I have a love/hate relationship with holidays as it comes to family dinners. Sure, some of this is the result of distant, fractured or toxic family relationships, but I find that holidays tend to bring out the lowered expectations of me as a blind person. More than once, I have found myself banished from the kitchen because it is “too small” or there are “too many people” or “nothing needs to be done” (even as I notice that everyone else has a role to play in the family dinner). It is a pretty lonely yet awkward place, because I feel like I am just there to eat; standing up for myself might be problematic because I think I know why this is being done.
Does this come from a good place? The answer to this is usually “yes.” No one in their right mind would want a blind family member to cut their fingers while slicing vegetables for a salad, or scrape their knuckles on the cheese grater. But these events CAN happen to sighted people, too, so what is the big deal?
I don’t have all the answers about the best way to stand up for myself. Sure, I could say something, but how do I say it beyond “I’m not a helpless child… give me the potatoes”? I could invite people over to my house, but the last time that happened, the entire family took over my kitchen and it didn’t even feel like mine anymore.
The end result of lowered expectations in a family setting does, unfortunately, perpetuate a problematic dynamic in which the blind family member(s) are viewed as less than competent in other ways, too. If we are incapable of slicing carrots or boiling soup, then there is no way we can be viewed as competent employees, students, parents, or spouses.
Are there things we do not succeed at? Of course! But that in general has little or nothing to do with lack of sight. It is most likely due to our experiences, desires, or shared humanity. Mistakes happen, so let us make them, and don’t think of us as less-than-capable, especially the next time you slice your finger open while cutting a carrot.