Lifestyle

Do all blind people think the same?

Do blind people think the same?” was a question posed last year by Jubliee Media, which publishes videos with the aim of creating a movement of empathy for human good. Featuring six visually impaired influencers, the video got nearly 1 million views, and prompted others to get involved.

Here, blogger Nanjiba shares her post answering the questions from her blog My Eye My Way.

Jubliee’s Do blind people think the same? video was part of its spectrum series where it gets a range of people from the same community to answer questions and share their experiences.

It featured blind content creators Alisha BJames RathLucy EdwardsMolly Burke, Christine Ha and Mario Bonds.

After the video was released, Cayla with a C created a Blind YouTuber tag about this, prompting more blind and visually impaired creators to answer the questions themselves and create a tag within the blind community.

Sight loss is a spectrum, so people would have different experiences and viewpoints to the questions. I wasn’t tagged, but I wanted to answer the questions anyway and give my two senses.

Nanjiba wearing glasses, a pink hijab and white top with pink flowers, sat in a restaurant

1. Does being blind enhance your senses?

There is a misconception that people with sight loss have heightened senses, kind of like daredevils. Unfortunately, being blind or visually impaired doesn’t mean you have the skills needed to become a superhero – life doesn’t work like that.

However, I think that being blind or visually impaired has meant I’ve had to learn to use my other senses more than my eyes. For example, I can hear someone going up the stairs and figure out who it is.

There are also some things I can do quicker by touch, such as finding things in my handbag, instead of using my eyes.

Before I wore a hijab, I used to wear earrings for Eid, weddings and other special occasions. But I could only put them on myself by touch, not by looking in the mirror.

I do have quite a bit of useful vision, so I think I use my sense of smell and taste like the average person, whereas my blind friends are great at describing how things smell or taste.

2. Do blind people prefer to date other blind people?

Just because someone is blind doesn’t mean they only want to have a fellow blind or visually impaired person as their romantic partner. Different people have different preferences.

For some people, being with a sighted partner is ideal because it makes everyday things in life easier, such as navigating at night, having a car at hand, or even reading the fine print on packages.

Other people might prefer being with someone who also has sight loss because they might relate to some of their life experiences. It depends on personal preference.

In addition, sight loss is a spectrum, so no person with the same eye condition has the same experience, which means that some people with sight loss might still meet the legal requirements and be able to drive. I’ve not met anyone who can myself, but I know it’s possible!

For me, being with a sighted person would make life a lot easier, so that’s what I’d prefer. Having said that, I wouldn’t be opposed to being with someone who is blind if we were compatible and had a mutual physical, emotional and spiritual attraction between us. Whatever is meant to be will happen.

Nanjiba wearing glasses, a pink hijab, a denim jacket and dress standing next to water at a cove

3. Are blind people less shallow about romantic partners? 

I don’t understand why there’s this idea that just because someone is blind or visually impaired they’ll be less shallow than everyone else. Where did this assumption come from? Why is this a thing?

My theory is that because blind and visually impaired people essentially “can’t see” what people look like, people assume we’re more open-minded, accepting of others and consequently less shallow.

The words “can’t see” are in quotations because the majority of people with sight loss have some degree of useful vision.

To quote Mario from the video Jubilee created: “We can be shallow AF!” Being blind, or visually impaired doesn’t mean that you don’t have your own preferences of what you like physically, personality-wise and in terms of compatibility.

A blind or visually impaired person might be attracted to different characteristics, such as the sound of someone’s voice or their personality meshing well with their own.

But we also have physical preferences – we might want the person to be taller or shorter than us, to have short or long hair, a beard or no facial hair etc. Everyone has their own standards of what they like and don’t like.

I think that there’s this expectation within some cultures that because someone has a disability, they need to lower their standards of what they’re looking for in a romantic partner.

In reality, they have the same right as everyone else to prioritise what qualities they’re looking for as well.

4. Does unsolicited help make things harder?

I’ve only ever been in a situation once where someone decided to offer me help and I didn’t ask for it. At the time, I was waiting to cross the road and a lady just pulled me across with her.

Thankfully, it was safe for me to cross, but it was unnerving. Once we’d reached the other side, I quickly got her to leave by saying I knew where I needed to go from there.

This was when I had just started using my cane, so I hadn’t experienced anything like that before. Now, many years later, people do come up to me to help, but I always let them know I’m fine and know where I’m going.

For me, unsolicited help can be more of an inconvenience. I have useful vision and equipment to use when out and about, so I can get by just fine. I’ll ask for help if I need it.

Not everyone with sight loss has enough vision to adapt like that, which is why unsolicited help can do more harm than good. People may feel disorientated, as if they’re lost, and need to figure out where to go.

I know from experience that all it can take is something like not being able to get off at your usual bus stop for you to feel like your momentarily lost. If you do see a blind or visually impaired person that looks like they need help, just ask, don’t grab.

Nanjiba wearing glasses, a pink hijab and dress standing with her white cane in a dessert with a sand dune behind her

5. Is the city you live in easily accessible for you?

Yes, London has lots of accessibility features, including:

  • talking announcements on trains and busses, and in stations and lifts
  • assistance available at stations, where you will be guided to where you need to go within the station
  • pedestrian crossings with tactile dots on the pavement so that you know it’s a crossing point
  • traffic lights that beep when it’s safe to cross and a cone at the bottom of the box that spins when the light turns green.

