Over the past year several people have asked whether I feel at risk when I walk on my own with Fiji. Recently a neighbour told me she thought I was very brave considering how prevalent crime is nowadays.
The thing is, I’m not totally oblivious to what goes on in the world around me, so I’m aware we have had a few incidents in the neighbourhood over the past few years, but I’m also not going to let myself be dictated to by a fear of something that might remotely possibly happen one day – if I were to let that determine my actions I’d never do anything!
Of course I do take precautions – when I’m out and about with Fiji I’m constantly listening to what is happening around me, and not just to hear cars and other movable obstacles! I’ve built up a good network amongst members of my community and know from experience that they look out for me as they go about their daily business. When I travel by Uber I send a link of my trip to whomever I’m going to visit. Of course I realize that being blind makes me a softer target for anyone who feels inclined to try and take advantage of my lack of sight than I would otherwise be – I’m not stupid, after all!
But I will not become paranoid and let that paranoia control my life and stop me from doing what I want to – any more than I’ll let my blindness determine the life I’m capable of living!
I love living in Cape Town. But I have to admit this isn’t my favourite time of year – yes, the summer weather is warm and everything… but it’s also the time that we are plagued with heavy winds. For many people, the heavy wind is something of an inconvenience. But for those of us without sight, it’s a significantly bigger problem!
As a blind person I rely heavily on my sense of hearing, especially when crossing roads – I need to listen to what the traffic is doing so Fiji and I can cross safely. Heavy wind distorts or masks the sound of cars and that makes it significantly harder for Fiji and me to navigate our immediate environment. Do you know what it’s like having a car appear as if by magic right behind you?
I’ve been trying to find a sighted equivalent and came up with the concept that it’s probably a little like a sighted person trying to find their way through a heavy snowfall, or perhaps a dense fog. The point is that to all intents and purposes you’re deprived of a sense that you generally use to find your way round. That’s what walking in heavy wind is like for me.
Not much fun, is it?
I admit that I was very pleasantly surprised on one occasion when we were waiting to cross Main road in heavy wind. A traffic policewoman approached and offered to stop traffic so we could cross. Of course, that happened to be the day I had someone walking with me so I didn’t really need her help. But it just goes to show that the saying that there’s never a policeman around when you need one isn’t always true!
So, the next time the wind starts howling, try to visualise yourself peering desperately through a snowfall or impenetrable fog… and spare a thought for Fiji and me standing on the side of a road straining to hear the growl of car engines between the gusts of wind.