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2015-07-30 12:48 am
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The broken home row

Andrew's learning to touch type.

He doesn't like C. C, he thinks, should be handled by the F finger, not the D finger. (He's okay with D doing E, though. And X.) But he thinks the F finger gets in the way of D moving to C.

"F already has like six letters to do!" I said. "It doesn't need any more work!"

"It's only doing F and R so far," he said.

Aw. Having learned this when I was nine, I had forgotten what it's like for each letter to be its own little challenge, its own individual victory.
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2015-07-29 09:28 am
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such a cool idea

Because everyone (including me!) is terrible at descriptions of photos they upload.
The tool works in two parts—a browser extension for blind users that provides user-created descriptions of images around the Internet, and a website for sighted users to provide those requested descriptions. If a blind user clicks on an image of an apple tree, which is not properly described in the HTML code, the photo will appear on the crowd-sourced website where sighted users can write “apple tree.” The highest rated description based on sighted user votes will then replace the original description, and be read aloud to any blind user that scrolls over the photograph in the future.
The person who developed this, not blind or a web developer usually, acknowledges that it's kind of a band-aid for the real problem with is that being blind on the Internet has gotten increasingly terrible since the 90s. Now everything's so dependent on Javascript and Flash -- pictures whizz past and it's never obvious where to click and suddenly a thing like finding out what's on at my local arthouse cinema is basically impossible if I can't get Andrew to do it for me...and I'm a relatively sighted blind person. I don't use a screenreader, not because I'm actually confident I wouldn't benefit from it, but because I know the experience of doing so sucks so much on the modern web so I'm better off using up all my visual-processing spoons on the Internet instead.

But the thing I like about Depict, this new tool, is that by it's very nature it involves sighted people in the plight of blind people using the Internet. It's especially awesome that this is calling attention to the problem not just in a "pity the poor suffering people" way but in a "and here's how you can help fix the problem." Crowdsourcing good image descriptions is such a great way of dealing with one of the internet's problems.

One thing about this interview that made me laugh, though:
Google, Samsung, and one other group in Montreal, are doing a lot of research on getting computers to give accurate descriptions of images online....I was trying out one these tools and I plugged in a close-up image of a spider in a web and the description that I got back was a ‘Man on a tightrope.’
Computers are terrible at identifying images. This is how we get captchas that are actually somewhat accessible to me! I can't do the sort of "traditional" ones where words are distorted and lots of "noise" is introduced into the images, so I love that a few I've seen lately are like "is this a picture of a goat or a dog?" or asking me to type what I see in a photo of a house number. So I'm glad computers still think a spider is a man on a tightrope and hope they don't get better too quickly, because god knows what I'll have to do next to "prove I am a human" when I want to sign up for something or leave a comment.
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2015-07-28 05:22 pm

Why I'm not doing cane training right now

Because "cane training" will make my dirty-minded friends think of something else and giggle?

The "rehabilitation officer" from the council rang me yesterday morning. "I'm worried about you, darlin'!" she said. I had a couple of voicemails from her the previous week that I hadn't even bothered listening to once I knew they were from her, which I know is naughty, but once I was in the pub and once I was helping move house, and I'm still in a state where doing even one thing at a time takes concerted effort.

I went for my first training session before I went to Minnesota. I'd been looking forward to this because I was sure I was missing stuff in the fake-it-til-you-make-it tactic I've been taking since I got the thing in April. But when I turned up, I felt like a bait-and-switch had been pulled on me because I was again heavily pressured into trying the "long cane" and not the "guide cane" I have been using. My general agreeableness and some curiosity about the difference between the two kinds led me to have a session with the long cane.

I found it interesting and perfectly okay at the time, but the more I thought about it once I left, the more I found myself unsettled and dismayed by it.

