They Are Staring


They Are Staring

     "Honey, they are staring at you, again." my wife said. It was after dark, we were at the zoo looking at the display of holiday lights they put up around this time of the year. "Oh there's a new one! A monkey that looks like it's jumping from one branch to another! And, I sure wish people wouldn't look at you like they do.”

     "Well," wanting to try and ease her discomfort a little, I said, "This is a place for seeing things, to learn about nature. Things inside the cages and out, too, I guess."

     "Yeah, but I'll never like it," my lovely wife answered. I remembered something she told me back when we had been dating for some time and we had decided to get married. It was a weekend night and I had asked her to go out for dinner and she replied, "I don't want to tonight." In a tone of honesty she continued with, "You know, when we were just dating and people stared at you, at us, it didn't bother me so much. But now that we are planning to make it permanent, I'm going to have to think about it more and work at getting use to it."

     In the baby pavilion, where they nurse sick or orphaned baby animals, we found a baby sea lion in the first glass fronted nursery room. "Oh look! He's following your cane!" my wife said. To see what he'd do, I walked back and forth in front of the window. The furred and flippered baby critter wattled and barked, keeping up with my movements.

     In the next room was a baby bobcat and he too zeroed in on my cane. Seeing how my young fuzzy friend was not in fear of the long white cane, I touched the hard surface of the window with the tip of its handle.

     "BAT! BAT! BAT!" the miniature clawed paws beat at the surface of the glass. I had had several domestic cats play with my cane before and this was no different.

     At the bear enclosure a family of humans were coming out and a three year old looking boy, thumb in mouth stopped right in my path and stared wide eyed. His older brother of about five said, "What's that man doing' mommy?"

     "Shhh, move out of that man's way." said the mother.

     The father said, "He's blind and that's a cane. It helps him find his way."

     In the jungle building, they had a chicken looking type of bird running lose. One of the males wouldn't stop attacking my cane; running at it, beating its wings, pecking at the shaft. "I bet he thinks it's a snake!" my wife said.

     Next we stopped in the giraffe barn. "Oh, one of them is coming over!" my wife said excitedly. "It's your cane again. He's bending down. His lips are quivering! Look at that! He's sticking out his tongue!"

     Before leaving, we stopped in the snack bar for refreshments. We sat at a table, my wife had a hot chocolate and I had an ice cream cone. "Honey, you are being stared at." she said. "At every lick you take."

     With humor in my tone I answered, "Should I really give them something to stare at? Like smash the cone onto the end of my nose?" And I got her to laugh.

e-mail responses to

**1. I guess at some time or another all blind people are stared at. I remember when I was at the school for the blind some high school students looked at me and my sighted guide as if we were strange because we were two women walking together. My friend told me about this. I really didn't care because I knew
I was using a sighted guide. I use a guide dog and people stare a lot. My feeling is at least they are interested. I also applaud the parent who told the child what the cane meant. That is the way to learn.

Angela Farmer Dothan, Alabama USA

**2. >>

Sometimes! Sometimes I stare back when people stare at my husband, and that makes them back off. Sometimes, though, they stare because they are trying to figure out where they know him from. Then they come over and introduce themselves. It doesn't really bother me anymore. When people remember who I am in my town, it is because of my husband. I guess that's better than being
invisible. and also, it seems to me better to be noticed, because then
others get used to a blind person being around, and are not so crazy the next time they see one. Or so one hopes.

Lori Stayer Merrick, New York USA

**3. My parents were really easy-going and natural with me when we went out and at home. When someone stared in a restaurant or another public place, my dad would get really quiet or mother and he would start discussing the starer. I wondered why that bothered them so much. Why didn't they just look away and ignore them. I think one time Dad did confront someone for staring at me. I never remember my mother talking about it when she and I were out to lunch or dinner. Maybe Dad was more affected by it. I know
both of them were, though. I don't think this has happened since I got artificial eyes. I'll have to ask Dad to find out. I guess if people stare
at you it makes you feel very uncomfortable, but why, I don't know. Can anybody tell me? I'm totally blind, so don't know what this looks like. I certainly know it's rude too.

Leslie Miller Blindfam listserv

**4. Well, at the conclusion of his illustrative short story, Mr. Newman poses three inquiries, and I'll address them in the order in which they appeared.

Has this happened to you?

Okay, I'm going to treat this one as a rhetorical question. Get Real! If your vision loss is such that it necessarily or unavoidably calls attention to itself, (i.e., you use a white cane or dog guide, are unable to maintain eye contact or to control eye movements, have eyes that are disfigured in some fashion, etc.), know it, believe it, accept're being stared at, and
no doubt all the more so because the operative feedback mechanism which would normally serve to suppress such boorish behavior is itself missing, (i.e., we aren't able to personally observe them staring at us, so, short of being alerted to the situation, we're not in any real position to react to the them on it, so to speak. For my part, not that I
particularly like or enjoy it, but I've simply resigned myself to the fact that, from the moment I exit my front door until the moment I'm back behind it in the confines of my own home, I am, for all practical purposes, "on display".

How do you handle it?

The above observation being taken as the accepted or acknowledged reality, I've simply resolved to project the most self-assured and positive image possible when out in public.

How do you help others to cope with the staring?

Here's where I have to confess to having adopted a somewhat hard-boiled attitude toward the problem, i.e., they're staring at me; however, I can't observe it...I can't control it...I can't prevent it; ergo, I’ve decided that it's only a tangential problem for me, and, as indicated previously, not one
where I'm well positioned to initiate a challenge to the behavior in any case. I used the term "tangential" by way of indicating that I'm certainly not in sensitive to the discomfort, frustration and anger that sighted companions feel at having to witness, or be subjected to, albeit by proxy, such ghoulish behavior. However,
ultimately, my position is this: sighted spouse, date, family member, colleague, friend...if it's a problem for you (and I can well understand where it would be and I'm not suggesting it shouldn't be), then you deal with it in whatever manner seems appropriate, and I'll back you up.

I must confess to being intrigued by the wife's comment:

"You know, when we were just dating and people stared at you, at us, it didn't bother me so much. But now that we are planning to make it
permanent, I'm going to have to think about it more and work at getting use to it."

I find it passing strange that this individual apparently had less difficulty dealing with the staring during the "dating" phase of the
relationship than the "married" phase. What, did she think it would get better? Cease Completely? "...I'm going to have to work at getting used to it"; apparently so, and, contrary to the assertion as stated in an old Madison avenue ad campaign slogan: "you haven't come a long way, baby." (Okay; That last was an attempted display of wit, not bitterness.)

With respect to the children's behavior, I should think it would hardly need to be said that children of tender years should obviously be accorded much wider latitude in this situation since they cannot fairly be held accountable for their not being aware of, or not yet having internalized, our cultural norms respecting the inappropriateness of staring or asking personal questions of strangers. And actually, that's really what's at the very crux of this whole issue. Granted, staring is inappropriate, but the larger, indeed the central question, is "what's motivating it; morbid curiosity, or a sincere desire to acquire new knowledge through observation. Of course, those extremes represent the endpoints of the continuum of possible motivations or agendas, and, given that the blind husband was accompanied by his sighted wife, the example in the thought provoker would seem much more consistent with the former circumstance than the latter. To state the obvious, in reaching a conclusion about where any given situation falls along the above-postulated continuum, each would need to be evaluated with reference to the facts of the particular case. Someone
who, from a distance, gazes at me while I briskly (perhaps too briskly) walk to work using my long white cane might well learn something about how a blind man
can travel efficiently and confidently through the built environment with
the use of that particular mobility aid. (Ditto for a guide dog user, though I'm not one.) On the other hand, someone who, from a closer proximity, elects to stare at my disfigured eyes is certainly not going to gain any edification or enlightenment respecting the particulars of the underlying ophthalmologic pathology which causes them to appear that way. At the end of the day, I suppose this issue boils down to the appropriate management of, or the exercise of proper control over, one's innate or natural curiosities. Let's face it...disability is the ten thousand pound elephant
in the living can't help but see it, yet you dare not talk about it. As stated before, if one's visual impairment is severe enough, the circumstance can't help but call attention to itself, and while I certainly don’t think that such conveys any permission or license to stare or gawk, any unavoidable outward manifestation of severe visual impairment or total blindness does result in our having a much higher degree of visibility, whether we like that or not. At the risk of overmaking the point, the husband's desire to ease his wife's discomfort is quite natural and understandable, even commendable, but it's simply not doable; she has to find her own way of coping with the behavior.

Lastly, cudos to the father who said:

"He's blind and that's a cane. It helps him find his way."

The only modification I would make:

"He's blind...that means his eyes don't work, and that's a cane. It helps him find his way."

The above isn't by way of choking on the word "blind", but simply defining it, given the child's age. Without a definition, "blind" won't connect, but "something being broken" is definitely a concept they can readily grasp.

Given that I usually lurk on this list, and given the volubility of this post, I'll confirm the inference that this one really did strike a chord
with me. There's much more I could add, but I'm sure I've pushed the
envelope with all of the above.

