Welcome to the first post in our series of 'a day in the life of a blind man'. This series is written by one of our screen reader analysts, who describes a typical day and how he lives without site.
“What time is it?” When waking up in the middle of the night as a totally blind man with no sense of light or dark, the answer to this question isn’t always as simple to answer as it seems. It isn’t as easy as viewing the red dials of a digital clock, or looking at the light coming through the curtains. My sight remains permanently foggy at whatever time of day or night, although I am not completely in the dark all I see is a constant snow storm! So it’s simply a case of reaching for the iPhone to let Apple’s in built Screen Reader Voiceover tell me the time, only to receive a very grumpy “What are you doing?” from my wife!
Also it would be lovely to have time to reach for that phone, but as I’m the proud father of a four year old daughter and a sixteen month old son, I usually am woken by a resounding “DADDY!” from the first or the sound of crying from the second. Either way checking the time isn’t on the agenda when first waking, this can be highly disorientating as it really isn’t clear whether you’ve been asleep for minutes or hours; or even whether it’s morning.
Once the alarm goes off, the morning becomes hectic especially on a work and school day. If I’m lucky I’ve had the chance to shower, shave and have breakfast before the kids wake. This is normally a process of wondering who moved my shaving foam, debating on which tooth brush belongs to me and what was in the mind of my wife when she moves the cereal to the furthest cupboard away from the bowls and milk. A favourite saying of mine is that “If you move it an inch you may as well move it a mile.” This is true, as I’ve forgotten the amount of times I’ve missed something when my fingers have been inches away from locating it. It’s frustrating, especially when you’re in a hurry, but I’ve found that many sighted people do forget that if they move things you simply can’t find them. My own wife forgets that I’m blind and often tells me she’s left the light on before remembering that I can’t see it!
I should say at this point that there are methods to work around the difficulties, for example cutting out part of a label to denote either light or dark clothing. However I must confess that to a large degree these methods don’t work for me, perhaps because I am the only blind member of our household. By the time these tasks are achieved usually both kids are awake. If my daughter is in a helpful state of mind this doesn’t prove to be too tricky, simply making sure that the toilet lid doesn’t fall down on her, and making sure she’s got her Weetabix without my son tipping the bowl up. The trick is to make sure my son doesn’t get too close to the bowl, while still giving him freedom to crawl and explore. The mornings for me are one of the most stressful, but if I’m being honest fun at the same time.
As well as my wife and I getting both children breakfast, I’ve got to make sure that wen running around I don’t fall over the crawling baby, or any of their toys which believe me is a challenge that all parents blind or not have to face, with the added difficulty that I’ve got no chance of seeing the obstacles. My daughter who is used to my sight has grown very adept at either telling me where she is, or else warning me of the obstacles before I reach them.
After ensuring my daughter is dressed for school it’s time to get me dressed, but this isn’t as simple as it first appears. Choosing a shirt can sometimes be complicated, particularly when there’s an important day at work. Many of the shirts feel the same, meaning I can’t tell what colour they are so it’s usually a case of asking my wife to pick a shirt the night before. Similarly socks can be a challenge. I try to wear black socks so that I am presentable whatever I’m wearing, but this doesn’t always happen. I would love to know what goes through the mind of the well-meaning person at Christmas that buys me socks with days of the week stitched on them. Usually it is not possible to feel the days on the socks, meaning I wear Monday on a Friday!
Once I’m dressed it’s quickly making sure that my daughter has her coat and packed lunch before walking her to play school. This luckily for me is only a few minutes walk away, and my daughter is incredibly proud that it is her Daddy taking her to school and so puffs out her chest. On most days we meet someone that knows us as we live in a tight knit community, and so usually we get a call telling us that we can cross the road. Although this usually isn’t needed, it’s reassuring to know that the help is there and on occasion this help is really useful. The only day in which this routine varies is recycling day. I hate recycling day as I can’t walk five feet without my cane touching a recycling bin, or me falling over the rubbish bags. As I’d rather not break a limb I volunteer my wife on these days to take my daughter to school.