Friday, November 8, 2019

A day in the life, chapter 1

Hi everyone,

My debut on this blog is a story I initially started writing on the board, the response to which was overwhelmingly positive which led me to requesting an account here.
I was initially inspired By Devogirl's excellent Devo Diary, and I might start such a huge project from the point of view of a blind person myself one day if there's enough interest (wink nudge). Today though, I'd like to share something else.
A day in the life of a blind person ... this blind person in fact. I will take you through a typical day. There will be laughter, typical blind moments but overall ... just a detailed, dare I say somewhat tantalizing view of how I face the world and (generally ...sometimes ...maybe?) come out on top.
Please enjoy, and feel free to leave feedback. The next installment should be up next week around this time. If there are things any of you are curious about in particular, feel free to ask in the comments. I can read those by running my fingers across the words you wrote on my braille display ;)




A buzzing noise, joined by a clamoring alarm tone and a robotic voice greets me as I groggily open my eyes. " Alarm, 7:30 AM..."
Fumbling for the offending noisemaker, my hands quest around the head of the bed until I find the phone and interrupt it before it's grating alarm has more chance to be a nuisance. Sitting up slowly, I let out a sigh. " And that was a good dream, too..."
Getting up from the bed, my hand subconsciously reaches for the nearby wall as I walk towards the foot of the bed, using it as a guide to negotiate the corner of the bed that's right alongside it. " I refuse to get another bruise from that corner..." The sleep-addled thought makes me chuckle out loud as I make my way to the bedroom door, foot briefly catching on the power strip behind it.
Sighing softly, I walk towards the bathroom door, hand questing for the doorknob just a little too early like clockwork as I start my morning ritual.
Toothpaste is always a bit of an adventure, needing to verify there's enough on the brush with my finger before brushing my teeth in earnest, the texture of the toothpaste covering my finger making me want to instantly wipe my finger on the closest solid object. I refrain.
As I begin brushing, my mind wanders as I go through the repetitive motions. "Uncanny just how much I use my hands for ..."
Washing my hands and face, the cold water wakes me up the rest of the way. I call out the name of my guide dog as I finish up, smiling to myself as I hear the pitter-patter of his paws on the downstairs living room floor.
Ducking into another room, I locate my desk by softly clicking my tongue against the roof of my mouth, nodding slightly to myself as first the comforting grain of the wood followed by the plastic of my braille display greets my searching fingers.
Verifying a readout on the computer it is attached to, I make a few adjustments as my hands move comfortably across the clicky keyboard, the comforting sound bringing a smile to my face.
Touching the handrail lightly, grimacing at the feel of slightly chipped paint across my fingertips, I make my way down the stairs to the living room. I can't help but laugh as I ward off an enthusiastic greeting from the furry menace. " Heyo boy ... let me get some grub into me and then I'll take care of you, yeah?"
I might as well have said that the aliens have invaded for the effect it has, his tail happily thumping against the side of the couch as I scratch him behind the ears. " Good boy..."  I say almost subconsciously, the endearment coming naturally and without thought after years of traveling with the bundle of joy by my side.
Walking to the kitchen, I reach up for a bag of sliced bread, humming to myself as I put two slices on a plate with the practiced motions of experience before halting in my tracks. I breathe in deeply, then sigh. "This just ...isn't my day, is it?"
The bread is quite clearly past it's best days, the unmistakable smell of mold setting in greeting me. It's subtle, but there. On second touch, the bread is also slightly rougher to my fingers than it should be. Yep ... no doubt about it, this bread is as screwed as the x-men timeline.
Making a mental note to add bread to the grocery delivery order for this week I regretfully toss the remaining bread. " Guess you're in luck boyo ... place!"
The command takes not even half a second to register, the dog racing towards his pillow in a now-familiar ritual. Walking over the pantry, I toss a repeated command over my shoulder, making the dog lie down rather than cheekily sit up waiting for food. " One day I will get you to do that in one go..." I mutter fondly as I fill a measuring cup lined with tactile holes up to the required amount.
Carefully moving over to the food bowl, I line up the edge of the cup with the edge of the bowl and tip it over. Normally I'd be more loose with tossing it in there, but the way this day has been going so far I would probably throw it next to the bowl again.
Pulling my phone out of my pocket, I unlock it with the press of a button, cradling it in my hands as I flick through the notifications I've missed for the night.
Chuckling softly at a funny post, I line my fingers up to the top and bottom edges of the phone, my fingers tapping the screen in different combinations rapidly as I enter a response in braille while I wait for my dog to finish his food.
My fingers fumble some of the characters, as I am no longer all that used to writing braille. Reading the raised dots of a page is something I practically do daily, but writing and typing braille is something I only recently picked back up. It still beats meticulously pecking out responses on a touch screen, though.