John McCann Falls Church, Virginia

**5. My husband and I have experienced the Big Gawk before. I am legally blind and he is totally blind. I get angry sometimes when it happens, and sometimes I give it back to them when I am able. They always look away when I do this. Sometimes, depending on my mood, I adopt an "I don't give a damn" attitude. Sometimes I or he will just do a little something absurd to "really give them something to look at". The hardest thing for me to deal with is condescension. It infuriates me, and also makes me a bit embarrassed for the perpetrator. Let me ask you this: Has anybody ever avoided being honest with you because they thought you are fragile just because you are vision impaired? I will be interested to hear your answer.

Lauryn Blind-X listserv

**6. I didn’t know people stared but we aren’t at that point yet. I think they, like me, don’t know what to think because it's foreign to them. I'm starting to learn. The other day I saw a man with a white tipped cane and I wanted to ask him...just talk to him, anything... I felt the need to connect. I debated whether he might be offended, and finally got up the courage to introduce myself. He turned out to be very kind and forthcoming AND HE HAS RP. He shared information about local services. I felt better having talked to him, and he seemed glad to share.

Raine RPlist listserv

**7. I usually address this with my students. We discuss that 98% of people are just curious. My feelings are that as long as they are curious they are willing to learn, and as long as they are willing to learn they are able to accept. We also discuss the other 2% that are just jerks (and always will be!). We also discuss that saying about knowing the things you can change, the things you cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference. And then we move on.

Melanie OandM listserv

**8. Yes, people stare at me and my husband tells me that people are looking at me. but he's never embarrassed by it. He's angry at the people for staring at me. When we go to a zoo or aquarium or the like he takes me around to the other side of the pen, cage or closer to the tank to help me see what's inside and points it out to me and describes it. It's true too that animals (and children) are very attracted to the cane. When I'm at a game farm and walking
amongst the animals, who are gathered around my feet, they love to play with the cane. A friend of mine, who has a 2 year old daughter, says the children and animals don't judge. Adults do and too much.

Patricia Hubschman New York USA

**9. I would of never married this woman. It sounds like she has some problems with the fact that her husband isn't normal. People are going to look your way if there is anything different about you. Its just human nature. If I ever date a woman like this that keeps telling me that people are staring at me I'm going to say. "I can't help it I'm so good looking." (smile)

Charlie Web Blindfam listserv

**10. When people are staring at me doing my visually impaired thing I usually don't know about it until I'm told. It usually doesn't bother me, even then.

Jean, my wife, notices it when they stare, and it bothers her more than it does me. Sometimes she feels like marching up to them and putting them in their place; more often she lets it go. Sometimes she doesn't tell me about it and I'm blissfully unaware....

I say, 'Let them stare!'

What I hate is when people don't acknowledge my existence: they look right through me or just behave as if I'm not there. I can get quite vociferous at that sort of thing.

Les Allan RPlist listserv

**11. I think this thought provoker probably has hit home with everyone at one time or another. My oldest daughter has informed me that I get stared at allot, too. She doesn't seem to mind it though. She just lets them stare as we go on our way. People don't mean to stare. It's not out of rudeness, it's out of curiosity. So many people don't understand.....and it makes them observe. Therefore, they get caught at what seems like rude staring. And yes, children even sound like little rude ones. They weren't told about those things in life are they going to learn if they don't ask questions? It's not just blind people that get attention from the public, though. The public also "observes" paraplegics in wheelchairs, obese people, actually anyone that is different from themselves. My close family members handle this very well. We've told ourselves that they're not staring....they're learning.....and learning means 'observing'.

Peggy Dill Hastings, Nebraska USA

**12. I don't doubt that I'm stared at as I go about my daily activities out in public. But I don't think about it or care. I just go about my business and let them stare.

James Congdon Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA

**13. We're never going to stop the staring of other people. they are watching to see how the hell we do what ever it is we are doing. They are wondering how
in the world they would do what ever it is we are doing if they were in our shoes. So that's not going to stop. Depending on my mood, I may give them a show and do something that might shock them or make them turn away, but usually I just smile and let them stare, especially if they are children. When I hear a parent tell the child to "shush", that's when I try to really answer their question. Don't shut them down for asking a good question.

Tom Rash, Executive Director AUDIO VISION Radio reading service
phone: 909-797-4336
Fax: 909-797-3516
Web Site:

**14. It is true that blind people are watched, but I would not call that being stared at. People watch them to see how they handle themselves, but they certainly do not do not make an obvious thing of it. It would appear to me that they did not go out together in public often. Perhaps that is because the wife was a little too sensitive. In truth, she should be used to it, and pay no attention. She noticed people looking when they were out in public before they were married, but she still married him. The last thing
that she should do is call his attention to it. That would make him
self-conscious and ruin his outing.

Richard Myers Japan

**15. Wow this quite the issue in my opinion. Yes, I'm sure I have had people stare at me in my days and still do. I really don't think it goes away whether young child who is blind or adult like in the case of the blind husband with his sighted wife. I think sometimes people stare simply because they're fascinated by the way we do things and how we do them. People just don't seem to know what to say, so maybe staring is their way of learning? Hmm, not sure never have figured that one out. As a person with no usable sight, sometimes
I can sense if some one is staring at me, but, well, I don't always know for what. I guess I just move on with life and figure that if people really want to say something they will. If not, they'll just continue. After all, we can't help it that we're blind and if people don't wish to except that fact that we live in society and function like every one else then that's their problem. Happy holiday every one!

Stacy Wisconsin USA

**16. There've been many times in my 45 (so far) years of life when a child has asked a genuinely inquisitive question and his parents have endeavourer to silence him. I just bend/kneel right down to the child's level, gently answer his question, invitingly ask if there's anything else he'd like to know, and patiently wait. If the child and his parent are already somewhat past me when I finally realize what's going on, I run after them.

Depending on the age of the child, I often offer to let him hold my cane himself and/or show him how it folds up and unfolds again. Sometimes I take out my talking clock and show him how I can hear what time it is. I keep a message recorder with me, and I occasionally take it out, let him speak into it and then hear his own recorded voice played back, and then explain to him that I use it to take verbal notes since a pencil and paper are useless to me. Once in a while, especially if I feel that the parent really needs the lesson and
definitely if I feel like having a bit of fun, I take out my cell phone and
demonstrate that we blind people really are right up there with the best when it comes to the incorporation of the modern conveniences of life.

Parents are wrong when they stifle sincere curiosity in their children, and I do what I can to try to correct the situation. All they'll end up with (this is an off-topic observation) is children who go everywhere but to their own parents when they're in search of potentially embarrassing answers because they'll have learned that their parents can't deal with difficult subjects. Later, when they act on bad advice from others and get into trouble, Their own parents, all too often, naively wonder why their children didn't go to them first. They have only themselves to blame.

Those people who get upset when others are curious do little more than to ruin the rest of their own day as they brood over their own (usually wrong) perception of the others' apparent rudeness. My experience is that my day becomes just a little brighter after I've answered a child's questions, corrected a parent's attitude, had some fun, and made new friends. In addition, the child is happier, the parent is more relaxed, and their family situation may well be somewhat improved. Warmth, fun, acceptance, and giving others the benefit of the doubt are pretty good alternatives to the more common practices of coldness, isolation, rejection, and judgementalism.

It's usually somewhat harder to tell when adults are curious because, by that age, they've been well-trained in the art of not asking questions. Their curiosity will often manifest itself as staring, though, because they really do want to learn and are used to gleaning information visually. Staring isn't wrong. It's a plea for answers. If we blind people become aware that others are staring at us, we'd be stupid to do something silly like intentionally directing an ice cream cone to an inappropriate destination. We should, rather,
go over and get to know the starters, befriend them, and give them the answers they're seeking. Don't we, after all, appreciate it when others answer our questions?

Our offence whenever others reveal their curiosity regarding our disability betrays at least two types of hypocrisy. Firstly, we should recognize that eavesdropping, an art which we blind people are experts in performing, is no different than staring. Secondly, we love to whine about the offensive curiosity of others while simultaneously demanding that they should all implicitly understand our special needs. We just can't have it both ways.

The thought provoking story to which I'm responding raises another fascinating issue as it depicts the couple welcoming and encouraging the curiosity of the animals while rejecting and despising the curiosity of the people. Shouldn't we be more willing, rather, to educate people since they're far more intelligent, and, if they're the right people, in a much better position than any animal ever could be to help us seek resolutions to the various problems which living in a sight-oriented world inflicts on us?

Dave Mielke Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)

**17. This is an issue that I seem to be dealing with on a daily basis. I hang with different people socially. the women friends seem to have little or no problem with being seen with me, but I notice that the men are a different thing altogether. they like stopping by my apartment to watch television or visit, but to take me somewhere in public seems to be a problem to them all. I have wondered if they are ashamed to be seen with me, or do not want to be bothered, or if they think there is some kind of shadow cast on them for being with a handicapped person. I have not come to any conclusions about it.

Pam McVeigh Ruston, Louisiana USA

**18. When my younger brother Andy and I were kids, we would be playing together in the park or at the swimming pool or walking down the street and Andy would suddenly say, "Quit staring at my sister!" I would then realize that other kids were indeed staring at me and I would be comforted knowing that my younger brother was trying to protect me. Apparently, it really bothered Andy when people stared at me but when I look back on those times now, I can't help laughing
a little because I thought Andy was so cute when he defended me like that.

In the story, the different reactions of the animals in the zoo to the man's cane evoked memories of my father's Irish setter, who died a couple of years ago from cancer. When Maud saw me coming with my cane, she always hurried to meet me. She jumped high in the air, her tail wagging frantically, and as my cane moved back and forth along the sidewalk, she danced back and forth along with it until we reached the house.

