Steps down to Man o’ War cove in Dorset, England

Another VI friend and I were walking along, gossiping, stepping up and down the kerb, crossing roads and managing to avoid hazards.

‘Have you noticed’ she asked ‘how many fully sighted people warn you when you are approaching steps?’  it’s true and we laughed.

It seems to have no effect if we explain that we will ask for help when we need it, to demonstrate the sight loss we have, to say that we adapt our sight all the time according to circumstances like anyone else.

Why is the step warning so particularly annoying?

Is it just because it takes away our autonomy or is it a throwback to childhood?  On the other hand sighted people’s anxiety on our behalf needs to be respected and appreciated and their warnings appear to be almost an automatic reflex.

Does anyone else have this problem?  If you do, how do you deal with it?

News Items

Went to see Saving Mr Banks…good performances and I loved the Australian locations.  It was on a very big screen and I found it difficult to see the faces.

Reading on Kindle…Blood Will Tell (Kate Shugat #6) by Dana Stabelow, a detective series set in Alaska and a guilty pleasure when I get literary indigestion.  Well written and fascinating folk background.

Christmas shopping in 3D, i.e. in actual shops..what a luxury.

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7 Responses to Steps

  1. Nordie says:

    I used to work with one lady with VI, and we were out at a museum one day. To avoid a sign taking out my shoulder I ducked below the sign without telling her. She assumed that I was going down stairs and complained at me that she hadnt been told what was going on, after she had also ducked down to go down the non existant stairs.

    Once in a while I walk a totally blind man (who has a guide dog) around parts of Birmingham. I dont know what the interaction he has with his dog, what his dog tells him, and what instruction he has to give to the dog. I tell him what I’m planning to do (“we go right here, cross the road, and then we’re going left” or “I’m going to stop at this intersection cos I need to work out where the traffic is going before we can cross”) but otherwise…it’s to explain my behaviour which is evident to me, but not necessarily evident to him. I also dont have control over his dog! (has his dog been trained to stop and block when coming to a road at a level crossing, for instance? I dont know!). We were in a bar the other month and the stairs were narrow, so I had to leave him and the dog to go up on their own -whilst I followed with the drinks!

    There were massive works going on on OConnell Street in Dublin about 10 years ago and there were regular occurances of blind people (usually with dogs, but not always) trying to navigate the building works. I remember one woman who had a dog who clearly blocked her to the point she simply said “can anyone help me?” I did, telling her that the dog wouldnt be able to work his way through all the fencing so that’s probably the reason he was acting the way he was, and then walked her to where she wanted to be.

    What I try to do is ask “where do you want to get to?” Once we get there, I try and put it in context (Oconnel street behind you, fleet street in front of you, luas tracks 5 feet to the left (so they dont get run over by the v. quiet Luas!) and then ask them if they’re happy where they are or do they want me to take them to the other side – e.g. if that pavement is v crowded). And then we work from there!

  2. I take your point! It seems to be important for the VI person to give their companions as much information as possible about the kind of help they need. Also, its very difficult yo explain what you can and can’t see when you are partially sighted rather than blind. As you explain, each case is different. Why don’t you ask your friend exactly what’s his dogs function? I’m sure he won’t mind and it would be helpful for you. Thanks for your useful comment.

  3. I do encounter the stair warnings. Sometimes I just say Thanks. Other times, I explain I could see them today with the contrast of the yellow tape on concrete or varying shadows, if applicable. Still others, I explain my cane will see them, but thanks for the heads up.

  4. Thanks for your sensible input. I think we were mainly talking about regular companions and their understandable reflex to warn us of steps. One of the difficulties is trying to explain how with WMD you have peripheral vision but cannot focus. i am more likely to walk into a post than miss a step. This is a hard concept to get across and we should not be grouchy about it. The more so as I seldom carry a white stick. Must become more gracious!

  5. Liz at Libro says:

    I find it really interesting and useful to be told, clearly, what help I can be. Not just in the case of VI friends, but others with special requirements of whatever kind, too. We need to be more of a ask culture and less of a guess culture, I think, where these matters are concerned. I’d much rather be told “It helps me when you do x, it doesn’t help me when you do y” than to go on doing y and having my friend annoyed with me!

    I think it’s like when someone is laid up or has a trauma or has a baby, and you say, “Tell me if there’s anything I can do to help” – really, it’s best if they say, “I need help with this specific thing”, otherwise the help might not be given. But then it is HARD to ask for help, as I know, and so sometimes the helper needs to take the initiative and ask “would you like me to do x? No, well what about y?”

    I’m rambling now, but posts on what helps most are so useful to those trying to be supportive, I think.

  6. You are absolutely right about shifting from a guess culture to an ask culture. I wonder if this is some peculiarly British notion of good manner to try to predict someone else’s needs.. Disability is often the elephant in the room and the simplest way to deal with it is to acknowledge it. In my own case I have discovered that children almost immediately catch on to what they can do to help and have no problems exploring my sight impairment. Equally I have a friend with a mental health condition who talks about it openly. We can’t always help other people but we can try to understand and I think your comment and examples expresses this perfectly, Liz. It’s also important to remember that this two way situation is an ongoing learning experience with no right or wrong way. I especially like your point about the helper sometimes taking the initiative in offering help in such a way that the it can be accepted or refused without any emotional overtones. I really appreciate your insight, Liz – many thanks.

  7. Pingback: Christmas 2013 | anewlookthrougholdeyes

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