Seeing Beyond Blindness

In this blog, Rachel acknowledges the important role visual information plays in everything we do. However, it is also important to look beyond what we see.

Networking events

After receiving verbal directions to the networking event, I listen for voices and use my cane to navigate to the large double doors. I take a few steps into the room and notice the dim lights. I feel awkward at these events.

Many people attend networking events alone. They share the same anxiety of meeting strangers in a professional setting–but my blindness makes things a bit more interesting.

I hear two conversations happening at once. I turn towards one, waiting for the right time to interrupt. I take a deep breath and add my comment to the discussion.

I feel the three women exchange a glance and look at me and the cane I carry. They shake my hand, introduce themselves and keep talking.

A woman asks if I want to sit, andI shake my head. I just want to be a part of the group like everyone else. I don’t like extra attention.

Friendships 

It is a sunny summer day. I sit on the chairs with friends, feeling the warm sun on my face. Our children play, running off the seemingly endless energy they have. Two of my friends pass a phone around, talking about a photo. I smile and ask what it is.

“Oh, sorry, Rachel,” one replies and describes the photo.

I chuckle, but the moment has passed. Sometimes, things just are not the same when you have to verbalize them.

School drop-off and pick-up procedures 

I arrived at my son’s school with my driver behind the wheel. COVID-19 has completely changed the world of education. Parents cannot exit vehicles to drop off and pick up their kids. I roll down my window as he approaches and opens the back door. The new booster still has packaging around it. I pause, wondering if I should get out.

“Sorry,” my driver says. “I was going to pull into the parking lot and help him with that seat.”

“It is all right,” his teacher says, stepping over. “Let’s get you buckled in.”

I wonder if the teacher assumes I need help because of the cane I carry, or if she helped my son with the seat because of the rules. The second option seems logical. I let it go and continue about my day.

I entered the small, crowded house with my husband and son for the birthday party. I lean against the wall next to my husband as my son scampers down the hall to find his classmates.

“Does she need to sit down?”

I scowl. I can’t help it. I get asked this question a lot. And it wasn’t even asked to me directly this time.

“I’m fine. I sit all day at work,” I answer the woman.

Transportation 

Holding my son’s hand, I step onto the crowded bus. I know I will need to stand, but I want my four-year-old to sit somewhere. I work my way toward the back, and a woman offers one seat. I direct my son to it and grab the railing next to him as the bus pulls forward.

Another woman squeezes past me at the next stop. I can tell she is evaluating me and my young child sitting next to me. I grit my teeth and silently beg her not to speak, but no luck.

“You should let your mom sit, little man,” she says.

“No.” I point my dirty look in her direction. “I am fine. He is my son, and I want him to stay where he is. Please do not tell my child what to do.”

I do not like people overstepping when it comes to my parenting. My blindness made this woman feel entitled to give my son a command. And I had to be polite about it, because I’m supposed to be the nice, happy blind person who always wants to educate others.

Employment

I step into my Chief Executive’s office. I find my seat with my boss’s instructions. I smile gratefully. She gave me directions and did not feel the need to give me her chair, which was closer to the door. Blindness does not prevent us from walking to an available chair, we just need to know where it is.

Blindness is part of me. I am not ashamed of it and do not try to hide it. I educate people about the capabilities of blind people.

However, I wonder if some people do not look beyond what they see. Most people rely on vision to navigate, interact with people and to care for their children. It is hard for them to comprehend not having sight. I watched my husband adapt to changes through his own eye issues, so I know the significance of full vision.

Being second guessed, questioned and treated differently wears on me. I want people to see beyond my blindness. Ask me questions and be willing to listen. Trust me when I tell you I am fine, I do not need a seat or that I know what is best for my child.

I sometimes feel like I hover on the edge of a group, not quite fitting in, but wanting to. With the exception of learning more about my trade and professional growth, I am at a point in my life where I am who I am.

If you have a question, ask. If you want to make a difference, you can start by seeing more than what is in front of your eyes.

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