Using Simulation Exercises to Educate People about Blindness

As you can see from this page, I haven’t blogged for some time. I thought I might replace this with audio blogging but I haven’t done so well with that. I did record an audio item about today’s subject but I feel I didn’t do it justice and the best way would be to write it all down.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will have seen my response to a tweet from Guide Dogs yesterday afternoon regarding a sensory tunnel they have for demonstrating what it is like to be blind or partially sighted. The tweet was as follows:

Visit #Waterloo station on Friday. Check out the @guidedogs amazing sensory tunnel. Experience life with sight loss #DestinationGuideDogs

To me, that wording trivialises blindness and partial sight, but more the issues blind and partially sighted people face on a daily basis. How on earth can anyone suggest that a walk through of a sensory tunnel can really be an experience of life? I have no experience of the sensory tunnel so I can’t comment on it as an exhibition piece, it was more the wording that I found wanting.

A couple of responses I received on Twitter prompted me to write this blog entry. One person who is sighted suggested that in order to understand they needed to experience. I disagree. In order to understand you have to have an open mind and leave your assumptions at the door. This person isn’t someone I know personally, but I know them enough on Twitter to be aware that they have certain issues of which I have no experience. I would hope that if I met anyone with different issues or disabilities to my own, I would be receptive to their needs and not make assumption based decisions on their behalf.

The other response I received was from someone who left a tongue in cheek comment asking if there would be a ritual humiliation by ATOS thrown in to this experience. This led me to thinking about how many problems that we face as blind or partially sighted people which are down to assumptions or attitudes of others.

For instance, will this experience include someone talking to participants like five-year-olds because the assumption is that blind equals low intelligence? Will it include saying good morning to someone who will then proceed to flatten themselves against a wall and not say a word thus blanking the participant? Will it include being labelled a faker, benefits cheat or idle and work-shy? Will it include being refused access to a restaurant/taxi/shop? All things that, as a blind person, I have experienced, some on a fairly regular basis.

On the flip side, it also doesn’t include the positives. The feeling of absolute freedom when walking down a busy street being guided by an amazing dog who is completely in tune with you and vice versa. The kindness of complete strangers who willingly help you cross a road or find a shop, often going out of their way to do so. The love and respect shared with friends who have taken the time to see you as a whole person and who have never seen the blindness as a barrier to anything.

I could go on and on talking about positives and negatives. Life as a blind or partially sighted person is many-faceted as anyone else’s life is. Blind and partially sighted people share many of the same hopes and aspirations as everyone else.

Walking through a sensory tunnel does not give experience of life with sight loss.

Finally, I asked Scope on their Twitter feed whether they use simulation exercises when providing education regarding the people they support. Their response was as follows:

Hi, Scope don’t use simulation exercises as they can be time intensive and research has shown that they don’t always get results.

Personally I would like to see charities such as Guide Dogs, employing some motivated and capable blind and partially sighted people to provide proper planned and targeted education, rather than relying on volunteers.

If they ever consider this, I’d love that job!

About Mel Griffiths

I live and work in Nottingham, England and am blind. This blog is often centred around things that happen to me because of being blind. This is my space to write and sometimes people will disagree with what I write, but its the one place I have in which to be frank and honest. I also like to reflect on the funnier side of life from time to time.
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