The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization.
Mugambi Paul is a public policy, diversity, inclusion and sustainability expert.
Australian Chief Minister Award winner
“excellence of making inclusion happen”
As a blind person for the past 23 years, I thought I had seen it all! Oh boy, was I ever wrong! After many years of practice at being blind, I have found something that is sending me for a loop.
COVID-19 has done it to me!
My world now is cold, untouchable, lonely at times–which is something hard to handle. I am not so sure I could survive the new world we are all experiencing if I did not believe that my “Heavenly Father” would not be here to catch me when I fall.
Going for a walk, if anyone is passing me by, I’m always wondering if they will possibly get me sick. Going to a market or moll and trying to get assistance, while everyone wants to run away from you. No getting together with friends because no one wants to come and visit, scared we pass the virus to one another. Walking onto a bus and being scared that the person who previously occupied the seat you are now at had the virus.
Or, a simple walk in a park and getting lost because all the roads have no traffic to give me a sense of direction. Yes, to me, this was probably one of the hardest things to handle. My world is open when I have sounds of traffic or sound barriers to help me to be able to be independent daily.
My rural places like playing fields and parks is a place I have known for the past 23 years and I am very used to going there. Now this park and field of play is very different for someone who has no sight. No children in the playground, nobody bringing the dogs to the park, no one bringing me coffee and conversation, and no cars to give me direction as to where the roads are.
The world I knew had familiar sounds to help give me direction, and this I knew was a world that was easier to deal with in my daily life. I also use a white cane and now people are scared. Put jump very first since thy know viruses can spend time on metallic objects. How does a blind person keep social distance from a sighted guide?
I also have had others say that many in the markets get upset when I use the white cane.
Now I can honestly say that the world as a blind person is hard to cope with! If I did not live in a house with a yard and with a great garden to take care of and give me joy, my world would have been lonely and hard to handle for the foreseeable future.
Meetings online may give me many hours of involvement with my community, but the time spent on electronics is starting to drive me crazy.
I love to attend meetings in person and the opportunity they provide to get to know others and how they are engaged in our community. Now this opportunity is also lost, and I find that the computer does not bring the same spirit into my daily routines.
So, for all of these reasons, “blindness” has imprisoned me again. But this time it feels like I have moved from a minimum-security prison to a maximum-security one.