Sunday, 17 August 2008


I promised to write about my views and experiences of how blind people go into the "normal" society after being sheltered in institutions such as special schools, so here it is. forgive my possibly politically incorrect use of "normal", but I do think that special schools are pretty abnormal.
a special school is typically a tiny school (the two I went to had about 100 students). Everything one needs to do and one wants to do is heavily supported, for example, all the books are translated into Braille for us, every single teaching activity has been understandably adapted to blind people's needs, the microwaves talk (at least the majority), tesco trips are organised and there is almost always a one to one "shopping support" from the members of school staff, staff are on site to give lessons on how to get from school to town, or where ever one needs to go, the list goes on and on.
so the first chalenge for someone going into university, or going into the society to find a job, is that all of a sudden, the person is unable to find the kind of support he is so used to, or it takes an awful long time for that kind of support to come and the person just sits there and wait. another chalenge, perhaps is even bigger, is that all of a sudden, the person finds himself in a strange society in which people have eyes that can see(!) and "shockingly", those people who can see probably have never interacted with a blind person before.
the blind person goes from having absolutely all the confidence he has with his surrounding, friends, ways of doing things to have totally lost his confidence on just about everything, because he doesn't know how a normal person sees him, he finds himself unable to join a lot of the activities or even basic discussions that people around him do and talk about. on top of that, the normal people do tell the blind person directly or indirectly that they are seeing him differently to the rest, by having a tendency to approach the blind person extremely carefully (always appologising even no fault was commited, unsure about whether to help or not ending up watching the blind person embarasing himself (of course the blind person knows that), always feel uneasy about using the words that have something to do with sight/watch/see ending up having lots of interuptions to an otherwise normal conversation etc ).
I think it's fair to say that I coped with the change very well, I actually loved my university years much more than being in the special college. one of my advantages is that I am never a big fan of going out/clubbing etc, so I don't feel left out at all when everyone is doing just that. in fact when people did occasionally asked me to go I have to find the most stupid excuse not to go...
what the blind has to realise is that it's up to themselves to turn things round, to build up confidence. one has to realise that being blind is a disability, is not normal, and being blind does need help, and it's okay to ask for help and it's okay to accept help. people offer help not because they think that you can't do something, but most of the time it's because they want to make it easier and quicker for you to do something. there are times when you need to refuse help so that you can learn to be independent, and that will be when you have lots of time and when you are not slowing everyone else down.
when I have lots of time, even when I'm totally lost in the street, I don't tend to ask anyone for help. I tend to just try to find my way back to where I came from, and figure out what I did wrong. it can be scary sometimes, but you will never end up not being able to go home and starved to death! I have been lost numourous times, sometimes I find my way back, and sometimes I really needed help in the end.
a word on waiting for support: never rely on official support, they are absolutely useless. my friends, girlfriend, sister etc are my best mobility teachers. you have to make a big effort remembering where you have been, ask questions as well.
I will write a bit more about socialising next time, but I'm probably not the best person to talk about it because I am not very keen on socialising.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

yaaaaay! well done yan! i think at some time you should write about how you adapted when you first came.
can i link to this post? or not