"Cutting ... it ... close!" Robert voiced into the early morning darkness in cadence with the TAP, TAP, TAP, of his long white cane blurring through its arch. He was on his way to work, running to catch a bus, thinking he'd probably arrive at the stop at about the same time as the bus itself.
On the bus, "Oh my God!" Robert said aloud, then to himself, "No glasses!" He'd just settled into his seat, reached up with a finger to wipe away a wind-caused tear and found he had forgotten his new designer sunglasses at home.
"What's that?" asked Robert's seatmate, turning to look at him in concern.
"Oh ... I forgot my lunch on the kitchen table," Robert replied and couldn't believe he had just said that. However, as self-conscious as he might feel about this "no glasses thing," he now knew he wasn't going to let it ruin his day and certainly wasn't going to point it out to anyone.
Walking down the street to the building in which he worked, Robert found himself falling into an old habit of consciously holding his left eye closed as he met pedestrians moving in the opposite direction. His right eye looked normal, but the left one had shrunken over the years, becoming milky-white in color and the eyelid was always about half closed. He had become very self-conscious about it and found it got noticed less if the eye was not visible. More precisely, Robert had developed the opinion that to offset some of the negative reaction by the sighted public to his blindness, that among other things he had to make the best of his physical presentation and manner. And so he kept himself in good physical shape with regular exercise and reasonable diet and kept up with the changing fashions. To his friends he was known to say, "You can tease me about being vain, but don't mess up my hair, scuff the shine on my shoes or smudge my glasses."
"Howdy Sue," Robert said entering his place of work, waiting to see if the receptionist noticed.
"Morning. Kind of cool out there," she replied looking up, then going back to setting up her workstation.
Walking into the break room Robert said, "Hi you guys," to the group of his colleagues who also liked starting off their day with a cup of java and a short catching-up conversation.
"So ah, Robert, how was your evening?" asked Kathy, peering up into his face.
"Okay." Robert answered; sure he was going to get an additional question or comment with the tone he swore he heard in his friend's voice. But she didn't continue and so he relayed only the facts relevant to her question.
Arriving home at the end of the day Robert's wife opened the door before he had a chance to use his key, "Hi honey, saw you coming."
"Hi. Oh, take a good look at me, see anything different?"
"Well, no. What's up?"
"No glasses. I forgot them and nobody mentioned a thing. I really think they didn't notice."
"Then why do you wear them?"
With just a hesitation Robert answered, "Well the simple answer for me would be looks, but it's more complex than that. Just as I would imagine other blind people would have their own unique reasons for wearing dark glasses."
e-mail responses to firstname.lastname@example.org
**1. Interesting. I used to think it was dumb but I started wearing sun glasses in Nebraska to keep the wind out of my eyes. Now I'm more light sensitive and wear them all year round. Another thing I noticed is that I think people expect me to see more than I do. I don't get as much pointing with the glasses as I did before. It's like if they can't see my eyes they have to see my cane. Anyway, you look cool with glasses new man, so go for it.
Jane Lansaw Texas
**2. I never wear dark glasses. For many years before going blind mostI refuse to hide behind dark glasses. When I was a kid, parents and teachers were bound determined that I was going to wear them, and I rebelled every time. They gave up after a while. About ten years ago, I tried it again and stopped after a week. Maybe there is some cosmetic reason why one would want or need to wear them, or there could be some sort of stereotype that says we as blind persons have to wear them, but I would rebel because of that alone.
I guess that if someone lost their vision after developing visual memory and its associated attitudes, they might be real touchy about their appearance, expression, image, etc., but since I have never had any usable vision that way, I cannot say for sure. It just seems kind of needless to wear them.
Mark Blier Sierra Vista, Arizona, USA **3. Dark glasses would cause a headache, so I only wore them occasionally. Still I meet many folk who feel that all blind wear dark glasses, thus I must not be blind! There was a man in my class at the Guide Dog School several years ago who wore dark glasses. His reason was to hide some of the scars around his eyes, caused by the accident that blinded him.
For me, I do not want dark glasses but I can understand those who feel they need them, even if only for looks.
Have a great day
Ernie Jones Walla Walla, Washington
**4. I found this to be very well written and insightful. I wear dark glasses but not for the purpose of covering up my still blue eyes. Light can be overwhelming.
I imagine shades send a message to others, just like the white cane. But it is awkward still to deal with the pained look and confused expressions from people who appear to think I am totally blind. I'm certain it provoked confusion for the turnstile job force at my last employer.
I use my cane very little. I get more self conscious about using that. My fit overs help me blend in and maybe the comfort of the disguise spares me the potential embarrassment.
Brian Keith Compton NFB Writers Division listserv
**5. I am blest with a guide dog and still have a generous 12 degrees of central vision. Being 'Blest to be a Blessing~' I am about town each day, teaching yoga, taking art classes and volunteering at the hospital. We connect with about 100 individuals on a regular basis. Not to mention the irregulars we encounter on every bus route. I do not need prescriptive eye glasses, and enjoy seeing with the five by five inch orb of sight that remains. Although it takes a lot of work to scan the vistas. . . I am constantly bombarded with the question, "Are you training that dog?" "No, she's mine." Why is it anyone's business? My husband suggests I wear dark glasses so no one bothers us when we are working as a team. With retinitis pigmentosa I often do wear sunglasses to lessen the penetrating brightness that forces my eyes closed to thin slits and makes wrinkles appear. It's just that when we enter shaded areas that it's too dark to see. And the constant challenge of keeping track of where the sunglasses are. As you have indicated in your fine Thought Provoker article Robert.
