness/visually impaired activities of daily living skills. But the person who reached out to me in a random act of kindness is ACTUALLY the person being helped. Really, how long does it take to walk through a store, across a street or to a restroom? Not long at all. But in that tiny space of time, a connection is made that can transform an idea, the idea that the blind are helpless. The opportunity is there to educate a person about how to guide a person who can't see and to inform them of what we can do That is a lesson, learned in a few minutes that can be remembered for a lifetime. The same way I learned a lesson from the priest who praised me for allowing my sister to guide me.

Many times, I have gotten angry at a rude person who disregarded my visual impairment. Why would I get angry at a kind hearted, albeit misguided soul, who is only perhaps interested in my safety? Perhaps that person is envisioning himself in my shoes.

If I can make a friend of a total stranger, even for a moment, then we are both blessed. When I am tolerant, the one who thinks he is helping is actually the one being helped. That is a good feeling and one that empowers me to be ultimately in control of the situation.

Virginia NJ

**4. Part of the reason we face discrimination or condescending and custodial attitudes from the public is just what's being discussed, here. People believe that blind people need help, we all wear dark glasses, and they must take charge and care for us. Over the years, I've found that people have gotten better about asking if I need help and offering an arm, rather than grabbing me. But, there are still enough of those sighted people around who believe that they should take over, rather than talking with us, first.

I suppose the stereotypical image they have of blind people either comes from television, movies, or just a fear of blindness and the certainty they have that they couldn't navigate a city street, if they couldn't see. So, they assume that all people who fit their image of blindness must, in fact, be helpless and need their assistance. After all, it's a good thing to do...helping a poor blind person across the street! I've never understood what they think we'll do after we're across the street and they leave us, or how we happened to get to the street, in the first place.

But, then you have those people who say, "You don't look blind". I've often been asked if I have some vision, because "You don't look blind". Well, I have no vision, so how could I look anything but blind?

All this just proves that, despite all the progress we've made, there will still be those individuals who know nothing about blindness and, for that matter, know very little about interacting with people on the street. How many fully sighted people would stand there and allow someone to come up and drag them across the street, because they looked confused, or something like that. So, we still need to educate people about blindness and how to be courteous enough to approach a blind person and ask if they need assistance, before making a fool of themselves.

Cindy Handel Willow Street, PA

**5. There's one assumption the woman may have made that you didn't mention. It is often assumed that blind and sighted people don't do anything together; that if you're blind all your friends will be blind, too. Bob wouldn't have had to wear shades for the woman to assume he was blind.

As I read this story I'm remembering an evening when my parents and I visited a distant relative who had recently lost his sight due to injuries suffered in a car wreck. His elderly mother was being what she considered a good hostess. She manhandled (or in my case woman-handled) me across the room and sat me down in a chair saying "Here. You sit next to Allan. You both speak the same language." The awful part was that for her that wasn't just a metaphor; she meant it.
My point is that we are often seen as coming from another world. I'm afraid that in some respects we enable that particular stereotype by not learning how to reach out to sighted people any more than they reach out to us.

Chris Coulter

**6. Well I have been told that I don't look blind if I didn't have my dog I wouldn't look blind. My eyes are not real and they look so real I look at people when they speak to me and I just don't look blind. other people who I know who are blind have the dark glasses on and stuff or there eyes are sunken in there face and they look blind.

so that is my reply to this thought provoker.

from Mich Verrier from New Liskeard Ontario Canada.

**7. Social interactions among groups of different cultures/types of people has always interested me, particularly when it comes to blind people living in a "sighted" world. I have gotten into many heated discussions about this topic with both blind and sighted people, and really have had some "eye-opening" experiences. Some of the things I am going to say are controversial, but that is the beauty of the thought provoker, each of us can express our true opinions, and do it in an "open-minded"

The truth is that the sighted world totally judges people by how they look. I do believe most blind people realize this fact, but probably do not realize how broad in scope it is. When a blind person is in public, people do stare, meaning, everyone. From discussions with blind people I've had in the past, I gather this is not totally realized. Most blind people think just a few people are looking at them when the are out in public, but in reality everyone is. This may sound paranoid, but it is the truth. Everyone will notice someone who is using a white cane, guide dog, or whose eyes do not look "normal", and will focus all of his/her attention on the blind person, and will stare into the blind person's eyes, just to see how blind the person is, or to gape at the disfigurement of his/her eyes. That is why some blind people choose to wear dark sunglasses, and even those who work with the blind may do the same. For example, a guide dog trainer once told me she wears dark glasses when out training dogs, or when walking with a blind person, to avoid others staring into her eyes. I had noticed that a lot of my O&M instructors did this, but never really took time to think about it.

Sadly, the disfigurement of certain blind people's eyes does scare people. I think this came about due to the fact that in a lot of scary movies, a person who is possessed has white, cloudy eyes. This is why a lot of people do not come and talk to a blind person, or when they do not have much to say, and may sound disinterested in what the blind person is talking about. They are not listening to what the blind person is saying, they are staring into the blind person's eyes.

As another commenter pointed out, the general public does not expect blind people to hang out with sighted persons, and will think that everyone in the group is blind. That is why some sighted people will tell you to leave your cane or guide dog at home when you are with them, in an effort to mask your blindness, since they do not want to have to deal with people constantly staring into their eyes. A Sighted friend once told me that while we are in public, people will be totally staring at us, she will make eye contact with the starer, and the person's face will turn red, and he/she will look at the ground in embarrassment at being caught.

