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13 Things You May Not Know About Blind People

13 Things You May Not Know About Blind People

On a stormy evening when the lights went out and my eyes could not adjust to the darkness for a while, I learnt about what it might mean to live with a partially distorted vision. Following sounds and relying on touching objects, I had a unique experience. Afterwards, I was intrigued to know more about how do people with visual impairment live their lives and what do their surroundings mean to them.

This post is a result of that pursuit for understanding. Here are thirteen things that you may not know about blind people. And these thirteen things will go a long way in helping you deal with your awkwardness of interacting with people who have visual impairment.

1. They may possess some form of perception, if not their full sight.

Visual impairment does not equate with complete loss of vision. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 15.88% of people who are visually impaired, face total darkness or are blind. The remaining 84.12% have partial or residual vision, like color perception, light perception, movement or even form perception. They may be able to see in blurs or varying degrees of distortion, with literal blind spots in some areas. As you can see, there are many ways of having low vision, and it is not a binary between sight and darkness.

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2. They are not ashamed of having visual impairment.

Many blind people report perceiving their visual impairment as a mere physical challenge. By no means do they see it as debilitating or the end of their joy. And they don’t believe that ‘being’ blind is their identity. This group of people is as powerful, magnificent and capable as anybody else. And the onus on making a much needed attitudinal shift lies with the rest of us. So, the next time you find yourself thinking “Oh poor thing, s/he is blind”, check yourself and explore how you can change some deep rooted assumptions that play out when interacting with people who have different abilities.

3. They do not always need acute supervision.

Blind people are far more aware of their environment and have more mastery than they are given credit for. They may need inputs just like anyone else, to familiarize themselves in a new place or learn a new technology. But, visually impaired people by no means are perpetually dependent on others for their living. I would urge you to approach all visually impaired people with this in mind – If they need assistance, trust that they will ask for it on their own.

4. They feel as insulted by overcompensating kindness, as by judgment.

Some visually impaired people I know, often wish that everyone else would just treat them as people, and not as people with a condition. Unsolicited and extra assistance is something that may make them feel small. For example, helping them cross the road and taking them to their destination, when they just ask for directions. Or buying groceries for them and counting money on their behalf. Even picking up something they dropped and taking over carrying their stuff, are all considered as overcompensating kindness, which many blind people report as derogatory. Ask if they need help. Accept it if they say no.

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5. They are not super-sensory, and may not have heightened senses.

Popular culture depicts that if one of the senses of a person stops working, the others become sharper. This is not necessarily true! Though blind people may rely more on their other senses, and develop a strong memory or are tuned into auditory cues, they may not always have a sixth sense. However, there is evidence that suggests blind people use a process called ‘echolocation’, whereby sound waves are used to determine the location and size of objects within a particular area. Dr. Gavin Buckingham says, “They will either snap their fingers or click their tongue to bounce sound waves off objects, a skill often associated with bats, which use echolocation when flying.

6. They enjoy being spoken to with normal language.

You don’t have to hold yourself back from using vision oriented language with them, like look, see, watch, witness or even viewpoint! They do not take offense at such words, and might actually feel awkward if they sense you making a conscious effort to avoid such terms. Instead, just let them be a part of your experience, as they make you a part of theirs. After all, blindness is not a stigma.

7. They are as responsive and engaging with their environment, as any other human.

Yes. People with blindness like exploring new places, go to the movies, music concerts, try out new restaurants and even indulge in adventure sports like racing, snowboarding, trekking, skydiving etc. They as excited or hindered by their surroundings, as anybody else. This predisposition primarily depends on the personality types of individuals. Some are introverted and prefer their alone time or controlled environments. Others are extraverted and proactively seek varied experience.

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8. They do dream while sleeping.

Their dreams show up just the way they experience daily life- with a rich mix of sensory cues. In a Danish study (2014) of 50 blind adults, 18% of the blind participants (both congenital and later-onset) reported tasting in at least one dream, compared with 7% of sighted participants. Nearly 30% of the blind reported smelling in at least one dream. Almost 70% reported a touch sensation and 86% hearing. However, the emotions and themes of their dreams are known to be similar to that of people with sight.

9. They understand colors in unique ways.

Some individuals who develop blindness later in life, relate to colors just like people with sight. For others who haven’t experienced color as intricately, relate to it through association and building concepts like the fire is yellow or the sky is blue. They also associate it with energy forms: blue=cold, white=frozen, red=hot. Sometimes s/he can only tell bright colors or they might have a hard time telling blue or black or brown apart, or pink from white. Whatever is the case, colors have meaning for all people and the blind understand the concept.

10. They have more nightmares than sighted people.

This is a result of mental impressions or interpretations of distressing situations, because blind people generally report more anxiety in daily life than others. They find it challenging to avoid stressors, and hence their nightmares are closely tied to reality- falling into a ditch, getting run over by a car, running into a tree or getting stalked. Dr. Amani Meaidi who has studied this phenomenon closely, says such nightmares don’t affect the quality of life of blind people, but are a true indicator of the experiences they have.

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11. Not all of them use a cane.

Since there are varying degrees of visual impairment and blindness, some individuals seek assistance in the form of white canes or red tips canes which denote degree of impairment. Many others prefer using guide dogs, who are trained to help them navigate through curbs, doors or crosswalks. They keep an eye on their owner’s right shoulder to protect against collisions.

12. They are open to curious inquiries about their situation.

You may not know how to be with people who are blind, or might want to understand them better. Thus, it is perfectly fine for you to ask them about their lives and how their experiences are. The key here is to be curious, have a willingness to learn and appreciate the uniqueness that comes with being visually impaired. As said earlier, many blind people don’t see their situation as limiting, and can offer great insights, if you just ask.

13. Their success also hinges on how you view them.

Psychologists say that success in life, education and jobs of visually impaired individuals are directly proportional to the expectations that people around have of them, and the degree of positive attitudes they encounter. The more capable and able you believe they are, the more they will shine. Self-esteem, self-belief and self-image are partially formed through social interactions, and it is important that people encounter empowering experiences. Be that experience!

As you allow this understanding to settle, just remember that blindness is not a defect or a stigma. It is a characteristic, just as sight is, and Helen Keller’s words capture this fact beautifully: “I can see, and that is why I can be happy, in what you call the dark, but which to me is golden. I can see a God-made world, not a manmade world.”

Featured photo credit: blind woman walking in a park via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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