I'm here at the APSEA Centre for the week; it's our yearly in-service for teachers of students who are blind or visually impaired. This afternoon, myself and some other teachers who are relatively new to the field were doing O&M work (Orientation and Mobility) out and about. So off we go; a fine looking bunch. One of the ladies has a self-described "Donny Osmond purple" satin sleepshade (or blindfold; I think sleepshade is supposed to be more politically correct because you're not rendered blind by wearing one), another had a lovely lavendar one, and I was sporting a cream coloured satin number with a giant screen-printed orchid on it. But you know what? It didn't matter.
Being sighted, I have certain preconceptions when working with my students on cane travel skills. One is that they care how they appear to others. When I see that they don't, I assume it's a conscious choice. Realistically, I think that they often don't realize they are meeting up with other people along the sidewalk, mostly because people jump out of the way. And since they aren't receiving the visual information that I am, they don't know when people give them strange looks. When I was walking along the sidewalks and crossing streets, I didn't care if there might be someone wondering why I was wearing an extremely silly looking sleepshade. I was concerned about listening to the instructor and keeping my technique correct so I wouldn't end up walking across an intersection when it wasn't safe to do so, or walking into someone's front step.
Although I'm spending these hours under blindfold, I still have no idea what it is like to be blind. I know proper cane technique and how to instruct students so they can safely travel (I'm still working on the certification) but unless I become blind, I will not understand what it is like to any significant degree.