So, when someone says, "You don't look blind," he/she means that you do not have the characteristics of blind people; carrying a cane, using a guide dog, or have eyes that look disfigured. Also, as another commenter pointed out, some blind people do not have "normal" facial expressions, particularly when it comes to "masking" emotions. What I mean by this is that sighted people will actively try to conceal their emotions in particular situations, for the sake of not looking weird.
For example, when a sighted person is in a boring business meeting, he/she will put on a neutral facial expression, or one that feigns interest, whereas some blind persons will be daydreaming about a funny experience they had last night, and will have a big smile on their face, and do not realize that others in the room can read their facial expression, and tell they are not paying attention at the business meeting. Also, some blind people will shuffle their feet while walking, or assume a tense walking posture.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I feel I need to tell the truth. It seems that the blindness community believes that good use of blindness skills, such as using adaptive technology, reading braille, and using a white cane effectively, makes a good impression to the sighted public. While this may be true to some extent, the reality is that not looking blind is really what puts the general public at ease when communicating with a blind person. A person who does not look blind will have an easier time getting a job, making friends, and having a romantic relationship.

While this next point is somewhat off-topic, I think it is an important one. The white cane is said to be a symbol of independence. While this is true in the blindness community, it will never be so to the general public. I am in total agreement that the cane is a useful tool, and definitely increases one's independence, but will never be understood by sighted people, and will always make you look blind, which is always meant to be a negative comment.
The person who is seen as most blind is the one using a cane, followed by one using a guide dog, lastly ending with the blind person who does not use a mobility tool, and who has normal looking eyes.

I have also noticed that some blind people view wearing sunglasses as causing a person to look more blind, and is seen as a stigma. This is totally wrong!! Wearing sunglasses, in most cases, will cause a person to look less blind. A large amount of Sighted persons will treat blind persons with more respect, and as equals, if they would wear sunglasses.

I do want to make it clear that I do not support these ideas, and think that how someone looks should not effect how the public treats her/him.
I just want all blind people to know that whenever they are in public they are being stared at, and that if they look blind, they will be treated with less respect.

I look forward to reading others' views on this topic.

Tara Annis

**8. I wish this were as simple as the "you are what you see" imaging technique. That is, learning incidentally via vision, kids copy, repeat, internalize, thereby socializing and fitting in. Of course, it's not culturally specific and everyone accepts that that is how it's done. The well educated blind person will, in most cases, follow the patterns described and prescribed for him/her. Therefore, the kids we knew who rocked or spun for self stim, or other reasons, were encouraged to try other behaviors so as to look more "normal."
But in the instance of this TP, judgment exists for everyone involved; the would-be samaritan knows the guy has met her criteria for what a blind person looks like; Bob has his hang-ups about being labeled a blind person; and, Jamal and Jose aren't off the hook either, as they react to the entire scenario, justified or not.
So, on one level here we've got blind people with each his own assessment of how he wishes to be viewed. It's almost like those fun houses where mirrors mirror mirrors, until the distortion is beyond belief. It's hard for blind people to learn the socialization sighted people learn. The willingness to create the persona we want based on our own beliefs about ourselves, is constantly being bombarded by the views of others. And these views, while often portrayed in thought and gesture, are all too often verbalized. For blind people reading this, my last statement needs no explanation. Therefore, the daily vigil, hourly, then, is to not buy into the negative persona created by the folks we see throughout the day.
Then, sometimes, friends will, in a spirit of being complimentary, say "I don't think of you as blind."

KAT Guam AERnet

**9. Growing up, my parents ruthless stamped out any "blindisms," that I might display; rocking back and forth, putting fingers or fists in my eyes, uncommon gestures or body movements that sighted people didn't make. I was coached mercilessly on correct posture and table manners and body language, so as not to look blind. However, it was okay if I wanted to read a Braille book in public, and later when I began using a cane. There were acceptable ways to look blind, apparently.

When going out in public I tend to wear black shades, not because they have any use but because I tend to wear black in general, and it's a bit of costumery, noting more. I have found, though, that if people cannot see my eyes, even with my guide dog, they will sometimes not catch that I'm blind. I've had park rangers, patrolling beaches and outdoor places where dogs are not allowed, demand that I remove my glasses, even though my dog's harness is on, to prove that I am blind. My response was to show him my dog's photo ID card, and refuse to remove my glasses. "Do you make a woman show you her bra before going in the toilet?"

I have a friend who's so trendy it hurts, constantly complaining that gadgets for the blind look bulky, don't accessorize at all and are basically an eyesore. Even the PA and GPS hardware I sometimes gear up with are bulky and stand out.

There are, then, acceptable ways to look blind; comfortable cues which restore a sighted person to a sense of firm ground. Anyone who is blind despite failing the visual tests is even more of a pariah than usual. Anyone with such a group of people must be there because they have no other choice, thus is one of them.THOUGHT PROVOKER

An interesting experiential side-note on groups with more than one disability traveling together--blind people and people using wheelchairs, for example--the blind people are almost universally assumed to be helped by the others. When I'd push a sighted friend's wheelchair, people would still talk to her, give her directions over my head, etc. *shrug*

Mark BurningHawk

**10. Very good Robert! I hav to admit that I don't look blind because all the damage is in my retina. People comment all the time that I don't look blind. My response is always, "If I looked blind would you feel better?"

Judith NFB Writers' Division Mailing List

**11. Judith Good come back! I always just stare stupidly, thinking, "Huh???" My first impulse is to explain about RP, blindness, variances in persons and the bell curve... There's a reason I refer to myself as a geek! /lol/ Of course, the rest of the unsuspecting public finds geekiness to be about the most annoying thing under the sun, so if they're too obnoxious about the issue, I just start geeking at them, and they go away. Problem solved!

That's just the kinda girl I am. /evil grin/

The "you don't look blind" business actually amuses me quite a bit, unless the other person is being actively obstructive.

It's the corollary, "that's not a guide dog!" that gets me hopping mad! Say whatever you want about me, but don't think about insulting or denigrating my dog and her accomplishments!

