Why being a visually impaired pedestrian is becoming a perilous,isolating nightmare

When I was a small child I remember walking with my mum in my local town holding her hand, we walked on the pavement and I felt perfectly safe, I couldn’t see very well but knew there was a road to one side and a step onto it would be dangerous for me.  I knew what traffic lights were and was taught the green cross code, it was simple.  There was a distinction between pavement and road, but now this is no more.

Over the years I’ve seen a large decline in safety for myself and other pedestrians.  It first started in the 90’s with the predestinization  of cities which although was brilliant, motorists and retailers didn’t like it, hence the arrival of retail parks, However predestrinized streets brought other problems, speeding  bicycles ; swerving pushchairs. Some mobility scooter users were going much faster than foot speed  would come at you from all directions.   At certain times of the day (not always knowing what times) some vehicles would be allowed through, and you wouldn’t know a vehicle was there until it was right on top of you from the front or behind.  A-boards and street furniture would appear in random spots, some of it small enough for me to walk into many a time.  When it got completely mad I considered getting a guide dog, that’s how bad it got in one town locally, a cane doesn’t work when people/things are speeding towards you.

In this century the idea of shared spaces/surface where anybody and anything can travel on the same space has made things worse, with buses now added to the melee of wheels, with their virtually silent engines it’s easy to miss a bus turning a corner and nearly being crushed by it or a van reversing unexpectedly; children running about; adults not looking where they are going as their eyes are glued to their mobiles.  Oh yes and the steps that appear from nowhere that I went falling down near our new bus station.  That’s just the streets in city centres.

In my own area where I live many things are taking up space on these supposed footpaths, numerous bins; large skips;  leaves not been cleared up for months which can cover up vital markings; cycle paths which you have to step on to avoid the rest of the clutter; runners not always clearly visable;  plenty of pavement parking by motorists who can’t be bothered to walk.  When pavements get resurfaced they don’t feel flat anymore either, many feel steeper or uneven underfoot possibly due to civil engineers can’t put their various pipes and cables deep enough underground. Some pavements are cracked due to trees roots growing from underneath, even overhanging trees or bushes can appear unexpectedly or from the side where you can get scratched. It’s concerning that pavements can get so cluttered finding space to walk on safely is a navigational nightmare. Even taking a regular route to my GPs last year ended with me taking a tumble.

But here’s what topped it off for me.  I think it was a couple of weeks ago I heard a  loud noise outside my window and discovered later there were some roadworks outside my home, I got a letter from the council a few days later to say there were road works being carried out.  It stated the times when the roads would be disrupted but didn’t give dates of start and finish of the said works.  But thankfully does give a feedback form which I fully intend to fill out here’s why.

Just this week I was heading out when it was very windy to catch bus I went back inside as it was too windy for me to breathe normally, I also had to make a cancellation.  I tried again later as I needed to get some shopping it had dropped off a bit so I was able to manage a walk to the shop, however when I got to the bus stop I noticed a large sign bus stop closed.  I checked later and nothing reported that my bus stops were closed, so if I’d managed to get past the wind I would not have been able to catch a bus no warning issued . No one has been able to pick me up during the day because of the road closure either so no access to transport whatsoever. Whilst the roadworks continue  it’s pretty isolating and no there’s no guarantee this will not happen again. How about the perilous bit, well one day on the pavement I saw a big truck parked right in the middle of the pavement, dangerous for someone totally blind, I have enough sight to avoid it but if it had been dark it might have been a different story.   Another truck was parked on the side of the pavement I needed to cross too. I didn’t know why that area seemed blocked by this truck, I discovered later why when I almost walked into a pink  barrier.  Whilst this work continues I’m potentially housebound for a large part of the day, I’m sure some of the other disabled and elderly folk around here will be too.

Now I’m increasingly concerned along with I’m sure many of my other visually impaired friends what unsuspecting  dangers  lie ahead once our feet head out the door and will it come to the point like a large percentage of visually impaired people that it’s just too dangerous and stressful to risk life and limb on this particular obstacle course of our streets which has no health and safety regulation attached to protect us.







