“You don’t look blind”
“What’s the point in getting your hair styled?”
“Oh, you have an actual job?”
These are just some of the things blind and partially sighted people hear on a regular basis. From presuming their lack of sight means they have other superhero (a la Daredevil) powers, to receiving an instant apology when people have dared to say “see you later”…
There are certain things that you really shouldn’t say to a blind person – and others that you might be surprised to find are completely acceptable.
“Have you tried glasses?” or “Why can’t you get stronger lenses?” or “Can’t you have that laser treatment?”
Blind people will have tried all the options available and they haven’t worked. Maybe ask them how their eyesight is and how they are dealing with it or say you are curious about their sight loss and ask them if they would mind explaining it to you.
“You don’t look blind” or “So you can see?” or “I don’t believe you are blind”
Do blind people need to have a guide dog, a stick or sunglasses to prove they are blind? The term “blind” is misleading as some people can be registered blind but still have some vision left. It can mean their vision is at the level where it is not useful anymore – they may see shapes, outlines and shadows. Ask them about their sight loss and what they can or can’t see.
“See you later. Oh sorry!”
Blind people do not get offended at the word ‘see’. You do not have to choose certain words to omit from conversations. Disabled people in general make disabled jokes.
“If you can’t see very well, how did you get here?”
Travel is an essential part of everyday life. However, it can be a daunting experience if you are a blind person. The majority will have had mobility training at some stage in their life to help them travel and move around independently. Ask them about their journey without involving their disability.
“Can your dog understand directions?”
As far as we know, dogs cannot understand directions from a sat nav, nor can dogs read maps. Not surprisingly, dogs can’t read bus numbers either. So if an individual with a guide dog asks for directions, don’t address the dog. Dogs can’t talk either.
“How is your friend?”
Speak to the blind person directly rather than the person they are with. Blind people can hear and speak unless they are deafblind.
“What’s the best thing about being blind?” or “Do you wish you weren’t blind?”
The person with sight loss may respond positively or negatively – everyone is different. Avoid responses like “You are an inspiration” and “You are amazing because you are happy to be blind.”
Have your say…
Are you guilty of any of the above? Or have you been at the receiving end of the awkwardness? Please spill the beans to us @firstname.lastname@example.org
Things not to say to a deaf person