Tami Smith-Kinney NFB Writers' Division Mailing List

**12. first I want to compliment the writing in this one, it particularly stands out.
looking blind or looking helpless. your scenario certainly highlights the distinction.
blindness as a personal trait compared to race as a personal trait, that's woven in here too.
two professors worked at kansas university when I was a student. these two were completely blind. One tall thin, a
WASP. the other short, broad, and argentinian. the argentinian
taught very advanced topics in mathematics. the tall thin white guy was in the clinical and then the cognitive psychology teaching staffs. their buildings were across campus from each other. frequently, people were confusing the two. it was common for one to be addressed by the other's name!
blind men all look alike it seems to many sighted people! I am sometimes confused for a blind guy here in town who has never worn a beard, same phenomenon. for some sighted people, all they see is that we're blind.


**13. Well, I've been confused for other blind students on campus, but when NFB supporters have been at school with me for meetings, I have often spent the following days telling people that the blind individual walking beside me was not my father It seems the common thought is that blind people are interchangeable by looking blind, or that we are all directly related.

I think people jump to conclusions way to soon... Two weeks ago I went to Catalina Island with a blind student group I am apart of. The four girls, including myself were allowed to explore the island independently as long as we met up with the adults at a certain time.
We wanted to go to the gardens to take some pictures and walk around, so we asked for directions from a woman running a booth. Three of us were holding canes, and the youngest was not. She has the most vission out of all of us, and hasn't been introduced to using a cane yet. She is ten years old, and the rest of us are in the age range of 15-17.
Yet, the woman chose to address the youngest because she tought she could see, when reality after a few minutes of being amused I had to step forward and ask her to address the rest of us as our youngest member was becoming quite confused. The woman was shocked to find that the ten year old she was talking to was also visually impaired.

So, I think that people look for cues, guide dogs, and canes and the like. People judge to quickly whether one is blind or not based on appearance. Things that are associated with blindness are often overannalized. However, I do agree with the TP that blind, and sighted people alike who are approached with this kind of mentality have a responsibility to react in an educating and appropriate way.

Aziza NFB Writers' Division Mailing List

**14. Aziza, There are those who constantly confuse one black for another, one blond for another and one guy for another. Being blind, I confuse everyone.
We can't spend our lives trying to educate those who refuse to be educated.
In their ignorance, there are no differences between one person in a group and the other.

Judith NFB Writers' Division Mailing List

**15. Robert, your post reminds me of the stereotypical way in which sighted people perceive the blind...tapping along with their canes, wearing dark glasses; or walking along with their guides, probably with their heads held a little higher. Had to get that in. Maybe, not looking directly at someone with whom they're speaking.

But let me ask you, are these judgments justified? Do we exacerbate the problem by not observing grooming habits coordinating our clothing or not knowing how body language or gesturing works?

Do we allow people to make excuses for us in that we are blind, so should we have to know what others are doing or expect of society?

I hope in my travels that I come across as someone who is knowledgeable of what is going on around me, doesn't stick out like a sore thumb and who knows enough to ask if I don't know about certain things without being embarrassed.

I know that all too often, blind people with whom I've come into contact, especially those who are older and who'd attended schools fort the blind as I had years ago, didn't much care what people thought, and when confronted, got pissy about it. I didn't and was glad that people told me when I didn't look quite right in my dress habits, didn't observe social graces as was the custom and didn't participate in things as I was expected to.

It is our jobs as people who happen not to see to fit in and to possibly excel at fitting in and looking sharp, and if we don't get a job, or if people talk about us, that's probably why, as we don't choose to keep up with the Jones's and surpass them. We have to remember that we're not competing against other people who are blind, but those who are sighted as well. And, competition is stiff out there. So, if one is judged by some to look blind and that stereotypical judgment is carried over to job performance and other aspects of our lives, it is we who are the losers, not the ones who judge, because those judgments, though possibly wrongly assessed are very hard to overcome.

Very interesting piece, and I hope that I haven't come across as too judgmental but that's my opinion, take it or leave it. Maybe, it's the rain that made me write this way, but then again, I don't think so.

michael townsend

**16. My darling niece Jessica frequently has people tell her "she doesn't look blind". She always laughs and says "Good, give me your car keys".

Suzan Perry

**17. I have yet to understand why "looking blind" or "looking sighted" should matter in my life. I do react to the grabbing of the arm and being pushed forward like some kind of object. I am quick to "spin" out of those, and explain to the well meaning assistance giver that a blind person is like a chain: You have to pull him, you can't push him! That usually brings out a laugh and creates a comfort zone, and another sighted person can be educated. I usually explain that it is much better to quietly ask if the alleged blind person might need assistance than to scare hell out of him by grabbing an arm and pushing him forward. Then I briefly explain the proper way to guide a blind person if he asks for help.

I find no offense in a sighted person offering assistance to me, and I fail to understand why anyone should be offended by well meaning people. I do what I feel is necessary to survive as a totally blind person, and I find life a lot easier if I worry about my well being and not my ego.

Would you really rather create a big scene by loud vocal objections, or would you rather turn the situation into an opportunity to educate? Would you rather send a drink or bread basket flying across a busy restaurant because a waiter did not tell you he had set it down, or would you rather inform the waiter that you are blind, so please tell me when you set something down. I hate dragging my hand in gravy because I was not told a plate had been set down, or I had not heard it happen!

We should not forget the old adage: Pride goeth before a fall!

Jim Theall, Longmont, CO

**18. hmm very interesting.

When I was in college, sitting on a chair in my apartment's kitchen-living room listening to a baseball game, my roommate had a friend who never met me beforelooked at me, or spacificly, my eyes, and said to my roomate "wholey shit man, look at his eyes. what is wrong with him? what type of drugs is he on?"

I was never addressed like that before and wasnt quite sure how to take it or how to react.
My roommate said, "Joe, this is my roomate Jonathan, he's blind."

