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Don’t Say That: What NOT to Say to Someone with a Visual Impairment

A woman is holding her hands over her eyes with a winking eyes painted on her hands. The photo is in black and white with a pink title box at the bottom. In the box, "Don't say that" is seen above a bold black line. Under the line is the rest of the title "what NOT to say to someone with a visual impairment.

For this week’s body inspirational post, I want to talk about disabilities. If you are new to Housewife Hustle, you may not know that I’m legally blind and was declared so in my teens. I have retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration. My vision was always poor with constant decreasing peripherals and night blindness. However, the majority of my sight loss happened in my late teens and early twenties.

Discussing disabilities, including invisible disabilities and illnesses, is something I will always be passionate about. Blindness is a spectrum, and more times than not, it’s surrounded with incorrect assumptions and stigmas. It’s time we change all of that.

Growing up with low vision wasn’t easy, but everyone has struggles. I will say that I experienced my fair share of bullying, because people fear what they don’t understand. I will never defend those who’ve bullied me for being blind, but education is one of the best weapons for helping the ignorant.

They Said What?

I have heard so many ridiculous remarks about my vision, how I look, and how I operate. The most common statements and questions still baffle me, but I will still chose to educate rather than belittle. Although, if you read this and have said anything of the things in this post, educate yourself, and don’t be a dick.

I have shared the story of a guy stopping me by putting his foot on my cane while I was walking from a night class in college. He stopped me and acted as if my presence was this complete anomaly. He said, “you’re pretty cute for a blind girl.” He couldn’t believe that I was blind AND attractive. In that moment, it was easy to tell that this was his first encounter with someone who had a visual impairment.

His bone-headed statement was frustrating, and luckily a professor, who was walking near by, came to my rescue. I was a bit dumbfounded, not by the statement, but by the nerve he had to stand on my cane. That wasn’t the first time someone said something, well stupid, about my vision. I also knew it wouldn’t be the last.

Are You Sure You’re Blind?

Even in the blogging community, I am met with surprised reactions when people discover I am blind. People are stunned that the blind can create their own graphics, edit, use emojis, and post on visual platforms like Instagram. Yes, we can do everything you can do.

My husband hears a lot of shocked reactions at his job when people find out about my visual impairment. It blows their mind when they come for dinner and see me chopping vegetables or when I send homemade baked goods for meetings. Then, they razz my husband and say no wonder he’s married, because I can’t see what he looks like. We laugh it off, but it does bother me.

I can’t see your features. Hell, I can’t see my own features. I do take a lot of pictures, because I can enhance them to see more. However, I have my ways of knowing what people look like, but looks don’t matter. Honestly, I would still be the same person and love the same people if I couldn’t tell exactly what others looked like.

Sure, I can’t see if you have acne or freckles, and I can’t really tell you your hair color. My visual field is smaller than a dime, but I’ve learned to adapt. There’s a lot I can’t see, but what I can see is character. And that’s what makes a person beautiful.

Don’t Say That

I don’t get offended easily, but that doesn’t mean people should say whatever pops into their mind without thinking. Just because I have the patience to explain blindness, doesn’t mean negative words and uneducated remarks don’t hurt others. Think before you speak, and if you are at a loss, I will share what not to say.

What NOT to Say to Someone with a Visual Impairment
1. I’m blind as a bat too.

If you discover someone has a visual impairment, don’t compare your vision. I know so many people who tell me they are blind as a bat too and can’t see anything without glasses. My deepest apologies, but blindness isn’t just poor vision that can be fixed with corrective lenses or contacts. Comparing visual issues isn’t a pissing contest, and the winner isn’t who’s “blinder.”

2. How many fingers am I holding up?

Please stop trying to make blind people perform like they are a circus act. No, I can’t see how many fingers you have up from this distance, but I have one for you. Trying to see if someone is “really blind” by asking them to guess what you’re doing is beyond wrong, and it’s belittling. Grow up, please.

3. SO, WHAT CAN YOU SEE?

I AM BLIND, NOT DEAF. Don’t shout or attempt to sign. Learn your disabilities and educate yourself on the differences. Yes, I have had people raise their voice when talking to me once they learn about my blindness. I have also experienced people attempting sign language.

