Happy New Years my friends! Can you believe that it is already 2015 – Where did 2014 go? Today, I’m going to do something a little different here on my blog. I want to share with you something that my mother wrote recently on handicaps. It may be a little long, but I hope you take the time to read it. I think this will be perfect to start this new year with awareness and kindness and paying it forward. Enjoy and let me know what you think 🙂
Let’s play a game. Close your eyes, tight now no looking. Now, I want you to try to do things around your house. Go to the kitchen and get a drink; try going to the bathroom; turning the television on; or making a phone call. Can you do it? Can you remember the layout of your home? Can you remember what your phone looks like and where the numbers are? What about the remote control?
These are all problems that my husband encounters everyday. You see in 2004, he was in a minor car accident and almost died. That’s right I said minor accident. He was only going 30 miles per hour when a car accident happened and his airbags deployed. The force of the airbags against his chest caused massive blood clots in his lungs. He was in intensive care for nearly 12 weeks coming close to death several times. In fact at one point, the doctors asked mommy if she believed in miracles because it was time to start praying for one. 😦
Within two years of his accident and many, MANY surgeries that we lost count, he lost his vision. This is not a story to say, “Oh dear, you poor thing”. This is a story to enlighten people, restaurants and businesses. Handicaps are not just visibly seen by wheelchairs, walkers or canes. Some handicaps you would never know unless you knew the person. This is my husband Jim. He does everything we do just with a little help.
When we go out together, we are always holding hands. This is something that we have always done for the 26 years we have been together. But now, it’s also to help guide Jim. He doesn’t use a cane and it’s not because of vanity. Jim and others with vision impairments want to be ‘normal’ as much as they can be and I can deal with that. Wouldn’t you? He does everything you and I do but just with a little help.
When we go out to eat, we hold hands walking to the table. If you are close enough to hear us, you might hear me say, “Walk straight, your chair is to the left.” And you will see Jim walk straight to his chair just like he ‘saw it’. You may hear me discussing the menu just like regular people do on, “What do you want to eat?” You might even hear me tell him when the food comes to the table, “Chicken on the bottom, green beans to the left and corn to your right.” But other than that, Jim can eat all by himself just like a big boy. 🙂 So, you might not ‘see’ that he has a visual impairment. And after dinner when we walk to the car, you will see Jim open my car door for me and then walk to his side and get in. Does that ‘look’ like a handicap to you?
But here is where we need to step up in businesses and restaurants. We are all for a little romantic dinner in a restaurant where the mood is set and the lights are low. But some restaurants tend to push the envelope a little more these days. But for someone with a visual handicap that might ‘see’ perhaps a little light to guide them, a little mood set with lights low makes them completely blind. The little bit of tunnel vision Jim might have in one eye is now completely blocked by low light setting and where he might be able to look ‘naturally’ before now he can’t. You add the low lighting with a white table cloth and white dishes, he is going to stumble around on his plate. His drink might get bumped. He may drop his napkin. Waiters/Waitresses – please note this is not something that he is doing ‘on purpose’. Please don’t say something to him negatively. Please don’t “talk down” to him like a child. And by all means watch what you say not to insult. People with vision impairments don’t do these things on purpose. They don’t want the extra attention. They want to feel normal in every aspect that they can. When we ask for a table with a little more light, don’t make a big deal by the request. I mean we could eat at home and we often do but don’t we all want to go out from time to time?
And bathrooms in public – sigh. More businesses and restaurants really need to come up family bathrooms. We have come across these in our travels and they are fabulous! Why do you ask? Well, hopefully in your own home you know the layout of your bathroom. But in a strange place, can you imagine closing your eyes and feeling your way around in a bathroom when you have to potty? There have been a lot of times that I will walk Jim to the door, open it and try to peak in to tell him where everything is – beware men – I’m not trying to look at what you are doing 🙂 Really, I’m not.
If you see someone that is acting ‘off’ and it doesn’t ‘show’ that they have a handicap, they may just have a visual handicap that you don’t see. Instead of walking by or acting like you might catch it, why don’t you stop and chat. Don’t worry, they won’t bite. Believe me, just because they are visually impaired, they do have a sense of humor still.
If they are trying to go to the restroom, why don’t you volunteer to guide them. Trust me, they won’t hesitate for your help. If they drop their flatware on the floor, why don’t you replace it and touch their shoulder and say, “No problem sir”. If you have someone that asks for a more lit table, don’t belittle them or act like it’s a big deal – accommodate
And don’t think Jim is being a snob if he doesn’t shake your hand when you offer yours. Just a heads up – most people with a visual impairment can’t see your hand. 🙂 Sometimes it helps if you touch their shoulder and say, “Good to meet you”. And of course, if I’m there I will be glad to tell Jim your arm is extended. Don’t worry. You can shake hands. You won’t catch his blindness.
Most handicapped people don’t want a free pass. They want to feel like they fit in and can still do what they once could. Jim is the same. He knows our house like the back of his hand. He takes care of the kids and the house. He can clean like you wouldn’t believe! He makes the beds. He does all of the laundry. He does the dishes. He can cook for himself. Astonishing huh? It just takes a few tweaks on my part to make his life like it once was. The microwave is marked, the washing machine is marked, the dryer is marked – all with little tabs that he can ‘feel’ to turn on and off.
I’m not writing this story for sympathy. I’m not writing this story for money. I’m writing this story for knowledge on visual impairments. The next time you see someone with a visual problem – where you see it with someone using a cane or being guided by someone, don’t fear them or treat them differently. Be kind and helpful. And hey – why not even help their caregiver out for a while. Do you know that must people with visual impairments still like to do things for their loved ones. This has been one of the biggest downfalls to Jim’s vision. There are times that he would love to go get me a card or some flowers but how can he when he can’t drive himself to do such a wonderful gesture? Perhaps if you know someone with a visual problem, offer to take them out for such a trip 🙂
In the new year let’s start practicing a little Luke 6:31, “Do to others as you want them to do to you”. Happy New Years!
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