As an individual with a vision impairment I often find myself in situations in which the general public assumes that for some reason I am incapable of performing even the simplest of tasks without either great assistance or by achieving some amazing accomplishment. Anything from knowing where I am going in a large building that I am familiar with to ordering my lunch seems to make others who do not understand visual impairments marvel at my ability to be somewhat independent.
This week while having lunch with a friend I once again encountered this situation. I entered the restaurant with my friend, proceeded to order my food and the cashier then proceeded to ask the person with me if “she” (referring to me) knew how I wanted my meat cooked. Now I understand that there was a visual representation of the various levels of “doneness”, but I am a 30-something year old female and I am perfectly capable of firstly knowing how beef is cooked and secondly effectively communicating this to the cashier when asked.
My first gut reaction was anger and a little bit of shock that the cashier thought that I was this incapable of completing such a simple task, however I decided to make this an educational and lighthearted moment for the both of us. I simply responded to the cashier “You can ask me it’s okay.” And smiled and laughed at the situation. It was clear that the cashier was a little embarrassed and I honestly think that he had never interacted with an individual with a visual impairment before. I could have gotten obnoxious and had a huge scene but anyone who knows me would be shocked if I responded in this way and what would the benefit have been? This individual would have then possibly had a horrible impression of individuals with visual impairments (rightly so or not – that’s a debate for a different day) and then my blood pressure would have been all worked up for absolutely no reason.
Sometimes as exhausting as it can be, it’s helpful to take the moments of interactions that we have with others as little moments to educate and remind them that visual impairment or not we are capable of being contributing and productive members of society and yes, we can order our own burgers at lunch.