Do not be afraid to ask questions, be yourself around those with visual impairments

October 24, 2017

Quinita Thomas

qthomas@uccs.edu

    “Were you born blind?”

    This is one of the most common questions people ask me when they meet me for the first time.

    I usually tell them that no, I was born with sight, but lost it due to cancer, and have been blind since I was 2 years old.

    The response I get in return a majority of the time is, “I’m sorry.”

    But students should not apologize. It is actually a blessing that I do not have my vision; it gives me the opportunity to educate people and rise above stereotypes.

    Generally, it seems that people may not know how to interact with someone who is visually impaired. Some students do not know how to react when they first learn that I can not see.

    Others want to help, but are hesitant to ask. But students should not be intimidated or overly sensitive when it comes to asking questions about being visually impaired.

    Oftentimes, students are curious about how I get around, like it is a piece of cake. It is certainly something I do not think about; I have the campus memorized like the back of my hand. I think of it as a long strip, with buildings on the side like an outlet mall.

    Every now and then people wonder how I know which color is which when picking out clothes. My answer is pretty simple: I don’t pick my clothes for their color. I pick what I feel like wearing; if it goes together, then it goes together. If not, it does not matter, because it feels comfortable for that particular day.

    When it comes to friendships or relationships, physical appearance can be an important factor for a lot of people. Good looks might be a plus for me, but since I do not have vision, I use an alternative way to judge whether I want to build a relationship or friendship with someone.

    I have the advantage of observing one’s personality. I care more about what is in the heart, not about what they look like. I can tell whether someone is friendly or not within the first ten minutes of meeting them.

    Despite how easy it is to deal with not having sight, there are obstacles I wish I did not have to face. For example, not being able to drive, or having to use a shopper’s assistant when I go to the store – except when I shop for clothes – I usually bring friends along for that.

    If I could have sight for just those obstacles, I would feel less annoyed about not being able to see.

    The important thing to remember is that you must show your true colors; not just around me, but around anyone with a disability.

    There is nothing we dislike more than those who act fake. Be yourself; it’s OK to ask questions, and it is how you satisfy your curiosity. You will never know otherwise.

    I find it more offensive that people want to ask questions, but fear they will hurt my feelings. I am always happy to talk about anything, regardless of the topic. You should never worry about offending me in any way, shape or form.

    Of course, if you ask ludicrous questions such as, “How many fingers am I holding up?” or, “How do you know where your mouth is?” you can come across as ignorant.

     I cannot say what other students with disabilities want, but for myself, I want to fit in just like everyone else. My disability shows my ability to succeed.

    When you see someone who does the same things that an able-bodied person does, they too achieve the same goals. All that needs to happen is for that person to put their mind to it.

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