It 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.