However, I had the opposit happen in a college class where on the first day of classes a professor asked if there was anyone who had a disability or who would needing assistances. I raised my hand. He asked me what my disability was and what type of assistanc I would need. I was thinking "ummm isnt it obvious?" I told him that I am blind but I would talk to him about it after class. He turned out to be one of my favorite professors but it was an uncomfortable first moment.

I am always amazed that of all the mentally ill clients I have had in front of me, less than a handful mentioned my disability. When I do meet a client for the first time, I always mention that I am blind and that I do have a hearing problem "but as you will find, it wont be that big of a deal." and it never was with the clients.

Thank you for letting me put my two cents on the topic.

Jonathan Alpert NFB Human Services mailing List

**19. Jonathan, I think both of these individuals were very rude. Your roommate's friend deserved to be told so on the spot for not speaking to you directly and for just blurting out what he thought without any tact or couth. He deserved an in kind response, in my opinion, due to his attitude. The professor was rude for asking that people with disabilities identify themselves and for publicly asking what their disability was. Saying you would talk with him after class makes sense, and I hope you told him asking in that way was really not appropriate at all. He could very easily have asked that students needing any special accomodations hang around after class a minute to speak with him or that they email him privately, should there be any such students in the class. Of course, getting offended and angry every time someone says something ignorant or inappropriate to us is going to make for a lot of constantly hacked off blind people. I talk about this in my book and also talk about how my own lack of assertiveness complicated the situation.

I know that my eyes look different and that probably bothers me more than blindness itself. Our culture puts such romantic emphasis on people's eyes, gazing into the other person's eyes, being captivated by their eyes, and so on and so on. Read any romance novel or listen to the radio for 20 minutes tuned in to a sappy soft rock station and you'll hear a reference to eyes in some way. Its enough to give someone a complex, and I've had one about it for years. I have felt, at times, as though I can never be as attractive as other women, no matter how much I like many of my other features, because my eyes look different and because I can't make eye contact. I mostly just choose not to think about this much. I can't change it and I'd rather focus on things I can do something about in regards to my appearance.
I do my best to be well groomed and attractive so that other things about me don't add to the sense of different that goes with my eyes looking different. I think looking like others in other areas minimizes the eye thing.

I opt not to wear dark glasses to disguise my eyes. I do wear them outdoors because sunlight is painful, but I feel that wearing them indoors would just be more disorienting to me. I also think my clients would feel I was "hiding" from them in some way or that I would feel that I was covering up
part of myself out of shame. I'd rather have people deal with reality up
front than to wonder and I don't need to feel embarrassed. My eyes look different. That doesn't mean they look scary or disgusting.

I think to wear shades or not is an individual choice, of course. Each person should do what makes them comfortable, but I also don't think we need to bend over backwards for other people's comfort. What I mean is, if someone else thinks my eyes look different, I expect them to deal with themselves and use their manners and not be a jerk about it. The same is true with the job interview issue or of a friend of mine who has to take insulin with her places. There are all kinds of people in this world who
look different, act different, and have different needs. I expect adults
to act like adults whether they are confronted with something different or something that surprises them or not. Respectful questions are fine, but being treated like a circus exhibit is not, no matter the circumstance.

I use a guide dog so there's no doubt I'm blind. I've done that go around without dog or cane thing before in high school and early college. It was exhausting for me and confusing for others, I'm sure. I don't have enough vision to do that now, except for in very familiar surroundings, such as home or work, and hope that I wouldn't even if I could. Again, blindness is a part of who I am. I don't have to be ashamed of it. I just have to live with it and show that it doesn't have to be a big thing. I think I'm pretty good at that.

In the past, I have thought about taking a picture with sunglasses on while
outdoors for profiles on dating sites. I was on eharmony for a while and
I feel sure a lot of men didn't talk to me because they could see from my
picture that I'm blind. Sad to say, but I'd like to conduct a little
experiment to see what would happen if I did another profile and posted a picture where you can't tell I'm blind from my picture. I don't say anything about it on my profile page. I do say that I've had some life experiences that have given me a different perspective. I did not just mean blindness when I said that, though. There have been other things, as well.
Just with a picture, people don't get the chance to immediately start interacting with me the way they do normally, so I think that makes blindness more of an issue. Its the same philosophy that applies to showing up for a job interview without letting people know. I'd rather have the chance to be seen as a whole person first.

Let me be clear, I wouldn't show up for a date without someone knowing.
This is because I like to take my time to get to know a person via email
and then phone, etc, before meeting in person and that would mean there
was already an ongoing interaction so that I would actually feel deceptive.
Plus, I don't want to spend too much time on someone if they just aren't going to be able to handle it. With some time for rapport building, though, I would hope someone would be more willing to at least meet me and see how I do things. I wonder what other blind people who's eyes do look normal do in such situations. In a picture, they can choose whether to have other blindness props with them.

Just some thoughts as provoked by the thought provoker and Jonathan's response.

Carmella Broome, Columbia SC

**20. We are introduced to three men. One a totally blind individual, and a visually impaired person; both using the tools of blindness. The other man wearing sunglasses, to the sighted public sunglasses go hand and hand with somebody who is blind. However we are not afforded the information about the two blind men; are they wearing or not wearing sunglasses? Guilt by association, or being stereo typed is the underlying premise of this narrative.

Blind people wear sunglasses is the first stereotypic view we are exposed to. I'll discuss the response of our sighted man later in my observation of this narrative.

We are also furnished that we have a Hispanic and somebody who is black; two minorities. Just hearing the names of the two blind people: Jose), and Jamal. Were these two names chosen to depict the races of these two men? Of cause they were, why wasn't Eric and John used? Because those names aren't our stereotypic names we associate with Hispanics or blacks. The Hispanic says that if he was standing at this or any street crossing, or wherever we want to place him, without his guide dog or any stereotypic item which shows that he is blind the public would view this Hispanic with his spiked hair as trouble. So now we have determined that blind people wear sunglasses, and Hispanics are trouble. The black man says that we should rub his lily white friend with a little color on his face. I'm not certain if my observation of his statement is correct. However the way I interpret this black mans account is like this. Would the average Joe approach him a black man as quickly as somebody who is lily white?

