Michael: In what areas do you think society is most ignorant--and in need of change--with regard to people with seeing disabilities?
Joel: From my experience of being vision-impaired and carrying a white cane, and from discussions on blindness-related Internet mailing lists, I'd say the most profoundly needed education is in the area of recognizing both the capabilities and disabilities of blind and low-vision people, so as to be able to treat them appropriately. Often, I have had my general functionality grossly underestimated and my ordinary feelings unimagined. I've been "indulged" by good Samaritans grabbing my elbow to pull me across a street or get me seated on a bus, disrupting my careful orientation, and, when I

Joel on bus drivers

declined their help as politely as possible, had them announce my crass ingratitude to everyone within earshot. Bus drivers repeatedly offer to drop me off like a package at my destination, while refusing to simply announce the stops, which is humiliating and disempowering. Social situations have their own such bad moments, as well.
Michael: Such as?

Joel: A slew of awkward things can happen, but it's a two-way street. If you have a vision deficit, you can't usually expect others to be attuned to your abilities and needs, unless you're among people familiar with the blind. At the Braille Institute, where sighted staff can usually guess the nature of my problem just by observing me and figure how best to put me at ease, hardly any explanation is necessary. But in most situations, I have to do some educating, how much depending on whether it's just a limited encounter, such as when a supermarket clerk helps me shop, or a more nuanced and protracted relationship. And even friends may forget not to plunge into a dark restaurant without offering their arm, or respond to something I say with a facial expression or a gesture, instead of words. To address these and other problems, Carl Augusto and David McGown have put together a helpful guideline, "Twelve Rules of Blind Etiquette. "