Either useless or magicians

I’ve discussed here before about some of the ways that disabled people are kept on the edges, either talked down to and ignored, or gushingly over-affirmed, super-heroes, or tragic victims, . My friend Ian Stanton wrote a song ‘Tragic but brave’ in the mid 1990s about this - the polarised positioning that disabled people are forced into as it is far easier to keep us on the under or over-stated margins than to be in the middle ground that most other people inhabit.   An encounter the other day drew me back to think about all this and about the particular slant that describes blind people’s ‘specialness’. There is apparently an inability to cope with (or talk about) what blindness  represents in terms of the reality of living, working, or dealing with the world without sight. they simply can’t fit it into any of their standard ways of understanding.  So they think that we are either far cleverer than we are, or completely useless.   I’ve  talked a lot about all those diminishing things


I’ve been writing this blog for over a year now… And such an unusual year. Within a month, going into the first lockdown, working from home, remote working, social distancing, ‘bubbles, mask-wearing and relative isolation. I’ve written over 70 posts so far and they have given me the opportunity to explore my life as a blind person, recount stories of ridiculousness, ignorance and prejudice; to describe   what seem to be the increasing barriers offered by technology alongside its massive potential and accessibility. I’ve used this blog to explore issues like eye contact, assumptions, patronisation and discrimination…   …And it has been fun too. I hope I’ve managed to bring humour to my writing about at least some of the encounters I’ve had.   Thanks for reading it and to those of you who follow it.  I appreciate you reading it and to the people who comment (both on the blog and to me personally).      

Current responses to access

I’m writing this after using just three of many possible examples in the three previous posts (NHS Physios and shopping centre security guards) who were apparently unable to stop themselves gesticulating directions to me even though I carry a white stick and explained what I needed from them.   While it seems that there is an increasing number of people who really don’t recognise what a white stick represents and what it might mean in terms of communicating (e.g. for directions etc), I think there is an even  larger body of people who either can’t or won’t think what not being able to see might mean.   In some cases, the tone of voice indicates a stubbornness, an irritation with being asked to do something different, but more often there seems to be some societal lack of thinking, or inability to think independently  with an associated  need to be told before they can act.   This has, I judge  been reflected in a shift in equalities practice in some organisations where the focus is on

At the physiotherapist

A few years ago, I had a bad fall and caused some damage to my knee. I was referred for a course of NHS physiotherapy  . I naturally enough thought that they would have come across blind people as patients before and to have some level of training and understanding about how to make their practice accessible to visually impaired patients (or those with any other impairment). However,  this turned out not to be the case.   Over a period of months with regular visits, each time seeing different physiotherapists from the team, I was surprised  that while they all clearly understood that my white stick represented blindness, few had any understanding of what it meant in practice – that association between blindness and not being able to see seemed to have missed them.   While a couple of women did understand it and adapted their practice accordingly, I was surprised that the others (mainly the men) seemed to take it in verbally, but couldn’t stop pointing, saying: “watch me”, “like this” “

Over there (part 24)

Outside the Apple Shop in Bristol0020last Friday, asking the security guy how I book an appointment (they have a new outdoor COVID-safe queueing system).   Him: “The queue’s over there” of pointed directions)   Me: “I’m blind, I can’t see where you’re pointing”. (he points but I can’t see enough to make any use   Him: “the queue’s over there, speak to that gentleman over there”. (pointing again)   Me: “As I said, I’m blind, this is a white stick, you’ll need to show me where to go.”   Him: “go and see the man over there, he’ll book you in” (continuing to point but sounding frustrated).   Me: “well you’re clearly not going to help “ (I walked off).   I have since complained to Apple as they don’t provide the security (which is provided by the shopping centre).  

Over there (part 23)

Entering Bristol’s Cabbott Circus for the first time in over a year on Friday afternoon, I found myself approaching a barrier and a guy behind it, shouting at me:   Him: “Over there, go over there”.   I realised that the normally open entrance must have been closed off to provide safe control of people for COVID-safety reasons, but can’t see enough to make out signage or his gesticulations.   Me: “Can you tell me which direction you want me to go in please, I’m blind and can’t see where you’re pointing”   Him: “go over there!”   Me: “Do you mean left or right?”   Him: “you want to go left or right? Go over there”   Me: “I’m blind, this is a white stick, it means that I can’t see, I just need you to tell me which way to go”   Him: “I don’t know whether you’re blind, deaf or whatever unless you tell me”   I then realised that he was indicating a one way system as I saw people going in on my left and out on my right.   I started to walk away and then thought better of it.   Me: “I just wa

They just can't help themselves

I went for my first COVID vaccination at the beginning of March at my local health centre. After (fairly logically) queueing outside the main entrance for 10 minutes, I learned through overhearing a conversation at the front of the queue that the vaccinations were taking place in another part of the building with a different entrance. The health centre  had not thought to communicate this to their patients in advance as the written signs were expected to do the trick for everyone. The receptionist on the door apparently suffered from the (not uncommon) white stick blindness, and I realised that she was using gesticulations to indicate the direction I needed. After having explained that the white stick meant that I couldn’t see enough to follow her directions, I eventually found my own way to the correct (tucked away and locked) entrance. I (perhaps too politely) suggested that it would have been helpful if they could have tagged visually impaired patients in their database giving us cl