How do Blind People Dream


Life Quest Training and Consult

Dr. Nanette Bowles


How Do Blind People Dream?
By Dr. Nanette Bowles



We all dream, whether we remember them or not, but the way a person who is blind dreams may be different, depending on if they’ve ever had sight, when they lost it and to what degree they lost it.  Many seem most curious about how a person who had never had any vision dreams.  So…relax, take a deep breath and……imagine for a moment you are at the beach.  Think about the sound of the waves, seagulls, etc.  Imagine the sand between your toes or the cold water splashing on your feet…maybe slimy seaweed getting caught around your ankles!  Can you imagine the wind on your face…or the sun beating down on your cheeks?  Can you smell and almost taste the salty air?  

This may describe the memories, and thus dreams, of a person who has never visually seen the beach but has experienced it in every other way.

Though there are about 25.2 million adult Americans who report they either “have trouble” seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, there are far fewer who’ve never experienced sight at all.

Flagstaff Lake Mary Photo by Marc Bigelow

Flagstaff Lake Mary Photo by Marc Bigelow


Still…here are some basic etiquette and communication tips, from the American Foundation for the Blind, that are helpful, Remember…person first.  So…technically the title of this blog should be,  “How Do People Who Are Blind Dream?”

  • Feel free to use words that refer to vision during the course of a conversation. Vision-oriented words such as look, see, and watching TV are a part of everyday verbal communication. The words blind and visually impaired are also acceptable in conversation.  This is the same with any disability.
  • If a friend, relative, or stranger on the street is traveling with a dog guide, do not pet the dog, offer it food, or distract it in any way while it is working. Dog guides are not pets but highly trained mobility tools.  So…as much as you may love animals…refrain! J
  • Be precise and thorough when you describe people, places, or things to someone who is totally blind. Don’t leave out things or change a description because you think it is unimportant or unpleasant.
  • Don’t avoid visually descriptive language. Making reference to colors, patterns, designs, and shapes is perfectly acceptable.
  • If you see someone who is blind or visually impaired about to encounter a dangerous situation, be calm and clear about warning the person. For example, if he or she is about to bump into a stanchion in a hotel lobby, calmly and clearly call out, “Wait there for a moment; there is a pole in front of you.”
  • Do not take care of tasks for the person that he or she would normally do, such as change television channels, cut meat, or salt and pepper food. First ask if the person needs help, then offer to assist. Most people with a visual impairment will tell you if they would like some assistance.  Remember that the way you ask if a person needs help is important here.  Don’t use a voice that displays pity.
  • Do not move furniture or other articles in your friend’s home or your own home without letting the person know.
  • When greeting a friend who is blind or visually impaired, don’t forget to identify yourself. For example, “Hi, Jane, it’s Sophia.”
  • Speak directly to your friend or relative who is visually impaired, not through an intermediary.  Use a natural conversational tone and speed.
  • As soon as a friend, relative, or stranger who is blind or visually impaired enters a room, be sure to greet the person by name. This alerts her to your presence, avoids startling her, and eliminates uncomfortable silences.
  • Be an active listener. Give the person opportunities to talk. Respond with questions and comments to keep the conversation going. A person who is visually impaired can’t necessarily see the look of interest on your face, so give verbal cues to let him or her know that you are actively listening.
  • Always answer questions and be specific or descriptive in your responses.
  • Say when you are leaving and where you are going if it is appropriate, for example, going to the kitchen to get a drink of water.
  • Indicate the end of a conversation with a person who is totally blind or severely visually impaired to avoid the embarrassment of leaving the person speaking when no one is actually there.

Remember that with any person with any disability, the focus needs to be on the person first and what they can do, rather than can’t.  Also, our similarities, rather than differences…even when it comes to dreaming.

For more information, go to: www.afb.org.