The Pain In My Brain Is Caused Mainly By The Cane

Meet another group of police officers who need to learn the difference between a white cane and a weapon. This happened last year in Winnipeg, but I finally got around to writing it down.

It seems that Steven Stairs was walking from a bar to a payphone, and he had the misfortune of being in the same area where they were looking for a man with a concealed weapon. He had an ID cane on his hip, and they thought it was a weapon. They asked him to stop, but being legally blind, he didn’t know they were talking to him, so kept moving, and that’s when they tackled him. They say he was drunk and disorderly. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know, but I would at least be disorderly if I was suddenly tackled by a bunch of unknown folks for doing absolutely nothing. Come on, wouldn’t you?

An ID cane
Yeah, that is a scary weapon…if you’re a toddler maybe.

The “dangerous weapon” in question, if his ID cane looks like any other ID cane I’ve ever seen, was one of these. You can’t even use these things as a proper cane to tap obstacles, because you’ll probably break it. I’m sure if you really tried you might be able to bruise someone with one of these, but that’s if you’re really trying, and if they stood there long enough to let you.

In my googling to figure out if Stairs has followed up on his legal action he wanted to take against the police, I found out that this happened to another guy way back in 1989. This time, some police officers in California mistook the guy’s folded cane for a set of nunchakus. Ok, cops, let’s sit down and do a little comparison.

set of nunchakus
Not a white cane, though it would make getting through crowds much easier.

folded white cane
Dishing out beatings…to the ground as intended.

The officers thought because his eyes were open and he seemed to be looking at them, he wasn’t blind, even though his eyes were milky in colour. Ok, while we’re at it, watch this here video.

I wish I could find the old CNIB “not everyone who looks blind is totally blind” commercial, but it has been lost to history. Anyway, are we good now?

I know that sometimes police have to make split-second decisions and they think they see something that turns out to be not what they thought it was, but some of this stuff feels completely unnecessary. In all of these cases, people were walking, using a payphone and standing at a bus stop. None of them were running, lunging aggressively, or doing anything that would make the officer feel threatened, judging from the descriptions. In the case of the bus stop guy, why assume he can see your uniform. Identify yourself as police, and ask a couple of questions to make him realize you’re talking to him, and you’d soon find out that’s a cane, feel foolish and walk away, without needing to clonk the guy with your baton. In the case of the pay phone guy, say something specific like “Sir, this is the police, put down the phone.” to make him realize “gees, that’s for me and I should listen up,” and you could have likely been able to have a conversation. If I hear someone yelling “Stop!”, I’m not going to assume that’s for me unless you’re super close to me, and heck, I might want to get out of there faster in case some shit’s going to go down that I don’t want to witness in an up close and personal way. But I’m not running away because I’m evading you, I didn’t realize you were yelling for me.

I’m pretty sure police get some kind of awareness training to do with disabilities, but I’m starting to think it should be refreshed like CPR training so maybe a few less of us get our heads caved in unnecessarily.

A Different Type of Disability Etiquette Video

I saw this disability etiquette video which is full of supposed tips for us dealing with the public, rather than the other way around

and after I found the description, I had a really good laugh. I got most of it, but the disabled parking spot scene, the bathroom stall scary music bit, and the drunken puking person really needed description, so I’m glad it’s here.

We so need more of these. I wonder if she has done other videos.

Stop, Ask, Listen: Pretty Straightforward Stuff, Yes?

I know I have said it over and over and over again before, but I found someone else’s take on it that I thought was pretty well-written, and bonus, it included references to other “feel good stories” I’ve wanted to talk about, so double awesome! It also mentions an issue that I have talked about before, the issue of people getting so upset when I refuse their help. Yes, this is a thing. I don’t even have to be mean about it. I can say “No thanks, I don’t need a ride, I’m good,” and it feels like they sulk off in a huff. Or, I sometimes have to be aggressive, like when people don’t even ask me where I’m going and grab, or grab my dog’s harness or leash, and I loudly tell them to stop because that’s not ok and I get the pouty, snippy “I was only trying to help.” That’s great, but the first step in helping is asking what would be helpful.

