“Hi, my name is Gabriella Drago and I am blind.”
I will refer to this statement throughout this entire post. I have made it my mission to never introduce myself that way, unless some day I become a motivational speaker, in which case, I will be very straightforward about it. I have a reason for this. For someone that is sighted, and even for some who are blind, informing others of a visual impairment seems pretty logical. If you think this, you are correct. However in most cases, I do not believe in going about it so bluntly, at least not during a real person to person social situation. That does not mean that it is the wrong way, it is just not the way that I prefer. I mean, come on! You wouldn’t go up to someone and say, “Hi, my name is Gabriella, and I’m wearing clothes.” If I am talking to you, and you are looking at me, I should hope that the cane or the dog, plus the lack of eye contact, gives you at least 95% certainty that I’m blind, unless you’re blind as well, in which case, I guess we’ll both never know. This is clearly based off of my own experiences, so please take it with a grain of salt.
When I first meet someone, whether it be in a professional or casual setting, my number one goal is to make sure that both myself and the person I am talking to do not feel uncomfortable. For starters, this statement makes me feel very uncomfortable. It makes me feel that being blind is a quality that I should be ashamed of. Sort of like I’m saying it in case the person I’m talking to hasn’t noticed and I’m giving them an opportunity to turn back. I also believe that this statement can make the other person feel uncomfortable. If I leave out the part abut being blind, they can just respond with a, “Nice to meet you. I’m so and so.” (Hopefully that’s not their actual name.) But if I add the part about being blind, they then feel the need to respond to that part as well with something like, “Oh, that’s cool that you’re blind. Um, I think there was a blind girl at my high school maybe.” And then they take a few seconds to remember the person’s name, because all blind people clearly know each other. Don’t get me wrong, their response isn’t their fault, because I was the one who awkwardly prompted it. It can also be awkward if I say nothing about it, but I find that it isn’t so awkward if I don’t bring it up in such an upfront manner. People who know me know that I really enjoy making people feel uncomfortable by making subtle jokes about being blind. People who are unfamiliar with someone who is blind often feel unsure as to whether they should laugh or not, therefore making the situation awkward for them, and hilarious for me. But before that, I want them to at least have gotten a chance to decide if they like me.
Before ending this post, I would like to caution: not all blind people are comfortable with laughing at their blindness, so please friends, be smart.