Happy Blind Day

Happy Blind Day! Monday April 3, 2017:
Today it is 45 years since “darkness fell upon me at the age of 16”. 45 years since I woke to find Bob Dylan’s face on the poster ON MY BEDROOM WALL, had melted into a smudge of many greys. It’s 45 years since other people seriously, purposefully, ignorantly, started limiting the things I was allow to do, aspire to, struggle to make happen.

Looking back, as a talented painter whose worst fear was of going blind, the worst as I thought of it then did happen, and I didn’t die. Heaven knows there have been times when I wished I had; but they have in the main been provoked by unhappy love affairs, harassment at work and despair brought on by the exhaustion of having to fight my way into the world of life.

Aged 16, I had already learned to argue loudly. I argued my way out of hospital, out of the day centre they dumped me in; lost the argument about having to go to a special school; (hijacked by my own fear of travelling to and from my mainstream school in the dark of the winter of 1972). I then argued my way into and through art school and post grad art school, (the first blind person to have done so in the UK.) I’m still arguing, after a long career in local government, an equally long career as a non-executive advisor, and now as a politician.

In all this time, fatigued though I was often by the struggle to live my life the way I wanted; I was very clear, as I am now: being blind is not in itself inherently painful. The restrictions I face are, because of other peoples decisions, others discrimination and negative actions. I am not pained because I can no longer feast my eyes on the blue spring sky, the freshness of the world slowly beginning to green, the pastel froth of tree blossoms, and all the other prettiness of today’s smiling weather. I am pained by how significant numbers of non-disabled people perpetuate their false limiting beliefs about who I am, what I can do and what I should be allowed to do. On what authority do they do this?

So, 45 years blind, I mark this milestone reflecting on the battles and the blocks so that I can count, celebrate and remember how I won, and am still winning. The proof of my victory is that I won’t shut up. No one can stop me singing! HAPPY BLIND DAY

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