First Impressions

I’m rather late to write today. I wasn’t sure what to write about, if anything, for all of today. Then I came across
Fandango’s provocative question for this week. This definitely inspires me. Fandango asks what impression you think you make when people first meet you?

Well, let me start by saying it depends. The factor that makes the difference is largely whether I’m using my white cane. When I am, that’s obviously the first thing people notice. Then most people will immediately know that I’m blind and their further impressions of me will be as much based on me as on their views and prejudices about the blind.

When I’m not using my white cane, people will usually still immediately notice that I am disabled, but be unable to tell what my disability is. This surprised me for a long time, as I always thought the fact that I’m blind is obvious from the way my eyes look. Apparently not, at least not since my cataract surgery in 2013.

In fact, I didn’t know that it’s not obvious somehow until I attended my second online cerebral palsy meeting. In the first, I had mentioned my additional disabilities immediately, but I had no reason to the second time around. Midway through the meeting, I got to mention it and the people who hadn’t attended the previous time all said they hadn’t known.

Generally speaking, I allow strangers and near-strangers to make their own judgments about me and my disabilities based on the first impression, be it that I’m blind or that there’s something “wrong” but they cannot be sure what. Sometimes I correct them, but less and less so. I mean, I could correct taxi drivers that it’s not obvious that all blind people live in care facilities, but why should I? I don’t think I have an obligation to justify why I need 24-hour care and people who are just blind don’t. I honestly don’t feel it’s my responsibility to set an example of competence that I cannot live up to just so that others won’t stereotype other blind people.

I once was approached by a police officer, because I had been wandering the neighborhood without my white cane. That policeman assumed I was either high on drugs or intellectually disabled, as he asked me whether I’d used or had eloped from the local institution. At the time (when I was around eighteen), I had virtually no understanding of the impressions I made on people and I initially corrected him. My father thought the police officer was stupid for assuming I had used drugs or belonged in the intellectual disability facility. I think my father’s preconceived judgments about me and anyone interacting with me, were farther off than that police officer’s.

17 thoughts on “First Impressions

  1. That is an interesting response. First, may I ask…were you born blind? I find things like this incredibly interesting because I think it is amazing what people CAN do with disabilities. Also, I never would have thought that someone who is blind would have cataracts. You learn new things every day, right? Thanks for sharing that bit of you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for asking. I was born legally blind but did have some vision up till around age eighteen. I still have light perception (the ability to see whether it is dark or light in a room or whether it’s daylight or nighttime outside). And yes, blind people, even totally blind people, can develop cataracts. They just don’t get surgery unless there’s a chance they’ll regain some sight, which was my reason for asking for the surgery.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I sincerely wish our “first impressions” could be done behind a screen. So much is clouded by people’s visual perception of the person they are meeting and time has to be spent explaining or “undoing” that first impression.

    Liked by 1 person

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