The long cane is intended to give a much richer "view" of the world. Its user taps or rolls it from side to side along the ground as they walk (under normal circumstances; wheelchair users can use them too and there are weight-bearing walking-stick canes for people who need to use a walking stick as well). The pendulum-like movement of the cane therefore has to co-ordinate with the person's steps: it should reach its furthest point right when you take a step with your left foot, and vice versa. This can be surprisingly difficult and tiring at first, especially as the cane is meant to be "centered" at the middle of your body, held near your belly button, and it's too easy for whatever hand you're holding it with to get tired and drop down to your side. This is bad because it means your movement of the cane no longer sweeps all of the area it needs to -- which is the width of your body plus a little more each side so you know if you're right near curbs, walls, people, cars, or other obstacles.

When she'd first assessed me and talked about the canes, the lady was pushing "long cane" at me pretty heavily. If it was a real business, she'd have been upselling. So I wasn't too surprised when I got there and she's like, "Well, you don't need any guide cane training because -- you got here, didn't you?" I boggled at that: I've gotten all kinds of places, even from one continent to another, without any cane at all for my whole life until the past three months, but that doesn't mean I'm doing so in the best possible way! This "logic" was one of the few things I was annoyed about at the time, instead of just in retrospect.

Another thing, which will become relevant in a minute: the canes have different tips, too. Cane users (and this goes for guide as well as long cane) can tap or roll their canes side to side along in front of them. My guide cane happens to have a "pencil" tip, the kind for tapping (I don't know why it's called that; it's not pointy -- indeed I was instructed not to drag it on the ground because that would make the tip pointy and thus both ineffective and potentially dangerous), it's just a smooth plastic cylinder the same width as the rest of the cane, with a rounded end. The other kind of tip is called a "roller" tip, which is also white plastic but bigger and rounder -- maybe roughly the size of a tennis ball, though not quite that spherical -- and as the name implies is for rolling across the ground instead of just tapping to the extreme right and left points of the pendulum swing, lifted slightly off the ground all the rest of the time.

So I went slowly up and down a corridor until I could do this in practice as well as understand it in theory; for maybe twenty minutes or so. Then we went outside. Outside was more tricky immediately because the terrain was more uneven so --

So because I'm used to a pencil-tipped cane, and because I use my guide cane differently from a long cane -- I generally hold it still in front of me, tip near but not on the ground near the middle of where I'm walking -- this meant the roller tip took at least as much getting used to as the techniques for the long cane itself. I tried the pencil tip first in my long cane training session but preferred the roller tip, for the more complex information it gave me about what I was encountering and because it seemed more work than paying attention to how my wrist had to move to get a useful but not too violent tap or to pick it up off the ground in between sufficiently that it doesn't roll across the floor but also not too high that it's awkward or unnecessarily difficult for me to lift. Because your steps match the movements of the cane, how fast you can walk is dependent on how fast you can whip the thing back and forth in front of you without getting it tangled up in your feet and kicking it or tripping yourself or doing something else alarming; walking at what felt like a normal pace (though nothing feels normal when you're overthinking it like this) gave me enough to think about, so I was happier with the roller tip that could just rest on the ground.

The downsides of the roller tip became more evident as soon as we got outside. Sometimes the tip would get hung up on some bit of the unevenness, and then either it'd stay stuck and I'd impale my belly on it which would usually eventually cause the tip to spring up out of whatever crack or divot it'd gotten stuck in, or else the tip would jump up with the effort I was putting into shoving it across the ground in front of me. Both of these would immediately get me told off "Don't lift it!" by my ever so helpful instructor. Who was walking behind me, so I couldn't flag up how these problems seemed to me, or ask questions, or anything, without stopping and turning around, which usually got me told off for stopping when I should just keep going, or something.

