Last Saturday, we were honored to have a guest speaker at our NFB Denver chapter meeting. She was a rep from the League of Women Voters. She seemed like a kindly, gentle soul who was very genuine. She reminded me a lot of my friend Deb, sans the squash soup.
She was there to outline the many different proposed amendments, propositions and other items that will appear in our local ballot in three weeks. This is a tradition that has occurred for many years between the local NFB and the League of Women Voters.
She began her speech by saying, “I was here once before and I made a boo-boo. I used the word, see.”
Immediately, a dozen members tried to console her, But our assurances did not seem to assuage her fears. Several times throughout her presentation, she tripped over the word, “see,” pausing self-consciously to say, “Oops! I did it again.”
I figured that someone with more gravitas would buttonhole her after the meeting and have a friendly, enlightening chat with her.
As it happened, I was leaving and she held the door for me. I thanked her for sacrificing her Saturday, told her I enjoyed her presentation very much and then I asked her, “Has anyone talked to you about the word, see, yet?”
“No,” she said, sounding genuinely confused.
I proceeded to explain to her that most blind people don’t have a problem with words like, “See,” “Look,” or “Sight.” I told her that the word, “See,” doesn’t merely mean to view something with one’s eyes. It also connotes a general perception or understanding of a concept or point. “I see what you’re saying,” or “Look at the facts.”
I further explained that most blind people would notice her awkward attempts to steer around the terms more than they would take note of her use of them as part of a smooth presentation.
I told her that none of us were offended in the least by her use of such words and I wanted to make sure she did not leave thinking she had ruffled any feathers. She seemed to see my point.
Then she said, “Look at the sky. It’s so blue today. Oh gosh! I’m sorry! I did it again!”
Oh well. She has decades of misconceptions to overcome.
So for all of our sighted friends, please don’t police your speech around blind people. Most of us don’t give a damn and the ones who do are the ones who have the real problem.
Stick to the important issues, like banning Halloween costumes from college campuses because they signify cultural appropriation. Next year, I’m gonna go as a sighted person and see if anyone gets offended.