Hello my name is Robin and yes, I am visually impaired. However, my impairment does not make me any less human than you, so treat me accordingly. There have been times when I have felt like saying this, and a lot more to some people that I have come across because they either have treated me as though I was invisible or incapable of understanding what they are saying. Since I lost my eyesight, I can’t even count the number of times when people have talked to the person I am with about issues pertaining to me, instead of asking me directly. This can be frustrating because I am capable of answering for myself, and the person is taking that right away from me. It is a sad fact, but I don’t think that this issue only affects blind/visually impaired individuals, but a lot of other disabled people as well. For example, I was at our state capitol, and I heard a wheelchair bound man talk about how he felt like a third class citizen because of the way others have treated him. The man went on to talk about how some of the medical personnel would talk about what to do with him to his wife, as though he was not a person. Whenever I am with my mom or sister, they challenge this type of treatment by saying, “You can ask her yourself, she’s right here." When hearing this statement, many people realize their mistake and try to correct it by either apologizing or simply asking the question again, but directing it to me.
Educating others is important because if their mistakes go without being challenged, then they will keep committing the same actions without thinking twice about them. On the flip side, it is also good to acknowledge other’s positive actions because it can enable them to be aware and continue to better assist people in the future. When we go to a store or out to dinner where the salesperson/waiter is in tuned to my needs, then my mom, sister, or I will praise their efforts. When anyone, especially service personnel takes the time to be helpful, then it shows me that they care and value me as a person.
Another frustration that I have come across and will be discussed are friendships. Along with losing my eyesight, I lost some of my friends, which was heartbreaking at the time. I never would have thought the people to whom I called my friends, would abandon me because of a situation that was out of my control. When things like this happen, I try to remember what my dad tells me, which is "Don’t be so quick to call everyone your friend because your true friends will stick with you through the thick and thin." For those of you who lost friends due to your blindness/visual impairment; just remember that you are a great person and those people are not worthy of your friendship.
In addition to some of my friends, my peers treated me differently from sighted students by not asking me to be in their study groups and/or not talking to me in class. I actually had one incident in class where one student physically went to everyone in the classroom and asked them to be his partner, when he got to me; he kept going and asked the person sitting next to me. When this happened, I felt really sad and alienated because I wanted to be treated like the other students. Some people feel that because I am visually impaired, I cannot do the same things as them. Another example is when one day my mom decided to play matchmaker and introduce me to this one guy on campus. Well, according to the student, it turned out that we had already had a previous class together, but he never said anything to me. When asked by my so honest mom why didn’t he talk to me, he gestured to the fact because I was blind. My mom educated him by saying, "Just because she is blind that does not mean she can’t talk to you." Let’s just say that I went on to have another class with him and he made it a point to say hello lol! The fact of the matter is that in our society, there are still people who will be clueless and/or mean when it comes to interacting with people who are different from them. One way to deal with these types of people is through education and awareness. However, even through education, some people may not want to change, and then you must treat them with a grain of salt because you are a beautiful person who deserves to be treated with respect.