I don't take criticism fantastically well at the best of times, but I thought that continuing to chastise me every time she thought the tip of the cane left contact with the ground was a bit much after a while. It's hard learning a new thing, being bad at it (especially out in public). There is a point in learning a new skill where you're intellectually aware of what you should be doing but you haven't yet had enough practice to do it reliably all the time, and at that point it stops becoming useful to point out the mistake every time it happens. I found it unspeakably frustrating, especially because I was struggling with the nuance of "using enough force to keep the cane moving at the rate you're supposed to be walking" and "not using so much force that the tip flies up in the air."

Especially because she didn't seem to like me walking slowly. "You walk fast, you're naturally a fast walker," she kept saying, which I don't even think I believe and I was irritated that she was basing this on having seen me once walk toward her office when I was worried about getting there before it closed so of course I was walking fast then! But during this lesson it was just something else to be irritated about, because it surely made sense to practice all this new stuff at a slower speed (though, obviously, moving the cane too slowly would also leave it prone to sticking in all the dips and holes in the pavement...).

I don't know how much this not-getting-a-say-in-the-narratives-about-me was echoing that pattern from my childhood, and how much was me thinking it was like that and falling back into my childhood habits of not arguing when people tell me wrong or just odd stuff about myself because arguing never worked then. I don't want to return to that kind of fatalism but also I think these kind of jobs foster habits of not always listening to their clients, particularly if what we're saying can be parsed as "I can't do that" or "I want to do an easier version of that," and that once what I say has been put into a category like that I'm pretty much doomed for evermore.

What I was supposed to do seemed kind of inconsistent, too. Praised for "avoiding the obstacle" of other people standing in the corridor, I was then accused of "veering" and staying too close to buildings when we were outside. My arm did brush up against a fence that was cordoning off some construction work at one point (all of Manchester seems to be under construction at the moment!), but that was because the space left for pedestrians to walk was really only wide enough for people to go comfortably in one direction at a time but since it's a busy area there were always people fighting past each other in both directions. Asked if I usually stick close to buildings, I honestly didn't think so, but in busy areas like this (on and near Oxford Road by the precinct centre and the aquatics centre and that), most pedestrians tend toward one side of the pavement or another as people walk the opposite way past them. It wasn't as if I was crashing into buildings or anything, just vaguely tending to that side of the pavement, which I guess is a habit I've probably developed so that I'm not going to step off a curb if I encounter someone walking the other way past me? I don't know; I've never examined my reasons for doing this. I'm not even sure how much of a pattern it is. Some of it comes from the fact that [personal profile] magister prefers to walk on the traffic side of any pavement so he can hear conversation better; I've noticed my habit of arranging myself accordingly does tend to bleed over to other people I'm walking next to these days and I really don't think that is a big deal.

But in the eyes of my "mobility instructor," this ticks a box called Veering. So I was told to walk right down the middle of the pavement, to expect other people to get out of my way. My experience had already taught me that while most people do indeed leap out of the way, yank their less-observant companions out of my way (to the point where I sometimes find myself missing the odd exchange of hellos or smiles I used to get with strangers in the street!), some people are so very not going to get out of my way. I get the theory that I'm as deserving of my space in the world as anyone else is (and that walking right down the middle is probably best-practice for people less sighted than me), but I'm really uncomfortable with feeling that I'm making an unnecessary nuisance of myself above and beyond that.

I was also told not to apologize, which again I can see the theoretical point of in being assertive and confident that I am worth the space I take up...but in practice I both come from and live in cultures where people apologize for everything, including other people bumping into them...it'd be a very hard habit for me to break, even trying to break it would skyrocket my anxiety, and my apologies don't mean that I feel I'm any less entitled to my bit of space. So yeah: not apologizing just ain't gonna happen. And that doesn't bother me.

