I was never one to attend school dances, mostly because of the flashing lights, loud music, and other less than ideal circumstances. However, I did attend my junior prom, as well as my senior prom, with my best friends as my dates. We managed to have a lot of fun, and later on my guidance counselor said that our prom groups for both years were the most fun people she had encountered. Here are my tips for going to prom, homecoming, ring dance, formal, or other school dances with vision impairment, including low vision and blindness, and photosensitivity.
It’s common for people to find an extravagant way to ask me to prom. Junior year, I didn’t have this because I had just transferred to the school two months earlier and didn’t know a lot of people, and my friend just sort of told me “hey, you’re going to the dance with me.” My friend asked me to senior prom informally a year in advance, but a few weeks before, my date wrote me a poem and sent it to me in large print. It had the ending line of “you’re the greatest friend that can be, so will you go to prom with me?”
Make sure you can easily move around in your clothing choice
This applies more for the ladies, but make sure that it is easy to move around and walk without falling in whatever clothes that you pick. At the two dances I attended in high school, many of the girls would take off their shoes the moment they got to the dance floor, but would often trip over their long dresses. I chose to wear flats the entire evening so I had traction and reduced my risk of falling- as my date put it, I trip over enough flat surfaces as it is, so there is no need to put me in high heels. If you use a blindness cane, make sure it can’t be caught in your dress or shoes either.
Taking pictures before the dance
Before the dance, the parents in our group took photos of all of us. If it is an issue, make sure to notify them that you are sensitive to flashing lights so that they know to turn the flash off. Also make sure that there are no obstacles in the picture that could pose an issue- for example, falling down a flight of stairs or into an open body of water. Also, make sure the photographer tells you where the camera is located so you aren’t staring into space. Read more tips about taking school pictures with low vision here.
Have your date familiarize themselves with being a human guide
While I didn’t use a blindness cane in high school, I had a habit of frequently running into walls, people, objects, and generally missing visual cues. Luckily, my prom date was my best friend who had gotten used to guiding me to all of my classes and alerting me to obstacles. It never hurts to remind your date that you have trouble seeing and may need additional help navigating at prom. Check out my post on how to be a human guide here.
Figure out the layout of the dance floor
At the beginning of the dance, my date described to me the location of the stairs leading to the dance floor, where we were sitting, the entrance/exit, and where poles were located. While I never was further away than arm’s reach from them, this was still very helpful information to remember in the event we got separated.
Request that photographer avoid your area
If bright, flashing lights in your face are a concern, talk to school administration and the photographer prior to the dance, and remind them again at the dance, to avoid taking photos of you or pointing the camera directly in your face. With the way that the dance floor was laid out, it was easy to avoid the flashing lights that were used, and the photographer was more than happy to accommodate our request.
If possible, ask for the event to not use blue and red flashing lights
This wasn’t a problem at my school, but a prom that another friend attended had pulsing red and blue lights that they described as seizure inducing- they had to sit out for a few minutes because of the lights, and they’re not even migraine or seizure prone. This is another good thing to talk about with school administration, as many students can get migraines or seizures triggered by these lights.
Have a place to hide out
There was a period of time at prom where a lot of unfamiliar, loud music and dancing was taking place, and my prom group and I decided to go hide out in the lobby of the hotel we were at. This helped prevent sensory overload and also gave us a break from dancing- since I couldn’t navigate to the tables near the dance floor easily, it was much easier for everyone to meet in the lobby.
Handling rude comments
I had a few people crack jokes about my date going to prom with someone who was visually impaired, and a few others asking me if I could even see what was going on. My best advice for this is to ignore the weird comments, or just laugh them off. It is not worth getting into an argument over.
Don’t be afraid to have fun!
Before the dance, I was very nervous about what to expect and was worried that something would go wrong. Luckily, my date was a totally awesome person, and my prom group was filled with awesome people as well. Prom is about spending time with your high school friends before you all graduate, and it’s a wonderful way to make memories.
I hope your prom is lots of fun!