Not Another Word

Smiley face with a closed zipper for a mouthIt happens to everyone. A discussion starts, perhaps some drinking is involved, people exchange ideas, and you speak without thinking. The atmospheric pressure skyrockets. Your throat is dry and you can’t quite swallow. No air left in this space. Or it’s all in your head.

Inflating little things will madden a person with doubt. Out of concern, some of us stumble around words when talking with a person with a visual disability. We try to communicate the simplest things like a greeting, and feel like it fails.

“It’s so nice to see you! Err, I mean, um, yeah, how are you?” Grimace. Let’s hope a hand wasn’t thrust forward for a shake to make it two for two, right?

Nah, it’s okay. I’m a person. You’re a person. In my experience, people with vision impairments don’t mind phrases like  good to see you, did you watch the movie, do you see what I mean, etc. There’s no need to make linguistic accommodations. However, if you’re going to start calling people like me handicapped or cripple or you know, the R word, check out my earlier post, Word Choice.

It’s fascinating to consider the unsaid words during interactions. Like when someone grabs my arm and pulls me along instead of asking me if I needed or wanted help. Or when some of my friends with visual impairments say people in customer service don’t address questions directly. The worker asks a companion if she needs a ticket or what he will be having for dinner. Odd. I mean, points for noticing the white cane and realizing some type of assistance may be needed, but the white cane does not mean “can’t speak for oneself”.

I can’t save you the embarrassment when the consumption of half a bottle of wine leads you to speaketh the truth, but I can reassure you: people with visual impairments see what you mean in chit-chat. We’re amused by linguistics, but concerned with the areas of life we are sometimes left out of like the workplace, parenting, and even relationships. When it comes to communication, intent and tone will cut a clear path through the wild growths of conversation. If you’re ever confused, just ask the person. I didn’t have answers about accommodating people with disabilities a few years ago, either, but look at me now.

Have you had an awkward interaction lately? What things bother you in conversation? Do you speak directly to people with disabilities? Tell me about it.


8 Comments Add yours

  1. floridaborne says:

    Most of my interactions are awkward. When I write, I seem to do fine. The moment I open my mouth, what comes out seems to be entirely out of my control. I’m not able to drink (stomach problems) but some days I wish I could. 🙂

    1. If the internal filter lets us down, our first draft in speech becomes the final product. Writing does have its advantages.

      1. floridaborne says:

        Yes, and as Hemingway told us, the first draft is always s#!t. 🙂

  2. Casee says:

    I try to keep my words to a minimum until I figure out how people feel about their disability. Some people are very sensitive about how they are spoken to and others have made peace with their situation. I grew up with people with visual impairments so I’ve had practice. I’ve watched the terminology go from handicapped to disabled to impaired in my lifetime. I don’t have the time anymore to dance around people. I just ask them if they have a preference on how they are referred to. I don’t get caught in how I am addressed if it is done with respect. Life is too short for a daily scrabble game. 🙂

    1. Oh yes, but I do enjoy a words with friends “scrabble” app game, ha.

      1. Casee says:

        Yes! Playing word games with friends and family can be quite enjoyable! I will take that over the word ‘land mines’ that exist with the impaired communtity. 🙂

  3. And another thing….combine VI with old age and you find people getting caught up in all kinds of linguistic contortions. I shall be 80 tomorrow who means that I am old. That is a fact, no pride or shame involved but people are extraordinarily sensitive on my behalf. What an imposition! Take a top from young children who ask direct questions about disability and/or age, digest the answer and then get on with it. Interesting post, Susan. Makes you think.

    1. Interesting to see the parallels to age comments. And, Happy Birthday, Bridget! I hope you have a wonderful day tomorrow.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s