4 Common Misconceptions About Blind Travellers

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Preeti Monga, our blind expert, pulls out a page from her travel diary and narrates some hilarious instances about people and their assumptions about blind travellers. Read on…

You won't believe some of the misconceptions people have about blind people

You won’t believe some of the misconceptions people have about blind travellers

Our world has been designed by sighted people, for sighted people. But the visually-impaired manage to get around quite efficiently as well. Interestingly, the sighted just don’t seem to understand that we have our other senses to help us get around like them, and get things done in much more detail. So we blind travelers often have to face absolutely hilarious misconceptions, which I can’t wait to share with you all! So, do read on!

“I’m blind, but I can walk!”

We don't need wheelchairs, just a little help

We don’t need wheelchairs, just a little help

I was on a call with my travel agent the other day, getting her to carve out an itinerary for an international holiday for a group of my visually impaired friends. At the end of a half-hour-long detailed conversation that covered all aspects of the assistance we would need from them on our holiday, all she asked me at the end of the call was: “Will everyone require a wheelchair?”

Exasperated, it took all my patience to hang on to my hat, take a deep breath, smile politely, and answer: “No thanks! We are blind. That is, we can’t see; but we all have a good and healthy pair of legs. We can walk and run and climb wherever required on our own! All we need is a few people to assist us verbally or physically when there is danger of falling over or stumbling!”

Interestingly, “disability” to most people only means someone in a wheelchair. This probably happens due to the fact that the most used and most commonly visible emblem representing ‘disability’ in our environment is the symbol of a person in a wheelchair. So people subconsciously associate any disabled person needing assistance, with a wheelchair!

For example, every time I travel alone by air, my request for assistance is promptly answered with the ground staff benevolently placing a wheelchair in front of my legs, and thereafter, trying to lift me carefully into it! It takes them quite a while to understand and then agree that I am only blind, and can walk. I have to convince them that allowing me to walk beside them, holding onto their elbow, is less trouble than them pushing me and my luggage around the entire airport!

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“Can YOU manage to do things in the dark? So can we!”

YES, I can do this and just about everything else that you can!

YES, I can do this and just about everything else that you can!

Every so often while travelling, I’ve been asked by many a mystified sighted fellow traveler: “Oh, I am so sorry you can’t see. How do you manage to get by? How do you manage to eat by yourself? Who dresses you up? How do you know the difference between day and night?” Suppressing a chuckle, I too can’t resist the urge to ask a few questions in answer to these well-meaning inquisitive queries. I naughtily ask them, “Suppose the electricity suddenly fails when you are eating dinner, do you put your food into your ears? Because you too, I guess, can’t see in the sudden darkness? Similarly, in case you get shampoo into your eyes, who dresses you up? Because, with shampoo in both your eyes, I’m sure you too can’t see either!” So most willingly, I DO satisfy their curiosity. But of course I go on to explain in detail how I use my other senses to do all that they do with their eyes.

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“If we need something, we can ask for it. And that includes money!”

Best way to deal with people's comments and opinions? Just laugh it off

Best way to deal with people’s comments and opinions? Just laugh it off

It is more than funny when I come across many a sighted non-disabled person who feels overtly sorry for me and ensures that their sympathy is most appropriately conveyed to me. This is done by slowly walking past me with tongues clicking sadly and muttering things like, “Poor thing! If only God had given her eyes…how very sad…this is the result of her past deeds…may God forgive her!” It gets even more hilarious! Some such overly concerned good citizens have been known to grab such an opportunity to reserve their spot in heaven by generously pressing a few coins into the hands of some of us shocked blind folk!

Once a blind friend of mine was on holiday in Kerala, and was standing by a busy road. He was waiting for his friend to join him when suddenly he felt a hand grip his arm and the next thing he knew, he was being speedily propelled across the road! Shocked and frightened at such an unexpected event, and that too in an unknown city, my friend nearly had a heart attack! And then pure relief washed over him when he realised he was being benevolently helped across the road. Thereafter, he did his level best to explain to his overly anxious and helpful benefactor that there was no need to help him cross over. But no heed was paid to this, and in a few moments, my friend found himself safely deposited on the other side of the busy road! “I was completely lost and stuck, and before I could get another word out, my gallant self-appointed helper took off, muttering, “Poor blind things, how do their families allow them to be left standing around such busy roads?!” There he was, left with the task of finding some other kindhearted soul who would understand his language, and would once again get him across the road, or I definitely would never manage to find my friend, who was also visually impaired and on holiday here.

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“Just because we don’t ‘look’ blind, doesn’t mean we aren’t!”

I don't have to look blind to be blind

I don’t have to look blind to be blind

Then on another of my mountain holidays, I was walking down a slippery hilly path, with my right hand tightly holding onto my husband’s left elbow. My left elbow was held tightly by Binni, my very dear visually impaired friend. We were brought to a halt by the voice of a village lady, who was cutting grass nearby, enquiring why we were walking in this strange manner. To which I answered that as both of us girls were blind, we were holding on to this sighted gentlemen’s arm, to prevent us from tumbling into the valley below. “Do you think I am so stupid?” she shrieked, “None of you look blind! I am a villager, and not as educated as you, but I am definitely not crazy to believe such nonsense! You city folk just want to tease us village women.” And no matter how much we tried to convince her of our disability, she just didn’t believe us!

Hence, you see, blindness is amazingly, a mystery for the sighted world! If you have any such hilarious incidents to share, please tell me about it in the comment section.

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Preeti Monga

Preeti Monga is Founder & CEO of the Silver Linings Trust & Silver Linings Services, and, Director Project, of Project Jyoti of the Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital! Blind since childhood, she has made it her mission to empower people with disabilities and inspire everyone to live with dignity. Preeti focuses on the education of blind children, the inclusion of disabled people in mainstream society and the restoration of eyesight through cornea retrieval. She has won several prestigious awards, including The National Award, 2013, and the Exceptional Achievement in Entrepreneurship Award, 2015, among others!

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Leave a response comment2 Responses
  1. rima
    September 23, 04:31 rima

    Lot’s to learn and understand…. This is going to be an insightful journey. Need your expertise to understand ‘how’ to partner with you to make life enriching for both of us!

    reply Reply this comment
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