Well, to say the last couple of weeks have been busy would be possibly to make the biggest understatement of all time. There have been all sorts of things going on, changes occurring and hopefully a future being found.

Evans, bless him, has taken all of this in his stride as he works along the principles of what will be and as long as I’m fed, walked and given free reign to make mischief. Hmm, the last one of those is certainly a debatable matter, but it is all part of his charm.

The general election has caused a bit of a stir to say the least. We went off to ensure that our democratic right was exercised and were encouraged by the improvements in accessibility shown although, we are still a way off achieving a system where we can rightfully vote in private and although people’s kindness to help cannot be knocked, the campaign to ensure equal and respectful voting must continue in Ernest.

The results of the election brought out some interesting reactions from people on the radio. One, I heard with shocked amusement, felt that in future only tax payers should be entitled to vote as they were the ones who paid into the system and those who didn’t, should not be given the right to say what system they lived in. Yes, little did that person know that everyone in essence who passes money over in a shop is a tax payer so his argument really does disappear in the cavernous ignorance of his ill-informed mind. Additionally, I heard another person say that young people should not be entitled to vote because they have no experience of the world and cannot remember the governments that caused us problems in the past. Hmm, interesting, but let’s see, could a counter argument say that wasn’t it the votes of the older generation that decided the Brexit vote? Essentially, an older generation deciding on the future of the younger masses? The arguments could go on, but to define who should vote on age (within the current law), whether they can pay taxes and let’s see it could be taken on to who perceivably contributes to society more, is a dangerous path to be going down. I’ve had it said to me more than once that do you know what’s going on in the world? The reply that I’ve always wanted to use is no ‘I live on the planet mars for most of the time’.

Anyway, the theme of the last week has been change and taking control of my future. I’m doing that and am very proud in the decisions that I’m taking and being enabled to take. More information in a later blog article I’m afraid.

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Before starting this blog entry, I feel the need to reassure you that this is not going to be a rant in any way, shape or form. I know some will say ‘ah what a pity’ but no, it’s a reflection on life and the choices that are particularly hard to make. Anyway, I like to think though that my rants do have some constructive element to them. After all, if there is a complaint about something then really its best to come up with some kind of remedy or solution?

Holidays are important. Yes, not everyone has the chance to go on many or any at all, but if at all possible, it’s good to get away from the main day to day routines of life. We would love to be able to visit many parts of the UK and exercise a choice to travel and stay in different places. This country has so many good places to visit and experience, that the choice is pretty good. However, is that really the case for us?

As a totally blind couple, we do feel fairly constrained by where we are able to visit independently. Going somewhere new can be quite a trawl in terms of planning travel, booking accessible accommodation (i.e. guide dog friendly) and then there is the touring around and visiting places of interest. When you’re going to a place for the first time and especially in more rural locations, the opportunities to do this independently are reduced dramatically if not taken out of the holiday choice altogether.

We are, at present, restricted to places that do have support mechanisms around them to provide visits to places of interest, but it would be great to have a change and to go somewhere new. This in no way is a criticism of the places that we visit and we value them greatly, but we’d love to see new things and experience new places.

How do you overcome the practical issues of going on holiday to a new destination when you’re both totally blind? It would be great to throw this question out there as we’d love to hear others experiences and thoughts.

Organisations such as traveleyes provide a great service to anybody wanting to go abroad, but what is available here in the UK?

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What is meant by the ordinary working person? In fact, who can really define the terms ‘ordinary’, ‘Normal’ or ‘regular’? There is something discriminatory in there that really waiting to rear its ugly head.

Human nature is to define something by our own experiences; give it meaning by the events that we go through or opinions that we hold and that surround us. Therefore, when our prime minister, on the launch of the Conservative party manifesto states that she is going to stand up for the ordinary working person then the clouds of concern really started coming over the horizon.

Now I can analyse this from all sorts of angles, but I’ll take this from a visually impaired person’s point of view. Like many other groups, we get hammered from all sides in terms of what is expected of us and what norms we should fit into. With employment, on one side there is a clear message coming down the statistical ladder stating that we shouldn’t be employed because over 75% of visually impaired people of working age do not have a job and apparently that is growing. Hence, looking from that angle, she or the Conservatives most certainly don’t stand up for us. On the other hand, the benefits system gets its knickers in a right contradictory twist because one element of it states that we should be working and will penalise us financially for not doing so. However, with the DWP then tasked to enable us to access work activity groups, they contradict this by stating they cannot support us because they don’t have the knowledge or the facilities to do so. Hence, the process becomes more like a perpetual tug of war that never seems to be resolved. We’re labelled lazy for not working on the one hand and too fit to be out of the employment field on the other. Either way, we’re not ordinary enough for the prime minister and yet again such a view cannot represent us.

