Sunday, April 10, 2011

How I learned to Stop Worying and Love Being Lost

It’s a fact of life, folks. As a blind person I find myself lost more often than your average sighted person. I don’t mean just not sure which street to take, I mean confused and majorly disoriented about exactly what buildings are nearby or even where I am in a specific building. It’s generally fine if I’m following a known root, but throw that off, even a little, and things get fun. Consider the issue of a building with multiple entrances. THis is not really a problem for sighted people, but I can’t count the number of people who very helpfully lead me out of a building only to find that I’m on some unfamiliar street, or something. I have no way to guess that from visual cues, you see. It boils down to a bunch of blind groping in the dark, no pun intended.
Now, is the situation totally hopeless, you may ask? Hardly. THere are a number of things you and I can both do to make this less of a problem. The first is something I’ve harped on for years. Braille signage in buildings is sorely lacking at Oregon State. Some dorms and newer buildings have it, but even there it isn’t very consistent. Strangely, few to none of the actual classroom buildings have it. So I run into another situation which can be avoided: having to stand in the lobby of a building and ask for directions to room 305, or whatever. It’s different if I’m talking to a girl and would just like some company for a bit, but this needing to ask for basic information from random strangers is just silly in most cases.
Something you can do yourselves is pay attention. SO many people walk around these days with iPods or their music player of choice blasting into their eardrums. I have no way of knowing this, unless the music is loud enough to carry to my ears, in which case you have a serious medical problem. The point to all this is that someone walking around with headphones on is useless when it comes to providing directions or indeed almost anything else to blind people--I can’t exactly point meaningfully at what I want, can I?
So my final requests this time are aimed at my local readers. Number one, please support the addition of Braille signage to classroom buildings. Number two, please stop walking around with music blasting at a hundred decibels. The first of these is simple enough: write to the university, march in the streets, create interesting and psychedelic posters which I won’t be able to read, just get your point across by all the wonderful methods of civil disobedience the 60’s left us. The second is harder, but not impossible: learn to unplug a little. Talk to friends, not cell phones. Live the way people did before the mass media infected us all. It might be fun.

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