By Randy Pierce
By choice of planning and response I work to sustain life as a generally positive adventure. Nonetheless, I’ve often shared the reality of challenge and frustration which work into my own life and in particular this week I hope to provide a glimpse of a sight challenge frustration.
When I fly, my ears often become blocked upon landing and I find my hearing significantly impaired, a poor accompaniment to the total blindness. In fact the cold I’ve had since my Scotland trip has similarly kept my hearing more challenged than normal and perhaps that has heightened my awareness of the challenges resulting from my blindness. It has heightened my respect for my peers who manage Usher syndrome (sight and hearing impairment) or the incredible people such as Helen Keller who thrived despite a complete lack of sight and hearing. The reality is, change is difficult and for each of us adapting to a new level of challenge may naturally increase the potential for difficulty and frustration.
Where I find it the most difficult is in a generally busy public location. A multitude of difficulties converge to intensify the problems. First, I’m trying to discern an unknown environment with limited resources at my disposal. Losing the directional components of my hearing (and often more) means I have the touch of a guide dog harness, cane or sighted guide, the smells of the environment, and a cryptic level of verbal communication to guide me. These are interfered with by the background noise and jostling crowds. If the nature of those crowds are to be time pressured, as in airports, or distracted, as in the world of smart devices, the results can magnify significantly.
The overall level of awareness of people has seemingly plummeted significantly over the last decade. Amidst the jostling or worse, it is rare to get an acknowledgement in a frenzied environment and despite my large size, rather adorable Guide Dog (she and I like to think), it seems most people do not recognize the signs of my impairment. It similarly proves difficult to get them to pause in their pace long enough for a moment of inquiry and if I manage to get a pause and a realization of my sight challenge it is yet another challenge to quickly build the right foundation of interaction for a truly helpful response.
I do not suggest for a moment a malign intent–in fact most people in the right situation and with the right realization are incredibly supportive. In the difficult environment, facing my own challenges and encountering others with an assortment of their own distractions it is simply a common reality to use tremendous focus and concentration to work out the minimum requirements.
Those are the difficult days and most of us encounter them in various flavors throughout our life. I share this in part for the suggestion that any of us might slow down a step, raise our awareness, and be more attentive to enhancing the experience of our fellow travelers on the path around us. I also share this to in part ask a bit of forgiveness if in those times of my more significant difficulty I do not have the wherewithal to be at my gregarious best. I do try to slow a step and raise the awareness I can but down nearly 50% of my total senses I may likely fall short of my ideal.