Sighted People (aka See’rs) seem to have many misconceptions about Visually Impaired Persons (aka VIP’s) I speak for many of my fellow VIP’s when I say I don’t care if you use terms like “Did you watch….” or “Did you see …” or “Watch this” or “Good to see ya” Guess what? I know I can’t see, and I know you didn’t mean it in a bad way, and I know you can’t help yourselves, bless your little See’r hearts. What does bother me, is when assumptions are made. In the post, “What Can I Get Him?” we discussed how people wrongly feel we VIP’s are incapable of ordering food from a menu. More disturbing is the assumption that there exists a correlation between our ability to see and our hearing.
As a former See’r, I have to tell you that this assumption baffles me. It goes both ways and seems to be gender neutral !! When I first came out of the blind closet, stopped hiding my impairment, I quickly noticed that many people began talking louder to me. The tone was the same, the way people used expression was the same, but the volume was noticeably higher. For quite some time I thought it was just my imagination. One day my Service Human (The Lovely And Talented Margaret) said, “Why do they talk louder to you than they do to me?” So I wasn’t imaging this. Let me clear this up for you, talking louder does not help me to see better.
Then there is the other side of coin. As often as people talk louder to me, I am just as often asked, “Has your hearing gotten better since you went blind?” The answer to this is more complicated. My hearing did not get better, but my understanding of what I hear is much improved. I can hear a person walking behind me or towards me. I can tell you what color the traffic signal is by the sound of the cars around me, which lets me know when I can cross the street. The sound of my cane tapping tells me if I am in the open, or in a room, close to a wall, or if there is a roof, if I am on blacktop or cement. When Margaret and I are at a restaurant I can hear and understand most of the conversations going on around me, and I admit, this can be quite entertaining.
Before you ask, no, I cannot hear my heart beating or the grasshopper by my feet. Not that I expect anyone reading this under the age of 45 to get that reference (those who do will laugh) Anyway, the problem is that I can’t turn it off. Ever. When I was a See’r I could. I could zero in on one conversation and ignore the other things around me, but now that I am a VIP I seem to have lost the ability to tune out background noise. From speaking with other VIP’rs this is a common thing. The biggest problem is that when we are in a large public setting our hard drives (minds) are overwhelmed. This adds to the anxiety and confusion, so we tend to withdraw. Right or wrong? I don’t know, it just is what it is.
What to take away from this quick little post? Don’t talk louder to me just because I’m blind. If you do you just might meet The Crotchety old Blind Guy instead of the The Nice Old Blind Guy. You want to sneak up on me? Good Luck with that. See me standing on a street corner, leave me alone, I’m listening and learning the traffic pattern to know when I can cross. If I am tapping my cane, that just means I’m looking around. I once had a young Mom tell me her son was being picked on because he was a VIP. I told her to have that young man tell them “I See With My Ears, It’s A SUPERPOWER”