Tag Archive for Disability

Reflections

Photograph of Tee, Weston a grey t-shirt saying “climb on” stood in front of a black and white canvas of a misty hence in Greenwich Park

Photograph of Tee, Weston a grey t-shirt saying “climb on” stood in front of a black and white canvas of a misty hence in Greenwich ParkThis November it will be 10 years since I was registered SSI (Severly Sight aimpaired aka BLIND) it was the appointment with my consultant that EVERY seemed to change, yet at the very same time NOTHING changed.

What I mean by that is that my eye sight didn’t actually change at THAT appointment.  I  simply became aware of just how bad it was.

Having had my Nystagmus (involuntary eye movements) and having worn pretty strong glasses for as long as I can remember my sight had never been great.  But in terms of the distance I could see (I have always been short sighted) had changed very little.

Rightly or wrongly so; when I was in my early teens I had been discharged from the consultant at the hospital, where I was given into the care of my opticians.  With the strength of my prescription And it was through this team that in July 2008 they used their new camera equipment to try getting a photo of my retina.

My optician wasn’t happy with what she saw, but she couldn’t explain it to me as she explained it could simply be that with my eye movement the photograph wasn’t actually true.  So she referred me to the hospital for a thorough check up.

Having been rushed in as an emergency after the hospital were concerned I had detached my retina (a common issue that if caught early enough can be reversed) I discovered that this was not the case, the registrar discovered I had cataract in both eyes, I will always remember what she said;

With laser treatment we can remove them and that would actually improve your vision.

But as she was simply confirming I hadn’t detracted my retina, she didn’t actually comment on the fact that my retina wasn’t ‘complete’.

So, you can probably understand my total shock when I returned a few weeks later to see the consultant to be given the news of just how bad my sight was.

I did have cataracts (my left eye had been diagnosed when I was 12) But the laser surgery suggested wouldn’t be easy and would have very little affect at this time.  And actually with my retina dying away my sight would actually only get worse.

Many people ask me

How did you not realise you were going blind?

Its simple, the changes in my peripheral were suggested to be something that had been happening steadily for many many years, and as I only likely lost a small amount at a time I didn’t actually realise.

I did notice ‘little’ things after my daughter was born in 2006, like how I was bumping into things, like low level tables or benches.  But I put this down to ‘baby brain’

I had also noticed that it was taking me longer for my eyes to adjust to light changes; like walking indoors after being out in the bright sunshine, but because I had reaction lenses this went in-noticed as an actual change in my sight (as I assumed it was just the glasses)

So…… Reflections.

I have decided I want to celebrate this anniversary.  I want to acknowledge that as me I have changed from the person I was before.  It hasn’t always been happiness and celebrations, but I have tried to embrace my blindness (and now deafness)

It may sound like a cliche

But in these last ten years I have had so many amazing opportunities, so many doors open to me.  I want to move forward with me and celebrating the good seems the best way to do this.  I am human, I can’t be postmitive ALL THE TIME.  But in this instance I want to look for the good, rather than dwell on the bad.

But the question is (and this I hand over to you my readers) ….

How should I celebrate???


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Speechless (it doesn’t happen often!)

I umm’d and argh’d About writing this post; then I thought

“This is part of me, I should share it.”

last week I received an email that has taken me completely by surprise.  I have been nominated for an award.

But not just ANY award, this is for The National Diversity Award 2018 in the category of Positive Role Model.

I do not know who nominated me, but it has left me feeling slightly emotional and speechless.

Under the terms of the nomination it is for me to now write a Bio and supply supporting evidence as to why I feel I am deserving of this award.

Yes, I have no trouble talking or writing about myself; but in this way?  I’m not so sure.

But I am of the thinking that if I don’t at least try, then I will be disappointing myself and the person who nominated me.

So I am slowly working through the forms I need to complete.  And am sharing this nomination with you all, in the hope that you too agree with it and wish to vote for me?

All by Friday 1st June 2018.

You can cast your vote here National Diversity Awards 2018


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Days like today…….

I have a ‘Have Guide Dog, will travel’ attitude to life, today I decided in the sun to visit Winchester (alone) something I don’t think I will be in a hurry to repeat.

The rudeness, the sly comments & general ‘opinions’ that were continually thrust upon me resulted in a very short visit.