Now let me paint my rejoinder of the mans reaction to somebody who thought he was blind. First we are exposed to that a woman grabs his arm in a vice like grip. Did this woman eat the breakfast cereal of champions, "Wheaties?" Or perhaps she just came from the gym she works out in? I view this man wearing the sunglasses as somebody who over reacts to a situation. Why do I believe this? OK we have a good-Samaritan who see's three men, a cane user, a guide dog user, and somebody wearing sunglasses, who must also be blind since he is with two other blind people. Blind people as well as nuns always travel together, so naturally all three are blind. These men are crossing a busy thoroughfare, and that man wearing the glasses isn’t using a cane, or obviously he doesn't have a dog. Our good-Samaritan approaches these three men to offer her assistance. We the reader are informed she grabs the arm of the man in a vice like grip. I don't perceive this account is accurate. This narrative is coming from our man in the sunglasses; somebody who is melodramatic.

Perhaps this woman approached these men, and extended her finger and touched Mr. Sunglasses to see if he needed assistance?

Well Mr. Sunglass, is irate that somebody thought he was also blind. We are exposed to his reaction which is to take off his sunglasses and stair into the eyes of this woman and take out his keys; thus showing that he is sighted. I feel from this one observation that Mr. Sunglass believes he is better, or perhaps superior to somebody who is blind. We are not afforded the information concerning Mr. Sunglass's acuity view of minorities. Was Mr. Sunglass hanging with the other two men; or did they just happen to meet at a street crossing? The reason why I feel this is just a chance meeting of these three men is this. Mr. Sunglass is enraged that this woman thinks he is blind. After he takes off his sunglasses, he dangles his car keys in her face. Why does Mr. Sunglass have his car keys with him? Could he have possibly driven his car? We aren't afforded what type of businesses are in the area. However I believe Mr. Sunglass has driven to this area for whatever reason, and runs into two blind men he knows. If Mr. Sunglass did indeed drive his car to meet these two blind men, then why did he park his car so that he had to cross this busy highway? Wouldn't it make more sense to park his car on the other side of the street?


What is this nonsense that Mr. Sunglass says, "I know it's respectable to be blind?" What the hell does that mean? I would have more respect for Mr. Sunglass if he said, "Hell guy's I can't imagine what you or any other blind person is going through not being able to see. I thank the lucky stars that I have good eye sight."

Mr. Sunglass encounters one person who wants to help him across the street. What is the big deal about this situation? The way I perceive this is that somebody wants to help somebody who is blind. What does she get from this? Some S O B who overreacts, and makes her feel stupid. I can assure you that this good-Samaritan will never offer to help another blind person again.


**21. Okay, this is a slight twist on an age-old problem. Now a sighted guy knows what it's
like to be accosted by a "Good Samaritan." But, again, it should be obvious that anybody
who can make it downtown without injury can certainly go anywhere on his own.

Interestingly enough, I have a blind friend who doesn't "look blind." Her eyes look
perfectly healthy; it's her optic nerve that's bad. Therefore, her parents and some
acquaintances have accused her of "faking it."

So how is a blind person supposed to look? Are they all supposed to have whitish-
glazed eyes? Are they all supposed to stumble around with a cane and a tin cup, selling
pencils or playing a violin? Are they all supposed to be tragic figures who "pull themselves
up by their boot straps and overcome all odds," like some cookie-cutter TV movie?

Man, I hate cliches.
It's kind of like the old joke about a guy who is Jewish, but people say, "Funny, you
don't look it." Oddly enough, I am not Jewish, but people tell me I DO look Jewish. Well,
sorry, I'm not Jewish. I mean, oy vey! I can't play chess or piano, and I stink at math!

David Lafleche

**22. Now here's a subject I maybe able to write on. I use a guide dog, and to the public I look "blind". Its true the "sighted public" see a blind person as someone who uses a white cane, guide dog (to them a general term of: Seeing Eye Dog), or just someone who wears dark glasses and wondering around looking lost. When in truth you maybe looking for the restroom.

There maybe other ways we "look blind" but not sure what they are.


Sean Moore

**23. When I was in high school and looked at a white cane for the first time, I can remember that I didn't want to look blind either. What's so wrong with looking blind? There are two ways of looking blind and the positive way is to work well with a cane or dog and be confident. Wear becoming clothes. Get guidance from sighted people. some are better than others in giving advice. Take the advice you like best. What's wrong with wearing eye glasses or other material to help you see if you have low vision? Some people have mannerisms that are negative as far as the looking blind image is concerned. They might rock, poke eyes, grope unnessarily or do other things that make sighted people uncomfortable being around them. Mobility instructors and other living skills teachers can help teach us how to look positive, but if we are blind, we'll look blind, no matter what. It's no disgrace. Face the world and have a ball.

Leslie OldHang

**24. "We independent blind people need to organize a march and work to pass a law that says If anyone offers to help a person that looks blind on the street they will be arrested and fined. We can get our family, friends, and strangers that know not to help people that look blind, to pledge some money. We'll rent a bus so we can go to the state capital to march for this new law." declares the state blind organization president.

"Better yet, let's have a bus company donate it because we are a blind group" suggests their sighted treasurer. The young blind woman still in school and never had a job says "I will teach the old volunteer bus driver how not to treat people that look blind before I will ride anywhere with him".

"What about the elderly lady that just became blind" says the middle aged guy that recently lost most of his vision. "Maybe older people new to blindness might want or need help on the street. The largest growing blind population is too old to go to the blind training center because the younger blind need jobs and the federal rehab budget won't pay to train them. There's little money in the state blind rehab fund because they think the money is better spent helping the young...."

