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Dark Future?

Author: Charlotte Bennie
Year: Future

Please note: this piece contains language some readers may find offensive.

Hellish, isn’t it? You daren’t go out. You would trip on a kerb, vanish into a pothole or stumble over a missing toby cover. And, sitting here, you can barely read the headlines in the paper; with one eye closed, that is. You’ve heard there are ways to make your mobile speak to you but, as you can’t see the screen clearly, that’s a no no. Same with the telly. Nothing except shouting at Alexa or listening to the radio.

There must be help out there, but where? And what actually is it?

First, get the number of RNIB Scotland via directory enquiries. Yes, that’s going to cost a wee fortune but don’t worry. Soon, you’ll be using that service for free. No need to memorise a landline number ever again. Then, ask them for your local Blinkie organisation. And, no, I won’t be politically correct. What’s the point? Tiptoeing about isn’t going to restore anything.

There you are! I told you stuff existed, didn’t I? Lots of fancy gadgetry. Beeping, shouting and pinging at you. However, now you also realise most of it is very expensive. And, no, there isn’t a disabled equivalent of the Baby Box given to all new parents. Oh, no! If you want the talking microwave, the phone smart enough to talk, even the gismo on which to play your talking books, well, you’ll just have to pay for them. Not very easy, since your job has gone along with your sight.

I’m sorry to tell you this bit; this is where things become really difficult. Take a deep breath, collect as much information as you can about your eye condition. Now, phone your local Citizens Advice office. You’ll be eternally grateful for their help. Because, now, it's time to tackle the DWP. There’s money out there, to which you are entitled. Nobody tells you about it. You never see adverts on the telly, informing anyone with a disability they can claim allowances. No, you have to fight, and fight for any of the benefits to which you are perfectly entitled. It is virtually impossible for you, for anybody, to do this alone.

Strange, isn’t it? Subsidies are things which certain groups in our society regard as theirs by right. Any attempt to remove these, and they’ll kick up merry hell. Benefits, however, are quite, quite different. Anyone receiving any benefit must be on the fiddle, must be a skiver.

So, you’ve persevered. Hung on phone lines until your arm has cramped. Been offered at the most, the minimum amount to which you are entitled. Then, with further support from Citizens Advice, you have picked yourself up, gathered together a further folder of personal details and demanded an appeal.

And now, here you are. Money in your pocket. Not much, but you’ll get by, if you swallow your pride and frequent the local charity shops and thoroughly research eBay via whichever accessible gismo. Your house echoes with voluble gadgetry; Alexa announcing the latest weather forecast; your smart phone reminding you of an impending visit to the dentist; bathroom scales happily bellowing to the whole household that no, your diet isn’t working. You have joined your local Blinkies Club. Perhaps, you are considering applying for a guide dog.

Instead of crying in the dark, you are taking the first steps into a new life.

I hate to spoil your returning confidence. But, the more you venture back into society, the more you will realise society itself suffers from a disability so insidious it pervades every aspect of our lives. Not just the cars and street furniture cluttering pavements; the twee pavers in town centres so badly designed, and so ineptly placed, they are guaranteed to trip the unwary; the almost inaccessible household appliances, with their silent screens and virtual buttons. This is when you discover just how true is the expression, Hell is other people.

The council intent on redesigning streets with shared surfaces instead of kerbs and tactile slabbing. Guess which is the cheaper? The committees and organisations no longer willing to have you as a member, no matter your expertise because, because, well...you’re a blinkie, aren’t you? You’ll fall over chairs; spill your coffee; expect someone to faff around on their computer to ensure anything pinged to you will be in an accessible format. For the rest of your life, you will face the subtle, and not so subtle suggestion to just stay indoors, listening to your talking books or the telly with the audio description switched on.

Hell mend them! Have a social life. Keep up your hobbies, or, if any have become inaccessible, discover new ones. Whack the bothersome with your white stick. Use your screen reader to write stroppy emails to your council, the media and anyone who might just pay attention, requesting the accessibility and services which are yours by right. Never, never forget to thank those who offer help. There are more of these thoughtful souls out there than you think.

In other words, go out there and enjoy yourself! After all, you’re worth it!