I am more than happy to accept and I do understand that not everyone likes dogs, be that an assistance dog or  a pet.

I do understand that in some cultures dogs are not warmly accepted. But today the comments or actions of rudeness did not come from the here.

Today it came from,

A business woman looking down on her phone;

The art student with a VERY LARGE portfolio;

The man in the queue in Starbucks;

The woman behind me in boots who tutted at me when I asked the sales assistant to repeat herself for the 3rd time because I couldn’t hear her;

The van driver who got shirty when I waved him on because I wouldn’t cross in-front of him.

Were it not for the kindness of strangers I would have found myself fighting tears & heading for the nearest taxi.

it was thanks to ….

The window cleaner who moved his ladder so I would walk past;

Theassistant in Starbucks who offered me water for Fizz while pointing out to the rude man that assistance dog or not I had every right to enjoy coffee;

To the sales assistant in boots who guided me to a quieter area so I could hear what she was saying!

I know that I may stand in the wrong queue at times, I know that my guide dog likes to walk by the building line, which means we often walk right in front of the shop doors, I do understand that I take up more width on the pavement as I walk beside my guide, and she can’t tell me to “step in” the way a sighted person would if the path was narrow.

But at what point does vocalising your opinions change this? All it does is demoralises someone who just wants to get on.  And could even stop a (less stubborn) person from going out and visiting other areas.

Today has been one of those days where I have felt isolated and hurt by the actions of others.  But writing this now I am able to say that I won’t let it stop me, I share this with you now to raise awareness.

Because it can often be the ‘off-handed’ comment that you quickly forget making that can cause irreparable damage to someone.  We never know what demons people are fighting; so just be kind.

It really is THAT simple.


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Silly ‘Blind’ Moment

I wonder about many thing.

Especially if that something is architectural or design related.  One such moment of wondering that I want to share with you is ….. Disabled Toilets.

From a design point of view I can still quote the minimum measurement requirements for a disabled toilet from The Metric Handbook: Planning & Design Data.  I can tell you the reasoning for the outward opening door; the height of the hand basin and so on and so on.

I can also have a discussion at length about badly positioned pull down nappy changing tables….. But the one point I find the hardest to fathom is the mirror.

Placing a mirror above the wash hand basin in common place, yet often missing in a disabled loo.

Instead there is often a LARGE floor to ceiling mirror (which covers all height differences in disability) instead.  Which makes perfect sense, after all despite the outdated signage there are many people with disabilities who do not use a wheelchair.

I for one am one of them!

A room I can go into, lock the door and know not only does my guide dog have space to sit patiently for me; But I know that I can find my way around the room (regardless of lighting) to do what I need to do, then wash and dry my hands afterwards.

But I go back to ‘That Mirror’ …. Why is it always positioned directly beside or infront of the toilet?

Surely nobody wants or needs to see themselves at that point?

Or in my case, no-one needs to hear me scream when a glimpse of my reflection (which didn’t seem to actually be me) mid-visit panicked me to thinking someone was in the room with me!

Like I said at the very beginning, this was a ‘Blind’ moment or maybe it was even a ‘Blonde’ moment…. But for someone with minimal peripheral vision it was most certainly an ‘embarrassing’ moment.

Especially when fellow patrons were knocking on the door to offer assistance and asking if I needed medical attention!


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When riding a bike is not like riding a bike

Photograph shows a ‘selfie’ of Simon smiling at the camera, with me, Tee sat behind him on the left. The photo is of us both sat on the Tandem, but the bike is not in the shot.

About a month ago I bought myself something rather quite special.

I bought a tandem.

I bought it from a fellow blindie who had had a change of health and although the bike had been serviced and well looked after; it had remained sat un-ridden.

It is only through the ‘on this day’ feature of Facebook that I can tell you that it has been just under two years since I have ridden a bike.

It was when we were away on holiday with the children, it was when we were riding on site of a Haven Holiday Park.  After this I am sure that there was one further bike ride back at home before my bike was left to gather cobwebs and become home to spiders in the garage.

I did not stop riding because of an injury.

I stopped because with my hearing going in addition to my sight I did not feel I was safe either for myself or for other road users.

