On Friday GF, the Twits and I travelled down to London predominantly to watch the IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Olympic Stadium. However, I’m not going to focus on the athletics in this post, but instead look at the slightly quirkier blind related events that took place over the weekend, most of which reminded me how nice people can be. Suffice to say that as expected, the athletics was a great experience and well worth the effort; there really is nothing like being part of an event in which 60,000 other people have invested themselves.
On arrival at Stratford Station on Friday afternoon, before entering the Olympic Park we decided to seek out wholesome nourishment at the Westfield Shopping Centre, but thousands of others had the same idea …… Thankfully, as we stood amidst the hungry hoards in search of a table, a youngish man came over and asked if we’d like the table he and his friends were about to vacate – strike one for the white stick!
Later, as we approached the gates of the Olympic Stadium, I had the same sick feeling in my stomach as I’d had many times before in similar surroundings. However, this had little to do with the excitement or anxiety associated with the forthcoming performances, but a massive amount to do with the semi-digested remains of the best part of a bucket of KFC which I had devoured whilst GF was queueing for her pizza and salad – no-one should have to see me eat KFC, never mind GF, hence the record breaking time it took me to demolish it!! As I waddled through the throng, without prompting, a volunteer walked over to us and directed us towards the disabled gate where our transition into the stadium would be accelerated – strike two for the white stick!
On Saturday we visited the Tower of London. GF had checked out the website to see how much it was going to cost, and reported that it said nothing about carers being free, but that I would qualify as a concession which would save us £6.
“Hi, can we have one adult, a concession for Andy who is blind, and two students please” GF said to the man behind the glass at the ticket office, as I stood next to her smiling politely.
“Sorry, it’s difficult to hear you, did you say two students?”
“Yes, two please”
“Of course, so that’s one adult, one senior and two students, for a total cost of £82 please” he said.
The Twits both started laughing at the reference to a senior, but I took it simply as nothing more than the clerk needing to put me through as a senior concession because he didn’t have a disabled option, which has happened on numerous occasions over the years.
As GF asked questions about audio commentary and logistics, I unravelled my white stick in preparation to move off. At this point, the clerk suddenly said “oh, erm, oh, I think we can do it a little cheaper for you madam” – hey presto, the price came down to £57 – strike three for the white stick!
Whilst I was glad that carers do get in free after all, and especially at the resultant £25 saving, I was less happy to realise that until the clerk realised that I was blind, he must have thought that I was over 60 – cheeky git! As GF thought this was hilarious too, I did point out that it didn’t exactly reflect very well on her either.
I can’t comment on the quality of the audio commentary, as we decided instead to rely on the brilliant story telling of the Beefeaters – they really bring the place to life and conjur the most amazing pictures in your mindseye.
On Saturday night, after again being directed towards the disabled entrance, a volunteer called Tessa chased after us.
“Excuse me, I don’t want to make you feel like I’ve specifically singled you out, but I couldn’t help notice your white stick and wondered if you would like to have a go with a commentary handset which is provided specifically for visually impaired spectators?”
As this was the first I had heard of it, I had taken my analogue radio with me in the hope of being able to listen to Radio Five commentary, but as I thought it might be useful for the events which would not be broadcast I took her up on her kind offer. The chap doing the commentary certainly carried out his brief to the letter, presuming of course that his main brief was to describe the kit that the athletes were wearing in great detail, as well as the colour of the javelins that they were throwing!! He seemed to be especially fascinated with the size of the shorts being worn, and the colour of the trainers – those of you who know me well will understand how frustrating I found this …. After all, they’re spikes not trainers!
The best thing with the commentary set though was that it relayed what the stadium announcers were saying, which all too often was muffled by the cheers of the overly excited crowd, so it really did add to my enjoyment of the evening – strike four for the white stick!
I’ve not even mentioned the fact that on every tube journey we went on I was always offered a seat by an incumbent sitter, but perhaps that was because I look like a senior, rather than because I’m blind??!!
However, whilst I returned home thinking how great people are, it did make me think that organisations really do need to do more to publicise what is on offer for visually impaired people. What’s the point of having all this helpful stuff if no-one knows about it?