"The older blind people have AARP" interrupts the middle aged man blind most of his life. The young woman chimes in "There is no excuse for blind people not being independent."

Later the bus arrives at the state capital, everyone gets off, and wonders aloud: "Why is no one paying attention to our blind march". Then the middle-aged guy new to blindness suggests "Its probably because last year you did a march and passed a law saying The blind don't want any special laws or consideration and...." The young woman interrupts and says "You are not an independent blind person because you do not think like us".

Seriously, the biggest reason that many blind people are able to travel about "independently" and have a reason to do so, is because of the specialized training and support the blind receive today. Yes, the consumer groups helped develop the techniques and laws, but they cost money. This is possible through tax funds and donations that come from some of the same people that can't avoid the instinct to help a person that looks blind on the street.

I try not to get upset when people care enough to want to help me as a blind person. I am old enough that I do not worry about how blind I look. The white cane is a dead giveaway. I do care about how I am perceived as a person which is determined by my attitude and regard for others. The sighted world sees much more than just the white cane or dark glassed each blind individual carries around.

Just another Mark

**25. I really loved Jamal's sense of humor about White people hanging out with Blsacks and how that Black skin can rub off on the White person. That was a perfect parody to the public bundling blind people into that stereotypical look of being blind. as for whether it pays off to look blind, the only characteristics I would give into redusing your whitecane or guide-dog when traveling down the street or wherever, reading braille or large print or using a monocular to read a sign if it helps you. Otherwise, that zombie, fumbling, eye-picking, rocking back and forth, etc. can be done away with. I've had several people not realize that I'm blind despite having seen me with my cane because I don't walk around like some fumbling idiotic zombie. I've also had people swear up and down that I'm pretending to be blind. I walk and talk confidently. When John and I go shopping, I ask questions on prices, we discuss the prices of things as we comparative shop, and we have college-educated, philosophical kinds of conversations with each other and with others we meet. One time, John and I were talking about different kinds of food that we could buy. I spoke of how many of the things sounded good but that it would be too fattening and that I wanted to keep my thin figure. john told me afterwards that someone overheard our conversation, and had a funny look on their face when I mentioned about wanting to keep my thin figure. I guess the person didn't expect me to want to stay thin since I'm blind and "cannot see what I look like." I maybe blind and cannot see what I look like, but I certainly know whether I'm thin or not and that I don't want to be more than the one-hundred thirty pounds I am now. In fact, I would like to weigh less even though many have told me that I look like I only way one-hundred twenty.

Linda MN

**26. Okay, after reading others' comments, I had to add my opinions once again. They are a little broader in scope, since this thought provoker got me to thinking more about society views about blindness, not just looking blind.

I have to talk more about dark sunglasses, since this issue has come up a lot when I have discussions with other blind people. I used to be under the same impressions as others, that sunglasses would make you look more blind and seemed "out-of-place" in a person's wardrobe, but I have definitely changed my mind, due to having open and honest conversations with sighted friends. It is true that a sighted person wearing sunglasses, especially indoors, can come off as a little odd at times, but this does not hold true for a blind person. If any of you have seen the movie Ray, you will remember when one of the people told Ray to wear sunglasses, saying, "Put these on, before you scare somebody," implying that Ray's disfigured eyes would upset others. As I had mentioned in my last post, people associate a blind person's disfigured eyes with the white, glazed-over eyes of possessed people in movies. People will not think of a blind person as hiding his eyes by wearing sunglasses, rather as making him look better. It is the same as a person using makeup to cover wrinkles, pimples, or scars on the face.
Or a person covering up gray hairs by dying her hair a "more attractive"
color. I always thought that when people stared at blind people in public, they would stare at the entire person's body, but found out that people just stare at the eyes. They are curious to see if the person's eyes look different. Wearing sunglasses obviously eliminates this problem. Yes, people will still stare, but do not focus on one specific part of the person's body. This holds true for people who are in wheelchairs. The public will stare at their legs, trying to see if there is a disfigurement. They eliminate the staring by not wearing shorts or skirts, covering up their legs by wearing pants.

Sunglasses can definitely enhance a blind person's look, if the right ones are chosen. For example, I have ones in many different colors, such as purple, pink, blue, green, orange, and grey. You do not have to stick to wearing the large, ugly black ones seen in the majority of media depictions of the blind. I can say, without a doubt, that since I have started wearing sunglasses, I have been treated with more respect, and many people feel more comfortable talking to me. No, I still have to deal with prejudice, but I feel I have more of a chance educating others, since they will actually listen to what I have to say, instead of staring at my eyes.

I used to always get confused when the public's response to my comments just did not seem right, and seemed "not fitting with the mood". For example, I always tried to be extra energetic and cheerful when talking to people when meeting them for the first time, trying to eliminate their fears of blindness. Yet, some people seemed totally disinterested, and always sounded really depressed after I would say something like, "It's really nice weather outside." I did not understand why they would not take on a similar mood as I, since I thought my positive energy would spread to them. I asked sighted friends about this, and they told me that a lot of the time the person would be transfixed at staring at my eyes, and wasn't really listening to what I was saying. Since I have started wearing sunglasses, I do not have to deal with that depressed, annoying tone of voice anymore.

The next comments I know will be controversial, but I am not out to make others feel angry, or depressed, but really just want to share the truth. Guide dogs are definitely seen as making a person look less blind, as opposed to a white cane, which has the opposite effect. This is disappointing since the cane is a useful tool, and I am so glad that I know how to use one, and love the independence it gives me. I am upset that the public does not understand its usefulness, rather just sees a as a stick a blind person waves around. A lot of the public thinks that a blind person with a cane has many disabilities, such as deafness, mental retardation, and difficulty walking. Yet, a blind person with a dog has to be highly intelligent, since he has trained a dog to lead him around. The public thinks that people with white canes do not have the option of getting a guide dog, since they do not have the skills or intelligence to get one. I honestly did not notice much of a change on how others treated me when I started using a guide dog, but a sighted friend told me that the visual reactions of the public drastically changed from negative to mostly positive. When I used a cane, people would stare and have a expression of pity, shock, or disgust when I was out in public, whereas their expressions changed to smiles and awe when I was out with my dog. So, I do think blind persons need to seek the opinions of the sighted, when making assumptions about what the public thinks, since so many expressions of emotion are solely visual.

