I placed a pair of blacked out glasses that blocked my vision on the bridge of my nose and behind my ears, and used a white cane to investigate how the public actually treat the blind. I wanted to test to see if the British public help them, especially while travelling around the dangerous London underground's. The answer is no, while doing it for only a mere three hours I struggled and blind people do everyday.
It may surprise some of you but some people are blind 24/7. I was acting as if I was blind undercover, I know my way away around London like the back of my hand, I could lift up the glasses and see perfectly whenever I was in fear of being too close to a platform. The glasses were so blacked out that I felt fearful the whole time. The temptation to lift them up or remove them every single second was unbearable but I didn’t. Why? Well blind people can't just bring back their sight so it wouldn't of been a fair experiment if I did.
I want to make this very clear – I am not attacking the London Underground itself. I am attacking the public, I am speaking to you reading this right now. I’m speaking to the commuters in a rush yet can still get a Starbucks, I’m addressing tourists, I’m addressing everyone who has ever or will ever use the London Undergrounds.
RNIB a charity that support people with sight loss state on their website that all underground trains, except those on the Metropolitan line, have audible announcements, which assist the blind by providing them with information such as announcing each station as you arrive. While I was walking around the stations there was also audible announcements at most of them, which was a massive help and made me feel some comfort in my surroundings. While on the platforms along the edge there is tactile paving so I could feel when I was close to a platform or in danger of being too close (by feeling the difference in paving texture under my feet).
I put the sunglasses on and whipped my prop of a white cane out as I was approaching King’s Cross St Pancras. I didn't want anyone to clock that I was acting and I must say, I put on quite the Oscar worthy performance. All my life I have helped blind people where I can, even if they are with a guide dog I stop and ask if they know what direction they're headed - who knows, for all you know they cold be lost and 100 people before you haven't bothered to ask. I sadly discovered that this is a problem.
A cleaner in King's Cross passed me and stared at me, men and women in designer clothes didn't bother to help, and the general public were just shocking.
Being on one of the tube trains itself was simple, once I’d managed to get there. Someone tapped my shoulder and guided me to their seat – may I add, this person was the only person in three hours that offered me any help what so ever.
I spent the whole 30 minutes sitting down, perfectly still, with no headphones in so that people believed that I was listening to the robot woman (the lady coming out of the speaker) telling me what station was approaching, what station I was at and what side of the doors opened.
Once I was off of the tube was a whole other story. I used the white cane and moved it left to right so that I could make sure the pathway was clear and that I wasn’t going to bump into anybody. On many occasions my stick touched someone or bumped into them. That had mixed reactions. Most would stare at me, not realising that I could actually see their expression and look at me in pity or stare me blankly in the face looking annoyed at the fact that they had to move or that my stick has touched their precious legs. No one asked if I needed help. Even when I stood and clearly looked lost.
I used my hand a lot to see what my surroundings were. Touching a chair meant that I was safe as I was near a seat and could sit down and be still, touching another person even though it was a stranger filled me with a strange comfort as it meant I wasn't alone.
All in all I learnt one thing, people don’t respect the blind as much as I thought they did. Most looked at me like I was a nuisance. So many people whispered to one another while staring at me and most shockingly some even laughed or smirked at me. If only they knew I was watching them the whole entire them.
I ask you this, the British public – help those with sight loss, respect them and offer them a helping hand. It’s two seconds of your day but means the world to them.