Love, Suzy G and Mirage Retinal degeneration discussion list
**6. Just keep an old pair at work.
Glenn Ervin Nebraska
**7. Hmm, I don't wear dark glasses as often as some do, but I probably do more than I should. I have an awful sensitivity to florescent lights, and there are days the flicker really bothers me. Other than that, I wear them outside to keep the sun light out of my face. Trust me, there are some days I'd wish I wore my sleep shades. *GRIN*
Bonnie Ainsworth Lincoln, NE USA
**8. We all have our particular game face - inner and outer; routines and Mantras which we're familiar, particular adaptations with which we would never leave home. Civilization, it might be argued, relies upon such entrenched modes of doing things for its ability to grow and flourish (albeit, stutter-stepping at times). That is, once life settled down to routine, humanity was free to turn to more inward-seeking efforts: fashion, demeanor, style, presentation. Publicists have been making money on this throughout recorded history. I recently had occasion to read a teen magazine and learned, to my surprise, how often sunglasses appear in the wardrobe descriptions of pop and movie people. But blind people were wearing sunglasses long before the current fad. Was it to hide eye deformity or blindness? Was it to fit in with a pre-conveived idea of glamour? Was it to help with self-image or imagined self-image? I think we've pretty much begun to realize how much of that self-image is actually a reflection of others' perceptions of us. (*"AM IT A ROCK STAR OR AM I A POLITICIAN?") And, would anyone care if the lines of demarcation between the two became smudged and blurred. We blind people are just as susceptible to whims and fancies as the rest of the population. And, sadly, we probably just as subject to self-delusion. Whatever we don each day then, new shoes, shades, triple earrings, brand or tattoo - my hope is that we go out the door confident in the inner creation as much as the outer, ultimately knowing we're going to handle our day with as much grace as possible whether we have our shades with us or not. By the way, anyone know how many people hide in public behind the written word - newspaper, magazine, menu, etc.?
kat Guam NFBtalk listserv
**9. My sun glasses is wrap around plastic job. The eye Doctor suggest that I wear them so that people will know that I am blind. Now most people that are blind wear the sun glasses not because they want to because they sight people is uneasy around you looking at you with strange eye. They like to see your eye. I only wear mind when I go outside and outside of house. So when I out I tell the world that I am blind now. Otherwise you get push, told off because you did not move out there way. I wear more to protect my eyes from object getting into them and kept down all questions why does your eye look like that they. So clerk in store know that there something different about me. till some you need a baseball bat that you do not know where that paper or credit card been lay down . So sun glasses is necessary for living in this world of sight people.
**10. That just proves how going on looks all the time is stupid. He was so self-conscious that he could barely speak! I was born blind by the grace of God, so the concept of looks doesn't really make any sense to me, but come on! Stop looking and start living as a blind person. Confidence is the only way to live. This shy, self-conscious thing is annoying.
**11. I don't wear glasses, tried them but they drive me crazy. So I just don't wear them. I am told I have beautiful eyes. I also know that when I wear glasses I don't get compliments on my eyes.
Even if they are artificial.
Dar NFBtalk listserv
**12. Looking good in public is important. Prejudices against people with disabilities are rampart and bad public relations make things worse. Wearing dark glasses also may inform the more alert citizen that a person is blind along with the white cane. I always wear a baseball hat to protect my face and head in unfamiliar surroundings. For the past five years, I wear my hair in a military burr. Funny thing is that I once paid $16 for this haircut which I do now alone. I also had to pay a driver or take a cab to the barber shop. I think all minority children would do well to keep hair as military short as possible. There is something about Anglo Americans about long hair. It irritates them no end. So why take the hard road? Get a military style haircut and keep racism down. If I could have cut all the long hair of my Mexican-American and Native American students, I could have made their lives considerable less burdensome in a society which may not discriminate on race but does discriminate on hair. Short hair is clean, doesn't need combing, takes a second to dry after a daily shower, presents a military style in public which means added respect by every single person one runs into, and can be done at home with the purchase of a $14.95 kit from Wal-Mart. People with disabilities need to remove barriers, not create them. Public appearances should be neat, clean, and professional. We are what we are but we do not have to make others uncomfortable. People are naturally rude anyway in some places. Ease the way with a good appearance.
Scott Bray, Ph.D.
Navajo Institute for Social Justice, Inc.
**13. Hello. This scenario is very interesting. My parents tried me with dark glasses when I was small, but I found they interfered with what little light perception I had, so they were abandoned. None of us really worried about it one way or the other.
Years later, while teaching school, once, one of the board members I'd become good friends with asked me if I had thought about wearing dark glasses for cosmetic reasons. I have ROP and the eyes appear cloudy instead of clear. I explained to her that they interfered with my light perception. She said she hadn't thought about that and apologized. No problem, I said, and that's all there was to it. When I really felt self-conscious about myself, though, was after we had our second baby and I was trying to get myself back in shape. Our eldest was in toddler swim classes where parents attend, and I dreaded getting back into a swim suit again. I also have varicose veins which were acting up at that time so almost chickened out. Then--I stopped myself, realizing that I needed to go out there with my head held high, and not worry about what other people thought in spite of my recovering body. I am so glad I did; otherwise, I could have become over-sensitive about my looks and missed out on a lot of life's fun activities. I said all that to say that the dark glasses issue (whether you wear them or not) shouldn't hamper your ability to be who you are and enjoy life as it comes.
**14. Dr. Jernigan wrote a piece about dark glasses. You might want to hunt it up. thanks
Lauren Washington USA
**15. I wear a snazzy pair of shades for professional purposes when it is appropriate to wear a suit and tie. Like it or not, we cater to the sighted and a pair of nice looking shades usually enhances a person's appearance. I t hink it's a crock of crap, but if I need the business and wearing shades will give me even a tiny edge, I will do it as business means money means paying rent and buying food, something I am fond of.
