Last week I covered socialising with someone who is hearing impaired. Then I remembered, I’m visually impaired too. What luck, another excuse for a blog.
I am lucky in that I have some sight (for what it’s worth), so for me, having a vision impairment isn’t really a hurdle when socialising. Not as much as the hearing impairment anyway.
It is irritating how clueless some people are though. So here are some things to keep in mind if you meet me:
1. Your hand is invisible to me. I have no peripheral vision at all so holding out your hand to shake mine is useless. If you want shake my hand just take it in yours. Just leaving your hand hanging in the air makes us both look stupid.
2. Give me real directions. I can’t see where you’re pointing. Use “Left” and “Right”.
3. Get out of my face. It’s unlikely that pushing something up against my nose will help so just don’t do it.
4. Remember there are boundaries. I once had a women grab my hand and thrust it into her bosom in order to “show” me the chain she was wearing. Computer says no!
5. Warn me. In situations like the one above it would be nice if you gave me a heads up if you intend for me to grope you. Otherwise it could end in tears. Yours, not mine.
6. Excuse me. Having said that though, if I inadvertently get too friendly or bump into you while doing something else, I am eternally sorry.
7. It’s not one size fits all. I think the “official” way to guide a visually-impaired person is by letting them grab your elbow. This doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t offer me enough stability. Don’t assume you know the “right” way I should do things. Find out what works for me.
8. Be my mirror not my groomer. If I have something on my face, in my teeth or up my nose, tell me. Don’t take it upon yourself to fix it.
9. Put it back. I am a neat freak. I can usually find things because I know where they live. I can walk around familiar places because I know where the “landmarks” are. Don’t leave things out for me to trip on or re-arrange my stuff. It will only piss me off.
10.Tell me where you are. Sometimes you’re just a dis-embodied voice. So, tell me where you are and stay there so I can face your direction. It is very embarrassing when I realise that I have had an entire conversation with someone while facing a solid wall.
In terms of socialising it is ok to suggest a movie to someone who is blind. High-action low-dialogue movies such as “Pirates of the Caribbean” might not work well as they are hard to follow if you can’t see. But British comedies such as “Notting Hill” (not slap-stick) are great as are movies based on books as they are easy to follow.
Stand-up comedy and concerts are also helpful as there isn’t much to see. And anything where multiple senses can be used such as parks and beaches etc. are excellent.
Although, if you are there with me be careful. It’s highly likely that I’ll confuse my left from my right and end up in the ocean.