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I have a love of life. Some may call me a cynic but I'm truly an optimistic realist. I work on the philosophy “If you expect the worst but aim for the best, you'll land somewhere that's comfortable.”

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18 May 2013

Independence & Disability

It may be my negative mind at work once more or it may just be me taking a step back and asking a question nobody else will.

Can disabled persons be TRUELY independent?

I can only speak for myself, with my disabilities. However – I'd say no.

The dictionary defines independent as:
1.Free from outside control; not depending on another's authority
2. Not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence.

Can a blind person get up in the morning (or anytime of day to suit) – get themselves to work completely on their own, with no additional communication? 

I don't think they can. Weather it's asking a bus driver to let you off at a certain stop or calling for a taxi, when a sighted person could drive/learn to (presuming they don't have any other impairments). This is in the perfect world where every blind person has a job and the bus drivers always remember to stop and let the blind person know a) that they are a bus, and b) which number they are.

So, we're at work now. Can a blind person walk in off of the street into any office, with just the clothes they're wearing? No, they most likely need specialist software or devices in some instances. Of course unless we're talking about a job that is specifically created for the person's needs such as braille proof reader or something. Yes, some jobs don't involve computers all be it an ever unlikely situation where that is true. So, we look at a less tech driven job. Can a speaker or a personal trainer get from place-to-place by driving or public transport totally solo? No, they need a driver or additional communication.

...We've finished our mornings work in the office or being a gym queen with our Personal Assistant making sure the client isn't going to drop a load of free-weights on their chest causing them to suffocate... It's lunch time! We have three options here.

  1. Bring food in (packed lunch).
  2. Get something from a local store.
  3. Join our workmates for lunch somewhere.
    So, option 1 is easy right? Nope, it has exactly the same problem as option number 2. You may be able to find the shop with your cane or dog - but, you can't find what you want in the shop. So... you have to do the “independent” thing and ask? That's right you're independently asking for help to buy the food you need to live. I've been unfair here, and presumed you've not done you're shopping online and had it delivered by a person who will tell you what everything is because you can't see it.
    With option 3. You'd be reliant on a co-worker reading a menu to you and guiding you to a table at the very least. That's presuming you know where you're going to from your office and you're also fine with finding the toilets when you're there.
    Now we've been to work and got home and cooked dinner.
    How did we cook dinner? We used a recipe (probably not from an off the shelf Waterstones book) or possibly our memory. We may have used a talking jug or talking scales – maybe even a talking microwave. We didn't use a off the shelf jug or digital or even analogue scales. We could possibly have used a standard off the shelf microwave presuming it's had bump-ons attached to it.
    Of course there is always the other option of ready meals... But, they all have different cooking and standing times. Some you put in for a minute; take out; stir; do a slow waltz before putting them back in for another three days others you stick in for ten minutes, ping, done! You get the idea. So, once again, you'd have to ask someone to read these instructions for you and put some sort of mark on the “identical to the next” box to allow you to discriminate between them and their cooking requirements.
    Medication, not a problem at all these days! it's got braille on most of it. Oh! but the prescription... It needs a bit of box ticking. What will we do? Yes, “independently” ask for someone sighted to do it! If we drop a pill and can't find it we? Leave it for the vacuum cleaner or someone sighted, possibly our dogb to find it.
    Cup of something before bed? Kettles boiled “click” - grab a cup, milk and whatever else you need for said drink. STOP! Before tipping scolding hot water into a cup – don't forget your liquid level indicator to tell you when to stop pooring - to prevent spillage and/or injury.

Now, we're in bed! Yes, that's right - you're lucky enough to be in bed with me! Nice, comfy, warm and safe. See you in the morning and you can read the post that someone sent to me.

Sure, we're all limited in one way or another but there's an average that is given. A non mechanic may need a mechanic to repair their vehicle. We all have our specialities, but you can't really claim to be “independent” if you need help with routine tasks. If you're disabled, by the nature of the word – you are dis-abled from doing “standard” things. This is not to say you're incapable of living a “normal” life with certain restrictions or help. However, you are not independent.

The reason for writing this post – isn't to slam those that try their best to lead a full, wholesome and intergrated life; but to tell people to stop pretending independence is achievable with a disability - or at least my disability!

As a child, I was told I could achieve anything I wanted – I could be like my sighted friends. That is of course, unless I wanted a fancy car that I could get in trouble with by driving at silly speeds; if I wanted to join the military or go back-packing around the world (without a rifle). There's many other examples of what I couldn't/can't do, that you and my sighted friends could/can. I'm not going to list them all because – well, what purpose does it serve...?

Just be very mindful, when you tell someone they can be as great like …... because nobody is the same. I can't be Joan of Arc – you're child can't be the next Beckham. I'm not saying aspirations are a waste of time, I'm saying we're all different and by virtue of that we can never be the same as anyone else. We can aspire to be as good as we can be. If not so, Hitler should feel ashamed, he was nowhere near as “evil” as Genghis Khan and Beckham is not nearly as good as me at reading braille upside down with one hand. I am as good at writing as myself and possibly better than a few others but not nearly as good as another few.

Be yourself and don't pretend to be something you're not or that others wish you to be. Most of all don't give others false hope - things simply might not get better.

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