**16. Just because Robert's colleagues and acquaintances say nothing when they see him without his dark glasses, it would be naïve wishful thinking to assume that they did not notice. Any glasses, but especially dark lenses, change the appearance of a person's face, which is why celebrities and criminals often wear them to avoid being recognized. Sighted people who usually wear prescription glasses, even without tinted lenses, will inevitably draw comments from their friends and acquaintances the first time they forget their glasses or get contact lenses. It makes a big difference in appearance, and it does get noticed. Blind people may choose to wear dark glasses for a number of reasons. Some of us are extremely photophobic, and it is a matter of comfort. I wear glasses with lenses which are not only dark but also polarized to combat the glare from natural or fluorescent light. Without them it takes about an hour for my eyes to begin stinging and weeping. I know of others with the same problem. But the decision to wear dark glasses should be made with the realization that it may create a negative impression. People feel uncomfortable talking with someone when they can't see the person’s eyes. On many occasions I have heard critical comments, not directed at me, but rather at a sighted person wearing dark glasses indoors, especially at work or in a meeting, describing the person as looking like a hooligan, a thug, or just plain silly. While it would be considered insensitive to criticize a blind person in the same way, that underlying impression still exists in the minds of many. Of course, the decision to wear dark glasses is a personal one for each blind person. But it is a decision which should not be taken lightly, and never with the hope that no one will notice one way or the other.
Carolyn Brock Retired high school teacher
**17. People just treat me better when I have them on.
**18. Never felt the need to hide behind glasses.I am b In fact, after several spills of wine, milk, or water at the dinner table, I feel the need to tell waiters, hostesses, etc., that I am blind. My blindness, like my manners, is a fact of life and I am not ashamed of it. Not much to say on this and leaving to visit my daughter and her family in Texas. The airlines already know I am blind and have Prepared for my arrival at Denver and Houston airports.
Jim Theall, Longmont, Colorado**19. This is my first response to the Thought Provoker so here is my thought. First new to being blind, I do forget sometimes to put them on, in the house I do not, but I always wear them outside any kind of light hurts them from years of laser treatments from diabetic retinopathy. So a lot of people say when I forget them, so you are not blind, I tell them I am so, I just wear the sunglasses for protection from the light, which by the way, that everyone should protect there eyes outside from the sun. But, since I also have some limited sight, I have those people who say to me if you are blind why are you looking in the window of that place, etc. I tell them that there are different forms of blindness and not just no light perception. I guess it all depends on you and how you thing blind people should be shown. My opinion.
Cheryl Echevarria Brentwood, NY
1 year post kidney transplant and going strong.
**20. I was born blind, and for the first maybe 23 years of my life, it never occurred to me to wear glasses. Since my eyes were born normal in structure (it was the optic nerves which did not form, causing my blindness[Usher's Syndrome]), and slowly atrophied over time due to lack of use and input, I only started hearing that they looked opaque or whiter than normal or that one wandered and one did not, later in life. By then, having never seen anyway, I just shrugged and went on my way. When, in my 20's, on the punk music scene in Boston, I started wearing all black and black leather, someone remarked to me that I needed some cool looking shades to complete the outfit. Having heard all the clichés about dark sunglasses, I resisted. Then someone showed me the difference between dark shades, like aviator shades or half-shades, the cool kind that sighted kids were and are wearing, and the wrap-around things that cover almost your whole face. It was a cosmetic thing and, while my choice of clothing had struck a chord with my spirit, I forgot about five pairs of dark shades in various places before they became a habit with me. Now, since I still wear black and leather, I also often still wear shades. If I forget them, I just shrug and move on. However, when I have them on, I do notice that people, if they don't see my guide dog or some device related to blindness, do not know that I am blind. Even several park rangers, when I've gone on survival trips or just to the beach, having seen my guide dog with the harness on, have been suspicious and asked to see ID. One ranger insisted that I take off my glasses and prove to him that I was blind; naturally I refused andshowed him my dog's ID card instead.
I will probably keep wearing dark shades because it makes it that much more difficult for a sighted person to "read," me. In my quest to "level the field," between myself and sighted people, I have adopted a "stone face," mentality; give the sighted person nothing to read; lessen, as much as possible, the ability to read from my face or expression any intent on my part. I can't read their faces, so make it as hard as possible to read mine. Don't give them the comfort of using their sight to gather clues about me. Of course, this is not by any means a 100% foolproof method, and I may be fooling myself that it matters at all, but for me dark sunglasses are a defense mechanism and an attempt to make myself more enigmatic and less predictable to a segment of the population who usually view me as inferior in some way. One woman I dated briefly, upon looking into my eyes, remarked that "You have eyes like a stormy sky." I was floored. Maybe Robert needs friends/mates who see beauty in his eyes uncovered. Namaste.
**21. A sighted friend encouraged me to wear sunglasses when I go out. He picked out colorful and stylish ones that don't make me look blind. I have quite a collection of sunglasses, many of them bought at a cheap store, but look pretty: Once my friend spotted a pair of glasses with butterflies painted all over them in rainbow colors and bought them for me. I try on the glasses and they look good on me. He never steered me wrong. I have two pairs with stars on the frames: One clear, and one blue. I even have a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt sunglasses that normally retails for $36; they got marked down to $18, then later, to $3. I got them cheap. I have gold sunglasses, blue ones with different frames, white ones, mirrored ones, all kinds. Many of them are wraparound. One thing I have not found are sunglasses with hearts on them, or cats, even. Maybe that would be going too far. I try not to leave home without putting on a pair of distinctive glasses.
