The blind leading the blind: 10 tips for socialising with some who is visually impaired

Last week I covered socialising with someone who is hearing impaired. Then I remembered, I’m visually impaired too. What luck, another excuse for a blog.


I am lucky in that I have some sight (for what it’s worth), so for me, having a vision impairment isn’t really a hurdle when socialising. Not as much as the hearing impairment anyway.


It is irritating how clueless some people are though. So here are some things to keep in mind if you meet me:

1.   Your hand is invisible to me. I have no peripheral vision at all so holding out your hand to shake mine is useless.  If you want shake my hand just take it in yours. Just leaving your hand hanging in the air makes us both look stupid.

2.   Give me real directions. I can’t see where you’re pointing. Use “Left” and “Right”.

3.   Get out of my face. It’s unlikely that pushing something up against my nose will help so just don’t do it.

4.   Remember there are boundaries. I once had a women grab my hand and thrust it into her bosom in order to “show” me the chain she was wearing.  Computer says no!

5.   Warn me. In situations like the one above it would be nice if you gave me a heads up if you intend for me to grope you.  Otherwise it could end in tears. Yours, not mine.

6.   Excuse me. Having said that though, if I inadvertently get too friendly or bump into you while doing something else, I am eternally sorry.

7.   It’s not one size fits all. I think the “official” way to guide a visually-impaired person is by letting them grab your elbow. This doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t offer me enough stability. Don’t assume you know the “right” way I should do things. Find out what works for me.

8.   Be my mirror not my groomer. If I have something on my face, in my teeth or up my nose, tell me. Don’t take it upon yourself to fix it.

9.   Put it back. I am a neat freak. I can usually find things because I know where they live. I can walk around familiar places because I know where the “landmarks” are.  Don’t leave things out for me to trip on or re-arrange my stuff. It will only piss me off.

10.Tell me where you are. Sometimes you’re just a dis-embodied voice. So, tell me where you are and stay there so I can face your direction. It is very embarrassing when I realise that I have had an entire conversation with someone while facing a solid wall.


In terms of socialising it is ok to suggest a movie to someone who is blind. High-action low-dialogue movies such as “Pirates of the Caribbean” might not work well as they are hard to follow if you can’t see. But British comedies such as “Notting Hill” (not slap-stick) are great as are movies based on books as they are easy to follow.


Stand-up comedy and concerts are also helpful as there isn’t much to see.  And anything where multiple senses can be used such as parks and beaches etc. are excellent.


Although, if you are there with me be careful. It’s highly likely that I’ll confuse my left from my right and end up in the ocean.



The socialite in the wallflower’s body: 10 Tips for socialising with someone who is hearing-impaired

So the other day I went to yet another party where I was unable to interact. Not only was I extremely bored but I also felt like a bit of a moron and, if I’m honest, a loser. Not to mention, claustrophobic.
It’s not that I don’t want to interact. But what you have to understand is, when you have a hearing aid, interaction can sometimes be very hard. You can hear everything.
From the clatter of someone’s high-heeled shoe on the hard floor. To the crackling of the opening of a chip packet and the crunching of the people eating them. And, if there is music, well forget it.
Yet in actual fact all I’m really hearing is nothing. A whole lot nothing!
But it’s not like the din in a night club. You can’t just raise your voice.
Often with a hearing aid as sounds get louder they also become more distorted. So chances are even if I can hear you I won’t be able to understand you.
People do try though. Bit it doesn’t last long. Either I will give up because of frustration or, having repeated themselves 100,000 times, others think I’m a moron because I can’t understand plain English. And technically I guess I can’t.
I hate getting invited to parties.  It makes me incredibly anxious.
Do I go knowing that I will not be able to participate and not enjoy myself?  Or do I decline, risk being branded as “The friend that always cancels” and risk not being off ever again?
And what if I do go and people feel that they need to babysit me because I look lonely? That’s no fun for anyone!

I don’t speak for every hearing impaired person, but  I prefer not to be invited at all.

