By Randy Pierce
Years ago, as I dealt with my transition from fully sighted to totally blind, I came across an anonymous humor posting that provided me with a much needed light-hearted moment. In addition to making me laugh, it also provided interesting insight into the way many folks view interaction with the blind. Whether it’s an issue of gender, race, ability or disability, we could all ultimately learn a lot from the message of the words of Martin Luther King: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
With this in mind, please enjoy the tongue-in-cheek humor behind this piece, and perhaps reflect on how it might apply to ways you should or should not view someone who is different than you.
People who use their eyes to receive information about the world are called sighted people or “people who are sighted.” Sighted people enjoy rich, full lives working, playing, and raising families. They run businesses, hold public office, and even teach your children.
TRANSPORTING THE SIGHTED
People who are sighted may walk or ride public transportation, but most choose to travel by operating their own motor vehicles. They have gone through many hours of training, at great expense, to learn “the rules of the road” to further their independence. Once that road to freedom has been mastered, sighted people earn a “driver’s license” which allows them to operate a private vehicle safely and independently.
THE TRAGEDY OF LIGHTING
Sighted people cannot function well in low lighting conditions and are generally completely helpless in total darkness. Their homes are usually very brightly lit at great expense, as are businesses which cater to the sighted.
BARRIERS TO COMMUNICATION WITH THE SIGHTED
Sighted people are accustomed to viewing the world in visual terms. Thus, in many situations they will be unable to communicate orally and may resort to pointing or other gesturing. Calmly alert the sighted person to his or her surroundings by speaking slowly, in a normal tone of voice. There is no need to raise your voice when addressing a sighted person. Questions directed to sighted persons help them focus on verbal rather than visual and gestural communication.
HOW BEST TO ASSIST THE SIGHTED PERSON
At times, sighted people may need help finding things, especially when operating a motor vehicle. Your advance knowledge of routes and landmarks, particularly bumps in the road, turns, and traffic lights, will assist the “driver” in finding the way quickly and easily.
Your knowledge of building layouts can also assist the sighted person in navigating complex shopping malls and offices. Sighted people tend to be very proud and will not ask directly for assistance. Be gentle yet firm.
HOW DO SIGHTED PEOPLE READ?
Sighted people read through a system called “Print.” Print is a series of images drawn in a two-dimensional visual plane. Because the person who is sighted relies exclusively on visual information while reading, his or her attention span tends to fade quickly when reading long texts. People who are sighted generally have a poorly developed sense of touch. Braille is completely foreign to the sighted person and he or she will take longer to learn the code and be severely limited by the dominance of his or her existing visual senses.
HOW DO SIGHTED PEOPLE USE COMPUTERS?
Computer information is presented to sighted people in a “Graphical User Interface” or GUI.
Sighted people often suffer from hand-eye coordination problems and poor memories. To compensate, people who are sighted often use a “mouse,” a handy device that slides along the desktop to save hard-to-remember keystrokes. With one click on the “mouse” button, the sighted person can move around his or her computer screen quickly and easily. People who are sighted are not accustomed to synthetic speech and may have great difficulty understanding even the clearest synthesizer. Be patient and prepared to explain many times how your computer equipment works.
HOW CAN I HELP A SIGHTED PERSON?
People who are sighted do not want your charity. They want to life, work, and play alongside you. The best way to support sighted people in your community is to accept them for who they are. These citizens are vital, contributing members of society. Conduct outreach. Take a sighted person to lunch.