Just say hi

felicity-JSH-PageI always end the presentations I give to civic groups and college kids with a Q&A session. “Here’s your chance,” I tell them. “Ask me anything about what it’s like being blind.” In addition to the questions I get about whether my other senses improved after I lost my sight, how I know what colors I’m wearing, stuff like that, I’m always asked what to say to a blind person waiting to cross the street. “Should I say anything?” they’ll ask. “Is it rude to see if they need help?”

My answer? I like it if you say hello. “If we’re out there getting around on our own with a white cane or a guide dog, you know we’ve got chutzpa; we’re not shy.” I tell them that if they say hello, I know there’s someone there to ask for help if I need it. “Otherwise I can just say hello right back and carry on.”

People with disabilities are in the minority. It’s understandable that you might be unsure how to start a conversation with one of us, so I was pleased to hear recently that a new campaign to help people lose their fear of interacting with people who have disabilities has released a series of short videos encouraging people to “Just Say Hi.” Spots feature television hosts Gayle King and John Oliver and actors William H. Macy and Michael J. Fox. The videos are appearing on CBS stations nationwide and in some New York City taxis and train stations. You can look and listen to the videos online, too. And if you ever want to start a conversation, these videos make it simple: just say hi.


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