Cautionary tales

I’ve been contemplating the idea of starting a blog for a while now, but I had no clue what my first entry should be about.

And now, thanks to an overzealous sign, I know where to begin.

Picture me traveling down hallways, carpeted in some drab, un-luxurious material – (my friend tells me it’s blue) – listening to the odd sound of my cane gliding over their scratchy surfaces. I open a nondescript door and enter the women’s restroom, immediately aware of the lack of contrast. Most public bathrooms have this unfortunate quality; the walls, floors, and all necessary implements of convenience (paper towel and soap dispensers, trash cans, and changing tables) are all delivered in muted, unimpressive colors or diluted pastels. High contrast is a beloved companion to my low vision, so these distinctly low-contrast environments are no fun.

I complete my tasks with relative success. Of course the accessible bathroom stall, with its self-contained facilities, is taken, so I make due with a regular stall. I prefer the “handicapped” stalls because I don’t have to wander around and play Bathroom Scavenger Hunt searching for the soap, sinks, and hand dryers.

As I walk away from the sinks, my cane gliding smoothly over the (nondescript) tiles, I encounter A Problem. My cane slides between two somethings – I don’t realize what they must be until the cane is successfully caught and I hear the snap of the sign’s placards as it closes and hits the floor. I am beginning to realize just how perception works for me – I don’t realize what things are or what they must be until after I encounter what they do.

For example, this sign got tangled up with my cane, so, contrary to its cautionary “Wet Floors” message, it must be a hazard.  “Well I’m glad I’ve cleared that up,” I think to myself. It’s so reassuring when you start to make sense of the world around you.

People often want to euphemize disabilities and impairments, saying things like, “Well at least you’re still alive,” and “Think of what you can learn from your condition.” And as much as I rail against the overly sentimental simplifications of what my life must be like through the eyes of others, I have learned a lot from my low vision.

I’ve learned to question my initial perceptions, constantly. I’ve learned that things aren’t what they are – they’re what they do. We like to think of our everyday necessities, gadgets, and even the structures of our society as Absolute Entities, unchanging and always embodying some version of the idea. But when you live a daily existence that sometimes mistakes trashcans for people, tables for chairs, or signs for tripping hazards, you learn to embrace a wider range of possibilities. Maybe these “mistakes” or “errors” in my perception aren’t errors at all.

I want to explore this space, the place where my perception differs so greatly from the conventionally-accepted realities of daily life. I want to take a walk into my vision of existence, and I invite you to come with me.

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1 Comment

  1. Just like the previous entry (or at least previous one I read–not sure which one comes first chronologically) this one gives me a chance to see a bit more what life is like with a visual impairment. Yeah, I agree that sometimes people who seem to mean well with the “well at least…” or “what you can learn…” attitude can often be downers. I think that it’s important that you’ve decided to use this blog to help you understand yourself and help other people understand the world around us all through a different perspective.

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