Because as with everything else, there is a right and a wrong time.
Not so long ago I made a post on facebook that said how annoying I thought it was when strangers asked me out of the blue, such as on bus stops, whether I’m born blind. Most of the commenters sympathized with me, but I got into a discussion with one of my blind Facebook friends who didn’t really understand my problem. Wasn’t it just positive that strangers tried to learn about disabilities?
Yes. It’s very positive when strangers are trying to learn. And I don’t mind questions. But as I pointed out to him, no constructive conversation about disability starts with that question. I would forgive a young child for asking questions out of the blue. After all, I’d rather provide them with proper answers than having them ask their parents who will most likely just guess. And then how will the kids learn? But grown-ups really need to know better.
So when is the right time?
Really, just use common sense. Are you born blind? Is a personal question and without any talking beforehand, it’s really invasive. It’s not quite as personal as “So what are your sexual fantasies?” But if you’ve literally not said a single word to the person you’re asking, it kind of is just as invasive. And do you really expect someone’s first words to you to be that personal?
Now, if we’re going to have any sort of regular contact, you can ask me once you know me. Whether you ask the first time we meet, or a year into the friendship totally depends on the situation. But I’d like you to know the important stuff about me first. For example what food I like what bands I’m into and my favourite travel destination. Then, if the curiosity gets the better of you, ask by all means. You may even have things I wanna ask about after I’ve gotten to know your important stuff.
As for strangers, I sometimes have very good conversations with people I’ve never met and will never meet. Sometimes during those conversations the question may come up, but never ever has it started a fruitful exchange. And it probably never will in my case. Some blind people don’t mind you asking straight away. We’re all different, but assume they won’t like it and avoid it until you feel it’s safe to try.
And one last thing. Regardless of whether the blind person is born blind or have become blind, don’t say anything along the lines of “Well, then you don’t know what the world looks like”, or “So then you know both worlds.” There is only one world and though I have never been blessed with eye sight, I know what the world looks like. My perception will be different to someone who has been able to see, but it’s no less accurate. And besides, sighted people even perceive the world differently to each other.