Of course the most annoying thing about all of this is that I've seen a lot of people use these "long" canes, since childhood. Yes never for very long and yes only in certain types of situations, but. I've almost always seen them being used pretty similarly to how I use mine: drifting along in front of the feet in spaces we expect to be relatively free of obstacles (like walking down the aisle of a bus, or along a train platform). I am not saying the synchronized tapping and whatnot doesn't have its uses, but my impression is that it's like driving lessons/tests, versus how you drive after that. You have to do everything ultra-correctly for a while, with just the right amount of rolling and to just the right distance either side of your body with the cane at just the right length from your belly...and then once you pass the "test" and get to keep the cane (unlike the guide cane, I couldn't take that one away with me; this is a matter of policy to keep people from learning "bad habits" apparently), you can do what actually works for you.

It is the nature of my anxiety to second-guess pretty much every decision I make, especially for myself, so I could devil's-advocate myself into the whole "you shouldn't give up on things just because they're not fun or you're not good at them or they're not being taught in the way you'd find most perfect..." line of thinking, but I really don't think I am giving up too easily on this. I really think that the benefits of the long cane for me are nebulous and not worth the stress.

She told me at the end of the session, which was just before I was about to be away for the next two Tuesdays, that I should think about whether I wanted to continue the long cane training and let her know when I got back if I did, and not to worry about getting in touch right now if I didn't. So I had my horrible holiday and by the time I came back I was sure I didn't want to bother with this, not right now at least. And life got busy and I didn't worry about not being in touch since that's what she'd told me would indicate to her that I wasn't interested. But then I had a couple of voicemails from her last week, which I basically ignored -- one was when I was helping friends move house and was tired and covered in sweat, the other was when I was in a pub and actually having a nice time -- but then she me yesterday. This time I actually answered the phone (not having maliciously avoided it before, just not having noticed it when she called) and she told me she was worried about me because I hadn't gotten back to her. Then she asked me if I still wanted the long cane training and I was all ready to say no when she added "...or do you want the guide cane training?" I was so surprised at that I said the guide cane would be good. I hadn't expected this to be an option; I guess she's forgotten about telling me I didn't need any.

But then today I woke up late and didn't want to rush to turn up late (she'd probably think I was an Olympic sprinter if I turned up in a hurry agaiun...) and the weather was awful and I know I should have called her but I am in fact a rubbish human being so just couldn't. And now I have another voicemail from her that I'm ignoring. Nnrgh.
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2015-07-27 12:28 pm
Entry tags:

Wherein a descriptivist's mettle is tested

Today I learned the word "aGreekment," which I like because it's such an awful word and it's also for something that nobody seems to like or want. It's sort of onomatopoeic in that way.

(Also Greferendum, though. And I was reading about Brexit for weeks before I figured out what it meant (all my guesses were way off). Honestly, what is it with European politics spouting so many teeth-grindingly bad neologisms lately? I blame twitter: trying to get a phrase like "the latest bailout deal between Greece and the rest of the EU" into a tweet would leave no room for pontificating but "aGreekment" is only ten little letters!)
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2015-07-25 11:56 am
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Space agencies as a victim of their own success

I must admit I, like no doubt almost everyone else, take it for granted that every year or so there will be some new amazing feat of ingenuity and discovery in space: dive a probe into the atmosphere of one of Saturn's moons, trundle around on the Martian surface, find hundreds of planets outside our solar system via a telescope in space, orbit an asteroid, land on a comet, most recently transform our knowledge of Pluto from a pixilated disco ball to the incredible detailed pictures we've no doubt all seen now because Pluto is the internet's favorite planet.

It's easy to think these things are so obviously good that we can assume they'll carry on happening, injecting our daily routines and concerns with a regular dose of the sublime and the numinous in order to keep our psyches in good working order. But every single one of those missions and accomplishments has to be fought for, hard, many times. The money has to be spent long before the payoff in the public's eyes -- if it ever happens at all. New Horizons was approved knowing that it wouldn't produce results until a president or two later, and it's hard for congresspeople (most of whom need to worry about re-election every two years) to play that kind of long game, especially when there are of course so many worthy causes the taxpayers' money could go to.

