“You Don’t Look Blind”

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all well.

I’m sure some of you will be familiar with today’s topic but for those of you that are not, I hope it’ll be more of an educational post.

As a blind person myself, people often say to me ‘you don’t look blind’. This is something that many blind or visually impaired people are told and it can often leave you puzzled or wondering, “what does being blind actually look like?” Stop and think about that question for a minute, do you know the answer? Many people do not. For example, I am registered as severely sight impaired but have light perception so therefore I do not see total darkness.

There are many misrepresentations of sight loss and typical ideas of your average blind person, some of these stereotypes include:

  • Blind and visually impaired people constantly wear dark sunglasses.
  • The older generation are the ones who are affected by sight loss.
  • Blind or visually impaired people are incapable.
  • Blind or visually impaired people cannot be confident.
  • Blind or visually impaired people are often seen as being miserable.
  • People with a vision impairment cannot be fashionable, can’t apply makeup themselves, be beautiful or express who they truly are.

These depictions of blindness are rarely the case, they may have been true at some point but this is not the case in contemporary society. They have been interpreted by the media’s wrongly perceived ideas and people’s own opinions/views on this topic.

There are many reasons for why people may have these ideas; it may be because some people with sight loss act or present themselves in this way, their age – often a lot of eye conditions are linked to older people so they don’t expect to see a young person with a visual impairment, or that they do not portray characteristics such as being vulnerable or miserable and are in fact happy and outgoing.

Personally, I think it is a mixture of various factors that contribute to people’s perceptions. It can be how a person acts or how they present themselves, for example, wearing make-up. I also think that the way a person looks is very much a contributing factor; some people’s eye conditions affect their eyes, for example they may be sunken in or cloudy, but for others there may not be any visible signs when looking at their eyes and they just look like a sighted person’s. How a person walks is also something that people may assume if a person is blind or not, whether they walk confidently with a mobility aid or are being sighted guided, rather than looking down at their feet and being conscious whilst walking.

As I previously said, I think one of the main factors is how a blind person looks and dresses; there are many blind people, myself included who love fashion and like to be fashionable, wear make-up and keep up with the latest trends even though we are blind. Our disability doesn’t stop us from being fashionable!

There are many disabled people who don’t let their disability get in the way of them living life to the fullest, they are confident, smart, amazing in many ways, driven and open minded.

There are many ways of being able to do various tasks, we are lucky enough to have assistive technology, mobility aids, support groups, and people like myself who are trying to help others in the same or similar situations. These mean that we often do not fit the stereotypes of being blind as these gadgets or mobility aids enable us to be fully independent.

I want to address some questions which I often get asked about how I do certain things even though I have a visual impairment, therefore I don’t look blind.

How do you apply make-up?

I apply my make-up myself, I learnt to do this by practicing over and over again, being shown by my Mum, I was determined to be able to apply my make-up myself. It’s all about touch and memory.

How do you style your own hair?

I use tools such as straighteners and curlers but I did my research into ones that were the most accessible for a person with no useful vision, I also asked the blind community for their suggestions. My straighteners beep when they’re ready to use and my hair curler is extremely easy to use.

Picture of Holly with curly hairHow do you keep up with the latest fashion?

When shopping, I always go with someone that I trust, usually my Mum and they can tell me what looks nice and what doesn’t. I mainly use the internet to keep up-to-date with the latest fashion.

We can be interested in fashion because we can feel fabric, ask those closest to us how they think we look, use screen-readers or magnifiers to look at items on the internet and even get assistance in shops if we need to.

How are you confident despite your disability?

Confidence is something that I struggled with for many years, but this has improved a lot over the last few years and it has made such a difference in my life. I am confident because I have dealt with a lot, learnt to stand up for myself, overcome many challenges and my disability has made me a stronger person.

How are you so independent?

I am independent because I have always encouraged to be as independent as possible, especially by my Mum and Dad. I have always been a person that likes to do things for myself, and often find it easier to learn that way.  I have never been wrapped up in “cotton wool” so to speak. I use a cane, I have assistive technology and I have supportive friends and family around me. I want to travel like sighted people, I want the freedom just like everyone else and want to try new experiences.

 

If you take anything from this post, I want you to remember that sight loss does not take over a person’s life and it does not define them as a person, Disabled people have dreams that they want to pursue, they have aspirations and they want to live life to the fullest, I know I do! Remember that a disabled person is so much more than their disability.

The next time you see a person with a visual impairment who doesn’t fit the typical notion of a blind or visually impaired person, think of the facts, not the misconceptions.  And have an open mind.

