It is interesting to reflect on how much power language has, both in shaping our perceptions and in conveying them to others. These perceptions are present not only in the actual spoken words, but also in the tone and inflection in one’s voice as they are spoken. As a blind person, I have perhaps a lesser appreciation for the visual aspects, but acknowledge that they are extremely important in message transmission. I think maybe this post is a sign that this Master’s program in Communication is slowly taking over my brain.
Anyhow, here is the impetus. I was speaking with a woman who works for the Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital here in Durham, as I’ve met many of these individuals at my Erwin Road bus stop in the afternoon. She told me she has been a nurse there for several years, and thoroughly enjoys her job. She also noted being impressed with me as I zip around, an observation that I know gets under the skin of some folks who are blind but it does happen. Knowing this, that whether I want to or not I carry the mantle for blind folks, I usually try to act “presentable” (whatever that means) when in public. It took me ages to understand that I’m always being watched, whether I hear others around or not.
What really got me thinking though was when she posed the question in this post’s subject line. “So, where do you go on that bus every day!?” It was said with a definite quality of disbelief to it, probably both that I hopped onto the bus, and that I had some sort of regular destination to reach on the other end.
I wonder to what degree this sort of thinking affects our ability to be employed? Just the impression that maybe we are not, or at least shouldn’t be, capable of a degree of independence. Now, I have said several times before that “independence” does not mean a complete lack of need for assistance. What it does mean, at least in my own, perhaps twisted mind, is the ability and willingness to attempt to adapt to one’s environment and move around even in new places, and to be able to ascertain when help should be sought. It is more of a spectrum that includes some interdependence, just as it does for sighted people. I readily admit, after all, that I am nowhere near the most independent blind person out there. But fortunately this does not have to be a competition.
I told her how I navigate on the bus, and a little about the job I attend on the other end, each day departing at 5:30 like clockwork. The incredulity continued to seep into her voice, but I hope maybe in the end her mind was expanded a little bit with regard to the possible. I know also that others have the same sort of question(s), and always welcome them and will try to answer them to the best of my ability. For that is how people will learn, and I hope, slowly begin removing barriers for us all that exist because of a lack of understanding.
And you wanna know the irony of this post? As you’re reading it, assuming nothing totally unexpected has happened between its writing and publication, I’m sprawled in bed, enjoying a long weekday sleep! Because just as hard as I might want to work, I need time to vacation as well. I hope the job, and my gaggle of bus stop companions, won’t miss me too much.