Do people see what they expect rather than what is in front of them?
Since becoming a Guide Dog handler about three months ago, my weekends usually include a trip to the beach. In doing this, my safety and ensuring Sienna has time to be a dog in her downtime are both important.
For this reason, I bought a different type of white cane tip to safely allow us to walk on the beach with Sienna on a Flexi lead instead of in her harness. The cane tip is called a Dakota disc and it attaches to the bottom of my cane, allowing me to feel objects on the beach instead of tripping on rocks and a smaller cane tip getting stuck in the Sand.
The linked Youtube video gives an overview of this cane tip: https://youtube.com/watch?v=HYs73yu7NuY&feature=share and the photo below is of the Dakota disc on the end of my white cane, which has a red bottom section.
Last week one child asked me if I had found anything with my metal detector at the beach. I dismissed this as they were around eight years old and perhaps had not even come across a white cane.
To my surprise, walking along the beach today, I was stopped by four adults and asked if I had found anything with my metal detector. When I explained no, it was a white cane, they all said something along the lines of oh yes, of course, it is. One woman even said, but you are so confident?
For the rest of my walk, I started to wonder whether it was the context that made them jump straight to the metal detector or even if they were unfamiliar with someone using a white cane. Granted, it could be either, but It seems that people had never seen a blind person at the beach walking their dog independently.
I also thought about how most people react to my Guide Dog. Their question is usually “are you training her?” or “how much of her training does she have to go?”
People are usually surprised to find out she is my guide dog and has finished her training. On the one hand, it fills me with joy that people don’t realise I am blind. However, further thought usually leads me to question what is wrong with people learning I am blind? It also reminds me of the social construct and negative stereotypes of blindness, disability and deficit model associated with these.
So back to the metal detecting. I would love to try metal detecting and it is pretty rare to see. I question whether metal detectors or blind people are the rarest sight? Or is metal detecting just a more straightforward topic to broach than blindness?
Either way, normalisation is necessary, along with social change.