Welcome back to fashioneyesta.com!
I hope you are all enjoying your day and that this blog finds you happy and prospering. Today I am going to be talking about a topic that I do really enjoy talking about on my blog and that is disability, in particular, the weird things people say about my disability.
Now the reason I am doing this is because the UK charity Scope are back with their popular #EndTheAwkward campaign. A campaign which seeks to end social awkwardness about disability in a fun and educational way by talking about awkward situations that have arisen and how they can make a person with a disability feel. So, this year I once again find myself part of the campaign and have joined forces with Scope and Unilad to create a video based on a real life story. The video is a comedy sketch based on the incident where smoke gave my guide dog Unity directions as opposed to myself. So far its had a whopping 1.3 million views and over 600 shares on Facebook which is incredible! The video we filmed can be found below.
Last year I made some videos and blogs on How Not To Be Awkward Around Disability and Sharing My Awkward Moments both for the #EndTheAwkward Champaign. I have also written blogs for Scope including My Guide Dog Isn’t a Sat Nav and the all time popular The Top Ten Misconceptions of Visual Impairment.
So this year I thought in the spirit of the #EndTheAwkward campaign I thought I would share some of the weird things people say about my disability and believe me things are going to get cringey.
I also filmed a YouTube video on this for my channel which you can find below.
Now I want to also say this blog and video have not been created in order to offend, insult or patronise anyone. They aren’t designed to make anyone feel awkward about themselves, if you’ve said something like this to me or anyone else with a disability before don’t worry, we all find ourselves in a pickle in life, just laugh it off, accept what you said was awkward and move on with life. Thats what the #EndTheAwkward campaign is about and thats what I believe in. Having said that, I have to admit these things did give me a good giggle to revisit for this blog and I find them more funny as opposed to taking offence. But then, I always choose to see the funny side of life.
Anyhow lets get this awkward show on the road, shall we?
Watch My Video
They want to find a cure for me
One of the most common things people say to me regarding my disability is they express the need to want to find a cure for me or a remedy to my disability. Just for those of you who don’t know I have Septo Optic Dysplasia, Nystagmus and I work with a guide dog. My condition affects my sight loss and my endocrine system so its both visible and invisible.
They will say things like “have you tried contact lenses?” “have you tried having laser eye surgery?” “have you tried this new eye treatment?” even right down to the classic “won’t glasses help?” I’ve heard them all, every possible cure under the sun that they can think of I’ve probably heard at some stage in my life.
Then I will respond with “no there isn’t a cure for my disability because it affects my endocrine system and my optic nerves.” Usually once I reveal the fact that there isn’t a known cure for my disability they will usually then pat me on the shoulder and say “I’m sorry, but don’t worry I’m sure they’ll think of something soon. Science is improving every day.”
However, the issue with this is that people first of all presume that a person with a disability wouldn’t have tried things to make their life a little easier. If glasses helped I would wear them, yet they don’t. The other issue with this is that people are too quick to adopt the opinion that everyone with a disability wants to be cured. Although there are people who would prefer not to have a disability, which is of course completely understandable and is relevant to how they feel. But, there are also people like myself who are happy to live with our disabilities and wouldn’t necessarily want to be cured of it if we had the option.
Peoples need to talk of cures when meeting someone with a disability I believe stems back to the idea that society has fed us that disability is a terrible thing and that when you have one your life is over and the only comfort we have is thinking of a cure. But, thats not true and does the disability community a great injustice. Because disability is just a part of life and like life its has its ups and downs. It also suggests that these people who don’t have disabilities feel that they would not cope with a disability if they had one because they are so geared towards this idea of needing to be cured.
They tell me “you look good considering”
This is another thing I hear all the time, people will start up a conversation with me, usually its after they see my cute little guide dog. They will first ask me about my guide dog and then go into the territory of my disability. Usually they first ask me if I’m training the guide dog and when I reply no they will say something like “oh wow you dress well considering” or “you look good considering.” Not only is it their incredulous tone that shocks me, but the fact that they use the word ‘considering at the end of the sentence. Consign that I have a disability I’m not supposed to look good or mind about my image. Its not even something that is merely subjective to the sight loss community, people from the disability community in general get this kind of reaction too wheelchair users, amputees, people who are hard of hearing and so on.
I’m a fashion and beauty blogger, I’m a style enthusiast, I love having my eyebrows threaded, my hair cut, painting my nails and putting on a face mask as much as the next person. My disability doesn’t change that. So to hear someone they that I look good “considering” I have a disability is very insulting. After all what are people with disabilities supposed to look like? Are we supposed to leave the house with a brown bag over our head?
Listing everyone they know with that same disability
This is another very common thing, I’ll be out and about and I’ll get into a conversation with someone and they’ll then list every single person they know, have heard about, their friends know and so on with that same disability. Which I find very strange as you wouldn’t list every single blonde women you know just because someone you’re talking to is blonde? Or every single person you know who was French because you met a French person? So its the same thing with disability why would you list every person you knew with a disability to them just because you notice they have a disability?
