Blind Self Defense

A local community group of and for blind and visually impaired people offers a free self-defense class to those with vision loss. To encourage myself to try more adventurous travel, I decided to attend. I’m going to attempt an objective re-telling of events.

First, I called to find out how to reach the location. I was asked, “Do you have any usable vision?” I replied in the negative. “Then just call us when you are at the corner and we will come get you.”

Being me, I thought, “Screw that” and tried to find the place on my own. I failed and resorted to calling. I was told the woman would “Throw the harness on the dog and be right there.”

A man then pulled up and confirmed I was going to the place in question. “I’m here to give you a ride,” he said.

“I’m not getting in the car of a man I don’t know,” I flatly and rather emphatically stated.

“Then how will you get there?” he asked.

“Um, walk.” I answered.

“Turn right at the first driveway,” he said and by subsequent lack of presence I determined he had left. He did re-appear about when I needed to turn and directed me inside. I did not enter the building until I heard the sound of other people.

After leaving my guide dog leashed to a chair – standard practice in such a situation – I took my telescoping cane and went to the spot I was directed to occupy. It is all the way across the room from my dog.

Someone then asked me, “Why do you have your cane?”

“So I can walk places,” I replied.

“You don’t need it. We’ll take you wherever you need to go.”

“Um, is it a problem for me to have it?”

“It might get in the way. We’ll just put it by your jacket.”

“Uh, okay.”

Class happens. At the end, I need the restroom and am given directions that include, “Use your echolocation to find the first hallway on your right.” I don’t really have great echolocation, but I did find the hall with my dog’s help.

Upon leaving, I asked which way to turn once I exit the building. I was told right and I tried that. It led me to a trash can, poll, and bush. I went back inside and inquired, “Go right immediately outside the door? There was a bush and stuff.”

“Just tell your dog to go right.”

I did that. The nice mailman had to help me get to where I needed to go.

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About Jen

After acquiring a degree from Vassar College in psychology, I moved to Western Mass where I ran a peer mentoring network for disabled college students as well as activism and organizing around disability issues. I also conducted research on disabled women’s body image. An Upstate New York native, I eventually followed my heliotropic nature to the sun of Southern California. I divide my time between writing (disability fiction and essays) along with moderating San Diego Bisexual Forum which is one of the oldest groups of its kind in the country. In my off hours I can often be found in my neighborhood live music venue enjoying our local talent.

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