Are you blind? dealing with social distancing as a visually impaired person.
Before I got my guide dog Fauna, walking into objects and people was a fact of life. I would often lose focus while walking and veer off my line especially when I was in a store trying to find a particular product. Blindness is often referred to as the invisible disability. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard the classic “gee, you don’t look blind” line in my life since the car accident which robbed me of all but a tiny portion of my sight. Before this year, brushing up against someone while wandering through the store was no big deal. Picking up a piece of fruit to feel for bruises was something I just did every time to ensure that I was not buying a bruised up apple or banana. Since the lockdown and subsequent easing of restrictions, being blind in a visual world has become even more difficult in so many ways.
One of the best parts of getting a guide dog is that my “invisible” disability has become a whole lot more visible. My white cane did indeed identify me as someone who was visually impaired, but with the guide dog it is a whole new experience. Just this past weekend, my wife and I were in the store and a middle aged couple with the man pushing the cart quickly ran up and stopped in front of me. My wife explained the situation: “They walked up to you and slammed on the brakes, the man gestured with his hand in a waving motion for me to move past them. He had a look on his face that he was clearly put out and didn’t understand why I wasn’t moving. The female member of the couple looked at the male and yelled at him pointing to my guide dog”. He apologized profusely knowing that he was in the wrong. I graciously accepted his apology and moved on about my business. The moral here is that we are all in our own world and all have things to do. But perhaps taking time to consider what others are going through with this pandemic might make you a bit better person in the long run. I can’t see the arrows on the floor, and I often wonder what it would be like to be forced to traverse the world with a cane or worse, if I had enough vision to travel on my own but not be able to read or see signs on the floor denoting the proper direction for a given aisle.
I always enjoy reading about the way other people with visual impairments solve the problem of living day to day with vision loss. Here is a great article I found written by MARY MAMMOLITI about the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and how she learned to to deal with the situation around her.
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