When You Meet Me

IF I AM BLIND
The only difference between me and you is that I am unable to see with my eyes what you see through your eyes. My sense of smell, taste, touch and hearing did
not improve when I lost my eyesight. I might rely on them more and, therefore, may get more information through these senses than you do—that is all.

WHEN YOU MEET ME:

DON’T worry about using words like “see” and “look.” I use these words all the time. I am always glad to see a friend. Please don’t raise your voice when you are
speaking to me, unless I ask you to. My eyesight has not affected my ability to hear.

DO  tell me when you have just approached or are leaving my presence. Introduce me to people who are in the room, including children and animals.
DO use specific words for communicating directions, such as, “The file cabinet is about 10 feet to your left.” Letting me know where the items are on the table and
where the food is on my plate is very helpful. Imagine the face of a clock, “Your tomatoes are 3:00, your chicken is 5:00.”
DO ask, “How can I help you?” I may ask to take your arm to assist as my navigator. When you need to show me a chair, place my hand on the back of the
chair, and I can take it from there.

For more information, call the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired at 973-648-3333.

IF I USE A WHEELCHAIR
Yes, I use a wheelchair—a motorized wheelchair. I am not wheelchair bound; I am not confined to my wheelchair. And yet, I often hear people use those words when
they refer to me. Does anyone actually think that I sit in my wheelchair when I take a shower? Or sleep in my wheelchair? Pretty absurd, don’t you think?

I am a person who uses a wheelchair. The only difference between you and me is that you use your legs to walk and I use my wheelchair.

WHEN YOU MEET ME:

DO sit or bend down to talk to me if the conversation is lengthy. My neck and back ache if I have to look up for any length of time.
DO ask me if you can help, but don’t be offended if I say no. It makes me feel independent if I can do things myself.

DON’T hang on to my wheelchair when you are walking with me. My wheelchair is part of my personal space.
DON’T ask the person I am with to speak for me, sign my credit card receipt or pay my lunch tab. This makes me feel like I am non-existent. Kind of weird don’t
you think when I am right there.
DON’T pull your child away if he/she looks at me or wants to ask a question. By doing so, the child may think that a person with a disability is to be feared or
avoided. Actually, I think it is a sign of intelligence for a child to be curious and want questions answered. I can only speak for myself, but I welcome children to
ask me questions.

IF I AM HARD OF HEARING
Yes, that is me. I have severe hearing loss and use two hearing aids to amplify your voice; therefore, please don’t shout. If I need you to speak louder, I will let you know. My hearing aids usually take care of the volume, and it helps me if you enunciate your words and speak slowly. The reason for this is that I have an extra step to do before I can understand what you are saying. My ear only picks up a few of your words and my brain tries to program those words into meaningful content. When I had my normal hearing, my ear and brain worked together simultaneously, so what I heard was instant replay and my brain did not have to process wordsseparately.

WHEN YOU MEET ME:

DO  look at me when you speak because I read your lips.
DO be patient. If I don’t understand you the first time, try saying the same thing a different way.
DO try to include me in conversations where several people are gathered. If everyone talks at once, or if there is a lot of background noise or chatter, I cannot participate.
DON’T put your fingers near your mouth; I cannot see your lips. It is harder for me to read your lips if you have a beard or mustache. Oh, I am not asking you to
shave them off just so I can hear you, but—??
DON’T  say, “oh never mind” if I don’t understand you. What you say is important to me.
DON’T laugh if I repeat something you have said 10 minutes ago. Obviously, I did not hear you or my brain just now processed what you said.