I did a Q&A on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, and I got some really interesting and thoughtful questions.
A friend mentioned the other day that she had a hard time imagining living as a blind person just because she had no idea how day-to-day things were accomplished. It gave me the idea: why not ask?
So here is what I posted. Ask! Hit me with any question that you've always wanted to ask a blind person but were to embarrassed/tactful/ashamed to ask. No question too dumb or too specific. In fact, the more specific the better. I'll try to answer all of them, but bear in mind, the answers are from me personally and don't represent every blind person out there. Blind people are all really different. Ask about me (low vision) or Abi (blind) or even family members. I'm curious to see what you are curious about!
Blind friends, feel free to chip in. If you feel like sharing how you do stuff or if you want to give the common questions you get.
I'll lead with a few in the comments to get you started!
Q: How can Abi run around and not be afraid?
A: She is used to it. It's not like when you close your eyes and lose sensory input you're used to having. She pays attention to echoes and air currents and flooring changes and smells, and gets rich sensory input that all feels totally normal to her.
Q: How do you tell your shampoo from your conditioner if you can't see it?
A: Put a rubber band around one, or buy different shaped bottles.
(From a blind friend) Or, when all else fails, touch the tip of your tongue to the lid. They taste very different. One taste like soap and one taste like lotion. People freak out when I tell them that but it's not like I'm eating it.
Q: How do you keep from stepping on the dog?
A: I step on him until he learns to keep out of the way. Poor dog.
For those who haven't, you just have to get creative!
For us, Abi and I kind of like to have people chill out. Don't freak out about Abi and stairs. Don't flutter around and worry. Don't apologize over and over for stuff sitting on the floor. Just let us figure out the layout ourselves and memorize it. We just need a little time and space, and when we need something like a drink or the bathroom, we'll ask.
If I feel one on me I'll jump and try to fling it off or I'll grab it in my hand and crush it, which is so gross.
One of the weird things about my vision is floaters that looks like bugs all. the. time. I've learned to ignore them. But feeling a creepy crawly on my skin... ugh.
But those not on me? Ignorance is bliss.
For me, I love walking and taking public transportation,
Q. How do you use a computer for things like Facebook?
A. As for using a computer, sometimes I do it visually, and sometimes I use a screen reader like voice over or NVDA. Abi always uses a screen reader. It just says everything on the screen aloud.
Every person's needs are different.
I Touch-type just as many people were taught to do.
Dictation is a tool I sometimes use, but I do not depend exclusively on it.
There, I told everybody.
Q: How does he know when it's safe to cross the street?
A: He doesn't make the decisions; that's my job. I listen to traffic patterns and use what useful vision I have to make the decision to cross. His job is to double check for anything in the environment I may have missed (e.g. a turning car that I didn't notice or one that's speeding by).
Q: You can just tell him where you want to go and he finds the place, like doggie GPS, right? (I joke not)
A: Nope, I have to know where I am, where I want to go, and how to get there. My guide dog makes sure I don't bump into anything, or trip, and helps me negotiate crowds and street crossings, among other things. I can, however, "pattern" him to certain locations through repetition and reinforcement. This makes finding routine places much quicker.
Q: Does he let you know when he has to go to the bathroom?
A: If he's letting me know he's gotta go, I must not be paying good enough attention to his feeding, watering, and relieving schedule. Most of the time, he stays consistent on the schedule but I do give him more water breaks and such on the weekends or vacations so he may need to go more often. If he does have to go between scheduled breaks, he will whine and run to the door (if we're at home). If we're at work, he holds it because he's in harness, or he'll snuggle up to me to tell me he has to go.
Q: Does he ever get to be a regular dog?
A: I get this quite a lot because so many people only see us when he's working. Yes, he gets time off-harness and off-leash just like any other dog. He has toys and favorite activities (like fetch and digging around in flower beds). We spend a lot of time playing and relaxing together because, like the working part of our relationship needs upkeep, so does our social relationship. If he's going to perform at top-notch, then he needs some down time to just be a dog and enjoy himself.
Q: Does he bite?
A: The only thing he bites is his food and his toys. He would never bite a person and he is really careful around small children. In fact, if he could live with small kids all the time, I think he'd much prefer that.
If you have any other guide dog questions come up, do let me know. I'd love to contribute to your blog!
I use the term "low vision" even though I dislike its negativity because it's the most immediately clear to people. In the UK, the term "partially sighted" is more positive.
For me, I'm not even legally blind, because my vision fluctuates so widely. On a good day with the strongest glasses (which cause a migraine within 20 minutes) I see 20/40. And this is what the doctors count. On a bad day, with a headache I can see maybe 20/1600. On most normal days it's probably 20/400. But because mine is "correctable to the best correction," I'm not legally blind. The vision rehab counselor says I'm "functionally blind."
I don't really care which term I use. I don't mind describing myself as blind, except that it's confusing to people who think "blind" means "lights out."
Just like there is no legal definition for me, there is also no descriptive term for me. "Intermittently