Does living in the 21st centuary mean that we live in an age of enlightment and realistic and forward looking opinions and attitudes? As a visually imapired person, is it easier to live in an age where tollerance is meant to be the key and equality of opportunity is bred into us all?
wishful thinking? Isn’t it so much easier to put things into categories; you know everything has its place and all that. Sadly, through day to day experience, it’s clear that attitudes towards visual impairment, are, at best, challenging throughout society.
Back in victorian times, the big difference was that visually impaired people were assigned to institutions and seen only fit enough for weaving baskets and not much else. The big difference in those days was that many people with visual impairments accepted this as their lot in life.
Today, you would expect a lot more realism from society wouldn’t you? Well, my experience of day to day commuting to and from work does question this perception. True, back in victorian times, I wouldn’t have been in a position to work, so having a job I guess is a step forward. However, why should I think this way and why should I judge my position on a time when many minority groups were persucuted for what they were?
My experiences say that many still cannot perceive visual impairment outside set parameters. for instance, on my commute, when I’ve ever mentioned I’m on my way or to from work, I’ve often been greeted with disbelief or bewilderment. Comments such as ‘You work’ or ‘really, I wouldn’t have thought you would’ have been repeated a few times. I’ve been also asked ‘Have you been out for the day’, have you been to a day centre’ or ‘where is your carer’. On some occasions, individuals have criticised me openly for taking up the place of real working people on the train. True, there are some who don’t think any differently, but it is sad to see such opinions exist in todays supposed enlightened age.
Is it difficult for opinions and impressions to exist outside of supposed social norms? I wonder. We try to raise awareness, change opinions and shape attitudes, but safety is often sought in what is safe and socially acceptable.