Eyes and Independence
Have you heard the story about the guy with the banana in his ear? One day, Bill was walking down the street and 10 metres in front of him was another guy walking along but he had a banana sticking out of his ear. Bill called out to him “hey mate, you’ve got a banana in your ear” but no response from the man. Bill walked closer to about 5 metres and called out to him “hey mate, you’ve got a banana in your ear” but STILL no response. Bill caught up to the man and tapped him on the shoulder. The man turned and looked Bill straight in the face and said, “Sorry what was that?”. Bill was finally getting somewhere and exclaimed “did you know you’ve got a banana in your ear?” by which the man responded with “Sorry mate, I can’t hear you. I’ve got a banana in my ear” - BOOM BOOM!
Picture above is of the two characters from Sesame Street - Bert & Ernie and Bert looking bewildered as Ernie is holding a banana in his ear - a video skit from many years ago - https://youtu.be/-_0_suZntks
Is the obvious understood? On Tuesday night I went to bed with a tickle in my throat. Fast forward forty-eight hours, having achieved a day at work, my voice evaporated leaving quiet whispers and intermittent squarky tones (my son thought I sounded like a squeaky chair). I then literally, could not talk! And I was about to run an emotional support group on the phone for older clients with a vision impairment! Thank goodness for ‘peer support’. I listened and sucked on my Manuka throat lozenges.
My Mum rang yesterday to ‘check on me’ as she knew I hadn’t been feeling well. My husband answered the phone, knowing who it was and with her questioning my health, he proceeded to point out that I was in the room, the phone was on loud speaker and I could hear what she was saying but couldn’t talk. She was rather insistent that ‘if she doesn’t feel like talking, I won’t talk for long’! I was happy enough to listen and have my husband answer on my behalf. I think the whole interpreting thing may have been a foreign concept? Overhearing my ‘squark’ in the background gave Mum the confidence that I was still alive, wasn’t being held captive but there was a sound of disbelief and discomfort that if she wanted me to communicate, there would have to be another way.
Many people with a vision impairment have often shared their frustrations of others not understanding their vision. There have been assumptions for a long time from general society that ‘you either can see or you can’t’. They don’t seem to understand the in-between, the night time issue versus day time or the glare factor presenting obstacles only on a sunny day.
My son was very quick last night to comment saying “oh, you can talk now” but the utterance was a 'one worder'. Assumedly, I’m better! I realise my voice challenge is temporary but it’s hard for people (more often family) to comprehend that change, that adjustment. For all those who have and are experiencing vision loss, or hearing loss, loss of a limb perhaps, it’s important to educate those who don’t understand.
So, when you next notice a banana sticking out from someone’s ear, a person travelling with a white cane or somebody with an assistance dog - observe, take time to learn about their new… ‘status’, and ways in which you can make the adjustments as well...to the change.
Kerri Weaver is a passionate and caring service provider. She loves sharing her knowledge and skills to supporting those with vision impairment and additional disabilities. Kerri has worked in the field of disability for over 30 years. Her experience includes working in Tonga with a specialist team on multiple occasions.
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