One day, as I started to cross a busy intersection in order to get to my grandmother's house, which was on the other side of the street, Maud dashed out in the middle of the street, her tail wagging in frantic anticipation of another game of dance with the cane. "Get out of the street, Maud!" I yelled, terrified that she would be hit by oncoming traffic. But then I realized that Maud was in no danger. She was crossing the street towards me and the light was green. But Maud immediately turned away, her tail between her legs, and slunk back towards the opposite side of the street.

After that incident, although Maud always greeted me with affection, she never tried to play dance with the cane again. Dad assured me that I had done the right thing by yelling at Maud to get out of the street but I still feel guilty about it. I know this was completely off the subject but it is one of the thoughts your thought provoker provoked.

Abbie Johnson Sheridan, Wyoming U.S.A.

**19. I'm partially sighted. If someone is close to me, say, at the next table in a restaurant, I just stare back. .

However, when my son was a teenager, this was a huge issue for him. As I remember well, teenagers think people can see right through them, and they're the center of the universe. So, to be seen with a mother who's different, was not only embarrassing, but humiliating. No amount of reassuring ever helped. He'd sabotage parents night at middle school and early high school. When we were in public together, he'd steer me away from peering eyes, as if we were some kind of social pariahs. In his adolescent mind, we were. I
resented that his (sighted) father, from whom I was divorced when my son was seven, was far more embarrassing than I ever was. I also resented that my son expected me to do something about it. I was not supposed to look blind. My own parents had that same expectation. Do they really think we have the power to not be blind, but don't exercise it, just so they'll have to endure public staring?

If anyone had told me "this, too, shall pass", I wouldn't have believed it. It did. Now he's a self-assured young man with a serious girlfriend. Both of them can deal with the public better than I can. He's not as emotional about ignorant restaurant or airline personnel who don't think a guide dog belongs in their establishment. As adults, we understand that momentary unwanted attention is just that. It goes away when someone weirder than I am comes along. And in Southern California, that doesn't take very long.

The hardest thing about staring is that, since we may not see it, we're forced to ignore it. Sometimes I'd love to make a sarcastic comment, maybe turn my back to them as if they were unfit to be looked at.

I know this isn't from the point of view of our sighted friends and families. I'll leave that one to someone else.

Abby Vincent Culver City, California USA

**20. In my own experience, I have never had a companion mention to me so many times in one outing, as this man's wife did, that people were staring at me so much. I've been out with friends who, once in a while might mention about someone staring at us, but it never happens that often. I have to wonder if people really stare at us blind that much, or if this woman was overly paranoid and self conscious. The toughest thing about being blind for me, though,
is not being able to just blend in and not stick out in a crowd. I've always wanted to be able to just blend in and not be noticed, but when you're blind you do have to learn to deal with sticking out in a crowd and probably being stared at somewhat. I've always had a hard time with certain situations such as walking between tables in a restaurant when going in or out of the restaurant, or visiting a new church where no one knows me. I feel like those are
some of the times when people do stare a lot and I have to admit that often times when in those or similar situations I do feel the heat rising in my face and feel very self conscious about being blind and like I'd just love to be invisible or something. but it does sound like this man's wife needs to get more of a grip about him being stared at.

Bev Vinton, Iowa USA

**21. Seems to me the problem is the wife’s not the blind person it seems like he has the right attitude handling it with humor. I'm sure I get lots of stairs as I'm blind and in a wheelchair. I won't let peoples attitude get in my way. I've done interviews for local papers where I'm told my picture appears I tell them I'm doing great my disabilities have been replaced with my abilities in their articles quote my opinion, we must learn to accept ourselves as the whole person if we ever expect the public to do the same!

Diane Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

**22. I'm sure that there have been plenty of times when people have stared at me, but I don't remember having someone specifically mention it to me. It's not my problem if people stare. I think the wife was too concerned about it. The husband didn't seem particularly worried.

Janet Ingber Queens, New York USA

**23. A blind friend explained that she spent so much of her salary on clothes because she knew everyone would be watching her and she didn't want them to think not there goes the blind lady, but there goes the foxy blind lady. My two daughters reacted differently. The eldest was embarrassed but my younger got annoyed with the parties staring and glared back. My husband, in our dating years, used to pretend he couldn't see either. He would hold bills up to his nose to read them, take my elbow and follow me and my guide dog. He got a kick out of such actions before climbing into his car and driving off.

Personally, I just go on about my business and don't worry a lot either way. I guess I figure there is no way to avoid it, and if I entertain others by being in the world, well at least I had some effect for a few moments of time.

DeAnna (Quietwater) Noriega

**24. My sister used to really hate people staring at me. I just used to shrug it off with some sort of comment like "It doesn't matter, I can't see the people staring at me." It still erks her though when people stare at me. As a blind person I can sometimes feel people when they intensely stare in my direction. Sometimes I feel like pulling a face or saying "I know you're staring at me, so just back off." Sometimes, if I've had a particularly bad day, I do pull a face back at them, but I don't suppose this is really the right attitude. It's sometimes better to ignore the starers, or to try and turn the experience into an
educational one kind of like the father in the story explaining to the boy what blindness is all about.

Nicola Stowe Australia

**25. This is definitely in the vein of a true Christmas classic. Like the O. Henry short story or Jimmy Stewart and It's A Wonderful Life. Especially the way animals track the cane and the conversation between two people who are in love. The lights around the zoo at night sound really striking. The dark velvet sky cannot keep the oafish others from horning in on the night. However humor wins in the end! Stille Macht. (Stille Nacht being German for Silent Night.)

Suzanne Lange Chico, California USA

FROM ME: How about it when romance wins out over blindness?

**26. This is a cute thought provoker in regards to the narrative. I'm a lover of animals and am always fascinated with how they respond to different things around them. It's always fascinating to hear the different sounds or other physical ways they respond. Like the animals (some curious but interested while others scared of the cane), people have the same feelings.
The one animal who batted on the glass in response to the man tapping his cane handle on the glass, the animal may have been afraid, may have been curious, or may have thought the whole thing to be a game; especially taking into account that these animals in the zoo are used to all kinds of people coming through every day. On the other hand, there were those animals who were scared of the cane; possibly thinking that it was a snake in his way that the animal attacked the man's cane. Like animals, people, too, get scared and don't know how to react around blind people. In both cases of animals and people, some will
stare at a distance while others will ask you questions. Then, there are those people who tell their children "shshshsh", as in the case of the parent talking to their three-year-old because they don't want the blind person to be offended.

I have had cats and dogs be afraid of me initially, which is normal regardless of whether the person has a disability or not. I just stop to let them sniff me out as I stand still and talk to them, which is my way of letting them know that everything is alright. Once they realize this, then all they want to do is play. A person's difference in appearance or in what they're carrying does not matter to them. All animals want to know is whether or not you're going to hurt them. People, on the other hand, seem to be more reserved in how they act because, unlike animals, they are more worried about offending
you; thus their varying responses from staring, telling their children to be quiet, or outright asking you questions.

I used to always feel like I was on show or was like those animals in the zoo whom people come to watch every day--people commenting on my left eye having a cloudy color from the scar tissue or because my left eye is constantly moving around all over the place due to a paralyzed muscle. Many times,
even if nobody commented, I would feel as though people were staring at me because of the awaiting comments or the numerous times that my mother would comment that I was staring, unbeknownst to me. It wasn't until John and I got together that I found out that nobody notices my eye unless I mention it.
One of the first couple times John was over at my apartment, we happened to be talking about disability and blindness when I mentioned that that was why my left eye was slightly discolored-looking, referring to the scar tissue on my eye. He looked up at me in surprise, as he never even noticed anything about my eye until I mentioned it. His surprise took me by total storm, as I thought for sure that he had noticed it but just had not mentioned anything
of it so as not to offend me. I was, nevertheless, flattered by his surprise.

I'm not saying, of course, that I don't sometimes feel like I'm on show, as there are still a lot of times when I do; particularly when I'm in a new environment. In this case, though, it's not my blindness that I feel draws attention to me. Rather, it's the feeling like I have to have everything under control--not dropping things despite being hurried. Perhaps part of it does have to do with showing how organized blind people can really be, but I think, for the most part, that it has to do more with maintaining control and organization, which everyone wants to present so as not to look vulnerable.

As for how I have and still deal with the feeling of being stared at or being on show, if I'm shopping, for example, I go in to buy what I need and then leave as soon as I can. This is not to say, of course, that I don't stop to answer questions when I hear a parent tell their child to be quiet about referring to my disability. When I hear this, I just walk over and tell them that everything is okay and let the child, or children, ask me what they want to ask me. While I hated this game when I was younger, now, I'll even let kids stand in different positions just for them to see whether or not I can
figure out where they are or that someone is behind me. In fact, I my husband and I were outside a strip mall one day with my guide-dog, waiting for the rest of our party to come out of one of the stores they were in. There were two kids that we got into conversation with about my blindness. I was talking
to one of the kids while the other snuck up behind me. I did hear the child behind me, but I was finishing up what I was saying. Then, I turned around and smiled at them, saying, "now, I know that you're back there behind me". It was cute, as we all lust laughed. Like some of the animals in the zoo, the kids were unsure initially until my husband and I started talking to them.

