A little strange title of this article for some maybe. Eye to eye is a relationship through which people daily interact with others. It is natural for non-verbal communication and is complementary to the verbal. For visually impaired people, such nonverbal communication is difficult to implement. Typically, the sighted wants to say something with his eyes but finds out that communication with the blind is impossible. Here comes the shock. What now? How to communicate with the other side? Are blind people able to understand if they make a verbal contact with them? Yes, the key to communicating with blind people is verbal communication, which remains the most complete in communication. In small towns, sighted people experience fear or misunderstanding, ignorance, and rarely communicate with the blind. The question is how to communicate with the blind. In order to remove the barrier there must be two sides of interaction. It is wrong that only seeing people should be the initiators of communication. The person without vision has the same responsibility in building the communication dialogue in society. It is even necessary in most cases to remove the barrier to communication. How do sighed define the faces of people without sight? Very often they are uncertain, timid, and as some say they are expressionless as faces of the sphinx, and visual contact for the seers is of great importance. When it is missing, it confuses the other person and he does not know how to react. He does not understand and often asks strange questions that would disrupt a blind person. How do you dress? How do you combine colors? Who cleaned you? Who’s cooking you? Questions of any kind can be asked. Obtaining an answer to such questions forms the perception and adequate communication of sighetd  with the blind people. The lack of awareness in society is the problem of asking such questions. It is wrong for a visually impaired person to think that viewers are hostile because they ask „strange“ questions that are sometimes stupid for him. A neat appearance of visually impaired people is  important to overcome the communication barrier. A false stance is the disclosure of blindness as an excuse to not seek communication and active inclusion in public life. It is not necessary to manifest self-centeredness, but to strive to overcome the difficulties equally with the sighted. Do not try to change them, but live in a way so that you can be side by side with them. It is difficult for blind people to integrate fully if they have only lived in their „world.“ And it is impossible to build bridges between sighted and blind people if both sides do not meet along the way. My friends shared that they were fascinated and amazed at everything I do. They were scared when they watched me while I was making coffee or preparing something to eat. They even tried to do something with their eyes closed. Many times I’ve been worried and I’ve been trying to hide my lack of vision and live as if I can see. Meeting employers, we must always show that we are accurate, diligent and carry out our duties despite the lack of vision. Accuracy and correctness are the things that open doors and „meet eye to eye“. Understanding sighted people is sometimes not an easy task, because you have to make much more effort, but success is satisfying. Letting them feel their mood and their attitude towards us without visual and verbal contact is almost art. The outlook, some gestures and the smile give a lot of useful information. The voice also gives information about the person we talk to. Intonation issues a relationship, the sound of the voice gives information about the person. A source of information is also the hand during shrug. The way of handshaking tells a lot about the person’s attitude. What are blind people like? Do you know them? Maybe you have relatives without vision, or you have recently lost vision yourself, or you do not see since you were a child. If you yourself have recently become blind, you will know that the character of the person does not change depending on their vision. It only changes its lifestyle and the person needs to acquire new skills to cope with the new challenges. Many blind people told me that when they lost sight, they lost a lot of their friends. Why is this happening? The reasons are always complex. They close themselves and stay at home; they do not want to go out because they worry, it’s difficult to accept the new situation, and they do not know what to do from now on. They do not know how they will live. Often their relatives do not know how to help them. Meanwhile, friendships with their friends are disrupted. It can be revived, but the the blind people have to make the first step. They must be the active side, because the sighted can do without the blind, but the blind can not do without the sighted. The world is suited for sighted people and it is becoming so more and more. To have friends, you must first be a friend. Friendship is the most valuable investment in life. Ten minutes of conversation with a friend is equal to an hour’s visit to a psychologist. If they could, doctors would „prescribe“ friends, not medication. A friend is also the one who will laugh at your stupid joke, he will sincerely enjoy your success, will come back to you as soon as you need it, or just offer you a  shoulder to cry in peace. Friendship is a valuable gift to be kept. We can find information about many blind people who are successful in different spheres of life. Succeeded in various professions, various sports, and even beauty competitions. I recently read about a young, beautiful and ambitious American who does not bother to appear on beauty contests with searing girls and wins awards. This shows that blind people have dreams and are ambitious no less than everyone else. They set goals and find ways to achieve them. We know that the higher the goals a person has, the higher his achievements are. There are also ambitious and successful blind people in Bulgaria. The blind masseurs who use  their skills to find the place of pain, the blind artists who paint with fingers and create art enjoyed by those who have eyesight, the musicians spreading virtuoso melodies around them and are glad that they give joy to others and many other blind people who, unselfishly, without envy of those who have sight, are trying to fit into their society. 20 years ago, blind people used to learn, work and live in closed societies. Their training was in special schools for blind children, they worked in specialized enterprises, and lived in the established complexes of blind people nearby. That’s why the sighted people did not know them. They did not know how to communicate with them, and therefore preferred to avoid them. Now, the larger percentage of blind children are educated in mass schools along with the others, so they learn to communicate with each other.

The attitude of the teachers to the blind children is very important. They can educate the sighted children and build an attitude of friendship and support. Thus children understand that the blind are like them, but because of lack of vision they write and read differently and need support in moving in an unfamiliar environment. When I went to the language school, I was not well accepted at first. Teachers did not want me, my classmates avoided me, but as we got closer, I became a favorite of my teachers and many of my classmates became my friends. I had  a teacher with a great heart and excellent pedagogical skills. She supported me and demanded that my classmates also support me. At first, it was their duty, but then we became close and there was no need for the teacher to remind them. I can use many examples of my life because I have communicated with both blind and visually impaired. It does not matter to me whether a person is with or without sight. I have noticed that there is always a withdrawal in the beginning, but after longer communication, barriers fall and everything becomes easy. I never criticized people for that. Probably I would do the same. I know that in most cases, the key is in us. Those who are blind should be behaving naturally, explain calmly when others think they are strange. There are already many organizations of and for the blind who are helping their integration and socialization by promoting their abilities. Exhibitions are made with their articles and works of art. The blind take part in literary and musical competitions and festivals equally with the sighted. I want to believe that people will increasingly open their hearts to each other, including the different ones, and new technologies will give the blind to a better, successful and independent life.

Stefka Stoycheva – expert at the NRCB