Today I saw a post on twitter about a young woman who is blind being offered a braille menu for the first time in her life. The twitter post and subsequent BuzzFeed article made it seem like this absolutely normal moment was life changing for the young woman. At first it made me smile, that blindness was being discussed on social media. After a while though, it began to bother me quite a bit. I’m 24 years old and I have been blind for 23 of those years. I learned at a young age to ask for menus in braille. They aren’t always available, but in most chain restaurants they are. Because most of the general public isn’t used to interacting with those of us who don’t use our eyes to see, you have to ask for the braille version, but it’s always fun to be able to decide what you want for yourself. I myself, am a creature of habit. Once i find a food I like at any given restaurant I’ll usually just order that food because that’s what I want. The last time I was given a braille menu I used it for the purpose of showing my stepson what braille looked like in a book. I never saw something like a braille menu as anything more than I deserved. Maybe my opinion here is a product of the self confidence I’ve been actively fostering in myself over the past 2 years. But I believe the fact that what should have been seen as an ordinary moment in a young woman’s day became a news story says something very negative about how blind people are treated by the majority of the sighted public. If we as a Society are surprised and emotionally moved when blind people are simply treated like everyone else, what message does that send? From where I sit it screams that people who happen to not have eyes that work should feel very lucky when they are treated with common decency. They aren’t usually seen as full, capable, functioning members of the world, so when they are they should be extremely grateful. The sad part of this to me is that it becomes a vicious circle. Blind people are taught that they shouldn’t expect to be treated like everyone else. So they grow up not demanding the respect they should be given automatically. On the other side of this equation, the rest of the world is learning that they can, for the most part ignore blind people. When they do treat the blind like they are actually people too, they expect a parade for their goodness! I see this whole situation as just sad and wrong. I live my life demanding respect. If someone is genuinely kind to me I am thankful for that. But if I’m offered the same treatment as my sighted friends, I just call that a normal day. It shouldn’t be news worthy that a young woman who is blind was able to order dinner with the same ease as her sighted sister. Blind people need to become strong enough to take what they, as human beings in this world, deserve. And in return sighted people shouldn’t feel like saints when they do the minimum to include blind people in everyday life.https://twitter.com/buzzfeed/status/846786971385171968
I am blind. I am not visually impaired. There isn’t a problem with my vision. I have a complete lack of vision. BLIND. It’s not a bad word. It’s not even a word I dislike. Just a word. When I meet new people they won’t say it. They’ll ask how much I can see. When I say I’m blind they’ll ask if I can see light. They’ll ask if I can see shadows. They’ll ask if there’s some kind of surgery that can be done to fix my eyes. My friends say I should just take my eyes out and be done with it. I don’t do that. But now when I say I’m blind I tap tap my nails against my prosthetic eyes. It’s the fastest way to show that the eyes are not real. I used to have a real problem with the word disabled. I hated that word. I didn’t like it applied to me. I used the word disabled referring to myself in a conversation with my sister the other day and my sister burst out laughing. I was confused. She said. “In your whole life I have never heard you use the word disabled talking about yourself.” I don’t think of myself as disabled. I think of myself as me. Just me. I don’t like the word disabled because it feels negative to me. It is true, I have an inability to see. But I still feel uncomfortable with the word. I speak only for myself here because I know there are people who don’t like the word blind. But I am okay with the word. It’s a very true, unambiguous, completely accurate word. Blind feels true but not negative. It just tells the facts.