By: Tony Heath
Most of the time, it’s not “good” to be blind. Everybody complains about not being able to drive, or read, or do a lot of the things that our sighted counterparts do. We’ve all heard those complaints over and over again to the point where, for me, I’m getting tired of them. I have some other things to complain about that are fresh, new and different.
Like many blind people, I have never gotten enough exercise and have led a sedentary lifestyle. As a result, I am now paying the price. Therefore, I’ve had my dealings with those in the medical profession. Now I will admit that I am a bit of a hypochondriac. In fact, any time I get sick I assume it’s either a heart attack or cancer. But having said this, I notice that a lot of the doctors, nurses and technicians do not take me seriously because of my vision impairment. I notice them talking to my wife or the person who brought me to the appointment.
I have even been ignored or overlooked by colleagues in the blindness profession. I can remember being at trade shows selling video magnification equipment where I was clearly the one with the most knowledge about the devices and people avoided me to ask my driver questions. It makes me angry and frustrated to think that these educated individuals who worked with people who are blind every day, would display this type of behavior.
Another thing that bothers me is how people will talk down to me as if I have cognitive or mental issues when they find out I am blind. They’ll talk loudly or slowly when addressing me. They’ll say how amazing I am when I tell them the slightest little thing that I do. And my biggest pet peeve is when someone asks me “can you guess who I am?” One of these days I just want to reply “I don’t care who you are!”.
Sometimes, however, it can actually be good to be blind. Here are some examples.
- When I went to Disney Land with my white cane, I was escorted to the front of the line for every ride. I got to do everything in the park, and the good things twice.
- I’ve been excused from doing a lot of school work and chores throughout my child hood as a result of my vision loss.
- There is a nice young lady who works at one of my doctor’s offices who gives me a big hug and peck on the cheek every time she sees me and I’ve never noticed her doing that to anyone else before.
- I have no car insurance or other vehicle maintenance expenses; thus giving me more cash to spend on music and other gadgets.
- When I was in high school I used to brush up against the girls and then apologize, saying that I didn’t see them standing there. Well… at least I apologized .
- My wife and I went to New York City to visit a friend who had gotten us tickets to see a show at Radio City Music Hall. The problem was that the only three tickets she could get were scattered throughout the theatre. We arrived early so that our friend could ask if an usher could collect me after the show while she went to get my wife and then we could all meet somewhere. The usher said she could do us one better and got us all seats together down front in the orchestra pit. These are the plush seats that you see the big stars sitting in on TV during the awards shows.
So I’m not just a grumpy old man. I’ve come to the realization over the years that since blindness is a disadvantage most of the time, any time I can make it work to my advantage I’m going to do it. I’m looking forward to putting this into practice in the future as I am in the process of getting a guide dog. And guess what folks… dogs are babe magnets.
Tony Heath is ForSight Vision's Access Technology Specialist, and he also speaks to groups of children and adults on behalf of the organization to help them better understand vision impairment. Learn more about Tony on our website.