Lastly, I would like to comment on the use of echolocation. This mode of travel has recently gotten a lot of media attention. For those who are not familiar with its definition, it simply means using the sound of echoes bouncing off objects to get around. Some blind people use their tongues to make a clicking sound, which bounces off objects, like poles and cars, and can use the sound to avoid running into them. Some blind people feel that using this mode of travel is less socially acceptable than the white cane. This is wrong. For blind people, the primary sense is hearing, whereas for sighted people, it is obviously vision.
The public first and foremost, uses vision to gather information about other people, and forms first impressions based on what they see. A person using a white cane out in public will be stared at by all, whereas a person clicking his tongue will not receive a second glance.

This is due to the fact that there is nothing visually different about the blind person clicking his tongue, unless his eyes are disfigured.
He just looks like another sighted person. I think blind people notice the clicking sounds more, since there is not that much visual information, if any, to distract them from the sound.

I hope others can look at my view in an open-minded manner, and without anger. Like I mentioned in my first post, I do not hold the above belief about blind people and the white cane, but just want others to know that there is a large number of people who do. If you can find a sighted person who will be totally honest with you, he/she will agree with what I say. Unfortunately, this may prove difficult, since most people do not want to hurt a blind person's feelings. For example, I know of staff members at a blindness agency who tell a particular person she does not look blind, when in actuality, her eyes are disfigured. I know this, since I asked a sighted friend. They think that not telling the truth will boost her self-esteem. This is also the case with some O&M professionals who will tell blind people that the white cane is hardly noticed out in public. I think blind adults have a right to the know the truth, and sighted people need to be open and honest, since hiding the public's visual reactions to a blind person, only hurts him/her in the long run.


**27. Another thing I've noticed with some blind people is that those who don't have any light perception leave their lights off in their homes. While that may be convenient in saving electricity because you cannot see the light, it leads people to believe that nobody's home. So, if you had someone who was wanting to pay you a surprise visit without first calling you, then that possible visitor doesn't know that you're home because you don't have your lights on. Another thing that I've noticed is that most sighted people assume that, because you're blind, you don't have pictures of friends and family in a photo album or up on your walls. I overheard someone saying to someone else about a blind person asking them for a newspaper article and picture of a friend so that they could have it in their collection. The sighted person couldn't understand this since the man couldn't see. So, to not look blind even in your own house is to leave your lights on when you're up, decorate your house instead of leaving the walls plain, and collect all the pictures and articles of your friends and family members. if you're not sure of what picture is which, put a braille label on the back of the picture. It's no different from sighted people labeling their pictures on the front and/or the back.

Linda MN

**28. This is the most "thought provoking" one you've posted yet! You commit truth while being funny.

Janis AERnet

**29. There is a blind look and it's not just one. It can be many just like with other disabilities. It's the year 2009 people should just think about it and someone may need your help and a disability may not be apparent but it is a true one that may affect someone. I think people should ask a person first if they need any assistance and not just assume.

Mommytine AERnet listserv

**30. Since someone in one response brought up the issue of eye contact, I’ll give you another angle from a traditional Native American perspective. Many people in the AngloAmerican culture insist upon eye contact with the people they are communicating with, that’s a given. While I am capable of making eye contact with those I’m talking to, I don’t look them directly in the eye, particularly males. Many of you may be wondering why this is the case. In my family or clan, we’re taught not to make eye contact in those of authority, and men are considered as such. It indicates a lack of respect.

You may also be asking how this relates to blindness. Here’s how I tie it all together from my point of view. If I were to speak to someone in authority, I’ll look at their eyes, but I will not look “into” their eyes. I may look blind as I choose to conduct myself this way, but that’s the way I was raised. I respect people too much to put myself out there that way, and it’s a boundary I choose to set for myself.

Also, it’s obvious that the use of a cane or dog makes a person “look blind,” but it also helps people to remember that we need assistance. When I wasn’t using a cane, it was much more difficult to ask for, or to be offered assistance when I needed. Having my cane is an advantage to me since the drivers of the bus system, for example, know to make sure I know the bus number or route. In some cases, looking blind doesn’t always have to be a detriment.

Bonnie Ainsworth Lincoln, NE

**31. Greetings from Minnesota -- I have a comment and a question about the benefits and drawbacks of "looking blind". First, in my unique situation, I have 3 disabilities -- blindness indeed is one, then there is the inability to walk, and finally I am fragile and injure my eyes, bones and joints very easily. This makes showing my blindness especially important as if I fall or run into something, I can sustain a serious injury. So for me, communicating that I am blind is not just a social strategy, but a matter of safety. That is my comment and I think other persons with multiple disabilities may face some of the same issues.

Now the question: recently I obtained a passport as we live close to Canada and Canada now requires a passport to cross its border. When I went to have my photo taken, the photographer asked if I wanted to take my glasses off, because if I chose to keep them on for the picture, I would need to fill out another page on the application. I decided to go ahead and take them off, which I normally don't do as my eyes are a bit disfigured. I don't know what was in the application, but I think they wanted to get a shot of my eyes to prevent identity theft. Normally patterns in the iris are like a fingerprint, but in my case, I have no iris -- but since my condition is so rare I doubt anyone would venture to rip off my identity. (There's only one of me...thank heaven!)
But whatever the reason for removing my glasses, I felt like everyone in the room was staring at me -- and for a moment I felt a little like a side show. So is there an issue here? I've been living with this reaction all my life so I can just shrug off the embarrassing moments. But I think with any kind of disfiguration people are going to stare. So did I make the wrong choice by removing my glasses? I am thinking that not only do I have to take them off for the picture, but I may have to take them off later when using the passport. Anyway, it's just a thought.

