6/14/11

Utah is in America, FYI

My apologies for my tardiness on this...

My June Ruston Daily Leader article, you may partake!

Asking the Tough Questions about Blindness


One of my favorite things to do is speak to college students…and kids. Maybe they’re all in the same category really but neither are afraid to ask the tough questions, and I love that.

I like to talk about blindness, there’s a deep, personal story that motivates me to talk to people about it, crush some of the misconceptions out there and make people more comfortable with the subject. So I thought you’d like to hear some of my favorite questions over the years? Some really great questions…and some that just make me laugh.

When talking to a group of second graders I got asked, “How do you eat fried chicken?” I can try to be discrete but clearly this was at a school in the south. My best answer, “I just pick it up and chow down.” It’s an important question really, for what would life be if you couldn’t eat fried chicken. Eating is a skill that is easily adaptable for the blind and is usually something you just figure out on your own. Trust me, you want to see a blind person eat, I’ll show you a few who have practically made it a sport.

A college student asked, “I sometimes see blind people on the street and they look confused, but I’ve been told to never help them, what do I do?” This is a great question and one that comes up a lot, especially in Ruston. Most of the time, if you see a blind person who is wearing a blindfold, they are most likely in training and are learning how to problem solve. However, it is perfectly acceptable to ask a blind person if they need help, just never grab them or try to drag them somewhere. A simple question usually provides you with your answer.

Another elementary aged student asked me, “Why don’t all blind people use dogs instead of canes. Dogs are way cooler!” This one made me laugh, but also a great question. Using a guide dog or a cane is simply a personal preference for a blind person. Some prefer the cane and others a dog guide. However, even a person who uses a dog guide should learn to use a cane first and learn to use it well. So while dogs may be “cooler” some blind people prefer the long white cane.

At another college presentation I was asked, “Blind people seem to have an amazing memory, if they didn’t how would they remember how to get everywhere?” I thought this was a rather interesting question. The truth is, blind people do not have additional or more superior senses. You can ask my husband about my amazing memory while he’s looking for my sunglasses, keys, shoes, etc. in the morning.

In reality, blind people learn to travel just like anyone learns to travel in a car. You pay attention to your surroundings, gather information (like street names) and learn to navigate through practice and training. I’m still crossing my fingers for my superior memory to kick in though.

While it’s not related to blindness, my favorite question of all time was from a second grader who asked me where I was from, I told him, “Utah.” He responded, with wide eyes, “So you’re not even American?” I’m not sure I’ve ever laughed so hard.

Through asking questions, we get to the answers and slowly we begin to figure each other out. So many times I’ve seen kids ask their parents, in the grocery store, “Why is she using that stick?” only to be hushed by their parents. Answer their questions and ask them yourselves, we’ll answer them. Blindness doesn’t have to be a hush, hush subject. Ask away…

3 comments:

talks_to_kitties said...

i love the way you write! :) interesting material always!

Kathie said...

I love your articles! And Deja I have always wondered why you didn't get a guide dog since you love animals so much! ;)

Daisy said...

When people talk to me instead of my son (age 19), I turn the conversation over to him. It still bothers me that people presume that his white cane means he can't communicate, when he is very articulate and friendly. He explains his cane to kids who ask, despite their parents' shyness.