Also disturbing is some people’s disregard for our feelings, as if we aren’t allowed to feel violated ever. The other day, I was on the bus and a woman said “I know I’m not supposed to pet your dog right now.” I said no now is not a good time. Then I told her that people don’t care, and pet her when we’re sitting on the bus. Keep in mind that she is sitting between my legs, and people just pet anyway. I said “not only is it bad because she’s working, but think about where you’re putting your hands! You’re getting pretty close to intimate at this point!” at which point the woman laughed uproariously. I couldn’t help it. I looked at her seriously and said “That wasn’t intended as a joke.” I don’t think she knew what to do. But in all seriousness, that was intended as an aha moment, not a ha ha moment, and although this woman seemed like a very sweet woman, her first impulse was not to be appalled or empathetic, but to think it was hilarious that I might not want to have someone’s hands there.

My friend’s mom also had a similar attitude, and if I wasn’t in the back of her car with a long day ahead of me, I would have eaten her for lunch. She told me that I wasn’t allowed to get upset, I just had to explain it nicely. “Please don’t put your hands practically in my crotch?” Really? This is a thing I must do? Incidentally, it isn’t. The person is lucky they don’t get slapped.

It kills me, because people can do studies where people show resistance at touching the private parts of a robot because they feel like they’re violating something. But they have no problem getting up close and personal with us. Great, we are considered less than human.

Anyway, this post does a great job, and hopefully it makes this stuff make a little more sense to people who don’t get why we get irritated

Kika The Spying Guide Dog

I read about this a little while ago, and had a few thoughts about it.

Amit Patel is a fellow who has recently gone blind, and he encounters a lot of jerks in his travels. So, he decided to attach a GoPro to his guide dog Kika and capture video evidence of said jerks. Unless I’m missing it, there are none of the aforementioned videos available to see, which is mildly disappointing. I guess he has used this video footage to get people at transit stations to be better trained, to report cab drivers for denying him access, all kinds of stuff, along with capturing the everyday incidents of people kicking his guide dog and other assorted run-of-the-mill crap people do, which his wife tweets about.

There are countless times where I’m pretty sure I know what happened, but I don’t want to assume the worst and be a jerk myself. For example, I hear the kissy kissy noise that usually means people are trying to talk to my dog. But there could be a toddler or a baby nearby that I just haven’t noticed yet. One day, I heard someone taking pictures and then someone else said “you should really ask her permission first”. I wondered if that was about me, but wouldn’t I come off as a pompous ass if I said “I’m offended that you took my picture.” and it wasn’t about me at all. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the proof of what did or didn’t happen?

I hope it’s easy to go through GoPro footage, because otherwise, his wife would have a full-time job going through the days events looking for jerks.

I don’t live in England where he does, but I really hope it’s not as bad as it seems every single day. I mean, I acknowledge that some people are special, but I’ve never been told to apologize for holding people up, or been deliberately shoulder charged. Most of the stupidity comes from people not looking where they’re going…I think, and then there’s the occasional numbnut that thinks I’m begging for money or I’ll take up all their time, or they say those offensive inspiration porn comments like “Oh just when I think I have it bad, there’s always someone worse than me…How do you even get up and face the day?”. I also think it’s harder to get people’s attention now because so many people are looking at their phones or wearing headphones. I’ve had to get a lot closer to people and face them because just speaking in their general direction isn’t going to cut it. Also, saying the words “excuse me” seems to get the response of people getting out of the way, rather than realizing that you want to ask a question. It’s like they default to the meaning of “excuse me” that requires the minimal amount of work. Or, they stop and wait, but they don’t say “Yes?” so you know you’ve got their attention. I don’t know what’s up with people not wanting to use their mouths lately, but it happens a lot. People will hold things out for me to take them and not say a word, like I’m going to know it’s there, even after we’ve had a whole blindness conversation.