Keep rollin' all!

--Laura Eaves

**32. Interesting. I personally get a lot of people saying my eyes are pretty because my blindness is in the retinas and the front looks green and clear. But some close to me have said that it just doesn’t look like I’m looking at things. Sometimes in the past I’ve been sitting around somewhere with no cane or dog or anything and a sighted person comes up and starts talking to me all normal like and then they pause or gasp like Oh, and sometimes even say “oh, you’re blind.” But since they already know I talk and think like a normal person usually it doesn’t change their behavior. Sometimes it does, though. I always wonder what tips them off. Probably just lack of eye contact.

With the staring, yes indeed we get stares. My sister used to tell me to turn a certain direction and stick out my tongue to freak the person out. It was funny. She said that even neighborhood animals would stare at me. I don’t really care. Why should I? I’ve had people think I was staring at them which obviously wasn’t the case. The only thing that does bother me is when they start thinking aloud while watching my every move.

Oh that’s how he finds where his food is. Oh, mommy he’s like Helen Keller. How does he know this how does he know that?

Mike from Corvallis

**33. I agree with others that one of the major issues here is the tendency among sighted people to make blindness and helplessness equivalent. As a person born totally blind, I have forever been puzzled when I am asked frequently on the street, “Can I help you? Or, “Are you o.k.?” I’m baffled. What on earth am I doing that appears helpless? I’m a perfectly competent white cane user, a professional, a homeowner—what am I doing to appear in need of help?

I remember standing on my stoop one Sunday, waiting for a friend to drive over and pick me up for brunch. I driver stopped and asked from her car, “Are you lost?” I was flabbergasted and could only answer:, “No, just a lost soul.”(smile)

I don’t ask strangers whether they need help across the street, or whether they’re o.k., and I can’t imagine what I’m doing to look “not o.k."

I have even worked with a body worker for several sessions, (at $100 an hour no less,) to try to figure out how not to appear helpless; we together could not figure out what I could be doing differently.

Karen Rose

**34. This is the most "thought provoking" one you've posted yet! You commit truth while being funny.

janice Stallings AERnet listserv

**35. Some respondents made comments about some blind people having some difficulty (if that's what you want to call it) with facial expressions in different situations, or illustrated such things by painting scenarios--funny smile during a boring lecture instead of having an expressionless face. I personally have never seen it happen, but I've had people tell me about sighted people's expressions not fitting what they're really feeling or wanting to convey as well. I've also had people assume that I wouldn't know that they're not listening to me by looking off somewhere while I'm talking to them. It's not until they make some off-handed comment that didn't fit the topic or I ask them a question that I catch them red-handed. It's actually quite funny in a way because, when I have a feeling that the person's not listening, I'll ask them a question regarding the topic that requires an actual answer, more than "Yes" or "No". I learned this trick from my college professors who required their students to write an essay or report in place of answering multiple choice questions or giving "Yes"/"No" answers. I was also taught this same trick by a mobility instructor. Instead of asking a pedestrian whether or not the street in front of me is Second Avenue, I'll ask them what street is in front of me. That requires the person to look up from what they're doing or come out of their deep thoughts to look at the sign.
As an added bonus to this topic. Excluding the advent of picture phones and webcams from the equation, when we e-mail a stranger or talk to them on the phone, neither party can see each other. Thus, neither party can see the facial expression of the other. In short, neither party can tell whether the other is paying attention to what the other is saying. Nor can either party see what the other looks like. Thus, neither knows if the other is blind, which makes both people blind in a sense because they have to depend on audible cues on the phone, quick or delayed responses to chat and e-mail responses, etc. to make some kind of possible judgment about the person's interest in you. My stepdaughter is mixed. She's Black, White and Native-American, but she doesn't talk with that Black accent. When she's called places to inquire whether or not they were hiring, they would tell her that they were. It's not until she appears at those places to pick up an application that she was told that they weren't hiring. I, too, have had the same experiences, or the interviewer who wanted to interview me before I got an application would ask how I would be able to do the tasks required in the job description. Now, to make it clear, none of the jobs I've applied for required anything more than a few accommodations of speech software in the computer, so I felt that indicating over the phone that I'm blind wasn't necessary. Likewise, my daughter didn't feel that it was necessary for her to indicate that she wasn't White. A disabled person or person of color should never have to indicate over the phone what they are before coming down to pick up an application or coming in for an interview before being given an application, yet employers' actions seem to dictate such requirements off the record.

Linda MN

**36. I got really behind in my mail, so my comments are probably too late to count. I think that one of the reasons some cane users look more blind than dog users is that you use the cane to verify and to do that you have to touch things with it. Dog guides and there handlers move swiftly, communicate in subtle body language cues to each other and avoid coming in contact with objects at all. Sometimes good cane users find this disconcerting the first time they train with a dog. They miss the reassurance of looking for landmarks. Also, facial vision, echo location, just being tuned in to your surroundings can make you look less spaced out or to sighted people less blind. You move your head, hold your posture straighter and step with more confidence, and instantly you are sighted. What I hate about this kind of stereo typing is when someone insists in telling me I see when I don't. As a teen ager, I once had someone flick a lighter in my face to make me flinch to prove I could see him. Well, I knew what a lighter smelled like, felt the heat and moved because since I don't have a blink reflex, I hate anything being brought too close to my face. I was thinking that a good topic if you haven't handled it as yet is the question of whether there is a blind culture. I think there is. Take care.

DeAnna Quietwater Noriega, Fulton MO