There’s something I’ve come to realize about living with vision loss that still to this day I’ve not heard many people speak about. Yet every time I’ve brought this topic up, either at one of my events or keynote speeches, I’ve realized that so many others experience the same thing. People with blindness and low vision often feel left out of conversations and group social settings due to not being able to pick up on social cues.
Hear me out on this, I’m sure you’ve heard the saying about nonverbal communication making up a big percentage of how we interact. The way our brains subconsciously take information from hand gestures, body language, looking at people’s eyes and mouths, and using that information with what we hear to get a better understanding of what someone is saying. So, when someone like myself with low vision is in a noisy bar or restaurant with a group of people for example, sat around a table with low light, not only is it hard to see and navigate in that kind of environment, but it’s also hard to communicate with the rest of the group. It almost feels like a hearing issue but in this case it’s not. We can’t see social cues; a person’s lips move or hand gestures which are a big part of the nonverbal communication that most people need subconsciously. These social cues for most visually impaired and blind persons aren’t there and sometimes we feel like we aren’t hearing along with not being able to see.
The result of this can lead to being withdrawn from conversations, feeling disconnected or not included. For those around us they may think we are being unsocial or even sometimes rude, as if we aren’t interested or not paying attention. However, this is far from the case. It might even be the reason most people with low vision avoid these settings. Especially if those we are trying to socialize with have no idea that we are struggling in that way. It’s possible that the person with low vision doesn’t realize why they are feeling left out.
But how do we solve these kinds of issues? Obviously having places we can go socialize where it’s well-lit and a bit more quiet will help with communication but that’s not always possible. And why should we have to give up on going to busy bars and restaurants especially if we don’t want to?
For me I think it’s about being open and explaining to friends and loved ones how these things affect me. It makes perfect sense once something like this is explained but who would ever think about it unless someone made a point in bringing it up.
That’s another thing that living with a disability has taught me. Talking about something removes the stigma. Most people are understanding and respectful and once something is explained, it begins to make sense and they do their best to help.
I think we need to talk about these things more.
Too many of us have become isolated needlessly due to not feeling comfortable when out in public. This life is too short to waste it.
I used to make excuses
avoid that crowded place
Felt distant from the outside world and things too hard to face
The blur would make me panic depression told me “don’t”
My dreams weren’t possibilities held back by things I won’t
But now I’m feeling positive
no challenge I won’t try
and if I fall
these eyes aren’t all I need to get me by
For vision’s more than seeing
it’s all our minds create
that I decide
it’s ME who choose my fate
So though I’m not done losing sight and battles yet to come
Instead of staying home alone
I’ll face my fears til won
as vision dies I’ll skate on past my fear
The vision in my mind has taught me I am still right here
No blindness didn’t break me take the man that you csee today
I swipe my cane with confidence to find another way
There’s more to life than seeing
There’s more to sight than me
The vision in my mind creates possibilities