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Small Talk

In Your Neighborhood

As she settled in for her flight to New York, Greta couldn’t help but notice the woman next to her holding a stack of blank pages with raised dots. She was running her fingertips over them quickly.

Greta decided to risk being nosy. “Is that braille? I’ve never seen it before.”

“Do you want to touch it?” the woman asked kindly. She explained it was a legal brief for a case she’d be defending that afternoon. As the conversation continued, the woman showed Greta a photo of her young daughter. It was tough to balance a career and family, she said – a truth Greta knew all too well.

As the plane touched down, Greta wished her new friend luck.

“When we first started talking, I couldn’t get over the fact you’re blind,” she said. “But we’re more alike than I realized.”

CHANGE THE WAY YOU SEE

Share a little about yourself.
When you’re having a conversation with someone who is blind, it is no different than speaking with any person. Resist immediately diving into questions about their blindness. Talk about yourself, inquire about them, and discuss the usual. Good conversation goes both ways. If your counterpart isn’t engaging, they may prefer no conversation.

Go ahead and ask.
Ever wonder how blind people read their mail, shop for clothes or commute to work? Once you’ve established a rapport, you have the chance to ask your questions. Many blind people enjoy explaining how they go about their lives.

Offer assistance.
If circumstances change or actions occur that are entirely visual in nature, notify your blind companion as to what is going on. If visual items are presented, e.g. a tray of food with options, offer to explain to your blind companion what is being offered. When visual cues are the only form of communication, offer to help with the translation.

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BlindNewWorld is sponsored by Perkins School for the Blind, where Helen Keller challenged and dramatically changed society’s perceptions of individuals with disabilities. Founded in 1829, Perkins is the leading global enterprise dedicated to advancing the lives of the young blind population through education, accessibility and innovation.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” - Helen Keller

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