If you happen to be Scottish, white, Blind and a Muslim (not my words but the headline used to describe me in a daily record article) (well, it was the daily record; what can one expect!). Well, as I was saying! If you happen to be all of the above, one of the first things you’ll notice is that people say a whole lot of things to you that don’t actually mean what they appear to mean!
Of course, people have integrated double meanings in to almost every aspect of life these days, but never more than when they are dealing with blind convert Muslims!! So, in order to assist those of you who happen to be in this position, (or to inform those of you who have a fetish for parodies), I’m going to interpret some of the sighted meanings to aid you on your way (I don’t know if the double meanings only apply to sighted people, but I’ve only had those with sight use them upon me, so I’m assuming its exclusive to the world of the seeing, but correct me if I’m wrong!).
So; here we go!
When waiting for a taxi outside work, and haling the guy almost 6 times to inform him that the car is for me he says:
“oh? The taxi is for you? Sorry! Its just …, your scarf confused me!”, (sighted translation: “how the hell can you be white, blind and a Muslim? Why do they let you out alone? You’re a Muslim? And your second name is Forrest? Is some one taking the P*** out of me?).
When waiting for a prescription at the doctors reception desk, the women behind the counter shouts at the top of her voice “CAN I HELP YOU????”, (sighted Translation: “I’m shouting because if you are blind, your probably deaf/stupid too and that scarf suggests you don’t speak English any way so I better go slow)”
When informing my mother’s colleague I’m there to meet mum: “oh? You are Jane’s daughter? Really?” (sighted translation: “she didn’t tell us you were disabled! Or a terrorist!)”.
When at a job interview I am asked: “in what ways do you think your faith will affect your job?” (sighted translation: “will you regularly walk in to walls? Will we need to do a health and safety check? Oh and you won’t blow up the building will you?)”
When completing a census form; the adviser helping me asks; “and so what nationality was your mother?” (sighted translation: “one of them must have been foreign; or else why would you dress like that!)”.
When my dad sees me in full hijab (he never has got used to it!), he infrequently asks “aren’t you hot!!!” (sighted translation “must you dress like a freak? Its embarrassing; and especially in the middle of summer!)”.
When Asian friends ask me: “where are your parents from?” (sighted translation: “there is no way a white girl can speak Urdu like you do, so come on; spill!!)”.
When people at the mosque ask “and who helps you?” (sighted translation: “how the hell can a blind person ware colour co-ordinated clean outfits and get herself out of the house on her own? Impossible! Name the carer before we contact the authorities!)”,.
When a shopkeeper looks at my mum instead of me when we are out together (sighted translation: “well? Aren’t you going to tell me what that poor blind Muslim you are caring for wants? Obviously she won’t be able to speak so I’m looking at you oh you with the heart of gold!! Cause be assured, I wouldn’t do what your doing!)”.
When talking to some one I’ve just met on MSN: “are you really blind?” (sighted translation: “but you talk sense! You do normal stuff! You live alone! How can you be blind! THEY can’t do all that! So don’t lie to me!)”.
When meeting a prospective spouse “I can cook; I don’t mind doing every thing” (sighted translation: “I need the brownie points in the next life! Besides, its not like you will be able to do it! oh and I’ll move to a ground floor flat, cause you doubtless can’t walk far either!”). (forgive the coldness but I wonder if there is also a subtext in there about not having much of a personal life; there has to be! That’s why I get so many offers to become a second wife these days!) (apart from my age).
When unknown people say “you are amazing!” (sighted translation: “how do you do all that you do in your condition, if it was me I’d want to die”. (my answer; why wait!!).
When others say “we’ll pray for you”, (sighted translation “cause we hope to God we don’t end up where you are; we feel so sorry for you and hope one day you can see because your existence must be so miserable!”).
When meeting another potential spouse “we are just very different!” (sighted translation “I just can’t see myself with some one like you; I wanted a wife; and wanted to become a husband; not a care giver!”).
Another prospective spouse says “no matter what happens, we’ll always be friends!” (sighted translation “there is no way I’m taking this any further with respect to marriage, so respect the fact I’m letting you down gently!”).
When visiting a friend and asking if there is any thing I can do to help! “no no no!! you just sit and talk to us!” (sighted translation “you wouldn’t be able to do any thing any way so why ask!!”).
Don’t get me wrong, I do know that some of the above might well be said with the right intention at heart, but the majority of it is done without thinking, without concern for the other person’s feelings and how their words might be interpreted. Moreover, to me, it is a reflection on how little people are really valued in the world today, and how face value is what is always given precedence over every thing else, no matter how much people might try to fake other wise!!
I blogged here a few days ago about how difficult marriage can be for disabled people, as no one in our community sees you as equal, but I believe it goes further; prospective spouses will only see you as an equal when others do the same. I admit allot of responsibility for this as well; as the years have rolled on by, its become easier to hide between a long hijab and black abaya and say nothing than stand up and fight these things. I am committed to the disability movement, I’m a born activist and always will be, but when the discrimination turns on me, I’m the one who disappears inside and isn’t willing to be counted! One of my friends even went as far as to say that I ware a look in these situations which says “I’m going inside now; don’t wait; I’ll not be out again for some time!”, sometimes this takes the form of outward hiding; clothes, silence etc, other times its about locking myself at home, turning the phone off and being completely away from the world; I don’t know if in reality it makes any difference to my energy levels and strength, or how I deal with people and situations, but its just something I have to do; because, like it or not, they’ll be another taxi driver, another abusive manager and another freak to stare at me all over again just as soon as Monday morning comes around!
And for the neighbour who didn’t bring a parcel down that was delivered to you by mistake (I know what you meant “I’m too embarrassed to go to that blind women’s door; she doesn’t talk; she wares a scarf and is all weird!!!”).