Opening Doors

17 Jan

by Kathy Austin

Every day, I travel to and from work, shopping, meetings – the normal stops we all make.  I feel fairly competent traveling with my guide dog but sometimes do depend on the kindness of strangers for assistance.  lots of great people out there will go out of their way to help me and I am very grateful for their help.

One area where people are providing assistance is to open the door for me.  While I know this is a very courteous act to do for anyone, I’m beginning to question people’s intelligence.

Let’s think about these situations:

Scenario 1: I have arrived at my destination and am reaching for the door handle.  I know I am at the door because my dog has taken me to this location many times before.  I am reaching out and my hand is grabbling into thin air – there’s nothing there. Has someone just walked in before me and the door is now closing?  Or is someone holding the door open for me and thinks that I can see him doing that but doesn’t want to tell me?  Is he thinking “Blind woman approaching, I’ll hold the door but not tell her” Is that a cruel joke?  Let’s trick the blind woman?!”

Scenario 2: I am approaching the door with my guide dog and all of a sudden, the door pops open and someone exclaims “I’ve got the door for you” as she almost knocks us over with the oncoming door.  Please watch my guide dog’s toes – please!

In guide dog school, we and the dogs are trained on how to approach doorways, whether open or not.  If the door is open, our guide will still stop so that e can make sure it is safe to enter to prevent injury in situation like these.   Sometimes this can be uncomfortable for sighted folks to watch, but lots of ways we adapt to traveling make sighted people uncomfortable.

I don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable and want them to feel good about helping someone and doing the Courteous  Gesture.  All I’m asking is that you think before you act and make sure you are not putting anyone in danger of injury.  And most of all, talk to us!

Kathy Austin is the Community Engagement Specialist at Second Sense and joined the Words Wide Open writing workshop to explore new ways to get a message across.  “Writing is a powerful tool and doing it well takes practice.”   She wants to do the best she can to move people to realization and action.

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