Vicky: Language is a fascinating thing and something we spend a lot of time talking about on our training. What is appropriate or inappropriate to say?
In the book Star Gazing by Linda Gillard, a novel we've both just read, there's a quote written from the perspective of the lead character Marianne, a woman in her forties whose been blind since birth "Has it ever struck you how language favours the sighted? (Of course not, because you can see.) I don't just have a problem seeing, I have a problem talking, trying to find words and phrases appropriate to my experience. Just listen to how people go on: Oh I see what you mean...Now look here...The way I see it...Reading between the lines...I didn't see that coming...It depends on your point of view...You get the picture? I, of course, don't"
For us we suggest not getting to hung up on colloquial terms – so things like ‘See you tomorrow’ aren’t about the seeing as such (although for some sight impaired people, they may choose an alternative term, so maybe take their lead?). So when I first worked with Dave and he left on the first day saying ‘See you tomorrow’ I figured this term was acceptable to him! It’s also sometimes really hard to come up with an alternative – we’ve spent a while thinking about a different email sign off to ‘Look forward to hearing from you soon’ – as it’s not really relating to seeing or hearing – but then the alternative ‘Awaiting your response’ seems a little formal (especially for us!) However, derogatory phrases like ‘the blind leading the blind’ are a no go as far as we’re concerned! So think before you speak/write etc. and think about the person you’re addressing – but don’t get so hung up that you don’t communicate at all :-)
Dave: We cover this on our training and, as Vicky has mentioned, inform people not to get too hung up about it. I watch TV and I read a book but maybe not how a sighted person would do the activity. Should I say I listened to the TV and listen to an audio book?? This isn’t me and, I guess from having had sight, I still use a sighted language. What you should remember though is that we are all different so what works for me may not work for another vision impaired person. My advice would be to be yourself and accept that sometimes you’ll get it wrong but don’t take it to heart.
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Our VIDA Insights...
Following our experiences from delivering our Vision Impairment Awareness training days over the past couple of years, we know that there’s loads more that we could talk about and examples we could have shared. Whilst these won’t be a substitute for our training, they will give you an insight (hence the name!) into our thoughts, observations and experiences from each of our perspectives - Dave’s living with sight loss and Vicky’s from being a sighted person and working alongside and supporting people who have sight loss.