Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Fish in a Tank

Last month, I traveled to Austin for a training event. In one of the training sessions, one of the employment specialists for the blind, gave a nice presentation on living life with blindness. Although there was nothing she said that was new to me, the other participants in the training, all of who were sighted, thought that the information was fresh and enlightening.

There was something that she said that I always knew, but I had never really thought of it that way. She said that being blind in a community of sighted individuals is like being a fish in a tank, someone is always watching you.

Oh, how I identified and agreed with that description.

When I go out into the community, people watch me, whisper about me, and demonstrate that they are in awe of me. For many of these people, they have never seen a blind person in person. So, they don't mind being rude and staring at me like I'm a five-legged cat.

A few years ago, I went to a Tavis Smiley event at Texas Southern University. Do you know I actually heard people whispering:
“Is that lady blind?”
"She's blind." "Get out of her way. She can't see."
“That’s so sad that she can’t see. Lord, help her.”
"That's so nice that they brought her out."

That last statement pi$$ed me off the most. But I will reserve a blog entry to deal with that statement real soon.

My friend Alicia often tells me how people stare and point when we are at the mall, at restaurants, and at church. And honestly, no matter how much I try to shake it off, I get so tired of that. I hate feeling like a zoo exhibit.

The other day, I was walking down the sidewalk to the nail salon that's a few offices from my place of employment. For some reason, quite possibly paranoia, I felt like someone, somewhere was watching me. I felt like I had to make sure that I walked to the nail salon without making one wrong step. I felt that I needed to walk like I was the baddest blind chick in the world. I felt that I had to make sure that I opened the right door, did not trip on the cracks in the sidewalk, and to walk like I was extremely confident, all because I felt that someone was watching to see how this blind woman was actually walking by herself. So much pressure at times...

I am learning everyday that I can't worry about my blind life being on display for all the sighted world to see. If I took the time to focus on all the stares, oohs, and awes that I get throughout the day, I would be nuts.


julie volz said...

this really teaches us not to stard at anyone their just like us in the inside and we would not like it if somesone stard at us

Cherry Azucena said...

This article "A Fish in a Tank" is a very interesting topic to read. My curious mind can't help but wonder how and what the article is about. I guess I'm trying to think ahead of why the writer titled this entry in this manner. As I finished reading it, I realized the co-relation between a fish life in a tank, and a disabled individual; both being viewed by many as the "center of attention" or should I say, center of unwise opinions from time to time). I have to admit that I was guilty of doing the same actions as other people when I was a child (maybe when I was 7 until my early adolescence). I agree that reaction of people can sometimes form barriers to disabled individuals. Nobody want to be a center of discussion about anything that maybe negative. So for individuals like me, I think that we ought to be aware that individuals who are physically and mentally challenge should not be the "table topic", "street-subject of opinion" without adequate knowledge about that individual.

Rahila Bham said...

I like the article very much.I will try not to stare a person with disabilities but some time its a coureusity. I really appretiate the work of disable people because they are trying to servive in this busy world. I would not say that evary one has disabilities but I must say that no one is 100% perfect in this world. By looking at you give positive strength to your student that if you can be successful in your life with blindness why can not we. I really admire you. good luck!

Anonymous said...

It astounds me that people are so blatant and rude when it comes to blind people. The line "that's so nice that they brought her out" would have more than upset me if i was a blind individaul. I mean, it upset me and i'm not blind so i can only imagine. It is quite intersting that even though you don't have to put up with people's stupid and rude body language and stares, you still have to deal with their comments. To me that is worse.

Aaron Lindquist

Tasha said...

I have to start by saying you are a great woman.You have come a mighty long way and God has blessed you to come thus far and to become the person you are today.This post should make us realize that all of us have some type of impariments weather it be blindness,dislexia,color,race or creed.some more servere than others, of course ,but we are all Gods people .The cruelty that we exsibit to others sometimes is horrible .We have not yet learned who not to judge ,point,stare ect.We must know that even though a person has a diability doesnt mean they cant do ,they cant acheive because some can do better than the so called normal persons. So just to here what has happen to you strikes a nerve .I pray that people learn and understand that this same thing could happen to them , then what,how would they feel, maybe they will think twice. Peace!

Anonymous said...

This sory teaches all of us to be respectful and not to point oout any disable person because that will make them feel unformfortable. Their disability is not heir choice and also they are try to live a constructive life and dealing with their disability. We should treat them with respect and like normal human being Saira Neely

Krystal Cardenas said...

I enjoyed this blog, it was very interesting to know how people with disabilities feel when others are watching or stareing at them. I for one look up to people with disabilities because although they know they are disabeled, that dosen't stop them from reaching their goals or moving on with their lives. There is people out in the world for little or no reason that give up on life and themselves, but the people with disabilities do not. I think rather than to stare we should appreciate and acknowledge them for their hard work and true achievements in life. They should be our role models rather than a fish in a tank.

patricia galvan said...

I like this blog, because you express your feelings about how you feel when other people stare and act different around you. I understand how a person with a disability feels, because my cousin is handicapped and she lets me know that she hates it when people stare, because to her it seems rude. I'm happy to know that most disabled people are independent and don't rely on others.

Anonymous said...

As my teacher, I have to be honest that to me you are no different than the privious ones. I absoluteley love your class, and have been there since day one. The way you present the information is very clear and understandable with lots of examples, and that is one thing I enjoy. The real world can be cruel but like you taught us that one must have regulation. It would be a constant loosing battle if we faced every negative comment. Those type of people who critize others with any type of disability, need to be more educated with manners and accept the fact that everyone has a purpose in this world.

Cheryl_Henao said...

I really like this blog. It really amazes me how some people can be so rude, ignorant and so closed minded about people with disabilities. All of those statements those people mad would have made me furious to the point that I wouldn't have held my tongue. They thought it was necessary to speak their minds so I would have made it a point to speak my mind!