There are times, though, when I do take my time at shopping, such as when I'm making sure that I'm buying the right product or the right clothes that look good on me. Yes, people do stare, trying to figure out how I know what might look good on me. While it sometimes gets to me, there are those many other times now when it doesn't because I'm reminding myself that these people don't know much about blind people. I live in a town where the Academy for the Blind in our state is located, where most of the blind students are isolated away from the rest of the community. Because the blind students are primarily isolated from the community, many here do not have much exposure to blind people. So, my being out here in the public eye gives them the other side of what blind people can be--not isolated, able to do things for themselves, able to make their own choices, etc.

Linda USA

**27. Just recently, my boyfriend and I went to the Galleria, an extremely large mall in downtown Houston. We were trying to get some after Thanksgiving shopping in, on the busiest shopping day of the year. Both being blind, we were holding hands, and in our opposite hands, and our canes. This quickly changed into me holding onto his arm, where he had his cane in his hand. In the hand where
I was holding onto him, I carried my different shopping items, and I used my cane in my free hand. So, if you could imagine, we were this huge, cane swinging machine. As if one blind person did not draw enough attention, right? Often at times, we would have disputes at who knew where the entrance was, and who should carry what. However, both having gone to that specific mall, only a couple of time, we spent more time, bumping into different things and just randomly exploring, rather than arguing over who knew where we were to go next.

Janice Jeang

**28. I could cope with the staring but not with the wife!!!
Always, I have believed that any so called "disability" has its upside. Not seeing well enough to be affected by the stares, frowns, condemnation or shock on other people's faces is one of those upsides. I have always worn outlandish clothes, quite often very much more daring than many women feel free to wear, but it has only been when I have been out with someone who thinks I don't know what I am wearing and so has to point out to me all the looks I am getting that I have been at all concerned or made to feel conspicuous. Having said this, just what is it about the man in this piece that makes him so noticeable? Generally speaking, once the initial interest has been got over, a person can just begin to blend. Perhaps this man is noticeable for other reasons, his joking about and play-acting maybe. In which case, these are the reasons he is being stared at, just as I might be for my clothes, in either
case it is not actually our sight that is the issue and the lady in the!
piece should really consider that she is deflecting some other sort of insecurity onto her husband. Luckily for him, he seems to be above it all, obviously he understands her problem.

Sandy Ireland.

**29. Staring? They Are?

Why yes, they always seem to, and so I figure if they're staring at me they aren't staring at somebody else (at least at that minute).

I know, and often feel it, when others stare at me. Sometimes I just hope they learn a lesson about blindness. Other times I just pretend they aren't there.

I know that it isn't every day that someone sees a blind person. I also
know that staring is rude!

Steve Hoad Maine USA

**30. Well, this is probably pretty easy for me. I suppose, since I don't see people staring, it doesn't really bother me. I can remember, when I was in school, my younger sister used to be bothered that people were staring at me. Occasionally, she's make smart comments that a kid would make. But, it never bothered me then and it doesn't now. I do hear children ask their parents about my cane, and sometimes the parents hushes the child. But, I don't mind people looking and I mind, even less, them asking questions. I'd much rather have someone ask questions about what they don't understand than to go on in ignorance not knowing and developing misconceptions about me or blindness. So, if they want to stare and if they want to ask questions, that's just fine with me; I'm ready and willing to answer.

Cindy Handel Willow Street, Pennsylvania USA

**31. I figure that if people stare at me, they're showing good taste.

I suspect that many exotic birds think a cane is a blowgun and since the latter were/are used to hunt them, I am not surprised they weren't too happy about it. I once saw a tame cockatoo and he wouldn't come near me until I gave my cane to a bystander.

Mike Freeman BlindLaw listserv

**32. While I would be the last person to say that I enjoy it when people stare at me, I think that one of the things we have to do is realize that it comes with the territory. The best we all can do is engage in constant public education. It is hard to be tolerant of stupid adults but children are another matter. I have heard little kids shushed by their parents and have intervened. I first tell the child specifically what he/she wants to know, such as what the cane is for. I then try to tell the parent that they must help in the process of educating the child, and that his/her gut reaction was not helpful. Sometimes it sinks in and at others it doesn't.

Arie Gamliel NFBtalk listserv

**33. Yes, being stared at is NOT my idea of fun. Not sure I'll ever get used to it. I'd very much like to join the THOUGHT PROVOKER..

Darleen Simar Pastor RPlist listserv

**34. Obviously, I find that when people stare, they have no nothing else better to do, except just that. Back in the beginning of the year of 1999, I was with my mom and little sister, Kiara. We were walking across the parking lot into King Supers. Kiara noticed that people were staring at me because of my visual impairment. She said,

"Mom! They're staring at her!" I indicated that it didn't bother me, just as long as I didn't have to see it myself.

Bibi Baum BlindLaw

**35. It never bothered me much, since most of the time I didn't see the person staring. Even when I do, I tend to shrug it off. I've got white hair, and I'm only twenty-four. And of course, at this time of the year, it's worth mentioning that I've got a beard. Yes, a white one. (Hmm, needs a bit of a trim too..)

So I've been stared at all my life, really. I just never paid much
attention to it. While it didn't bother me, it sure bothered my mom when I was growing up... She never could just ignore that sort of thing, still can't whenever I'm in town and we wind up going somewhere. Never could go anywhere with her - she'd always get really annoyed with someone and make a scene..

My usual reaction to someone staring at me (when I realize it) is to say hello and give them a chance to say or ask whatever it is that is on their mind. Now that I'm older and use my cane more, I get a lot of questions about how I get around or do various things I'm seen doing, but I still get a couple of questions about my hair or skin or something. Which is good, I'd rather they ask than make assumptions.

We understand that because it seems basic enough to us. Those people around us who are sighted do not always know how to react to us, and those sighted people with us are not always comfortable with that. Can't say there's a simple solution to this.

Joseph Carter NFBtalk listserv

**36. This is a little different for me I think, since I have had people stare my whole life and had to learn quickly not to let it get to me. I am a "Little Person" and because I learned early, now when they stare because I have a cane, I don't worry about it.
The thing is, most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, take a look at anyone who looks different. That is a normal human reaction that I don't even think about any longer.
It's the people who are ignorant and continue to stare after you turn to
look straight at them...they are not embarrassed or could care less about what they are doing. They rob you of your privacy! Well, these folks are ignorant and there is not much that can be done for them, even educating them may not help. Life is too short to worry about these things, so I choose to live it up and ignore the stares. Let them waste their time on it!

Joyce Cass Pratt

**37. As a professional public speaker and performing musician, I have no problem with people staring at me. In fact, if they are not, I am not doing my job. (grin) When I am out in public I like others looking at me. I am demonstrating to all those who stare that blind people are normal, average, everyday folks who participate in the community on an equal basis with our sighted peers. Through the conduct of my life, I am helping to erode the stereotypes many have about blindness. As a guide dog user, too, I get lots of attention, for most don't expect to find a dog in the places I go. All too often I hear people telling their children that I am training my dog to help someone who is blind. I always take the time to tell them that this is not true; that I am blind and my dog is working. This comment, in particular, is borne out of the stereotypes and misconceptions about blindness. I am moving about effectively, efficiently, and confidently, therefore, I must not be blind but a trainer. Even when I use my cane, which I do about 30% of the time, I hear comments from others. Once I was in a department store and heard a child ask, "What's that stick that man is carrying?" The parent, in a whispered voice, hushed the child, telling him I was blind. I turned around, knelt down next to the child, and explained that I could not see and my cane told me when something was in my way. I handed the boy my cane and showed him how I used it. Others, mostly adults, stopped and watched what I was doing. That "teachable moment" made as much of an impact on the parent and the other adults as it did for the child. As a blind person, I seldom let such opportunities slip by. When someone tells me how "amazing" I am, I let them know that more people are just like me than they know. When they tell each other how I can feel the difference between paper money, I take a moment to show them how I fold it. It takes a bit more time and patience, but I think it makes a
difference to me and to the next blind person they meet.

Marion Gwizdala, M.S.
President, East Hillsborough Chapter
President, Florida Association of Guide Dog Users
National Federation of the Blind of Florida Inc.

**38. When I realize people are staring at me, the imp comes out in me. I want to tell them to take a picture, it last longer. Or just turn around and say, "Ta!Da!:Stareing back is always fun, too. I do know people are naturally curious of things that they don't understand. I try to keep that little imp quiet and teach the unknowing public, but sometimes the imp sneaks out. That's when my dear loving mother could clobber me. I can't help myself sometimes. The devil made me do it.

Tammy Carrithers RPlist listserv

**39. I have had this happen to me several times but more as a kid than an adult. As a kid unfortunately my cousin would try to beat the kids up who stared at me or would try to make me look sighted twisting my head around. The few times as an adult that I have known people are staring at me I just tell the people with me to let them look and I explain that I we need to educate people.


**40. What do you and your student say or do about those times when you are out and about and you find people staring at you?

Wow! Great question! when I was a young person and accompanied my mother somewhere she would often exclaim aloud , "What are you staring at?" or "Haven't you ever seen a blind person before?" I would calmly explain to her that the people staring at me didn't bother me as much as the embarrassment of her so vocally pointing it out! Besides, I would try to humor her by saying, maybe they think I'm good looking!
this subject rather fuels a topic in which I have also recently become quite intrigued. Among the litany of societal misperceptions about
blindness is the historic sense of shame and guilt that often effects family members of the blind individual. My family was no exception.

