Having a Disability Doesn’t Have to Limit Your Life?

I just heard on the radio that a blind motorcyclist has come out with this after reaching 167 mph, with his father riding alongside him.  Of course the presenter loved the story, but it’s got me on my soapbox.

Firstly, motorcycling is just one aspect of his life, and he’s limited to having somebody with him.  You could argue that it’s limiting his dad’s life, expecting him to give up his time so his son can enjoy himself, and what happens when his dad’s not around anymore?

Let’s just briefly look at 3 other things:  First of all, books.  Amazon have developed an accessibility plug-in for their Kindle software to help blind people read books on their PC.  This is fantastic, and I absolutely loved the choice it gave me.  For the first time I could read a book as soon as it was in the shops, just the same as anyone else.  I don’t have an iPhone, but there are also apps like iBooks and the Kindle app which are now fully accessible, but what if you’re not technological?  Well, if you want a book, you buy it, and you can send it away to have it Brailed.  This costs 4p per page, so for over 250 pages, we’re talking over £10, on-top of the price of the book, plus the process of putting it into Braille takes over 6 months – a bit different to picking something up off the shelf the day it’s released.

Second, jobs:  I was just looking at yet another job this morning – a part-time administrator/receptionist.  As a Braille-reader I can do maybe 60% of it, but it lists filing, faxing and photocopying as some of the main parts of the job.  I’m thinking of applying, but I’ll have to be honest with them that there would be difficulties.  They may be able to make adjustments and have the rest of the team do what I can’t, but that’s not guaranteed.

Finally, getting around:  I use a long cane and only learn the routes I need.  My sense of direction’s not great, and I have to have walked something quite a few times before it sticks in my memory.  I travel on trains and like their Assisted Travel service.  You can phone beforehand to book assistance so that someone will meet you off one train and take you to your connection, but the same facility isn’t available on buses.  I’m not confident on buses, though I have used them (and missed my stop because relying on a driver’s memory isn’t fool proof).  But if I want to go somewhere unfamiliar, even to look around town when there’s a special event on, I have to have a guide.  Earlier this year, I determined I wasn’t going to miss out on our local food festival, so I got a taxi into town and started off on my own.  A couple of people pointed me in the right direction, but I really only got to browse all the stalls when someone found a Red Cross lady and asked her to show me round.  She was lovely and hoped her only crisis of the day would be helping a lady find cake!

To be blunt, I don’t like being blind; I don’t like the burden it is on my parents, friends and others; I don’t like not being able to put as much into society as I’d like to, so please don’t tell me having a disability doesn’t limit your life.  I’m not after sympathy; I guess what I am hoping for is that when you see a quote like that from someone who’s proud of themselves after a big achievement, you’ll engage your brain and realise it’s not necessarily true.

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