The work below is by Lily Mordaunt as part of our MA Creative Writers takeover.
Pulse pounding, I pull an earpiece from my ear. There’s no stopping the body’s reaction to being grabbed, but this moment is nothing new. My mind is calm.
“Come, you can cross the street now.” This voice is slightly accented and low-pitched, but it could be any voice. Any accent. It’s the usual song and dance.
“I know, I’m fine, thank you.”
“I’m just trying to help you.”
I never said you weren’t. But I’m:
Waiting for a friend.
Checking my map.
I knew I could cross but wasn’t sure if there was enough time left.
Or I did need the help, but I am resistant, because you started with grabbing and tugging.
“Oh, my God, watch-”
The ding of my cane hitting a pole accompanies the light jolt through my arm. I walk around it.
They catch up to me. “You almost walked into that pole!”
But I didn’t. My cane alerted me to its presence. Unfortunately, the range on my cane is only five or so feet, not twenty. Alternatively, I might have bumped into it. It would have been
unpleasant, probably. But neither situation warranted you telling me how terrifying it must be to be blind. That you could never handle it. Aren’t I frightened like, all the time?
“How does she do that?”
“She’s actually very pretty for a blind girl.”
“How’d she know to walk around that garbage can? She ain’t blind.”
Instances like these always fascinate me.
There’s this prevailing myth that a blind person’s hearing is heightened to superhuman levels. But even as those assumptions are being made, there’s a warring idea that I, and those strange creatures like me, can’t hear a thing. Or just, you know, not whatever it is that you wouldn’t want the subject of the discussion to respond to.
The perception of the blind is twofold: part infantilization, part terror. The former comes from, I think, not knowing how to approach a Blind in the wild. Being unable to see, many feel, is an insurmountable barrier. How would one get a Blind’s attention? A touch on the arm seems too simple a solution. And then what would one even say? They can’t play sports, cook, watch TV. Clubbing is definitely out of the question. And you expect me to believe they’re having sex too? How would they even know where the parts go? Besides, don’t they speak braille or sign language or something?
The latter—a feeling of terror—I believe, stems from a fear of what one’s life would be like as a blind person. That’s why everything a Blind does is inspirational. Not because we all have similar social pressures, and, while the activities may need to be modified, something like the need for a degree (depending on what you want to do) is required. Actually, the need for a degree might be more important in the blind community when you learn about how high the unemployment rates are. There’s a greater chance that employers (might) take a chance on you.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t inspirational blind people; the person who managed to make it out of a war-torn country, for example. But the very nature of our existence—despite how it may feel when nothing around us is accessible—is not an automatic cause for reassessing your own life’s meaning.
“She moved to London by herself? Regular people are afraid to do something like that.”
Blind or not, moving to a new country is definitely a feat. Admittedly, there may be more challenges for me: learning a new transportation system, getting comfortable with new street crossings, navigating new accessibility policies. But I also think that those challenges are just… different. Since I move to London for school, I have a home base on campus from which I can branch out as I get more comfortable. For someone else, disabled or not, they have to learn the ins-and-outs of a new job culture while looking for housing, and also getting accustomed to a new transportation system.
I unfortunately have a tendency toward downplaying accomplishments—well, for a number of reasons, I think—but one of the main ones is because it’s often looked at only through the lens of my disability. But blind people—disabled people in general—are people. We are not your inspiration porn. We have jobs, children, are artistic, analytical. We can be assholes, saints and everything in between.