Just as a car driver does not need to actually look at the gear stick to change gears in a car, there are places where I can move around with great ease without the need to see.
To a degree I can walk around in my local gym without the need for my cane or guide dog. The machines all have their set place, it is just me needing to focus on where the other gym goers are, although given the location of the mirrors and the windows in the gym I can easily become disorientated.
One such place I do not need to look is my own home.
Although this does not include my childrens’ bedrooms ….. These are the only two places in my home that I walk with shuffled feet and taking extra care. But then I have it on good authority that many of my sighted parents do the very same thing in their childrens bedrooms as they are a minefield of Lego, cars, clothes and all things child!
I can also extend this ease of movement to The Scout Hut where I volunteer, although with this environment I have to factor in moving children. However the main hall, entrance hall and kitchen are set out in such a way that apart from the odd additional table, everything has its place.
Suprisingly another place that I can move with ease is Calshot Climbing Centre. For obvious reasons the walls never move. Even though the holds and routes on the walls may alter. The blue fencing around the climbing walls and the black cubbyhole benches don’t move. It is just the climbers, their gear and the ropes that do.
The wall also has marked out areas on the floor where you can and cant walk. These are depicted by a dark red floor for the climbers and belayers to stand in and a black mat flooring where you can wait, stand and walk without being in the way of a climber or their belay partners. Although saying this, there is not much contrast between the two colours and if I don’t concentrate I can occasionally get it wrong. But generally I am ok. Although if I am moving between different climbs; for ease I will link into the arm of my CPiC.
Should I need to go and top up my water bottle or pick up a set of hold keys, because a hold has slipped, I can do this unaided and unsupervised by my partner. Although I will often ask him
Is there a clear path?
I know to walk with my head down, so that I can look out for objects on the floor. I also find myself asking others if they are belaying if there is the odd person stood. Because although I can see the person, I would really struggle to see the rope they were holding on to and as a considerate climber, I would never want to walk near a belayer that may need to suddenly move to support their climber.
This familiarity that is great for me is often an issue of concern for those who do not know me. Especially as I tend to wear a top that says ‘Blindclimber’ on the back.
I have previously, in other circumstances had people question my blindness. It is a common occurrence and one that does not faze me. It does however occasionally upset me when people are critical and rude in the way they question.
Why am I telling you this?
Well, Friday while climbing I had one such occurance.
The climbing wall was cold. So while belaying I had my fleece on. This covered my top. So as is usual, I don’t look up to watch my partner climb. Not because I am rude, but because once his feet are over my head height I can’t see very much of him. And because I feel is climbing and movements through the rope; I learnt a long time I didn’t have to get neck ache and pretend.
This does however often lead to other climbers (not so) quiet whispers of
Oh my God, he isn’t safe up there.
How can he be safe with her? She isn’t even watching him!
Wow, he’s brave. How can someone belay without looking out for the guy on the rope?
This is a conversation I have had many a time with my CPiC, he knows I have him. He knows he is safe. He would not be happy to climb if he didn’t feel either of them.
Friday was very much the same. With my fleece on the group of three chatting by us were not so subtle in their conversation and accusations. So me being the outspoken, no shit personality that I am. Without them even asking, I politely said
Hey, just so you guys are aware, I can’t see too well, so if you are climbing near here you will need to be more aware of where my partner is as I can’t warn him of where you may be on the wall.
This was met with the usual mumbles and apologies as they were well aware that I had overheard them talking. And as such were very detailed in the position they were going to climb, which was actually several climbs over and no where near (but this I also already knew from the direction of their voices and the movement of their rope bag)
But it enabled me to make my point and be heard loud and clear.
So, it was my time to climb and off came the fleece. The back of my top visable and I never thought anything more of it.
That was until later in the evening when I went to full up my water bottle (afterall when it is cold it is just as important to be hydrated!). and The Three Amigos were sat around the other side of the wall laughing and joking. I was met with
She can’t really be blind, look she is walking with such confidence she can clearly see what she is doing. Why would you lie?
I don’t even warrant such comments with an answer. I just got my water and went back to my partner. He instantly realised I was bothered by something and so I told him, he knows how this gets to me and told me (sincerely) to ignore them and enjoy the climb.
Which is exactly what I did.
And exactly what I will continue to do each and every time someone questions my abilities.
Afterall, those who are technically blind can often see something. And they will use that minimal sight to appear as ‘normal’ as the next person. I don’t believe I am any different to others in that way?
Or maybe I am? Why don’t you put your comments below. I am always interested in people views.