**22. For years, I had assumed that blind people wore sunglasses because they find bright light irritating. Another possible reason, which I learned more recently, is that some of them do have some residual vision, and they actually find it distractive while navigating. (I suggested this to a woman I know, and she agreed.)
Another reason is cosmetic: to cover up an injured eye. It is true that sighted people can be grossed out by such a deformity. Laura Bridgman's eyes were described in a similar fashion ("shrunken"); and, since she was the "star attraction" at the Perkins School, she had to wear either a ribbon or dark glasses. Helen Keller went a step further, at the suggestion of her rather stuffy relatives. She had her eyes removed entirely.
What stands out is the statement about "...the negative reaction by the sighted public to his blindness." That could mean a lot of different things, but one of them should never be "repulsed." There is no reason for sighted people to be grossed out by another person's blindness, in and of itself; yet people are. I find this very disturbing. I have recently been corresponding with a man from India, with this very problem. His right eye was injured as a child and, from that time, the people in his village HATED him. They think he has bad "karma," and assumed he "deserved" it somehow. It's a bunch of superstitious nonsense, but that's the reason.
Immediately, I recalled Thought Provoker #83: "Love, Blind Sighted." In that story, a man met, and eventually married, a blind woman. This, in spite of the fact that the woman's eyes constantly twitched and wobbled (a common symptom of glaucoma). The man saw past that, and realized the value of the PERSON; i.e., the SOUL, not the mere BODY. And, now that I think about it, the woman in that story is actually wiser than the man in this one. Why? Because she did NOT wear sunglasses to cover up her defective eyes. Thus, when she presented herself in public, blemishes and all, she showed by example that true love is not concerned with petty cosmetic hang-ups. And this is true of ANY relationship, at ANY level.
Robert's concern about appearances is a valid one, though unfair. The part that hits home for me, personally, is this stuff about "keeping up with the changing fashions." Now THAT is PETTY! I dress neatly, but I'm not going to blow a wad at Sharper Image every three or four months, nor would I do so even if I could afford it! Clothes do NOT make the man! What if the next issue of Gentleman's Quarterly comes out, and Robert doesn't have the time to update his wardrobe this week? Are his "friends" thus going to ditch him? If so, they'd have the same Social Darwinist mindset that caused the blind man in the last Thought Provoker to lose HIS "friends"! Such people ar said to be a "respecter of persons," but that's not very respectful! I hate that whole dog-and-pony show attitude! block quote end
Robert didn't think people noticed his "bad" eye, but it is clear that it caught their attention. That's human nature. The average sighted person will stare at another who is blind or deformed in some way. They are filled with repulsion, pity...then thankfulness. ("That could have been ME!" they think.) It is the same mindset that causes sighted people to watch a house fire, or slow down to look at a car crash. Granted, these co-workers were polite enough not to mention the "bad" eye; but there is no way to mention that politely.
And yet, believe it or not, it IS possible to get comfortable with that, and actually talk to people like Robert in casual, meaningful conversation. The ultimate example was John Merrick, the famous "Elephant Man." He was horribly deformed by a disease that filled his body and skeleton with tumors. And even though he lived in Victorian England, which prided itself on outward appearance, Merrick eventually gained access to societal circles, even up to the very Queen herself. She was very impressed with Merrick's wisdom and eloquence. So, no, it doesn't always pay to hide a defect.
**23. Sighted or not, everyone has a view of how they are perceived by the world. Chances are that none of us are seen by others in the way we see ourselves.
**24. Many people say they don't want to wear dark glasses, because it makes them look like the stereotypical blind person. I guess I was one of those people, for a I do care about my appearance and believe it's better to make a good appearance than to try to make a statement about not being the stereotypical blind person.
Dark glasses have their place. Some people may not need them, because their facial features and eyes look pretty "normal:". But, in the case of, either a disfigured appearance or, as in my case, prosthetics, I believe it's better to wear them.
A blind person can be a "stereotypical blind person" with or without the dark glasses. It's all in the attitude and self-confidence. So, I believe attitude is the deciding factor.
Cindy Handel Willow Street, PA
**25. This is a difficult issue for me. My left eye is almost closed and I see very little out of it. My right eye has tunnel vision and with a contact lens, I have 20/200 vision. I'm cross-eyed as well. If I covered up my eyes with dark glasses, I'd avoid looking weird and disfigured, but would give up some usable vision. I almost always wear dark glasses outside, because glare makes me uncomfortable. I feel comfortable and less exposed to the world. When I put my glasses back in my purse, I know I have two narrow eyes that won't work together and can't really make eye contact with others.
Michael J. Fox said it best. With disabilities, you get what you get. The best I can do is feel as comfortable with myself as I can, and not be alienated from my nystagmus and shifting eyes. Or, for that matter, my wrinkles and gray hair. It's a complex issue that can't really be handled in one thought provoker. There's my beginning.
Abby Vincent ACB-L listserv
**26. Do you find the ones with style? To keep up with the glasses trend? Or just by dark glasses?
Dar ACB-L listserv
**27. For dark glasses, I keep my old pair, and get a new pair, then have the old pair dyed, then just keep the light pair for things like t v and the like.
John ACB-L listserv
**28. In my youth, I scoffed at blind folks who wore dark glasses, wrongly assuming they were trying to hide something. For about 30 years, I wore two prosthetic eyes, hoping they made me look "normal." One of them always fit quite well and was comfortable, but the other gave me trouble right from the very beginning, even after I had them refitted at significant cost two different times. Then one day I got to thinking about it, and it occurred to me that I was very tired of having my eye socket ache by the end of each day. When I was tired, my eye would water and really bother me terribly. It also occurred to me that even with prostheses I still look like a blind person, which is what I am. The idea of wearing sunglasses suddenly seemed appealing to me. I could avoid all of the discomfort of the prostheses, not have to worry about whether my eyes were too wide open or too closed, and not have to always be checking to make sure there was no mucous visible on the prostheses. (Sorry, but that's how it is).
