Following my previous Letter to the Editor, when an elderly woman passenger on our train in Perth complained loudly for all to hear, that a blind child had no future at all, I decided to do some peer support work. I chose the retirement village where I live, and offered to talk about some of the tips and tricks blind and vision impaired people use to assist them to live and work.
There were not as many people present as I had hoped, however I spoke for nearly two hours, showing several items to assist around the house; explained about raised dots to mark my microwave and washing machine to identify where to operate correctly; gave some tips about using telephones and remotes without actually having to concentrate on a tiny screen; and told some stories about having a dog guide and using my white cane.
People were amazed to feel bank notes with the raised dots on them, and I explained that one can use EFTPOS machines by radiating from the raised dot on the 5 outwards to select the numbers wanted. I think people were very interested in what I had to say, and I know I could have spoken even longer if time was available. Questions were asked, and they were quite easy to answer. One woman told our walking group that I was fantastic.
I do like to give back to the community, and feel that some of the items I depend on are just as useful for those with blurred vision or those with some other eyesight conditions like short or long sightedness. I am always happy to chat to others about how people like myself manage to live independently and successfully. There are some barriers, but not many.
I hope that other people will take any opportunity they can to educate our fellow Australians. It is not as hard as you might think.
Karen Passmore, in Perth
Thank you, Karen, for this sequel to your last letter. I really admire your proactive response to an unpleasant and frustrating incident. While educating people may be easy and sometimes rewarding, I think it’s important to remember that it’s also generous. People without disabilities don’t have to prove to others that they’re capable of simple and mundane tasks.
Some people believe it shouldn’t be our responsibility to explain ourselves, and I agree with them. But we don’t live in the ideal world yet, and building it will take some work. So as a pragmatist, I admire your generosity, and I’ll try to follow your example.