Because of my sight problem, I get taxis to and from work, the cost of which is subsidised by the Access To Work scheme (I still pay a chunk of each fare myself, and I’m happy doing that). Access To Work have also paid for the magnification software and CCTV video magnifier I use in the office. It’s such an important scheme, as it really helps disabled people in the workplace. It’s certainly helped me for about a decade now. I suspect not all employers are aware of its existence however, and there are probably some disabled people who don’t know about it either. So it’s worth noting that it’s there.
Because I make so many taxi journeys, I’ve had a huge variety of different drivers. Some are very chatty and friendly, some like to have a bit of a moan and put the world to rights, some barely say anything at all, etc. And there are some drivers that tend to pick me up more regularly than others, including some that live relatively near to me compared to others.
So it can be a surprise when I get a new driver, because it feels like I know the entire fleet already by now. But that’s what happened today. Nothing special about that in itself, but I was pleased by the way he reacted midway through our conversation when it transpired I had a disability.
We had been chatting about films and other things, when he changed the subject by asking me if I drive. That may seem like a daft question, but even people who drive get taxis sometimes. But I don’t drive, because I can’t see well enough to do so. And that’s what I told him.
It clearly caught him by surprise, as he remarked that he didn’t realise I was disabled. Which I take as a compliment, and it was a valid point on his part to be fair, as there were no obvious clues to give me away. I don’t use a cane or a guide dog, the weather was dull and cloudy so I wasn’t struggling with glare, I didn’t struggle to see it was a taxi because I can see the plate on the door (I can’t read it, but I can make out enough of the colours and layout to know it’s the company I use), and he didn’t have time to look at my eyes as I got in the car to notice that they weren’t quite right.
Things could have got awkward at that point – sometimes finding out you have a disability can catch people off-guard and they don’t know what to say afterwards, so it kills the conversation. But in such a scenario, I try to avoid that outcome. I want them to realise that they don’t have to be sorry or nervous of talking about it, that I’m happy as I am, and that I’m happy to tell them about it. Not every disabled person will feel the same way as me – we’re all different and unique remember – but if people are interested and respectful in anything about me, that pleases me.
So I briefly explained Aniridia and Nystagmus to him, and gave him a sense of what I could see using references like the van ahead of us and the dashboard in front of me in the car. And he showed he was interested by asking questions about it, which I answered – whether the conditions are connected (do all people with Aniridia have Nystagmus or vice-versa), whether I’ve had it since birth, things like that. He didn’t ask anything that I would consider stupid or rude.
If I’d said I’d rather not discuss it instead, I know he would have been fine with that as well, he was a nice guy. I could tell he was a tiny bit nervous initially, in case he was straying into territory he shouldn’t by talking about it, which is understandable. But by answering openly, and keeping the conversation as upbeat as it had been already to that point, I was able to quickly put his mind at ease.
We even had a bit of laugh in relation to it, in the way that guys do – although he doesn’t have a sight issue like me, we agreed that we do at least share the same affliction of having dashing good looks, meaning it’s hard to pick a woman to go out with when there are lots of them keen to get our attention all the time. The hard decisions us handsome guys have to make, huh? 😉
The conversation carried on normally afterwards, naturally moving on to other things as happens in any chat. My disability was just one topic in a varied mixture, which I liked. He didn’t ask anything stupid or fire lots of questions at me in rapid succession, he just took a friendly and respectful interest.
So I just thought I’d share my experience of a very pleasant journey home. Taxi drivers can have a reputation of being miserable moaners sometimes, but most of the ones I’ve met aren’t like that. The driver I had today was definitely one of the more friendly ones I’ve had – and he’s not the only one either, there are others like him who I get on just as well with. So I’m happy with the service I get.
And now I can relax for 4 days, a break I’ve definitely earned. I hope everyone has a Happy Easter! 🙂