Of Misconceptions and Progress

by Angela Sasser, Secretary, National Association of Blind Studentsp

Often we, as blind people, assume that sighted people are going to be uncomfortable around us, act strangely or, in general, have an overall negative view of us.  We are constantly aware that these sorts of negative attitudes and stereotypes exist and we strive to overcome misconceptions about blindness.  However, at times we forget that some sighted people do not have all these preconceived notions about the blind. Recently, I was reminded of this.

This semester, I moved into a co-op house.  In return for doing certain tasks or duties, the price of rent, food, etc. is less expensive than usual living alternatives for students.  In my house, there are sixteen of us.  We are each expected to complete three hours of duties during the school week, in addition to weekend chores. Needless to say, I was a little wary about how these women—fourteen of whom I did not really know at all—would react to me as a blind person.  I did not know if anyone had ever been around a blind person, and I was nervous.  I had already accepted the fact that the first two weeks were going to be "interesting."  I was prepared for the worst—the grabbing to direct me, the gasps of horror when I went to cook something on the six burner stove, the "pity duties" that they might try and "let" me do. I had my whole speech planned out in my mind to give at our first house meeting. 

However, in the first couple of days, it became quite apparent that these women were going to treat me as they would any other member.   They were going to expect me to do my share around the house. The house manager asked me if I wanted to learn how to light the monstrous stove (original to the house built in the late 1930's).  I, of course, agreed. She then asked what needed to be labeled around the house.  So, we marked washers, dryers, the oven, the stove, and any other appliance that I could ever imagine. The first time I cooked, the woman I was cooking with promptly gave me a huge knife so that I could begin chopping vegetables.  The rest of the house members have done similar things, revealing their confidence in my abilities as

a competent human being.  They have all eaten the food that I cooked, and eaten off the plates I have cleaned.  We live comfortably together—always knowing that we can ask questions of each other, or confront a situation that may arise.

I did exactly what we, as blind people, hate to have done to us. I had assumed the worst about this group of sighted people.  However, I had been wrong.  They were open-minded.  Most of all, they lived their own lives, and did not worry about how I was going to get things done.

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