I am concerned that the term ‘ordinary’ is being defined by the political elite anyway. Ordinary for them means privilege and economic security, for many it just means having to deal with the layers of expectation that is passed down from a government that cannot define what is real to us.

To get a better understanding of what is ordinary, I would challenge those in that golden political elite to start challenging their own and when that’s done societies prejudices. When they get a real sense of that then we, like many other minority groups, might actually have the chance to feel ordinary.

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To say it’s been an eventful week would be an understatement. Where to start or to be precise what I can say and what I cannot say hahaha. One thing that I have had firmly re-enforced to me is what I’ve been reflecting upon for a long time – life is too short to hang onto decisions that can pass in a second; if it feels right make it. We all have slightly different perspectives on life and just think wouldn’t it be boring if we all looked at things in the same way? Yep, I like to hear different opinions and learn of others experiences; makes everything more interesting.

I’m faced with a couple of those at the moment and true to form I’m dallying on my own advice; not a comfortable position to be in I can assure you. Both of these decisions may have the potential of making some other scratch their heads in confusion, but to many others they will make a lot of sense. However, handling such decisions in the right way is important, because at least if others disagree, it is then just a matter of different opinions rather than the way things are carried out. Ah I wish I could be more open about this but sadly not for now anyway.

As I write this, it’s raining outside, the weekend approaches and Evans is snoozing quite contently in the corner on his bed. Am very proud of him as he has been dealing with commuting to and from work brilliantly over the last few years. It seems to have got much harder over the last month or so as we’ve experienced increased problems in getting through Leeds railway station in the morning. Northern (our dear esteemed local railway company) have taken staff away from the ticket barriers and hence caused more problems in enabling us to get through them. There was always a belief that the British are the masters at queuing for anything and everything. You know, this wonderful utopia of straight lines, politeness and order. Hahahaaha, well, I really hope that there aren’t any building surveyors or grand designers coming through the station as the definition of the straight queuing line is badly misunderstood by the great Yorkshire commuting public. Its sheer disorder at the ticket barriers as the queue has been redefined as a moving mass; people going backwards, forwards, sideways and off at all angles to get through first. Sequence dancing it is not; mass indifference to everyone else around them it most certainly is. On our part, we have decided to take an observational stance and stand at one end of the barriers whilst strictly cum commuting takes place. Northern, on their part, must be doing this for entertainment purposes; after all where have the additional barrier staff gone? My theory is that they are all in the CCTV room having a giggle at the situation that has been caused by their lords and masters decision making.

Believe me, you need to take a look at this with a touch of humour because commuting can be a humourless place to be.

Right, the weekend approaches and I don’t want to miss that.

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I’m definitely too young to say I’m getting too old, but at times I do say to myself – ‘You’re not as young as you used to be old lad’. Hmm, what a startling revelation that is hahaha. Maybe, I’m now in the age bracket to have a midlife crisis? Is there any benefit or profit in having one of those at the moment? Yes, I can grieve over the fact that years are slipping by, but wait surely the occurrence of time slippage should not run away with everything?

I’ve read and heard about some great things that people do when they turn 40. I use the word great possibly to disguise the term crazy but what is mad to some is perfectly logical and sensible to others; so best not to judge haha. Some will do sky dives (which is as near crazy as you’ll get in my opinion), some will undertake great walks, bike rides, join gyms, leave jobs and try to change careers. All acts that are often taken in the name of doing something before its too late. Yep, that’s a mid life crisis in some ways, but I think it’s a little bit more substantial and more laudible than that.

Life (and yes be prepared for a bit of phillosophising) is an experience who’s time limit is uncertain. If you’re pondering over a change, doing something that you deem as crazy or just have an instinct for an act of impulse than the best way to look at this is that if its in your gut instinct to do it then don’t waste time pondering.

I’ve nothing overly crazy in mind; I’m just looking at the whole mid life deal and thinking about things in general. I suppose my mid life change was to finally follow one of my ambitions and start broadcasting. Yes, its on the internet but it fulfils so many things that even if it was on the planet mars I think I’d still be ggenerally happy with it. Firstly, its an escape for the stresses and strains of the working week; there are a lot of those at the moment especially. Secondly, as mentioned, it fulfils an ambition. Thirdly, it allows me to also pursue my interest in music in a positive way. I’d love to develop my interest in radio in the future but in what direction I’m not overly sure yet; the internet is definitely a big place and there is a lot of good work going on out there.

