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July 11, 2019

Why Not? Why Not!

I don’t want to appear defeatist, but for us with visual impairments, some activities are plain impossible. How happy would you be if the pilot of the plane taking you to Lanzarote walked into his cabin led by his Guide Dog? 

However, many things can still be done. Perhaps by changing the method; perhaps with the help of technology; perhaps by just accepting the task, although possible, won’t be done to quite the same standard as before. 

I accept this now which has taken me a long time but often, I become very angry, in fact, the word beelin would be a more apt description, because a task is impossible. For no reason other than the sighted world hasn’t bothered to think about inclusion. 

Recently, I attempted a competition on Facebook. The prize was a short holiday in Orkney. Perhaps, not everyone’s dream destination but having visited the islands years ago, I’ve hankered for a return visit. And, the competition wasn’t difficult. Just ticking a few boxes to accept information about tourist destinations in the islands, tap in my e mail address and, here was the problem. I had to prove I wasn’t a robot. Nae chance! Proof involved identifying wee icons. At least, I think this was what was required. Tapping and swiping around my I phone revealed an alternative, using sound. Great, I thought, someone has remembered us Blinkies! Aye right, the sound test involved listening to a word, broadcast in the sound quality of an ancient radio transmitting on the Medium Wave, not quite tuned in and the battery about to expire; against a background of crashing surf The word might have been Stretch, or Search, or Earth, or something else entirely. Then the page vanished and that was it. Nae Luck! Deprived of my chance of a return trip round Skara Brae and the Ring of Brodgar.
Okay, I probably didn’t have much chance of winning the holiday. That’s not the point. I couldn’t even participate. Although I had technology perfectly capable of taking me through the routine, I was stymied by silly criteria which, if anyone had taken the time to think about such things, shouldn’t have been there.
Then, there’s the rubbish. Several years ago, our council went all sustainable. Or, rather, it brought in methods which tick the recycling boxes somewhere in the system. Information was supplied and don’t get me started on my fight to receive this in an accessible format, other than cassette. Experts spent a vast amount of time and public money, visiting groups such as our VIP group, to discuss these alterations. Or, rather, we were told what the changes would be. Problems we would face because of disability were ignored. After all, what did we know? We were just the public, and disabled public at that.
Suffice to say, for me, the current system of Pittin Oot the Bins isn’t just difficult; it’s downright dangerous.
Once a fortnight, which is detailed by reading a printed list, I have to manhandle down our steep driveway, two large plastic boxes. One containing bottles and tins, the other paper. Not easy when using a cane to navigate. Once emptied, the Bin Men throw these around with gay abandon so, when I collect them, I have to poke and prod about, hoping that eventually, when I do find any boxes, they are actually ours. Bad enough in summer. Verging on the impossible on icy, or windy winter days.
Apparently, barrows were available to those deemed disabled enough to merit such.  However, this information only percolated by word of mouth. When I eventually heard, I made enquiries. Then enquired again. And again. Over a period of months, even years. Nae luck! Until, on yet another enquiry, the helpful and pleasant wee person in the Social Work office phoned the relevant department only to discover the supply was finished. And, Guess what? There wasn’t any dosh to buy more!
I’ve no idea if, when I first made enquiries, a supply still existed. It doesn’t matter. They’ve all gone.
Now, if all those years ago, the Experts had listened to the advice from groups such as our VIP, there would have been a much safer system. In fact, the Cooncil, on grounds of Health and Safety, has now decided this will happen. No one knows exactly when. This current example of numptiness having wasted several million of public money.
As it is, I have either to rely on sighted help or stagger around, perhaps in icy conditions, hefting a large, unwieldy box. All in an effort to save the planet. As for others, with more awkward driveways or mobility issues other than the problem of being someone with a visual impairment, well, you have my sympathy.
For, let’s face it, you’re not getting any sympathy from the council.






Image of Craig MacLagan
Written by
Craig MacLagan

Area Co-ordinator for Stewartry and Wigtownshire, See Hear project