Friday, 1 May 2009
When helping yourself doesn't help.
It's Blogging Against Disablism Day. So here I am, taking part for the first time, with my current thoughts.
I've just been mowing my lawn. It's like the Somme out there under the grass, and made none the better for my haphazard attempts with the petrol lawnmower, which under my visually impaired and fibromyalgic direction becomes more of a ploughing device than a cutting device. It looks like shite before I mow and looks like hammered shite afterwards. Yon boundary fences better watch out - I know I've reached the sides because even I can't mow a fence. ;) I can't hear a damn thing with the motor going and I'm so intent on getting it done before the stupid thing dies and I have to get my bf out to start it again (my little arms are too weak to pull the cord !) that I am taking no prisoners and I stop for no bugger. Dog toys, stones, bits of wood, grass, plants, nettles - I mow the bloody lot. By the time I am done I can barely stand up straight and am sure to suffer a penance the next day. Or for the next two days. Or even three. If I were a drug addict I'd have a fix before, during and after The Event.
Before I start the Grass Macerating Festivities, I am sure to try to ascertain whether my neighbors are at home. I listen carefully on the back step like a rabbit checking for a quiet moment to cross the road. I take my time, I wait. You never know with these quick moving types - they can come out of nowhere.
The reason for this is many fold - not least because I don't want them to see my cellulite and unshaved legs in my shorts, or that one of the neighbors is abit of an old perv who doesn't mind stooping as low as openly playing pocket pool whilst watching the blind woman next door - but for two main reasons.
One - they are a nosey, beaky bunch. They never say anything to me, but they just love to stare. If I'm mowing the lawn, picking up dog shit from the spending run, potting up plants in my little shabby plastic greenhouse, wobbling up the garden path to the workshop with something heavy or cumbersome in my arms - they're there, beaking. I know this because a) I'm not stupid, I can hear the whispers, and b) I've been told this by my best mate, who watches them watching me. They just love it - the nastier or more difficult the job, the more they are held in thrall. And not once do any of them offer to help me or even acknowledge me if I speak - my "Wotcha" is met with scuttling away or silence. I've mostly given up speaking to them.
The second reason is - as "blind" people, both me and my bf are not allowed to do anything for ourselves. If we do, it means that anything we might have an issue with that they've done - like, parking in front of my front gate so we can barely fit a Rizla through the gap, let alone a white stick, or a guide dog, or, leaving their bins in unexpected places, or, parking their damn great flat bed truck on the path as opposed to in their driveway so we hit our heads on the wing mirror as we attempt to get by - is us just "being awkward". Any requests that could they please not do said things as it prevents us from getting out of the front garden safely are met with, "How can you mow the lawn / pick up dog poo / put your bins out / etc then if you can't see my car ?"
The same attitude comes from the local Traffic Warden, who, despite being sent out on numerous occasions in the last two years by the local Safer Neighborhood Team ("Yes, your concerns are a priority to us madam, I can assure you ...") to deal with illegally parked cars that we've bounced off, has yet to do anything at all about the problem. Her answer is that although a car / truck / van may be parked on the path, opposite a junction and over a drop curb to a driveway (as it would be if it were parked directly outside my house), it isn't an obstruction as "anyone else would walk around it". This would mean walking into the road, or onto a piece of grass that is full of hillocks and drops away towards our front gardens in an alarming slope. Not the best terrain for guide cane users. Or indeed wheelchair users, or mums with prams. Etc. I dunno - the Traffic Warden of yore woulda slapped a ticket on a vehicle if it had so much as one wheel on the path, let alone ringing all the cherries of being on the pavement, over a drop curb and opposite a junction. But these days ... none of that is important enough for them to get their little penalty pads out.
If I may venture into somewhat controversial territory here (and I don't usually because I'm not in the slightest bit interested in debating the point), this is all down to the attitude that, as visually impaired people, we get all the time - we don't look like there's anything wrong with us because we're not in a wheelchair, on crutches, or obviously disabled in any way, so therefore there can't be. We look totally "normal" to the uninitiated and in our own homes and gardens, we can function in what appears to be - to the beaky - a perfectly normal way. The only thing that marks us out is the white stick, or the guide dog. And these people, being in such close proximity to us, get to see us in the garden without these things. I don't know of anyone who works their guide dog in their own back yard. So how can we need the stick or the dog - and thus "really be blind" - if we can put the bins out or hose down the dog run ?
