1. You are unbelievably amazing and inspirational
Now don’t get me wrong, I love a compliment and an ego boost as much as the next man, and I love when people tell me that I’ve made a difference to the way that they think about or perceive things. What I’m not so fond of is people calling me “inspirational” because I managed to tie my shoelaces or get out of bed in the morning. I think there is a big difference between admiration/respect and putting someone on a pedestal for doing something that they have no choice but to do. I want my achievements to be impressive in spite of my disability, not just because I happen to have that disability.
I also wouldn’t mind so much if it didn’t come along with a patronising or supercilious air of superiority (and often some kind of pat on the back or double-handed handshake). At the end of the day, I’m a normal guy doing normal things, and I only want to be referred to as “inspiring” if I have done something that merits it, like climbing a mountain, running a marathon, or making it to a 9am lecture after a big night out.
2. I don’t understand, I’ll avoid you just in case.
Now I totally get where people are coming from on this one, but it’s frustrating nonetheless. A lot of people, when they don’t understand how something works, will avoid it in fear of getting it wrong. Most people have little or no experience of dealing with a disabled person, and so, anxious not to offend, they will stay far away or make a painful effort to steer clear of the subject. Like I get that some blind people take a lot of pride in being independent and may resent someone coming over to offer help, but trust me, if I’m strolling confidently towards a train track or trying to spoon flour into my tea, please feel free to come and offer some help!
3. Aw, how sad, I will pray for your sight to return!
If I had a pound for every time a stranger has said this to me, I could buy some premium laser eye surgery which would do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to improve my genetic sight condition. Look, I’ve had my eye condition for my entire life, I’ve made my peace with it, and I’m incredibly fortunate to live the life I lead now. I am extremely happy and, if anything, I know that growing up with a life-altering disability has 100% made me a more well-rounded person – a mostly drunken mess who makes bad decisions – but still a better person by far!
The thing that really riles me about this particular reaction is that without knowing anything about me, you are assuming that my life is something tragic and pitiable and that the only way to make it better would be to magically restore my vision. People are entitled to whatever beliefs they choose, but please don’t impose those beliefs and damaging stereotypes on the society around you. A lot of people with visual impairments have an unbelievably tough time – I mean it wasn’t until I received counselling at the age of 18 that I fully accepted my sight condition – and hearing things like this only serves to make someone feel more depressed and hopeless about their situation. Literally last month, I had an uber driver pull over the car so that he could hold my hands and heal me… So yeah, don’t do that, please.
4. I’m so cool with you being blind that I will mention it at least once every 12 seconds.
Okay, I get it, you’re woke – you read the Guardian and you know that the best way to break the ice and show someone you’re comfortable with the situation is through comedy. I agree, comedy is probably the best way of dealing with a disability. I am the first person to laugh at myself when I do something embarrassing like cook an apple pie instead of a pizza, or accidentally grab someone’s boob when going in for a handshake. If you don’t laugh, you just cry, and that’s never fun. I operate on the basis that if we’re friends, nothing you say is going to offend me. One thing I CANNOT bear however is people who think what I want to hear is a constant and never-ending barrage of blind jokes. Whether it’s never failing to pick me up for accidentally using the word “see” in a sentence, or just plain pranks intended to humiliate me, I am not down for any behaviour like this, and I see it (lol but he can’t though) as a massive red flag in any potential friendships or relationships.
5. I’m interested and keen to help but won’t change how I speak to you
Let’s finish on a high note – this is what I want from someone when I meet them for the first time! Unafraid to ask questions and find out more, happy to help with anything I might need, and overall, just not obsessed with the fact I can’t see very well. As cliche as it is, my disability does not define me, and it sure isn’t the most interesting thing in the world, so pleeeeease can we acknowledge the fact that I’m normal and have a better beard than you and then move onto talking about Brexit or something equally depressing that people talk about in 2019? Sick cheers x.