Josh is 24 years old and has been registered blind for around 8 years.
Although registered blind, his disability is not easily visible. Unlike someone with a hearing impairment or someone with a spinal injury he does not have a hearing aid or use a wheelchair. Also unlike other registered blind people he does not use a white cane or have a guide dog.
We asked Josh if there had been any significant incidents where his blindness had affected him.
He explained that he has found himself in situations with doormen/security personnel at pub’s, bars and night clubs. They are less frequent now than a few years ago however he still comes across them on a monthly basis. Between the ages of 18 and 22 Josh would attempt to enter a pub/club and 99% of the time he would receive the same response from a doorman, who would refuse him entry. When asking the doormen why he wasn’t allowed to enter, they would tell him that he has had too much to drink.
On a number of occasions they would even go as far as accusing him of being on drugs. The majority of the time he had been sober or only had a couple of drinks. Then when he tried to explain that he was visually impaired, they would respond with “I’ve heard that one before”.
Josh told Wave-length that he never really understood why anyone would lie and state they were blind. He then went on to say,
“Probably one of the worst experiences was at a nightclub in Birmingham where I was on a night out with a number of friends for a birthday. We had gone straight to the nightclub, all of my friends walked straight in and I walked through the door but tripped on a curb on the way in. I was then asked to speak to the doormen who said again that they had seen me trip and I was too drunk to enter the premises. I continued to show them my card which states that I was blind for this to be dismissed and asked to leave immediately. I then had to get a taxi back to Telford 45 minutes on my own feeling upset and angry at the fact that my disability had ruined my night. When actually the ignorance of the doormen to understand my disability had ruined my night.”
He told us that it makes him feel bad that he is ruining his friend’s nights because they had to listen to the same argument every time they went out, that he was not drunk, just blind.
“It really made me feel uncomfortable and conscious when going out of town as there may not have been any point as they would never let me in. I recollect one night club in Wolverhampton I tried to enter the club 50 times whilst studying there and was allowed in once and heard the same line every time “not tonight mate you’re too drunk”. It just makes me feel low and the fact that I have enough to deal with without having doormen being ignorant and not understanding.”
After asking Josh if this was a regular occurrence he quickly answered, explaining that 99% of the time he goes out with his friends, he will face this issue.
He does not use a dog or a cane as he doesn’t want to make it obvious to society that he is blind and feels that he can get around without the support of these tools.
It’s obvious that Josh doesn’t want to draw attention to himself. He went on to tell us that when people notice he is blind they can sometimes be patronising or abusive. He also explained that some of his friends with the same disability as him suffer with the same experiences.
One night Josh saw a blind lady in her 40’s queuing up for a nightclub who suffered from night blindness so her friend was guiding her. She was refused entry because the doormen saw her friend was having to hold her up and assumed it was because she was too drunk to walk on her own.
He said he thought that the doormen made assumptions about him due to the fact he doesn’t have anything to highlight his disability like a long cane or a guide dog, he looks “normal”. They would assume that he looked drunk or on drugs because he is not a confident walker and trips sometimes in new places. As well as his pupils being larger than others due to his visual impairment.
Wave-length asked Josh what he felt could have been done to make the situation better. He responded,
“If they were more understanding and had a basic awareness of different disabilities and the affects these have on people they would be more understanding towards my situation. I understand they come across a lot of people who lie about their age or physical state (how drunk they are) but to disregard a person’s disability when they have proof is pretty shocking. So if they had this basic training around disabilities they would understand the impact of their actions.”
Wave-length thanks Josh for sharing with us a series of what must have been extremely difficult incidents and shows in our view and that of Josh the need often for just basic training for customer facing staff. How do you think your organisation might fair when meeting customers/visitors and clients with disabilities would they be confident, clear of what to ask and sure of how to assist? If you are not confident in saying yes to all of the above then maybe we can help you further at Wave-length get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always keen to hear people’s experiences/challenges of trying to access employment, self-employment and services.