Thursday, April 2, 2009

Please Speak Directly To Me!

This is one of my pet peeves with the sighted world. So many times throughout my life I have found myself being addressed by others in the third person. They somehow find it necessary or more comfortable to speak to me by talking to the person accompanying me. Sometimes the person accompanying me would politely tell the person asking the question that they should ask me what I need instead of asking them. On other occasions, when I am feeling up to it, I would also politely say, "You can ask me directly." This can be a big problem, if I allow it to be; the solution that I have come up with and the one that works for me is to educate those I come in contact with.

There is no pattern to the type of person that chooses to address my companion instead of me; salespersons do it, bus drivers do it, doctors do it, so many do it. I would go into a store with my friend and the salesperson would ask, "What would she like?" I would visit the doctor's office with my mom and the doctor would turn to her and say, "She does not have much of a chance of regaining her vision." Or I would go to the post office to mail letters and the postmaster would turn to my friend and say, "What does she have in the package? Documents or what?" Or at the restaurant, the waiter would ask, "What would she like to order?"

The classic for me is when I am traveling. I get to the counter escorted by an airport attendant and the ticket agent asks the attendant, "Where is she traveling to?" Of course the poor bewildered attendant has no idea where I am traveling to so I have to step in, although I obviously should have been addressed directly to begin with.

Here is another example. I go to the post office on my own with my package to mail, and the friendly postmistress asks, "Do you know what you have in the package?" This time she has no choice but to speak directly to me because I am alone.

On most of these occasions I have taught myself to smile and speak up, but there are the odd times when I become so frustrated and say in a sarcastic tone, "You can speak to me. I can understand you." As I see it, the only way to reduce these types of unnecessary incidents is through education. You can help by spreading the word that blind persons can hear and understand. You do not need to ask someone else to interpret for them.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your accessibility and special-needs business consultant wishing you a terrific day and inviting you to contact me at if you would like to learn how to communicate more effectively with blind and visually-impaired persons.

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