Will you Be my Valentine? “Tips for an extra special day with your blind partner” Author Mugambi Paul

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Friendship, love, and romance are in the air with Valentine’s Day in Nairobi..

Whether you’re on your first date, or it’s your tenth with your true love, planning the right date night, getting the right flowers, a gift, dinner reservations,
etc can be a bit stressful.

And you may imagine that going on a first date with someone who is blind or visually impaired can even be more awkward.

But in reality, going on a date with someone who is blind or low vision is no different than dating any other person.

Here are a few tips for sighted companions or partners to help make your date memorable.

#1 Sighted Guide

Consent is key! Once you’ve selected a place, made a reservation or planned an activity, don’t forget to brush up on your sighted guide technique.

There is an etiquette to offering sighted guide assistance to a blind person. Always ask first, don’t grab or push.

Now a days I combine my White cane experience with Sunu Band
to navigate indoor spaces like restaurants and cafes. Moreover, it has aided me with the line like at theaters, so I know when it’s my turn to move up in the queue.

The Sunu Band is also great for when you are doing a sighted guide as the blind or low vision person being guided retains awareness and more control.

#2 Be descriptive

But not overly so – allow your partner the chance to soak in the ambiance.

Now that you’ve arrived at that fancy, romantic restaurant or place, offer a lite description of where you are to your partner.

Allow your blind partner the chance to ask about his/or her surroundings.

#3 Don’t just read the menu

make it conversation instead of reading a list.
You know Nairobi hotels and restaurant do not offer braille, or large print menus, you have to check with your partner their preference.

If those aren’t available, you can start by asking what are they’re in the mood for drink and food? If it’s a place you know well, make a recommendation
or mention the specialty of the house.

But whatever you do, don’t order or speak for your blind or low vision partner. Especially, don’t allow waiters or staff to ask you to speak for your blind
partner.

In the event it happens, tell your waiter to direct the question or comment to your partner.

#4 Table manners are still king

And throw away the messy stereotypes. Enjoying a meal with someone who is blind or low vision is just like eating or drinking with anyone else. Again being
a little bit more descriptive is good.

When the meal arrives, you may offer a quick description of where things are on the table. For example, your wine glass is to your left or at your 9 O’clock.
Sometimes using the clock reference is helpful.

Remember, don’t overdo it and stress about the vision impairment. Just be yourself and enjoy each other’s company through great conversation, drinks, and
food. At the end of the date, the most important thing is that you both have fun.

Additionally, everyday should be a valentine.
You should even practise self-love.
Self-love means allowing yourself to be happy. Too often, we manipulate ourselves instead of increasing the amount of joy we bring to our lives.

So, every day, do things that make you feel good. Even 10 minutes of self-care can add up and make you feel much better in the long run. But you’re worth
more than 10 minutes. You are the most crucial person in your life. Act, accordingly, show love, and be open to receive love.
All in all, do things that fulfill your soul. Get rid of people who don’t make you feel good.
What others say or think about you has nothing to do with reality. It’s just their perception.

Sure, we’d all like to be around people who are kind and loving, but the harsh reality is that rudeness exists. Yet, it doesn’t need to affect you and
especially not your wellbeing.

The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization.
Mugambi Paul is a public policy, diversity, inclusion and sustainability expert.