Many would be surprised that it is only in the last two years that I haven’t ridden my bike.  Thinking about it now, it was pure stubbornness that had stopped me from hanging up my riding helmet before then; in the same way I can only imagine that a car driver who is in denial about their sight feels about surrendering their driving license.

A tandem was a way of gaining back some of me.

Yes, by the very definition of it I would only be able to ride with someone else.  But riding a tandem with someone else feels less of a lack of independence than riding a bicycle with another adult beside me.  I think that this is because a tandem is for ANYONE.  A normally sighted person can ride a tandem, it isn’t a ‘mobility aid’ in the conventional sense of the word.  Even though when I think about it, in my case it kind of is just that; a mobility aid.

Anyway……

I had the bike serviced and checked over.  I spoke with a few friends about coming out for a ride with me and then, earlier this week.  One of them took me up on my offer.

Having spent time looking over the bike and following the workings of it I was instantly struck by the fact that as the rear peddler (the stoker in technical, bicycle jargon) I had no gears or brakes.  I was to simply just peddle. (Which when you think about it sensibly it makes perfect sense, but to me as a former solo cyclist-I had always had gears and brakes)

So, if all I was to do was to peddle. When and how would I know to peddle?

How would it feel sitting behind someone else (The Pilot-more jargon) who was in control of where we went?

How fast we got there?

And in what intensity of gears we were to achieve it?

I guessed I would just have to ‘go with them’ … LITERALLY.

My faithful Climbing Partner in Crime (CPiC) Simon was my first volunteer; we have ridden together before (on individual bikes) and he more than most understands my sight loss, and more to the point my anxieties of something new.

First he took the bike for a ride to the end of the car park without me.  This gave him a feel for the length of the bike and the kind of turning circle it would have.  Then it was my turn to get on with him.

My first ‘odd’ feeling was that I had both my feet off the floor, on the peddles and yet the bike was still upright and stationary.  This being because Simon is taller and still had his feet on the ground!

We set off; it was wobbly, but it soon became smoother as we got into a rhythmic pattern.  And surprisingly; not being able to see infront of me wasn’t concerning (because all I could see was the red of his jumper) felt O.K.

It felt ‘odd’ in the sense that I didn’t feel I was peddling enough, not as much as I thought I remembered from when I had ridden my bike before.  However, what I was forgetting was one simple rule;

”Double the bodies means half the power”

Easier said than done.  When the pilot slowed down I felt that as the stoker it was for me to peddle more.  This wasn’t the case.  In fact at one point I was told very bluntly to “JUST STOP”

I began to relax into the journey, I began to feel when it was time to coast and when it was time to peddle.

I also felt the exact point where my shoulder relaxed and my anxieties of ‘letting the other rider down’ were disappearing.

I only got off the bike and walked at a point where we crossed a road on the footpath (rather than add the complication of the road junction into the mix)

And before I knew it we were heading back towards home.

I could lie and say my arse wasn’t hurting from being sat on a not so padded saddle.  I could lie and say I didn’t get cramp in my thigh….. But then were would the fun be in that?

It was interesting to discover that I can suffer with ‘Elvis Leg’ when riding a bike, just as I do at points when I am climbing….. This usually comes at a point where I am concentrating so hard that (as silly as this will sound) I forget to breathe!

We managed to clock up just over 9km on our first ride.  After all I live in The Highlands area, which as the name suggests is an area with many a hill; which for the most part I want to be avoiding until my bike fitness has improved somewhat.

The route was recorded on my Apple Watch and all the specifics as to times, heart rate and distances are stored within my fitness app.  So next time we can follow the same route and see the improvements in it.

I wasn’t really able to talk to Simon much while we were cycling (but then there really was no need to) so when we arrived back I asked him how he felt, his answer wasn’t what I think I expected to hear;

”It felt creepy having someone riding RIGHT behind me, so close; I felt I wanted to ride to get away from them.”

…. But as he never managed it, he said it was just something he would have to get used to.  And he has agreed to go out and ride with me again.

So watch this space for more tandem cycling antics.

 

 


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I’m still here

This year hasn’t had the easiest of starts, with changes in my sight, trouble with my hearing and ‘other’ issues;  It has all been a bit much to deal with at times.

All of this compounded by a need to explore who I am and where I belong, and it isn’t hard to realise that my anxiety and mental health has also taken a beating.