Anyway, pondering on mid life shouldn’t be a scary or a negative thing. Crisis what crisis? Hmm, just make the most of lifes experiences; they are valuable and may not come around twice. Anyway, you shouldn’t have to wait until mid life to grasp and make the most of opportunities. After all, such opportunities come and go, regrets can last a lifetime.

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It’s been another fabulous weekend; just right for the end of a very busy week. I feel as if I’m managing the whole work change situation fairly well; although time will be the great judge on that one. Am very happy that we have managed to organise and book our summer holidays; which is another thing ticked off the list. Okay, we don’t live the rock and roll lifestyle, but it serves us well and it is fairly eventful from time to time.

I enjoy cooking Sunday dinner. Okay, I admit that I’m certainly not the best cook around but I give it a go and usually come out with something fairly edible. This week, it was cottage pie; thankfully this effort worked out quite well and has not resulted in any dodgey stomach aches. Whilst cooking, I have the time to listen to a book, bounce around to some music and to ponder life’s ponderables and even some imponderables. Hmm, a ponder in Ian’s world of pondering.

Anyway, as I stride out into the week, certain things have started to hit me. Okay, apart from the unseeing commuter who was far too busy on their phone this morning outside the railway station to engage their eyes and brain together to realise they’d bumped into me. Anyway, looking at the date, I realised its 40 years ago today since I started my first boarding school. Ah ha, no I never lived amongst the privileged classes and hence attended public school, but instead went off to a partially sighted kids in Coventry. Sent to Coventry? Hmm, not quite but it was an experience all the same.

In those days (yes far off times), the choices for those with visual impairments were very limited re schooling. Inclusion was a way off any decision makers minds; only existing in a academic’s thoughts and musing. For the rest of us, reality meant schools quite a way from our own homes.

I cannot remember the first days at school very well. I know within a month of being there, I had caught German measals and wasn’t too chuffed at having them too. I also remember being the youngest in our house for quite a while too. How times change hahaha.

I have had it said to me on a number of occasions that being away at school must have meant on me missing out on learning so many important life skills. I had to laugh on a couple of occasions when someone quite mistakenly asked this question along with the line that being in a mainstream school meant they were more independent. I don’t think it’s as simplistic as that. The person who made this point to me was not able to travel anywhere independently and found going out of their front door a bit of a bind. Thanks to the schools that I have attended, I am able to travel, cook (hence the cottage pie as mentioned above), manage my life, interests and work effectively. It does vary from person to person, but the risks we were allowed to take at school, the lack of a constant support worker (that can often happen in mainstream schools) and the encouragement to think for ourselves was crucial in personal development. Yes, there was the lack of social interaction with sighted kids but the development of independent thought and decision making helped to tackle this later.

As mentioned, everyone had a different experience of this environment, but I’m thankful for it in some ways as it has helped me to do what I’ve managed to do in life so far and hopefully will do in the future.

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Do you ever feel as if you have to justify yourself to people who have little or no knowledge of what you do or how you run your life? Ah ha, another loaded question you think, but I can assure you, it’s not asked with a loaded agenda.

As I’ve just started my new job, I’m going through the access to work process again. Dealing with the DWP (department for works and pensions) element of this can be an experience to say the least and often demands a huge amount of patience, humour and an ability to swear a lot under your breath.

Admittedly, they do have to look after a budget which needs to go around a bit, but in my mind it should also necessitate an understanding of the challenges that we face on a day to day basis. One example of this is the need to have your doctor to complete and sign a form to state that you have some kind of disability. To me, this is an issue that need not be certified by a medical professional. After all, wasn’t the medical model of disability consigned to the rubbish bin some time ago? Isn’t it interesting how disability is so often tied in with health; yes there is usually a medical cause to many things, but the many issues that we face are socially created.

Additionally, whereas I can see the need to confirm disabilities within unknown clients, why does the dear old dwp have to ask for this information yet again; especially when they have lots of information on the long term nature of my eye condition; i.e. I’m blind and it’s there for life. Maybe, I should send them my knackered eyes to prove the point?

Interestingly, on the form that I have passed onto my doctors, it asks how my ‘loss of sight’ impacts on my ability to drive. Now what answer could I give them? The temptation was to write anything from my indecision on what colour car to go for to the highway agencies inability to put Braille on their road signs. In the end, I just said ‘for obvious reasons, I wouldn’t be able to have a driving license due to my total blindness’. Hmm, they may still try to get round that one.

I’m sure there is more to come; watch this space.

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