I'm fascinated by how New Horizons so nearly didn't happen; there seem so many parallel universes where it never was, or where it ceased to exist before any of us heard of it, or even one where it cleared all the hurdles but our now-iconic image of Pluto was nearly lost in the computer before anyone laid eyes on it, reminding us that space scientists at work are susceptible to all the human failings of anyone else at work.

I try to be mindful of these things so that I don't take our knowledge of the universe for granted. It's easy to assume fabulous pictures and information about exoplanets and Kuiper belt objects are as inevitable as new TV shows, especially when it all ends up in the meat grinder of social media, which extrudes fanfic, urban legends, politics, news, pop-culture references, and amazing new scientific knowledge such that they all look like each other.*

But there's nothing certain about it: a few days ago made 46 years since man first landed on the Moon...and I think it's 43 years since man last landed on the Moon. Having done something in space is hardly a guarantee that we'll do it again. We have to keep supporting funding for science, and keep celebrating the amazing fruits of that labor.


* And again I could rant about the sad Pluto cartoons: people drawing Pluto with a Care-Bear heart on its tummy just like they draw their favorite characters from TV or anime or whatever, so used to feeling this level of ownership and participation in their entertainment that Pluto gets treated like Benedict Cumberbatch or something...but I have somewhere to be this afternoon so won't rant about this any further! But someday this subject will escape my footnotes, I hope.
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2015-07-20 09:15 am
Entry tags:

Two things I learned in the latest informal* plus-size clothes swap**

  1. It is possible for me to throw something in the "nah, pass it along to someone else" pile for no other reason than this looks far too much like something my ex-girlfriend wore. Seriously. If she were local, she'd be the person I offered that skirt to next.
  2. I personally disapprove of shapewear, both on philosophical grounds -- I've been a lot healthier and happier since I stopped believing that this shape for my body would be better than that one -- and practical grounds -- wearing stuff that squeezes my thighs and hips into a different shape fucking hurts -- but the shapewear of someone a little bit bigger than me? Makes perfect cycling shorts (or wear-under-dresses-that-might-make-my-legs-rub-together-too-much shorts) for me. I don't care if they do have lace at the bottoms of the legs; they're not underwear any more, they're totally shorts.***
* By informal I mean since I was helping them move anyway, [personal profile] mother_bones had a bunch of clothes I could take away, either hers or her boyfriend's wife's. I look forward to wearing something when I next see my family that they compliment me on (which they will, because these clothes look great) and asking me where I got it so I can say, "from my Platonic Wife's boyfriend's wife. Actual wife, in that case."

** By swap I mean I didn't offer any clothes, only take them away. Though having tried them all on this morning, I do have a bunch that I will pass along because they don't suit me.

*** Especially handy since I'm helping [personal profile] mother_bones et al. move to such a great distance away that I might start cycling there! People who I'm used to having within ten-minutes of walking distance will now be in ten minutes' cycling distance. I've been so spoiled having them so nearby...
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2015-07-18 11:17 pm
Entry tags:

I don't recognize the Pluto of the sad cartoons; this is Pluto

Fuck your order. Fuck your time. I realigned the cosmos.
I chaosed all the hell you have yet to feel. Now all your kids
in the classrooms, they confused. All their clocks:
wrong. They don’t even know what the fuck to do.
They gotta memorize new songs and shit. And the other
planets, I fucked their orbits. I shook the sky. Chaos like
a motherfucker.
I have a bunch of things I want to say about the sad Pluto cartoons, about ownership and narrative and cultural participation and infantalization and all kinds of stuff, but my brain is slow lately and I haven't been able to manage it yet so have someone else's words in the meantime.
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2015-07-11 05:41 pm
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A recommendation

"I must be doing worse than I thought," Andrew said as we were on our way out of the cinema after seeing Mr. Holmes. "I actually started tearing up at the end of that!"

I smiled. "That is not a sign of any problem."