Though I do reserve the right to be jealous when looking at photos of the event on Facebook and feeling a little bit miffed that I wasn’t involved. What can I say?  I’m complicated!
In an effort not to kill my social life completely though, here are some tips for socialising with a friend or family member who has a hearing impairment:

1. Try and pick a venue that is quiet or at least not too crowded. Places that have any music playing or worse, a band, will mean that your companion will be almost completely unable to hear you at all. Outdoor venues are good.

2. Try and keep your catch up to a maximum of three people at a time. Any more than that and you risk the possibility of more than one conversation going on at the table at one time. This will mean that the person who has the hearing impairment will not be able to participate in either one.

3. Concerts, movies, the theatre etc. are all perfectly fine to suggest for an outing. However, comments and questions should be saved until after the show because whispering in their ear is pretty useless.

4. Most people who have a hearing impairment have a preferred ear (mine is my right). Use it. And, if possible, let the person with the hearing impairment sit with most of the group on that side too when you’re out.

5. It is okay to tap them on the shoulder. In fact, it’s highly recommended. If they’re anything like me,just coming up behind or beside them and starting a sentence will scare them half to death.

6. As mentioned above, sometimes the problem is not the volume it’s the clarity. If a room is echoey then there is too much sound and your voice is distorted, not too soft. Stop yelling.

7. Face them when you are talking, they might be able to pick up some visual cues. Having said that though don’t assume that they know sign language. I am also visually impaired so I probably wouldn’t see them anyway.

8.  Be patient. If it is frustrating for you that they cannot hear/understand you. T rust me, they are frustrated too.  Getting upset makes me feel stupid. And you look like a dick!

9.  Excuse them if they are yelling at you.  Sometimes, a hearing aid will pick up sounds that you might not notice. Sounds may seem louder to them than they do to you.  They may inadvertently raise their voice above the din even if they do not have to. Throw us a bone, tell us if we’re doing this. We mean to be talking to you, not the whole room.

10. If in doubt, send a text. If you try to call me while we’re out the venue will be too loud for me to hear you on the phone. But, this can also work in reverse. Even if you ring while I am in a quiet place, if you’re somewhere noisy, all I’m going to hear is the noise.


A pony is not a baby horse…

So, riding for the disabled did not want to know me and it had been several months since I was able to check something off my bucket list. My feet were getting itchy again.
I asked my friend Jessica (a champion jockey) if I could come and ride one of her horses instead. She is awesome so of course she said yes, but with one caveat. I could ride the kids’ pony not her race horses.
Naturally I thought I would take to horseriding straightaway  (You know, like I do with everything), so I was confused by this request. But, knowing that it was with my safety in mind I agreed.
Besides, I love baby animals!
When I met Bambi I found that not only was she not a baby horse she was in fact 16 years old (roughly middle aged). She didn’t look as I had expected either. She was extremely beautiful. But where was the rainbow coloured mane and tail and where was the rainbow on her rump?

She didn’t look like the ones from that documentary “my little pony” at all. I bet she couldn’t even fly. With the advice, “sit up straight and keep your hands in front of you” from six year old Jett   and with the help of Damion and Jessicas partner Will (also a champion jockey) I got awkwardly onto Bambi’s back.
Apparently it’s not only on my feet that I am unstable on. I just couldn’t keep my balance.

Didn’t help that I was terrified. Or that I was wearing my Docs.  This was not as easy as I thought it was going to be…
Every time Bambi took a step, I would slip. It was lucky that Will was holding onto me for dear life (mine not his).
Eventually I got the hang of it.   I was still slipping constantly but at least I wasn’t so scared.

Funny how I can be 14,000 feet in the air and totally confident but closer to the ground and I’m terrified.

I had been warned that ponies were very cheeky.  Lucky for me Bambi decided to be on her best behaviour. She did stop regularly to snack on the very lush grass we were walking on.
But I’m told that this is because she usually lives in the “Jenny Craig” yard   So she would like a kid in a candy shop.
It turns out that lots of grass isn’t good for ponies… You learn something new every day.
I was allowed to give her carrots after our adventure though, and she didn’t even bite my fingers which was nice of her.
Everyone warned me that I would be in pain after sitting on a pony. “Pfft” I thought “I can handle a little bit of pain.”
That night I was feeling pretty cocky. No pain at all. The next morning, that was a different story.
My back was killing me and my abs felt as though I had done 10 Pilates sessions in a row . Turns out they were working after all. I would hate to see where I would have ended up if they weren’t.

