'I hear you left a blind drunk guy in a bar' were some words said to me a couple of days ago by a good friend. Funny story right? Hilarious right? No, far from it, this was actually a comment that serves to reinforce discrimination against disability that is still encountered daily.
I must point out at this stage that I have no disability, and am aware that my voice is not necessarily the voice that should be heard on this matter, but I can't help it, I am outraged.
Let me explain the situation my friend was referring to. I had a started a course a couple of weeks ago, a course I'm very enthusiastic about and was keen to make friends on. After the first session of said course, a few of us went for a drink. That drink turned into several, as we were all getting on so swimmingly. Great. Four of us were left, and decided to go to another venue for a drink, where I happened to know one of the staff. Great. We have another drink and chat some more. One guy in our group of four happens to be blind, and, like the rest of us was feeling rather merry at the time. 'Lovely', I thought, 'this is fun' I thought, 'but I'm tired' I thought, 'I'll head home' I thought. So, I made my excuses, which were met with another two of our party saying they would make a move too. Which would leave one person, the person who happens to be blind, who, when asked if he wanted to come with us said: 'No, I fancy another drink so I'm going to stay for a bit, it's ok, I have a number for a taxi in my bag.'
Now, in my position what would you have done?
Option 1: Believe that the guy you'd met that day probably knows what he's doing and leave him to it, but tell the bar staff so they know what the situation is.
Option 2: Forcibly remove the young man from the bar against his will.
Option 3: When the option arose earlier of going for another drink, somehow, you would have telepathically known that this would happen. And you wouldn't have invited that person, so that that member of bar staff wouldn't have been put out when this guy seemingly fell asleep in the bar after you left.
I went with the first option, and, stunningly, I stand by that decision. That decision was met a couple of days later with this comment from the bar staff on my next visit 'You're not going to leave any drunk blind guys in my bar this time are you?' Ahem.
1. His identity is not his disability.
He has a name, he has many attributes, he has other more obvious physical traits. Being blind, surprisingly, is probably not the number one thing he wants to be known as. Thus, 'a drunk blind guy' shows a staggering amount of narrow mindedness. Yeah, it's annoying when someone falls asleep in a bar you work in, but that doesn't mean it's because they're blind. It happened because they were being pissed and a bit irresponsible.
2. I'm not going to deny him choice because he is blind.
Who am I to judge whether or not this person should have another drink? He seemed in control, he seemed happy, he seemed awake, and, most importantly, he is able to make his own decisions. We've all gotten too pissed and made a tit of ourselves before, and we all have a right to, regardless of whether we can see or not. Denying him choice is not an avenue I'm willing to go down.
3. He was safe.
The guy was in a bar surrounded by people he was happily chatting to. I had told the bar staff that he would need help down the stairs when he left the venue. What more could I have done? He was clearly happy for us to go, and he was also happy to carry on chatting.
So, yes, I did leave a drunk blind guy in a bar. I left an intelligent, capable and headstrong blind guy in a bar by his own choice. And yes, I would do it again.
The thing is, I'm still so saddened by my friend's comment 'I hear you left a blind drunk guy in a bar'. Not only because it infers that I'm a terrible person, but also because by it's very nature, that statement presumes that a blind person cannot make their own choices. Albeit slightly silly ones. Please people, filter the information you're given.
We should be enabling people with disabilities, not treating them like children.