There is a wall between us. But are we really that different? The blind and sighted disconnect
Can you see this?
Good. I want you to read this.
Good. Because I want you to talk to the person above.
Now, what is this? What would be the problem, you might ask yourself.
Or maybe you are like me and you feel that there is a problem with communication between the sighted world and the visually challenged one. In either case, I’m glad you are reading and I would ask you to read until the end and then decide if I have managed to make my case or not. Let me keep on keeping on then.
Ok, so what am i actually talking about here?
I am, generally speaking, talking about the invisible yet ever present glass wall that exists between those who can see to read this post and those who can’t. The sighted and the blind. It is there. Us blind people can see it, and so can the sighted. The question is why it’s so hard to talk through. Notice how i said “us”? “Us” and “them”. It is sad that even i make that distinction of us and them. I apologize to you up there, you who can see to read this post, as I’ve already excluded you in some vague and unsettling way. I feel the glass wall and I find it so very hard to ignore. But if you can forgive me for that and if you are still reading, I will try harder to not do it again. That is after all why I write this, to knock on that wall, pound on it until it cracks and shatters. Whether that is even possible or not, I fail to see the harm in trying.
It’s a bloody glass wall, are you blind or something?
Um, yeah. I am.
It wasn’t always there, that wall.
I’ve been nearly totally blind for less than ten years now and I’ve felt the shift in attitudes from sighted people, and from me. The point is that I’m just as responsible for this barrier. As far as old friends go, I am absolutely, totally responsible for raising it. I can’t shy away from that. Those friends can’t see that wall, and they never will. To them, I am the same and it sure as hell isn’t any of their doing that things have changed. That does not change the fact that we can’t talk about it. Nor do I think I want to. The attitude is something like “I won’t bring it up if you don’t.”. And besides that, talking old memories is so much more fun.
I rant sometimes about sighted people not getting it. Sighted people being ignorant, making idiotic comments, asking the absolutely wrong thing… I feel hurt and distanced when I sense their discomfort. I back off for fear of the look of pity and misguided compassion I hear in their voices, and I fail to ask for assistance I may actually need. I have on a few occasions really asked and I’ve been ignored and avoided as a result. That hurts and obliterates my confidence, making me bitter and resentful. I want to blame someone, lash out, pay back some of that pain. I get mad and have noone to blame.
Those are my sins and they turn into a vicious circle almost as difficult to break as that imagined glass wall. To break free of anger and resentment I’m the one who needs to get my shit together, grow some confidence, find my own identity beyond what i once was. Beyond and above what i still sometimes wish for.
Am i the only one that finds it hard?
But what i most of all want is understanding and communication. I want the ability to talk openly about being blind and what it means in a practical and emotional way. I honestly don’t know how so many blind people do it. I am so impressed by their confidence, their attitude, their strength. I want to be like them.
I have gotten so far off the topic I originally wanted to talk about that I will continue this particular rant and write a new blog with my original thoughts. I’ll be talking about the more practical issues I, and I’m sure many other blind people face on a visual internet. How to deal with websites, images, layout reviews, and the need for sighted observers.
But i digress.
I wish sighted people who are curious, would just ask.
I wish sighted, and blind people, would stop being so politically correct it becomes absolutely anal to discuss anything.
I wish we could all tell blind jokes and everybody laughing our asses off instead of going mute in shock.
I wish sighted people would ask me to join in instead of assuming I can’t.
I wish for a place, online or elsewhere, where blind and sighted people get together and just talk about things, lay our canes and car-keys down for a moment and have fun.
I’m getting tired of being directed to tech specific, work specific, mobility specific, health specific, and any other specific thing or other lists and forums. Sometimes it feels like the only reason blind people are online is to change things, make things better, learn skills, get opportunities and fair treatment. I want that too, don’t get me wrong, But mostly I just want a place to talk about things. I want to be off topic once in a while. A friendly place where emotions are allowed, where rude and bad jokes are allowed, where I can be myself. I can always rant about website accessibility issues on any of hundreds of websites and lists. I can always be an activist anytime, anywhere, online or at the coffee table at home griping about things to a barely listening husband.
What I have yet to find online is actual human emotional support. A place where I don’t have to pretend to be clever or strong or confident. A place where I don’t feel the need to prove myself, push a product, offer some creation for review, prove I am of use to the world. Because in all honesty, there are times where I’m really of no use whatsoever to anyone and that’s actually ok. I just want to be me among other people who also just need a moment. Blind, sighted, deaf, messed up, broken in any way, perfectly confident, uncertain, just human.
Is there such a place I’d want to know.
I never did come to any great conclusion to end this blog with, no profound insight, no deep insight to share with people. But I think that in the very least, if that glass wall will ever fade away, we need to start talking. I hear, you see, let’s talk.
I suppose I could finisht this by stating the obvious: Blind people are not contageous, they don’t bite, and sighted people are not any different from us when it all comes down to it. None of us are mindreaders, and not knowing is not the same thing as evil. So why is it so hard for us to communicate, I wonder. I want to be able to learn to ignore that wall and just be myself whether that wall is still there or not, but I’m going to need other people to want it too. Maybe that wall could instead be just a fence, and we can reach over it, shake hands, and chat for a while.
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