Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – Sighted People Say the Darndest Things

A recent incident occurred that underscored the fact that we who are blind and visually impaired continue to hear the most outrageous (and often humorous) comments. While the citizen in me bristles, the advocate would love to air a show called “Myth Busters: Things Blind People Really Can Do” or one entitled “Heard Around Town.” Additionally, I would employ hosts who are blind and visually impaired.

I am reminded of a student who was terminally late to class. Either she could not get her child off to school on time, her ride was late, or some other excuse. One unforgettable morning, she arrived, flustered as usual, planted herself in front of her chair and asked, with a huge smile on her face, “Who is Brad Pitt?” and “Who is Jennifer Anniston?” We all supplied that they were actors (who were dating at the time). Proudly, she announced that they had just helped her cross the street. I suppose anything is possible.

In a similar vein, Maria recounted the humorous conversation that occurred as she was making her way to the Lighthouse. A kind pedestrian offered to help her cross the street. As they walked, the man described himself as a young, handsome man, with a full head of hair. Having stolen a glance, through fits of laughter, she reported that he was an older gentleman who was going bald!

No math genius, I know my numbers and can recognize raised print in an elevator. So it was with my gracious smile that I thanked a helpful passenger who announced that he was getting off on the third floor and four would be next. Really? You think?

Recently we piled into our apartment elevator and a woman, whom I’ve never met, watched me as I searched for the button for our floor. As I found it, she proceeded to tell me that I had pressed the wrong one. When I assured her that indeed that was the correct floor, she mumbled, “Oh.” Why she would assume I didn’t know where I was going was a source of sheer annoyance.

Lastly, I’ll relate the recent outlandish comments of a RadioShack sales-representative, who, upon seeing us, became truly rattled as he proceeded to spew forth a pun related to blindness that was in very poor taste, which he thought was absolutely hilarious. He also offered that he does not turn on the light when he needs to use his bathroom at night. What? He doesn’t know where it is? In addition, he wants to pretend to be blind for a day. I strongly recommended that he not leave his apartment. The clincher came when he blurted out that he didn’t know blind people could use phones.

Any similar anecdotes to share? Let’s hear them in the Reader’s Forum.


  1. So it was a particularly nice day in Seattle (which isn’t as rare as you might think), and I was walking from Pike Place Market, where I’d recently enjoyed a crumpet, to my office about a mile away. There’s one part of this walk where I’m more likely to run into people coming off with strange things (I had a woman give me unnecessary, and loud, help across the street that was apparently supposed to be a prelude to hitting on me), and the incidet I’m describing was no exception. Someone popped up, out of the blue, and asked if I was going someplace to have a story read to me. It actually took me a good half minute to realize that they were, in fact, talking to me. At this point, being half a block away and being able to plead the excuse that I didn’t hear him (I had earphones in at the time), I decided not to double back and try to correct them.

  2. I often tell some jokes as a way of breaking the ice. little ditties like “can someone turn the lights? its dark in here.” only to follow up with “ooops! I forgot I was blind.”

    I did get a chance to demonstrate how different spaces in the local grocery store sound. a store employee asked how I could tell we were in the cooler section. I popped my tongue after asking her to listen. she was rather surprised at how reflective the glass doors on those coolers were. other places in the store had their own unique sound (as demonstrated).

    sometimes, though, I do encounter a thoughtless individual that has no idea how to speak to me (and they are generally very rude about it too). I usually tell them, politely, that they need to think carefully about what they said. Usually, this flusters them even more (often into shutting up).