This post is written in gratitude to Denise, one of my former counselors at the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. The other day, she wrote to me privately and alerted me to a mistake I’d made in one of my Facebook posts. She said that I’d used the word, “Cited,” when clearly, I meant to use its homophone, “Sighted.” After I corrected the mistake and thanked her, she said, “You’re welcome. Glad I didn’t offend you.”
The idea that I would be offended by an act driven by kindly intent is a sad commentary on where we are today as a society. Moreover, it is not the first time I’ve encountered this form of awkward benevolence.
In the past, coworkers have been hesitant to warn me of stains on my clothing, mismatched attire, or even crumbs of food on my face. I once went for nearly half a day before a friend told me that my fly was down.
I can appreciate the precarious position of sighted people. In today’s cultural climate, when intent is trumped by the recipient’s reaction to a benevolent gesture, and when the soft bigotry of low expectations has become the norm in the name of the salvation of one’s feelings, it may be easier just to hold one’s tongue and let a negative stereotype perpetuate itself. But I can tell you, kindly sighted people, that you are doing us blind folks no favors by shutting up in the name of your (or someone else’s) salvaged pride.
If my writing is to be taken seriously, then it must be serious. My spelling, my mechanics, my sentence structure and my expression have to be top-notch. If they are not, for good or ill, people will move the bar for me because of my blindness.
The same goes for my appearance in the workplace. If I don’t look clean and presentable, my coworkers may write it off as a blind thing, but they will also fail to take me seriously when equity is required.
As for Denise, she is still a fine teacher after all these years. She was the first person who ever had a serious, candid, discussion with me about sex. I think I was 12 at the time. I’m glad to say that I took her didactics to heart. IN fact, I’ve learned that sex and writing have a lot in common. Whether you’re talking about dangling participles or dangling extremities, proper placement is essential.