I’ve been rereading my book,” A Different Way of Seeing – A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an ‘Ordinary’ Life in an Extraordinary Way”, before starting the journey of turning it into an audio book. I can’t tell you how many people have asked if the book’s available on Audible. I’ve been meaning to get it into audio for some time – and that time is now!
It’s been really interesting comparing the person I am now to the me who wrote the book three years ago. In truth, it’s been quite a revelation!
Here’s some of the things that’ve struck me:
- How much my writing style’s evolved –I’m over the moon when people who’ve read my book tell me I write just like I speak. I wanted the book to have a conversational tone and people tell me that’s how they feel, too. I also feel my writing “voice” has developed from writing regular blogposts. But I frowned when I reread my book because my language was more formal than I remembered– “It is” instead of “It’s”, “I have not” instead of “I haven’t”, just for two simple examples. And I’m worried the audio version will sound unnaturally stilted because of the language unless I change it a little.
- How much has changed–the number of things I’m doing that I wasn’t doing then, like podcasting, playing the occasional game on my iPhone, using online meeting software to run interviews, and becoming more involved in the accessible travel community; how much the work I’m doing has been refined; how much more comfortable I’ve become in trying new technologies; how much Fiji and I have grown and developed as a team, to name but a few of the ways my life has changed since writing the book.
- How much I’ve learned– time and time again I found mention of tasks I couldn’t do without sighted assistance at the time of writing that I now do on my own using technology. Often I’d smile at my prior self, knowing how more independent I’d soon become. Not to mention shaking my head in wonder at a few things I considered improbable, if not impossible, back then that are now also completely routine to me.
It’s been a valuable experience for me and given me plenty time to reflect on my growth.
Some of you may be wondering why I’m going to the trouble of rereading my own book just to turn it into an audio book. The answer is that I plan to update the content for the audio version. Because, while most of what I included is still relevant, the things that have changed are so significant that they’ve altered how I do things which, after all, is what my book’s about.
I’ll keep you updated on how things are going as I carry on with this journey – most of the details are still vague, but I’m keeping my eyes firmly on the prize!
I was chatting to a professional photographer while waiting to soundcheck for my set at the Inclusive Arts Festival at the Artscape Theatre in Cape Town last weekend. You can imagine my reaction when he said with utter conviction that he wouldn’t cope if he were disabled since he couldn’t bear being totally dependent on others.
Naturally this engaged the inner coach in me – I started asking questions about the assumptions he was making about disability, independence and dependence and ability. And it turned into a short but fascinating conversation about how many people view disability.
I’ve found that conversation spinning in my brain for the past few days and it’s given rise to several thoughts on the topic.
I suspect it’s going to take me a few articles to think through all the aspects of this question that have been percolating in my mind, so be warned… this is the first of a series that’ll look into what I believe independence means to someone with a disability, the concept of independence as a continuum rather than an absolute, some of the tools that give us greater independence, and why so often a disabled person feels that asking for help constitutes a failure on their part.
Finally, I find myself feeling intensely frustrated… saddened… surprised that someone who had spent a week immersed in the world of performers with disabilities could be so blind to the talent, skill and, above all, the independence they showed. How could he have missed it – it was right in front of his eyes…
It’s no secret that people often become nervous when using words that reference disability, and I get that. They don’t want to upset us, or make us feel in any way diminished by the term they use. And I get that too. In fact, I’m not even sure I know what term I should use to describe my own lack of sight.
I don’t really like the word disability because I don’t consider myself unable or incapable. I’m also not wild about the term visually impaired since I really don’t think I’m broken or damaged. Nor does the term differently abled resonate with me – I promise you my abilities are no different from yours; it’s only my methods that differ.
I guess it’s not the actual terminology that I struggle with. It’s the implications that each term carries. And when it comes right down to it, I have the choice of whether or not to take on the emotional implications of the terms
And neither do you.
“What?” I hear you ask, “What on earth do you mean by that?”
Well, you’d be amazed how often I’ll be talking to someone who gets completely tongue-tied when they need to refer to my blindness. They stammer, turn almost audibly red, and then mutter the dreaded “b”, “v” or “d” word as if it’s something heinous.
it doesn’t really matter to me what words you use – I don’t have to take on any of the emotional baggage that most of the terms carry. For me blindness is a reality, not a problem and, while I may be labelled disabled, it certainly doesn’t mean I’m in any way disempowered.
So use whatever term you’re most comfortable with… just don’t mumble it as if it’s something unmentionable.
PS: I feel I ought to warn you that not all visually impaired people share my view and have strong preferences of the terms you use – as a piece of advice I’d suggest you ask them what works for them!