What’s in a word?

As my wife and I walked into a local dollar store one afternoon a man called out to me. “Excuse me, where’s your can?” Well, at least that is what I thought I heard. “Excuse me,” I growled. Realizing I didn’t quite hear the man, my wife informed me that he was asking me about my cane. “Where do you get one of those? Do they help you get around?” he asked. He was referring to my white mobility cane. I explained that the use of the cane involves specific orientation and mobility training and they are not sold off the shelf in drug stores.

He confided with me that he was losing his sight due to diabetes. He was no longer able to drive and do many of the day to day things he was used to doing. He asked where he could receive training to use a cane for assistance in his travels. As I explained, he should contact an organization such as the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services, his interest suddenly vanished. “Oh, well that’s ok. I’ll be alright.” Almost as quickly as his interest faded, he was gone.

After an unnecessary breath freshness check, I asked my wife if she noticed his sudden loss of interest when the word blind was mentioned. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t something in my imagination. She agreed.

I should probably explain, while I am totally blind and use a white cane, I do not wear sunglasses often associated with blind people. Most people are probably unaware that I am totally blind. I more than often do not wear shades and I wear a black patch over my right eye. I occasionally wear sunglasses, usually when I wear my right prosthetic. I choose to wear the sunglasses with the prosthetic since my eye lid was also removed with the eye, and the prosthetic does not blink.

This man probably thought I had some working vision and was using the cane for extra assistance.

What is it about the word blind that can make a person change from day to night? Is it the fear that their lives will never be the same? Are there suddenly images of stereotypical blind people strolling through their mind with white canes and tin cups?

My first contact with the word blind came when I was losing my sight. At the time I thought the problem I was experiencing was due to a change in my prescription for corrective lenses.  After trying on my new glasses, which was stronger than the prior, I noticed no change at all. The Ophthalmologist immediately re-examined me and finally decided to refer me to the Jewish Guild for the Blind. She offered to call me later that evening with the specific contact information. When I heard the word blind I remember everything just stopping. I really don’t remember any specific thoughts, just internal silence. I asked her to call my cell phone so my wife too would not be shocked by the word.

Many people will admit they are losing their sight, even say they are visually impaired, but never will they say they are blind.  For some blind represents an inability to perceive or understand. Some even equate it with a lack of spirituality. There have been several people I have met that upon meeting me and finding out I am blind have for some strange reason assumed that I need to be saved. Maybe it’s the black patch – it makes me look kind of rough!

So here is a question for you. How do we get around the impact of this word in order to reach out to people who need the assistance and information?

I would love to hear what you have to say.

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