Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Thoughts From The Den: Pain and Plaudits #TBofBTT

by @BigPawedBear

Padding round my local town recently, I fell to reflecting how inaccessible things still are for blind people, but also how accessible things can be if a little thought is put in. first the inaccessible parts of life.

Street furniture and advertisement boards. What a pain they are. Not only do we have signs hanging from shop fronts, do they still have those by the way? When I could see, over twenty years ago, I used to look up and see the signs sticking at right angles to the shop fronts, advertising what shop it was. Well, not only do we have those, but the signs, like a badly thought out benefit reform, have migrated painfully to the pathways.

This migration makes the lives of visually impaired and blind people especially difficult. Not only are the A boards there, they are mobile, not only are they mobile, so they can be placed anywhere, they are light enough, so that if you crash into them, they will fall over with an almighty clatter, and, as well as scaring the shit out of you, also prove a trip hazard.

I think they should put bleepers on the tops of these A boards, or stick them somewhere, preferably out of sight, which they are pretty much anyway, as they are at groin level. I could say more about things being at groin level, and will soon, as things start to get very painful on our walk around my local town.

Not only have I got movable, eminently dangerous A boards to contend with, coffee shops have sprung up, and with them the inevitable street furniture.

Whatever happened to shops staying within four walls? Now they flood the paths with A boards, shoe racks, and in the worst cases PA systems from which they blare “Sale this, and Sale that!” not that I’m against a sale mind you, and I’m glad to know there’s one on, for I can’t see the big signs in the shop windows, or read the A board that I’ve just fallen over, which advertises that one shop or another has a sale, and I can’t tell if I’m outside the shop advertised, as the A board, including me, are now six feet from where the a board was originally placed before I fell over it. Muttering a four letter word under my breath, I clatter past the A board, my tender anatomy mildly complaining.

I then smack into my next obstacle, the well placed, groin high bollard. These things, meant to stop cars, also stop blind people quickly, affectively, and painfully if you’re six foot 2. being doubled up in pain over a bollard, and yes I’ve been there, is not nice at all. “But your cane should have found that,” I hear you say. Yes, it should but sometimes, it doesn’t, and my, um, genital area finds it first. Ouch is all I’ll say.

Ok, enough of stumbling into A boards and impromptu gelding by bollards, let’s focus on something nice, the majority of the great British public. Yes, I know we’ve recently heard the worst kinds of things said about disabled people from the unthinking minorities, but go out with a white cane, and even better a guide dog, and you can come across the best of human nature.

I remember one time, a friend of mine and I met in town, wanting to go to a pub, we asked a gentleman where the pub was. To cut a long story short, not only did this gentleman take us to the pub, he offered to help us read the menu, and stayed with us throughout our meal to make sure we got drinks and things, as the pub was one of those where you have to go to the bar for everything. Without this gentleman we would never have had such a normal time of it.

I can’t remember his name now, but he sticks in my mind even now four months on. These people, who without prompting, seem to understand disabled people just want as normal an experience as they can possibly get , are amazing, and it is great to meet them. This gentleman helped us where we needed it, but was not overbearing, and he left us to talk in privacy, and yes, he had a beer on us, which is the least we felt we could offer him for his considerate help.

I’m running out of space here, so I’ll wind up things for now, but I hope I’ve given you a little insight into how it is to be out on the town when you happen to be blind.


Sally S-R said...

Those A boards are not onl;y a hazard for the blind. They also block pavement access for wheelchair users and buggy drivers. I've lost count of the times I've had to take to the road and mix it with the traffic because the pavememnt was blocked off by boards.

Anonymous said...

I went sprawling over a bollard once - it was 1 foot high and I didn't see it down there. I don't have any physical disability, and fortunately I'm young enough to generally be not too badly hurt by a fall. Who on earth designs this "pavement furniture" and thinks it is a Good Idea?