Members of the blind and low vision group who met regularly to work on assertive speech and other topics.

Referred to in my new book When You Can’t Believe Your Eyes, Chapter 6 “Practicing Assertiveness with Sight Loss.”

People practice what to say and how to say it before important occasions, and also for everyday life., But young adults with vision impairment or blindness, and working and senior adults who lose sight don’t get opportunities to try out speaking without seeing in a  place where they feel comfortable. Learning what to say and how to say it is ten times as `important when visual interactions are partly or completely gone.

Why does speaking  without Seeing have to be different?

You have to speak up in a firm, positive and specific way  to be noticed and attended to!  Using assertive speech is the first challenge. This means taking charge of the interaction; often starting the conversation.

The second challenge is coaching the person with good sight to give information you can use, not  “Fill out this form,” or “See that green sign over there.”

Of course you won’t need all this when you are chatting comfortably with someone you know. But it is important in many interaction – from talking to a medical professional to asking directions on the street.

Why join or start a group?

All this is a big wall to climb on your own. If getting to a meeting is not available just now you can practice with one friend on the phone. But a regular meeting of a small group at the Senior Center or study room at the public library is worth fighting for.

Here are six reasons why!

    1. Standing up and acting the various parts makes us all feel much more energized and lively and shows how important it is not to be passive
    2. Once the group gets comfortable together they often come up with great solutions very fast
    3. Group members all contribute, building on each other’s ideas as they act out the situation with lots of laughter and fun
    4. Taking turns in acting as the blind person, the anxious host with a million things on her mind, and the cousin who is scared of disability, helps members get some perspective
    5. The group can try out different words and actions without embarrassment because everyone has shared the same painful experiences
    6. When you play the part you practice saying hard things like “Tell me who you are,”” I need some assistance,” and “No thanks, I am doing it myself.”

Popular Topics:

Asking for help in a store,

Joining the line at a store or to buy ticket

Requesting information in the street

Starting conversations at a social event, or in a bar

Joining a group already talking

Role-playing for college and job interviews or informational visits

What would the group be like?

3 to 6 members of a regular group is great, and even two people calling each other could work, though the personal contact and acting is important for confidence and fun . If there is a vision loss support group you can get to, you can suggest role-playing as a topic. A support group would also be a good place to find other people interested in trying out interactions without much sight  by role-playing.

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