If They Would Laugh With Us

by Angela Sasser, Board Member, National Association of Blind Students

Two years ago, I was visiting some friends who worked in the children's summer program at one of our training centers.  One day, while I was there, I took part in a seminar in which we were discussing attitudes and stereotypes about blind people.  I brought up the idea that we, as blind people, should be conscious of our actions, because people take note of them without us even knowing.  I insisted that this was how attitudes, both negative and positive, were formed.  I also suggested that other blind people could be affected by those attitudes that were formed by our actions. 

Later that summer, I was on my way to the NFB national convention in California.  I was with the same friends that I previously had gone to visit.  We were getting ready to board the plane.  It was one of those small planes--the kind that you board by walking outside and climbing up stairs.  After climbing a few of the stairs, my friends and I paused and were patiently waiting to continue boarding the airplane.  We were engaged in intense conversation, and I was not paying much attention to anything but our discussion.  I stepped backwards a little and to my surprise, the next thing I knew, I was on the ground.  It was absolutely hilarious.  We were laughing hysterically.  I picked myself up and continued boarding the plane, never really thinking about who all saw this little incident. 

After being at convention for a week, the whole thing sort of became a funny memory; at least I thought it was just a memory of the not so distant past.  However, when we were on our way back home, we found ourselves on the same small plane.  I am happy to say that I got on the plane without any mishaps.  After the plane landed, and we were exiting, a man was standing at the bottom of the stairs and grabbing all of my friends, telling them "Be careful!  We had one blind person fall last" As he was about to finish his sentence, I appeared in the doorway, and he said, "There she is!"

We all got a good laugh out of the experience, but at the same time, realized that the point I had made in the seminar had been proven.  People do notice us and the things we do more often than we think.  That man had seen other blind people make it up into the plane without incident, but because of what happened to me, he took that and formed his attitude about blind people.  People look for confirmation of the things that they believe.  This, of course, makes it more of our responsibility to insure that we are aware of what we do.  Even more so than sighted people, we have to be conscious of how we look, act, and present ourselves.  But, after a while, if enough attitudes are changed, we will be able to fall down without people in society taking pity on us.  Rather they will begin to laugh with us.

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