I seriously considered how folks would view me with sunglasses on. For a while, and even now once in a while, one of my friends will call me Ray Charles or Elvis, or some silly thing like that. My wife said she got used to the glasses right away and does not find them unattractive or off-putting. I talked with a close friend who is a medical doctor, asking her if she feels that wearing dark glasses would negatively affect others' perception of me. She paused for a long moment to ponder, and then said she thought folks would quickly get used to them and not be bothered by them.
Long story short, for more than two years now, I have been putting on the glasses as soon as I get out of bed, and keeping them on until I go back to bed. They're so comfortable that I have occasionally gotten into bed before realizing I had forgotten to take them off. As long as they fit well, they cause no discomfort.
I will probably wear them for the rest of my life, and no, I do not wear the prostheses anymore. I'm sure I could no longer get them in after all this time, and I certainly don't miss them.
Friends kid me about wearing the glasses to look "cool", but that really has nothing to do with it. My goal is to look good, or at least not unattractive. What is more important though is that I affirm my right to be comfortable. If the dark glasses make it immediately apparent that I am blind, that's fine with me, because that's what I am. I no longer care so much about looking "normal".
Jerry Berrier Shrewsbury, MA ACB-L listserv
**29. Why dark glasses? Yes, why indeed? I am likely to say some harsh things in this response, so buckle your seat belts folks, we are about to go through some turbulent weather. I think it was an excellent thought provoker, however. I wore dark glasses briefly after a glaucoma operation when I was 11 years old, because my doctor was concerned about possible eye damage from the sun. But that was a practical reason for doing it. When I was 18 years old, I learned that one of the stereotypes about blindness has to do with people who are blind who wear dark glasses. I don't think anyone was saying you shouldn't, if there are practical reasons for doing so, but that this is often a stereotype about blind persons. Anyway, I choose not to wear them. I am also one of these people who has a problem with my one real eye wobbling back and forth, probably due to my glaucoma. Most people, whether through courtesy or just because it doesn't matter to them, or they have become comfortable with how I look, haven't commented. One person did once and suggested I wear dark glasses, but because she was always quick to find the negative about how people looked, particularly if you were fat, as I was, I resisted and was even more determined to not wear them. Yes, I am somewhat of a rebel where looks are concerned. Now, it is true that one has to cater to the sighted world to an extent and even I have standards. Nobody I know of wants to go out to work or visiting in a shirt that is stained or torn, for example. I have no problem with a friend or coworker telling me that maybe I nicked myself while shaving or if I accidentally picked out clothes that don't quite match. It's kind of humiliating but you deal with it, thank them appreciatively and do what you need to do to change that. And I personally appreciate it because that person obviously felt comfortable enough with me to tell me this. When I go to work I wear a tie because that is the dress code in the office. While I doubt that I would be fired the first time I didn't do so, that is the dress code, men in this office do it, and it seems a small price to pay for fitting into the work environment in this office, which is generally a pleasant, supportive environment. But my point is that this is something every man in that particular office does, it is not restricted to someone with a problem with his appearance. Now, if my work environment was such that you were expected to wear different colored suits on certain days in the name of image, I might really question whether it was the kind of environment I really wanted to work in the first place.
Now the hard part. Choose to wear dark glasses or not to for practical reasons, because harsh sunlight bothers you or may damage your eyes, or don't wear them because they limit the vision you have or give you headaches. I believe there is a time when we need to stop compromising because we have to spare the poor, uncomfortable feelings of those poor shallow sighted people who are uncomfortable with how we look. Or worse, because we have to do it in the name of one of our gods in this society, vanity. Get over it, people, and get a life. The problem is with you, not with the blind person who chooses not to wear dark glasses. Guess what, blind and sighted people alike have to deal with uncomfortable situations all the time. A job interview is uncomfortable, but do you say that you won't go to an interview because of that or ask that the interviewer please not ask certain questions because they are uncomfortable questions? Of course you don't do that. I feel terrified because next week, in this new job of mine, I am going to be making my first outbound sales call and start getting hung up on, like everyone else in the office. Oh, and we have to have a certain quota of leads we meet. None of this is comfortable, but do I say to the boss, "gee, could I be spared from that"? Of course not. My point here is that by exposing yourself to an uncomfortable situation enough, you just might become less uncomfortable with it as time goes on, and that includes dealing with someone who might look a little different because they are blind and their eyes look a little strange but guess what, you have to work with that person. Too often, we are the ones who are told to compromise, to do the social accommodating and too much bowing down and licking the buttocks of the sighted world in the name of vanity and sheltering their feelings compromises my values. Some people, sighted and blind, go around with a perpetual scowl on their faces, which I would imagine can certainly be intimidating. But unless you are really close to that person, and maybe even then, you wouldn't dare tell them to smile once in a while, although that truthfully might help improve their relationships with their friends and coworkers. And for me, this issue about looks isn't restricted to blind people. I have a friend back east who used to infuriate me when we would go to a twelve step meeting together and before she left the car to go in, she had to perfect her make-up. I don't believe women should ever have to wear make-up if they don't choose to do so, except maybe at a job or sales interview because someone decided that would improve first impressions. I think if we insist on letting fashions dictate how we look or some nebulous cultural standard do that, we can make ourselves unhappy and become culturally enslaved. Live a little, stop judging yourself and others by these crazy ideas about looks. Learn to enjoy who you really are and if your friends are true friends, maybe they will be attracted to you because you are a warm, caring, giving person, and if they can't get past your looks, you don't need friends like that anyway, unless, of course, you are indecently exposed or something like that. One last thing before I stop. I wear my hair short because it is just easier to take care of that way. But to suggest that someone, particularly from a minority group, should have to wear a military-style haircut is to me quite questionable. To begin with, people come in all shapes and sizes and with all kinds of looks. Also, the last time I checked we were not yet a fascistic military dictatorship, even though I am sure our present administration would like us to be. And it seems to me that the last thing we need at present is for us to become a more militaristic society, and that includes this rigid idea of how we should look. I suspect that in itself can be intimidating, but I suppose this whole issue of militarism is another discussion for another time.
