As we dialog about racial, cultural, sexual orientation, disabilities and all the other kinds of differences we have, I often hear a comment like “I don’t think of you as blind.” It’s meant to be affirming, but it makes me afraid and mad.

                If you don’t think of me as blind, you’ll:

  • Invite me to a silent movie with no audio description
  • Not tell me if I have a spot on my blouse
  • Not tell me about the “wet paint” sign where I’m about to touch the wall…

                Saying you don’t notice, feels to me like gaslighting, saying my reality isn’t really real. Hopefully, it’s not the only thing you notice, but please go ahead and notice.

To me, noticing my difference and taking it into account as we do things together is a better way than not noticing it. I don’t expect you to know everything about how the difference affects me, but I hope you have enough empathy to take some guesses and ask when you wonder.

  It’s fine to be curious, especially if you’re putting some effort into the friendship and you’d be okay with me asking you a similar question.  For example, if you want to ask “Do you wish you could see?” is it okay for me to ask you “Do you wish you weren’t Black sometimes?”

                Pretending we aren’t different on the sight dimension of life, leaves me trying to pretend I’m sighted which takes a lot of energy and is bound to fail.

  I’m happy if you don’t think less of me because of our differences, but please notice, be naturally curious, empathize and enjoy sharing your world.  If you tell me about that beautiful blooming bush you noticed on your walk, my world will be enriched.  Unless it smells, I may be walking by it and not even know it’s there.

 When differences are okay to talk about, I can enrich your world too. You can talk about what blue jays look like and I can tell you they squawk a lot when it’s going to rain. Most sighted people are too busy looking at them to listen.    

                If you mean “I don’t think of you as inferior”, thank you.  Please help rehab disability words like “blind” and “lame” so they don’t equate to “ignorant” and “insensitive.” When you catch someone saying “blind to their pain”, ask them if they meant “ignoring their pain.”

                When we’re comfortable enough to laugh about our differences and misperceptions of each other’s worlds, life is indeed richer.  As a sighted friend used to say: “Just because I can see, doesn’t mean I see.”