I cannot see like most people. Once I was hit by a tram that did not stop where it should have. Travelling to work can be difficult for people that cannot see. There are lots of things in the way. Sometimes I run into them. People can be helpful to me. But sometimes they can be rude or do not think about me.
Posted by: Graeme Turner, on 22/12/09
Trips to work can be eventful when you are vision impaired
I stepped off the tram with my long white cane tapping the ground ahead. I turned to cross Collins Street, heading to Flinders Street station. But suddenly, my shoulder was struck. It was a tram that had overrun its usual stopping point.
Fortunately, I wasn’t hurt and my trips to work are usually not so eventful.
I walk to the tram stop from my home. It is generally plain-sailing, apart from the occasional encounter with a discarded shopping trolley or a cardboard carton.
When I jump on the tram I hope to secure a seat. But I don’t want to grope my way down the tram, upsetting female passengers. If the tram is sparsely populated, you can bet no-one will offer me a seat. I don’t expect it, but some people do insist. Sometimes they’ll shout as though I can’t hear. I used to decline until a tram driver once said (in a tone not to be argued with) he would prefer I sit down.
If I’m in luck, the tram driver will announce the stops in clear and audible fashion. Occasionally I’ll be carried past my stop. Sometimes I need to ask my whereabouts three times before I receive an answer. Why do I suddenly feel like I’m talking to tailor’s dummies?
Walk down Elizabeth Street
In the city, I walk down Elizabeth Street, usually clunking into the odd rubbish bin. I also occasionally encounter a person who is homeless, huddled on some cardboard.
At Little Collins, I cross with the roar of the traffic. Once my face collided with a metal wall. A truck had parked across the thoroughfare.
At the station, staff are usually helpful, passing me through the turnstiles. But I occasionally have a well-meaning person intent on propelling me forward. I call this the wheelbarrow approach.
The tactile directional indicators are useful to orientate me to the edge of station platforms. One of my friends managed to fall off his bike travelling across similar bumps. He said he momentarily
hated blind people.
The train was there
The station platforms are generally fine, but I have stood patiently waiting for a train only to hear a grumpy voice say:
The Frankston train is now departing. Stand clear. The train was there all along.
Inside the carriages, stations are usually announced. But the information they seem most keen to impart is:
please validate your tickets.
Occasionally I will hear something like:
The next station is (crackle, crackle). I usually resort to hunting down other commuters. I just hope they’re not in the middle of leaving their mark on a window with a spray can!
All sorts of interesting directions
When I finally reach Frankston, tactile indicators lead me to the exit. But the station has been undergoing renovations, and temporary boarding can lead you in all sorts of interesting directions. Sometimes I have to ask a number of people before I reach the taxi rank.
You want a cab? grates a voice after five minutes. I’ve been waiting and had no idea he was already there.
After a few more minutes, I reach my workplace at last. Despite the occasional glitch, I have proved I can undertake independent travel.
I don’t know how you do it, some people marvel.
At the end of the day I can look forward to taking the entire journey in reverse. The return trip could involve people languidly draping themselves across the platform, or others glued to mobiles ploughing into me, wondering why I don’t get out of their way. But with any luck, there won’t be another tram hitting my shoulder.
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