Dan Ryker

Dan Ryker is a performing musician and a private music instructor.

People Don’t Get It

I get a consistent response when I tell people that I’m blind. It’s usually very close to, “Really, I never would have guessed.”. And it’s almost like they don’t really believe me .. which makes sense, since as far as they can tell, I’ve been walking around like all the sighted people. So I try to explain a little bit to them of what I see. But I never want to take very long to explain it. I mean, it usually comes up when we are in the middle of something else. Like, recently I was helping with some manual labor out at our church’s property. The people on my crew have been working around me for a while and I’ve been acting like every one else there. But then I do something like drive the wheel barrow right into a hole that we dug for a plant or straight into a big rock. Anyone else on the crew would have seen it and so it’s a little weird. So I decide to explain it by telling them that I can’t see very well. But that requires a bit of explanation, and yet you can see that I wouldn’t want to take too long with it … I mean, we’ve got a wheel barrow of dirt to dump!

And in those instances where it’s logical to tell someone that I can’t see very well, the conversation takes a predictable course. When I say, “I’m visually impaired.”, then they will often say, “Oh yeah; I’ve got really bad eyes too.”. But they are talking about needing glasses, and I’m talking about being blind. So I have to say, “Well, my vision problem is a genetic thing that has caused me to be blind.”. But then they REALLY look at me like I’m weird because they’ve been watching me walk all over without a white cane and pick up small items … I don’t look like I’m blind much of the time.

It’s accurate to say that I’m blind. But when we think of someone blind, we think of a person who can’t see ANYTHING. And so I think it confuses people when they hear that word attached to me. But when I say anything else, they don’t really get it. So I’m thinking of relying less on a label and more on examples of what I can and cannot see. Maybe I’ll still say that I’m ‘visually impaired’, but I’ll follow it up with an example that clarifies it. Like …

‘I’m visually impaired. I can’t see well enough to drive, and I have a hard time seeing detail.’

Maybe I could add … ‘I can read, but It’s really slow going.’

Yeah! That’s simple, but helps people know what they need to know. From there, we could talk more if they want or if we have time. But at least it gives them an idea of how I function practically.

I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to clarify this in my mind. What do you all think? What would help you if you were just meeting me or just finding out about my visual disability? … Keeping in mind that I don’t want to launch into a long discourse every time I need to explain it.

… If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then read my other blog entries. ☺

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