I have been contemplating the reference in the Bible in the Epistle of St. John in Chapter 9. Paraphrasing, it was asked of the Lord Jesus by His disciples, what sin hath he or his parents committed that he would have been born blind? Jesus answered that neither his nor his parents' sins were the cause of his being born blind but that the work of the Father might be manifest in his life. I've been looking at this with a view of a Biblical defense against the use of scripture by some to justify negative attitudes about blindness and of the blind. I was inspired to pursue this by reading the second chapter in Dr. Ronald Ferguson's book entitled in part, "We Know Who We Are."

Much of this, the idea of shame and guilt, is responsible for blind folks not wanting to use their cane or in any other way identifying themselves as "blind." It is interesting how these pervasive notions endure so long. I do, however, believe that we are at the dawning of a
new era, to borrow a cliché.


Maurice Peret Maurice Peret NOMC
Rehabilitation Outreach Coordinator
Blind Industries and Services of Maryland
2901 Strickland Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21223

**41. I'm sure this has happened to me on occasion but most people don't comment on it. I would like to think that our world is sophisticated enough that people with disabilities don't need to be stared at any more. But you know how it is with public attitudes. I'm sure that the problem with staring is more of a problem with the sighted people who see people doing it.

Mary Jo Partyka USA

**42. There is a difference between staring and looking. Everyone looks at something different. Its like hearing someone singing as you walk by on the street. You may listen for a second or two. The starer invades the persons privacy by looking for to long. Like if you followed the person that was singing to listen to them till they finish their song. This would make them feel uncomfortable. The same applies to staring. Some people are overly sensitive to people looking at them too.

Charlie Web My Web Site

**43. I have not responded to the "Thought Provoker in a long time, but wanted to respond to this one.

My husband Bill is legally blind. He "should" use a cane but refuses to right now. I want him to use a cane/dog etc. but he feels he can "see just fine". I would rather people stare at him/us when he uses a cane versus people staring at him now, which they do. You cannot "tell" he is blind. So when we are out in public, and he misses a step, or runs into something, people stare at him like he is drunk, or stupid, or mentally retarded or something. I would rather people know he is "blind". I have sat in the car while he has gone into a convenience store alone. I have watched him trip over curbs, try to find the door handle while someone is already standing there holding the door open and looking at him like he is nuts....I have seen people hand him change, or give back his credit card while he is paying and he never sees what they are handing him, and again
he gets the stupid looks. They have no idea he is "visually impaired". I cannot tell you how many times we have been rushed through a restaurant trying to keep up with the waitress as we get seated, and poor Bill hits people, chairs, tables, etc. and again, no one knows he has a visual problem. I would rather people see him use a cane, and then know "why" he is acting the way he is. We go out shopping or will meet people and I have to constantly tell people that he cannot see them when they try to shake his hand. I have a friend who will use his cane in busy airports, only to stop and buy a paper or
magazine and start reading it. He gets a kick out of this, and people really don't know what to think of him. Bill has used a cane in Chicago at O'Hare and yes, we got a ton of stares, but at least they knew to get out of his way when they saw him coming. Now
when we walk, no one knows to get out of the way. I would prefer the stares of using a guide dog/cane than the stares we get now.

Renee Tucker Huntsville, Alabama USA

FROM ME: Interesting point! So I’m thinking...with a stare comes thought, speculation and even sometimes conclusions. Truly, which is worse here and I do believe this “worst” thing
is a major issue here. I mean, people who are not well adjusted to and accepting of their blindness are apparently willing to allow the public around them to think a variety of weird thoughts about them, as long as these observers don’t come up with the “worst” conclusion of all, blindness. And of course, as these blind people avoid using blindness techniques in order to achieve this recognition, they handicap themselves too. So, how smart is that? Bet the potential observer that is always out there has no idea they may be the cause for someone to “not do the smart thing” and avoid using a proper tool or technique and end up embarrassing themselves and anyone else who may be involved in the situation.

**44. I admit, I don’t like being stared at. I used to let it stop me from going out alone. I used to wait and go with my family or friends, I would take them by the arm and would not take my cane with me. I guess I thought other people wouldn’t know I was blind or something. But, one day when I was with my sister at a restaurant, it was after we had eaten and we were paying the bill, when the cashier said to my sister, “He can’t see well, can he? He ought to get a cane so he can go by himself.” Then as we let, my face I’m sure was very red by then, she said to the next people in line, “I don’t know who he thinks he’s fooling.”

I do take and use a cane now. I do think I could fool some of them, but I realized I was mostly being a fool by doing it.

Marty Sholl Kansas USA

**45. When my sister and I were young and lived in a small town, we were stared at a lot and our mom didn't like it. They were gawking; had no intention of learning anything from us and we spent much of our time at home with each other. The friends who got to know us got over staring and didn't like it when others did it. As another has stated, there is a huge difference between looking and staring. Staring is rude.

I am totally blind, however, I can usually tell when I am being stared at and it is an uncomfortable feeling, like my privacy is being invaded; like they're crossing my boundaries. I know some blind persons like attention so much that they actually enjoy being stared at anything that brings them attention. However, it embarrasses me. I have a shy streak, so being too noticed embarrasses me. Shyness also sometimes interferes with my boldly following parents with children who are being shushed.

When my sighted husband notices that I'm being stared at (it doesn't seem as if he is stared at as much as I am, though he has some noticeable disabilities, too, but his eyeballs work), he just stares back. If they speak to him instead of me, he gives them a weird look so that they realize that's what they are doing. Much of the time, some folks don't even realize they've gone into the staring mode. As for animals being less intelligent than humans, I resemble that remark. Animals are capable of much higher intelligence than some arrogant humans think. They may not be able to earn Piled Higher and Deeper degrees, which is often more related to intellect than to intelligence; different animals altogether. Animals have an intelligence about them, and a nonjudgmental, no conditional love that humans could emulate and we wouldn't be teetering on going to war and being stared at and Braille not being used enough and a lot of other stupid human tricks. My cats test me when they're young, but they all allow themselves to get past it and are sometimes maybe too protective, but they do accept that I cannot see and they accept and trust me, too!

The kind of staring I most dislike is from those who are just waiting for the sky to fall in--for me to make a mistake, so they can go into their "watch out!" routine. This is most likely to happen the nearer I am to the top of a set of stairs, or there's a coffee table in front of me, like I've never been around a coffee table before, and such.
When my daughter was born, there were people around who panicked over and over again, over nothing. Their lack of faith in my ability to function was something my daughter didn't like either. She didn't like the staring either, because they ended up staring at her, too, and then she felt embarrassed being with
me. Then if she misbehaved, some of her peers would cajole her for not treating me better. Mixed messages, for sure.

Buy cat collectibles; subscribe for music legally; join CATLINES;

**46. The wife's self-consciousness of people staring at her husband never occurred to me when I read the narrative last week, as I got wrapped up in the zoo animals' responses to the blind man . Anyway, the wife reminded me too much like my mother, who was also highly critical about public image.
Her own self-consciousness led to she deterring me from pulling out my cane, using the excuse that she could lead me around just as well or better than using my cane could do. It seems to me that the wife had never dealt with or accepted within herself the public image that could be when with a blind person. To be in the stage of dating her husband was one thing because there was always the option of breaking the relationship off. Now that she and her husband are married, there's that permanence because divorcing him due to his blindness would look bad (the wife's thinking). As a result of the permanence, she's feeling the pressure that she'd never dealt with and should have dealt with before marrying him; thus, her comment about being more self-conscious now that she's married to him than before, when they were just dating. Yes, she may have been being honest with herself and with her new husband, but this is still an issue that should have been dealt with before marriage, even if it entails talking to him. This leads to the next topic--fear of being honest with a blind or disabled person due to the disabled person's possible fragility. While I have had more people be upfront with me, I have also had people beat around the bush or not tell me anything that they should have told me in the beginning because they were afraid that I was too fragile to hear a negative but honest comment or feeling. I think that people who are afraid to be honest with a blind or disabled person for fear of that person's fragility is either due to ignorance in general, or a previous experience of telling a blind or disabled person the truth only for that person to go off the deep end and raise hell. In the wife's case in the thought provoker narrative, she felt comfortable enough to be upfront with him about her own insecurities. Perhaps, as the relationship progresses, she will have resolved her own insecurity and self-consciousness. It sounds like there's a start, based on his humorous response.

Finally, as for how children understand blindness or other disabilities. My brothers learned to understand my blindness as that I have broken eyes. Such a concept offended me in the beginning until I sat and thought about it in silence for awhile one night. That's when such a concept for them made a lot more sense to me. Not only did my brothers learn to understand my blindness with such a concept and begin to feel comfortable about it, but they
would tell their friends the same thing in explaining their older sister's (my brothers) blindness. Moreover, some of my junior and high school friends were crippled due to CP. In the same manner, my brothers understood their disabilities as that their legs did not work well and that that was why they used a wheelchair or had a walking cane to support them.