Local authorities also offer orientation and mobility training. This involves them teaching you the safest way to cross roads, as sometimes the tactile crossing points aren’t in the best place for someone with sight loss to safely cross.

So, for me, as a visually impaired person, London is easily accessible. However, I’ve heard that in the countryside and other areas outside of the capital, public transport isn’t as good and people need to rely on cars and having other people drive them to places.

As someone who has lived in London their whole life, I know I’m very lucky to have access to services, such as a freedom pass, which enables me to get free public transport on the underground and buses in the city.

This is probably a good time to acknowledge my privilege. I’m fortunate enough that my family can prioritise living in areas that have good access to public transport, local shops, lighting at night and more. All of this allows me to live independently, but I know that some people need to prioritise other things.

6. Are you offended when the word blind is used as one of your descriptive characteristics?

To me, my visual impairment is something that is a part of me, but it’s not something that defines me as a person. I don’t have an issue with people saying; “This in Nanjiba, she’s visually impaired.”

I’m aware that when I’m out and about with my cane, this is one of the first things people notice about me. My visual impairment is a characteristic I have- there’s no point in hiding the elephant in the room.

But, there’s more to me than my visual impairment. I have other interests and qualities people can learn about over time if they want to.

One key factor to remember is how people word things. By that I mean, the fact that I’ve been described as “blind” can become something to be offended by, when it’s seen as the only thing that there is about me. Along with a huge issue that needs to be addressed straight away, like “she’s disabled, do you have a problem with that?”.

Sometimes wording can make a person’s characteristics a bigger issue than it needs to be. My sight loss is something that I’ve had my whole life, it’s something that is normal to me. In situations where it needs to addressed straight away, just say it as what it is, a characteristic I have. There’s no need to make a mole whole into a mountain.

Nanjiba wearing glasses and a white hijab with blue flowers in a park in front of greenery

7. Has being blind affected your mental health?

That’s a tough question to answer. I’ve been visually impaired my whole life, so it’s all I’ve ever known. I think for a lot of young people with disabilities, there is a time in your life where you think; “Why me? Why am I the only one like this?” or “Why can’t I just be like everyone else?”.

I definitely did have that for a short while because I was usually the only visually impaired person my friends and family knew.

Also, for me growing up, I didn’t really socialise with people and had trouble understanding social cues, so I learnt to be more comfortable on my own. I’m not sure whether I’ve always naturally been a socially awkward introvert, or if it’s something that’s due to my disability.

Personally, I think mental health issues people face are down to the individual themselves and their personal experiences, but having a disability can contribute to it as well.

After doing some orientation and mobility training, I became more confident and just viewed my disability as part of me. So, being blind did affect my mental health to an extent.

8. Have you experienced discrimination?

According to Google, discrimination is defined as: “The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, sex, or disability.”

I’m a disabled Muslim woman from an ethnic minority background. So, for me, this is quite a loaded question as there is a lot of intersectionality between the ways I could be discriminated against. By that I mean my race, religion, gender, class and disability are all interconnected. So I could be discriminated against because of any of these factors.

Thankfully, I’ve not been in a situation where I can directly tell someone is behaving like that towards me. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that where I live it’s not done verbally. Instead, it’s more subtle visual signs that it’s happening, which I can’t see.

Now would be a good time to mention that being discriminated against because of your disability isn’t the same as being discriminated against because of your race, gender, sexuality or religion. The experience can probably help you empathise with other types of discrimination, but one doesn’t equate to the other.

Just to add to that, being blind doesn’t mean you aren’t exempt from discriminating against people yourself. Not being able to see doesn’t automatically make you a none-racist individual.

People can still be racist, ageist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic etc even if they have a disability because of the cultural and social attitudes they developed whilst growing up, where they live and the people around them. Even people from ethnic minority backgrounds can be racist towards other people from ethnic minority backgrounds!

9. If you could regain your sight with a cure, would you want to?

Personally, no I wouldn’t. I’ve had sight loss my whole life, so this way of living is normal to me. I wouldn’t want to have to adjust to being able to see everything and change the way I do things. I think that would be too overwhelming.

Plus, I like the perks that come with having a disability, such as my freedom pass, the access to work service, disability guaranteed interview scheme and more.

These things make my life easier, why would I want to have them taken away just to live like everyone else?

Having said that, I do understand why people who used to be fully sighted and then became visually impaired over time would want a cure. To them, it must be like losing the life they once had and having to adapt to a whole new way of living.

So, if there is a cure available and people want to take it, they have every right to do so. But alongside this, we should work towards making the world we live in more accessible for people who have a disability that can’t be cured. Why can’t we do both, instead of prioritising one over the other?

If you’d like to find out how other blind content creators answered these questions then check out these videos:

And here are a few other great content creators who haven’t answered the questions but I believe are worth checking out too:

I hope you enjoyed reading my answers. What do you think? What would your answers be? If you’d like to do the tag, please share links to your work in the comments below.

By Nanjiba

You can read more of Nanjiba’s posts on her blog My Eye My Way, and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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