4. You’re so brave/inspirational.

How is living my everyday life brave or inspirational? Yes, I do public speaking and advocacy that may inspire others, but simply living as a blind woman doesn’t make me those things. Sharing my journey and lifting up others with disabilities can be inspiring, but pouring myself a cup of coffee and changing my babies diapers doesn’t make me brave. These statements can seem condescending, just so you know.

5. I’m so sorry for you.

People with visual impairments don’t want pity. Don’t be sorry for us. We can lead regular lives, so there’s no need to be sorry.

6. Where is your cane or guide dog?

We don’t all use guide dogs or canes. I chose to have a cane rather than a dog. It’s not because I don’t love dogs, but I just chose to have a cane. We also don’t always use our aids. The situation may not be right for it, and those aids don’t dictate or validate our visual impairment.

7. Can they fix you?

First of all, we aren’t broken. Second of all, blindness is more complex than a simple cure. There are so many diseases, and if mine was curable, do you think I’d still be blind? Although, some people with visual impairments wouldn’t change their vision if they had the chance.

8. You don’t look blind.

This is not a compliment. Being blind and looking blind aren’t bad things, so stop saying this. Whether I look blind or not, you don’t need to comment on it. Just like commenting on someone’s body- it’s not your body or business, and it doesn’t need to be said.

9. So and so is blind too.

I’m happy that you are aware of blindness in the world, but no, I don’t know your blind great aunt. Blind people don’t all know each other.

10. Over here, over there, walk this way.

Vague directions aren’t going to help us. I have no idea where “over there” is. No, I don’t want to follow the sound of your voice. You don’t have to treat the blind like Lewis and Clark, but try being a bit more specific like “it’s to your left.

Think Before You Speak

Honestly, I could probably double this list, but these are the main ridiculous statements that I hear as a blind woman. You should think before you speak, because these are things you should never say to someone with a visual impairment. Educate yourself and put yourself in the shoes of others.

Questions are welcomed, but you should still think about your wording and your question. I also hate hearing people chalk situations like this up to, “oh, it was just a joke,” or “don’t be so sensitive.” I don’t ask you rude things, so try to have some respect and curtesy.

I understand that my blindness is considered an invisible disability, especially because, “I don’t look blind.” There is no one way a blind person looks, so people will continue to be confused. Invisible disabilities and illnesses come with that aspect, but that doesn’t make any of this okay to say. I can’t stress education enough, which is why I write posts like this and why I believe in advocacy and breaking down barriers.

Thanks for coming to Don’t Say That with Housewife Hustle. I hope you learned something. Have a great day.

-With Love,

Jenni

10 Comments »

  1. my grandma is going blind due to diabetes. I will say I am surprised when she needs help seeing certain things. When we went out to eat for my birthday, she needed help finding food she liked and knowing what she was eating. She talk about it or complain. She is learning to live with it just fine. I don’t ask her questions or say anything because I don’t want to offend her. I admit I do make the comment that I am blind without my contacts even though I don’t know what it is like to actually be blind

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences! Awareness is important. I’m sorry about your grandma, but it’s good she has you to help. Have a good week!!

  2. This is such an interesting post! I think people’s stupidity comes from the ignorance of what being blind actually means, myself included at times. Most people think being blind means you can’t see anything at all, and it’s similar to when we close our eyes, which isn’t really the case. So that takes people by surprise.

    Thank you for sharing this and bringing to light some of the ignorance that those of us who aren’t severely visually impaired might have.

    XO Steph

  3. I mean, I think you’re both brace and inspirational, but more because of who you are and what you do, rather than your ability to see. As someone with an invisible disability, I can definitely see how these comments are hurtful. Thank you for sharing this, and hopefully people can learn from this. People with a disability are just regular people! 💕

    • Thanks so much, darlin!!! I know the brace and inspirational comments come from other areas of what I do, but I wanted to include it in the context of everyday tasks. Thanks for always being wonderful and supportive!

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