Linda USA

**47. I'm legally blind and have lost most of my vision. My husband has a birth mark on his face that is real obvious. When I was a child and could see more, I could get into a fight over the way other kids would stare at me; but as I got older, I turned my attentions to making myself a successful member of society. I came to the realization that I could use my time more wisely while waiting for the bus by reading and studying for school which meant burying my nose into a book Literally. People would honk at me as they passed. As I got older yet and lost more vision and couldn't see people staring, I tended to forget about it. It wasn't until my daughter was faced with it and recognized it at the early age of five that I had to deal with it on another level. I just explained how I look different than the average bear and so people stare. I have forwarded this topic to her to respond, she is now seventeen. I knew it bothered her! I shared with her the things I used to do but also explained how it doesn't bother me anymore and so shouldn't bother her. I explained that although staring is rude, parking in a handicapped spot is more rude; employees that ignore you when you have been waiting in a place of business for some time is rude. My husband and I would joke how we would make poor bank robbers because we'd be too easily detected.

I do remember, depending on my mood, responding to persons who stare in various ways. Sometimes, I'd say stuff like, "...take a picture, it lasts longer..."; or I'd jump around and make monkey sounds because I felt on display like a chimp in a cage. Then, I'd turn it around and use it to my advantage. I'd would walk into a business and commandeered the first stared and ask directions or for something I was looking fore. Because I know that people stare, I head for the voices when entering a business where I excuse myself and ask for directions or assistance.

Debbie & Jesse Blindfam listserv

FROM ME: Can we rightfully use our blindness at times to our advantage?

**48. I figuratively climb walls every time I hear parents shushing their children for asking me questions about my blindness, for making use of their inquisitiveness. The condemned parents don't know, so why shouldn't their children have the privilege of inquiring from other sources, as we adults do? One of the reasons
I enjoy being with kids in church is their eagerness and willingness to ask me questions about my blindness, which they can feel free to do, being out of their parents' arms' and mouths' lengths, and widths.

Jeff Frye
Overland Park, Kansas

**49. This will be a short response but one that's warranted no less. I'm from a small town, the only blind guy in he area, and one of two blind people in the general vicinity. Getting stared at is a typical thing, so I've gotten kind of used to it. I've learned to take it, depending on the if it's a kid, hoping to educate, if it's an adult depending on how they're staring or what kind of response I get I either educate, or start cutting up with friends I'm with, and make a whole laughing joke, comic routine out of the staring game until they either laugh and realize that my blindness isn't a big issue or they're so embarrassed it stops. I pulled one with a guy one time in the mall not far from where I live. A friend of mine and I were out, and this guy was not politely but rudely staring. Just and it was one of those redneck open-mouthed, rubberneck stares that you get. I stated telling my friend, "wait, I see this guy staring at me. What does he think, I'm blind?" When I turned around I could feel the stare again and I told my friend "this
guy must think I can't see him, I've got eyes in the back of my head and they work better than the ones in the front. Bet he doesn't know that does he?"
By this time we were all rolling laughing, and it finally broke the ice and not only did the staring stop but a lesson was learned that it's not a big deal to me. Sorry I took so long and sorry I was rambling, running on just a little sleep will do that. Take care.

Timothy Emmons

**50. I have an idea that I hope I can try next time the staring happens. I'll ask who ever I'm with to take me directly to that person and then I'll say "Hey, what's on your mind? This person I'm with has told me you're staring at me? Can I answer any questions you might have about being blind? is this what you're wondering about? I wonder what their reaction will be?

Leslie Miller USA

**51. This person's wife needs to find a professional to talk with. I would have a huge problem if my spouse felt it necessary to tell me every time I was being stared at. The way this is written makes the wife sound like a very obsessive person who wants her husband to do something about the staring.

Sarah J. Blake

**52. I think that everyone has experienced this feeling, and this situation. And honest, if my boy friend, or husband, can't stand the "attention" I bring, either using a cane or a guide dog, they aren't the right person for me. Being looked at is part of being disabled, and being stared at too. you have to learn to let is slide or ignore it. it is just part of being disabled. People don't know what to think, or you are the first person with a guide dog or cane they have seen, so they stare. it is part of human nature, along with stereotypes, a way for humans to deal with unknown things. As a friend put it once, we as disabled people are either, "pets" to be adored, admired, and lavished with compliments we really don't need, "plants" to be ignored
or put on a shelf, ignored, and just invisible to the general public, or we are :"glass" with the understanding that the public things we will either break physically or break out, emotionally if they say the wrong thing. How many times have you had someone say, "I don't want to offend you but..." And then they ask one of those questions, which are just curious questions, because they don't know any better. I would tell the girlfriend or wife to just get over it, it is fact of life as a disabled person, and if she can't handle that, and it bugs her that much, why did she marry him in the first place. Just my opinion.

Shelley Rhodes and Judson, my guiding wonder.

**53. I wonder if the couple in this PROVOKER has any other marital problems. Like communication, disability acceptance, control issues, etc. I know a marriage doesn’t have to be perfect to work, but seeing one sign of a problem such as the wife’s unease with the staring makes me wonder if there are other issues present.

Betty Best Michigan USA

FROM ME: Where could a couple of this type go and get adequate counseling?

**54. Well it has been a very long time since I have responded to one of these stories, but this one got me to thinking back. I really haven't thought about people staring in a long time, even though I do recall a time when it was a major issue in my life. To be honest, this is probably the first time I have realized that I haven't been thinking about it for a very long time. Does it still happen? I imagine
it must, and of course I do occasionally find myself at the business end of the sort of comments that would support the idea that people are staring at me. But, there is a flip side to this as well, when walking through busy places, like the mall, or airports, I am equally amazed by how many times people cross my path forcing me to suddenly stop, kick my cane, or out right run into me. If they are staring, it certainly isn't at me. I know what I was feeling in those days when I could tell that all those people were staring at me, and I also know what sort of things were worrying me back then. I was angry and frustrated that these folks had nothing better to do than stare at me. I could not help wondering what was going through their minds, what
silly and stupid ideas they had about me, and their actions often gave far more insight into what they were thinking than I cared to have. On top of this there were other worries on my mind, I was worried whether I would do something that would convince them of my incompetence, and of course the desire to
prove them wrong usually lead me to do precisely that. Then there was another worry, a bit deeper, that nagging concern as to whether I could really get to where I was going safely and without looking like I was hopelessly lost , eat in a restaurant without making a royal mess of things, manage my own affairs with confidence, and be acceptable to other people.

Somehow things have changed. I really don't think that people are staring at me as much anymore, and if they are, it doesn't even cross my mind, since I have more important things to think about. Most of the time I don't have that nagging feeling , and I really don't put much energy into worrying about whether I look foolish or incompetent. Of course I still get lost from time to time, and sometimes it draws the attention of some well meaning, though overly helpful, person. Sure I sometimes spill something or end up with a bigger bite than I intended to have on my fork. and yes, I do sometimes get some
papers mixed up or find myself in an awkward situation with another person, and in every case I naturally feel a little uncomfortable about it.

On the other hand, all of these things are now the exception, and are no longer the rule. Does this mean that I am fully at peace with my blindness? Well, no, I'm not. There are still things that frustrate me, things that I would love to see, or do that would, to be honest, require sight. Nevertheless, these things are not the powerful forces in my life they once were, and many new things that had never held sway in my life before are coming to prominence.

Does this mean that I am giving up something precious, and in return settling for something less? I don't think so. Just because your dreams change, for whatever reasons, it does not mean achieving new dreams is any less fulfilling than reaching those you have stepped away from would have been.

The subject of this THOUGHT PROVOKER touched upon the feelings of others in our lives, and their reactions to people staring at us. I remember that in the early days of my blindness my parents, family members, and friends were bothered by the stares. Perhaps they still are, but they don't mention it very often. I don't think they are completely at peace with my blindness either, but both they and I are a lot closer to being at that point. I didn't just
wake up one morning and things were better, and there are days when they still aren't. Today I have a better understanding of "It is respectable to be blind." than I did even a few years ago, and I expect that my understanding of this idea will continue to grow. I am working to refine my own skills, and
I try hard to share my experiences with others that are blind so that we can learn from each other. I try to make other people feel comfortable with blindness, and review my own thoughts whenever the old ideas come to visit. They are going to stare, that is the way it is. Let them stare, give them something positive
to stare at, and perhaps they will learn from it.

Jeff Altman Lincoln, Nebraska USA

**55. This is a good one. The thing that sticks out for me in this
short story is how well grounded our blind character is. It sounds to me
like his has a little work to do, either with
adjusting to blindness or with her own insecurities.

I, too, have had this happen to me with sighted friends. Being blind
unfortunately brings most of us a taste of what it is like to be a
celebrity. I can't tell you how many times dinner conversations have been
interrupt by a total stranger coming up to our table and gushing about my
dog. b the dog, they would approach to say how they saw me come in
with my and that they were at first concerned that I would run into
someone/something, but now they are *so impressed*. What can I say but a
polite " you, I've been doing this awhile", or "it's really no big
deal, I've been here lots of times". After a while, though, it becomes
tiresome. It gets tiresome being polite and attentive to so-called
do-gooders and curiosity seekers, especially when there intrusive comments
are so and uncalled for, even if they are not meant that way.

At least with these people, though, I have a chance to do a little
educating. Staring is something that is completely one-sided. I as a blind
person have no idea I am being stared at, I just go on about my
business and
the on doing the staring get a free lesson in alternative techniques or doggy doo removal or whatever it is I'm doing at a particular moment.

