This is a situation I have once again found myself in whilst going to Sainsbury’s today and it’s something I often ponder.
Imagine this. You’re approaching a supermarket entrance and you realise that you can hear people in front of you being offered something. You know not what, except that it is on offer in store today. Promising, you think, perhaps something new and exciting that you haven’t tried before. Only problem is, you can’t actually see where the person is standing. So, you slow your pace, smile, and hope that they will engage with you. The person in front of you reaches them and takes one of the unknown items and you’re there! But, you weren’t quick enough or your smile wasn’t bright enough, or you looked a bit weird, because in a split second, the person behind you is getting the attention and you’ve missed your chance! If you turn round and ask why, you hold up the flow of people and end up drawing attention to yourself in a way that you’d rather not, so you just carry on walking, knowing that once again you’ve missed out on a freeby and more importantly, you’ve missed out on the chance to find out about a new product as you won’t see the eye-catching displays promoting it in store.
I’ve often wondered whether this happens because I’m disabled, or particularly because I’m blind. I suspect it’s neither. I don’t honestly believe in hate crime to the extent that I’m deliberately segregated when it comes to the practice of handing out freebies! I think it’s purely and simply because I can’t make eye contact. My partner also has the same problem with people handing out samples. He often walks through A busy station concourse with a sighted colleague where there are people handing things out. His colleague will frequently point out that he hasn’t been offered a sample and they will either look straight through him as if he weren’t there, or try to pass the sample to the colleague.
When I have discussed this with sighted people in the past I have been met with a disturbing response. They are surprised that I have had this experience but they then almost back pedal saying, “Oh well, they probably didn’t know what to say to you.”
It’s easy isn’t it? How about “Excuse me madam, can I interest you in a sample of whatever which is on offer in store today?” But no, people are hung up on what to say! It’s 2011 for goodness sake! People should really be getting used to seeing blind and other disabled people out there among them! Get over it! We’re people and we may or may not want a sample of whatever you are promoting. We have the same aspirations as the rest of society and the same likes or dislikes. To look at, I’m a fairly average sort of person but the fact that my eyes don’t move like everyone else’s is enough to alienate me.
How can we ever expect to get jobs on a level with everyone else if society can’t even manage to hand us a promotional sample. The government needs to realise that yes, blind people are fit to work but they shouldn’t assume that we’ll all slot nicely into jobs because we won’t. We are disabled and disadvantaged. Not by our lack of eyesight, but by people’s attitudes to us.