Should you describe yourself to blind Persons?

At English disability events, you more often hear persons describe themselves: Ethnic group or skin colour, age, height, hair colour and so on. This is supposed to help blind or visually impaired persons. In Germany, this is rare so far.

Article Content

Different Opinions

I once asked my blind bubble how they see it. As expected, opinions differ. Some would like to know about it, some think it's good but don't necessarily need it, others find it completely dispensable. I count myself among those who are interested but don't necessarily need it.

As a blind person, one usually tries to discern such factors from the voice. But that is difficult. At least with men, you can often tell the approximate age from the voice, because it does vary according to age. With women, especially if they have high voices, it is much more difficult. Other factors can hardly be identified, unless there are special things such as an obviously non-German name or a strong accent.

The Question of Diversity in Image Descriptions

By the way, this question also pops up frequently in image descriptions. For example, should you describe what kind of persons are in the photo or is basic information like gender and an approximate classification like adult, youth, child, etc. enough?

And at events: Should a moderator describe the persons or should the speakers do it themselves? Both foreign and self-descriptions can quickly become embarrassing.

Many Problems

Finally, the question quickly becomes political: is it really relevant that someone is called Rössler but has Vietnamese ancestors? It shouldn't, but it does. Sighted persons cannot, so to speak, differentiate what is said from the appearance of the person speaking, as research in the field of gender perception shows. So it may indeed be that I perceive what is said differently if I know what the person looks like.

Another problem is that we get into an interpretation quite quickly. In my mid-40s, I'm not yet an "older person", but I already have a lot of grey hair. What is actually older, what is sporty, what is dark-skinned?

Another problem of a political nature is the demonstrative display of diversity: you see a company website with many different persons on the photos, who are then also described accordingly. And when you visit the company, you realise that it is by no means that diverse.

My conclusion: persons are naturally interested in what their conversation partners look like. This is also true for persons born fully blind, in my opinion. Even if you have never seen a person, you have perceived thousands of descriptions in books or radio plays, for example, and this does not pass you by without a trace. In the case of radio or dubbing actors, I often wonder what they look like, and in the case of the latter, whether they have any resemblance to the persons whose voices they take over in German. They almost never do, as far as I know.

Probably a good part of the zoom-fatigue comes from the fact that persons often leave their camera switched off. This means that visual communication is missing, i.e. looks, but also facial expressions.


This means that if persons like to describe themselves, they should do it themselves. They should simply decide for themselves what they want to describe. With an audience of strangers, I always briefly mention my visible disability, because I know that the sighted persons will ask themselves corresponding questions. I don't go into my ethnic background because I think it's irrelevant.

If the speakers don't like it, they shouldn't be forced to. But why should this be limited to events related to disability and diversity? It might be possible to prepare it in a way that it comes across as funny and not too over the top.

Of course, it would be nice if we could do it neutrally: An audio description for events would be nice, where a neutral moderator also describes such factors briefly.

Read more