Thursday, November 12, 2009


As I mentioned before, I have a blind classmate. I've never been around a blind person before, so this has been a real learning experience for me. I'd like to share some of the things I've learned, which I am fairly certain apply to all blind people and not just to my new friend.

~ Big open spaces can be bad for them, because they lose their bearing. They need some reference -- even just a curb that they can find -- to know where they are. And it's best if they don't have to walk through open space to find that reference place.

~ If a blind person is lost, go rescue them. This is something my blind classmate has really emphasized when we're talking about blindness. Also, some blind people panic get even a foot away from their path.

~ Blind people have to learn to face people they talk to. So if you're talking to a blind person but they aren't facing you, don't take it personally. Sometimes they'll even face completely away from you. I'm not sure how many blind people do this (my classmate doesn't) but apparently enough do that it's worth mentioning.

~ If you're leading a blind person somewhere, tell them if you're coming up on stairs or anything else like that. They really need to know that kind of thing.

I'll probably share more tidbits here and there. It seems to me that knowing basic things like these about blindness is good, even if you don't see blind people on a regular basis.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

I had some blind friends when I was your age in university. They taught me that, when walking with them, don't take their arm -- let them take yours. And the point you made is very important -- tell them when you're coming to stairs, or a curb or anything involving a different surface level.

Sarita said...

She hadn't actually told me to never take her arm, but thinking about it I'm realizing that she's always maneuvered so that she held my arm when I tried to hold hers.

Thanks! :)

Dalesings said...

I had a blind organ student for several years. He continuously amazed me with his memory. I would play through an entire piece, say, one of the Eight Little Preludes and Fugues. He would immediately play it back to me. It wasn't until we got into the larger Preludes and Fugues of Bach that he needed me to record them so he could take them home...where he would memorize them in their entirety for his lesson the next week! Amazing powers!

Sarita said...


Well, with music, people who are blind do have to memorize pieces. After all, it's not like they can just look at the sheet music if they aren't sure how a piece goes.

Etana said...

Try not applying one person's experience & needs/expressed needs to all blind people. There are ton of us out here who do not want what you've listed. If you really want to post a blog regarding how to be a good ally to blind and visually impaired folk, do some research first.

Anonymous said...

Oh gosh. It sounds like your classmate doesn't have a lot of confidence in her independent traveling skills. Please do not assume this applies to all blind people. If you think a blind person may be having difficulty, it's okay to approach and ask if they need assistance (though please stop thinking of it as "rescuing"; it's extremely patronizing) just like you might with anyone who looked lost--but don't ever *assume* they need help just because they're blind, and if the answer is no, leave it at that. Plenty of us handle open spaces just fine, and if we get off our path, we just figure out how to get back on. :)

Also, regarding music: There is a braille code for music, so if you're literate in that, you needn't memorize pieces.

Sarita said...

Wow. I hadn't expected to learn even about blindness this way! Thank you.

I'd like say, I've tried to make a point of: 1) not making assumptions about all people who are blind based on my experience with this one person, 2) clarify about points that do not apply to everyone. My apologies about failing in one or both of them.

And I'm pretty sure that "rescue" is the word that my friend who's blind used. She did say that not everyone panics when they get lost, and that that is when they need to be "rescued". There have been times when I have helped her when she wasn't sure how to get from one building to another (she doesn't have to have help, but it sometimes makes things faster for her) but I've never thought of it as rescuing, because I've never seen her panic. So, I would only use the word "rescue" in certain context, and "help" in others.

...and now I look at what I've written and it looks like it might still be patronizing. Does it? Please say if it is.

I had not known about a braille code for music. But how would you be able to read it if you've got both hands on the piano? Sure, you can use it as a reference, but you can't read it as you play, can you?

My apologies again about any misunderstandings or anything I said wrong. I'm still learning, and would greatly appreciate those who have more experience in such matters setting me straight where needed.