First impressions mean a lot. A person can be judged for a very long time if a poor first impression is made, these things stick with you. I can hold and nurture a grudge like a newborn infant, so it’s kind of important not to insult me or be overly rude when we first meet, especially if it’s in a romantic or pre-romantic way. I’ve had the same response in regards to my cane/disability from three different guys in the last two months. So, I agree to meet the person in a public place for the firs time so we can get to know each other in a relaxed environment. I’m chronically early so I get there and get settled in, which generally involves me folding my cane up and setting it nearby and having a drink. The guy arrives (multiply every thing by three and you’ll have all three of my encounters) and I greet him, he sits down and we chat. At some point during the conversation he will inevitably notice my cane sitting on the counter or table and ask: “what’s that?” I’ll look at it and tell them that it’s just a cane to help me get around. I explain that I’m blind and after the look of confusion over my apparent ability to see I have to tell them to think of blindness a dimmer switch and not an on/off button. After this I get the same reaction:
“Oh man, I’m sorry. That sucks!”
Really? Does it? I mean, I’m pretty sure that we just sat there and had a conversation in a place that wasn’t a windowless, unlit room. I appear in good health and have managed to dress myself in clothes that are clean, that match and are on the right way. How does having low vision suck? They just took a basic element of my being and insulted it. Not a good first impression. Nobody wants to be viewed as a walking tragedy.
Now, if I’m in a good mood when the person misspeaks (although, they never view it as misspeaking) I might have a meaningful conversation about Independent Living philosophy or disability. If I’m in a less than forgiving mood I make them squirm.
“Oh? How does it suck? I wasn’t aware” I wait for them to stutter our a response before slashing at them verbally again.
“See, I wasn’t aware that it sucked to be me,” then comes the apology and a defense of they didn’t mean it. Having a disability is a characteristic of who I am, I didn’t choose it, but I didn’t choose to be white or have brown hair either. After this kind of interaction we generally (whether I attacked or not) have a talk about how to treat a person with a disability (regardless of whether it’s immediately obvious). The lesson is this: treat them like everyone else. My vision loss didin’t hinder me having a conversation with them earlier about mutual interests and should stand in the way just because they noticed it.