But that’s ok.

It is alright to not be ok ALL the time.

And it is ok to admit that; however hard it may be.

There are a few things I want to tell you about, I have realised I never finished off my 2017 BMC Paraclimbing competition blogs, or even mentioned the Team Selection Day back in February 2018.

So, for now I am going to spend some time going ‘backwards’ but as all posts are dated to (around) when they happened, humour me.

And once I have completed these, take a good look through the past six months.  I can promise you there will be laughter, whit and sarcasm.  But be warned there will also be sadness, upset and moments of total despair.

Enjoy xx


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Fears

Fear is a strange thing.

It can come from no where and just APPEAR before you even realise it is there, then it can stop you from achieving so much, holding you back from something that you don’t even realise is a SOMETHING.

For me, I have a fear of falling. Literally falling, not metaphorically falling.

Which you would think as a climber would be ‘part of the territory’ for me; and actually partly it is. However there is a big difference between taking a fall on a rope to taking a fall on a bouldering wall.

The most obvious of which is the lack of rope! That rope that even when I am 17 ft up a wall doesn’t guarantee I won’t hurt myself on the wall; or swing out; or come down a fair distance because of the give in the rope, or my belayer leaving too much slack.

And there are also times when I make a move on a roped climb and I am not actually at a height where the rope would have an affect. But it is a security, it is a safety net and one that even if it is purely psychological at times makes me feel safe.

When I boulder (outside of competitions) there are no top ropes, no safety net. It is all on me…..

And that is scary and fearful and makes me emotional just writing this.

One thing that I see other climbers doing, and I have watched dozens of instruction videos about, is jumping down from the wall.

Not from the very top, but most definitely from a height at least as tall as they are.

Which for me; as someone who cant even see the floor when I am stood on it, the thought of jumping any height is where my fear of falling comes from. You see, or rather I can’t see, so can’t work out where the floor is and how quickly I will approach it.

And it is this fear of falling and not being able to get off of a climb that has stopped me from wanted to boulder. It is only on the odd route where I can actually ‘top out’ climbing over the top of the wall and coming back down via the cafe seating that I happily give it a go.

All routes on a bouldering wall are colour coded. So you can go to ANY wall within the centre and know exactly what level the climb before you is. I had no real intention of actually bouldering on this evening. But then my CPiC said

“You need to be aiming for yellow”

I looked at the colour chart, I looked at the yellow and then I replied,

“I’m just going to work on biscuits”

As in the colour, not the food!

And why biscuit?

Well, basically biscuit is v0, the easiest of all the climbs. But it wasn’t because of the ease of the climbs, tonight I had decided I was going to work on something in a different way.

I was going to work on my fear.

My fear of falling and my fear of how I would get back off of the wall. As I said before, jumping down when you can’t even see your feet makes the ground a scary place. And as I had previously had to be ‘lifted’ off of the wall by my CPiC because I totally froze and couldn’t go either up nor down. (Something that he didn’t want to be repeating every time I attempted a boulder)

The climbs were easy, they were also over far too quickly (v0 climbs don’t tend to be high)

However it wasn’t about the climbing up, it was more about the coming down. And this is a point that anyone who climbs will tell you is actually harder than going up in the first place.

So, how do you climb down?

I often climb up by allowing my feet to follow where my hands have been, I didn’t know how I could just reverse this process seeing as I couldn’t actually see where my feet were.

I stopped thinking……….

May sound silly, but thinking too much is often my downfall.

It didn’t matter what holds I used to get down, I didn’t stick to biscuit, I just took the holds that felt safe and in reach. A reach that I naturally found myself doing with ease when I crouched down, climbing my hands down the wall first to enable me to then move my feet.

As good as it felt not to be scared of going up as I knew how to get down, I was exhausting myself.

Climbing down is harder than going up (I think I said that already) ……

But how do you jump when you can’t see the floor?

Maybe that was my problem? I was fixing on something I couldn’t see, rather than working with something that I could see. When I am on a roped wall I can’t see the floor. I don’t even look down anymore. I just sit back in my harness and walk down the wall with my belayer counting me down to the floor. (Initially he would just sit me down on the floor in my harness)

So, to jump off the wall. This is where the trouble with thinking reared its head again! I just kept thinking about it. So much so that I had built it up to be a lot more than it actually was.

