I have two questions I’d like to ask vision impaired people – are you fine with someone talking on your behalf? And do you think it’s acceptable for others to talk to your sighted guide and not to you directly?
My view is that when somebody speaks for you it can be quite demoralising and it can leave you feeling worthless, frustrated and hurt.
Recently, I’ve been situations where I’ve met people who would talk to my sighted guide instead of talking to me. For example, whilst attending my hospital appointments, there were doctors, consultants, surgeons and nurses who would talk to my husband all the time. It got to a point where I felt very upset and annoyed. It forced me to speak up and ask them to speak to me directly because, after all, I am the patient! And my husband isn’t with me all the time. However, despite being seen regularly at the hospital, I still have to remind them that I’ve only lost my sight and not my ability to communicate!
Another question I’d like to ask is – should we be more forgiving when it comes to family? I think in some ways our families should be more supportive and inform others that you, as a vision impaired individual, are capable of speaking for yourself and it is important you’re spoken to face-to-face. The same applies to work colleagues, support workers, friends or anyone who has a habit of speaking on your behalf.
It’s commonplace that when we lose our sight, we also lose our confidence and independence. And, to an extent, our voices disappear as we struggle to inform others of how we’re feeling and explain what’s going on, whilst trying to make sense of the situation ourselves. So next time anyone talks to your guide, kindly let them know that it is better if they spoke to you instead of your guide. In fact, talking with others is very important for visually impaired people as it helps us to recognise voices so we can remember who the person is.
Furthermore, if you’re going to initiate the conversation, then asking your guide to point you in the right direction and letting you know when you’re in front of the other person will help you start the conversation. Sometimes, VI people need some assistance from their guide to face the person being spoken to and being told when the person has left the conversation. There have been many times when I’ve been left to talk to myself- how embarrassing!
So the next time you are in a position where others are continuously talking on your behalf, then let them know how it makes you feel and explain some of the tips I’ve mentioned on how they can support you to maintain your independence.
Written by Bhavini Makwana