I think part of it is that he hasn’t learned the trick of addressing a small group of people. If you yell “hello” at a whole crowd, you’re not going to get good results, but if you practically get right in a small group’s face and do the closest thing to giving eye contact and ask something, most times you will get a response. I have even chased people down when I’m desperate or *accidentally* given a leg a cane tap when I had my cane. Now I’ll sort of brush up against them and then go “Oh gee, sorry.” When they say that’s ok, then we’re talking. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but yelling at an in discriminant crowd is nearly always going to fail. Hearing the following quote makes me sad, if traveling in London and other big cities is really that bad. “Losing my sight is very lonely, if I’m travelling by public transport I’m sometimes like a scared little boy sat in the corner.”

I’m going to hope that since he has only been blind for a short time, maybe he hasn’t learned some of the tricks that have taken me a lifetime to learn.

Either way, good on him for catching some arseholes in the act and bringing them to other people’s attention.

Myths About Blindness, With A Special Emphasis On The One Where We All Want Full Vision Right Now

I wasn’t going to post this because most of it is stuff we’ve gone over here sometimes more than once, but then it got to the last one. We’ve probably covered it too, but since it never fails to blow people’s minds and turn them inside out, there’s no harm in repeating it.

No, Carin and I wouldn’t want our site back if we could have it. Not just because you can’t give someone something back if that thing never existed, though it’s surprising how many times we need to point that out since people often approach that question as if we’re longing for the good old days when we had all the high definition vision we could handle and then some and its mysterious disappearance is the only problem. The real issue is that we’re nearing our 40s and we’re pretty well adjusted to life as it is at this point. Neither of us has a great desire to go back to preschool in order to learn an entirely foreign system of reading, writing, colours, socialization and hundreds of other things that most folks don’t even think about, nor do we want to physically rewire our brains so they can process it all while simultaneously trying to live normal lives.

Not only that, but there’s no guarantee that it would even work. Neither of us is in any hurry to go through a complex, possibly painful operation just to maybe get a sliver of hardly useful vision. I understand why people think so, but if you’ve never had it, a wee bit of crappy eyesight is not better than no eyesight at all. It would actually make things worse because things that were going to be difficult anyway would now be that much harder.

Not every blind person is going to think this way. We all have our own opinions and for some of us it can be a bit of a touchy subject. But the video, as much as it can in a few seconds, does a decent job of nailing our thoughts on it. The bottom line is that though our lives may not always be perfect, neither are yours. But for the most part we’re all happy, so why risk everything to fit into someone else’s ideal when ours works just fine?

That’s So Inspiring!

Somebody posted this to, erm, Facebook, and I decided it needed a place up here.

This comedian had the brilliant idea of walking up to average joes while they did average things and telling them they’re inspiring, in order to demonstrate why that annoys us so much.

It reminds me of this Corner Gas episode, the part where Oscar gets a disabled parking sticker and starts to notice how everyone treats him differently. I saw this episode and thought if this was what they were going for, they were freaking brilliant.

To Read Post, Tip Over Computer

Michelle sent this my way. Aside from passing on the story of yet another entirely useless and equally ridonculous blind person world changing gadget, it makes an extremely vital point that everyone who invents these sorts of things needs to hear. Basically, if we don’t like your idea, it’s because your idea, in it’s current form, is probably dumb. And the reason it’s dumb is that you’re basing it on what you think you know about blind people through what you’ve picked up from movies or TV or some guy you talked to once rather than taking your time, putting in the work on some actual research that includes a good number of blind folks and then asking yourself some hard questions about the true value of what you’re doing. There are a lot of gadgets electronic and otherwise in a blind person’s life that are essential, and the last thing anyone wants to do is discourage you from inventing the next great one. But what we do want to do is discourage you from wasting your time, money, energy, talent and creativity on stupid crap that no sane person is ever going to use and that even the insane among us don’t need.

