For most people, vision is our most important way of receiving and interpreting information from the outside world. Scientists are still largely ignorant of the deepest inner workings of the brain — so there’s no exact statistic to back this up — but most experts agree that vision is our dominant sense. Those people with vision impairments, however, experience the world through entirely different mechanisms. It’s not better or worse; it’s simply different.
Blindness does come with its share of challenges, of course, considering most of the world is designed for sighted people. As a result, living with limited vision means that blind people have to overcome things that most people take for granted. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be blind, here are a few everyday hurdles that blind people have to deal with. Odds are, you’ll never guess the hardest part of being blind.
A Piece Of Paper On The Toilet Stall Door Can Be Totally Disturbing
Picture this: you're in the midst of a "small" bathroom emergency, and, distractedly, you run into the nearest restroom. Once inside, you notice that two of the three stalls are occupied, but the third is open. However, as you push the stall door open, you also barely notice a small flyer advertising the place’s drink specials. You casually disregard it and proceed to your business. It's a common-enough situation.
For a person with visual impairments, though, that piece of paper on the stall door is a veritable minefield. Is it an ad for the specials? A concert flyer? Or is it an out-of-order notice that will turn your bathroom emergency into a very bad time as soon as you flush the toilet?
The Misconception That Being Blind Means You Only ‘See’ Darkness
Most sighted people subscribe to the the common idea that someone who’s blind is basically having the experience of walking around with their eyes closed. That’s simply not the case, however. In legal terms, someone can actually be blind and still retain some level of sight. To be considered “legally blind,” an individual has to have eyes that operate at 20/200 vision or less (i.e. their eyes are ten percent as strong as they should be).
The National Federation of the Blind actually “encourage persons to consider themselves to be blind if their sight is bad enough—even with corrective lenses—that they must use alternative methods to engage in any activity that persons with normal vision would do using their eyes.”
Withdrawing Money From An ATM Can Be Really Time Consuming
Although ATMs that let the visually impaired use headphones to listen to prompts are becoming increasingly common, they’re still incredibly rare. If the ATM doesn’t talk, then the machine is essentially inaccessible to a blind person, because putting braille on the buttons doesn’t do any good when you can’t see the corresponding messages and numbers on the screen.
Even when an ATM will speak, the process of fitting your card in the slot and then proceeding through the various aural prompts can take several minutes.
Handling Cash Is An Entirely Different Concern
Though the proliferation of debit and credit cards have diminished a person’s need to carry hard cash around with them, it’s inevitable that most adults will need to handle money at some point. When you’re blind, handling money presents a whole set of potential issues.
People with vision impairments can make use of note checkers to help them tell the difference between bills, or they might opt to fold their money in different ways to denote differences in denomination, but dealing with a potentially dishonest cashier — who might accept bills that are too large or who might shortchange a customer — makes receiving change something of a gamble during most interactions.
The British government attempted to address this problem in 2017. The country's new £10 note features raised dots in the upper left corner to help the blind and visually impaired more easily identify the bill.