I am a blind person. Notice I’m using people last language since in public I’m blind “first” and a person only in the most conditional sense. It’s not fashionable to say this. What’s popular in “the idioms” is arguing blindness is nothing more than an inconvenience, why it’s nothing really. I wish this was true. But in my experience I’m always a problem whenever I leave my house. I’ve written about this on my blog for close to nine years. Many disability themed bloggers also discuss the subject—this problematized life we endure when we venture out.
As a poet I tend to think about disadvantaging spaces in gestural ways which is to say I think being on the playing field is important. If the Americans with Disabilities Act gave us the opportunity to be out in public then by God we should be everywhere. You can’t count on your rights unless you use them. Poets believe in community or most good ones do. We want people to gather and hear words, share emotions. Just so I think all the disabled turn environments into something new when they arrive where formerly they were strictly absent. I’m a blind man at the movies with my guide dog. Blind at the ball game. A few people will think. They’ll say: “well, yes, of course the blind can enjoy things…” Silly to have to say so? Silly yes, but necessary every day. 25 years after the ADA John Q. Public still thinks in a moist way the cripples probably belong in asylums. Or worse: they think we should be eliminated.
So anyway I leave my house. Because I can’t drive it takes a long time to get to work. (You’re lucky if you have work or you’re going to school…) And when I get to work I discover they’ve changed the computer system overnight. No one took blindness into account when they jumped to “Leverage 2.0” and now I can’t use the damned PC. I call the IT people and learn they’ve no idea what to do next. Blindness (nothing more than an inconvenience) now becomes an “impossibility” in the workplace. Complain about it and lo and behold, one becomes a crank in the eyes of administrators at the Widget Company or Widget College. Your very presence is inconvenient.
At Widget College they regularly adopt inaccessible software and course management tools and try later to retrofit them. This is not uncommon. Widget College is the norm in higher education when it comes to digital access. What’s so demoralizing is that while you’ve complained about it for years they simply hold more committee meetings and voila, continue buying inaccessible software.
You’re tempted over time to throw up your hands and say, “well I don’t belong in the workforce after all.” And when the bus driver won’t call out the stops even though you’ve asked him politely to do so and you get off in the wrong neighborhood and it takes you an hour to solve this and it’s raining and you’re half lost, well, you think, “I don’t belong on the bus or the street.”
Let’s be clear these are nearly daily problems.
My faculty colleagues are not disabled for the most part. They nod when I tell them how inhospitable Widget College is. I’ve found liberal minded faculty are great nodders. They can’t imagine being blind. Why if they were blind, they know they’d never leave their houses.