Monday, 25 October 2010

Joanna's Story

My story! Well, how long you got!!! I'll try and keep it to the point!

I'm 33, I was born partially sighted and lost my sight around the age of 15. I went to a mainstream school after my parents battled with the local authorities at every stage. Eventually a few months before I lost my sight, I decided the lack of support and amount of hassle my secondary school was giving me just wasn't worth it.

I had always been put in the bottom classes in mainstream, for the speed I worked at, not my intellectual ability. When I went to a school for the blind and learned Braille my grades improved and I left with 10 GCSE's and went on to get 3 "A" levels. I then left the world of "special education" and did a couple of years at university where the help and support was again terrible.

I ended up leaving university with the intention of getting a "proper job" and well... What a disaster that was! If I'm not dealing with discrimination such as, "oh you can't work here there's stairs in this office", to the employment adviser at the job centre telling me, "blind people are virtually unemployable"! I was dealing with the problems of "access to work" schemes that left me twice in paid employment for 6 months without any specialist technology. No surprise that those jobs didn't go anywhere!

Every few years I've had to fight for the benefits I receive, at one stage even being told by somebody from the DLA office after another application was rejected, "they probably think that you've been registered blind for 10 years now, so you should be used to it"! Blind people don't receive the high rate mobility component of DLA, but we were promised by the government that from April next year we would be eligible to apply for it. I doubt that will go ahead now.

The fact of the matter is that there are plenty of places we as blind people might want or need to go, but can't do safely as it isn't possible to have been taught everywhere! This is true whether you are a guide dog owner or not. A guide dog might get you there safely, but that's no good if you don't know where to tell the dog to go, they don't come with sat-nav's or the ability to read signs! So we are left with getting taxi's, which can be very costly!

What I want to say to the government is that life is a struggle for the most motivated of us and for the most articulate of us, and we are shouting out extra loud against budget cuts for ourselves, and for those of us who can't!

Some times trying your best in this society just isn't enough! The majority of us want to be part of all the aspects of society so stop ignoring us and hoping we'll go away, because one day you could be one of us!

Oh there's loads more I could say, but that'll do for a start!

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