It's a marvelous film, emotionally powerful but no overwhelming, as my anxiety leads me to find so many stories these days. Ian McKellen's performance is so tremendous I think I might have to add him to my usual list of favorite Holmeses -- Merrison and Brett. I never expected that duo to become a trio.
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2015-07-09 11:25 pm
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I fear I've been assimilated

" 'I'm the Doctor, born to save the world'," [personal profile] magister quoted from the new trailer, to groans from the room (me and Andrew).

"You can't imagine any of the proper Doctors saying that, can you," said Andrew.

"Possibly Colin," James said.

I thought about this for a second, and then said, "But he wouldn't mean it!"

And the spooky thing? Andrew said exactly the same thing at exactly the same time.
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2015-07-08 03:29 pm
Entry tags:

WHAT BULLSHIT IS THIS?

The only two times I've gotten my period in the last year (on my birth control, I don't usually get them) have been right after the last two times I've been to visit my family!

What, body, do you not think I've had enough fun lately?
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2015-07-04 11:16 pm

The best thing about fireworks

The best thing about fireworks is that they're always the same. My parents' fixation on going on vacation the week of the fourth of July usually means we don't get to see fireworks because we're on a lake in the middle of nowhere. But I remember being quite young, before this tradition started, and going to watch fireworks over Fountain Lake, near my grandparents' house. And today, thanks to the quirk of having to end our vacation on yer actual fourth of July, we were able to do this again. We sat just about where I remembered we always did, by what used to be the bandstand and is now near hospital buildings. It reminded me of the fireworks I saw in Levenshulme last misummer's day with friends, and the time [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours and I stood in mud and drizzle in Cringle Park for bonfire night fireworks, and all the other times. Fireworks bang and sizzle and fly and shine in such similar ways that I could believe all displays are connected somehow, every time we celebrate that not every rocket's red glare is dangerous and violent and hateful; some of them exist purely because their beauty inspires happiness.

The best thing about fireworks is that they make not only wildly-imaginative me but my less-known-for-flights-of-fancy parents say things like "palm trees" and "that looks like spaceships taking off" and other lovely ideas that wouldn't otherwise occur to me, even as I see starfish and toadstools and muse that there must be a Firework Galaxy or a Firework Nebula*. They're better than clouds for seeing pictures in.

The best thing about fireworks is that you have to share them. Anyone who can see your patch of sky, anyone within earshot, gets to be part of your fireworks. They must be communal; they cannot be horded or withheld from those considered unworthy.

The best thing about fireworks is how multimedia they are. Sound and color, sure, but also the big ones produce a percussive wave I can feel in my chest, and I love the smell of the smoke that hangs in the air after enough of them.

The best thing about fireworks is how they cannot be captured fully by recordings. No audio or video can convey more than a fraction of what they're like in the realtime real sky. Somehow so much of the experience of watching them is in the picnic blankets and lawn chairs and bug spray and the people you're with and turning your faces up to think big thoughts.

* Turns out there's both. Nebula. Galaxy.
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2015-07-04 04:36 pm
Entry tags:

The Golden Hard Hat sounds like a naughty euphemsim, but it really isn't

My mom left the gold hard hat as the centerpiece of the dining room table until I got home to see it. For once it's my dad who thinks something's silly and her who's sticking up for it.

I'm so glad I got to see it; it's awesome. Not just spray-painted gold, but bedecked with stickers too.



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2015-07-02 11:09 pm
Entry tags:

I need to up my game!

A song came on the radio while we were eating breakfast and all of a sudden my dad said, "Who's this singing, is it Katy Perry?"

I had no idea, I'd never heard the song before. But since my dad had been telling me the day before how much he likes Lady Gaga and that he wishes Adele would come out with a new album, I was happy to defer to his expertise.

