At this meeting Liz Porter an Independent Story Teller, facilitated an activity where GIG members were invited to think of a story they wished to share, which could be conveyed through drawings, poems, or verbally.
Here are some of the stories that were shared at the meeting:
The Wine and the Chocolate – by Liz Porter
It was a cold, dark and rainy evening, and I was alone at home. I decided I wanted a glass of wine and some chocolate, but the cupboard was bare, so I put a ten pound note in my pocket and walked around the corner to the shop. As I’m visually impaired, I have to look very closely at the wine label to read what the content is. One man thought it would be funny to ask if I could actually smell the wine through the bottle, but I chose to ignore his ignorant comment! When I approached the cashier to pay, I realised that the ten pound note was no longer in my pocket. I searched for it, but could not find it anywhere! It was gone. Someone had stolen it from me. The security man thought that the same man who had rudely commented on me earlier had probably taken it, but he couldn’t be sure. I was very annoyed, but I brushed it off and walked home with no wine or chocolate. I know I should have reported it, but at the time I didn’t see it as a big issue, as it was only ten pounds. In future I will be more careful.
A manicure incident
It was 3.30pm, and I was at an elderly lady’s women’s group, where I get a manicure and my hair cut. The lady who was treating my hands was chit-chatting away to me, when all of a sudden I thought I felt something in my pocket. I ignored it, but later on that afternoon I noticed my mobile phone had been stolen! I felt in all my pockets, but couldn’t find it anywhere. I thought it was the same lady that cut my nails, but I had no proof. Two weeks later, the same lady came over to me and said “Ha! There was no credit on that phone! That was annoying!” What cheek!! I didn’t report it at the time, but now I always make sure all my pockets are zipped up, and I’m very aware of my surroundings.
Being invisible as a disabled person
I live in a block of flats, and I can walk around my home, but I need a mobility scooter to leave the house. One day, my sister came to visit to come out for lunch with me, so I got on my mobility scooter and left the flat. As I was leaving, I said ‘hello!’ to one of the other residents, but they completely ignored me. Later on that evening, I passed by my friend that I share a take-away with every Friday night, so we know each other very well. However, he also didn’t say hello to me, or recognise me at all! I feel as though, when I am on my scooter, I become completely invisible to all those around me, which can be very frustrating.
Feeling free in Brighton
I’ve lived in Brighton for more than 10 years, and I absolutely love it. Brighton is a city where, as some who is visually impaired, I feel I have more freedom to be whoever I want to be. I feel liberated here! Coming from South Africa, being in the UK is a huge eye-opener, as I felt like a hidden minority before, by my family as well as society. However, here in Brighton you can be out and about, and I can live my own life as I want to live it – and be seen doing so. I’m so lucky to be living in a country that has so much support and services available.
In my mid-teens, my parents took me to see a pantomime at our local theatre. As I am a wheelchair-user, but also visually impaired, it can be difficult to find the right seat, as all the wheelchair spaces are at the back of the theatre! Therefore, my parents got to the theatre early, and carried me to my seat at the front so that I could enjoy the show. The ushers took my wheelchair away and stored it until I would need it after the performance. After waiting for everyone to leave the theatre, we asked the ushers to bring my wheelchair back over, but they couldn’t find it anywhere! For 2 hours, they searched and searched, but thought that perhaps vandals had broken in and stolen it (as this had occurred previously), so the police were called to take a description of my chair. I was so worried about how I was going to get home, or go to school the next day, or carry out any of my usual day-o-day activities without my wheelchair. Suddenly, after midnight, an usher came rushing over to us with my wheelchair – they had stored it in the disabled toilets, and didn’t even think to look in there!! I was just so relieved to have it back, and we all laughed about it on the way home.
One day when it was snowing outside, my husband and my friend went outside to throw snowballs at each other. I am a wheelchair user, and I didn’t get involved at first, but after a little while they brought me outside with them and threw snowballs around me, but not at me. However, some local children started to join in and threw snowballs straight at me, but I couldn’t move out of the way or join in, so I felt very victimised. What began as a lovely evening turned into a very sour incident. I wish parents would educate their children on behaving in a more appropriate way.
I received my very first mobility scooter, so I went to take it out for test-drive along Elm Grove. The road was very steep, so I tried to apply the brakes, but the scooter wouldn’t stop – it just kept on rolling! I had to think quickly, as I thought I was going to end up in the road or ploughing into a pedestrian, so I turned my scooter into a wall to stop it, but I went flying. I landed on my shoulder and needed surgery. It was so broken and misshapen, the doctor likened it to the ‘spaghetti junction’! 6 months of physio later, and I still have mobility problems in my arm. Now I get my scooter checked over and tested every year without fail, to ensure this doesn’t happen again.