Braille Monitor                          November 2019

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Meet the Sighted Month

From the Editor: This little gem was making the rounds on Facebook, and we felt that Monitor readers who might not be on that social media platform also deserved to see it. October is officially Meet the Blind Month, but while the sighted meet the blind, the blind meet the sighted. And that’s where this little guide comes in handy to help the blind understand the limitations that the sighted labor under as they move through the world:

October is Meet the Sighted Month. Throughout the month, sighted people will hold events where we can mix and mingle and learn about the special equipment and techniques they use to cope with the presence of eyesight. Also, many sighted people will post invitations on Facebook encouraging us to ask them questions, any questions we want, about their sightedness. To kick off Meet the Sighted Month, I have put together this list of things to keep in mind when interacting with the sighted.

  1. Sighted people are often incapable of traveling, cooking, or doing much of anything without the aid of light. While we use our other senses to enable us to function perfectly well in the dark, sighted people have great difficulty developing these skills. When you welcome the sighted into your home, don't forget to turn on the lights.
  2. Sighted people often cannot understand synthesized speech, and the text on a Braille display is almost always unreadable to them. They must depend on special equipment such as computer monitors and phone and tablet screens to use their electronic devices. If you let a sighted person use your phone or computer and forget to turn the screen on, they will be very confused.
  3. Sighted people have difficulty learning from textual and verbal explanations or tactile models. They often must be presented with pictures. A good rule of thumb, when writing instructions for the sighted, is to include a picture with each step.
  4. Sighted people have great difficulty distinguishing auditory cues in their environment. While we can tell when to cross a street by the sound of traffic or where an entrance is by the sounds of people entering and exiting, sighted people often must rely on visual information alone.
  5. Sighted people rely heavily on an inaudible code called color. They use color to safely navigate by car and perform countless other tasks we can perform using auditory and tactile cues. Also, they are often quick to judge us based on what colors we present to the world. It is important to gain at least a working knowledge of color, so they don’t think we’re weird.
  6. Sighted people often communicate displeasure using a secret signal called a dirty look. I’ll admit, I’m not exactly sure what this entails, except that it sometimes causes sighted people to behave in ways which seem inappropriate to the situation, i.e. telling someone off for no apparent reason. As blind people immune to the effects of the dirty look, we can only try to teach the sighted to use their words when communicating displeasure with us.

So, there you have it. Keep these points in mind, and your next encounter with a sighted person should be as smooth as a brand new NFB cane tip.

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