It always delights me to contemplate -- as I am so often given reason to do -- that I will never be as cool as my dad.
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2015-06-25 12:44 pm
Entry tags:

PSA: don't ask blind people what they can see

I get this question a lot (most recently in the midst of a stupid new layer of airport security theatre that the U.S. has apparently developed). Not only is it rarely relevant -- this airport worker was just feeding his curiosity, it wasn't relevant to anything he was doing -- but it's actually an impossible question for me to answer.

Because...the only answer I have is "Everything." I can see everything I can see. I don't really know what I'm not seeing, except by other people's reporting and how their behavior differs from mine.

I end up having to guess at what kind of answer the person really wants, so listing off random things I can see until one makes them look interested. (Usually I start with "I can see your face" and they like that because everybody likes to think about themselves).

It's so much easier, if you really have reason to want to know "can you see my face?" or "can you tell where you're going?" or whatever, to just ask that. The open-ended questions are much harder for me to cope with, and also lead me into "being an ambassador for the thing about me that other people don't run into very often," which I don't always have time or energy for. I'm really happy to answer reasonable questions (when I think they're reasonable!) but I like to know when that is what I'm doing and not just indulging someone's curiosity.
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2015-06-18 05:25 pm

Longer letter later

All year I've been trying to sort out the registered-blind stuff, and find myself some kind of job or decent volunteering thing, and this week both of those seem to be sorted all of a sudden. It feels weird to not have these things to stress about or feel guilty about not doing. But it's a kind of weird I could definitely get used to.
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2015-06-16 10:10 pm
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Unpopular opinion:

I'm already pretty sick of British people talking about American presidential hopefuls.

Sorry, British people. But some of you seem to be treating the futures of a lot of people I know and care about like it's the casting for a new superhero movie or something you look forward to binge-watching when it's released on Netflix. My country is not your fandom.

It's gonna be a long year and a half, isn't it.
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2015-06-15 10:37 pm
Entry tags:

Being disabled is a full-time job

In Minnesota we may laugh at the idea of "blind cards," but now in the UK I have one!

It arrived today as part of my "introductory pack" from the council's sensory team (who, yes, I know well but clearly their receiving a copy of my Certificate of Visual Impairment triggered an automatic response, because otherwise I don't think they would have sent me badly-photocopied leaflets for old people or for macular degeneration). So I've spent the day applying for a Disabled Person's Railcard (on its way now!) and a National Concessionary Travel Pass, which annoyingly I haven't quite finished yet because I need to get someone from the sensory team to sign and notarize it.

Also this morning I got a letter through with my PIP assessment appointment time, which like everything else going on this summer is during the time my parents are making me go on vacation with them, so I had to call them but that was okay actually as not only am I getting it out of the way before I go to Minnesota -- it's now this Friday! -- but I don't have to go to somewhere I've never been in Bolton now, as the nice lady on the phone was able to get the venue changed to North Manchester hospital. Which will be a trip down memory lane! Before Andrew and I were married we lived a few doors down from it briefly, and I used to be sent there on occasion when I worked at MRI. So at least I know how to get there.

So yeah. Nothing non-urgent on today's to-do list got done today, but lots of other stuff did thanks to these two envelopes in the mail this morning.

After I get through my Atos assessment and the bus pass is sorted out, I think then, except for chasing up the light in the kitchen that should have been replaced by now, I might actually be done with the disability admin I can do right now. For so long it's seemed endless, interminable, fruitless, but I knew one day it'd all start happening in an avalanche of busy-ness, and that seems to be what's going on now.
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2015-06-14 06:11 pm
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Of course he always does these things on days when I'm not around...

One of Andrew's tweets from this afternoon says
Improvised a standing desk by putting a chair on the dining room table and putting laptop on that. Using books as keyboard rest
Place your bets on exactly how much damage to property and possessions I can look forward to when I get home this evening!
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2015-06-13 11:29 pm

Confidence

The help I'm getting from the sensory team, while helpful, is a bit nerve-grating on occasion, too.

