Confronting myself coming the other way

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You know how embarrassing it is being ten thousand miles away and seeing other Brits – especially with their children in tow? Or if you’re Nigerian reading this – you know how embarrassing it is being ten thousand miles away and … you get the picture.

It’s the same for me with other blind people. At best they make me feel a bit awkward; at second best they make me wince; at third best they make me want to run in the other direction. It’s not a feeling of superiority. It’s far worse. It’s a recognition of all the little things about me which are probably a result of being blind but which I pretend aren’t there. I pretend I’m exactly like everyone else in every respect. This is clearly not so because being near other people who are blind makes me feel part of a club of rather oddball people.

To say I have actively steered clear of them is not an exaggeration. I resisted every initiative by parents to join blind groups, blind sports clubs etc. I rarely if ever went to meetings or gatherings for blind people and I even went so far as to stay away from the annual blind gadget expos for fear of being surrounded by people reminding me how different I was/am.

A couple of years ago I attended an audio described theatre performance organised by a kind friend. In the foyer were dozens of Labradors, dozens of people talking too loudly and bumping into one another and discussing football matches they had of course not in fact watched….people just like me, in other words.

I sat chilly through the first half….the audio description was brilliant…got out to the interval bar….after ten minutes more of my own kind trying to get a drink I said to my friend ‘I can’t stand this any more. I have to leave.’ I fled.

This Friday we are heading off to Asia on another Young Voices initiative. To teach the world’s poorest disabled young people to use PCs, leave the laptops with them to give them a voice. The last trip I actually said ‘no blind people please. They use completely different technology. It’s not practical’. What kind of an arsehole does that make me? yep, the kind of arsehole who says ‘it’s too expensive to adapt our building to employ disabled people’. So I am one of them then?

So this trip I got over it. Let’s have some blind students. We’ll get the parallel technology organised, we’ll get two lecture theatres and I’ll do the teaching myself.’

So that’s what’s going to happen. I’m petrified. First I’ll be out of my comfort zone in Asia. Second I’ve never ever taught a blind person to do anything at all! Thirdly of course these are young people with the same disability as me but with no home, no support, no access to transport, health care, welfare etc…compared to them I’ve been riding the gravy train all my life.

This is a confrontation I’m dreading. My only possible hope is that they look at me and think ‘if he can do it I can do it’

Otherwise I’m sunk!

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