Total Disconnect! Blind-Sighted Communication in the World’s Most Blind Friendly Town


A yellow and white 71 Trolley-bus on its way from Watertown Square to Harvard.
A yellow and white 71 Trolley-bus on its way from Watertown Square to Harvard.

I was homeward bound on a trolley bus in Watertown Massachusetts, with Perkins School for the Blind down the street. On these trolleys There is a row of three seats near the door, and I had taken the furthest seat. The middle seat was empty and a small shape, probably an older lady, was sitting nearest the entrance. Just before the bus pulled out, a burly man got on. The little lady promptly slid to the middle seat, and the burly man equally promptly sat partly on her and partly on me. The little lady scooted back. The guy who I now knew to be blind must have found her foot with his cane. This momentary contact made the guy go for the middle seat, and the little lady move out of his way.

He didn’t say a word to either of us! After a couple of minutes his phone rang. He began a conversation about some information that was needed from a card in his pocket. He spoke to the little lady, “Can you read this?” She didn’t answer, no doubt wondering what crazy thing he would do next. He turned to me, “I’m legally blind,” I said. He spoke again on his phone. A very young man, or maybe a boy rose and came over, also not saying a word. I said to the man, “You have an offer!” He asked the very young man for three sets of dates from the card, which the young man read to him slowly and clearly, while the burly man repeated them into his phone.  The man may have said “Thanks,” but I don’t think so. He certainly didn’t acknowledge the attentive  service he received. He finished his phone call. And I spoke to him. I  think just to see if he would respons. “Are you using a blue tooth headphone?” I asked. He was telling me about the lack of earbud jack in future iPhones when I said that School St. was my stop, and got off.

This little scene played out at about 5pm, so not full rush hour, but with plenty of riders aboard to get a really bad impression.
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None of us want to be endless educators of the public, but there is still basic courtesy, and still speech to communicate in both directions. Obviously the man either never got trained to use public assistance, or has forgotten what he once knew! I’m sure he was annoyed and embarrassed to find himself sitting on two people.

Is this funny or infuriating? Everyone has stories like this. Often it’s the sighted people who do the stupid things, but not this time! What is our responsibility here? What stories to you have? Tell us what you think!



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