**30. Times change, even if old attitudes don't. When I first became blind, back in 1965, I refused to wear dark glasses because I'd seen so many blind street beggars wear them. To me they represented a badge of blindness. However, times changed. Many eye doctors began advocating UV coated sun glasses for everyone. Many athletes began wearing wrap around UV glasses. Skiers, golfers, tennis players, as well as baseball players all began donning UV's during competition. As a rehab teacher, working with older blind and visually impaired folks, I promote UV shields to my clients. Yet it has only been in the last three years that I began wearing them myself. Despite having no vision, I am bothered by glare. still I could not bring myself to put on "the badge of blindness". But my wife found a very cool pair of grey UV's and convinced me to try them. What a difference they made. I could feel my face relax as they cut the glare. While I don't become flustered if I forget them, I actually feel a bit naked when I discover I left home without them. Sometimes attitudes are very hard to change.
Carl Jarvis ACB-L listserv
**31. I've never worn dark lasses, though I've had a couple of people suggest it for look purposes. My feeling is that, I am who I am and my real loyal friends will not judge me for my looks. For me, it's not the quantity of friends, but the quality of friends, fitting in with the in crowd, just isn't important to me. If someone has issues with the way I look, it is something they need to get over, not my problem.
Having said that, I have thought of using them for job interviews, just to get my foot in the door, but was advised against it and the few interviews I went on without them were, even though I didn't get the jobs pretty positive experiences.
I'm totally blind, and light has no effect on me.
Cheryl and the girls ACB-L listserv
**31. I thought I'd try them to see if they would give me a better appearance and I just bought dark glasses, nothing necessarily in fashion. For whatever reason, I'd be traveling and I would hear this crash and something breaking into pieces. It turned out I'd bump into something with the glasses and after three, maybe four pairs, I gave them up. That in itself saved money for me.
Jim Aldrich ACB-L listserv
**32. To me, The whole issue of dark glasses is one of personal preference. I prefer dark glasses for two reasons:
1. I have a prescription pair of glasses that I have had dyed; this helps to cut down on the glare from the sun and various objects during the day.
2. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have glaucoma and a nystagmus, which causes my eyes to move about uncontrollably, therefore making it hard to maintain eye contact.
On another note, I think these threads would make a good book, or at least a good series, for the Braille Forum.
John Ross ACB-L listserv
**33. I have had my own experience with the dark glasses question. I had both eyes removed when I was a baby, in 1963. In those days, surgeons tended to take out a little too much material. So, my artificial eyes are a little too deep in the sockets, and I have small indentations on either side of my face next to my eyes.
I was never conscious of, or sensative to my appearance until I overheard a couple of comments in the mid 1980's. My mom suggested that I buy a pair of sunglasses which would make my eyes look larger and somewhat mask the indentations. I bought them and got several complements on how cool they made me look. In turn, I felt more confident and less self-conscious talking to people. After awhile, however, the novalty wore off. I got tired of having to clean them all the time, and they started hurting my nose and ears.
Then, in 2003, I got a new set of artificial eyes. A few weeks later, Mom noticed that one of the eyes was turned so that the white part was showing. We couldn't get it to stay in position, and I couldn't get to the Ocularist for about three weeks. So, we went back to the store for some sunglasses. I wore them faithfully until the problem with my eye was fixed and off and on for the next year. But, again, I got tired of the hassel.
Several friends have told me that, these days, sighted people wear sunglasses all the time as fashion statements. So, the question I have to answer is: "To bother, or not to bother?"
Nancy Karstens Omaha, NE.
**34. It is pretty likely that Robert's coworkers did notice, but since they liked and respected him, they just didn't mention it. Recently there was a television staged event where a young woman was filmed walking around with her skirt caught up in the waist band of her panties. No one told her of the problem although many stared. This was supposed to prove something about rudeness. Certainly a girlfriend would have told her, but strangers didn't. In the case of the glasses, people probably kept quiet out of a sense of politeness. I have been told by sighted people that so and so has the price tag on her jeans, has a stain on her shirt, etc. However, they didn't tell the poor blind person because they were embarrassed and were telling me because they hoped I would know how to handle it. At my guide dog training school, a young woman answered a tap on her dorm room wearing a see through raincoat and the instructor didn't tell her that the coat was translucent. Sighted people will stare, but just don't have the nerve to say anything. We have enough stacked against us in our dealings with the sighted public to not be aware of and minimize negative reactions. When I am dressed nicely with my hair and accessories all in place, I feel more confident and from an early age I observed that others treat me with more courtesy and friendliness than blind people who don't take care with their appearance under the misconception that just because they can't see others, it doesn't matter how they dress or conduct themselves. Yes, I am fortunate enough to not be affected by such shallow criteria as how the people I meet look, but I do live in a sighted world. Looking my personal best is like donning my armor to go out into that great big world and it tells others much about who I am to take pride in my appearance. It is like wearing a costume in a way. This set of things means I am a business woman, that one that I am a native American, this other that I like hiking, or whatever.
