What not to do when interacting with people who are blind, explained by someone who is blind

The feet and red cane of a person walking
“Mess with my cane, and you shall regret it.”

When meeting a new person, there are often new social codes that need to be established. Perhaps the individual has a child, or is chronically late, or has a disability, or a disability different from our own. Whatever the situation, it is not uncommon to find oneself unsure of how to proceed in order to avoid offence or awkwardness, no matter the amount of good intent. Writer Caitlin Hernandez has taken it upon herself to help clear up the confusion a little. Drawing from her own experiences, Hernandez has published a list of, “10 mistakes that hurt blind people the most.” Hernandez released her article on TheMighty, a website that declares, “We believe in the power of stories, the strength of communities and the beauty of the human spirit.”

The objective of Hernandez’s list is to discuss common situations that may occur when you are blind, or know someone who is blind, and what not to do in those situations. According to her article, Hernandez hopes to raise awareness regarding, “What [people who are blind] typically do and do not need help with, the fact that we’d much rather have people ask questions than say nothing at all, and the reality that just because we do everyday things a little bit differently, we aren’t performing magical, wondrous feats by any means.”

Hernandez’s list includes mistakes she’s encountered that even her “friends and family sometimes make,” and cautionary truisms such as, “Mess with my cane and you shall regret it,” “Sighted does not equal superior,” and, “Don’t be dismissive.” Each article on the list has an explanation relating to Hernandez’s personal experiences.

In addition, Hernandez discusses the idea of inspiration porn, stating, “I do not exist to make you look awesome.” Elaborating, Hernandez explains, “Don’t make a big, braggy show of helping me, so you’ll look like a hero in front of the guy you have a crush on. Don’t talk about me patronizingly as if I’m Baby Einstein…If you just ask me nicely, ‘Caitlin, would you mind showing us how you text?’ I’ll be happy to do a demo nine times out of 10.”

Read more of Hernandez’s ideas in the original article.

Emily Pate is a third-year student at Seattle University interested in Strategic Communications, learning Spanish, and working with non-profits. Her work for Rooted In Rights is focused on discussing current events in the community of people with disabilities. Her experience previous to Rooted In Rights includes writing broadcasts for KBOO radio in Portland, OR, and managing a neighborhood blog in the Seattle community. In addition to work, Emily enjoys drawing, spending time with her friends and family, and backpacking.