Rules for Blind Dates
How to Make a Good First Impression
by Phyllis Campbell
Staunton, Virginia

When I was a little girl I thought that a blind date meant a date just for blind couples, and was quite shocked when my sister set me straight. Actually I still couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. Both my sister and I were blind, and she, at least, went on dates, so why were people talking about a date where they hadn't ever before seen the person. Oh, yes, I'm older, wiser and possibly sadder, but I still find myself smiling sometimes when I hear the term. Speaking strictly, all of my dates were blind dates, and sometimes the dating partner was blind, too, which brings me finally to the point of this article in case you were wondering.

Often one of the first questions people ask me when I'm introduced for the first time or when I'm speaking to a group is, "Can your husband see?" It's almost a fascination to some people, but please don't ask me why, because I haven't the foggiest notion. It also seems to be an important topic among those who are dating. "Do I want to date another blind person, or should I only date someone who can see?"

Okay, if you're seriously considering marriage, better consider the subject carefully as you are probably planning the rest of your life. That, however, to quote the Victorian writers, dear reader, is a subject to be discussed later. Right now we're only discussing dinner or a movie!

Seriously, the choice of a dating partner should be based, not on sight or lack of sight, but on mutual interest and compatibility, somebody you like and have fun with. You most certainly don't want to go out with someone who talks about something which couldn't interest you less, even though he/she can see.

Do you wonder if your sighted friends will think you're isolating yourself in a "world of the blind" if you date someone who is blind? Some people do, and although I'm in sympathy with their need to create a "normal" image, they need to consider the person they might date, the real person, rather than an image, unless their image means more than a possible good time.

So, you've decided either to issue or accept the invitation to a date with another blind person. There are special considerations no matter the level of independence you and your date have achieved or want to achieve.

There is that ever important challenge of transportation, which is a crucial consideration for anyone who doesn't drive. Plan your destination carefully with public transportation in mind. If you have never been to the place before, and feel a bit nervous about the surroundings, try to get someone to describe it to you. Quite possibly overkill, but consider your consternation if you pay your cab driver, and you and your date walk confidently toward the door of a restaurant. Perhaps you're talking, sure that you will come to the door and walk through to be greeted by the hostess who will show you to your table. Piece of cake! Only the cake falls along with you when you suddenly discover that the quaint little restaurant is down a flight of steps, and you have become a bit careless with your cane technique while you and your date are talking. "But I have a dog," you say in triumph. That will certainly avoid the steps surprise, but many restaurants are difficult to negotiate with tables situated close together. You always need to be vigilant about keeping your dog close. Theaters can be especially tricky, so if possible, find out how the venue is arranged.

Many restaurants have menus in braille. Don't hesitate to ask if a braille menu is available, and if not, ask that the menu be read.

Now we come to something which may not affect all of you, but about which many are extremely sensitive. Your plate arrives. You know what you ordered, but how the heck is it arranged, and where's my drink? Ask! Don't want to look helpless? Well, you aren't helpless, but trust me, a discrete query about the arrangement of your food doesn't appear nearly as helpless as sticking your finger in the gravy.

One of my favorite stories, and one which demonstrates this point, took place in a fancy restaurant just before Christmas several years ago. I was invited to bring the chorus from the school for the blind to perform for the Lions Club. Before we left the bus I delivered a lecture on manners, telling them that they could pick up their fried chicken, and ending with, "But for goodness sake, don't attempt to pick up the mashed potatoes," a remark which haunts me to this day, even though the kids knew I was just teasing them.

The houseparent who accompanied us walked with me through the food line, and asked if she could do anything else, when we got back to the table.

"No, thank you, Ann, I'm fine," just as I stuck my finger in my mashed potatoes, aiming for my roll. Who learned a lesson!

This date is supposed to be fun so order something you feel you can manage comfortably. Spaghetti, barbecue ribs, shellfish, soup and salad are usually not advised on a first date. Choose something you can manage easily with a knife and fork. If you feel uncomfortable about cutting your meat, but you really want that steak, go ahead and order it. Ask if your meat can be cut by the chef. Many of us do this, and the service is performed graciously.

Many restaurants add the tip (gratuity) to the cost of the meal, while others expect you to include the tip when you pay the bill or simply leave the tip for your server. If you're not sure, ask when you make the reservation or call for directions. Many restaurants have Web sites, and you can often read the menu and learn the restaurant's policy online before your visit.

How much to tip? For tipping the wait staff at a restaurant the amount is usually 15 to 20 percent of the bill. So, if your bill is $50, 10 percent is $5, which means you would simply double it for 20 percent, leaving a $10 tip. National Braille Press published the TIPPING GUIDE, a small book that is available in braille, PortaBook CD or download for $5. This handy guide gives standard tipping information for the United States and Canada. For information or to order, call 888-965-8965 or visit .

Often you can pay your bill at the table and give your server the tip at the same time. If you pay on the way out and you are unsure how to find the cashier, ask the server for guidance. First try to listen though as you can usually hear other guests paying.

I have concentrated on dinner or lunch out, but many of these tips will apply no matter where you go, and one advantage to dating someone who is blind is that he or she has faced these problems before, or at least understands them. If I were asked what the most important thing is in dating for blind people, I would say planning, but a final word. Don't let all of the details detract from the purpose of the date. Relax and have fun.

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