How does a blind person do what they do?

Written by Robert D. Sollars
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Even after 18 years, whenever I talk to friends & colleagues I get the question, how do you do that? When I explain it to them, especially my security colleagues, “Really? Wow that is amazing”. They don’t stop to consider that it has become an embedded habit…like putting on your shoes…something you just have to do.
When at a business event, usually a networking mixer or similar, the question I get most often is “How can you help us?” The implied question being you are blind, you can’t possibly know security. And then they listen…to my experience, knowledge, and presentation skills. They are impressed, but… Because I’m blind I can’t help them, because after all, I’m blind, what do I know about security…even after nearly 40 years in the field.
People, including friends, don’t understand how I can do certain things that most everyone else takes for granted. Items such as;
• Clipping my fingernails without cutting my fingers off or ripping them to shreds.
• Cooking on the stove. And the simple idea of boiling water… and not burning down the house.
• Hearing noises that others don’t…I’m not paranoid but have always heard better than most. I have a button on my baseball hat that states “The Dark is Afraid of Me!”.
• Get around without someone guiding me. Around the house and immediate area, no issues. Someplace I’ve never been before…that is challenging and I probably do need some help.
Being a security professional and being blind is not easy. No one wants to take a chance because of a few innovative, creative, and quirky ideas & attributes that don’t fit into standard practice…because I’m blind. So, keeping with security, let me explain those things I mentioned above in a security context;
• Clipping my fingernails – when you are conducting a threat assessment on a facility, are you meticulous, careful, & attempting to see things that aren’t necessarily in front of you? Of course. Another aspect that I’m sure, you consider is that you have to account for everything that may cause an issue, no matter how remote, small, or trivial it may be. If I actually cut my finger while clipping… I staunch the blood if there is any before it gets worse.
Likewise, with security, you try to stop an incident before it gets worse. It’s never easy to do but it must be done. It takes that meticulousness, attention to detail, & being results-oriented to reach your goal. Isn’t that what you do as well when talking to a client or company?
• Cooking with fire – just like all other security issues you have to be meticulous & have proper planning to accomplish the goal. With cooking food that is scalding or molten, you have to use the potholders and ensure the pot isn’t too heavy to move safely. If the heat comes through the holder, then you have to put it down…quickly.
With your operations, you have to be aware of the limitations of your officers & coach them carefully so that everything turns out piping hot and not burned on, or cold. Additionally, you may have to be mentoring, and training them over and above the minimum, and your, requirements.
Sometimes you have to handle certain officers with potholders. They need to be coddled and empathized with for a few minutes. But if it gets too much you gotta put them down &… Coddling is not something any of us like to do. But… as a respectable manager, it is something we occasionally need to do.
• Hearing Noises – some people will say I’m psychotic or schizophrenic because I hear noises that others don’t pick up on. Allow me to burst that ballooning stereotype, my ears have always been above average and didn’t get better because I went blind. You have to pay attention. Especially to detail. Which means noises, sounds, & common items more than most.
When you’re alone in a dark warehouse at 0300 hours on a Sunday morning, your hearing becomes, and has to be, more alert. Rodents or other animals can make the same noises as criminals trying to break in or get away with materials. Security officers must train their eyes, ears, & nose to recognize what should & shouldn’t be there, as does a blind person.
For a blind person, it is absolutely vital to pay attention to your ears and smell to keep ourselves out of danger. Sometimes you will taste a problem before actually encountering it. Items such as a person with stale cigarettes on their clothes/breath or doused in perfume.
• Getting around without a guide – do you need a guide to get around a new place? How about your officers after a bit of on-the-job training? Can they get around a new assignment? With a little fumbling and confusion, of course, they can. So why would we be any different just because we’re blind and use a white cane?
We all get to turn around and are confused about our whereabouts on occasion. Whether it is at a new job or out on the town. Do we make it all the time alone? No. Just as you and your officers might, we get lost on occasion. And sometimes it takes us longer to acclimate to new places, especially those that are forever changing like a facility or a store that consistently moves the locations of items.
How we get around in life is as much of learning skills and techniques as much as it is attitude. Our attitude has to be I WILL conquer this problem. Talking to most blind people you may find that attitude prevalent. If we don’t have that attitude, we will fall into the stereotype of sitting around and complaining about our lot in life, then twiddling our thumbs.
Seize the day and conquer it
Klingon Proverb
Contact: Sollars Violence Prevention Training & Consulting
It happens to Anyone…Any Time…Anywhere… For any Reason
I May Be Blind, but My Vision Is Crystal Clear
Permission to share? Of course, with full attribution.
Copyright 2021 Robert D. Sollars

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