So on the question of glasses, I think people should do what best suits their needs. If it protects them from harmful glare, or hides obvious disfigurement, it makes sense. I don't wear them much because I have relatively long lashes that tend to brush the lenses and that is irritating. I have a pair or two to wear if their is a lot of wind and dust because I don't have a blink reflex and getting grit blown in to my eyes can be painful.
DeAnna Quietwater Noriega, Missouri
**35. I agree with Cindy Handel, it's all in the attitude. I occasionally (not as much as I should, considering the investment) wear a pair I bought at the Sunglass Hut at the mall here in Lincoln. I do it to be fashionable, not because I'm blind. I also did it because I was at a time in my life when I could afford the luxury. *SMILE*
Alan Wheeler Lincoln, Nebraska
**36. I WOULD LIKE TO ADD MY TWO CENTS TO THE SUNGLASSES QUESTION. I HAVE VERY LIMITED VISION WITH A DRAGGED MACULA AND MYSTAGMUS. WHEN I TRY TO LOOK AT PEOPLE IT LOOKS LIKE I AM LOOKING OVER THEIR LEFT SHOULDER. IF I DON'T WEAR GLASSES PEOPLE ARE CONSTANTLY LOOKING OVER THEIR SHOULDER TO SEE WHAT I AM LOOKING AT. I AM ALSO VERY SENSATIVE TO SUNLIGHT. WEN I WEAR TINTED GLASSES IT NOT ONLY CUTS DOWN ON THE GLARE BUT PEOPLE CAN'T SEE WHERE MY EYES ARE TURNED.
THIS MAKES ME MORE COMFORTABLE. SO I FEEL I AM WEARING GLASSES FOR MY BENEFIT, NOT FOR THE COMFORT OF OTHERS. I THINK PEOPLE WANT EYE CONTACT AND WHEN THEY DON'T GET IT THEY FEEL PEOPLE ARE BEING EVASIVE. BY WEARING DARK GLASSES YOU SOLVE THIS PROBLEM. I KNEW A GUY WHO WAS BLIND AND HE WORE MIRRORED GLASSES. HE EXPLAINED THAT PEOPLE WERE GETTING EYE CONTACT WHEN THEY TALKED TO HIM, THEY JUST DIDN'T REALIZE IT WAS WITH THEIR OWN EYES.
I THINK A PERSON SHOULD DO WHAT IS MOST COMFORTABLE FOR THEM, NOT WHAT THEY ARE EXPECTED TO DO, BUT A LITTLE EXPERIMENTATION CAN REVEAL A LOT.
Jody W. Ianuzzi**37. I wear the sunglasses because of photosensitivity, and they are a blessing for me.
Sometimes the cosmetic benefit of glasses is more valuable than the fighting the stereotype.
But each is to their own.
Shelley L. Rhodes B.S. Ed, CTVI
**38. I welcome controversy, since without this, there can be no change, and no progress in terms of civil rights, and justice, can be made. I’m responding to each entry in this week’s thought-provoker. Here it is!
I loved Ben Bloomgren, and strongly disagree with **12! I’m glad we have this opportunity to express ourselves, since without controversy, there is no change. First of all, society sure does discriminate on race. And society still does discriminate on us too. 84% not 70% vision-impaired working-age persons are unemployed. (US Census Bureau, Department of Labor, Social Security Administration 2005). Discrimination is horrendous. But isn’t it respectable to be blind? We’re not even level1 offenders: just disabled, that’s all. So what’s the problem? Sighted persons have all kinds of marks. And if we wore the dark glasses, , we would be hiding behind a disability. Haven’t we accepted ourselves? Yes, appearance is important, but so is self-esteem. Sighted people don’t try to prove themselves to us, so why should we try to kowtow to them? Sighted people are in fact, temporarily able-bodied. It is not a sighted world, but a temporarily- able-bodied world. I’m tired of us being viewed, by them and us, as inferior. Due to this we-must-be-pleasing-to-the-sighted-world- thing, I have placed myself in debt, with the credit card, as my vice in life is shopping for clothes. To please whom, a friend asked? She said, Are you doing this for yourself, or for them? And I realize that now is no time to take a pension loan. It’s a good thing I'm working. The appearance thing has to stop.
Blind people better realize that the reason there is discrimination is due to the old “there but for the grace of God “thing. And nothing else. While I love my burgundy suits, and the black-and red ones also, even they won’t get me the better job I’m still looking for. There comes a point where, Either you love me or you don’t. It’s the sighted people who are afraid of their own vulnerability, when they see us. We are given this bull-tweed, on the regular, about how all it takes is, “good grooming, good personality, (be nice now), good appearance, good computer skills, good social skills, (“don’t be rude”) and still the unemployment rate is up the roof.
It doesn’t work. Not that I like to see blind people being rude. But how about sightie pulling his own weight as well? I’m speaking of civil rights and justice, so this discrimination will be lessened. We all know that it took me 21 years
To find sighted friends on the job. I’m there 23 years now. And look at the marriage difficulty. It’s the women who go without. The men find sighted wives, and we’re left alone like dogs. I do wish to read Jernigan’s piece about dark glasses. This may decide whether I join or I don’t. I’m not conservative, but still.
Not to mention the fact, that if I did wear them, the little vision I do have would be occluded. We’re not pedophiles, guys. Just disabled, vision--impaired, blind or whatever we wish to call ourselves.