With my CPiC spotting me (standing behind me) he put his hand on me to ‘show me’ where he stood against me (height wise) and knowing that he is just short of 6 ft I could gauge where I was compared to the floor.

But I couldn’t jump.

I had to climb down further.

And even then I just couldn’t jump.

As I said, I was thinking too much……. I knew the floor (safety matting) is spongy and have some give in it. So I knew I wouldn’t be landing on solid ground (for good reason too) but knowing that the floor would move made me even more scared of it.

I needed to just do it.

But how do I jump?

I was holding onto the wall…..
I was crouched down slightly……
I was less than waist height from the floor……
I just had to let go and jump down…………………….. But I couldn’t do it……………

I forgot how to jump.
It was that ‘thinking’ thing again……

So, letting go with my hands first and then i jumped……..
Only I didn’t …… Not really ………………………………………..

I forgot to bend my knees.
I landed with a thud.
It was purely because of my CPIC that I didn’t fall backwards.

I failed………….
I tried again…………

I struggled again………..
I forgot to bend my knees………

I ended up head butting the wall in front of me………
I went back to climbing off the wall……………………….

I faced a fear, and although I didn’t over come it, I tried. I gained a better understanding of my position on the wall.

I moved to purple holds,

I worked on my technique.

I worked on my starting point on the wall. I worked on my start, pulling myself up from an almost sitting position on the wall and I focussed my energy on something else.

While my CPiC was busy with his own climbs I found myself relaxing about the jump down, I climbed down to the floor, then climbed back up several holds and jumped……

The benefit of me doing it is that I couldn’t see how stupid I looked (I felt stupid enough) I bounced on the matting, I sometimes stayed on my feet and sometimes not.

But each time I jumped I landed without hurting myself or anyone else.

It may well have looked ridiculous; your probably reading this thinking it sounds ridiculous. But do you know something. That doesn’t matter.

Because despite thinking, despite fear. I DID IT.


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Didn’t you see it?

There is nothing like a GDRI (Guide Dog Related Injury) to wake you up on a chilly winters morning.  Although in fairness, this wasn’t Fizz’s fault at all.

After the school run we were heading over to catch a bus, but as the weather was bright (although chilly) I had decided we would walk the 20 odd minutes to a stop further away.

A stop that saw us having to walk through a lovely park area that Fizz often gets to run around in.

So I knew her distraction level would be heightened.  But this I could manage; I could even handle the other free running dogs coming over to say hello.

Afterall, I didn’t expect them to understand it when their owners were shouting

“Leave, that’s a working dog!”

So, with her harness in my left hand (as usual) and the lead in my right; we navigated through the park.

Several Dogs; ignoring their owners pleas came to say hello.  But with a strong

“Leave it, walk on”

Fizz ignored them for the most part….

That was until we met a tiny dog.  I say tiny as Fizz had to put her head down some way to sniff (which I could feel through the harness)

I could hear the owners pleas, but they were some way away, so continued with our walk and giving Fizz the command to go on.

But she wouldn’t.

I thought this was just down to the distraction of the dog, so persevered and finally got her to move forward.

And that was when it happened….

I fell forward, landing full pelt onto my hands and knees

When the owner appeared beside me and uttered those words

”Didn’t you see the lead?”

Suprisingly, NO!

It would appear that said small dog ‘Rouge’ was on an EXTREMELY long lead type rope, which the owner used as she (Rouge, not the owner) was so small she would get lost if not attached!

I asked the owner why she hadn’t used the leader to get her dog out of the way and her reply made me laugh

”She may be small, but she is very strong and I can pull and pull on her lead, but she just won’t be moved.”

To give you an idea, this dog was chihuahua sized, but with long hair.  Personally I thought she looked like the sort of dog that would blow away if the wind was more than a gentle breeze!

But I kept my comments to myself, picked myself up and making sure the dog wasn’t in front of me, continued on with our walk.

I know that walking through the park can be a distraction for Fizz and I also know that dogs will be running free and want to say hello.  What occurred today left me winded!  And if I am honest, a little upset.  I received no apology; or worse still, no help from the other dog owner.

