Blind…Traveling With a Disability

 I often ask myself,
what would life be like if I was blind or deaf

So many of us take our sight and hearing for granted. When you travel, what do you do?  You “sight-see”. You view different landscapes, views, cutlures.

So what does the blind do?

PETER WHITE says, “People have tried so hard to make it work. Specially recorded tapes for blind people, rails to follow so that you can go round unaided, a huge revolution in what you’re allowed to touch. In the desperate attempts of people to make me interested in ‘sightseeing’, I’ve clambered over Henry Moore sculptures, climbed the rigging in ships which felt as if they’d split asunder if I took another step, and listened to endless recordings of groaning doors and booming cannons in the attempt to make history come to life for me.The plain fact is, though, that however good the intentions, touch is not sight – and once you’ve run your hands over one piece of ancient stone, one stuccoed wall, one marble floor, well, you’ve touched them all.

The problem with touch really is that the hand is too small. You can only touch one little bit at a time. There’s too much missing; a sense of size, colour, perspective, visual contrast. With the best will in the world, you are playing at being able to see, and for me, that kind of self-deception has never cut any ice.

This, nevertheless, does not mean that travelling, visiting and poking about in other people’s cultures cannot be enormous fun for a blind person. It’s just that I think you have to be honest about what is fun, and what isn’t.

It was a wish to try to explain and share what it was that could make travelling come alive for a totally blind person, unable to see from birth, that gave rise to a series I’m doing for the BBC World Service.

The concept of Blind Man Roams The Globe  is simple enough. The listener only gets to hear what I hear! But, you might reasonably argue, this is radio. That’s all they’d hear if the reporter was sighted. Not so!

What I’ve tried to do is let you hear exactly what I hear, as the city introduces itself by sound. When I land at an airport, or a harbour, or cross a border, my ears are instantly tuned to the individual sound of the place – its voices, of course, but also the rise and fall of its music, its street sounds, calls to trade, calls to prayer and just the sounds of a city at work, at play, joshing, arguing, fighting….”

His show airs this month, first stop is San Francisco!

I hope this comes to DVD!