By Bob Branco
February 17, 2018
As blind people, we are often asked by the sighted population about how we do things. While some questions are sincere, others are downright ridiculous. Never the less, we have to keep in mind that some people are completely unaware of how we go to the bathroom, how we feed ourselves, how we dress, and how we make love. There seems to be no end to these questions, so we are resigned to expecting them all the time. As blind people, we have choices. We can either be resentful, answer the question proudly, explain politely that it’s none of their business, or we can think that perhaps these inquisitors really don’t know very much about blindness or that they have never met a blind person at all.
Yesterday, I had such an experience while at my local gym. Before I went into the exercise room, I had to take care of business with the receptionist at the front desk. As usual, I carried my white cane with me though that shouldn’t matter. I was there to use the treadmill, and not to prove I am a blind person. While I was in the process of getting my daily gym pass, the receptionist asked me for my driver’s license. By now, I’m sure that many of you would have a lot to say about that receptionist because she asked a blind man for his driver’s license while he was carrying his white cane. What’s the matter with her? Doesn’t she know the man is blind? She can see his white cane, can’t she?
Well, a very wise blind friend of mine said it best. We have to think about the possibility that some sighted people are completely unaware of blindness. Therefore we should provide teachable moments. When we are asked about ourselves or asked to produce drivers’ licenses, we should patiently explain as calmly as possible whom we are, what we do, or what the white cane means. Also, we can simply move forward and not get into that discussion. For example, when the receptionist at the gym asked for my driver’s license, I simply told her that I do not drive, and then gave her another ID to prove who I am. She accepted it, and I headed for the treadmill.
Should the receptionist have known what the white cane is? Absolutely. However at that moment, it didn’t matter. Perhaps there might be an opportunity where I can show this young lady what blindness is all about, but not yesterday. I was simply a normal patron at a gym ready to do exercise. I could have set a lot more, as I’m sure many of you would. I’m also sure that some of you may have resented the situation. I’ve heard sarcastic answers to blindness questions many times.
While I don’t want to continuously answer questions about blindness throughout my entire life, I also don’t want to give the sighted population reason to believe that blind people are resentful when we are not that kind of people. This is where the teachable moments come in. If we are all patient and answer these questions as if the inquisitor is totally ignorant on the subject, then I believe there would be more mutual respect, faith and trust. I am not saying that you would answer a question sarcastically, because many of you wouldn’t. However, I’ve heard sarcasm in this context, and this is why I talk about teachable moments.