Date: 24 March 2020
Category: Disability Awareness, Audio,
**Craig, not sure if the podcast link will provide us with an image; please let me know
You’re walking down a road and see a person with a guide dog or a white cane approaching you. Do you offer to assist them? And if so, how?
One day, an elderly woman grabbed my arm and propelled me across a busy road. Then she walked off, no doubt feeling good for assisting the poor blind lady. Here’s the thing – I didn’t need to cross that road. But she didn’t give me the chance to say so.
The topic of how to engage with a visually impaired person and offer help became a hot topic on social media recently, due primarily to Dr Amy Kavanagh’s #JustAskDontGrab campaign. The campaign aims to change the way sighted people offer assistance to those of us in the VVI (blind and visually impaired) community.
In many ways I agree with the aims of the campaign. If I’m standing at the top of a flight of stairs figuring out the safest way to navigate them, I might get startled if someone suddenly reaches out and grabs my arm. It puts me at risk of losing my balance and falling down those stairs. So, #JustAskDontGrab has its place.
But truthfully, it’s a bit more complicated than that. What if there isn’t time to connect verbally before I put myself into danger? What if it’s a noisy or busy environment where I might not realize you’re talking to me? You need to consider what’s happening there and then.
But here’s the thing, most blind and visually impaired people who are out in the world are very capable of navigating our way around it. Almost all of the time. Except for the very rare occasion when we’re not. And we’ll usually ask if we need help.
Am I saying you should never offer assistance to a member of the VBI community? By no means. Because maybe it’s the one time we actually do need assistance. Just please, , rather than reaching out and grabbing our arm, or our guide dog, rather verbally ask if we need help. And, if you think we might not hear you, lightly touch our arm and then ask.
It sounds so simple, right? Yet, there’s so much happening in that moment that you reach out – metaphorically, of course – to offer assistance. And that’s the subject of a conversation Jeff Thompson, of the Blind Abilities Podcast Network, and I had a few weeks ago.
I’d love for you to listen to the podcast and let me know what you think. Whether you’re sighted or a member of the VBI community, I’m interested to know your thoughts.
Besides, you never know – it may help next time you’re walking down the road and see a person with a guide dog or white cane and try to figure out whether or not to offer assistance.
This month’s song is another early one. And, this time, I can play you a version of the song – though I had to dive quite deep into the musical archives to find it! It’s a song called Cabin Fever State of Mind and, as far as I remember, has been played twice live on stage, once on my own and once with a full band, with Craig’s sister, Sally on backing vocals.
Here are the lyrics, and the link to the song is at the end of the post – it’s a very early recording and isn’t great but hey, you asked me to share a recording this time round and I listened…
Cabin Fever State of Mind – by Lois Strachan
I’ve been staring at these four walls all day.
But the hardest wish won’t wish them away.
And I feel I’m trapped here all alone,
In this cabin beneath these drifts of snow.
Pacing in circles round the room.
But there’s no way out and no way in
And I feel like I’ve been here all my life,
In this cabin fever state of mind.
There must be a corner or a place to hide
From the thoughts that are starting to drive me wild.
But there’s nowhere to run, and there’s nowhere to hide
From this cabin fever state of mind.
And here in a corner of my snowbound mind
Insanity smiles and marks her time
Waiting for a signal, searching for a sign
Through this cabin fever state of mind
There must be a corner or a place to hide
From the thoughts that are starting to drive me wild
But there’s nowhere to run and there’s nowhere to hide
From this cabin fever state of mind.
And here I sit and wait to fall
A victim to my own four walls.
A prisoner in space and time
In this cabin fever state of mind.
As someone who’s been travelling for a number of years with a visual impairment, I’m familiar with the assistance and support that I need to put in place to assist me to travel. Whether I’m travelling with a sighted companion or travelling on my own, I know the help I require and how to ensure I arrange for it ahead of time. For me, this includes assistance at the airport, transport to and from the airport, and ensuring that my needs – and those of my guide dog, if Fiji is with me – can be accommodated at the place I’m staying.
But what about a person with a disability who hasn’t travelled before? How do they become aware of the assistance that they can tap into?
I had the opportunity to interview a gentleman named Saul Molobi on my accessible travel podcast, A Different Way of Travelling. Saul shared the story of his first overseas trip since becoming mobility impaired three years ago. I listened as he described accommodations at the airport and the hotel that should have been there, and weren’t. And the impact the lack of those services had on his journey. And I found myself thinking, “That’s not how it’s meant to happen!”
I guess, for those of us who have travelled regularly with a disability, it’s almost automatic that we spend time researching what facilities and services are available to assist us when we travel Yes, it takes time. Yes, it’s sometimes frustrating when we don’t find it easy to identify whether or not a service provider can accommodate our needs. And yes, sometimes we put everything in place and yet it’s not there when we arrive. But at least we know what we need to look for and request. Because we’ve learned by experience – most often from what’s gone wrong before.
I’d like to think my podcast can be a resource to help people to overcome some of the challenges of travelling with a disability, so they don’t need to face so many barriers to a positive travel experience. I’ve never thought of it before, but the information shared by the people I interview can be of immense value to other travellers who may not have travelled as much as some of us have. At least, I hope so.
