You can’t have a second chance of a first impression. The problem with first impressions is that they can be completely wrong. Everybody has a first impression of somebody, it’s just natural. We like the look of somebody or we don’t, we think they dress nice or they don’t, they are intelligent or they are not, they are disabled or they are not. In the first few seconds of seeing somebody we think that we have them all figured out. The truth of it is, we haven’t, and we can’t possibly have in that short space of time. The sad thing is, sometimes first impressions stick.
Sometimes people see my white cane and think that I can’t see anything. Wrong! Only 7% of blind people have no sight at all. I can see, I just can’t see clearly. Also, just because I can’t see clearly doesn’t mean that I need help with everything. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I might need help with something that I could do by myself the other day. It all depends on the circumstances and how I am feeling. So please don’t assume that you know all of the answers, just ask. I would much rather you ask and get the right information, than having you just making it up as you go along. Also, one blind person is not the same as another one. They may have completely different eye conditions and levels of sight. Their anxiety levels may also be very different. Some visually impaired people are quite anxious and others seem full of confidence. For me this changes daily depending on where I am, what I’m doing, how I’m feeling, what the weather is like. So many different things can have an impact on how confident I feel.
Some people seem to think that because my eyes don’t work properly, that my brain doesn’t work properly. There have been a few occasions where people have spoke to me really slowly, loudly and in a really patronizing way, as if I need things explaining very clearly because I obviously have major learning difficulties! It’s my eyes, just my eyes, not my ears or my brain. I can manage a day to day conversation perfectly fine thank you very much. The thing is people try to help, which I am grateful for, but sometimes they just go about it in completely the wrong way. It can sometimes be quite hurtful.
Sometimes people seem to think that I have mobility issues, which I do as a result of my sight loss, but not because of a physical condition. Quite a few times I have got on the bus just to go one or two stops, it’s easier than crossing roads and trying to battle my way around people and street furniture. I have got on the bus quite happy to just stand at the front for the two minutes I will be on. But people will insist that I sit down so that I don’t fall, almost dragging me to a seat. I am quite capable of standing and holding onto a pole. Plus standing at the front helps me to see where we are better and when my stop is coming up. Dragging me further down the bus disorientates me, it means I have further to walk while the bus is moving when I need to get off, so actually I am more likely to fall than I was. And it just down right annoys me. Leave me alone!!!
Most of the time people mean well and if they have never met a visually impaired person before then how can they possibly know what to do? Most of the time they probably try to do the right thing and just end up making it worse. Please don’t assume that you know the situation. People with sight problems, hearing problems, speech problems and just about any other problems are not stupid. We know our own minds. In fact we have a lot more knowledge of some subjects that most people will never have.
So please don’t just go on your first impression and make assumptions about somebody’s situation. If you want to help, just simply say “do you need any help?” And please think about how you speak to people, would you like being spoken to in that way?
xx ❤ xx