We’re all guilty of making the odd insensitive joke, even when we know better. Most of the time, this is perfectly harmless, and the subject of the joke may even join in with relish. I’m one of these people: in general, I’m happy to laugh at (and tell) blind jokes, especially when I know they’ll be well-received. I have unintentionally shocked many an unsuspecting sighted person with the many blind jokes I make. I have heard everything from “Don’t talk about yourself like that!” to “I thought you were serious!”. Last year, a professor asked if anyone had described a particular object to me, and I replied, “No. I live in darkness.”. I, (silly me), thought that it would be obvious that I was kidding around. Apparently, I was just a little too good at the straight-faced thing, and he took me seriously. He seemed shocked that I’d ever joke about myself this way, but I’ve always found the odd joke to be very healthy. After all, the best way to rob hardship of its power is to reduce it to something you can laugh at. It’s how I get through life, most of the time anyway. Sometimes, (like when I run headlong into a wall or nearly get killed crossing the street), it’s a choice between laughing and crying. I’d rather laugh.
As with all good things, though, there are right ways and wrong ways to go about making blind jokes—at least if you’re dealing with me. Again, other blind people may not echo my views, so please keep that in mind. Today, I’d like to talk about the types of jokes I consider acceptable, and the ones I consider potentially harmful (with explanations, of course). This is a rough guide, so keep an open mind and a light heart as you read through this post.
The practical joke: I’m really, really not a fan of these. I suppose there are some that are relatively harmless, but I haven’t yet found one I found truly funny. These can range from the benign (stealing a plate of food out from under my nose), to the moderately irritating (disguising one’s voice to make me think you’re someone else—it never works, by the way), to the downright dangerous (warning me of obstacles that aren’t really there). Some say that intention is everything, and I subscribe to this when dealing with inappropriate practical jokes. I realize that many of these jokes were meant in fun, with no malice at all behind them. The line between bullying and joking around isn’t all that fine. Still, as I said, few to none of these jokes are really funny, and many of them are potentially dangerous. Think, for example, of what would happen if someone stole my cane and ran off with it: I’d be stuck without the tool which allows me to travel independently and safely, with no real way to get it back without chasing, which is in itself dangerous. Also consider how I feel when people try to disguise their voices to trick me: as I mentioned, this never works, and it’s more irritating than anything else. Amazingly enough, being told to watch out for a hole or tree that isn’t there isn’t what I consider a good laugh. In short, I’d advise against practical jokes, unless you are certain that the blind person you’re dealing with is okay with them. There is a big difference between tolerating them and enjoying them; pay attention to that difference.
Wordplay: This usually takes the form of, say, “blind stupidity”, or “See what I did there?” or “Did you *watch* that movie last night?”. These are silly, but not really harmful unless they’re being made constantly. I don’t often make them, (unless I’m deliberately trying to make people groan), but I don’t mind it when they’re made about me. They’re not very effective, but they’re definitely tolerable. Just watch (ha ha) that you don’t use them too often; anyone would get tired of that after a while.
Personal barbs: If ever there was a landmine in the world of blind jokes, this would be it. These jokes are usually tailored to the type of person who is their subject. Say, for example, that there is a blind person out there who has a lot of trouble with cooking on the stove; the heat frightens them, and they’re really insecure about it. Joking about this insecurity, especially if you aren’t all that close to this person, might be dangerous at best and downright mean at worst. Chances are that blind person is acutely aware of, and unhappy with, their inability to use a stove properly, so joking about it may only hurt them. Messing with a person’s confidence—sighted or blind—is always risky and seldom funny. If you’re going to make jokes like that, be damn sure that the subject is comfortable with it.
So, to sum up, be kind, and be careful when joking around. Jokes are meant to be enjoyable for everyone, not just the one telling them, so as I’ve said in previous posts, always act with respect. Get to know the blind person you’re joking with, and pay attention to their comfort level. Most of us are happy to set you straight if you’re open to that, but it’s always easier to learn first and tell jokes later, rather than extracting your foot from your mouth and apologizing. I’m a lighthearted person with a wicked sense of humour. There is very little that I don’t take well. Don’t feel like you have to tread on eggshells. Just be nice, and you should be fine.