Excerpt: "A smile in someone's voice."

An excerpt from "We Can Hear You Just Fine: Clarifications from the Kentucky School for the Blind"

The reason that I’m nervous in person is because people can see me and, as such, they know things about me that I don’t even know about myself. I don’t know what people look like. If you haven’t been blind since birth it’s hard to understand this, but I want you to think about it: I don’t know what a face looks like, so I don’t know what faces do. I’ve never seen a single wink, shrug, or smile. All I’ve ever seen is brightness and darkness. I understand the essence of black and white only by their absence in each other.

Everyone smiles when something makes them happy or is funny. I’m no different—I’m great at smiling—but I don’t know what smiles look like. Neither do I know what it looks like to be sad, angry, or worried. I have a lot of trouble forcing a smile for pictures or anything else if I’m not actually feeling happiness or amusement. I’m not sure how to recreate what I do naturally. The same applies to things as simple as walking, holding a fork correctly, or which way I’m facing when I speak with someone: I never know if I’m making some tiny error that’s so obvious to the rest of the world, but that I can hardly comprehend.

I perceive the world through my ears. Most everything that happens makes a sound of some sort, and I use those sounds to find things. It’s called echolocation. If I click my tongue against the roof of my mouth, the soundwaves from the click travel around the room and bounce off all manner of objects. I can hear walls, cars, people, trees, and pretty much anything else that is at the level of my ear when the sound bounces back to me. I am, essentially, a giant wingless bat, and I’m not ashamed of my unsettling nature!

Even though I can’t see how someone looks, I can hear expressions in the tone of their voices. It’s what any sighted person tries to do when they’re on a phone call, but we blind people do it constantly, and we’re good at it. Barely concealed undertones can describe what a person really thinks of you. I can tell when someone is faking an emotion. I can hear a smile in someone’s voice, and the same goes if they’re worried or sad. True happiness is very difficult to fake. I pay attention because I always hope to make the people I love happy.

- Shane Lowe, author (pictured above)