When I was little, I used to go to a swimming session for disabled people and their families. One of the ladies who attended was a blind person and she was really quite obnoxious a lot of the time. She’d get angry if us kids swam into her and she would expect people to drop what they were doing and help her just because she was blind.
My mother has never accepted my blindness and she would rather I went without than fight for equal access etc. The lady at the swimming clip was the epitome of everything my mother hated about blind people and she assumed that all blind adults were like this. For years, if I was having an off day, she’d accuse me of being like this lady.
I sometimes wonder though why this lady was like she was? How many battles did she have to face? How many invisible barriers were placed around her on what sometimes feels like a weekly basis? How much support did this lady get I wonder?
This lunchtime I was spoken to like a five-year-old by my eye consultant’s secretary, purely and simply because she said they couldn’t send me out an Email with an appointment. I told her that the eye appointments department did Email if they were asked on an appointment by appointment basis. She said they didn’t and she had never heard of it. I said they did as they had done it for me. She said she had never heard of it. I ended up asking her if she didn’t believe me and was told I had a bad attitude. All that because I dared to ask for an accessible appointment letter.
Now I have yet another stress headache because although I am fairly good at being assertive, I hate confrontation at any time. The headache will no doubt stay with me for the rest of the day.
It is six weeks into 2011 and so far I have:
1. Been publicly and loudly told that a taxi driver wouldn’t take me because of my guide dog. (He acted unlawfully because he should have been carrying a certificate if he was truly exempt, and it appears that he wasn’t exempt);
2. Been turned down for a John Lewis Partnership Card because I can’t see to read the contract there and then. (I did manage to argue my way out of that one using the word discriminatory which I reserve for only the most obvious cases of discrimination);
3. Bought a fridge/freezer which, if the power goes off, will require sighted assistance to set it going again as it is all visual. Something which we didn’t pick up on in the shop;
4. Had two instances where a company or service provider refused to Email me information in order that I could read it.
But, faced with these challenges once every 9 or 10 days, I am expected to remain cheerful and stoical and possibly even brush them aside and manage. If I show any anger or frustration I am deemed as having a bad attitude.
I do try my best as I live in a sighted world with sighted friends and colleagues and I want to remain liked. Don’t we all? But I would say to everyone that, especially nowadays where equal access seems to be increasingly placed on the back burner because of government cuts and laws which have no backbone, if I’m having an off day and appear angry or bitter, this isn’t my character. I probably have a headache and have faced yet another invisible barrier which able-bodied people would not consider could exist, let alone face.