Spare The Stare

Have you ever been the recipient of a prolonged stare; a fixed gaze upon you that never seems to cease? If so, how did it make you feel? My guess is that it probably made you feel uncomfortable, and even out of place. While being stared at, you may begin to wonder, what are they looking at? why are they staring? Are they going to stop staring?
In our society, we associate actions with meanings, and staring is viewed negatively. Staring is usually associated with feelings of unfamiliarity and unexpectedness. Therefore, one reason people may stare is due to curiosity.. But, instead of staring, if people are curious, it would be better to strike up a conversation because it will ease the awkwardness and even create more clarity.
When it comes to staring, people with disabilities often find themselves in the midst of someone’s prolonged gaze. Whether people realize it or not, staring is a form of communication, so just think about what type of message you are sending to the person to whom you are looking at. As a blind individual, I often felt, and sometimes still do, feel insecure when I know people are staring at me. I may not be able to see them, but I can tell when someone is watching me, even if I am not told by the sighted person I am with.
I am a person who likes to blend into the crowd, so this type of attention makes me feel uncomfortable. I know that I am not the only one because there are national campaigns like “Smile” and “End the Awkwardness”, to get people talking rather than staring. Amy Purdy, a renown Paralympian, Author, and Motivational Speaker, talked to me earlier this year about how we cannot control other’s reactions to us, but we can control how we react. If you see someone staring, it is their issue, not yours. Amy chooses to take a positive approach and not let insecurities bring her down.
There have been published studies to support the notion that people learn and develop empathy for those with disabilities by staring. However, I believe the same, if not more, benefits can be gained if a person just asks. The other day, as I was walking out of a building, I overheard a young girl ask her mother what my cane was for. Her mother did not quiet her or shame her for asking, but rather, she openly explained why I was using it. After hearing that, I then replied to the young girl by validating what her mother said. So, I believe that dialogue, not staring, is the key to understanding.

Comments are closed.