I hope the start to your year is going well. There will be so many blog posts and shares around new year’s resolutions and new beginnings and all that jazz. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may recall that I like to share reflections rather than resolutions at New Year because I believe we can make positive change at any point of the year. Why do we need to put so much pressure on ourselves for one month of it? This year I’m doing something different. I thought I would share my experiences of people I encountered and places I have visited during the month of December, which was a busy one.
I wanted to share this with you in the hope it will shine a light on how different people can react or behave around someone with a disability and encourage you to reflect and perhaps think a little differently.
During the first weekend of December, I went to Morocco with my mum and sisters for my middle sisters birthday. I won’t share the birthday we were marking in case she doesn’t want me to say but she is 18 months younger than me, so you know it was a landmark birthday! We thought a little winter sunshine would be good for the soul and a nice way to celebrate.
It was my first visit to Morocco, I knew the culture would be different and was looking forward to experiencing all of it. I am not a Brit abroad, I like to absorb myself in different cultures and learn. Overall, the people were lovely and polite and made us all feel very welcome. What I wasn’t prepared for was what became apparent as a marked difference in the general view on disability. I hadn’t expected to be treated as incapable and have experiences such as being man handled by a waitress into a chair at a restaurant. I guess she thought I was unable to sit on a chair alone? I was not impressed, not only did she touch me without permission she crumpled my lovely crepe material jumpsuit!
I felt like a bit of a freak show when we were out and about. People spoke to my sisters and mum rather than me and generally assumed that my disability meant I was not living my best life. I had to dig deep and think, ‘Don’t let it bother you, Nina. You know your life and you are stronger than this.’ And so, I concluded in my mind that in meeting me and seeing how capable I am I may have enabled them to think differently, helping to change the world a little at a time.
We had a fab time and importantly my sister did which was our main goal!
Another trip for my sister’s birthday, lucky lady! We had one night at a luxury hotel with a spa treatment, afternoon tea and a shopping trip to the Christmas markets. We joke that my sister and her family must be from the north pole as they are literally Christmas in the flesh. We frequently visit the Manchester Christmas markets so this year I thought it would be special to visit somewhere else.
The whole experience was great. As usual though there were a few who were astonished at how amazing I was coping, I mean come on! I am amazing! I am always amazed by how people are so amazed. How many times can I say amazing! The bar we went in to after dinner was very busy, but with the power of the cane, (it definitely has magic powers that encourage people to offer things up) we managed to get a seat. Referring to me, a lady asked my sister, ‘Is she okay, lovely?”. “Umm, hello I am right here!”. These incidents I can shrug off now as I know it is not personal and most people are doing it out of kindness, they just don’t know how to do it. With a polite response from me I hope it helps them the next time they meet someone who is blind.
Another learning experience for me was from an interaction with the train manager. When asked for the tickets, I opened the app with the voiceover off so that it didn’t surprise or freak them out. The train manager however said, ‘I can’t work phones can you get the other tickets up for me?’ It felt like a long silence whilst I thought, ‘wow, here is someone who can’t use technology even with sight!’ It isn’t always my disability that stands in the way. For ease of time my sister got the other tickets up, but I knew I could have turned the voiceover and shown him. In hindsight perhaps I should have shown how someone who is blind can use the technology. The incident has made me realise that we all have our barriers and it is not helpful to make assumptions.
My two other sisters who are twins have their birthday on Christmas Eve so that is always a meal out which I love and look forward too. It symbolises the start to Christmas. This was a lovely evening and they had a good turn out with a table of 15 in an already busy restaurant.
The staff were lovely, I don’t think they realised I was blind as I already knew what I wanted and as they were so busy, I wasn’t perhaps on the radar. I did however want to sneak off to buy a bottle of bubbles for the birthday girls and thought how do I do this without them knowing but as independently as possible. In the end I needed to accept that it wasn’t possible. I wasn’t able to flag a waiter or get up and go to the bar myself so I asked my mum to guide me to the toilets but on the way back asked her to detour to the bar so I could order the bottle. Being blind has most definitely taught me how to be resourceful, imaginative, and resilient in any kind of situation. Thinking my way around things in order to achieve the goals I want. We all had a fab night and they loved and were surprised by my treat.
I hope this read has been enjoyable and enabled you to reflect on your thinking. As a woman with a disability, it doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the things in life. What it does mean is that you have to be patient, imaginative, resilient and forgiving because you will ultimately experience things that might not be very pleasant or engage with people that have a different view point but the most important thing I have come to learn is that it is understanding yourself, your boundaries and knowing you can always have a little fun.
All the best for the start to 2024. Please share my blog with those around you to help others to understand disability a little better because you never know what the future holds. The more we can embrace difference the better the world will be.
All my love