The rapid-fire of the robotic screen reader voice tells me the day's headlines as I walk through the living room, running my one free hand across the couch and the table before finally encountering the pair of headphones I left there last night. Putting them around my neck, my finger slides up towards the top of the screen until my phone tells me the time. "As I thought ...time to go boy!"

Walking to the front door hallway, I retrieve the dog's leash and harness, snapping the leash to his collar and laying the harness across my forearm, smiling fondly as he sticks his head through the strap by himself. "Good boy ..." I praise, grabbing a treat from my pocket and handing it to him as my other hand reaches for the handle of his harness.
Opening the front door, he dutifully walks ahead of me, my hand catching the handle of the harness as it comes within reach as I close the door behind me. Once again grabbing my phone, I start a GPS app and plot in the nearby bus stop just in case. Pointing my phone around me in a circle, it buzzes as I point in the correct direction.
The somewhat chilly autumn wind clears the last cobwebs of sleep out of my head as I start walking, directing the dog on what way to go as I sing softly to myself. A tug on my arm makes me stop in my tracks, a venomous comment repressed just before it can escape. I know that particular tug all too wel.
" Aww, he's such a cute dog"  a voice from slightly in front of me coos. " How long have you had him?"

"About three years..." I say carefully, running a hand along the dog's side until my finger is subtly pointing at the " DO NOT PET"  tag that's displayed on top of his harness.
" Wow ...and what about before, did you walk with a cane?" Morris mcnoseALot asks. " Uhm ...yeah ...hey excuse me for asking but are you blind yourself by any chance?"
A short pause follows, during which the now newly dubbed Moris keeps petting the dog. " Me? No, I'm-"
" Ok ...so ...I know it can be hard to discuss so I'm sorry if I bring up bad memories, but ... illiterate, perhaps?" I ask sweetly, finger now practically pressing against the tag.
At this point, I think poor Moris gets the hint. " Oh right ...not supposed to pet them, are we?"
" No ...not really, no"  I confirm, grabbing the handle of the harness again as I prepare to start walking again. " And even if that wasn't the case, I recommend asking before petting a random dog. You're lucky this one just ate" 
I chuckle inwardly while Moris sputters for a moment in front of me before I decide to help the poor sod out of his misery. " It's alright, at least you know better next time. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm late for my bus"
I walk on with the practiced ease of someone who's done this a thousand times before. Turning the corner, I reflect on what just happened as I amble down the long final street that, among other things, has my stop on it.
Self-advocating, explaining people who are curious about my blindness just how I do what I do isn't new to me. At times I can take it, at times I can't. But a bit of politeness gets you a long way, and the way this person chatted me up like we were old friends bothered me.
" Certainly doesn't help that I didn't have my coffee yet ..." I mutter to myself, before zipping my lips. " That was supposed to be a thought..."

Coming up to the bus stop, I come up to a bus that is just settling down to let in new passengers. " Hello, what line are you?" I ask as the dog guides me towards the bus's door after a muttered command. I reach out my right hand to hold onto the edge of the door, ready to help me lever myself inside should I need to. I lament the fact there is no way for me to determine the bus's route any other way.
"Line 314"  comes the reply. I nod to myself and get on. "What stop do you get off?"  the driver asks amicably as I walk past him.
Calling out my stop, I can practically feel the guy nod behind me as I settle in for the ride. My hand raises up and behind me, my hand sliding slowly up the handrail towards the button. Smiling, I slide a single finger over the braille dots engraved into the button. "2, 3, 4... s. S for stop. Inocuous and yet so empowering..."
I get lost in thought as the bus carries me onward.






7 comments:

  1. This is so great! Thank you for posting. Looking forward to reading more!

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  2. Super interesting read.

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  3. Welcome to the Blog blindleap! I wish you the best and that you get lots of readers here. There are people who are not on PD but read over here.
    Over the summer I had the opportunity to meet a blind friend and to see a voice reader feature in action and it was so interesting to me how that works.
    Anyways, good luck!

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    1. Thanks for the warm welcome :-) Yep, screen readers are quite the interesting tools. I will probably feature them more in future installments :-)

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  4. Hi Blindleap, thanks so much for sharing your experiences with us in so much detail. I found this fascinating from end to end, learning about the combination of sensory, technological, and social cues that you use to operate. I was particularly intrigued by the mention of using echolocation to find your desk - if you have the chance, I'd love to hear more about when and where that does/doesn't work.
    Thank you again for writing this up!

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    1. Absolutely :-) Echolocation is featured somewhat in chapter 2, so definitely check that out when you have a moment, but I used it, although rather pasively most of the time, quite a bit so I'm sure it will come up again. Thanks so much for showing interest :-)

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