Boundaries

When I walk around with my white cane, people notice. Often in a quiet, observant yet unobtrusive manner. But some people feel the need to interact with me as if the curiosity of seeing someone with a white cane compels them to say or do things that I can only say in a positive way are humorous, in a negative way are odd.

I’m walking down the sidewalk from the bus stop to my husband’s office. A car beeps twice as it passes me. I ignore it. I’m not in the street, no reason for the car to be beeping at me.

Seconds later, the car U-turns and stops, a lane of traffic between us. I am in a populated area. A few cars pass in the opposite direction as the driver says from his open window, “Ma’am, excuse me, Ma’am.”

I’m baffled as to why anyone would feel the need to do this. Someone hollered at me from a car a few months ago. I ignored that address.

“Ma’am, are you legally blind?” he says, as I keep walking and wonder if cars are backed up behind him as he has stopped his vehicle to ask a stranger a non-driving related question.

“Sir,” I say, turning my head towards his white sedan across the street,”It’s none of your business.” I wave my arm forward in hopes of moving him along as I continue walking.

He mumbles something like an apology, retreating his head back into his car like a turtle and accelerates away.

Even if this man has only pure intentions, why would it be okay for him to address me as he did? My protective instincts go into high gear when someone randomly approaches me. I carry a cell phone, I stay aware of my surroundings, and I use public areas as I travel independently.

Where is the discretion, the filtering, the thinking before you open your mouth? I’m happy to educate people about my disability and my accessibility options, but I’m not OK with people asking me blunt questions without an appropriate context.

I’m never OK with rudeness. Our culture of reality TV and aggressiveness leads to some strange personal interactions. When you wield a white cane, you never know what you’re gonna get.

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Modwyn says:

    Good for you! That driver needs to learn some self-control.

    I’ve experienced this situation many times in my life, so now I try to give answers that will shock the other person into silence. For example, a woman once approached me and asked, “You’re blind, right? What are your dreams like?” So I looked in her direction and calmly replied, “They’re very erotic.” That shut her up!

    1. Modwyn: Very creative. That made me laugh.

  2. As they say in the north-west of England “there is nout so queer as falk” by which they mean there is nothing so odd as people! I have had similar experiences. I recall, several months ago popping into the toilet in my local pub and a man I didn’t know from Adam telling me that he always gives to the blind. I’m not sure what he wanted me to do, perhaps award him a medal for his charitable/patronising attitude. Its great to give to charity but why make a song and dance about it! The man did, I think suffer from issues of insecurity which is why he sought my approval. I think that a lot of comments directed at disabled people stem from a fear “oh god how would I cope in such a situation”. People put their own insecurities onto disabled people.

    1. Drew dog:That makes sense to me. Initially, no one tells you about the odd encounters that will occur when you gain a disability. I wish I had one or two good stock phrases on hand as responses to give to end the situation without offense.

  3. jackthecat7 says:

    I find what people do much more upsetting than what they say. I’ve only been using my cane for a year and people will come up beside my and grab my cane to touch the curb or other obstacle. I know I’m still learning how to manage with my partial vision but really! I think I know better than a stranger how to use my walking cane. Even with the best of intentions, common sense should tell any adult you don’t grab a blind person’s cane!

    1. Jackiethecat7: I wish common sense could be available to buy. Some people need extra!

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