By Demola Adeleke
I recommend you read this for a better coexistence with the blind.
1. When you see someone on shades, assume he’s blind until he proves otherwise. Yeah, I know this sounds ridiculous as people wear sun glasses mainly to filter sunbeam, and sometimes, for fashion appeal. But there are few persons out there who wear it, basically not for any of the aforementioned reasons, but because their eyes are blind and cannot spot something approaching, thus making them susceptible to invasion by insects and harmful objects.
I’m one of this set of people. I wear sun glasses for all the reasons discussed above, with the susceptibility factor topping the list. But onlookers, passers-by, passengers see me on shades and assume I can see, therefore a mistake made as a result of my blindness doesn’t ever go unpunished. For instance, a lady whom I once mistakenly trod on thought it was a premeditated action and insulted 5 years out of my life span.
A middle-aged man once kicked me out of the road because he thought I was being disrespectful for not stepping aside when I saw him coming. So, my compatriots; it will be my joy if you can register in your mind the possibility that the person you encounter, who’s on shades, might just be blind, and not trying to look handsome. With that mindset, we, the blind, will receive no or less scolding whenever we bump against you, or annoy you blindly.
2. I need not remind you that pictures make no meaning to us. Abi, what’s the point in snapping a photograph without seeing how you look in it? But you see, there are certain occasions that necessitate the need to pose for one. Perhaps to keep record of celebratory moments, or for a group picture of which we’re required to be present. Now, this appeal goes out to both professional and smart phone photographers.
Biko, in other to avoid your blind capture appearing ridiculous in the picture by looking south while you’re at the north side, kindly help him know where you are by talking or signalling where you taking the shot from. And if possible, direct his/her posture as we can be really horrible at this. Don’t photograph me anyhow you like because you know I lack what it takes to reject and select the shots. The god of blindness is not a patient one. Someone once snapped me and when I showed the picture to my folks, it took them a while to be convinced that what is in the picture is me and not a chimpanzee.
3. When guiding a blind person to where to sit, lead him down until his knees or chin make contact with the chair, then you can inform him to sit. Usually, he will first of all feel the seat before sitting. However, people often guide us to sit by making us turn our back at the chair even when we are not close by, then tell us to keep stepping back until we reach where the seat is. It’s wrong. Apart from rendering us clueless of where possibly the chair might be placed, it also makes us appear like a puppet, or even a phantom who is wired to walk backward. But since no-one ever schooled you on this, you are not to blame. But now that I’ve explained this to you, promise me you will go by our preference. Say to your screen; “I promise you, Demola”.
4. We get stared at a lot, majorly for being blind. I’ve written severally on it, informing people on the undesirable effect their unyielding gaze has on us, and the person we’re walking with, but humans are naturally dunce. They end up doing exactly what you urge them not to do. Some even point fingers, thereby discomforting the person walking with the blind individual. No, the stare is not that of admiration, it’s that of shock and despair.
Now, let me pull your ear and warn you sternly, don’t just stare at me whenever I pass by, endeavour to also blow me a kiss. Yeah, what we need is affection, not condemnation.
Living with a disability comes with numerous challenges on its own, so we don’t want more by your disapproving attitudes.
5. When leading a blind person, lock your palm with his/her, and you will walk him through the clouds, easily. My personal observation has shown that the first place people reach for when attempting to lead a blind person is his wrist. Yeah, that’s how Adam’s descendants are programmed.
When you hold a blind man by his wrist, the connection between you two tends to be one-sided, as you, the guide, are the only one holding, the blind man isn’t. But with the palms of both the leader and led intertwined, I can assure you that the guiding task will be a lot easier for you. Meanwhile, try to be conscious of obstacles in the air when walking with a blind person, especially when he is taller than you. Wires, tree branches and low door frames are examples of these obstacles.
I have, on few occasions, bumped head against unsuspecting rods while strolling with my short girlfriend. The height of it all was this tree branch I struck my head on. Before I knew it, my neck had hung on the branch while my legs were off the ground. It was like a suicidal attempt. Thankfully, people quickly called the police.
6. Nothing disorients a stranger leading a blind man like spotting a gutter a few feet away. You will see him break a sweat and scratch his head. Oh mai, what do I do now?
Beloved, don’t panic as you two can cross that gutter unhurt. Simply inform the blind man of the gutter, stand both at the edge of the gutter, explain the width of the gutter and describe if the other side of the gutter is lower, higher or parallel to where you currently are standing on, then cross the gutter without leaving the blind man’s hand.
A fairly smart person should be able to calculate how far your leg traveled before landing on the other side with that simple ritual. But if after all your efforts, he drops right inside the gutter, never feel bad as it might be his time to pay homage to the gods of the land.
7. If you see a blind person in rumpled or stained clothes, kindly tell him and don’t assume he knows. He might have worn the shirt only once and thought he could wear it one more time before washing. Whereas, the only time he wore it, he had some point leaned on a dirty wall which had stained the shirt so badly. Knowing he didn’t play roughly, but oblivious of the moment he leaned on the wall, he confidently wore the shirt the second time, saw no need to show it to anyone and swaggered on to the street.
You see, blindness didn’t subject him to dressing dirty, dude honestly didn’t know about the stain. Please, kindly call his attention to it, he wouldn’t take offence in that.
8. You don’t walk all over someone because he’s disabled, and appears helpless and undignified. Only humans wear clothes and shoes, and I bet you see those on us too. Therefore, we are humans, and as part of the human race, we equally are entitled to respect from fellow humans. I was in my office, at my PPA, when 2 men barged in without greeting. They headed straight to the computers and commenced work on them. Still processing the intrusion, I stood from my seat, followed the traceable sound generated by their movement, and approached one of them.
Although I was angry, I still chose the omoluabi (human and respectful) side of me and politely inquired why they were in the computer lab, which doubles as my office. Behold, the man disregarded me and continued with what he was doing. I assumed he didn’t hear me and asked again, but was numb with shock when he said; “Is that how to greet?”.
Now, I think I should explain this advantageous part of blindness to you. As a blind person, when you are angry at someone, your inability to see the person or read his facial expression makes your words flow without filtering. You give no hoot about the person’s age, intimidating look or whatsoever, you just blurt it all out.
So, na so I change am for the man. Correcting them on what they should have done immediately they entered earned me “the rude boy” title, even when I didn’t introduce myself as Paul Okoye. I got angrier when the other man kept telling me of how he knew and related with many visually impaired persons. Ngbo, (imagine) what’s my business with that? I’m telling you that you owed me a greeting and introduction when you came in, and not this gibberish you’re spewing.
Our loud disagreement attracted some lecturers in the department who ran to my office and eventually settled the outburst. Later got to know that the 2 men are staff members from the Information Communication Technology (ICT) unit. They must have treated the blind persons they referred to like an idiot to have thought they could have their way with me. I may be disabled, but I will never allow you strip me of my dignity. Never!
Gat to go now. See you around.