I’m “grossed out” by those who think we have bad karma. Offenders and pedophiles have bad karma. We don’t. The appearance concern is unfair, since if the social Darwinists
Were to lose their sight, they would have a whole lot more to think about than “the image”. Same goes for the Image consultants at big
Corporations. I too, hate the dog-and-pony-show attitude. About the repulsion of the sighties, yes, it could have been them. Maybe it will be some day. Yes, people can “talk to Robert in polite conversation as they did with the “elephant man”. He too, is not a felon. It is true to quote *22. “It doesn’t pay to “hide a defect”. He’s not a criminal. What’s the defect? Who are your real friends?
Yes, I am aware Helen Keller had her eyes removed. Was this due to her superficial shallow family, who feared she might “look blind”? It could happen to them someday.
Good for *29. I love going through “turbulent weather,” it’s good for the soul, and for civil rights and justice. I’m a rebel too. But the sighted world doesn’t cater to us. Pedophiles get treated better than we do. And society has put me in a conflict, as mentioned previously, where I’m spending all this money I don’t have, on clothes. For what? The sighted world? It’s not helping. And I have to find a better job, a., ‘cause I want sighted people to see us, working out there, making a contribution to society, and respect us, which many of them don’t, and b. to pay off my debt. I’m in a conflict, and can’t get out. I have standards too, yes, you “deal with it,” however, they have an obligation to be polite and courteous when telling you, that you may have picked out the wrong color as well. (What’s the right color? That varies, and could be a matter of opinion). I would question dress codes in “the name of image” also! Yes, I believe too, that we should not “spare those sighted people who feel uncomfortable with how we look”. I love it! I agree wholeheartedly, to hell with the god of vanity. The sighties, and those blind Uncle toms do have to “get over it and get a life!” I’m all for putting an end to “compromise” and the (I love it) “licking the buttocks of the sighted world”! o one shelters our feelings. Why should we shelter theirs? We do have to change attitudes!
Good luck with your sales interview, Mr. Tardif.
Now if some one wants to wear them due to sensitivity to light, that’s quite a different story.
Lucia Marett New York, New Yourk
**39. I beg to differ with Lucia (response #38). She says, "Sighted people don't try to prove themselves to us (i.e. the blind)." Well, some of us do, actually. It's just that we rarely cross paths.
Let me tell you a cross-over example. Just as there are aesthetic issues within the blind community, so there are within the deaf community. No doubt many of you had heard of the protest at Gallaudet University (a college for the deaf). The students protested that the college president "wasn't deaf enough," among other things. I found this interesting, so I went to the Message Board. On that board was another controversy: sign language. Among the deaf, there are "radical deaf," who INSIST that sign language is "demeaning," and INSIST that the deaf should learn speech and lip-reading. (This is possible, but very difficult.) I posted a message, titled, "Nothing wrong with sign language," and argued that it is just as valid as English. But a deaf woman barked an angry response, and demanded that signing was worthless.
My answer was this: I might want to attend Gallaudet (though I am not deaf), because I could learn valuable skills there. If so, I would learn sign language, if for no other reason than I would hope to make friends among the deaf students and teachers. If another deaf person hates sign language, fine. But I won't let that stop me. By the same token, applying this logic to the blind, who am I to say what is aesthetically pleasing to YOU? I mean, if you have a "bad" eye, but refuse to wear sunglasses, that's your prerogative. And, if you have a cane-or-dog preference, who am I to question that? Most importantly, I DO understand your desire for independence, dignity, and respect. And so, in that sense, I AM trying to "prove myself" to you. One never knows what rewards can be had by this kind of openness. I honestly believe I could find more friends among the blind and the deaf (or both), than I ever had among the hearing-and-sighted. Remember, it is THEIR sight-and-sound-pleasing shallowness that makes this debate necessary to begin with.
**40. I think that whoever wrote about minorities wearing short hair cuts is absolutely sick. I don't know what nationality he is, but I'm Mohawk and Onondaga, as well as Italian and German, and Native people, most of them, wear long hair for spiritual reasons not a fashion statement. That said, I cannot see the point of dark glasses. I sometimes wear them because bright sun glasses hurt my eyes, but I feel closed off from the world. When I come upon someone on the street and have a conversation, if I'm wearing them, I often instinctively reach up and remove them. It's like removing one's hat. I don't know why I do this but I always have and it is weird. Mostly I do not wear glasses at all though because they break easy, are one more thing to do, cost money, and because the only ones that really help me are the wrap around ones that I think are ugly. Thanks for doing these thought provokers.
Sarah Gales, Massachusetts
**41. I think that in most cases, people do not notice what is going on around them unless it is pointed out to them. This can vary from a piece of furniture moved from one part of the room to another to whether or not you're wearing glasses. I have personally noticed that people don't notice my white cane, which is supposed to indicate that I'm blind, even when I am walking towards them head-on. Thus, why most people never noticed that Robert wasn't wearing his sunglasses that day. As for why blind people wear sunglasses, while Robert wears glasses because he is self-conscious about his milky-looking eye, there are others who wear them just for style and to look cool and/or because they are sensitive to different kinds of lighting. If it is very bright outside, I wear my sunglasses, but as soon as I go inside a building, I have to take them off or else I feel hemmed in. In wearing sunglasses, however, there is a visual thing called stereotypes which have to be considered. Many people have associated big glasses, whether prescription or sunglasses, with blindness. There are prescription and sunglasses now that are very skinny and have a thin frame so that it does not look so intrusive to the wearer and those who see you wearing them. It is not to say, of course, that you won't encounter people commenting that you're blind because you're wearing sunglasses because you still might. I know that I did despite wearing my thin sunglasses. In fact, people believed my blindness more so when I had them on than when I had them off regardless of my cane. On the other hand, I have also had people who knew me comment on how cool and nice my sunglasses are.