Independence Part 5: Coping with losing your independence when your sick or disabled

This is the final part of my series on independence, however when I started writing on the subject of Co-dependency I thought of another topic in relation to that, whether I will add it to this series or put it as part of another I don’t know yet, but for now this is the final part.

Some might think reading this that I have no authority to write about this particular subject after all there hasn’t been a time when I haven’t been disabled.  But I believe although I may not have the qualifications or expertise to write about this subject, I’ve had to learn to adapt to the world around me with the disabilities that I have, I’ve also seen others find it difficult to come to terms with their lack of independence.  I’ve had people comment how well I cope and I think if that is a lesson to people maybe I can give a few tips, maybe in their own minds if they see me manage they may be able to do so too.

I feel for those whose independence has been removed from them abruptly as a result of illness or disability the road is often much harder whereas someone who knows a condition they have is going to get worse is not a great thing to live with but at least you have more time to come to terms with it and better timing and resources at your disposal in order to prepare for the eventuality.

1     Acceptance

Much of the way to deal with losing your independence is down to our thinking.  Acceptance is the first step, accepting you now are disabled or sick is vital for you to progress forward, that doesn’t mean you should define yourself by your disability or sickness, or even have it as part of your identity.  That disability or sickness  doesn’t own you doesn’t belong to you but it is something you have to learn to live with. By the way when I say it doesn’t belong to you I mean you didn’t choose it.  You don’t have to let it control your life either.  But you do have to accept that it’s there that it does change your life that it does give you limitations.

2     Do get angry

It’s ok to be angry about this change to your life yes be angry that you no longer can walk the distance you used to, you can’t read the paper anymore, you can’t pick up the cup with your right hand without spilling the contents, that’s fine.  Yes be angry when people are being rude to you or ignore you and treat you like a second class citizen, but process that anger properly.  Vent your anger on your own  or share it with someone who would understand.  As time goes on you may find that the length of time you are angry about a situation is a little less each time as either you learn to adapt or you get a tougher skin round others who may be unpleasant or who lack compassion.

3     Be honest when your not coping

It’s normal to feel depressed too, understandably you may have been through a trauma before your sickness and disability and now your having to adjust not only what’s happened too you before this happened but now adjusting to the outcome.  Don’t hide the fact your struggling to come to terms with your disability or sickness, let someone know or speak to a counsellor about your fears, anger and tears,.  It’s not a shame to be sick or disabled but it is a shame to hide that pain away from those who care about you.  They may already know that your not coping and it may be a relief to them for you to share that with them.

4     Get all the help you can

Get all the support you need from healthcare/social services professionals and any charities related to your condition,  Find support groups where you can go to and obviously if your reading this there will be social media support groups linked to your condition.  There are benefits available for people who are sick or disabled, don’t be ashamed to take them .  The government has made provision for them,  undoubtedly you’ve paid your taxes or national insurance  in the event of this happening so you will be entitled to take them, these benefits will help you be more independent.  The money may pay for you to get a cleaner if you need one or a support worker, to help reading your mail or take you shopping  or a qualified carer to deal with your hygiene needs, to give that family member a break.

5    Get adaptations

There are plenty of adaptations available on the market these days, from large print clocks to specialist gardening equipment, which means you may still do the things you want to do with the right equipment.  I for instance have screen magnification software  on this laptop so I can read the print on the screen, I have speech if  I need it too, I can change the size of print, the size and shape of the cursor and even the contrast of colours  if need be.  Some adaptations can be got through social services such as a chair lift for the stairs, or a  hoist for a bed.  There numerous products out there that will make it easier for you or a family member to be more independent.

