How to Deal with a Blindy by Trevor Plumbly
The Perils of Being Partially Sighted
I first wrote something along these lines for an in-house magazine for visually impaired people with a view to putting a lighter slant on the daily problems that face the visually impaired. Being partially blind gives me an insight into both camps (excuse the pun); sure I use, and rely on, a white cane but unlike the majority of ‘blindies’ I do have some vision left: not enough to enjoy TV, but let’s face it, that might be a bit of a blessing along with the inability to read the paper. I do have enough vision to walk around without human or canine assistance and that allows me the opportunity to take a jaundiced view of how people cope with coming into contact with a ‘blindy’. Most, it’s fair to say, approach it with a sort of cautious politeness tinged with hesitancy, which I find gives me a bolthole should I feel the need; others tend to look for their own bolthole; whilst the remainder adopt your mobility and wellbeing as their personal crusade. Stranger contact is a problem for ‘blindies’: well-wishing these helpers might be, but most have little idea of how uncomfortable we get being physically reliant on a stranger’s judgement. So I thought I’d use the blog site to list a few of my do’s and don’ts for ‘sighties’.
Out on the Mean Streets
Footpaths are a moveable feast for pedestrian reaction to ‘blindies’. Attitudes range from:
- ‘The frozen deer in the headlight.’ Just keep walking the same line just outside my cane movement; for goodness sake, I’m the one with the problem not you.
- ‘The leper like avoidance.’ Thanks for the space folks, but last I heard blindness wasn’t contagious.
- ‘The last second matadorial sidestep’. My personal favourite, this is a complicated manoeuvre: on a solo basis it is usually performed with the aid of a cellphone. The performer, finally realising that collision point is nigh, does a sort of tip-toe hip swivel with silent balletic grace. Two performers or more do it by splitting ranks, rather like an old fashioned chorus line, while the spokesperson gushes “I am so sorry!” before closing ranks again to thwart the next poor sod trying to get from A to B with a handicap.
- Mention could be made of those who skateboard or use the footpath as a cycle track but on that issue polite or even educated words fail me.
Hazards at Every Turn
I’m finding it difficult to have a good moan in a caring way but such is the import of my message I must press on:
- Bus drivers please, please don’t say “take your ticket’ – I’d be more than happy to do that if I knew where the damn ticket was.
- Bank and Post Office staff don’t ask me to “sign there” – ‘there’ is uncharted territory for ‘blindies’: we know it exists, but the ‘sighties’ have got the only maps.
- Then there are those who seem unable to hold a normal conversation, either talking slower or addressing their comments above my shoulders or, worst of all, to a sighted companion. For goodness’ sake! I have a sight problem; I’m not deaf or incapable of intelligent thought and I certainly don’t appreciate being treated like a spare part.
- Finally there are the ‘hoverers’: they aren’t creatures from a Stephen King novel, just ordinary well-meaning folk who feel that by attempting basic daily tasks to maintain some independence, we’re placing ourselves in mortal danger. Free range hoverers tend to stick to intersections, swooping on ‘blindies’ with a missionary fervour that’s pretty hard to resist even if you don’t want to cross the road. In cases like that it’s easier to just go along with it as there’s sure to be another one lurking at the next corner anxious to take you back over. Domestic hoverers are a ‘blindy’s’ nightmare, they simply cannot cope with seeing us performing ordinary household jobs and hover close by, biting the temptation to take over the perilous task of washing up or ironing. Thanks folks I know you mean well and I love you for it, but regardless of success I enjoy making an effort and if I stuff it up at least I’ve stuffed it up trying.
But even for a grumpy old bugger, you’ll be pleased to know, it’s not all gloom: Air New Zealand staff one and all take a bow; you’re all stars, cheerful and obliging without overdoing it. Sadly I can only mention the best in my Auckland area but Delia at Richmond Road Superette is always helpful and a pleasure to visit, as is Shayne at Sliders bar on Ponsonby Road (got to be the best). Last but by no means least, Harrison and Graham the Optometrists in Jervois Road, Ponsonby, for their unfailing good old-fashioned service.