Promoting awareness through 'telling our stories'

You might think that a blogger who’s prepared to publicly share his experiences, thoughts, analysis and irritations so readily would be in favour of disabled people ‘telling their stories’ as a vehicle for improving awareness of disability. Well I’m not.   Many disabled people have been asked at some time in their lives, to talk to their colleagues, doctors/health workers etc about themselves and their experiences, on the basis that it will help improve things for others. There are many well-described accounts of how the experience has been far from empowering or impactful on change, but instead personally diminishing either in the experience itself or its reception.   I have serious concerns about what I consider an over-simplistic practice of encouraging disabled people to ‘tell their stories’ in semi-public contexts as a means to improving awareness of disability, and about ‘awareness-raising’ of disability equality through using individual experience to improve disabled people’s po

Interaction without visuals

Voices have been a persistent source of fascination for me and a recurrent theme here. There are certainly aspects of this that are entirely influenced by my lack of sight, but it’s also important to recognise that in the arenas of radio, theatre,  audio podcasting, reading aloud (now popularised through the mainstreaming of audio books), the voice is all (or a significant part) of what the listener has to go on, so I wouldn’t want to leave you thinking that there is merely a visual/aural (sighted/blind) polarity in operation.   The belief (or probably more likely too easy throw-away cliché) that, without being able to see the things that sighted people typically use to pick up on, or judge people  by, blind people must have a somehow more ‘pure’ and less encumbered impression of those we encounter.  Well for my part, there is nothing more pure about not being able to see, it’s just that my observations, interpretations and judgements about people are all loaded onto their voices, How

A few thoughts on 'balance'

This blog isn’t intended to be objective, nor to provide a ‘balanced’ insight into my life – which would mean me putting all the difficult encounters into proportionate context with all the positive/respectful/’normal’ experiences. I write about the things that I’m particularly struck by, that irritate, upset, disturb or amuse  me in day to day encounters.   I should own up then that my life is good, it is difficult (often it feels more and more difficult) but I don’t feel that I need to spend so much time on describing all those people close to me and all the strangers who communicate with me normally – I don’t want this to be seen as something strange or to be grateful for and yet sometimes I feel like I do want to affirm people for just treating me normally, fairly, on the level or whatever, particularly in situations where this is unusual.   I want to highlight here the things that happen so often that are not OK, that are weird, that come from positions of hostility, scorn, malice

Been away for a while

Regrettably, I’ve posted to this blog rarely this year.  there are two main reasons for this. Firstly, and most importantly, I’ve been ill for a considerable proportion of the year and haven’t been well enough to do many of the things that normally interest me or express my creativity. Thankfully, I’m much better now and expect to be back posting more regularly again.   Secondly, Now, in my COVID-shrunken life, the majority of the day to day interactions that give me material to write about are through my work. Prior to COVID, lockdowns and working from home, I had a busy active life around work, but now, many of the  things that brought me actively into the world are much diminished.   I will not write about encounters at work other than in the most general terms as there are other mechanisms for dealing with these, and a colleague who goes off and blogs about work-time encounters would not invite much in the way of colleagues’ trust and respect.   Ever hopeful, as I did at the end of

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