Sadly I fear I will never be a champion jockey. And I will never appear in the Olympics in the show jumping. However, I loved my first horse/pony riding experience and as long as Bambi stops having nicer hair

than mine I would love to do it again!

The Tale of Hugh Jass-Hat



I take a lot of taxis and overall I think the myth of the inept and rude taxi driver is quite unfounded.

 However there is an exception to every rule.

 The other day I was in a cab with Hugh Jass-Hat (not his real name).

 I had met Hugh before but on those occasions he had picked me up from Mum and Dad’s. I can only assume that this is why he went there (despite being given my new address) to pick me up. But why he practically accused Dad of holding me hostage is a mystery. Perhaps he was just having a bad day.

 Possibly deciding that the hostage situation was beyond his control, he tried my new address and SURPRISE, there I was.  Phew!

 And then the fun really began…

 “Are you still with that boyfriend I dropped you off to last time?” He asked.

 Now, I am no Elizabeth Taylor.  My romantic history is not that extensive, but I couldn’t even remember when “last time” was.

 Not that it mattered though, because, before I had a chance to answer he followed the question with, “You didn’t have sex with him did you? Coz disabled people having sex is disgusting.”

 I sat there in silence. When had I moved to the planet of the apes?

 Then for some reason he began telling me about a documentary he had recently seen. It was about this chapel in the Vatican that had these really old paintings but he couldn’t remember the name of it.

 “The Sistine Chapel” I said. He ignored me and went on. But still the name eluded him.

 “The Sistine Chapel” I said again and was again ignored.

 After the third time Hugh started to get frustrated. He turned to me and said “You’re saying it wrong, it’s Sixteen Chapel. Working for a Catholic organisation you should know that.” I had to stop myself from laughing.

 “Sorry Hugh” I thought to myself. “It must be all that  disabled sex I keep having, it’s scrambled my brain!”

 ***Disclaimer*** The names of the participants in this story may have been changed to protect the ignorant.



5 Tips for Dating Someone Who is Divinely Disabled



Last week I shared with you my top tips for dating if you are disabled. Well, somehow that post was the most successful post in “Inner musings of a funny looking kid” history.


So, because now I have tickets on myself; here are my top 5 tips for dating someone who is divinely disabled.


  1. Keep a sense of humour:

Very early on in our relationship, I went to a partner’s house for dinner. As we were preparing to eat he went to the cupboard to get the plates. I was twiddling my thumbs and so I asked him “Would you like a hand?” Now this was a polite and fair question except that he didn’t (and I assume still doesn’t) have arms. Without batting an eyelid, he looked at me (straight-faced) and said, “Actually I’d like two.” Then proceeded to laugh at the embarrassment on my face. Faux pas will happen and, having lived with our bodies for a long time, a person with a disability can usually tell the difference between a Freudian slip or innocent mistake and a deliberate attempt to offend. And, if we like you, we’ll usually let it slide.


Having said that though, that doesn’t mean that your date is automatically up for being the butt of your jokes. Take a cue from them.  If they find it funny, then chances are that you can too.


  1. There is a difference between chivalry and being patronising:

As a general rule; if you’ve seen Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire or Clarke Gable do it in a movie, i.e. Hold a door open, push a chair in or pick up the cheque, this is chivalry. Anything else is patronising unless they ask you for the help. As a matter of fact, some will say that the above gestures are also patronising but I don’t see anything wrong with the occasional display of gentlemanliness. It’s one of my favourite things about Damion.


A lot of disabled people are very independent and others have a carer to help them when they need it. We are out with you because we want a partner, not because the carer has the night off!


