For those who do not know me, welcome! I am visually impaired (or blind, if you prefer) and I navigate my corner of the world (northern Canada) with my guide dog, Jenny. My blindness is not a tragedy, but it can be a source of frustration sometimes. But I Live a full life, with a partner I love and a job I think I’m good at, and a house I’m still making my own even when I’m not chronicling that journey anymore, and friends who just get it. I am very blessed. But sometimes, I get very very tired. As society opens up, and more people are confronted with my visibility in public, I’m being re-confronted with limitations to access, invasions of personal boundaries, and overt discomfort around disability that I haven’t had to confront too frequently for the past two years. And I had little patience for it before the pandemic; I certainly don’t have much now. But recent experiences have made me think about all the extra steps I need to go through to live a productive and fulfilled life. Sure, technology like screen reading software, tactile or talking devices, visual interpreting services (both free and paid) are all available and make my current standard of living possible. However, there are barriers for me to fully participate in society on a truly equal playing field; those barriers can be structural or attitudinal, covert or overt, intentional or misinformed. But they do exist, and I make decisions every single day whether they are barriers I need to break down, or leave intact because I only have so much energy in a day. I recently wondered, what would happen if I got paid to do all that extra barrier breaking work?
What Started This Idea?
It all started with a visit to the website for my mortgage provider. I’ve been reading books on financial management lately, and I liked the simple idea of putting your “windfalls” (unexpected sources of extra funds, like a raise at work or a big tax rebate) into savings. But I have a mortgage to pay, and I wondered if I could split my “windfalls” into twos or threes – RRSP, RDSP, and mortgage. So I found myself visiting the web site for my mortgage provider to find out what pre-payment privileges I had. Imagine my surprise when all I could do was put my computer into “browse mode”, tab around to all the links, with the complete inability to read any non-linked text on the web site. In short, if the information wasn’t embedded in a link, there was no way for me to read it. At all. Since I don’t have any other screen readers on my computer, my options to try a different screen reader didn’t really exist. So I tried on my phone. Well, that was even more fruitless; not even the links were readable. All I knew was that I was on the right website, and nothing more.
I emailed my mortgage provider, explained the situation, and let them know that I would really like the particular information regarding my pre-payment privileges, but it would be a great idea if they could fix their web site so that all mortgage holders (even little miss screen reader user over here) could access all aspects of their mortgage.
The trouble-shooting – reloading the browser, reloading the screen reader, tabbing around, logging in on my phone, emailing the mortgage provider – took approximately 30 minutes in total. If I got paid to do the work I did, just to have equal access to information, based on minimum wage in Alberta, I would have been paid $7.50 (before tax). How often do I just jump in and do this work, without considering the monetary cost involved, not to mention the lost productivity?
What this will look Like
My plan is, for 30 days, to post a weekly “bill” on this blog, for all the emotional labour I engage in – from working around inaccessible software or systems ($15/hr), to re-addressing issues of exclusion or inaccessibility that I have previously addressed ($20/hr), to being a “teachable moment” to the general public ($25/hr). It will include things around my home, my work, and extracurricular activities. I will not post identifying information, and to that end some aspects of this blog may be composites of several events. But at the end of the month, I want to have a blog about life as a blind person in 2022.
What this Blog is NOT
I will not call out specific people, organizations or entities. This post is about the overarching concept of inaccessibility and attitudinal barriers to full inclusion for me, personally. Each person’s journey is unique, and how I work around my vision impairment – and others’ response to it – may not be how someone else does it. This is not a blog that intends on continuing the harmful idea “well, if I can do it this way, so can everyone.” The tools in my adaptive toolbox are varied, but I’m sure there’s a “wrench” or a “screwdriver” missing somewhere. This can not, and should not, negate the exercise on its face. It’s one of discovery, because – if nothing else – I’m curious. This blog will not include a “bill” for instances where I have made a conscious, informed, and prolonged choice to not do something (like sticking braille labels on an appliance I use regularly); prolonged lack of motivation is not what I’m going for here.
What do you Want to See?
I have a few things planned for the next thirty days. They will include ordinary things like shopping, eating out at restaurants, and spending time with friends. They will also include flying (something I’ve only rarely done since late 2019), and running an in-person race. I know I’ve blogged a lot here about various activities I’ve enjoyed , or frustrating experiences of discrimination, among other things; but I have 30 days, a few ideas of my own, and I’d love to hear yours.
Let’s explore this idea together.
Carol anne said:
This is a great idea! I look forward to reading your posts! As a blind person myself, it interests me what you’ll find out from doing this! ❤
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Steve Sawczyn said:
I think this is an absolutely wonderful idea and I look forward to following it. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, the cost in frustration and how that impacts quality of life. Assigning a monetary value to test that we perform every day, just to achieve assemblance of equality, is a very interesting approach.
I will be very interested to follow this series of blog posts. As a blind person myself although I’ve got part time work now and am getting out and about there are still aspects that frustrate me so it will be interesting to see what posts i can relate to so as to leave a comment.
Glad to see that you are out and about and are working part time now. I know we talked a lot about that on this blog quite a while ago, so this is really encouraging to see! I’m glad you have found something 🙂