Saturday 28 August 2021

Do All Blind People Think The Same?

Hello Everyone,

This month I've decided to do the "Do Blind People Think The Same?" tag. It's a tag that originated from Jubilee's "Do All Blind People Think The Same?" video, with blind content creators Alisha B, James Rath, Lucy Edwards, Molly Burke, Christine Ha and Mario BondsIt's part of their spectrum series where they have a range of people from the same community answer questions and share their experiences. After the video was released, Cayla with a C created a Blind YouTuber tag about this, more blind and visually impaired creators answered the questions themselves and created a tag within the blind community. Sight loss is a spectrum, so people would have different experiences and viewpoints to the questions. I wasn't tagged, but I wanted to answer the questions anyway and give my two sense. Here's the video which started it all:

Now that you've got the context behind this post, let's get started with answering the questions!

1. Has being blind enhanced your senses?

There's this misconception that people with sight loss have heightened senses, kind of like daredevil. Unfortunately being blind or visually impaired doesn't mean you have the skills needed to become a superhero, life doesn't work like that. Personally, I think being blind, or visually impaired has meant I've had to learn to use my other senses more than my eyes. For example, I can hear things like the sound of someone going up the stairs and figure out who just came up. There are also some things I can do quicker by touch, instead of using my eyes such as, finding things in my handbag. Also before I wore the hijab I used to wear earrings for Eid, weddings and other special occasions, I could only put them on myself by touch not by looking in the mirror. I do have quite a bit of useful vision, so I think I use my sense of smell and taste like the average person, whereas my blind friends are great at describing how things smell, or taste.

2. Do blind people prefer to date other blind people?

Just because someone is blind doesn't mean they only want to have a fellow blind, or visually impaired person as their romantic partner. Different people have different preferences. For some people being with a sighted partner is more ideal because it makes everyday things in life easier, like navigating at night, having a car at hand, or even reading the fine print on packages. Other people might prefer being with someone who also has sight loss because, they might relate to some of their life experiences. It depends on personal preference.  Just to add to that sight loss is a spectrum so no person with the same eye condition has the same experience, which means that some people with sight loss might still meet the legal requirements and be able to drive. I've not met anyone who can myself, but I know it's possible! For me, being with a sighted person would make life a lot easier, so that's what I prefer. Having said that, I wouldn't be opposed to being with someone who's blind if we were compatible and had a mutual physical, emotional and spiritual attraction between us. Whatever's meant to be will happen.

3. Are blind people less shallow about romantic partners? 

I don't understand why there's this idea that just because someone is blind, or visually impaired, people automatically think they'll be less shallow than everyone else. Where did this assumption come from? Why is this a thing? My theory is that because blind and visually impaired people essentially "can't see" what people look like, people assume we're more open-minded, accepting of others and consequently less shallow. The words "can't see" are in quotations because majority of people with sight loss have some degree of useful vision. To me the qualities are more to do with the individual in question, their personality, culture and how they were brought up. Sight loss may have played a part in it too, but it's not the sole reason. 

To quote Mario from the video above "we can be shallow AF!" Being blind, or visually impaired doesn't mean that you don't have your own preferences of what you like physically, personality wise and in terms of compatibility. Instead you might be attracted to different characteristics, such as the sound of someone's voice, or if your personalities mesh well together. Along with physical preferences as well like, the person being taller or shorter than you, short or long hair, beard or no facial hair etc. Everyone has their own standards of what they like and don't like. I think there's this expectation within some cultures that because someone has a disability, they need to lower their standards of what they're looking for in a romantic partner. When in reality, they have the same right as everyone else to prioritise what qualities they're looking for as well. 

4. Does unsolicited help make things harder?

I've only ever been in a situation once where someone decided to offer me help and I didn't ask for it. At the time I was waiting to cross the road, waiting for the traffic lights to go green and a lady just pulled me across the road with her. Thankfully, it was already safe for me to cross and I quickly got her to leave by saying I knew where I needed to go from there. It was when I was first starting out with my cane, so hadn't had a situation like that before. Now many years later, people do come up to me to help, but I always let them know I'm fine and know where I'm going. For me, unsolicited help can be more of an inconvenience than a scenario where things are harder. I have useful vision and equipment I use when out and about, so I can get by just fine. Plus I'll ask for help if I need it. Nowadays people just ask if I need help, or say things like "it's safe to cross now" whilst I'm about to cross the road. Not everyone with sight loss has enough vision to adapt like that, which is why unsolicited help can do more harm than good. People may feel disorientated, like they're lost and need to figure out where to go. I know from experience, that all it can take is something like not being able to get off at your usual bus stop, for you to feel like your momentarily lost. If you do see a blind or visually impaired person that looks like they need help, just ask, don't grab. 

