There is a lot to hate about losing your sight, and having to ask for help from strangers is right up there. After a long time it can get to be quite fun sometimes (no really!). But at first it’s beyond awful. There are you, a paid-up member of the human race, having to ask for assistance with simple things as if you were still in first grade.
How can you ask for help and get what you need while retaining your self-respect and some control over what happens?
Here are the four rules which will let you do all of these things:
(The first one is a lot to swallow and there will be a blog post on this topic soon.)
Rule 1: Mention your vision loss in a few simple words.
“I’m having trouble with my eyes.”
“I’ve been having vision problems.”
“My sight is not too good these days.”
“I can see very little.”
“I am blind.” (but only if you have no useable vision – people get suspicious if you say you are blind when you appear to see where they are standing or whatever.)
Do not say: “I am legally blind,” or “I have glaucoma with retinal detachment and congenital cataracts.” The first makes the public confused and the second may make them nauseous!
Rule 2: Use a confident, cheerful tone – as if you know just what you are doing.
This is not how you feel inside of course, but you’ll improve with practice and a confident tone prevents your helper from getting anxious and controlling.
Rule 3: Request the help in a way that shows the person how to do it.
The public have no clue how to help you. You need to tell them – nicely.
“I need to buy toothpaste. Can I take your elbow over to the dental aisle?”
“Is the pizza store to the left or the right from here? Is that your left or my left?”
“Are you heading for the bus station? Do you mind if I walk beside you? This place is really confusing for me.”
“Can we find somewhere a bit more private while you fill out my medical information? Maybe there’s a seat round the corner.”
“Can you tell me which bill is the $5, and which the $10? And can you hand me the receipt? It’s not good for me to put it in the bag.”
(Try not to feel rushed by the thought of the people behind you. Remember the last time you stood patiently while someone spent minutes getting a price checked somewhere at the back of the store.)
Rule 4: Make the endpoint of the assistance clear at the beginning.
This is so your assistant doesn’t disappear on you. And also so you don’t have someone hanging about when you don’t want them anymore.
“Can you assist me with finding some groceries? I’d like you to stay while I go through the check out too. Then I’ll be all set.”
“Can you take me over to the seating area near the main doors? If you can find me a seat facing the doors I’ll be quite okay.”
“Can you show me where the size 12 petite pants are? After that I’ll be fine.”
And of course . . .
“Can I take your elbow to the restroom? Are the stalls on the left or the right as I enter? And the sinks…? I’ll be fine now thanks.”
You understand that you have to be the leader and the teacher because your helpers mean well but don’t know a thing. They just see well – lucky them!