Coffee with Kalari: Happy Meet the Blind Month

This article is part of a weekly series written by Kalari, a writer, athlete, mother and employee of The Chicago Lighthouse who is visually impaired. She shares her perspective on a variety of topics in order to build community.

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The month of October is Meet the Blind Month. This is a time to increase awareness of and support of people who are blind in our community.  I cannot speak for all people who are blind, but I would like to share my personal experiences and simple ways that I believe others can become more supportive of the blind community.

A young woman who is blind is using a Brailler. Behind her is a colorful backdrop with a bold graphic pattern.

Often, I find that people who are sighted want to go out of their way to help people who are blind when they see them traveling independently, or crossing the street for instance. While it is kind to want to offer assistance, there are some things that should first be considered. If you see a blind person on the street and they appear to be lost, you should ask them if they need assistance before assuming. This may seem like common sense, but I cannot tell you how many times I was trying to figure out my location and all of a sudden, a person placed their hands on my body and began pushing me in a certain direction. Many times, I am not even lost and I am just trying to recount my steps to figure out where I am. It is so uncomfortable when someone just assumes you do not know where you are and pushes or pull you in a certain direction. Also, during this current time of COVID-19, having a stranger’s hands invade your private space is not acceptable. Instead, you can provide verbal directions or a description of the setting we are in. We are very independent and we can adjust to our environments.

I’ve also noticed that at times I am treated differently when going out to eat with my friends who are not blind, as I will not be asked directly for my order, but rather my friends will be asked to order for me. I am very capable of speaking for myself and I know how to communicate what I want. My friends do not speak for me and they can’t read my mind, so please just ask me or any other person who is blind directly for their order.

Overall, I love just being treated normally, as anyone else would be treated. I love dancing, going to movies and being in social settings. Many people who are blind are professionals, parents, and caregivers, such as myself. We are functioning, independent members of society and should be treated as such. If you can get past our blindness, you will see that our disability does not define us. Please don’t feel sorry for us, as we are very capable individuals.

What would you want the world to know about being blind? To my sighted friends, what are some questions you have about being blind? Let’s make this a platform where we can share experiences and learn from each other!

 

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