I’m Dan, 27, business (and dog) owner, GSOH, blind. Looking to meet…
Living with a visual impairment (VI) comes with certain challenges and dating is no different. Although it’s far easier in the digital age, it’s still a daunting experience for most of us and for people like me who are registered blind, it can be so scary that it’s tempting to not to bother.
However, we blindies have our hopes and dreams just like everyone else, so more often than not, I’ll also be on the hunt for ‘the one’.
I can see, just see in different ways
These days, with the advances in accessible technology, I use the same websites and apps as anyone else and as I can get my phone or laptop to speak to me at 170 words per minute, it doesn’t take me long to whizz through those profiles.
I also have enough residual sight to make out roughly what a person looks like if the photo is large and clear enough, but there are now apps that will describe images in great detail which is really useful for those with no sight if that’s important to the person.
When it comes to creating a profile, I find it’s better not to mention my sight loss up front as it appears to freak some people out to the point that they’ll even block me without even saying ‘hi’ – none so blind as those who will not see, I guess! So instead, I tend to mention it down the line when we’ve got to know each other a bit.
At that point, reactions range from extreme sympathy – Aw, I’d love to look after you – to WOW, YOU’RE AMAZING AND SO INSPIRATIONAL! – neither of which is a great starting point as I’m just a regular, independent guy who wants to find someone who’s on the same page, ambitious, spontaneous, caring, humorous, enjoys travelling and living life to the full.
I’ve also found that when I add a photo that includes my guide dog Zodiac, responses drop off, possibly because I’m then viewed as disabled and a potential burden. I’ve had a few alternative offers that include Zodie, but they aren’t for me thank you all the same! The dilemma has come where you want to be up front about your sight loss but equally don’t want to become an advertising billboard for guide dogs. I feel it’s important for someone to get to know me first before I tell them about my sight loss as it’s a secondary part of me.
Looks are important, right?
Yes, of course – I’m just as shallow as the rest of the population when it comes to looks! However, I’d say I place less emphasis on visual appearance when initially deciding if I’m attracted to someone. Instead, I focus on things like the warmth of their personality, conversational skills, the tone of someone’s voice and their level of emotional intelligence. These qualities, along with little things like the way someone smells, breathes or even eats all become significant and help to build a clear picture.
Love Lust is Blind
This approach also reduces the danger of allowing dazzling good looks to become a distraction and the reason to sometimes accept being stuck in a bad relationship. #RoseTintedSpecs! How many of us have fallen prey to the great looking girl or guy who turns out to be so full of themselves and high-maintenance that they really aren’t worth the effort?
My other senses aren’t impaired
If we are meeting for a date, I’ll make an effort with my appearance and expect the same in return as the way the person looks and smells are just as important to me.
Relax and have fun
I’ve dated people with full sight who have never met anyone with visual impairment before and they got all nervous, dithering about what sort of things they could say without offending me. Things like “Let’s go and see a good film or play” or “The menu here looks good; see anything you fancy?” are both fine as is most normal everyday chat.
You can drive me round the bend
As I can’t see too well, I am – thankfully – forbidden to drive, so if you’re happy to drive, that’s fine by me and it gets around the question of who is going to drive on the next date. I’m equally happy taking public transport too if you fancy a drink.
I laugh at myself a lot – if I didn’t, I’d spend half my day worrying about how foolish I might look – so being with someone who enjoys a laugh too is a key requirement and believe me, living with sight loss and a guide dog provides endless opportunities for fun and funny situations. As well as the dog getting more attention than me, I find myself regularly jealous of him as he gets more strokes a day than me.
Where to go?
I’ve found that many people are unsure of where to suggest for a date – a theatre or cinema visit sounds good but if your blind friend can’t see anything? The good news is that many venues are now equipped with audio descriptions and there are apps and different tools to help so your date may just need to fill in the silent bits.
If the person I’m with still feels unsure, I always encourage them to simply ask questions – a relationship needs to include a two-way communication process, whether one of you is blind or not. Once you get to know each other better, the awkwardness soon fades away.
Caring is good. Becoming my carer… not so much
When it comes to helping me, some people love to jump in to the ‘caring’ role, mistakenly thinking they’re doing what is best. Being helpful is fine to a point, but overdoing things and taking control soon becomes a problem as I value my independence and it can be suffocating being with someone who leaps in, shunts you out of the way and takes over.
On equal footing
For me, relationships that are equal work best, Both sighted and blind people tend to respect someone else for their self-confidence, but please do let me know if my socks don’t match or I have a piece of carrot stuck between my teeth!
There are three of us in this relationship!
In my case, having a guide dog has been life changing and enables me to live much more independently. My speed has dramatically increased, so you may find yourself running after me! I value Zodiac’s assistance and companionship immensely. This could lead to problems, but as long as the person you’re with understands that he’s part of the deal, there are times when he’s working and not to be distracted and that he’s is always going to be around, it’s fine.
As well as greater independence, having a dog on a date helps to break the ice and make you both feel more relaxed as there’s always going to be some humour involved when a dog is around. He’s also a great comfort if we’ve had a couple to drink as I know he’ll get us to where we’re going safely.
Keep your eyes and mind open
My advice, when considering a date with a blind person, is to give it a go as all the blindies I know are a great bunch – it may just be a real eye opener for you! We just see differently but, in my experience, if we all saw the same the world would be a very boring place!
Dan Williams was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of 8 and now helps to improve the lives of others living with sight loss through his business, Visualise Training and Consultancy. Check out his blog at https://www.visualisetrainingandconsultancy.com/news/