The fact that many people are confused and even scared by blindness isn’t new to me. I can’t count the number of times someone’s prayed for my sight to be restored or told me that I should devote my life to seeking a cure. The idea that I might be comfortable, and even happy, with my blindness is totally incomprehensible. But why is that? I believe it’s because most of the population just don’t understand what life is really like for blind people.
One of the things I want to achieve in my life is to educate more people about the realities of blindness. But in order to do that I need to know what they want to find out. And where better to look than Google.
So off I went, typing “how do blind people” into the search box and waiting for the page to load. Here’s what I found.
1: How do blind people sleep?
I’m a little confused by this question if I’m honest. I have to assume that really people must be asking how the blind dream, because surely it’s obvious we need to sleep. Unfortunately, my blindness doesn’t grant me superpowers that enable me to go through life without sleeping!
I do however struggle to fall asleep and perhaps that’s what this question is hinting at. Because people who are totally blind can’t tell the difference between day and night visually we can have disrupted sleeping patterns. This isn’t a given, some blind people will go to bed at the same time each night and fall asleep without any problems, it’s all luck really!
2: How do blind people get around?
I’ve faced this question a lot in my life. People act amazed and sometimes even angry that I move around my environment independently. I’ve experienced everything from being told I’m brave and inspirational to listening to rants about how irresponsible my parents must be to let me out the house alone.
Blind people typically choose one of two mobility aids to travel, a guide dog or a cane. I have used both, I’m currently a guide dog handler however I also own a long cane and enjoy using it. Non-visual travel skills can be learnt and used in order to get around without needing any sighted assistance.
I personally use a whole host of techniques from my sense of smell to listening to traffic before I cross a road. My cane or dog allows me to locate steps, doorways, curbs and all the other things you might encounter when out and about. Like sighted people I sometimes also use navigation apps like Google maps if I’m travelling to a new place.
3: How do blind people dream?
Blindness is a spectrum. Some people who are registered as being blind have some remaining vision and so they may have visual dreams. The same applies to people who have gone blind later in life. I have been blind since birth and so I have no visual memory, meaning I don’t see in my dreams.
Imagine you are watching a film and you turn away from the television so that you can make a drink. You are no longer looking at the screen but you can still hear everything that’s going on. That’s what my dreams are like. I still create landscapes in my mind but they are formed of all the senses I use and mostly consist of sounds.
4: How do blind people use the internet?
Blind people can access technology such as computers and smartphones through software known as a screen reader. Quite simply it reads aloud what is on the screen. I navigate my computer using the keyboard as opposed to the mouse. The screen reader I use is called NVDA, it’s free, why not download it and give it a try.
5: How do blind people cook?
Cooking is a very sensory experience for anyone. Although most people will use their sight when cooking they also use their hearing and most importantly their senses of smell and taste. Blind people can learn to cook very safely without needing sight at all.
You can often tell when food is ready just by its texture, meat for example changes quite considerably whilst cooking. I also make sure I label the cooker with tactile markings so I can set the temperature on the oven correctly, though in general I require very few adaptations in the kitchen.
What else do you want to know?
If you stumbled across this page because you’re curious about how blind people live their lives don’t hesitate to leave me a comment. I’ve had plenty experience answering all kinds of questions and I’m grateful that people want to learn rather than making assumptions.
As blind people we do all kinds of things with our lives. Whether that’s raising a big family, getting a phd, climbing a mountain or publishing a book. I don’t feel limited by my blindness, it’s a part of who I am and in many ways it has given me opportunities I would never have had otherwise.