Like the way the Rehabilitation Officer I've been dealing with (and I really hate that title, too, but that's another rant), the one who gave me the white cane and the talking gadgets and is getting light fittings replaced in the house and stuff...she's also the one who does the guide-cane training I'll eventually get, and she keeps telling me about all the benefits thereof.

Not that I need convincing, I'm more than happy to do it. But she's said (as have other such people I've dealt with) that I don't offer as much resistance as they're used to getting, which I imagine is a combination of me not having the traditional British reticence, me not actually being new to sight loss, and frankly I think because I'm of a younger generation than most of the people the council will be dealing with.

Anyway, so I think I get the same spiel she gives everybody she deals with, and thus I've heard about all the good things I will get from being "rehabilitated" with white-cane training. She talks a lot about "building your confidence," enough that my reaction to this, which started out as a mild grimace (these conversations are mostly on the phone, so that's okay), has evolved into full-grown teeth-gritting and eye-rolling.

I do understand how the actual loss of someone's sight would zero out someone's confidence. That's as true for me as anyone else -- if I lost any sight I'd probably stop leaving the house or cooking or anything. As someone who's only ever gained sight, having gone from completely blind to, well, this when I was still too young to remember it happening, I have had to build whatever confidence I have at this level of sightedness. And I think I've done pretty well, actually. I was an independent baby -- apparently one of my first favorite phrases when I learned to talk was "I do it!" and I broke my arm as a toddler climbing out of my crib because I was so unwilling to have a nap just then. I was a talkative child and a teenager who hated my peer group because I thought I was better than them. I've never been lacking confidence.

And it isn't confidence I need to navigate the world. I find this cringeworthy because it makes it sound like it's my fault if I'm not always putting myself out there. I don't need to be taught that I deserve to "own my space" when I'm out and about. I know that perfectly well. What concerns me, adds to my stress, is that other people don't think so. I am faced almost every time I go out with someone nearly running into me because they were looking at their phones or they just charge out of shops without a glance to who else might be on that bit of the sidewalk. People try to sneak into queues in front of me because they think the stick means I can't see them at all (and I swear the metaphorical usage of "blind" to mean "doesn't know" or "doesn't care" -- such as "blind with rage" or "blind to the consequences of her actions" -- contribute to this attitude towards blind people...but that too is another rant). I tend to fold away the stick before I do stuff like get cash out of machines because I worry about seeming too vulnerable.

My confidence cannot exist in a vacuum. It is not solely my fault if I don't have enough. It's not our conditions that disable us disabled people; it's people's hostile reactions to us and the lack of accessibility as a general rule.

I'm not saying that my confidence or my approach to stuff doesn't affect my experiences and choices -- of course these things do, and they are important. I think this is just an example of where being new to the system, and thus treated like someone new to sight loss, means I don't quite fit and therefore maybe these things stick out more to me. Of course I do understand why things are this way: the services for people with sensory impairments stand a better chance of changing the impaired individual than they do the whole world, so it makes sense to focus on what they can help. It just irks me after a while to hear that all I need is "building up your confidence." Especially because that implies that I don't currently have much, which I don't think is true!
strangecharm: (Default)
2015-06-04 09:43 pm
Entry tags:

I know I'm in Yorkshire when...

1) The lovely pub landlady pulls our two pints and says "That's £6.20 sorry about the price," without any pause at all. The immediate apology for what doesn't seem to me a bad price at all for very nice beer, and the assurance that she's not charging us any more than she needs to, both make me grin and feel like I am in the right place.

2) When the train to Huddersfield finally arrived, a couple of loud young white guys were standing nearer the train door than me, but when it opened and the people who wanted off had gotten off, one of them turned to me and said with a sweeping arm gesture, "go on, love." This kind of thing happens to me regularly now because of the white cane, but usually it's an offer, an invitation. This time, it sounded like I was being scolded, like I should already have known I would get on the train before they did. I scurried up onto the train, a little unnerved but also amused to have been demanded to submit to their chivalry.