We recently had a conversation with Chinmay Zinje, and Shobha Dusija, who are blind persons, along with Mahesh Nair, Project manager at NADE ( an NGO that works with disabled people) to understand how one should be interacting with blind people and what are do’s and don’ts one should take care while interacting.
People who have never interacted with a blind or visually impaired person might not know how to behave and act when they have a conversation with them. Preconceived notions and a lack of awareness can turn things into a mess and make the interaction unpleasant. Talking to a blind is not at all complicated. If you approach them with respect, love, and how you reach out to other sighted individuals, then there will not be even the slightest of discomfort for anybody. Keep reading to know how you should be interacting with the blind.
“I say, be straightforward, and be direct in what you say. I don’t even mind people calling me blind. Sometimes people murmur, and if I hear it, I directly tell them you can speak to me on my face. Treat us normally because we do not need your sympathy. Do not vote for us just because we are blind. No special treatment is needed as we have the potential to do the best in the room,” said Chinmay Zinje, a final year BAMMC student, YouTuber, and sound engineer and musician.
Similarly, Shobha Dusija, who is a retired bank employee, feels there are many misunderstandings that people have about blindness. “A blind person can do everything. There are many people like me who have worked for years and are still working. Many people say if I was handicapped, it would have been better, but I don’t think that’s right! Blindness is not a weakness, and the only thing we need is co-operation from the society.”, she explained.
Throughout our conversation, Shobha Ji stressed only one thing, and it was to have respect for the blind. “Start with, ‘May I help you and that’s enough. Asking with respect is the only thing. However, it’s true that some people who become very conscious when they speak to strangers, but you have to earn their trust and ask them politely,” she said.
According to Mahesh Nair, who works at NADE (National Association of Disabled’s Enterprises), a Mumbai-based NGO which creates employment opportunities for the differently-abled, the blind do not trust others easily. ” Blindness can make people vulnerable in different ways. The only way they can judge is by listening to others. So, if they hear someone giggling even on something else, they might feel bad, and there can be misunderstandings. Also, be very normal. You can pay attention to their facial expressions to understand if they are comfortable or not. Show respect, as there is no special way to communicate. But yes, do have that respect in your heart.,” he said.
Mahesh Nair further told us that mostly the blind are trained and have the stick. But, yes, if you want to help them with direction, you will have to guide them initially. He stressed telling them the number of steps and mentioned that handholding is also needed.
“So, there are 2 extreme ways people react- either they ignore it, or become overexcited. In the second extreme, they end up using words like specially-abled, differently-abled, and what not, to show their sympathy. I say it is unnecessary empowerment. Make things easier for them. There’s no ABCD for that and a gradual process to me. What I have learned from my experience is to be normal and respectful,” he explained.
A few more things to keep in mind while interacting with the blind
- Address them directly without referring to a companion.
- Use words such as “Nice to see you” or “It looks like it’s not open” to make things engaging.
- Always ask, and try not to be very touchy as some people do not like strangers touching them.
- Don’t feel bad or be afraid to use words like “blind” or “see.”
- Always introduce yourself first and then ask if they need help or assistance. Also, do not insist, if they say no to the help.
- Do not point things, instead explain them and describe what they had asked for.