Monday, July 2, 2012


Things are changing for the better for blind and other visually impaired folks, but we still need to educate people on some things. When Marlene told me about what happened with her trying to make a doctor’s appointment, I was really surprised that something like this could happen.

Here is her not-so-nice story.


She writes:

Living with a rare degenerative eye disease for the past 30 years has granted me the privilege of going blind slowly, a privilege that few get the opportunity to experience. It’s difficult enough to adjust to the obvious inconveniences that vision loss brings, such as the inability to recognize faces, view beautiful scenery and read the written word, and technical advancements have given us expensive, complicated devices to provide us limited access to some things.

However, some members of our advanced culture still perceive the blind and visually impaired as illiterate, uneducated people who require special handlers. When faced with the occasional misinformed person I’m often blindsided by the offender’s actions. Once caught off-guard by an unfamiliar attitude, it may take me some time to comprehend what’s actually being said.

A recent example of my inability to make sense of this behavior happened the day before a routine doctor’s appointment.

I had called the office to make an appointment and let the scheduler know that I would need assistance in filling out paperwork. I’ve found that doctors and their staff are better able to serve me when I don’t surprise them with additional work.

The day before my appointment two weeks later, office staff contacted me to reschedule unless I were to come to my appointment with a family member. They had a problem: they had made phone calls to blind and deaf agencies on my behalf to locate an interpreter. Their policy manual required the staff to arrange for an interpreter when a blind patient requested assistance.

I was informed that great care was taken by their staff to assist me. A supervisor explained that an interpreter was provided to the deaf or foreign language speakers requesting assistance, however, they could not locate a blind interpreter.

After explaining to the English speaker on the other end of the phone that I spoke English and that an interpreter wasn’t really needed, the services of a receptionist were then offered to help me with paperwork.

I declined the offer and demanded an apology instead. I informed the supervisor I was flabbergasted by the phone calls and didn’t want to be publicly insulted and embarrassed as well, and a review of their policy manual was in order.

Vision loss is an education in patience and tolerance, not only in others but from within. The blind and visually impaired have talents and skills that some fail to see or recognize. Their above-average ability to learn, memorize and retain information required to use complicated assistive technology is outstanding. When life gives lemons, make lemonade, and when life gives you a policy manual that’s a lemon, use common sense.

When unsure how to assist someone in need, regardless of ability, the preferred method would be to ask them. I still don’t have an appointment and I still don’t have an apology.

Marlene Dekker

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