Tag Archives: Acceptance

the Blindtrap

I don’t think I know a single blind person who has escaped the “blindtrap”. Not entirely anyway. What is the blindtrap? It is variations on thinking that you’re somehow inferior because you’re blind. This feeling of inferiority can be manifested in many ways and some of them are extremely subtle. It can be obvious things from passing comments such as “You’d be so much more attractive if you could make eye-contact” and not getting jobs because of employers attitudes, to sighted people excluding you from helping out on communal cooking and decorating because they may think it’s difficult for you to join and being more efficient at many practical things because they can see.

 

I am sad, but not ashamed to say that I too am caught in this trap more often than I like at times. And I have to remind myself that sighted people are not better, sexier, more intelligent, and more capable than me just because they’re sighted.

 

I remember having a conversation with a good friend of mine whom I also used to work with. I couldn’t work out what I’d done for my team leader to dislike me so much. I felt like an annoying insect she wanted to smash against the window every time I had to speak to her.

“I think she sees you as competition. She’s pretty and blond like you, but you’re twenty years younger and fit. So maybe you remind her of what she used to be,” my friend said.

I was astonished to hear this. How could anyone see me, a blind girl as competition? “Don’t be ridiculous,” my friend said when I pointed out that since she was sighted, she’d always be a lot more attractive than me anyway.

 

I’ve talked with this particular friend a lot about my inferiority issuex. And he has made me understand that I am just as sexy, intelligent, capable and resourceful as someone who can see. I’ve

even had men, both sighted and blind, asking if I’d have their kids because they’d want to make sure their kids got well brought up by a capable woman with strong ethical principles. And that’s a huge compliment.

There are many small and easy steps sighted people can take to avoid giving their blind friends or family members feelings of inferiority .

  • Involve them in communal activities. Not sure of their abilities? Ask. “Can you cut these onions?” If the answer is no, suggest something else, or let the blind person tell you what he/she can do
  • Expect them to pull their weight. If you’re having a party where everybody is bringing stuff, make sure everybody is bringing stuff. Last time I checked, blindness doesn’t interfere with ones abilities to bake a cake or buy a bottle of wine. This is also important for parents who have both blind and sighted kids. I was expected to do housework just like my brother was. Different chores yes. But I had no excuse not to do them.
  • Unless asked for, don’t take over a blind person’s chore because you can do it quicker. If you do something regularly, be it house work, cooking or gardening, you’ll get good at it no matter how well you see.
  • Don’t pick up objects to be helpful. My friends often pick up my handbag or cane when we’re leaving a restaurant without telling me, only for me to spend ages feeling for it on the floor. It makes me feel a little stupid. I know it comes from a good place, but….. Just leave it for me to pick up.

This list could include more points, but I can’t think of any right now. But as long as you use your common sense and ask questions you should be cool.

What blind people can do? Soul searching, living and learn to recognize that it is possible for a sighted person to sometimes feel inferior to you because of who you are or what you can do. I still fall into the blindtrap, but not as frequently as when I was younger, or for different reasons. I probably always will in some cases. But having sighted people around me who just treat me like a normal person and don’t act like my blindness is an inconvenience for them or a reason to exempt me from daily life, does a lot to make me feel as valuable as them.

 

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My Naijalife part 4. What it’s like to be a blind foreigner in Nigeria

I’m going to talk about this topic from the point of view of a foreigner. If any blind or visually impaired Nigerian happens to stumble across this blog, comments would be greatly appreciated.

Before I went to Nigeria to record for the first time, I was apprehensive about a lot of things from whether this was a real deal to how I would be treated as a blind person. When I was in university, my parents used to live in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and I didn’t like the attitude the locals had towards me there being blind. People would randomly come up to me in the street or in shops, pat me on the head and say “God bless you dear”. My experience with African immigrants who were a generation older than me wasn’t great either. And I was accused of being possessed by “the spirit of blindness”, being too scared to allow god to heal me and a few other ridiculous and hurtful things.

Surprisingly therefore, my expectations of how I’d be treated in Nigeria were pretty low. After all, I was going to a developing country where disabilities seemed to be caused by evil spirits.

But I was positively surprised. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t referred to as ‘the blind woman’. OI was ‘the white woman’, which isn’t much better. I prefer to be referred to as Linn or Lioness, but the truth is, strangers are always gonna refer to you by your appearance. For example the man with the long beard, the girl with the square glasses etc. so I am not going to complain about that.I do it myself. Being the white woman is somehow a break from being the blind woman. My blindness takes second place. And nobody has accused me yet of being possessed by evil spirits.

I’ve had a few negative incidents, but that was mainly with my first label where the CEO, who has little education and I suspect low IQ, sent in a press release where he referred to my blindness as an “imperfection” and asked me to write a song where I “encouraged the handicapped”. Can you blame me for dumping that label? LOL. Handicapped might have been ok to say in 1856, but in 2016 it’s pretty off.

But after I changed label, I’ve had none of that. In fact, most people who meet me don’t realize I’m blind, so imagine how puzzled I got when a girl at a video shoot asked me if my leg was ok. I was holding my stylist’s arm so she must have assumed I needed physical support. Those kinds of assumptions can be quite confusing at the time. I think everyone knows I can’t see, though that’s not the case, but actually they are indirect compliments. Blindness doesn’t always come up in interviews either. But when it has come up, I’ve only had positive experiences talking about it, because blindness related questions tend to be about my blog.

The real challenge for me when it comes to being blind in Nigeria has more to do with practical matters. Public transport systems and roads are not developed, so I can pretty much forget about getting around independently. And that’s why I couldn’t live there twelve months of the year. I’m a spoilt girl who is used to going out to get what I want when I want and not having that freedom is depressing. My team is more than willing to help me with anything I may need, something I’m grateful for, but it doesn’t quite make up for lack of freedom and flexibility. Being a white woman alone in Lagos comes with its own risks, but had I been able to drive, or get around independently by other means, I would have enjoyed more mobility and freedom which would have made daily life easier.

Being a blind foreigner in Nigeria is fun and exciting as long as I am busy working and have access to a gym or a pool. But for day to day spare time living, it is just too restrictive in the long run.