In particular, I noted a recurring type of disturbing phone conversation. Once or twice a week Bill would field a call from a complete stranger sent by one of his adoring connections, or possibly self-propelled through sheer doggedness or religion. It would start with Bill calmly, if tiredly, saying something like, “That’s interesting, but blind people don’t really need that,” or “Actually, that already exists,” or “Have you talked to any blind people about this?” The conversation would generally turn into a long discussion about the fundamentals of Braille reading, how screen readers work, cane technique, or some other incredibly basic aspect of the routine conduct of blind life.
It turns out that there is a type of person — usually a retired sighted guy — who has invented something that’s going to really help blind people. Unfortunately, guys like this don’t usually know any blind people, and they don’t generally have any idea what needs doing in the blind world, technologically or otherwise. They seem to be inspired mostly by pity, which is a powerful motivator, but poor preparation for addressing real problems. They are reasonably well-meaning, but they generally show little interest in learning anything about the field or doing any kind of market research. You see, they’ve already invented the thing that blind people need, and they just need a little help — usually with obtaining funding — to get it into the hands of the needy blind.
One guy had invented a special telephone that would call 911 if you gave it a hard bump or knocked it off the table. He was convinced that it would be perfect for blind people because if you needed help you could just… knock it off the table. I guess he thought blind people couldn’t dial 911. Or maybe he just figured we were really good at knocking things off tables. Either way, Bill had a hell of a time convincing him that it was not only a thing that blind people didn’t need, but would also constitute a serious problem for responders in the event of an earthquake. He did not even mention how offensive the idea was.
Throughout these conversations Bill was always polite and friendly, but firm and instructive. The calls always seemed to drain him. It was as if the thankless task of dashing the hopes of these poor old guys was exhausting physical work. Inevitably, the calls would conclude with Bill offering to send some information, make a connection, or help in some other minimally committal but magnanimous follow up.
When the call would finally end, Bill would put the phone down and lean back in his chair. He’d emit a long sigh followed by a laugh. “That guy has it all figured out,” Bill would say. He’s going to invent a new Braille system with three extra dots and it’s going to solve everything.”

Some Helpful Tips From A Deafblind Person

I saw this article called ten things deafblind people want you to know and most of them are things we’ve talked about in the good old blind guy user manual, like don’t grab our dogs/canes, stop moving stuff around, and don’t patronize us or say we’re inspiring if we’re just existing, stuff like that. But there are a couple of them that I’m kind of glad I know about in case I’m ever assumed to be deafblind, so I don’t freak out.

The first one, about grabbing my wrist rather than tapping me on the shoulder. I wouldn’t mind a simple tap, but I understand this serves a purpose, so if someone ever does this, I won’t assume they’re just being weird.

But the weirdest one is the reference to drawing an x on the person’s back. I totally understand the purpose, but if someone ever started drawing on my back, I think I might sort of loop out. Hopefully it never happens, but if someone ever decides to do this, thinking I might be deafblind, at least I’ll know what the heck is going on.

That’s about all I have to say about this, aside from I hope when my hearing inevitably starts to fail, they have super wammo awesome hearing aids. I’d like to have good hearing for as long as I can. I know I would learn to cope with hearing loss, I just hope I have enough brain cells to do it.

A Funny Refresher On Things That Annoy Blind People

I saw this satirical list of 17 ways to make a blind person happy, and after I finished laughing, I thought it needed a link.

Let’s see. How many of these have I experienced? Most of them. Thankfully no. 11 doesn’t happen much, but it has. The closest I’ve had to no. 12 was that chocolate randomly handed to me by that woman, but I have no idea what her intentions were. I’m also lucky that I don’t experience no. 15 a lot, although my juvenile room-mate from first year of university was a big fan of this one. But my point is none of these seem far-fetched or over-exaggerated. Think about that for a while.

Aside: isn’t it sad that she had to make it obvious that this is satire? But I don’t blame her when things like this story from The Onion are taken for real news. We don’t want people thinking these are actually helpful things to do.

Another Post About Touchy Feely People, Only Written Much Better

A while ago, in the comments under another post, I lamented that when I try to write a serious post about something that is bugging me, it always comes out long, whiny, convoluted and repetitious. Here is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Here’s my post, and here’s a much more succinct and eloquent post about the same thing.
I read it and thought “god damn, I wish I could write half as well.” So, because we can never say this enough, I decided to link to it. I’m also glad to see that I’m a. not alone and b. not over the top.