5. Is the city you live in easily accessible for you?

Yes, London has accessibility features like talking announcements on trains, in stations, buses and lifts. Along with TFL assistance at stations, where they guide you to where you need to go at the station. Also pedestrian crossings have features like part of the pavement has tactile dots so you know it's a crossing point, traffic lights which beep when it's safe to cross and a cone at the bottom of the box you press the button, which spins when the light is green for you to cross. Local authorities offer orientation and mobility training where they teach you the safest way to cross roads, as sometimes the tactile crossing points aren't in the best place for someone with sight loss to safely cross. So, for me as a visually impaired person London is easily accessible. I've heard that in the countryside and other areas outside the capital, public transport isn't as good and people need to rely on cars and having other people drive them to places. As someone who has lived in London their whole life, I know I'm very lucky to have access to services like a freedom pass which enables me to get free public transport on the underground and buses in the city. Plus, there's a blue badge, which allows you or your family members to park in disabled parking areas and get a congestion charge discount. This is probably a good time to acknowledge my privilege because, I'm fortunate enough that my family can prioritise living in areas that have good access to public transport, local shops, good lighting at night and more. All of this allows me to live independently. Whereas some people need to prioritise living in an area where they have enough room for their whole family and can use a car to get around. 

6. Are you offended when "blind" is used as one of your descriptive characteristics?

To me, my visual impairment is something that is a part of me, it's not something that defines me as a person. I don't have an issue with people saying "this in Nanjiba, she's visually impaired". I'm aware that when I'm out and about with my cane that this is one of the first things people notice about me. My visual impairment is just a characteristic I have, there's no point in hiding the elephant in the room. Besides, there's more to me than my visual impairment, I have other interests and qualities people can get to know overtime, if they want to. One key factor to remember is how people word things. By that I mean, the fact that I've been described as "blind" can become something to be offended by, when it's seen as the only thing that there is about me. Along with a huge issue that needs to be addressed straight away, like "she's disabled, do you have a problem with that?". Sometimes wording can make a person's characteristics a bigger issue than it needs to be. My sight loss is something that I've had my whole life, it's something that is normal to me. In situations where it needs to addressed straight away, just say it as what it is, a characteristic I have. There's no need to make a mole whole into a mountain. 

7. Has being blind affected your mental health?

That's a tough a question to answer. I've been visually impaired my whole life, so it's all I've ever known. I think for a lot of young people with disabilities, there is a time in your life where you think "why me?", "why am I the only one like this?" or "why can't I just be like everyone else?". I definitely did have that for a short while because I was usually the only visually impaired person people in my life knew. Also for me growing up, I didn't really socialise with people, had trouble understanding social cues and learnt to be more comfortable on my own. I'm not sure if I've always naturally been a socially awkward introvert, or if it's something that's due to my disability. Personally, I think mental health issues people face are down to the individual themselves and their personal experiences but having a disability can contribute to it as well. After doing some orientation and mobility training, I became more confident and just viewed my disability as part of me. So, being blind did affect my mental health to an extent.

8. Have you experienced discrimination?

According to Google discrimination is defined as "the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, sex, or disability".  I'm a disabled Muslim Woman from an ethnic minority background. So for me, this is quite a loaded question because there's a lot of intersectionality between the ways I could be discriminated. By that I mean, my race, religion, gender, class and disability are all interconnected. So I could be discriminated against because of either my gender, my race, my religion, or my disability. Thankfully I've not been in situations where I can directly tell someone is behaving like that towards me and continue living my life. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that, where I live it's not done verbally. Instead it's more subtle visual signs that it's happening, which I can't see. Now would  be a good time to mention that being discriminated against because of your disability, isn't the same as being discriminated against because of your race, gender, sexuality or religion. The experience can probably help you empathise with other types of discrimination, but one doesn't equate to the other. Just to add to that, being blind doesn't mean you aren't exempt from discriminating against people yourself. Not being able to see doesn't automatically make you a none-racist individual. People can still be racist, ageist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic etc even if they have a disability because of the cultural and social attitudes they developed whilst growing up, where they live and the people around them. Even people from ethnic minority background can be racist towards other people from ethnic minority backgrounds!

9. If you could regain your sight with a cure, would you want to?

Personally, no I wouldn't. I've had sight loss my whole life, so this way of living is normal to me. I wouldn't want to have to adjust to being able to see everything and change the way I do things. I think that would be too overwhelming. Not to mention there are things in my daily life to I use to do what everyone else does. Plus, I like the perks that come with having a disability, such as my freedom pass, access to work service, disability guaranteed interview scheme and more. These things make my life easier, why would I want to have them taken away just to live like everyone else?

Having said that, I do understand why people who used to be fully sighted and then became visually impaired overtime would want a cure. To them, it must be like loosing a life you once had and having to adapt to a whole new way of living. So, if there is a cure available and people want to take it, they have every right to do so. Alongside this we should work towards making the world we live in more accessible for people who have a disability that can't be cured. Why can't we do both, instead of prioritising one over the other? 

If you'd like to find out how other blind content creators answered these questions then check out these videos:
That's all I've got for this post. I hope you enjoyed reading my answers. Since the tag is old, I'm not expecting anyone else to answer the questions. Having said that, I think This Blind Hijabi can, MsSheek Perspectiv, Under My Umbrella and Luke Same Snowden  would have some great answers to these questions. So, if they're reading this and would like to do it, then please do! If not, then they've got some great content you should check out anyway. What would your answers be? If you'd like to do the tag, please share links to your work in the comments below. 


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