Part of the story: When help doesn’t help

Introducing the new monthly column of the History District. After 25 years in the story biz, we’ve learned a lot and want to share our stories and knowledge with you. In this column, we present a story by Qudsiya Naqui, lawyer, disability activist, and creator and host of “Down to the Struts. Below is a written version of the story she created as part of “She Comes First” in March 2020, the annual Women’s Storytelling event.

Being in an airplane can be really stressful sometimes, right? You have flight delays, the TSA thinks. But being blind on a plane is more difficult.

It’s true that there has been a lot of progress in terms of accessibility and design for the blind. We have artificial intelligence, we have text to speech, and yes, I can’t wait until self-driving cars. But the flights are a little less. We often associate blind people with good flight attendants who want to help, but often don’t ask the blind what they need help with. Case in point, the time I had a crying match with a flight attendant because she was trying to force me to sit in a wheelchair. Even when I tried hard, it wasn’t the best way to get me out of security.

Once, I went for work and spent two weeks straight at the airport. I’ve been in and out of three other cities and I’m so excited to touch down at home base in Washington, DC. and I’m ready to jump out. my seat When riding, as I often do, I have my mobility stick, folded and placed in the seat bag in front of me. Just a word of advice about blind people – we want to know where our stuff is. So we put things where we can find them. Consistency is the key. To my dismay, the man sitting next to me leaned over and said, “Here, I’ll help you” and took my walking stick out of the bag. , and waved in front of me, saying, “Here is your tree. And I’m just waving my hand around looking for this thing. I knew where it was before, but now I don’t. It’s very annoying. Finally, I was able to grab my cane and pull away from him. I was happy to have my lifeline, my tool for freedom, my way of understanding the world. Then it happened to me. This person may see me with this staff and see someone who is very dependent and needy. I began to remember a time when I agreed with him.

I was born with night blindness and a gradual decline in my day vision among other things. I often liken losing your identity to grieving the loss of a loved one. You go through anger, sadness, grief, denial, and you too, in some way, sometimes stumble on your way to acceptance. In my 20s, I was completely wrapped up in a cocoon of denial, and it was beautiful. I will avoid social activities if it is at night or in an unfamiliar place. I didn’t date because I didn’t want to explain how I missed men and I indulged in other clever ways of being alone. Until one day, I was suddenly pushed out of my comfort zone of denial. Today, I’m at Penn Station in New York City, about to board a New Jersey Transit train home to visit my parents.

Now, I try to pretend like I’m seen. It’s not my hard shell and it’s folded up, hidden in the bottom of my bag. But I mistook the space between the train cars for the train door, and so I walked out of the train station – Anna Karenina style – and fell onto the track. Thankfully, the conductor saw this and rushed to pull me out. I was a little sore and sore, but mostly just heartache. Then I had two important realizations, first, I didn’t want to go the way of a tragic heroine in a Russian novel. And secondly, I need to make up for my loss.

So, I got a driver. I learned how to use my bamboo properly. I began to pick up these new technologies such as text to speech, and learn how to deliver the whole process of information. Most importantly, I started interacting with a lot of blind people who were blind. It became my mission to become a blind A plus. I’m at a B minus, but I’m doing it.

All these thoughts were going through my head as I sat next to this man. I don’t know, it’s not over for me. He turned to me and said, “Why don’t you get an ophthalmologist to help you?” Aghast, I had to ask him to repeat the question. He was like, “Why don’t you get an ophthalmologist to help you fix your eyes?” It took everything in me not to yell at him, “Mind your own business, you bastard” in the middle of the plane. I didn’t want to come across as an angry blind woman, so I decided to hold my tongue. But then I wondered why I was so angry. It’s a shame because the biggest lesson I’ve learned in ten years of my life is that I don’t need to be fixed. The world needs to adjust. The world must be designed for me. With that thought, I turned to this person and said, “I don’t need anyone’s help. I’m fine the way I am. Thank you.”

Look at Naqui story performed at the Black Cat in Washington, DC in March 2020.

Listen to Naqui host “Down to the Struts,” is a podcast about disability, design, and intersectionality, aiming to remove the building blocks for a more accessible, inclusive, and equitable world for all people with disabilities.

For the Historic District: In 1997, The Speakeasy was born, a group of audio for storytelling. Over time, we have grown into the Story District and now we host many shows and classes every year, as well as conducting workshops and including doing custom work for businesses, government agencies, colleges, and non-profits. Visit StoryDistrict.orgsubscribe to our podcast, “Historical Citizens,” our YouTube channel StoryDistrictLive, and follow us on Instagram @storydistrict.

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