One Of Our Readers Answered All The Questions You've Ever Been Curious About Living With Blindness, And Here Are His Answers
"Every person has a different upbringing and different opportunities."
Meet Maurício Silva, a BuzzFeed Brazil reader and member of the international edition's Facebook group. He has been blind since infancy, and recently encouraged other readers to ask him all the questions they've always wanted to know about living with blindness. Here are excerpts from his Facebook thread:
"How do blind people wipe their butts?"
"Can you walk without your walking stick? How is it different from a guide dog?"
"Do you have a better sense of smell or hearing?"
"My sense of touch and the other senses work very well, but I don't believe it's because they're compensating. I just think that I've adapted myself to everything I needed. As a matter of fact, it's because of my sense of touch that I know I've wiped myself correctly."
"How do you pick your clothes?"
"How do you feel about not knowing what colors are?"
"I lost my vision when I was only a month old. I was born prematurely when my mother was six months pregnant. In the incubator, I burned my retina and my optic nerve because of the lights. In spite of that, I can tell red is warm, for instance, but I don't know how I know that. It's really crazy!"
"Can you tell whether a room is bright or dark?"
"How did you type this post? What kinds of job a blind person can have? Do you have a job?"
"How is your relationship with your professors? How was your learning process during your school education?"
"I've always studied in public schools, always somewhere in Santa Catarina, Brazil. The textbooks were printed in braille by FCEE, a foundation from Santa Catarina focused on special education, here in São José. The teachers were never 100% prepared, and I was kind of put aside.
When I lived in São Lourenço do Oeste, a small town, I had the support of a resource room for blind students. You probably have an idea of what it must be like.
When I moved to São José, I visited the ACIC (a local association for the integration of blind people) for a while, but shortly afterward I moved back to a small city I lived in, and when I came back here, I couldn't go there anymore because I got too busy.
Nowadays, I go to college and my professors aren't 100% prepared, but they do listen to me and believe in what I say. Only in college have I been able to learn how to learn for real."
"Is the braille system too difficult to understand?"
"Do you write things by hand? Can you sign a document? If so, what is your handwriting like? How do you know you are writing in the right place? If not, do you always have your phone or computer with you in case you need to write something?
"Was it hard to take college admissions tests?"
"Is the term 'blind' OK or is it offensive?
"I'm not offended by the word 'blind' because that's how we define ourselves. I don't really like terms like 'person with disabilities,' because it makes it sound like I could leave my disability somewhere. Prejudiced attitudes always offend me more."
"How do you deal with money?"
"There are phone apps that can identify the money with the camera, but there are also blind people who can identify money by the engraving and the texture. But I'm still learning how to do that."
"Do you have trouble maintaining romantic relationships?"
"What is the process of becoming attracted to someone like?"
"Maurício, as a blind and gay man, you are a member of two groups who deal with bias. Do you feel that the way people deal with one of these traits is affected by the other trait? Something like 'It's OK to be blind, but being blind and gay is too much?'"
"Being blind and sexually active is too much, right? People don't understand how this is possible, and explaining it is always embarrassing or complex. So, yeah, there's always someone asking how I have sex, and how I know what I like. I actually think it's important."
"Do you go to the movies? Do you watch soap operas and TV series?"
"Do you cook?"
"In which situations do you need other people's help?"
"In a lot of situations. I'm here preaching about the independence of blind people, but every person has a different upbringing and different opportunities. In spite of having a lot of resources available, there are flaws in our learning process. I've only been living in a big city for seven years, so I don't feel 100% safe walking alone on the street. But if you teach me something, and we see that it works, then it's all good.
P. S.: Obviously, I've forgotten about things I need help with, such as crossing the street, finding out where the bathroom is or where the bar is, of course."
"What is your stance on people who feel sorry for you and want to do things for you?"
"There are some people who really piss some of my friends off, and they get angry and don't have the patience to explain their situation anymore. I get that though. It's complicated. Being underestimated in any situation is never cool.
I think I need people, but I like it to be a mutual exchange. I like helping too whenever I can.
At lastly, I think not having the information and ignoring the information are two completely different things. In this case, I really do complain. Everyone needs a break sometimes, hahaha."