I think this lack of anonymity can really hinder a relationship with a
sighted person because they are used to being anonymous. They are not used to being with someone whose every action is scrutinized. Some people may
even f it is their responsibility to be sure the blind person is doing
everything exactly right. In the case of our Character's companion, they
may feel the staring somehow reflects on them negatively or is a intrusion
into the life they do not wish to deal with.

This puts a lot of stress on any relationship. I think our blind
character's significant other has to really step back and consider why she feels it is necessary to tell him whenever he is being stared at. It seems like she feels she is the center of attention and she doesn't like it.

I agree with one of the respondents in Update 2. This is a situation which
will co up often if you are friends with someone with a disability. If
you can't deal with society as friends, then dealing with society once you
have a relationship or gotten married isn't necessarily going to be
any easier. In fact, it is probably more difficult.

Maybe this couple needs to find other blind people to associate with. It
would the wife a chance to speak honestly with other sighted friends
and loved ones of blind people Hopefully, she will eventually come to
realize that blindness, while certainly not the best thing to have to live
with, doesn't have to be such a big deal.

Lisa St. Petersburg, Florida USA

FROM ME: so where and how can we assist our friends and family in their adjustment to blindness? Blindness doesn’t just effect us, does it?

**56. After reading some of the posts, I started thinking about how it was when I first lost my sight. It has been 15 years and at first when I went out with a sighted guide more for the guys then women, I would do the switching of my rear end to give them something to really look at. If I didn't act out I would very loudly, but not shouting make some sort of sarcastic comments so I could be heard.
Looking back on those times of course a lot of it was just ignorance of how to properly conduct myself in public without making a spectacle of myself. I think it was more of doing the down play of how it bothered me being blind and watched along with being stared at because I'm the type of person who tries not to attract attention in any kind of way. So most of the time it was to down play the hurt I felt inside from losing my sight because things were still new to me.

Now, I'm really not ever told if someone is watching or staring. Do I ever ask? No, It just doesn't seem to cross my mind nor do I put any emphasis on it either. The one thing I do each and every time I go out sighted guide I take my cane and use it. The reason, I just don't like doing the sighted guide thing and have no cane. I figure if I'm going to be any kind of representative as to the type of person I am I am trying to show that no I don't have a problem using my cane in public which I don't anyway and besides I don't expect for the people I'm out with to watch my every step. I just don't like being dependent
a whole lot so for me this is just one more way for me to take control of my environment. I figure I was taught to use the cane so it is my responsibility as a responsible adult to use the skills I acquired. I've had to many incidences where I for not using the cane properly I have stumbled down stairs as well as over stepping curbs so to minimize my injuries and looking like a fool I don't have no problem using the cane. Do I ever pass up the chance or opportunity of educating the public as to what I use the cane for? No, I have and will continue to educate at it's given times because the one life I just might save from getting ran over may just be my own,

The last thing I've learned and it has been mentioned numerous times and I'm sure it's going to be mentioned numerous more is how adults are more rude than kids when it comes to finding things out. Adults would rather not ask any questions than ask to learn or shall I say they would rather stare and make asses out of themselves because of doing the staring thing instead of being like kids and just ask. I know that in yesteryears it was the norm to don't
stare and don't ask, however, we are in the 21st century and just like discrimination is still around so are the stares. In addition, while renting from my parents, there were times I and my guide dog would sit out on the front stairs and the kids from the neighborhood would come and join me and my dog and all we would do was talk about each others days events as well as them asking me questions about taking care of my apartment and things related to
being blind, of course when they would ask inappropriate questions I would politely let them know it was an inappropriate question and if there was another way to educate them about the question they asked I would correct them on the wording to use. The rude part of it was when the parents would want their kids to go home instead of them going to where we were at they would just stand on their front porches and call them home. Even ruder yet would be the times where I would be passing by their house with my dog and the kids would be outside with their families and the kids would say high, but none of the rest of the people would say anything.
Sorry for the ramble.

Luis Hammond, Indiana USA

**57. If you're totally blind, how do you know if you're being stared at? I never did unless someone told me.

Leslie Miller California USA

...In response to #43.- I totally agree with you. I think that maybe Bill thinks he is being independent and he doesn't want to give that up by giving in to using a cane, dog, Etc. He could injure himself or have a harder time making friends because people don't know what his problem is. This in turn would make things harder for you. Maybe you could convince him to go to a center where he could learn mobility. I think it would help him a lot. Good luck.

**58. It would appear that the wife has more problems with what people think than how her husband feels. In my past, I ran across people similar to this. They would feel very uncomfortable being seen with a Black man. They would often make some verbal reference to let people know we were not lovers, but friends.
In other cases, they have invited me to their home for dinner, but the invitation only was after dark, not during the day.
I feel that this woman in the narrative is on a collision course between her pride and her loyalty to her marriage. Her pride tells her that she must find a man who is masculine, looks well, has a decent income, the same race as she is, and has the save values as her. Her desire is to fit in with the general population. However, she chose a man who was blind even if he does not, or may not, have all the qualities that society says a husband should
have. I wonder if she married him not because she loved him but because she felt sorry for him, and did not want to appear to be leading him on as other women might have done in his past. Now, she is faced with the reality that she is going to be grouped into the same social status as her husband. Not only will they stare at her husband because of his blindness, but also stare at her and feel pity that she could not find someone else better.
As for counseling, there is no counseling which can help this situation. The best counselor would be the wife to herself. She knows herself better than anyone else can. She needs to examine why she married this man, why she stays married to this man, and if she wants to remain married to this man. Only in being open to her own self can any real change in attitude can avert a possible breakdown in their marriage.

There were some responses that said that the best way to handle being stared at was to do something totally out of character or make a rude comment. I do not feel that such courses of action would prove fruitful in reducing stares. In fact, such comments and behavior could give other bystanders who have not formed an opinion on blind people, to form a negative opinion of those who are blind. In short, the message bystanders will receive is that blind
people are mean, rude, aggressive, and arrogant people.

A few people also spoke of educating the general public about correct etiquette towards blind people. I am struck by how often the solution to every social problem is education. To me, educating the public is like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound. The patient is dying and everyone is sitting back, doing very little to save it. Educating only works when the doors of listening and accepting are open. The public has proven over and over that moral
changes in behavior may be desirable. However, the reality is that, unless the public senses a vested interest in change, education will not open many doors. It is my belief that the only way to change the situation of stares and other mistreatment of blind and disabled people would require a complete change in the way the blind and disabled are thought of. By example, a blind man must be seen as just as capable of holding a job, raising a family, and
managing his own affairs. The same is true of women who are blind. Further, people must begin to see their behavior as no different than the behavior that was shown towards Blacks in this nation between the 1930s and the 1970s, and is still the same today. There are many people in this nation who refuse to change their attitudes towards other people regardless of how much education is available and/or is forced on them.

So, in conclusion, the wife who is self-conscious about people's stares already knows about correct etiquette towards the blind and disabled, for that matter. Educating her would be a waste of time. She must either learn to deal with the stares that come along with being with someone "unusual", or society would have to change the way it views who do not fit into the "normal" part of society.

John (Linda's husband) Minnesota USA

**59. I read John's response to this thought provoker, but mine is totally different from his. It's not that I don't agree with him, as I do (there are some issues in other areas outside of this topic we don't agree on). Rather than repeating all that he said, I would like to relate one situation where stares really got to me the most.
I was raised as a traditional Catholic in the Philippines. There, disability is viewed as a punishment for your ancestors wrong-doings. This refers back to the idea of the original sin--the belief that a child will suffer because of the fathers wrong-doings. Whenever my parents and I would go into church, I would often feel like I was being stared at. I'm a dark Asian while everyone else in the congregation and in my family are White. I felt like I was being stared at not only because I was darker than all of the congregation, but I was also blind. I wanted to feel like I fit in with everyone else.
However, the congregation and my parents always made me conscious of my blindness and race. I have often felt that people stared at my family and I because the congregation felt that the family was cursed because they had adopted a child born from original sin.
Because of such experiences, I not only stopped going to church, but I left the Catholic faith permanently and converted to Judaism. In Judaism, there's no such thing as original sin. Whatever a person does wrong, only that person suffers the consequences, not everyone else. I, personally, don't feel that I or my ancestors have committed any sin to cause my being born blind. God made me the way I am for a reason and I have to accept it as it is rather than sit and refute his reasons. Thus, I am proud of who I am. If people want to sit and stare for whatever reason, I just let them and go on with whatever
it is I'm doing or wherever it is I'm going.

Linda USA

**60. Most of us are taught, as children, that staring at others is impolite, but people do it anyway. Personally, I view it as a sign of interest. If people weren't interested in learning more about something, why would they bother to stare? Perhaps they stare at something that is new, intriguing or that makes them uncomfortable. As a public speaker, I'm use to people looking at me. As a dog user, I'm use to people looking at me and my dog. I feel that all of us were put on earth for a reason and one of mine is to educate.

People who go to the zoo, as in this story, are there to stare at the animals. Is that wrong? I wonder how the animals feel about all of those impolite people staring. Speaking of animals, that is one of the benefits of having a guide dog. People are usually looking or staring at my dog instead of me. Actually, he's my public relations assistant. Regardless, it makes no matter to me. I view it as an opportunity to educate. I may use the situation to teach about the proper behavior around guide dogs, demonstrate that blind people are capable, do some outreach for the Talking Book program or use it as an opportunity to acquire a friend.

