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Describing The World In Words

Come Paint A Verbal Picture

By Sirena Carroll - The Blind Single MomPublished 5 months ago Updated 4 months ago 4 min read
Describing The World In Words
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Image Caption: A series of square tiles with letters and numbers, reminiscent of the game Scrabble. These tiles are arranged against a stark white background. They spell out the phrase "CHOOSE WORDS" in a cascading manner, where each word begins one tile lower than the last letter of the word above it. Each tile bears a single letter in a bold, black font, accompanied by a small number in the corner, indicating the letter's point value. The phrase starts at the top left with the letter 'C', and each subsequent letter is placed directly to the right of the previous one until the word 'CHOOSE' is completed. Below 'CHOOSE', starting from the second 'O', the word 'WORDS' begins, following the same pattern. The word 'WORDS' extends below 'CHOOSE', creating a right-angle shape out of the two words.


As a blind person living in a sighted world, I realize that our language has a visual foundation. Phrases such as "over there," "that way," "this one," and others immediately assume their recipient can use sight to place the pieces together. But what if you're speaking to someone who can't? How, then, do you communicate?

Word usage must be more consciously selected when conversing with a blind person. It can be daunting, and I speak as a blind individual. I can't count the times I've pointed to where I know something to be and said, "It's over there." This approach works well with sighted individuals but is not helpful for my blind friends.

The fix is simple: use verbal descriptors when speaking with the blind. The execution, however, is more complex. Not everyone exists on the same level when it comes to loquaciousness. One person may paint a detailed verbal picture, while another might struggle with the same task.

Here are some essential tips to get you started.

Exchange The Index Finger For Descriptive Directions

Instead of pointing down the sidewalk and saying, "That way," try using the direction. "Go straight until you reach the first traffic light. Then, turn right."

Remember That Color Is Often Meaningless

If you're describing a piece of clothing, look for small details for which you can find words. Instead of explaining that you're wearing a blue dress alone, you may try identifying the aspects that initially caught your attention. Does the blue dress have a lace-trimmed neckline or sleeves? Is it bedecked with fancy buttons or unique designs? What is the cut? You can paint a vivid image by including many small details. You don't need to wax poetic to bring an object to life.

Limit The Visual Comparisons

Telling us something is approximately the size of an apple is helpful.

Informing us the shirt you just saw is like the one you're currently wearing, only in green, is not.

There's no guarantee that the blind person you're with will have enough experience with the compared object to comprehend the picture you're attempting to paint.

If you're overwhelmed by the magnitude of a descriptive task, take it in pieces. For example, start with the background and work your way inward if you're trying to describe a photo.

Don't Be Afraid To Admit Defeat

Please do your best to describe the world through your eyes, but don't stress over it. If you have a blind friend who asks you to put words to something and you're having difficulty, don't be ashamed to admit that. Describing a red happy birthday balloon will be much easier than detailing the multi-faceted diamond in a museum's display case.

The spectrum of verbal description is no less broad than that of color. Words can tell us much, but converting what your eyes see into verbal descriptors can take time and practice. Be kind to yourself. We will understand.

Everyone sees the world differently.

I will get five different descriptions if I ask five people to describe the same painting. The key components might remain the same, but others will hone in on differing details. One person might notice the tree's foliage in the foreground. At the same time, another might fixate upon the varying shades of blue in the sky. A third might notice the rustic cottage half concealed within an artistically-placed shadow.

When describing something to a blind individual, remember you are unique. The way you view the world is yours. If you hear someone else detailing the same thing you did, pointing out aspects you didn't, you did nothing wrong. You imparted what you saw, and they're doing the same. If the blind person you're describing had sight, they wouldn't visualize the object like you do. Everyone is different. Remember that. Also, remember that being different isn't something you should ever need to forgive yourself.

If you'd like to grow more accustomed to using words to describe the world around you, practice. It costs nothing and could be an enjoyable exercise. If you have a blind friend, ask them for feedback, but remember, our desires also vary. I like verbose descriptions. I know others who prefer the bare minimum.

Consider This Small Exercise

Look at the object closest to you and try to identify five details about it. Construct those details into sentences in your mind, and guess what? You've just built your first verbal description.

You should also totally comment with the objects you chose and your descriptions below.

The tongue can be a wicked weapon, more painful than any physical blade. It can also be a tool for painting the world in vivid color for those of us whom colors have forsaken; language matters when sight is lost.

Help us bridge that gap, one small word at a time.


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About the Creator

Sirena Carroll - The Blind Single Mom

Killing Misconceptions, One Story At A Time

I'm Sirena, a book-loving blind mom opening up on the unique life of single and co-parenting with a disability.

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Comments (2)

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  • L.C. Schäfer4 months ago

    This is really helpful, thank you. 😊

  • Oh I would definitely be so angry with myself for not being able to describe something in a proper manner to a blind person. So the tip of describing the background and then moving to the small details might prove very helpful!

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