Yet again I am going to try something a little bit different. This idea came as a result of a discussion I had with Laura Horton of LCiL about the perception of "Disability" being exactly that - as in - it disables (or - at worst - removes) your ability to function in society, hold down a job, etc.
Of course, there are profoundly disabled people for whom this is the case. However, in most cases, all it really takes is a willingness to listen to - and learn from - the disabled person as they teach you how to cope with their disability.
This blog post is going to be in the form of a question and answer "interview".
Thank you for agreeing to take part in this interview - can you start by telling us a bit about yourself?
Certainly - my name is Ineke Poultney, I am half-Dutch. I am Registered Partially Sighted. Oh - and I am the brains behind Inkyworld.
You say you are "Registered Partially Sighted"? Does that mean you carry a White Stick wherever you go?
Although I do own a White Stick I never actually use it. I find it draws unwanted attention to my sight problems. I prefer to announce my difficulties on a "need to know" basis.
As for the "Registered Partially Sighted" thing - I suppose you could say I consider it to be a kind of "Badge of Honour". A kind of admission that I was right all along if you want. Although, I realise that other people see it as a kind of "Badge of Dishonour" - as though I have admitted defeat. Or worse - that I don't actually deserve the label.
Why would anybody see it as a "Badge of Dishonour"? More to the point - why do you feel that some people don't think you deserve the label???
It might help if I answered the second part of your question first, if I may.
People seem to have this idea in their heads that people who are Registered Partially Sighted come equipped with either a White Stick or a Guide Dog. Oh - and they wear very thick glasses (which has been known to be used as a way of measuring the level of the wearer's intelligence).
As it happens, I mentioned the fact that I am Registered Partially Sighted in a job interview a while back and the response was "well, you don't look it". For the most part that is true. OK so my glasses are fractionally thicker than normal (due to how the lenses were put together) but - most of the time I manage to function more or less like everybody else. This is only because I have been "trained" not to draw attention to my disability from a young age. Trust me - there are frequently times when I just want to crawl into a corner and sleep for a few centuries because of the mental fatigue that causes me.
The "Badge of Dishonour" comes from the fact that people judge you more by what they think you cannot do that what they think you can do.
Even on job application forms there is always a time when I know that I am not going to get the job. I dread seeing that question - "Are you Disabled?" (Or worse - "Do you consider yourself disabled?") "if so, please state your disability". It is usually found on what is laughingly called the "Equal Opportunities Questionnaire".
Seriously, if I were to go back to wearing glasses with "normal" lenses that were the true thickness required by my prescription - you would probably take one look at me and think that my level of intelligence was the same as what used to be legally defined as an "imbecile" (seriously stupid in other words). They do say "Never judge a book by its cover", don't they???
The "seriously stupid" would find it extremely difficult to hold down a job in an office for 15 years - especially dealing with suppliers and clients from all over the world. They could not speak more than one language either.
I think I did pretty well holding down a job for 15 years. As for speaking more than one language? I have GCSEs in English, French, German, and Dutch (I admit that my French and German are rusty from not being used but I am reasonably useful with Dutch).
Can you please tell the readers how your sight affects you day-to-day? As well as how you overcome any problems?
To be totally honest - my major problem boils down to one thing - other people's attitude. There are two attitudes which really put me off people.
The first one is the "Everybody else can..." attitude. You know the one - "Eveerybody else can read the menu written in small type (and helpfully glued to the wall behind me) so why can't you??? After all, you are wearing glasses. Perhaps you are illiterate???"
The reply I would love to give in situations like that is "That might be because I am not like everybody else. Glasses don't miraculously give you 20/20 vision you know - especially not with my prescription".
If I find myself having to ask for help I usually try to make a joke out of it. Or if I am tired and on the verge of a "shutdown" (because I have had enough of trying to "perform" to everybody else's expectations) I will explain as politely as I can that I cannot read the board.
The other attitude I hate is the one where someone sees I am struggling and immediately takes over - or asks if they can help me first and then proceeds to do the exact opposite of what I am trying to achieve.
I was brought up to be independent. There are very few things which stop me in my tracks. They are as follows;
Dark spaces (put it this way - I am useless in a powercut).
Angles (particularly when I am trying to get down a strange staircase).
Working out visually how much space there is between two objects which are very close together.
Oh - and - print that is 12 point and below.
I usually find different ways of working around them.
I suppose the big thing with me is that you have to be patient with me sometimes. I can usually do most things asked of me - it may take me a little longer to do them, or my methods may not exactly be the most conventional ones that you have ever come across - but they will get done one way or another.
My major failing (if you want to call it that) is my reluctance to ask for assistence until I have tried everything I can think of.
What gifts do you think your sight problem has given you?
I would say the major "gift" my sight problem has given me is what I call sideways thinking. This means that I usually approach a problem completely differently to other people.
Another one - although I sometimes see this as more of a curse - is that buzzword "adaptability". I have no choice about whether or not I want to adapt to your way of doing things - nine times out of ten I will do it anyway just to make your life easy.
I can amaze people with my feats of memory. You can tell me something or walk me through a route and it will get filed in my memory banks for ages. This is useful for when I am walking around in bright sunshine and I have to remember landmarks which appear to have gone walkabouts.
My friends tell me I am a good friend - I try not to judge people until I know the full story.
Finally - You said you held down a job in an office for 15 years. Have you got a job now? If not, what would your ideal job be?
I have been unemployed since being made redundant in 2009. I can tell you what both my ideal job and the job which would be the worst for my health are.
The job which would be worst for my health is going back into an office environment where no account is taken of my sight. Whilst I can operate as per the "usual" requirements for office staff - doing this for extended stretches very quickly tires me out mentally. Especially if faced with page upon page of what look like Egyptian heiroglyphics - but are actually someone's excuse for handwriting - that need to be typed up as quickly as possible (you could say I am pretty good at "live" audio typing as a result of my last job).
My ideal job???
If I could get paid for blogging about things which are important to me - and interest me - I would be very happy indeed.
People say blogging is lonely work but I actually enjoy the solitude which comes from writing on my own. I have nobody to answer to - no deadlines to meet (ie, getting important documents out of the door with a courier 30 minutes ago - or so it seemed sometimes) - as long as my ramblings are polite and stay within the law, as well as the realms of decency, I don't have that much to worry about.
To be honest - and this may shock some people - I am not really a "people person". Don't get me wrong, I enjoy speaking to people (particularly my friends) but I am happiest either curled up with a good book or writing (in whatever format that takes.
Thank you for agreeing to do this interview and tell your story.
You are welcome. I just hope someone gets something out of it.
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