That concludes today’s post, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and that some of you may have learnt something from it.

As always, thank you for reading!

Holly x

 

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Common Misconceptions on Blindness

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all well.

I thought I’d write a bit of an educational post on some of the common misconceptions on blindness/visual impairment and the correct ways to approach these. Just a note before I get into this post, I’m not speaking on behalf of all blind people, I’m talking from my own personal experiences. I hope you enjoy today’s post!

 

Being blind is a tragedy, therefore blind people are helpless.

This is far from the truth. I’m sure every blind person has their down days where they do feel helpless at times or feel like they’re fighting a constant battle but it does not mean that blind people cannot achieve the same goals as sighted people.

 

Glasses help blind people see.

No this is incorrect. Every blind or visually impaired person’s vision is different so for some, glasses do help but for others they do not. People may also wear glasses as a piece of assistive technology such as the OrCam in order to give them independence, not to improve their vision.

Photo shows an OrCam attached to a pair of glasses

 

Blind people have amazing hearing.

This is not true; we learn to use our ears and take note of sound effectively. We don’t have some sort of extremely powerful hearing. Just because we can’t see, it doesn’t make our other senses amazing.

 

If you are interacting with a blind person, you need to speak to them very loudly, then they’ll know that you are talking to them.

No, this is very rude and very very annoying. Speak to us like you would any sighted person.

 

People who are blind see total darkness.

This is not true as there are many variations and levels of blindness. Some people have tunnel vision, some can read large print, others have light perception and some have no sight at all. Personally, I have light perception which I find rather useful at times.

 

All blind people read braille.

As mentioned in the previous statement, many blind people have some useful vision so therefore do not need to read braille. Some people use other forms such as audio or assistive technology. We are very lucky in today’s society that we have such things. Personally, I do read braille myself and I think it’s a vital skill to have.

 

Blind people attend specialist schools and colleges.

This is one of the misconceptions that really does bug me. When I tell people that I went through mainstream school their shock and disbelief is evident in their voice. Educating blind people in mainstream schools has been in place for many years now, so specialist schools are not the only option. Specialist schools do exist and whether a blind person is educated in mainstream education or specialist school is entirely down to their needs and preference.

 

When interacting with a blind person, don’t say things such as “look” or “see”.

Never ever change your vocabulary when talking to a blind or visually impaired person. As a blind person myself, I use terms such as “I’m watching the tv” or “have you seen that?”

You won’t offend us by using them, you’ll more than likely offend us if you don’t use them.

 

Guide dogs know where to take a person and when to cross the road.

A guide dog isn’t a SatNav, it’s down to the person to know the route that they’re carrying out. A guide dog doesn’t know where to go, they only know where to go through training and commands from it’s handler. It’s the owner that decides when it’s safe to cross a road, and the guide dog will intervene if necessary.

 

All blind people have a guide dog

Whether a blind person has a guide dog or not is completely their own decision. Some feel that it gives them freedom and independence, whilst others prefer to use a cane. There are also many variations of canes – the standard white cane, red and white striped cane meaning deafblind and a range of coloured canes can also be purchased if you want a bit of glam or something a bit different.

Picture of a purple cane

 

Feeling someone’s face is a technique that blind people use to make out what someone looks like.

I don’t know one blind person that does this. Personally I think it’s just totally weird!

 

Blind people have limited job opportunities

Why do so many people think this? It drives me up the wall! With the correct technology, equipment, support and training blind people can get a job in whatever field or industry they wish. It may be harder for this to happen, but it does not mean that it can’t or won’t happen.

 

Blind people are unable to live independently

Being blind means that we may learn to do things differently or make adaptions, it does not mean that we are unable to care for ourselves or be independent.

There is specialist equipment and technology such as a cane, guide dog, screen-reading or magnification software or kitchen appliances in order for us to complete daily tasks and live independently.

 

Blind people can’t apply make-up.

People are often shocked when I say that I apply my own make-up. There is often this wrongly perceived idea that blind or visually impaired people can’t look glamorous, and therefore don’t apply make-up. Personally, I love being able to apply my own make-up!

 

Most blind people are looking for a cure

Many blind and visually impaired people are more or less happy with their disability and do not want a cure. Personally, it would be nice if I could see but I’m not looking for a cure and holding onto the tiny chance that this may happen. I’m happy with the person that I am and believe my blindness has shaped who I am today.

That concludes today’s post everyone. If you are a blind or visually impaired person yourself, what common misconceptions do you experience? Let me know in the comments!

I hope you enjoyed this post!

Holly x