I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’d like people to know about my life as a blind person – things that I wish were more commonly known that would foster greater inclusion of the visually impaired community into society and the workplace. Because they would help people to understand my world a little better.
I thought it might be useful to share some of the things I wish people knew about blindness in general, and my blindness in particular. This is the first of a series of articles in which I’m going to do just that.
The first thing I’d like you to know is that we are not all the same.
I understand how tempting it is to assume that all blind people are the same – that we all use the same techniques, can do the same things, and have the same preferences. But it is just not true. We are all different. While we may have blindness in common, we are individual people with individual strengths, skills, likes and dislikes. And we may use different techniques to accomplish a task. I have blind friends who can do things that I cannot. And visa versa.
Let me give you a few examples.
I am a guide dog user. I love having the ability of navigating the world around me with my beautiful Fiji walking beside me. Many of my visually impaired friends prefer to use a white cane. Both are effective ways of getting around. Neither is better than the other. They are simply different.
I am not a braille user. I know how to read braille, but prefer accessing information on my computer using a screen reader, which is an audio programme that reads what is on the screen. That’s just my preference. Yet I know of many blind and visually impaired people who prefer using braille to access information. They have a braille display for their computer, read books in braille, and use a braille keyboard on their smart phone. Others may use a combination of audio and braille. It depends on each person’s preference.
A few months ago, my husband and I went to our local Mugg & Bean. I was presented with a braille menu. Which would probably have taken me a month to read – while I know the alphabet, my braille reading skills are almost non-existent. At the same time, I think it is commendable that the Mugg & Bean chain have braille menus for those who need them. Because many visually impaired customers will appreciate them.
I feel I ought to repeat the point of this article – to show that each individual blind or visually impaired person is unique. Some of my visually impaired friends will probably disagree with some of the articles I write in this series. And some will agree. Because we are not all the same.
So, while I would love for you to join me for this whole series of articles, please don’t fall into the assumption that what is true for me is also true for any other blind person you encounter. Chances are that they will feel much as I do – but it’s always better to take a little time to ask them about their own experiences and preferences.
Any idea what I’m going to write about next? Why not join me next week and find out…
The other day I was finishing off editing a recording I’d made of one of my presentations when I stopped dead in my tracks and realized what I was doing. Now, that may not be a shocking statement to you, but try to see it from my perspective. I… was editing…. A recording…. I had made – me, the woman who revealed in her book, “A Different Way of Seeing: A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an ‘Ordinary’ Life in an Extraordinary Way”, that she had a love-hate relationship with technology and was secretly terrified of breaking the internet… editing a voice recording of a speech totally without sighted help – wow!
I’m not saying I’ve suddenly become a total wizard at technology. Nor am I claiming to have the (to me) remarkable skills that some of my blind friends who are web developers, podcasters, musicians, and assistive technology trainers do… but I feel justified in feeling a little bit proud of my ability to keep learning and growing my skills.
Over the next few weeks I’ll share some of my recordings with you – a few of my speeches and a few radio interviews. Some of those I’ll share will be ones I’ve edited and others will come from other sources.
I hope you enjoy them!
Don’t you think this is an amazing event? My mom and I will be the main speakers at this year’s annual SA Guide-Dog fundraising dinner in Cape Town. Okay, admittedly mom will be the one doing the speaking, but you can bet I’ll be the proudest, waggiest guide dog at the event!
In fact, I’m sure there will be lots of guide dogs and guide and service dogs-in-training there so, not only will mom get a chance to hobnob with some movers and shakers of Cape Town society… but there’ll be plenty canine moving and shaking going on as well – it’s going to be sooooo much fun!
What’s more, the dinner will be a fundraising event to help raise money to train and support more guide-dogs for visually impaired people like mom in and around Cape Town, so it’s definitely for a very good cause.
I just can’t wait to see my doggy and human friends from the SA Guide-Dog Association this weekend… and would also love to see you there – details on how to book your tickets in the advert
Umm, did I mention there will be supper, too? I wonder if they’re going to cater for all us dogs as well?