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Gordon's D-Zone Arcive (2006-2014)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

IT'S EYE AGAIN


I don't know what has happened to me over the last week or so. Not that I lost my memory or anything but I had to take a break from this blog and concentrate on my work. And on my life in general.

I've been having eye problems again and this must have made me unsure of myself in many ways. I did wish that I could get back to having no problems and yet, I felt that I was somewhat not being true to my principles. After all, I had been blind for 3 years before I regained my sight, so I shouldn't have any problem if I returned to being blind again would I? The answer is not as simple as I hoped. It was yes and no.


Yes, because I knew that my life then was a good life. True, there were some things I had problems with and others that I just couldn't do. However, I was still able to continue writing and studying. I even started lecturing and doing sessions at schools and other institutions when I had acquired a visual impairment. Indeed, I could still continue doing my current work without too many problems since I still use screen reading software to spare my vision.


But then there were reasons when I felt the answer was 'no'. I had got used to returning to my previous life. To a time when I loved to 'see' things and to writing in my own handwriting notes and other things. It was also nice to be able to see how my nephews were like (prior to 2006 I had never 'seen' them). Of course, I cannot avoid mentioning having the opportunity to meet friends who were only 'faces' based on the sound of their voice.


I think I can better understand how it feels like to move from having no impairment to acquiring one - perhaps more than I did in 2003 when I lost my sight. It's perhaps funny how now that I regained it and risk losing it again I have become more protective of my vision. I cannot deny that there are emotional elements to the experience of acquiring an impairment - even if it's a case of regaining an old one. Even if my eye specialist has assured me that it's not anything serious and to be expected at this stage, I am still a bit concerned.


The fact is that it may get better or worse and surgery may be considered again in the future. I am willing to do my part to help myself. After all, I don't think it's wise to discard any medical advice at this stage. However, I have to say that I must find the strength to accept whatever the future may bring.


Indeed, as I had no problem with myself as a physically disabled person when I was young, I should feel that who I am should not be conditioned by any impairment I might acquire or regain. Not that I won't change the way I live or say that this won't have an effect on my future choices. Any transition will have that impact. On the other hand, I want to take it as it comes and recognise that this experience in itself - whatever the outcome - is an opportunity to learn about myself.


For a start, I was surprised by my own thoughts and feelings on my recent eye problems. But I think that I need to look back once again and consider that life just is. Whether I become blind or not, and whatever impairments I may acquire,
the fact is that I'm still
who I am and the issues I have fought for remain valid as ever.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

AN EYE-DENTITY CRISIS


I’ve got to admit that I never expected to be writing this post so early on after my eye operation back in 2006. It is also difficult to put my thoughts and feelings into words. That explains why I have not updated my blog for a while. The fact is that my right eye seems to be developing problems that are impairing my vision. Yes, I’ve been through the process before in both eyes and I know what to expect. I started having problems with my central vision and the signs of a cataract forming are all there.


I have gained a lot of understanding of my eye condition thanks to the internet. And I was aware of this risk. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not scared and rather anxious about the future. Needless to say, I’m trying to do my best to do anything possible to save my only good eye. After all, if further damage can be halted or any remedial action taken, I’m willing to try. I know that this sounds like contradicting what I believe to be disability as defined by the social model.


However, even if I believe that disability is largely socially created, the fact remains that this doesn’t mean that we should not be taking our medicine or any action that has a realistic chance of addressing issues related to the body. In that, I wish to emphasize the word ‘realistic’. For instance, the reason that I protested against doing physiotherapy or surgery on my legs as a child and teenager was because I knew that it would really be a cosmetic intervention. And by that time, I had got used to my legs (most of the time at least).


Of course, I’m aware of the things that will need addressing if I go blind again. I have lived like that for three years of my life already. I cannot deny that I’ll be missing some things such as seeing my nephews grow, seeing the faces of my friends and loved ones change, and taking photos or even doodling with my pen when I’m bored. At the same time, I know that I have to adapt and go on with my life and work. I know that I shouldn’t let this experience change who I am – even if it will have an effect on how I perceive reality. It will also change how I do things.


I do worry about the future when things like these happen. I did so when I first went blind. And the second time is not easier than the first. The only similarity is that the physical signs are the same but the experience is greatly different. And you have the benefit of experience. And then, I ask myself whether this will affect my aspirations and hopes for the future. Will I be able to raise a family in the future? Or continue with my plans to live on my own? As my life situation is changing and I’m unsure of what will happen next, I do not yet have any answers here.


