Other people’s perceptions can be difficult for those with sight loss. As an example, I go out for lunch quite a bit with a friend. One day, he was shopping locally and a shopkeeper (who’d obviously seen him with me) asked: “Are you a care-worker?” My first response when I hear of something like this is usually to burst out laughing, but then I think about it afterwards. By asking that question, they’re assuming I don’t have friends (like normal people), and if I’m out holding onto somebody’s arm, they must be my carer. This doesn’t give me much dignity and it’s awkward for my friends as well. Similarly, in this great blog-post, a visually-impaired bride-to-be is asked: “Who’s going to be a bride’s-maid then?” because she’s looking for a bridal shop, and the person has assumed she couldn’t possibly be the bride!
A few years ago, someone actually said to me: “You have physical needs; I have emotional needs”. This shocked me and I didn’t know how to respond, but I’ll tell you now I have emotional needs as well, and many times the emotional needs are far greater than the physical.
For me as a blind person, it can be very easy to get disorientated. (Put a blindfold on and try to find your way around your house to get an idea what it’s like without sight.) I found out relatively recently that my eye-condition affects my sense of direction, so it can take longer for me to get routes into my head. If I’ve practised a local route regularly, I’m fine with it, but if I’m walking it having not done so for a while, I can get as lost as if I was walking it for the first time. The problem is that when you get lost or feel nervous, strangers can treat you like you’ve got a screw loose. “Are you all right? You look confused today,” they say, in a voice loud enough for anyone nearby to hear. Um – thanks! The truth is that sometimes I can go out with complete confidence, but I can also have off days like everyone else.
I suppose another perception I don’t particularly like is a more general one: That people will want to be grouped together with those who are the same as them. There are various groups for people with a visual impairment. My local branch for the blind meets roughly once a fortnight, but as someone recently pointed out, there’s nothing in those meetings for the more active person. Not everyone wants to sit playing Bingo or listening to an entertainer, but some people might. For visually-impaired Christians, there are Torch Fellowship Groups or the Disabled Christians Fellowship, but personally, I’d rather spend time with people who don’t necessarily have disability in common.
So, to summarise this post, everyone’s different. Blind people are capable of having friendships/relationships and yes, even getting married! And we do have feelings, which can be hurt the same as anybody else’s. All these seem obvious to me, but because of my experiences and those of others, I thought I’d point them out.