Do you know One of the most common misperceptions about blind people? It is we are more vulnerable to attack than sighted people. This is a dangerous myth. First it implies we are an easy target. Second, it creates a false notion that if we were attacked we couldn’t protect ourselves
Class and Audiobook on Self Defense for the blind
Sept. 26 is National Situational Awareness Day. This holiday made me reflect on the time when I took the Safe without Sight self defense course at the Center for the Visually Impaired. I remember feeling some stress because of the idea of being attacked. Who wants to think about that? However, I realized the value because I needed to learn ways to protect myself now that I was blind.
I learned so much about self defense . Since that was some years ago, I refreshed my knowledge and recently read the audiobook from Bookshare, “Safe Without Sight: Crime Prevention And Self-Defense Strategies For People Who Are Blind” by Wendy David. The book was written back in the 90’s but still packed with excellent tips that I want to share. Hopefully after reading this post, you will be even more determined to protect yourself too.
Listen to Your Intuition
Intuition, common sense, gut reaction, funny feeling, small voice or even the Holy Spirit. We might all have different ways to describe that sensation you get when something is a bit off. All I can say is trust it whatever you call it because it will save your life.
Once I was in a support group and when I sat next to another member I quickly got a bad feeling. I was struggling to trust my gut reaction. I didn’t know the man and felt I was being judgmental. His actions toward me didn’t display anything harmful. So, instead of getting up like my intuition told me to do I stayed and sat next to him during the meeting.
A few weeks later all of us in the support group were told he was not returning. Apparently he had been touching women in appropriately and there had been several complaints. I was in shock and this news sobered me. I knew from now on to trust my gut and do what it said no matter the circumstances or how uncomfortable I became.
Why Don’t We Listen?
The million dollar question is why we don’t listen. We are trained to be nice to people. To not make waves or hurt people’s feelings. It is a standard Rule to disregard our own feelings over others. Also, we tell ourselves to be reasonable. We discount our own emotions even when things are glaringly obvious.
Pay Attention to Your Surroundings
Pay attention to your surroundings. In our highly distracted world, we are looking down at our phones while walking or driving. I remember when I was a young girl, my mother was teaching me how to ride public transportation. We were at the bus stop and this car kept circling by. She pointed this out to me and I hadn’t notice. She said always pay attention to what is going on around you.
I have never forgotten that lesson because now that I am blind it is even more relative. Today, as part of my awareness strategy, When traveling I ask questions. For example, what other businesses are in the area, what does the front of the building look like, are their stairs or is there a flat surface. Or when sitting in a room, I sit close to the door and know exactly where it is located. I do this in case of an emergency for a quick retreat.
Pay Attention to Body Language and Facial Features
I also Pay attention to my body language and facial features. I walk and move with purpose and assurance. I keep my head tilted upward and straight ahead. I will look confident even when I’m not. When interacting with people I speak clearly ,No mumbling or whispering.
Use Other Senses to Pay Attention
I use my other senses to pay attention and navigate the world. Sound, smell and touch all tell me what is happening. Someone’s tone of voice or the traffic flow at a crosswalk are pieces of valuable information. Interesting smells can tell you things about a person like their cologne, if they smoke cigarettes, or have bad body odor. Touching objects like walls, doors or furniture communicate location.
Boundary setting is critical for good self defense. You must be clear, both verbally and physically, with your personal space. For us, blind folks, good spatial awareness is key. It means understanding where you are physically as it relates to other things such as people and objects. I use this skill daily to find furniture and turning hallway corners. Mastering this skill has kept me free from harm and danger.
Spatial awareness Also includes my feelings. The ability to feel if you are close to something or not. It is a little hard to explain but I can get a sensation when I am moving toward or away from something without actually seeing it. This skill is handy when people get too physically close to me.
Setting Verbal Boundaries
Setting verbal boundaries come up when people ask me personal questions. Two that raised a red flag are do you live alone, and how much vision do you have. This is a tricky thing to figure out sometimes. People are naturally curious and ask questions about my vision loss. This doesn’t mean they will harm me. Admittedly, I get tired of this but I try to be kind and gentle. I don’t always know the person’s intention when asking so I will proceed with caution. Sometimes I don’t answer at all.
Who is asking the question, what is my situation I am in? What is happening around me? Do I feel safe having this dialogue? Do I feel comfortable? I have learned it is okay to lie. This is my personal safety we are talking about and I don’t have to be honest. Or I will give a general answer especially in public settings. I realize other people are listening too causing me to be mindful of the conversation.
I practice this all the time at the doctor’s office. When I have to fill out medical documents I will request to do that in a private waiting room. Sometimes when I am asked to give my address I will hand the person at the counter my state ID instead of verbally giving it out.
Setting Physical Boundaries
I am particular about people in my personal space, especially if I don’t know you well. I have taken the initiative to shake hands instead of hugging. This lets the person know my boundaries. I will be verbal and extend my hand toward them. I communicate to not grab my arm. I have been forceful when necessary. Women are socialized to be quiet and not assertive. But this is my personal space and I have to speak up.
I know we can implement these self defense techniques regardless of vision. Still, they are chiefly important for people with vision loss and even other types of disabilities. Listening to your intuition, being aware of your surroundings and setting boundaries are the keys to good self defense. Are there other self defense strategies we can do? What tips do you have about protecting yourself?