  1. Be prepared:

Dating us is a lot like being a Boy Scout. You need to always be prepared.   I don’t mean that you should bring a first aid kit to every date, although don’t be surprised if we need one at some point (see tips 1 and 2 for how to handle this), but rather that you need to consider the venue or activity you are planning beforehand. For example, if your date is in a wheelchair then places without stairs are a good idea and rock climbing is probably not. This will get easier the longer you know each other and if in doubt, ask.


I once went on a date with a guy who was unsure as to where we should go. When I suggested the Roof Top Movies, (a cinema on the top floor of an open-air car park), he declined because he didn’t want to wear a harness. I don’t know what the hell he thought roof top movies were.


Also, if you don’t have a disability you might not have experienced the stares that you will get when we’re out together. It is not our fault; some people are just rude.  But chances are it is always going to happen. If it’s too much for you that’s ok but please tell us before it becomes an issue.


  1. Do ask and do tell:

If you are curious, it is ok to ask. If you both plan on a long-term relationship, then you will more than likely learn the answers to your questions eventually though.  So use your common sense as to what is appropriate to ask at which stage of the game and remember, your date is not your research project.


Yes, love is blind but if your love actually is blind (for example) it is a good idea to mention this to your family/friends before you introduce us to them.  This will avoid any awkwardness during the introduction and allow everyone to make preparations that will ensure everyone is as comfortable as possible. It also gives them the chance to ask questions or air any misgivings they may have out of your love’s earshot.

This is not patronizing, its practical.


  1. A tip from Damion:

Keep an open mind. People with a disability may look/act different to “normal” people but they will more often than not prove to be more loving and understanding than others. Which makes for a deeper and more fulfilling relationship.


For the record: I did not put him up to that.


Happy dating!



5 Dating Tips for the Divinely Disabled



Like millions of women the world over, I got my fair share of advice from others on what kind of man I needed when I finally started dating. I was told he needed to be as clever as me or I’ll get bored, a dormouse so that he didn’t mind that I did all the talking and I was even told that I needed a fella who worshipped me as much as my old dog Napoleon did. But perhaps the most unhelpful suggestion I got was that I needed, above all else, a man with a disability. coz you know, we’re in the same league.

Damion does not have a disability, but I don’t hold that against him. He is in fact the only person I’ve been out with (more than once) who does not, and he’s awesome! The only other “serious relationship” (if you could call it that) that I have ever had was with a gorgeous guy that did happen to have one. The relationship lasted for less than a year but I suspect that that had more to do with my incredibly low self-esteem, ( resulting in my constant need for reassurance) not our disabilities. Constant crying is never an attractive quality for anyone.  It is almost as unattractive as desperation.


On a side note, I mention the disability status of both of these men purely to make the point that this is not the deciding factor in my relationships. You would be surprised how many people ask me “what is his disability?” if ever I mention Damion. I will usually ignore the ignorance but if I do answer, you’d think I had said I was dating a 100-year-old (nothing wrong it that) and not someone who’s able-bodied. Such is the shocked reaction I encounter.


I have now seen both sides of the coin. That is, I have been the disabled dater and the disabled datee. When one or more of you have a disability, there are extra things to be considered, such as anything from; access to venues and how you’re going to get there, to how you’re going to shower at your partner’s house without your shower chair. Luckily though, with this being 2017, there is usually a way around everything if you want there to be.


I am no expert but since when has that ever stopped me? Here are my top tips for dating if you are divinely disabled:


1. Don’t hide your disability –  be upfront, honest and proud of your disability. If it’s too confronting to deal with on the first date, it’s unlikely to be any less so if you spring it on them in 2-dates-time. This is especially important if you are dating online. Trust me, the look of shock/disappointment that comes when your date sees that you are more disabled than they thought is not something that you really want to see.


I once went out with a guy who gave me that look. so, not wanting to seem any more disabled (as it was obviously an issue) I decided not to take my walking frame. This was a mistake, what I should have done was not go through with the date. Instead I wobbled around and eventually had to hold onto him for support which made us both uncomfortable. Needless to say, there was no second date.

