Ever since the Blind New World campaign began, I have really become aware of how people’s perceptions of blindness appear in my everyday life. Some are very obvious. Comments like “You are amazing!”, “I don’t know how you do it.” and frequently “I’m sorry.” These emphasize that people simply cannot imagine life without vision.
Tonight I experienced another form of reaction to my visual impairment. Getting onto the subway with my Seeing Eye dog, a woman kindly offered me another person’s seat. I smiled and said “No thank you, I am all set.” I moved to the opposite side of the train and had my dog sit between my feet. While a seat is always nice, I personally don’t need anyone to give up their seat. This was very different when I was very pregnant with my two boys.
Suddenly, I hear someone berating this poor woman for speaking for me. “We are our own advocates!” she cried among other ramblings that I didn’t quite get. I definitely could have gotten all fired up and shot back at her and say that if I really wanted to sit, I would ask. But I stood quietly trying not to bring any more attention. What good would it have done anyway?
I really wish I could have made eye contact with the woman who offered me a seat and smile reassuringly at her. You see the other woman, shouting about her rights, has possibly done some damage in how the first woman will now perceive those with disabilities. She will most likely be hesitant to offer assistance again.
While I am a very independent and confident woman, there are times I do need help. In an already distracted and rushed world, finding people to help me can be difficult.
To that woman who offered me a seat, I would like to say: please never be hesitant to offer help. While there are people who would be offended, there are so many like me who would be grateful for the offer. The only thing I ask is to please respect my gentle “No thanks. I’m okay, really!”
To the woman who was “defending her rights” and apparently mine: I have a mouth and it works quite well thank you very much.
Also, trying to grab me or my dog is beyond disrespectful. Putting your hands on anyone is unacceptable and I am no different. So please keep that in mind when interacting with people who are blind. I’ll let you know what I need.
I live in Salem, MA with my husband and two toddler sons. I have been legally blind since birth. I want people to understand i am a person who lives a rich and fulfilling life…..who just happens to be blind.