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10 Things You Should Know About Being Blind During a Pandemic

As a blind teenager, trying my best to be an independent woman, there are things that I struggle with daily. Finding soy milk at the grocery store, identifying an individual who is speaking to me, finding the right size of pants, or even finding a bathroom stall are things that I struggle with. During a pandemic, some of these things are even harder to deal with. Below are 10 things you should know about being blind during a pandemic:

 My guide dog cannot tell what six feet apart means.

I hate to break it to you, but my guide dog was not trained to guide me through a pandemic. He does not know what six feet apart looks like. Please do not get mad when I, or any blind or visually impaired individual, get too close to you. I cannot see you and my guide dog is doing what he was taught to do.

I cannot see the lines in the grocery store indicating which way to go.

Grocery store police- be warned! I cannot see the lines on the floor stating which way traffic should flow. My guide dog is smart, but he is not that smart. If you see a blind person going down the wrong side of the aisle, please don’t get mad at them. It’s not their fault! Just move out of the way and see if they need help.

I cannot see what door is meant for entering and exiting.

Again, my guide dog is smart, but not that smart. He cannot tell what door is marked as “enter” or “exit” and because I am blind, I cannot see the signs either. My dog just knows, “find inside/outside” which means to find a door. We may attempt to enter or exit through the wrong door and I apologize ahead of time for any inconvenience that this may cause you.

It is harder for me to recognize voices when people are wearing a mask.

Masks muffle voices. This makes it harder for me, and other blind people, to identify people by their voices.  Please let me, or any blind or visually impaired individual, know who you are and that you are speaking directly to me.

Zoom is not “blind-friendly”.

If you are looking up my nose or at one eyeball, sorry! I can’t see the camera or where it is pointing. If you are in a zoom meeting with a blind or visually impaired individual, ignore their screen. They most likely have no idea where the camera is pointing.

I am still going to touch EVERYTHING.

Pandemic or not, the way that a blind person shops is by touching and feeling everything. A pandemic does not suddenly make everything accessible. To identify the difference between a banana vs an apple, I am going to have to touch the fruit. I promise my hands are clean.

The “every other” rule on waiting room seats and bathroom stalls.

My guide dog knows the command “find a chair”. He does not know the term “find a chair without an X on it”. If we, or any blind or visually impaired individual, sit next to you, in a blocked off seat, just let us know and we will gladly move to another seat. The same goes for the blocked off bathroom stalls and sinks. If I attempt to wash my hands in a blocked off sink, just tell me that the sink is blocked off and help me find a new one.

I cannot see that you want to take my temperature or want me to use hand sanitizer.

I cannot see that you want to take my temperature or want me to use hand sanitizer.

If you would like to take my, or any blind or visually impaired individuals, temperature or want me to use your hand sanitizer before entering a store, please let me know. I cannot see that you are holding out a thermometer or if a bottle of hand sanitizer is sitting on a table outside of your store. Please verbalize your actions and direct me to where I need to stand and get my temperature checked. And no, you cannot check my dogs temperature.

Cue lines outside of stores

If I, or any blind or visually impaired individual, cut in front of you in the cue line outside of TJ Maxx, please do not get mad at me. I was not being rude, I did not know that there was a cue line. Please redirect me to the end of the line or, let me politely go in front of you.

Even during a pandemic, I am still blind, and I still need help.

If you see me, or any other blind or visually impaired person struggling in the grocery store, crossing the street, identifying a clothing item, or finding a seat, help them. You won’t get COVID by directing a blind individual to a bathroom stall or sink.

Be kind to everyone no matter their ability or disability.

McClain Hermes is a Paralympian and World Champion who attends Loyola University Maryland. She has turned her disability of being legally blind into her ability in the pool. She holds over 20 American Records and has numerous international medals. At the age of 15, she was the youngest member of the 2016 USA Paralympic Team in Rio and competed in three swimming events. McClain competed in the 2017 Paralympic World Championship where she earned a gold medal and was named World Champion in the 400 Freestyle. She also earned two silver medals and two bronze medals at the 2017 World Championships. I’m 2018 and 2019 she won several more medals at the Pan Pacific Championships and span American Games. Her goal is to win a medal at the Paralympic Games. She is currently training for a chance to compete for Team USA at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. McClain has decided to continue her academic and athletic career at Loyola University in Baltimore, Maryland. She is currently a sophomore at Loyola studying Communications with a focus in journalism.
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