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Monday, 29 June 2015 12:26

Coffee and Cake isn't Easy!

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Up and ready to go out, mum notices my top on inside out, another of the joys of blindness, quick sort out and a check, hearing aids in, Apple Watch on wrist, iPhone charged and safely in bag along with spare hearing aid batteries, purse, reading glasses and case for dark glasses, tissues and doggy treats! Thankfully my bag isn't as full as it used to be thanks to a few things incorporated on my iPhone like magnifiers and torch, things I could never leave home without. Unis in Harness and we are almost ready to go, a quick check of the timetable on my watch and we leave. As we are going on a regular route to the train station Unis knows the way just by the direction we are heading, however since getting my Apple Watch I like to test it to make sure it is reliable so set it to maps and away we go. On reaching the station we approach the ticket office to buy our ticket, am hoping this is made easier when Apple Pay comes to the UK as I do feel vulnerable opening my bag and fumbling to find my purse, especially if there is a queue. I pay, carefully put my purse away and put my ticket safely in my zip pocket. We proceed to the platform. One thing I have learnt about travelling on the train and particularly the tube is public transport staff seem to be pretty well trained with assistance for blind people or deafblind in my case. I was told a while ago to use the first carriage as it is more likely to be less crowded. I also know to make myself known to a staff member, finding one with limited sight is often the hardest part. I would find it helpful if a staff member made themselves known to me! Anyway, Unis and I are used to the train so get on and having checked how many stops there are get comfortable for the journey, on this occasion we get a seat without any problem and I'm able to have Unis sit tucked in close beside me. There are seven stops before we need to get off so I sit back and enjoy the journey. It is very rare for anybody to ask if I need help or where I need to get off, I think it would be nice to be asked but I guess some wouldn't. Gets me thinking taptics could help here! At the seventh stop we wait for the carriage to empty a little and then we mobilise, now comes the main challenge, finding a staff member to help me navigate the underground. Unis is out of her comfort zone but always makes sure I am safe. Thankfully a member of staff taps me on the shoulder and offers help. We follow him down some steps and through a couple of tunnels and onto a very dark platform and all the way to the end where we wait for the tube. Wondering if there's an app that uses taptics through the underground, how cool would that be? When the tube arrives the staff member sees Unis and I on to a crowded carriage and moves somebody so that I can sit down and Unis be comfortable, he tells me I have six stops to go, he then radios ahead and gets off the tube. Again I sit back and count the stops and at the sixth stop I take a deep breath as I know I'm going to have to fight my way off with Unis, however, as the door opens I'm surprised to feel a hand on my shoulder and a man clearing the way for Unis and I to leave the tube safely. The staff member asks me where I'm heading and offers to "point me in the right direction" Thank you Transport for London, very impressive. Checking my Applewatch I know we only have a short walk to where we are meeting my friend for lunch so we set off. The taptics are brilliant on maps and Unis and I get through the crowds safely and into the coffee shop where my friend is waiting and greets us. We order drinks which I pay for with my Applewatch and sit back to enjoy my coffee and friendship before considering my journey back home! A few years ago I would not have attempted this journey, I could connect with my friends online so I would probably have made an excuse rather than admit my vulnerability and lack of confidence, that's denial. I was only kidding myself, but denial is a safe place to be, to hide, but hiding for me was only an option for so long! My day out to meet a friend is quite different to most people my age. Not only do I have to rely on Unis, technology and human kindness to be independent I also need to strategise and to be very organised. I do enjoy a day out but it is very tiring as I'm permanently concentrating on what happens next, having Usher Syndrome is exhausting but that's just the way it is. Life is a daily challenge but what's the alternative?



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