I learned many things while watching ABC’s You Can’t Ask That episode on blind people, which saw a number of visually impaired Australians sit down and answer some of the public’s toughest questions.
Aside from discovering that, yes, it is overwhelmingly appreciated when you offer to help a blind person cross the road, I was surprised to find out what visually impaired people really ‘see’.
Hint: It’s not blackness.
“People imagine that being blind, not being able to see, is like shutting your eyes,” Michelle Stevens, who is deaf and blind, told producers. “It’s far, far from that.
“What I actually see is a thick yellow cloud.”
In turns out there is no overarching answer for what all blind people ‘see’.
“I’ve never been able to understand this, but I see either bright pink, or bright green… a watermelon green and a watermelon pink,” Melburnian Lauren Henley, who became blind after a car accident when her face hit the steering wheel 10 years ago, said.
“Maybe [they] were the last [colours] I saw or something.”
“I have a friend who lost his eye-sight and he said it’s more of a grey,” Emma Bennison, who lost her sight after being born 13 weeks premature, said.
"It's not blackness that you see... it's nothing," Vaughn Bennison, from Hobart, added.
For paralympian Matt Formston, who is legally blind with only a tiny amount of peripheral vision, blindness looks like "putting your fists in front of your eyes, so you can't see anything at all in the middle, and then you imagine you're looking through a sheet of glass for the rest of it and you sandpaper that piece of glass until it's about five per cent of the clarity."
For some, what they 'see' is impossible to name, simply because they've never experienced colour.
"Often people say to me, 'Because you can't see is it black?' ... I don't know what black is!" Professor Ron McCallum answered. "Because I haven't seen light, I don't really understand dark."
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You can watch You Can't Ask That: Blind People on ABC iView, here.