Anyway, I will have a better idea of what will happen on Wednesday as I have set an appointment with my ophthalmologist. I will take it from there. At least, I can still go on blogging I guess. Let’s see what happens, or should that be ‘observe’, err... ‘Witness’ … dah… you got what I mean!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

INSPIRE ME, PLEASE!



I was suffering from a bad case of writer's block over the last week which left me without creative energy to post anything here. Alright, I did write other things for my work - but unlike this blog, work gives me some financial return - enough to keep my web connection going. So, it is rather strange to be thought of as 'inspirational' to other people... of course, because you're disabled!

This was one of the reasons I had the block I guess. It was after I was caught up in a line of thought centering around the question of whether it was OK to be thought of as 'inspirational' ... again, when you're also disabled. I have discussed this on the BBC Ouch! message board, with friends, and looked over some writings on this subject. I have good reason to feel ill at ease when people describe disabled people, particularly ones who have done something deemed 'extraordinary' as inspirational:

1. Inspirational implies that disabled people who have made it are proof that those who haven't 'made it' in life are a lazy bunch of people.

2. Calling us 'inspirational' detracts society from taking responsibility of the changes it requires to make for our inclusion, such as providing accessible buildings/information/etc.

Of course, I cannot deny that when a news reporter interviewed me way back in 1997, he described me as an 'inspirational young man', I was flattered and felt sort of 'better' than other disabled people. However, what this did was nothing more than create in me a sense of false security in the sense that in order for me to be recognised as a worthy individual, I had to 'prove' myself all the time.

Needless to say, I am now convinced that being called 'inspirational' by people who do not know me personally often implies that they assume that the fact I'm working and studying with the many impairments I have involves a great act of courage and bravery. In other words, I am accepted because I am seen as trying to overcome my accredited impairments.

In fact, I concur with the many views that were expressed in the BBC Ouch board. Some noted that impairment wasn't a choice they made and they're just trying to get along in life like anyone else. Even if there are many obstacles that are not impairment-related which can make life harder than it has to be!

I am not saying that there haven't been disabled people in my life or in history that could be called 'inspirational'. Paul Hunt, for instance, springs to mind. Hunt had an insight into the way society was actively excluding him as a person with a physical impairment and he did something about it... He helped in the formation of what was the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS) and provided the foundations of what was to become the 'social model' of disability.

Yet, Paul Hunt isn't an inspirational figure to me because he was a person with an impairment but because he had the vision of a more inclusive society and took steps to make it a reality. Extraordinary as they may be, accounts of disabled people who have climbed mountains or sailed around the world ... err... are 'irrelevant' to me as Tim, in the latest BBC ouch! close-up interview states when asked about disabled mountain climbers:

"Disabled mountain climbers are ... Exceptional people but they are as relevant to my experience as able-bodied mountain climbers are to the average non-disabled person."


Indeed, do I want to be thought of as 'inspirational' just because I seek a better quality of life? Do I want to be called fancy names and yet discover that, in all my assigned greatness, I can't still use public transport without problems? On the other hand, if I demand my rights to be respected, you get resistance from people and suddenly become a 'radical' or even a 'troublemaker'! No, neither of these things were used in my face but I can't discount having been referred to in this way behind my back ... um...

Finally, the word 'inspirational' is simply not telling us the whole story. Do you think I would have achieved my current status without the support of my family? Do you honestly think that friends, co-workers, etc. weren't involved in my current achievements? Do you think it simply requires a change of attitude or a strong will to get from A to B? This is not saying that some personal effort doesn't help, but that this is only a part of the truth.

The fact that some disabled seem, for certain non-disabled people, to have achieved a lot is only because there are still a lot of misinformation about what it is like to be disabled. It's not a matter of personal resolve or choice to get on in life but it's the only way to go. The alternative would be for me to either invest my time and energy into 'fixing' my body which i won't do because it isn't broken, or sulking at home because I come to believe I am afflicted by tragedy. And, even if that's sometimes tempting, it would be plain silly ...

Undeniably, it also depends on who is telling me that I'm inspirational - it is one thing to be told by a friend who has known you for years and it's another thing being told this by the postman you've just met. It also depends on the context and the way it has been put. This is so you don't run off with the impression that it's always a wrong thing to say. Indeed, disabled people who have achieved change for others - as I already stated - can be inspiring.

On the other hand, it's important to be aware of the biases that might be underlying your remark. Ask yourself, whether it would be equally inspirational of me to do the work I do if I had been non-disabled... and at that, what do you think is making it difficult for me ... if your answer to this is my impairment... read this post all over again, please.

I've noticed that all this talk of inspirational-ity has helped me unblock my writing ... that's a relief!