Rick and Alysia Wells have been married for ten years, and they are both blind. He works at home in the computer field and she is a social worker in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. His blindness came in 1983 from neurovascular glaucoma, and hers at age two due to cancer of the retina.
And they have food for thought for anyone interacting with a blind person.
‘One of my pet peeves is when someone pets or begins talking to me about my guide dog as I’m trying to pay a bill at the cash register (of a business or restaurant),’ said 53-year-old Rick Wells in a telephone interview. ‘That distracts me from counting my money. It happened again today and last Saturday.’
Like most blind people, Rick folds his paper money certain ways to keep the various denominations straight in his billfold. Distractions often lead to mistakes, which can cost him money.
Another concern is hybrid cars. ‘They’re so quiet, you don’t realize they are there,’ he said. ‘When I want to cross a street, I’ll first tell my dog to cross, and when he doesn’t (because of a hybrid) I’ll get irritated. Thank goodness he’s correct.’
Rick believes governments should require that hybrids make some noise because on windy days they are virtually impossible to hear. On the flip side, Rick has trouble hearing passing traffic when drivers play loud car radios.
And when he’s trying to cross a busy street? ‘Sometimes people beep at me, but I don’t know whether they’re beeping for me to stop or to cross,’ he said. What he finds most strange is when drivers stop and then wave him on to cross.
The Wellses were in Orlando, Florida, recently on vacation. A man came up to them there without identifying himself, and asked, ‘Do you know who this is?’ It was someone Rick hadn’t talked with in about two years and the ensuing guessing game became irritating. ‘Blindness shouldn’t be a party trick,’ said Rick.
Due to his blindness, many people assume he has extraordinary hearing. Other people believe his blindness automatically qualifies him to be the next great piano player or singer, like Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, or Ronnie Milsap.
Back when he was becoming blind in 1983, Rick often joked to friends, ‘At least I’m going to be able to sing and play the piano.’