What these idiots fail to grasp is - everything in our personal environment is controlled by us. We choose where things go, we choose how to do things, we choose where to walk. We know that if we put something in one place and walk away, we are very likely to find it exactly where we left it when we come back (unless it is our dirty pants, in which case some Labradoodle guide dog has probably run off with them. ;) ) We know where the hazards are and we avoid them as best we can, and accidents are at a minimum as a result - except for when I run over half bricks with the lawnmower which fly back and take a chunk out of my leg, which is not a good look. Where they fecking appear from I have no idea. They must teleport into the middle of the lawn or something. I imagine the neighbors must love it when that happens, it's better than You've been Maimed, I'm sorry Framed - and as I'm such a nice, accommodating blind bitch, I am sure to give them a loud display of my bestest and most inventive swears to go with the visual delights too.
Having only yourself to blame for an accident is not the same as it being some other ignorant and selfish bastard's fault. It's not exactly ok when I walk into a cupboard door because I left it open like a silly bint, or if I trip over a bag of potting compost that I moved and forgot - but at least it's my own stupid fault. I will learn not to do it again (usually).
When I bounce off the wing mirror of a car parked squeezed in front of my garden gate yet again despite totally adequate parking space in front of their own house, because some twat couldn't be bothered to point the car two feet to the right before turning in, it's not my fault. And I tend to get abit upset about it. When I can't figure out if I'm at the right point to turn off the path to meet my gate because there are four or five cars parked haphazardly in odd places (including blocking my driveway, which of course is ok by them as I don't have a car - why would I possibly want a clear driveway ?) which confuse me, I tend to get abit disgruntled. And this is not my fault either. When I meet a truck parked halfway over the path, and then have to inch along wondering where the wing mirror is in case it knocks my teeth out, I tend to get abit irate. And it's not my fault. And when the people who are supposed to prevent all this shit from happening - the police, or the traffic wardens (depending on where the buck is being passed today) don't see this as a worthwhile problem, because "anyone else" - read "anyone who wasn't disabled" - would not have a problem, I tend to get abit fucking annoyed.
Because I can mow my lawn and put my bins out, and I don't have a carer come in to hoover up or cook my meals, I therefore must be able to deal with everything else in the world too.
So sometimes I understand why one of my great pet hates about the visually impaired community exists - the act of saying you are more helpless than you actually are. I imagine this occurs elsewhere amongst other disabled groups - but I only have experience of it amongst the VI. Ordinarily it does my head in. It seems to be some sort of pissing contest - "I'm blinder than you and need more help so ... nur nur ne nur nur." And then there is the flip side, "I'm blinder than you, but I can do this, which you can't". I couldn't give shit who was blinder than me, who can see more than me, who did what when and how, when the purpose of the admission is one-up-manship. But having lived around people who have the attitude that if you can do one thing that they perceive as something a blind person should not be able to do - for example, run a hoover or put a bin bag in the wheely bin - then you must be able to do all things ... now I understand why some VI people can't get off the pity pot. They've figured it's insurance against people who can't get their head around the idea that a fairly self sufficient disabled person might sometimes need the consideration of others. If you act helpless all the time even when you're not, you are doubtless going to get help when you really need it.
Such is society - in my neck of the woods - that doing your shit and getting on with it does not help you. It just gets you dismissed when you're in genuine difficulty. It gives selfish people an excuse to continue to act selfishly.
All that said, I absolutely can't bring myself to sit on that pity potty all day long. Perhaps it is because I don't get much support from anyone but my bf, and he's blind too. So, if we don't do it, by and large, it don't get done. But I think mainly it is because I get the idea that everyone is different, and everyone has their limitations, and I understand that my rights in the world as one person to do what I want to do should stop when my actions have a negative effect on someone else. The basic concept is consideration for others, something we are usually taught as children, and that we're all of different abilities.
So why is it so hard for these people to understand ?
So, although this is Blogging Against Disablism Day and I should be writing a positive post on how good it feels to be able to mow - or at least make shorter by rearranging - the lawn despite not being able to see it, I'm afraid I can't do that. Today all I can say to my fellow dis'ers is hide ! - hide your achievements. That's right - that's what I said.
Don't let the able feckers know you can do anything at all, ever. They won't respect you for it, they'll just use it as an excuse to act like nerks when you do need their consideration. Hide your light under a bushel. Or at least, don't mow your bushel down ... not when they're watching, anyhow.
p.s. I reserve the right to talk crap, too.