Beautiful but hazardous for blind people
I was walking along the main street in my little town the other day and encountered a tall gentleman using a mobility cane. Being familiar with the surroundings I wanted to caution him about the hanging flower baskets. Not all but some of them are directly over the sidewalks and as the season goes on they hang lower and lower. I introduced myself and mentioned that I’m on the town’s accessibility advisory committee and asked if he had encountered any of the low hanging flowers. He said that they hadn’t caused him any difficulty.
As we chatted I learned that his name was Bruce and that he had lost a significant amount of vision only a year and a half ago and that he and I have very different visual impairments. He has only central vision and I have only peripheral.
So for Bruce obstacles that protrude into walkways or that overhang them can be particularly hazardous. When a person uses a mobility cane, it only detects things on or very near the ground. Overhead baskets, awnings, and signage are often undetectable and can cause injury.
So before we parted I also warned Bruce about an outdoor patio nearby, where the sun umbrellas extend outside their fenced off area, and were likely at about eye level for him. I had gone into this particular restaurant and explained this hazard to one of their managers but the umbrellas remain in the same location and height.
I understand how it would not occur to many people that these types of things would be a problem for a blind person. Fewer than three percent of Canadians have a vision disability so we can’t expect everyone else to know what we need or what causes us difficulty. Speaking up can help. I get a bit cranky when I feel like I might have to throw myself on the ground and kick and scream, and even then I may not get results.
Oh well, the kicking and screaming will continue!
Any time I travel alone on an airline I always call ahead to request assistance and I always have my white ID cane in hand when I arrive. I only carry the cane so people recognize my blindness, as it is not apparent. It usually serves its intended purpose however, once people notice that I can see quite a bit, the cane as a symbol sometimes seems to lose its validity.
On my recent trip, since carrying the cane along with luggage can be a challenge, I decided to try going without it.
So when I called to inform the airline that I’m a disabled traveler and would need assistance, I told them that I don’t use a white cane but that I wear a checkered eye symbol instead. I informed them that this was a wearable symbol for low vision and that they could see it at checkeredeye.com.
Since I had made arrangements for assistance by phone there was no need to make explanations to the service personnel once we met. I took each opportunity to ask these staff members if they already knew the checkered eye and to my delight, some of them did.
So the checkered eye was as effective as the ID cane in regards to the assistive staff. The only time I used the ID cane was when, after an assistant had shown me where the ladies room was and I told her I could find my way back to the waiting area, I had it in hand so the other travelers would allow me back into the “special” seating area without explanation. I was very glad I had the white cane for that situation because it was a very crowded time and people had moved into the area where we disabled travelers had been placed, including into my seat. As soon as they saw me with my cane they very politely excused themselves. Phew!
I am now reaching out to cruise lines in hopes that they also will accept checkered eye information to distribute to their staff and be able to add that bit of understanding to customer care for their demographic which likely has a relatively high percentage of people with low vision. Fingers crossed!
When my sister moved from Ontario to British Columbia, she shipped some of her belongings and drove herself to the destination in Langly. Since it would have been a long and lonely drive I decided to accompany her.
There was only one place we visited that provided their menu in accessible formats for people with visual impairment; The Water Tower Inn in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. I alwasy ask for a large print version and I'm very happy that some places now provide them.
Along the way I delivered checkered eye information and was delighted whenever I met someone who already knew about the new symbol for low vision. I handed out lots of my bsuness card size "booster cards" and put up some posters.
Here are a few photos of places where I was able to put up our new poster.
Next month I'll tell you about the plane ride home...