A few days after I was declared blind, I chatted on the phone with my grandmother. During the conversation she asked me if I’d seen an article in the newspaper. Then her voice tailed off into silence. I waited for her next words, wondering why she had suddenly gone quiet.
When she next spoke it was to apologise profusely for her thoughtlessness in using the word “seen”.
This has happened to me regularly since losing my sight. when talking to me, people try desperately to avoid any word that is related to sight. Because they feel it might be insensitive for them to use those terms considering my blindness.
In some ways it’s sweet of them to try so hard. But it often makes a conversation a lot more stilted than it would otherwise be.
And, in truth, I have absolutely no problem with words relating to sight. Few of the blind and visually-impaired people I know do. We use them all the time. And most of us are totally okay with others doing the same.
Most recently a few people who have read my book have mentioned they initially felt a little uncomfortable with how often I use terms relating to sight. And people occasionally also mention it when they hear me speaking at conferences and events. But gradually, as they become more familiar with my style, they come to understand that my view of sight is simply a little different from what they are used to.
For me sight includes insights I gain from my remaining senses. Which is the reason my book is titled Ä Different Way of Seeing”
Because in a way I do still see… just a little differently from how I used to.
To get hold of a copy of my book, hop onto Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Different-Way-Seeing-second-Extraordinary-ebook/dp/B08L1VFYS9
It’s no secret that people often become nervous when using words that reference disability, and I get that. They don’t want to upset us, or make us feel in any way diminished by the term they use. And I get that too. In fact, I’m not even sure I know what term I should use to describe my own lack of sight.
I don’t really like the word disability because I don’t consider myself unable or incapable. I’m also not wild about the term visually impaired since I really don’t think I’m broken or damaged. Nor does the term differently abled resonate with me – I promise you my abilities are no different from yours; it’s only my methods that differ.
I guess it’s not the actual terminology that I struggle with. It’s the implications that each term carries. And when it comes right down to it, I have the choice of whether or not to take on the emotional implications of the terms
And neither do you.
“What?” I hear you ask, “What on earth do you mean by that?”
Well, you’d be amazed how often I’ll be talking to someone who gets completely tongue-tied when they need to refer to my blindness. They stammer, turn almost audibly red, and then mutter the dreaded “b”, “v” or “d” word as if it’s something heinous.
it doesn’t really matter to me what words you use – I don’t have to take on any of the emotional baggage that most of the terms carry. For me blindness is a reality, not a problem and, while I may be labelled disabled, it certainly doesn’t mean I’m in any way disempowered.
So use whatever term you’re most comfortable with… just don’t mumble it as if it’s something unmentionable.
PS: I feel I ought to warn you that not all visually impaired people share my view and have strong preferences of the terms you use – as a piece of advice I’d suggest you ask them what works for them!