Doug Hall (Daytona Beach, Florida USA)

**61. Hi my name is Patrick; I am 30 years old, legally blind and a counselor who works with a diverse range of people in a variety of areas. I have been following ‘Thought Provoker’ for some time, and yet until now, I have elected to stay in the background. However I have decided to join this particular debate in the belief that many of the replies directed toward Renee Tucker’s (#43.) valid contribution, do not fairly represent her story as I understand it.

First of all let me say that while it happens, I too do not like to be stared at. However my objection is not merely limited to being legally blind, rather it is a reflection of my greater desire as an individual to be free from the speculation, assertion and/or judgments that inherently accompany any kind of staring, irrespective of the reason. Why should Renee Tucker be any different?

From what I have read, it is my understanding that Renee realizes that staring will happen and that neither a cane nor dog will change this, however it appears to me that Renee’s concerns seem to reside in what others make of what they see. Furthermore it is my understanding that Renee believes that Bill’s use of a cane or dog would go some way to providing those who stare with an appropriate explanation as to Bill’s behavior, irrespective of whether we in the blind community need give one, and indifferent as to whether those given an explanation chose to understand.

Second: we are all in relationships of some kind and the decisions we make will undoubtedly affect those around us. Is it fair that those of us who are blind or visually impaired to leave others to be our eyes, or protectors or our spokes persons? I can speak for neither Renee nor Bill having never met either, and I make no claim to do so, but it is my belief that Bill’s decision not to use a cane or dog has left Renee doing all the work when it comes to the way that Bill relates to, interacts with, and is perceived by their wider community.

Finally, to Bill the decision as to the use of a cane or dog is and should always be yours, but any decision you make will effect Renee and others around you. And to those who have suggested that there maybe greater problems within the marriage or that professional assistance maybe warranted, I personally am at a loss as to the reasoning, given that we have all read the same contribution.

Patrick New Zealand

**62. I think one thing we have to remember is that most people assume we are blind and don't know they are staring at us. They might not stare at someone with an other disability because they know they will be seen staring. They assume we don't know it.

Most days I just accept that people are watching me. I try to leave a good impression so that if someone has never seen a blind person, they will come away with a positive impression. But other days when I don't feel like being an ambassador, I would like to wear a T-shirt that reads: "IT'S NOT POLITE TO STARE" That way people would be aware we know they are staring.

Jody Ianuzzi Jensen Beach, Florida USA

**63. I am the husband of a blind woman. My wife uses a cane, both when she is alone and with me. We get stares and it gets old. Mostly I can ignore it, but there are times when my mood is such that I stare back. I know people are curious and I know not everyone knows about the capabilities of the blind. I know people will learn by watching, I hope, but it is tough to have to be in the teaching seat all the time. My wife is very pretty and when I married her I knew then some people out there would be looking at her and that I didn’t mind, because I was comfortable knowing that she was. Hmm, I didn’t think of it until now, I wonder how much of the staring now is because of her beauty or her blindness?

Mark P. Seattle, Washington

**64. I am one of those people who will stare at a blind person. No, I am not a weirdo, but a counselor working with the blind. I stare at them or should I say “look” at them to view their skills. My observations are that a well skills traveler looks good and receives fewer stares from other people around them and a more respectful look/stare it is.

The poor traveler, one with a cane or dog, indeed receives more stares and for a longer period of time per stare. They also get less respect in the face and over all demeanor of the sighted person doing the staring. what I see in the face of the person doing the staring in these cases is pity, shock, fear, and just an odd facial expression. I also think some of the looks these poorer examples of the blind confirm any negative thought that the sighted person doing the staring might already hold.

I’d also say, that the low vision traveler who is out there and trying to hide their blindness by not using a cane or dog is also receiving stares. It is also my opinion that these types of stares are more on the negative side of this over all scheme than the two groups I previously mentioned. For these people who try to fool others rarely fool anyone. It is the way they have to operate that gives them away. It is the groping the stumbling, the reaching out and missing objects and much more that becomes so obvious to those around them that gives them away. I think these people get more pity, more weird looks because the person dealing with them are not sure what is going on; is this person drunk, sick, weird or what? then if they guess the right answer, I’ve seen some react like, “what is wrong with you? You have a problem, do something about it!”

Kelly C. VR Counselor USA

**65. I had a fun thing happen on the way to the grocery store today. I was walking past a bench and I overheard a conversation between a tiny girl and her father. I heard a sentence fragment. The Father said and this is how it helps her. That and a couple of other things he said, lead me to think he was talking about my cane and how it helped me. I stopped in front of them and talked to the girl and her dad. I said that the cane was a really big help and I demonstrated how the cane ran into the bench before I did and it kept me from running into it. The little girl seemed fascinated. They took it all in. The conversation probably took a minute, but I think they both enjoyed it. How much people miss by not acknowledging the fact that they are blind. There are quite a few things I wish I could see, but this
will never happen, so why mourn the fact I can't see these things. I, too get tired of people asking what, to me, are silly questions. The topper came yesterday when I was in our condo elevator. The woman I was with was talking to me when the elevator started down because someone pressed it before I did and she wanted to go up. I kidded her about the elevator going down and she stopped dead in her tracks. "How can you tell that the elevator is going down?" she actually asked. I said, "Come on, don't you know when it's going down or up?" She still didn't get it through her noggin. I felt this was truly one absurdity for the day. This comes with the territory though, and it's better to laugh at these things rather than lose our tempers. I think it's better to look at the humorous side of I think that even though people are very rude and stare and act inappropriately, it's up to us to deal with them and try to break through the ignorance of some people with humor most of the time, or a lot of fun goes out of our lives.

Leslie Miller USA

**66. I too wanted to comment on this issue. My husband got his guide dog last summer. So many people have come up to my husband with comments and questions, I couldn't believe it. Finally, one day I said to my husband he should wear a special t-shirt with the following answers: 1) It is a male dog. 2) He is a golden retriever. 3) He is two years old 4) Yes, his hair is really red 5) Now that you know all the answers, leave us alone! It helps to have a sense of humor.

SUEMARY64 Chicago, Illinois USA

**67. Do you think we will ever fully educate all persons in every country to know about blindness? Do you think we will educate all persons in just one country; if soe which one? I staring always a bad thing? How do we humans best learn; is visually examining a thing or an act by another person one way we the sighted will use to learn by? There will always be some rude individuals. Ever met a real competitor; one that will watch you and judge you and see if you might be better than them? You can teach those that stare. You really can’t stop people who will stare; worry about controlling what you can control. Get use to staring, it can be helpful.

Marvin Polson Georgia USA

**68. Resp. 65 reminds me of an incident a few days ago. my youngest daughter's boyfriend came over with his three-year-old daughter. While my husband and
the boyfriend were talking about where our daughter got stranded so that he could pick her up, the three-year-old started pointing at this and that object,
asking, "what's this" or "what's that". I guess she could tell by how I maneuvered around her so that I wouldn't run into her that something was amiss
with my sight, so she was testing me to see how much I could see or lack there of. First, she pointed in the direction of our piano, saying, "I wanna
play with that". I'd forgotten that we'd moved our piano recently, so I was confused at first until it all came back to me, so I had my husband turn on
the piano for her to play. It wasn't until after she played the piano that she started pointing at this and that on our coffee table that she figured
out that I couldn't see what she was pointing at, as I reached my hand out to hers and followed the direction of her finger to where she was pointing.
After all that pointing to this and that, she asked me whether I knew how to spell her name. Upon telling her that I didn't know, she wrote it out for
me to see on a small piece of paper and held it up in front of me, saying, "see?" I told her that I still couldn't read it, explaining that "I'm blind",
so she spelled her name for me. That, then, led to her asking me how I became blind and why. In a language that a three-year-old would, most likely,
understand, I explained to her that I was born blind and that God made me as a blind person. She, then, talked about how her daddy wasn't blind to which
I told her that not everyone is blind and how God makes some people blind while others are not. Under-estimating what she might say or ask next, she asked
me who God was, which I, unfortunately, was unable to answer in anything comprehensible for her age other than telling her that God is who made her, her
daddy, her friends, etc. Then, it was time for the three-year-old and her dad to go pick up our daughter. When they returned with our daughter, the three-year-old
came up to me, asking me whether or not I was still blind to which I told her that I will always be blind.
Not only was this a learning experience for the three-year-old about blindness, but it was a learning experience for me in that there are some questions
that can be easily answered at a cognitive level for her age while there are others that cannot be explained; such as the case when she asked me who God
was. Not only was such a question unable to be answered in her terms, but even adults ask and ponder the same question.
So, I think that children and adults ask the same questions or stare because they're ignorant and really want their long-held questions answered but
have never had the opportunity or they were afraid to. So, just as much as adults and small children ask and ponder about who God is, we should learn
to be forgiving of adult's *strange* questions about blindness, how we can tell whether the elevator is going up or down, etc. I'm not saying, of course,
that such questions don't become annoying because they can be at times, but I take the approach that they sincerely don't know the answers to their questions
and answer them rather than treat them as if they're stupid people or that their questions are stupid. I would rather someone learn and have all their
questions answered than they constantly be treated as if they've made an offense by their question.

Linda USA