2. You don’t have to take second best.

I had thought that because I am not perfect and my disability carries a lot of baggage, I should take anything that is offered to me and be grateful. That means  putting up with being made fun of,  or taking part in activities that I was not comfortable with, purely because I was afraid that nothing else would come along. Wrong! Sure, it is a possibility, but if you don’t find someone else straight away, at least you won’t have to shave your legs every day.


Similarly remember that you are not a curio. There is a myth out there that disability equals desperate and to use a phrase I heard a lady on BBC program “The Undatables” use; we are not here for a fascination fuck!


3. On the first date go somewhere you know.

It’s not always your choice, but if you can go somewhere you know well, then do. That way you can be familiar with where the easiest access points are and where you can sit down if you need to. Another perk to knowing the place is that, where applicable, you can peruse the menu beforehand. This avoids the awkwardness of having to ask your date to read it for you if you can’t. Although, their reaction to this request can be a good indicator as to how comfortable they are with your disability. Damion read the menu out for me on our first date.

4. Be happy with yourself first.

I know that everyone says this and it’s easier said than done, but it’s true. Unfortunately, unless your partner is as lacking in the self-esteem department as you (not recommended) or they have the patience of a saint, you won’t get the reassurance you’re after. You’ll get dumped! Try counselling and/or writing to overcome this. It worked for me

5, You gotta be in it to win it – put yourself out there.

This is not a movie, it’s real life. So, sadly, the person you’re looking for wont just appear on your doorstep and declare undying love for you. It’s frightening and yes, your disability might expose you to more rejection than you hope, but it’s not all doom and gloom.


If you’re shy, internet dating is a good option and you can do it in your pyjamas. It’s also good when, like me, your disability makes it difficult to socialise in the traditional way. You do have to go out in the big wide world eventually though.


There are lots of different sites out there but I had success with and more recently with Zoosk (it’s were I met Damion). There are people from all walks of life everywhere, so keep an open mind and just go with what your comfortable with.


Good luck and happy dating!



Abseil 2.0: A New Hope



The abseil for the Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation (formerly known as Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation) is on again. 160 metres (40 stories) down the QV1 building in Perth’s CBD. Just me, a safety rope and the relief that my vision impairment stops me from seeing what I’m really doing.


I must confess, I almost opted out this year.  Last year’s effort didn’t go the way I hoped, resulting in me spending the majority of the descent perched on someone’s lap. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very nice lap, but I wanted to use my own legs.  I felt like I had failed not only myself but everyone who had contributed to my fundraising. Would anyone be willing to take another chance? And what if I become one of those friends that people avoid because they’re always nagging you to support their cause?


But then I realised, it’s not actually about how I did it but the fact that I did it at all. And the fact that I did it is largely due to being cared for at PMH.


During my childhood, I spent a lot of time in that hospital and barely a year went by without having some surgery or other. My greatest claim to fame (as far as PMH is concerned) is that I have been a patient of every department except oncology.  Of course, at the time I hated the place as i came to associate it with misery.  But now as i wobble around, type this blog or do anything really, I realise that I can do these things largely due to the “mean” doctors and nurses who treated me there.


Well dear reader, i have become one of those friends, and I ask you to help me to raise as much money as possible for the foundation. You may not have been the frequent flyer that I was but we’ve all been touched by PMH at some point either personally or vicariously.


Last year with your help I raised $1,680 which went towards the purchase (at a cost of $1.7 million) of a super-duper machine (sorry to be so technical) that assists in the diagnosis and treatment of potentially thousands of kiddies. The funds for this year will go to the project of greatest need and will be decided on later in the year.

Donations can be made at: 




I often find myself thanking my lucky stars that I was born in Perth in 1984. A place where a disability is not seen as a curse as in some countries and at a point in history where I have access to technology that means I can live a relatively “normal” life.


In the unlikely event that I ever compete in Miss Universe and I get to answer the question “What is your greatest wish” I’d say “Stuff world peace! Just give every child the same opportunities as I’ve had.”


Might as well, it’s not like I’d win. I’m not built for bikinis.




PS: stay tuned for photos and details of this year’s attempt coming soon.