Sometimes you know sighted people are having trouble accepting you just by one little word.
A friend and I went to a play. While munching on after-performance treats, she casually said, “If people walked by you quickly and didn’t see your white cane, they’d think you were normal.”
I’ve heard this verbal distinction from other sighted people, but it bothers me. I am not sighted and I do not look sighted. But this is not the same thing as being “abnormal.”
I might allow comments like this to go unchallenged if the person isn’t important enough to me to attempt to enlighten the view. In this case, though, I was talking to someone I like and with whom I had an ongoing relationship where respect would be important.
So I took the risk and said, “I’m not sighted, but I’m perfectly normal. Well not perfectly, but I’m just blind.”
I don’t mind being called “blind” since it’s accurate. “Visually impaired” is not accurate for me since I’m totally blind. I don’t mind “disabled” or even “challenged” since I am those things. And I’m a “high maintenance friend.” Bur “normal” and its opposite are vague judgments that demean without facts.
I wanted my companion to be a friend and not a person of conversations edited or manipulated so someone would feel superior and someone inferior.
I wanted to enhance her belief system and not just her language. And I didn’t want to be seen as automatically “less than” in her eyes. Could that start with one little word?