So goes my rearrangement of the ‘Articles for the Blind’ that frequently fall through the letterbox of my blind friend. I use the term blind rather than the PC ‘visually impaired’ because many of us sighted people hear the term ‘visually impaired’ (‘VI’ to those in the know!!) and think instinctively of someone who ‘can’t see very well’. No, I use the term blind because this friend does not have any perception of light or dark, let alone image discernment; their vision is 100% impaired … plus some!!
I have learnt a huge amount from this friend, too much to cover in this entry, but the first thing I want to mention is how many of the normal daily tasks I find simple and straightforward are a totally different kettle of fish to my friend.
Let’s take a simple walk to the corner shop, only 200 yards away. For me, I walk out of the house, I may remember to lock the door, I wander aimlessly down the street thinking about anything other than where I am going (but usually manage to discover what dogs have left in my path); I eventually reach the shop, go in, straight to the refrigerator pick up my milk, pay and come home.
However, for my blind friend this simple trip becomes … a left turn out of the house followed by a walk down the pavement with the street on the right hand side. A change in the sound reflected from the left wall tells me that the wall has dropped in height so I am nearing the end of the street where I will turn left. As I pass bushes on my left (I know this because they occasionally brush against the side of my face when they’ve not been trimmed back) and keep the main road on my right, I walk past a section where the sound reflection changes again (presumably because there is now a low wall or fence at that point), and follow my guide dog slightly to the right to avoid the post box on my left and finally, as I reach the traffic lights at the junction, the entrance to the shop is on my left, up a low step and through a glass door I need to push on the right hand side to open. And then when I get into the shop all I have to do is negotiate the shelves and isles and locate the groceries: bread, tinned fruit, milk and vegetables and cakes … and then pay for them.
And don’t let anyone tell you that guide dogs are so well trained that you say, “Take me to the corner shop” and then just follow them. It does not work like that: the dog owner i.e., the blind person learns the route and the dog gets them there in one piece … most of the time! … and they are ‘Guide Dogs for the Blind’, NOT ‘Blind Dogs for the Guides!’ It’s the owners who are blind, not the dogs!
So, why do I write about my blind friend? Well, despite this very different and often challenging view of the world, they are also incredibly creative!
Isn’t creativity a visually inspired thing?
One of the great things about creativity is that it can often be sparked when we come face-to-face with people who see things very differently from us, not just subject or world view, but in this case, quite literally! I learn much from the mistakes and assumptions that I often make because I forget that my friend is blind.
But the magic moments so often occur when my view is challenged or even destroyed by that of my friend. Those are the times when connections are made between things that don’t naturally connect for me and true creativity is born.
I will introduce you to my friend some more in the next few posts.