Caution, blind man roaming free!

Close your eyes and watch: a blind man entering TV

How I find my ways

The S-Bahn stops at Unterföhring, the doors open. First I check the situation with my stick, then I take a big step onto the platform. On to the right, along the guiding strip and up the stairs in the middle. Now I exit through the second automatic door on the left. Shortly after that, the way down starts at one o’clock. I walk straight ahead, trying not to get carried to the right towards Allianz insurance company. What a noise from the construction sites for the new P7S1 buildings. But here I am already at Gutenbergstraße, passing it and, a little more to the right, entering the so-called Wäldchen, a small road connecting the streets. The “Telezwerge“, our in-house children’s nursery, can be heard on the left here. Dieselstraße next, is that a car coming from the right? Ah, it’s stopping, thank you, so I cross with a tiny shift to the right, continuing on my way.

On the left side, plastic flooring now serves as a good guiding line. After that I keep walking until I reach a stone bench. Now for the tricky part. I position myself midway in front of the bench and walk forward. If I hit any obstacle, I pass it on the left and use my stick to look for an eaves gutter, again on my left. Found it? Good. Around benches and tables, this gutter winds its way to the entrance of the Bayerische Akademie für Fernsehen und Digitale Medien (BAF), where some of my Volontär trainings were held. In order to reach my office, I walk straight ahead from the second bench. Quickly I find another gutter that runs in the same direction I am walking, and it takes me almost to the door of the house. Heureka! You just read: A morning in the life of a blind person... in my life, to be more specific.

Mobility trainers: unknown but essential

September is here, Covid-19 has, impertinently enough, still not left, and yet P7S1 allowed its employees to dip a few toes into the water and return to campus under severe restrictions. My trainings that had been aborted in March were continued in different places. Moreover with Corporate Communications we moved from Medienallee to Betastraße. For most of you, a change like that probably just means a little stress when the equipment is moved. I, on the contrary, have mostly one thought: Time for a few more appointments with my mobility trainer. To make sure that, ideally, my way to work goes as smoothly as I described above.

Mobility trainers might have the most important widely unknown job in the world. They teach people who lost their vision how to use a stick, they do orientation trainings with them and they practice travelling important ways with visually disabled and blind persons. Just a “normal“ job, but over the past few years, for me these people have been essential. Before we practice a way, my trainer looks at it with his own special eyes. What can help me find my way? Where are any guiding lines, changes in the ground, distinctive noises? Where could possible problems be? How can the way be made easy and safe, even if it could be a bit shorter from time to time? The training’s goal is not me zooming from A to B as if following an invisible thread, without touching anything with my stick. What is important is that I reach my goal safely and that I can recognize and correct my mistakes – even if, on the way, I keep banging against the wall for orientation.

My request is when you see a blind person, ask them whether you can help them, don’t be shy. If you get a no, do not feel insulted but ask again next time.

Helping is not that hard

However, it does not always work as perfectly as in the example above. Even on the short way from my apartment in Landshut to the station, things occasionally go wrong. That can be due to sudden irritations or obstacles, such as a bus standing in my way. Sometimes the weather makes things tough for me as well, since rain, for instance, changes the acoustics of a scene completely. But in some cases, let’s put it bluntly as it is, my own stupidity strikes – a problem that, sadly, none of us is fully immune to. Those last mistakes are very annoying, because they are so unneccessary. I am glad that they are slowly becoming less and less. And I am even happier that, once I have lost my way, it hardly ever takes long before some friendly people show me the right direction. Since I turned blind, I have encountered more readiness to help than I had expected before, and not just after I lost my way. Thank you, I appreciate that very much.

But there are some moments when eagerness to help can lead to danger. The prime example here is train doors. To enter a train is not a problem for me, thanks to my stick, but it does take some concentrating. Apparently many of the other passengers think that a blind person could never ever accomplish that on their own. So far, so little surprising. Unfortunately this often leads to people suddenly grabbing my arm while I am already entering or exiting. That can turn out dangerous and I do not always manage to keep a friendly tone afterwards. Thus my request is when you see a blind person, ask them whether you can help them, don’t be shy. If you get a no, do not feel insulted but ask again next time. And if the answer is yes, listen what you can do. But please, speak first, touch second (if requested).

“Open your ears!“ A mobility trainer turned song

It is really difficult to find a song matching my topic this time. Or is it? While writing about mobility training, I constantly had the line “Learning to walk again“ from “Walk“ by Foo Fighters playing in my head. Are the lyrics a perfect fit? Maybe not completely, but in the beginning the persona is lost, in the end he is truly euphoric, from “I think I lost my way“ to “I never wanna die“. Maybe a little overstated, but not altogether different from my story. Even if you did not understand a word though, the spirit of not letting anything get you down can be felt throughout this song. Apart from that, there can never be enough opportunities to emphasize how great and likeable this band and their frontman Dave Grohl are. So everybody please become a fan immediately, in case you have not been one yet. Thanks. This will take you to the song‘s audio, since the video puts two minutes of an unnecessary “story“ around the music and there is no proper lyric video.

Let us hope for a golden fall, take care of one another, and make use of your ears... nature holds a lot in stock for them, especially now in fall.

Yours,

Alex