Can You See Me? I’m Here In The Darkness. (Part 3)

24 Feb

As I concentrated on that feeling of smallness and aloneness, my husband nudges my shoulder propelling me out of my reflection.

“Hey Shannon? Have you tried shaking your head?”

“No.” I reply laughing at his enthusiasm for the experience.

“Try it. I’ve been doing it for the last 5 minutes.” He chuckles.

I start shaking my head back and forth, imitating Oli’s constant head movement.

“What’s it doing for you?” I ask Seth after a minute.

“I feel like I can hear the sounds around me better. I hear something different each time I turn my head.” He tells me. “What are you getting out of it?”

“Dizzy.” I respond. “I could only do it for a minute before I started feeling like I wanted to throw up.” I am a person who couldn’t even ride the Teacups at the county fair without wanting to throw up.

While I was sitting there my eye was continually drawn to a little red light on the ceiling. I’m guessing it was a smoke detector light or something like that. In the darkness I could orient myself to that light. Every once in a while another small light would be illuminated in the back of the room. I think it was from staff coming in and out and lifting a curtain.

Although I was WAY more secure sitting in my chair and not walking around in the dark, I was immediately drawn to any kind of change in the blackness. When I would see that little bit of light, a tiny tiny minute change in the texture of the dark, my body seemed to be able to orient itself to it. I instantly knew where I was in space. I didn’t feel so lost. I began to realize why it has taken Oli so long to be aware of where her body is. I began to recognize the HUGE importance of teaching her orientation with regards to herself and her environment because she doesn’t have any kind of light perception.

All of a sudden the lessons that I had been learning and teaching her made absolute and complete real sense to me. A light went off and I felt it. I felt why it was so important.

“It’s now time for the question and answer part of our night here at the Blind Café. The blind waiters and waitresses are inviting you to ask questions about what it is like living as a blind person.” The man who made this whole night possible, Rosh Rocheleau, stands up and introduces them.

“Everyone who has a question raise their hand.” This statement is met with a nervous, awkward silence and then followed by laughter as the waiters begin to laugh. Oh? It’s okay to have a sense of humor about this whole thing?

I think sometimes people are so insecure and uncomfortable around people who are different from them that they forget that they are just like everyone else. They are smart, funny, happy, real people. Except for the fact that they cannot see, they are just the same as you. The blind wait staff made us feel like it was okay. It was okay to ask the typical questions about blindness. They were so comfortable and confident in themselves, they tolerated the ridiculous questions and were happy to dispel many myths. I have to say, I was slightly annoyed at some people’s stereotypical questions about blindness. However, I am not afraid to admit that I too, have had similar questions when I first learned about blindness.

People asked questions like “Do you see in your dreams?”

Answer: “No.” People who have been blind since birth don’t see in their dreams because their brains just don’t work like that. They have never seen anything so their subconscious has no reference to input visual pictures into their dreams. They dream in smell, sound, and touch.

“Are your other senses super enhanced? Did they become heightened?”

Answer: “No. We don’t develop super powers like Superman.” A blind person’s hearing and sense of smell are the same as everyone else’s. If measured I’m sure it would be at a normal, appropriate level. Blind people just learn to use their senses better than you or I. They pay better attention to things that we generally don’t because we experience our world about 60% of the time through vision.

“Do you hate it when people say things like ‘Did you listen to American Idol last night’?”

Answer: “Yes. Absolutely. I try to be nice about it and if someone says ‘Did you listen to ….’ I respond, ‘Yes. I watched….last night.’ You don’t have to adapt your vocabulary just because I can’t see. I still use words like: see, look, watch….because they are acceptable terms in our language.”

“What is another one of your pet peeves that people do to blind people?”

Answer: “I hate it when I go out to a bar or restaurant with my friends and the bartender asks my friend what I want. They don’t ask me. They’ll say things like ‘What does he want?’ You can talk to me. Hello! I’m standing right here! I also hate it when I give them my money and they hand my change back to my friend. They never hand it to me. Ummm….it’s MY money. You can give it directly to me. Sometimes people treat me like I’m a child or incapacitated and I hate that.”

“What is a relationship like with another blind person vs. a sighted person?”

Answer: “Really, it’s the same. There is just a much bigger learning curve and much more teaching involved in dating a sighted person.”

(Check back again. I STILL have more to tell you. I could probably write a whole book on this experience:)

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One Response to “Can You See Me? I’m Here In The Darkness. (Part 3)”

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  1. Can You See Me? I’m Here In The Darkness. (Part 4) | I'm fine, but my Mommy has issues! - February 24, 2013

    […] spent the last two days attending the Blind Cafe and then the 2013 TX Deaf-Blind Symposium. Because of these two events my perception of Oli and some […]

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