6     There is hope

Just because you are now sick or disabled it doesn’t mean that your life is over, for some your life may have just begun.  Don’t try and run before you can walk, pace yourself, laugh when things go wrong.  It is possible to work when you have a disability I worked for 13 years in a media business,  just be honest about your limitations and what you need and you should survive.  In order to work you may have to learn new skills, colleges and University’s should have support workers and adaptable equipment for courses.   You can still travel but you can book assistance you can get someone to help you on and off the train, they provide wheelchair assistance on and off trains.  If you can’t hear very well anymore you can get adaptable phones, so you can still communicate.  There are many people who have learnt to adapt to their particular illness or disability so can you, as long as you are patient with yourself in your progress you can learn to adapt, don’t compare yourself to others in their progress whether they are doing better than you or worse, don’t give up, when things are tough, just remember you are not alone, many HAVE been in your shoes before you and many will still in the future. There will be good days and bad, there will be days when you may take two steps forward and two steps back.  Count your blessings, you may not be able to speak the way you used to but you can still see and hear the people around you and hug those close to you.  Other parts of our bodies can do the things other parts can’t anymore but in a different way, there’s a lady who can paint with her feet.

I know this may not be a comprehensive response to cope with losing your independence, but my tips above are a starting point, if need be follow my blog, I have my good days and bad days too, it’s not a bed of roses being sick or disabled but there are plenty of things to laugh about.  I’ll end with a funny story.  One of my relatives had bought a motorbike, he took us to show us the bike in his garage, well I took a photograph and what I took was not of the motorbike but of the lawnmower! Bye for now 🙂

Independence Part 4: Interdependence

In my previous blog posts we have covered what independence is, the irony of it Co-dependence and now we are covering interdependence.

If we want to be independent but we can’t be truly independent what are we left with.  The answer is interdependence, which is mutual dependence.  A friend of mine got confused with the terms when they thought co-dependence was interdependence.  The difference between the two is that co-dependence is over dependence or reliance on someone else and it’s not necessarily mutual.  Mutual dependence means that  you assist one another in becoming independent by supporting the other person or people where dependence is necessary.

I think a great example of this is in a good working community where everyone understands each others strengths and weaknesses.  For example there are two people one is a middle aged man the other an elderly lady.. The  gentleman  is extremely good at gardening but can’t so a button after his wife died, the elderly lady is no longer able to garden due to arthritis in her knees but she can still sew.  The man who can do her garden will equally be supported by the elderly lady’s ability to sew some trousers or buttons on a shirt. It could be that the elderly lady can teach the gardener to sew themselves and the gardener can show the elderly lady other ways to garden independently without bending down, this could mean the gardener can landscape the garden so there’s very little bending involved, or only have a garden with trees or hanging plants in.  This kind of example could be practised in other ways throughout the community.  A parent who has a car can give a lift for someone who doesn’t have a car in exchange for baby sitting duties.  If the person getting the lift was a teenager they can be taught to drive by that parent and the teenager can assist the parent on maths or IT if they are at adult education classes.

I personally think one of the reasons why so many people rely on welfare or rather have to rely on welfare is that the notion of community has largely disappeared in our modern world, although I believe it seems to be desired.  I know that churches and organisations are setting up projects within neighbourhoods, towns and cities in the UK in an attempt to address this shortfall.  But one of the reasons this is not happening is probably down to trust, can we trust someone to assist us who we barely know?

The place to start I think is in the family unit and try and extend the interdependence model outside of the family unit.  If your not a part of a family unit try and join a community project where your skills and strengths can be utilised and also get support for the things that you need support with, or the things you can teach others.

Now one important thing I want to address, disabled people are the ones that are often seen being the ones that need help, but apparently have nothing or little to offer, this is nothing further from the truth.  Many disabled people are crying out to be integrated into their communities, they have an awful lot to offer, life experience, flexibility, problem solving skills and that doesn’t account for the many other things.  Many of the disabled people I know are more than willing to give to their communities and some have had the opportunity to do so, one of my visually impaired friends, runs a choir for children in their community for instance.

So in conclusion look out to help others and be mindful of the fact that others are willing to help you, but don’t become dependent on people and do things not expecting anything in return no one likes people doing things for ulterior motives. But if someone has helped you in the past be sure to find ways of supporting them in return somewhere down the line, hopefully they weren’t looking for anything in return. Let’s hope we can learn in the future to find ways to not fear to depend on one another without becoming users or becoming over dependent on people. Not to be afraid of asking for help either, knowing that we may be able to do something in return in the future.

I hope this blog post and my others have given people food for thought.  My next blog post will be the last post in this series it will be on coping with losing independence as a result of illness or disability and how to adjust,