One of the other biggest challenges I face is not being able to drive and needing support when we do get there. We live and work in a place where public transport is pretty much useless for most journeys. Taxis are expensive. We have recently moved into the local town where things are a bit better, it’s taken 10 years of saving up for us to be able to afford this move, but we have finally managed it and life is much improved for many things, but we are still limited to what we can walk to.
We find it so hard when there is something going on that we cannot get to because of my inability to drive. When you know that groups of your friends are going to something, each arriving with spare seats in cars, but there is no offer of lifts or attempt to help you get there and be included. The feeling of isolation is much magnified by knowing your family is excluded because of your lack of sight and inability to drive. Social media doesn’t help with this feeling of isolation either, when you see and hear about all the wonderful things you could be doing with your friends if only you could just bung your kids in the car and head off to join them.
I’ve had some really big knocks to my confidence over the years, especially when it comes to asking friends for lifts and hoping that we can be included. One person I asked for a lift said to me “you know, you are going to have to make your own friends, you can’t keep asking me!” I’ve had someone pull up to drop me off and when I said thank you, she said “well, don’t think I’m going to make a habit of it”. This kind of thing has happened quite a number of times, so, although people often say, “you should just ask!” there are some good reasons why I fill up with dread at the thought.
There are some wonderfully good people, who will do what they can to include us and help us get to things, but they are few and far between. Life is so hectic for some many, I know it’s not easy for people to fit in just one more thing. People don’t like to commit to doing things and if they’ve offered me a lift they feel more committed to going.
I can remember as a teenager my sisters and I being distributed between our mum’s friends cars as they are rallied around to help us get to things and be included. These days people are so busy and so independent, it would be difficult to achieve that level of coordination.
Including us is also more challenging, because if we do manage to get somewhere we need a bit of sighted help. That makes asking even more difficult.
The inability to get to things has a knock on effect on friendships. Because you can’t get to things you don’t get the opportunity to develop friendships and so don’t get invited to other things that is going on, such as birthday parties or special events.
So, when you combine the challenges of getting to a social event with the challenges of not being able to recognise friends, read or use facial expressions or body language and cope with the constant pain and discomfort that my eyes give me, it’s an absolute miracle we ever get anywhere.
But we have to try, because I want my kids to grow up knowing how to socialise, get on with people and also how to try for themselves to overcome all of these challenges.