Its as if these people think we don’t have any other point of conversation other than our disability. Contrary to what they may believe people with disabilities have interests, hobbies and lives and can hold an articulate and interesting conversation just as much as any other individual.
Asking if I know someone with a disability
They will usually then follow this up by asking me if I know any of these people with a disability. Or I’ll be in conversation with someone and they’ll say something like “oh I knew someone at school with a visual impairment there name was Fred, maybe you know them?”
Just because two people have a disability of a similar nature, doesn’t automatically mean we are going to know one and other. Just like two people who were Japanese wouldn’t automatically know each other just because of their nationality. Although I do know lots of people from the disability community because of my campaigning and blogging work, I can’t be expected to know the 10 millions people in the UK alone living with a disability and neither can anyone else for that matter.
Asking ‘Is that guide dog a real guide dog?’
I hear this one a lot too surprisingly, one recent incident where this happened occurred when I was makeup shopping with a friend. We went into a shop and was followed by a security guard who then proceeded to as me “is that an actual guide dog?”
Naturally I was shocked by this because surely this person must have had to have disability awareness training for their line of work. Of course she is a guide dog, she is wearing a neon yellow harness with the Guide Dogs Uk ago on the front and the Guide Dogs Uk branding. She is exceptionally well behaved and I have all the revenant documentation to prove that I am a guide dog owner. Whats more, whoever heard of a fake guide dog? As if I would buy a guide dog harness on eBay and train my dog to act like a guide dog, just so I can pretend to have a visual impairment. I also think a lot of the time its because these people are under the impression that I’m not actually visually impaired and that I’m merely pretending to be.
They tell me ‘you don’t look blind’
This new one is one I’ve talked about in a previous blog but I’ll say it again, because I still hear this said to me all the time. People are still so incredulous over the fact that I am able to apply makeup, take an interest in style and have painted nails even though I live with sight loss. You’d think after 4 years as a fashion blogger with a visual impairment I’d have made my point? Yet, still people seem to believe you can’t look good or take care of your appearance if you have sight loss.
Whats more, what am I supposed to look like? What is anyone with a visual impairment supposed to look like? What is this idea of sight loss in their head to make them say “you don’t look blind?”
They then say ‘you don’t look blind’ is a compliment
However, to add insult to injury they will then say to me “take it as a compliment?” Which makes me want to laugh, scream and recoil in horror. A compliment? So, let me explain why “you don’t look blind” certainly isn’t a compliment. Its not a comment because you are essentially saying that although I don’t look blind, other people with sight loss will look a certain way. This is othering to the 2 million people in the UK alone living with sight loss, because you are tarring all with the same brush and putting negativity on them by casting me in a positive light. For it to be a compliment to see, it must be an insult to anyone else? Do you see the logic in what I’m saying?
If you do, then I give you a virtual hug!
They get me to prove I have a disability
The final and the most frustrating thing people say about my disability is they suggest the I am forging my disability. They will then try and get me to prove it to them by either asking a series of questions about my disability or by another means…the dreaded “how many fingers am I holding up?” Now, this makes my physically and mentally recoil whenever I hear it. Because, it shocks me how people think its ok to do that to someone merely because they have a guide dog or a long cane or say they have a visual impairment. Its an invasion of their personal space and an insult to them to infer that they are lying about their visual impairment.
I’ve heard similar stories of wheelchair users who receive a similar reception if they are able to get out of their wheelchair and walk for a short period of time. People wills to them things like “but you can walk! You must be faking it.” People seem to have this idea in their head that disability is set in stone and there can be no grey areas. When in fact disability is not black and white and isn’t all as it seems. A disability or an illness can fluctuate and there is not such thing as a stereotypical idea of what someone with a disability will be like or look like. My disability can fluctuate, my health can deteriorate, my sight worsens in the dark or when I’m experiencing hypoglycaemia. But, during the day and when I am not having low blood sugar, I am able to read and see details like patterns on cloths. But, that doesn’t mean my sight is functional enough to allow me to navigate through life without visual aids or a guide dog.
Disability isn’t black and white and just because it may appear to you a bit different to how you imagine or expect it to be doesn’t make it any less real. Yet, so many people with disabilities like myself are made to explain and validate our disabilities to people both online and in real life on a daily basis. People who don’t believe we have a disability because of the way we appear to them and the way we manage our lives. I am happy to educate people on disability by answering their questions and giving them information to make them feel less awkward about disability. But, there are days when sometimes you don’t want to have to go through the same script of explaining your disability to a person or hearing peoples skeptical remarks just so they can validate that you have a disability.
So please, the next time you see someone with sight loss don’t say “how many fingers am I holding up?” because it really does cast you in a poor light.
So, I’ve shared some of the weird things people say to me about my disability. Now I want to pass it over to you guys, its your turn! Share your stories whether it be on your blogs, YouTube channels, Twitter, Facebook or any other social media using the #EndTheAwkward. I nominate all of my followers to get involved and would love to hear your tales of awkwardness.
Thank yo so much for reading and I will see you in my next blog!