Going back to the interview with Saul. You may be thinking that it landed up being a sad, depressing interview. On the contrary, I think it’s one of the most inspiring stories I’ve shared so far – Saul kept reinforcing how liberating it was for him to know he could overcome the barriers he faced, and how satisfying it was for him to be able to successfully travel on his own for the first time. Sure, he struggled with certain aspects of the trip, but he said he knows what he needs to do differently when he travels next time.
Even if you have no interest in accessible travel, I think you should listen to Saul’s story – it’s a story of courage, tenacity and triumph over adversity. And it was an honour for me to be able to share the story on the podcast.
You can find Saul’s story here: http://iono.fm/e/797930
It’s about time I shared some of my experiences from when I went to Makhanda to perform in the National Arts Festival in June.
And where better to start than with a clip of an interview I gave for Algoa FM shortly before heading out of Cape Town.
The clip explains a little about what I was going to be doing at the National Arts Festival, and the show in which I was playing some of my music – hopefully it’ll give you an introduction to my next few articles.
One of the other performers, pianist Michelle Nel, and I were also interviewed on SAFM and I’ll try to share that interview with you as soon as I get a copy from the radio station.
I still find it difficult to find words to explain exactly what the experience of being selected to perform in a show at the National Arts Festival meant to me. But I’ll try to do so over the coming weeks.
I hope you’ll join me for the remainder of my amazing adventure!
Let’s take a short break from the heat of Kolkata and return briefly to Cape Town…
Here’s a recent interview I did with Andre du Toit, the Big Positive Guy on Smile FM. The interview was broadcast on the Honest Truth Show with Benito Vergotine shortly before I left for India.
Hope you enjoy it.
Next time we’ll be returning to India for a cricket match… or maybe a rock concert. You’ll have to join us next time to find out which it was.
You wouldn’t believe how often people ask me why I travel. The assumption seems to be that there’s no value in going to destinations because I can’t “sightsee” with my eyes.
If I were to ask a sighted person why they travel I’d probably get an answer along the lines of “I travel to see new places and different cultures,” or “To broaden my mind”. I travel for exactly the same reason, with the very subtle difference that I go to experience new places and cultures – in other words, all that’s different is that I use senses other than my sight to do so.
When people ask why I travel what they’re actually asking is *how* do I travel. Which is a totally different question and is about the techniques I use.
If you’d like to know the answer to that question, here’s a brief presentation I gave where I look at some of the preparation I do before a trip, and a little about how I create a sensory experience when I “site-experience” – hope you enjoy it!
For almost two years I’ve wanted to start a podcast. I knew what my podcast would be about, who my target audience would be and some of the people I’d like to interview. But somehow I never got round to making my ideas a reality. And it seemed that my podcast would be added to the ever-growing list of things I’d do “when I got round to it”.
Then I met a lady named Deirdre Gower, who runs a website on travel for people with a disability. The Accessible South Africa platform has information on services, accommodation, activities and venues that accommodate the needs of disabled people. And I totally fell in love with what Deirdre’s trying to do!
In one of our conversations Deirdre said she’d like to start an Accessible South Africa podcast… and suddenly fireworks started going off in my head…
We now have three episodes of the Accessible South Africa Travel Podcast out and I’m having so much fun interviewing people who are out there seeing the world despite their disability, and service providers who are making their services available to disabled travelers.
If you’re interested in travel, love inspiring stories, or are curious to learn more about how people with disabilities travel the world, and some of the wonderful travel experiences that are making their services inclusive to all, this podcast is for you – we’re not just there for the disabled community.
Subscribe to the podcast here: https://iono.fm/c/3715, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. And browse through the resources and information on the Accessible South Africa website: www.accessiblesouthafrica.co.za
When I started as the travel feature writer for the Blind Perspective e-newsletter earlier this year I never dreamed one of my articles would land up on an American radio service. But that’s what happened.
A while back I received a mail from one of the producers at Gatewave Radio in New York asking if they could read one of my Blind Perspective articles on air.
Of course I said yes.
I asked them for a link to the recording. Here it is so you can hear it for yourself:
Next time I’ll return to my amazing European trip and our final destination – Berlin!
A few weeks ago I shared a recording of the interview I did with Karen Key on the SAFM monthly Disability Report. During that interview the topic of how much I love travelling came up and I tried to explain how I see unknown places using my other senses.
As I left the studio I happened to mention to Karen that I was leaving for Greece shortly.
Her instant response was to invite me as a guest on one of her other shows -Time to Travel.
Here’s a recording of that second SAFM interview – hope you enjoy it!
Seems I’m getting more and more opportunities to talk about my experiences as The Blind Tourist in
Fiji and I had great fun going to the SABC in Cape Town to be interviewed for the Disability Report on SAFM. You can hear the interview with Karen Key here.
I was very impressed with how quietly Fiji sat while Karen and I were talking – I doubt you’ll hear even a clink of her doggy tags despite the fact we were in a soundproofed recording studio with ambient microphones.
Imagine how startled I was to discover that Karen’s mother had heard me speak and had bought a copy of my book, “A Different Way of Seeing mere weeks before the interview – it really is a very small world!
Hope you enjoy listening to the interview… I’ll share more audio and video recordings in a few weeks