But it has reminded me that Fizz May be surrounded by distraction, but she still knew what was best for me!  Something I don’t give her credit for enough……… Lesson Learned!


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Silvers nice ….. Yet Bronze is prettier

This weekend saw the 3rd round of the BMC Paraclimbing series.

Manchester Climbing Centre was the venue – A beautiful former church, which has kept many of its original features, not to mention the lack of heating!! (Which was clearly felt this weekend ‘tup-north)

The routes were set, the atmosphere was buzzing and the turn out was phenomenal.

Selfie of me with Guide Dog Fizz with the Climbing Centre behind us and showing a large round stain glass window at the top Centre of the photograph

 

There were six competitors in female VI (according to the entry list anyway)  and Abi a fellow vi Climber who often ‘flashed’ all her routes and boulders was here.  So barring a natural disaster I set myself up for the best I could achieve would be a silver.

….. So what is a FLASH I hear you ask …..

To ‘Flash’ all routes and boulders is to get to the top hold on the first attempt.  With the top rope climbing routes you only had one go to get the best score or to ‘flash’ the route, but with the boulder problems you are given 3 opportunities.  Scoring a bonus 2 points if you succeed on the first go.

Anyway, I set myself the personal challenge to beat my scores from the same competition last year.  Knowing that the climbs had been set harder, this was my way of judging how I had improved in the past year.

This is the same challenge I have set myself for each of the rounds.  However one that, despite topping more routes and reaching higher in the routes I didn’t top, I didn’t actually achieve this in Edinburgh.  But as we don’t climb the EXACT same routes each year this isn’t always a clear sign of improvement, they may have changed the scoring against how everyone performed last year.

This was certainly the case for the 2nd round this year; after 3 of the 4 Male VI climbers scored maximum points, the route setters upped the challange for London.  Given that the 3rd top rope in Manchester was graded as a 7a (2a grades above my comfort zone) the Competition was seen to be set for a much higher status.

Usually as the routes go, boulder 1 and top rope 1 are lower grades, I flashed boulder 1, yet took a silly slip on top rope 1, costing me 26 points.

Photo shows me on toprope 1, just before I slipped. This is about 2/3rds up the route.

I got further on top rope 2 and just under the first ledge on top rope 3 (where I hadn’t expected to get too far from the ground!)

Photograph of me on top rope 3, my right hand is up on an underhand hold, my right leg is bent and the move I need to make is to stand up on my right to reach over the red ledge with my left hand.... I didn’t reach it!

The second boulder was a challange and one I had hoped to return to after a break (but time ran away from me) while boulder 3 was set as a challange to most.  I was happy to get the minimum points of 47 on this as it was such a hard set.  47 Out of 60 meant I got both my feet off of the ground, which given there was only one foot hold and the hand holds had an interesting placement was quite an achievement and similar to many of my fellow competitors.

This photograph is of boulder 2, I managed to get one hand hold higher having moved my right foot to a higher hold.    

Had time allowed I think a 3rd attempt on this route would have seen me complete it.

But time didn’t allow.

The sheer volume of competitors and lack of volunteers who could belay meant that the competition ran over by 35 minutes as it was.  In which time I competed in the 3rd top rope, where I found myself scoring much higher than I expected.

Once the competition was over it was time to calm down, take off my climbing shoes (hello feet) and harness and await the results.

There were no podium blocks, but an innovative use of the stone steps that led upto the bouldering area and my catagory was read out.

As expected, 1st place went to Abi (which I congratulated her on) then 2nd place …….. Me!

I took my podium; accepted my medal and had my picture taken.

There had been no 3rd place on the podium which I had felt was odd, but had honestly thought the person named as 3rd had left.

It was only after all the podiums were announced that the organiser explained that the medals that hadn’t been handed out in London were ready for collection.  It was at this point I discovered that a fellow female VI had been mis-catagoried and was in fact 2nd.  So back went my shiny silver medal and out came the beautiful bronze!

Sadly it was too late to re-take the podium photographs. So the only one I have is of me with my silver.  So here is my ‘incorrect’ Podium photo showing me beside the beautiful Abi.

Photograph of me stood on the left hand side of stone steps with a silver medal and certificate with Fizz stood beside me and fellow climber and gold medal winner Abi on the right


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Familiarity is a Blind Gals Best friend

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.


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