As my sight has deteriorated, so has my ability to recognise people just by looking at them. I (Dave) now have to use a range of other ways to determine who I’m speaking to such as how they talk, how they smell and sometimes even how they walk. Often it is a combination of these which I process pretty quickly to drag from the depths of my vast memory (mainly empty space) to conclude with a name.
So, you may think this is easy and, for close family, friends and even work colleagues, it usually is. However, this is all to do with location and anticipating who I’m likely to come in to contact with. For example, if I am heading to the school on the school run, then I am expecting to speak to other parents that I know. So, if a mum says “Hi Dave”, then I would quickly pluck out their name often based on their voice alone. Simple huh? However, if I am in my local town and the same person says “Hi Dave” then my brain goes in to overdrive trying to place where I know the voice from and then… damn it’s too late and the moment has past – how embarrassing.
Some people might introduce themselves such as “Hi Dave, it’s Helen” which helps narrow down the possibilities but might still take me a while to link them to a location. “Hi Dave, it’s Sarah from work” is a real help, giving me a name and a location where I know them from – it might not be an instant recognition giving me a name and a location but it’s usually enough to be able to place them and respond.
Obviously there are going to be people that I have never met or have only met once or twice and therefore remembering their name just from a few clues would be pretty clever. In these instances, I would either introduce myself or, more often than not, wait for them to introduce themselves to me or for someone else to introduce us both to each other.
I used to be a social person and enjoyed getting out and meeting people, using my sight to pick out a person or make eye contact with someone in a crowd before going over and chatting. Losing the sighted ability to do this has changed who I am. I still enjoy talking to people but now have to rely on someone to help me find who I would like to speak to or wait for someone to make the effort to come to me. I know that there are many people that I pass on a regular basis that I have no idea who they are, not to mention all of those people who I’m unaware of but who can see me… I find this a bit frustrating and it reminds me that living in a blind world can be quite lonely.
So, if you do know a vision impaired person or come in to contact with a person who has a vision impairment (remember it might not be obvious), remember to introduce yourself and give an indication of where they know you from… it’ll make their day that little bit easier.
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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.