Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Blind Ettiquette

A friend of mine, Theresa Parker McAdams, and I came up with this list. She was blind and I was a teacher of the blind so the principal thought it would be a good idea for us to share an office/classroom that year.The list was inspired by how atrociously I felt she was being treated at that school and how I had to fight for my students. Later another teacher, Janice Woods and I added to the list. We had a computer class together and she helped as a person who had never worked with the blind by asking the right questions.

  • If I bump into you with my cane, I will say, "Excuse me." If you should see me coming, say: "Good morning"--speak to me and call my name so that I will know that you are there. That will greatly help with my not bumping into you.
  • I am not deaf. Please use your normal tone of voice. I don't have "super-human" hearing either but I do rely on my hearing more.
  • Warn me of things I am about to touch things that are about to touch me. Say: "Here's a wet paper towel." "Here's a cold can of soda." Please don't just plop things into my hands, start wiping my face, give me an injection or push or pull me somewhere.
  • Don't drag me places or push me in front of you. Even with 20/20 vision you cannot see through me to get either of us from one place to another. Nor do you need to drag me like a puppy. Let me walk with you using the sighted guide technique.
  • You don't have to change your language to avoid sight references. I also say "See ya later" and "Let me see that."
  • Don't talk around me as if I'm not in the room. Don't ask my sighted friend what I would want or how I feel. I can speak for myself.
  • I should face you when I speak to you. Please reciprocate that courtesy by facing me when you talk to me. I can hear your voice go off to the side.
  • When you speak to me in a crowd, call my name or touch me to let me know that you are talking to me.
  • In class, if you are writing on the board or pointing to a chart speak in specifics. I cannot see what you're talking about when you say this or that. Instead say this plant or that chair. Use "it's on the left" and not "it's over there."
  • Don't project your feelings. If you are thinking "Gosh, if I were blind, I wouldn't be able to.." and then assume that to be true of me. That is projecting and it most often does me a disservice rather than a service for me.
  • Ask me if I will need help with a task---or I will ask for your assistance if it is needed. Do not assume that I need your help and start helping.
  • Don't assume that I don't read books, watch TV and movies, send emails, read newspapers, surf the "net" or participate in sports.
  • Knock before entering a room. Speak to me and let me now your are there and who you are. Isn't that a common courtesy afforded to anyone?
  • I can maneuver steps and staircases. Don't assume I need to avoid them because of my eyes. If my legs work just fine, my cane helps to detect drop-offs.
  • Don't "blind-spy." It is the ultimate in rudeness to ask someone to get my reaction while you listen in without making your presence known to me.
  • Replace furniture. In a classroom, office or lunchroom, I'd appreciate you pushing chair back in place and putting any of my things back where you found them.
  • My cane is a tool which helps me explore my environment. It is not a toy or a stick. Please respect it.
  • My dog is a tool like my cane. When its harness is up it is working. Please do not distract it from its work.

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