I very much intend to stay anonymous for as long as I can. This is nothing to do with inmate shyness, paranoia or similar reasons but more to do with the fact that I did a previous piece of work on public transport and accessibility and found the intent was corrupted as soon as people became aware of the work and my possible identity. Whether or not I actually was “that bloke” (well there’s the first give away) “who complains about” or “that bloke who writes about” wasn’t really the point. The point was that as soon as people suspected anyone was “that bloke” their behaviour, presumably subconsciously, changed. With that change what I was observing and then writing about was no longer the unfiltered truth.
Writing about this first period of my life with a symbol cane is going to be of far more value to readers if what is coming at me, and then you, is not coloured by the increasing numbers of people knowing who I am; where I’m likely to be; the fact I have a symbol cane and what I already think or have experienced about a multitude of things related to the use of a cane.
And yes, obviously, there absolutely a little(ish) part of me that enjoys the enigma. However, when I find myself repeating or boring myself and others I will happily surrender my anonymity but until then the stuff I think you need to know is as follows.
I am male, middle aged and based in the UK. No, I won’t be defining middle age. It is in the eye of the beholder. My beauty therapist says I have the skin of a much younger man. Yes, I am fully aware this is how she keeps my business.
I think the male element of that may prove to be interesting in itself as I suspect and have detected some divergence between male and female perspectives and lived experience of cane use. Age differences may prove equally interesting. I stand to be corrected on both of those but hope the discussion will be respectful and a learning experience for all concerned.
I was born with two related genetic eye conditions. One was diagnosed near birth and one was diagnosed by accident in middle age. They are related but nobody really knows for sure as yet which one causes the other or if that is even the case. We have correlation but not causation if you like. We definitely never had a clinical pathway.
At no point have I ever looked like any stereotype of a visually impaired person. Until recently no cane and certainly not a guide dog or even any kind if generalised assistance from another person like needing to link arms or be guided in any way.
My participation in mainstream education was never a question. The extent of what we would now know, under the Equality Act 2010, as ‘reasonable adjustments’ went no further than a parental request for me to sit closer to the front of classrooms and some extra exam time for 1 specific exam of 1 specific A level. No-one will be surprised to learn that I possibly put more effort into active resistance to being near the front of the classroom than I occasionally did into the lessons themselves. Similarly I doubt anyone with a visual impairment would be surprised to learn that the exam in question was Geography map reading. I’m sure it wasn’t called exactly that but you get the gist.
Aside from a few initial directionless years post university I have always been in full time employment and again that hardly makes me stand out as a visually impaired person. I am anything but. I am a bloke with glasses and until the last 15 years I haven’t even been that for most of the time. I wore glasses from 5 to about 12 (as best I can recall) and only resumed wearing them pretty much bang on the point at which life allegedly begins. I have currently worn glasses for around 40% of my life.
I don’t and never will drive. I can ride a bicycle and indeed I used to do so to work for years. Nowadays I’m more aware and appreciative of my limitations and I’m a willing victim of public transport who only cycles intermittently and only off road. Again this hardly makes me unique. Indeed it probably serves to make my impairment even more invisible. That, as we shall see, is both a good and a bad thing.
I will of course fully address the apparent contradiction of my being able to cycle and yet also being a cane user in a post when the moment arises. Watch me spend 10 minutes trying to thread a needle and you’ll end up even more confused. Don’t worry. Me too.
Many people with visual impairments will have similar stories. Whilst I claim no uniqueness in any respect here, one of the points of this blog is to address the fact that there’s a whole non-unique group of us out here who look nothing like you, or we, think a visually impaired person might look like and yet the range of issues we face, importantly including guilt and imposter syndrome, will often match or exceed those of people who look more visibly visually impaired.
Other stuff you need to know? Dunno. There’s now a social media account on Twitter @CaneAndAbleBlog. Why don’t you ask me there?Follow @CaneAndAbleBlog