More Thoughts about the Meaning(s) of Blindness: Words for Blindness

Photo of a pair of wraparound sunglasses with very dark lenses

Last week, I initiated this somewhat esoteric exploration with a post entitled Initial Thoughts on the Meaning(s) of Blindness, Via Art, in which I explored the (mostly unanswerable) philosophical questions that surround the meanings of sight, vision, blindness, and cognition.

But this week it gets real. No more philosophical flights of fancy or theoretical issues. This week, my Twitter followers speak out – and do they ever! Here’s the question I asked, via @visionaware, last week:

“I’m working on a story about words for blindness. Which words do you like? Which words do you emphatically not like?” My question triggered the following discussion, which I found to be stimulating, illuminating, fascinating, and most definitely opinionated. I think you’ll enjoy it, too.

Words for Blindness: Our Readers Speak Out

@darrell: No “visually impaired,” “visually challenged,” or other silliness for me, thank you. I prefer “blind” over all other terms because it’s to the point. I am also not ashamed of it. If we need more descriptive terms for some reason, then I’m OK with “partially blind” or “partially sighted.”

@Justinromack: I agree, though I think more description helps others understand the scope of our needs more effectively. I think “visually impaired” is the most ineffective term I’ve seen. I like the idea of “partially.” And “visually challenged”? Ugh.

@ricky_enger: There’s another one that makes me uncomfortable, though it probably shouldn’t. It’s “without sight.” I’ll try and explain why. It’s accurate, of course, but it sounds like the person has made a concerted effort to be diplomatic and avoid the ugly word “blind.” And given they’ve made that effort, it tells me they’re very uncomfortable with blindness, or me, and are walking on eggshells. I prefer “blind.” It’s accurate. I hate “visually challenged.” It sounds condescending and ridiculous.

@AudreysAudities: I’m blind. Don’t like any politically correct substitutes. Feels like society telling me to be ashamed of who I am. No thanks.

@RangerStation: I like “blind.” It’s more factual and straightforward in my case than “visually impaired.” I have no vision to be impaired.

@johnmill79: I know most folk don’t like “visually impaired.” I don’t overly have a problem with it, but it doesn’t apply to me because I see nada.

@Mfeir: I’m not a fan of “sightless.” It just sounds profoundly Gothic, even if it is factual. I like “blind.” In my case, it’s more factual than “visually impaired.” I have no vision to be impaired.

@RaqiG: I’ve worked with a lot of people learning English as a second language and they seem to get a handle on the word “blind” more easily. The concept may bother them, but they aren’t as reluctant to use the actual word to describe the overall condition. I find the phobia of using the word “blind” is more difficult for [our] culture to circumvent. I called myself “visually impaired” when my blindness made me uncomfortable, or when I knew it made others uncomfortable. I’m a blind person; I’m not “sightless,” “without sight,” “visually challenged.” Everybody has this need to quantify it … crazy!

@Brettplewis: “Blind” is best.

@PatTwit: Agreed re: “sightless.” It’s for people who are afraid of, or think there’s something wrong with, “blind.” “Blind” is fine!

@MarshaDrenth: I prefer “blind.” I am not, and never will be “visually impaired,” “visually challenged,” or “sightless.”

@Lisasali: I like “blind” or “legally blind,” but don’t really care for words like “sight” or “vision” because of their other connotations: i.e., “He has no vision of this company’s future,” or “She lacks insight about the proper way to behave in a given situation.”

@Stephpilon: In my case, I use the word “blind” because I have no vision. I think if I had some vision I might use a different term.

@PamSpringer: I don’t mind “visually impaired” or “blind.” Either works.

@DisABILITYLINK: It varies. To non-disabled people it’s easier for me to just say “blind” rather than getting into acuity nit picking. As for terminology, I personally use the word “blind.” I find it requires the least explanation.

@PennDel_AER_SVC: I sometimes use “vision loss” or “vision deficit” in place of “visual impairment.” I don’t like to use the term “normal” vision and instead say “typical” vision when referring to 20/20 vision.

There’s more, of course. In the next installment of “words for blindness,” my Twitter friends respond to my follow-up questions, in which I ask for their reactions to news stories that open with the phrases “Sight loss is no obstacle to …” or “Despite his/her blindness…” And I also ask this: “How do you feel about being described as “inspirational” or “an inspiration”?

Here’s a preview response from @Justinromack: “The implications of those statements are so demeaning.” What’s your opinion? Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments. And thank you to all of my Twitter respondents for your thoughtful feedback. It is very much appreciated!