Socialising when you’re blind

The idea for this post came from a night out I had last night.
There were a few bands playing in our town, and I really wanted to hear one of them. They are friends of a friend, I’ve seen them a few times before, and wanted to support them as they will release their debut album soon. A group of my friends said they’d go, then pulled out one by one. Some genuinely had no money to go out, while others made excuses.

A girl I know, who I get on well with but wouldn’t go out with often was working in the venue, and told me to come along anyway, because I could stay with her friends while she was busy. I didn’t want her friends thinking they had to bring me around all night. If they weren’t comfortable with doing it, it wouldn’t have been fair. At the same time I didn’t want to miss out, and am sick missing out on things because my usual group of friends aren’t interested.
In the end I decided to be brave and go, and had one of the most random nights I’ve had in ages.

I started off being with the people I had planned to be with, who were lovely. A friend from school came up to chat, and we talked about primary school and had a great laugh. Then my sister’s friends asked me to come and sit with them. This was fine because I get on well with all of them, but I ended up being stuck in the same corner while the band I liked were playing. This is the disadvantage of being blind, not knowing your way around a place and having no dog. You can’t just walk around and find people on your own. Sometimes with the best intentions in the world, sighted people bring you to a particular place because you can sit where it’s less busy, but you don’t get a chance to talk to anyone else, and other people can’t find you. The friend I came in with texted me during the gig to see where I was, appologised for being so busy but wanted to make sure I was OK.
I ended up getting a taxi home after 4 A.M, with completely different people from the ones I’d been with earlier. It was all very strange!

I’m very lucky because I’m well-known in our town, so will always meet people I know when I’m out. Some of them (especially males) are less shy with a few drinks in them, so it sort of breaks the ice and as long as they aren’t too drunk I don’t mind. I can be shy too, but realised when I went to college that being very shy and having a disability doesn’t get you very far. I can instantly tell if people are uncomfortable talking to me because I am blind, and I think its up to me to use humour or some distraction then to make it easier for them.

I am very lucky that I have a close relationship with my parents and family. They are like my personal taxi drivers if they think I’m missing out on something because of the cost of transport. If I’m stuck for people to come to a gig or something they will often offer to go, even though they will more than likely hate it. My dad came to Des Bishop with O.J and I last Friday (probably not the best thing to bring your dad too!) This probably makes me sound very spoilled, but they know that being blind has its challenges, and from a young age they never wanted me to miss out on anything socially.
I also have some amazing friends. We’ve done lots of brilliant things together, and even gone on holiday a few times. Some of us have very different music tastes, but we are all going to Kings of Leon in Slane next year, which will be our first concert together.

I know from personal experience and from reading other blogs that other blind people don’t have the opportunities to socialise like I do, and it is something I never take for granted. People shouldn’t think that their disability means they have to have few or no friends. It shouldn’t mean they should just stay indoors unless they have to go to work or to get their shopping, and stick to their routinely activities. They shouldn’t accept that this is normal just because they have a disability, and convince themselves they are happy and things can’t be any different. I understand it can be difficult to start conversations with people if you can’t make eye contact or use body language the same way sighted people do. There’s nothing worse than being in a group of people in a noisy environment, not knowing exactly where the person you want to talk to is. I think it takes a certain amount of participation and common sense from everybody to make socialising between blind and sighted people work.

Having a guide dog makes going to new places with people I wouldn’t normally go out with much easier, because I feel I can be a little bit more independent. However, going out last night without O.J taught me that sometimes people are much more accepting than I expect them to be. If we are going to the same place then we must at least have some similar interests. If we can talk about things easily and have fun, then the fact that I am blind isn’t the main thing on their mind. It definitely takes a bit of guts to force yourself to go out with new people, but if you give it a go once, you might be surprised at how enjoyable your night is.

13 thoughts on “Socialising when you’re blind

  1. I think I'm beginning to be the exact opposite lol. For the longest time I went out with friends and now I'm saying screw it and doing things on my own because I just can't cound on anyone anymore. It's like when I first went blind people came out of the woodwarok to help and now they just forget. So, out I go, alone and happy. πŸ˜‰ I don't do loud stuff since I'm really protective of my hearing and loud stuff makes me really nervous since I can't hear. But I'll do quiet things like coffee any day. πŸ˜‰

  2. I don't really like loud things either, but love music too much to make me stay in! If it wasn't for music, I wouldn't have some of the friends, and therefore social opportunities that I have now.

  3. I posted my comment earlier, but the stupid thing froze!I hate people letting you down at the last minute. Last year, I organised at christmas time to go to a pantomime with my friends. (Maybe not the best choice). I was left sitting there with my one friend who decided to turn up about 10 minutes before it started rining round to see if anyone else was going to turn up! Good job I hadn't booked tickets! We even went for a meal before, and I gave them plenty of notice!Your dog really is your best friend though. At least they won't let you down! I always wonder why I bother organising things now though. Only me and another person usually turn up! It pisses you off sometimes.Take care, xxx.

  4. There's nothing worse than actually buying tickets for something, then trying to sell them at the last minute. Always happens to me and sometimes I've ended up buying someone a ticket for something just so they can afford to go and I don't miss out.I can see what you mean about a dog being reliable and not letting you down, but when members of the public ask me if O.J is my best friend, it drives me absolutely mental!

  5. I have been lucky over the 17 years of being visually impaired – I've met tons of good people and have been able to join in on many memborable experiences. I got my first dog 4 years after losing most of my sight and I found he opened doors for me in socializing because I had him during my final year of high school and my five years during my first university degree. Everyone wanted to get to know Phoenix and because he had separation anxiety I rarely had the chance to leave without him – he went absolutely everywhere with me including jam packed loud dance clubs so I never felt alone or worried because I knew he was beside me. I met my husband in my second year of university and he is fully sighted so I have been lucky not to miss out. I wish others would have a similar experience, but as you said in your post, you gotta put your neck out there sometimes.Brooke, Phoenix & Cessna

  6. Great post. I find large crowds and noisy crowds a bit overwhelming. Prefer a smaller intimate crowd but love to socialize. Those close friends that I can count on are pretty special and so appreciate them.

  7. Waw Brooke you had a dog that went to nightclubs? That's mad! He souns like fun!I know college would have been a very different experience for me if I had a dog then. I haven't managed to meet any decent males while socialising yet :d)

  8. Hello Jen Great Post about going out I am only just getting to grips with it and most of the time I do take Pearce as he hates me going anywhere without him so I never really have left him and yes he has been to a nightclub and parties and alsorts doesnt seem to bother he just goes to sleep but I have my Christmas ball next Friday and my mum and dad think its not the best thing to take Pearce too, I said why not but agree dogs technically arent meant to go to these things even though I know Pearce would be fine, so in a way I am dreading it because I will feel like I have lost my right hand and I do feel awkward when I dont have him around its not the same at all.Glad your getting out there Jenny, a real inspiration! XXX

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