Even when they’re trying to help those with a visual impairment, people don’t always think things through. Judith Furse shares some of the funnier – and more frustrating – examples of these near-misses and outright failures.
Some years ago, when my mother was still alive, she and I were watching (or, in my case, listening to) Countdown on television one day. The adverts came on and she suddenly remarked, “That’s good.”
“What is?” I enquired.
“They provide braille statements,” she said.
“Who do?” I asked.
She named a utility company.
I rang the company concerned and told them, “I think it’s good that you provide braille statements. I also think it’s good that you advertise the fact but, as your TV ad has music and no voice-over, if I hadn’t been watching TV with a sighted person, I would have been none the wiser.”
They thanked me for my input and I never saw the ad again.
Having a sense of humour, I find this incident quite amusing, but it’s frustrating, too.
I also saw the funny side of things when I attended a patient user-group for an eye clinic. The manager stood up to start his PowerPoint presentation. He began by apologising that the figures in red weren’t as clear as he would have liked.
I spoke up.
“For those of us who can’t see the screen at all, please could you explain what you are referring to?”
To be fair, he did, and, of course, it was reasonable for him to assume there were people there who could see the screen. Given that this was an eye clinic, though, he really should have also guessed that there might be people there who couldn’t.
It’s not that those providing these services are being deliberately difficult. They just don’t think. This is particularly concerning where eye-care professionals are concerned.
I once went into hospital for treatment on an ophthalmic ward. One of the first things that I did was learn the way from my bed to the toilet. This wasn’t easy as it was some way down the corridor from the bay my bed was in, but I managed it.
When I came round from the anaesthetic after the operation, I was in a completely different bed, in a completely different room. Fortunately a nurse did think to tell me this but, to me, this was bad practice in action. Most people are groggy enough after surgery, but if you also have any impairment to your senses, your disorientation is even more aggravated.
I have had years of doctors and nurses in outpatients calling my name and then marching briskly off down a corridor without checking to see if I could follow them.
In all fairness, I should acknowledge that I have encountered some excellent practice too.
When I was being assessed for a hip replacement, for example, I told the nurse of my anxiety about finding my way to the bathroom. Sure enough, when I was admitted, I was right next to it, and they didn’t move me to another bed during the whole time I was there.
Again, my ophthalmic consultant for many years always came and took my arm and personally guided me from the waiting area into her consulting room. There we would have interesting conversations about how I coped on a day-to-day basis.
I mention this last point because, too often, the medical model of disability only looks at symptoms. Most healthcare professionals have no idea how disabled people actually live their lives.