Monday, 11 July 2011

The Blog's Progress

Update (20th July 2011): 

I have finally received a response by email and a letter from Justin King of Sainsburys referring to my problems at one of their stores on the 5th of May this year.   Mr King expressed that he was "sorry to hear of the poor service" I "received in our Finchley Road store" and went on to state that the store's staff had been provided with retraining both in pricing goods and dealing with customers.  It is interesting to note that as a blind person being able to tweet about this has probably garnered more attention.  At any rate, I had made my personal peace accompanied by a friend to the store on the same day we went to St Albans, which seems a long time ago.  It is also nice to note that Sainsburys has been tweeting in Scottish Gaelic! 

It’s been two months since Professor Whitestick launched his blog and with about 1300 visits to the site and within grasp of a 100 followers on Twitter, it’s probably about time to review the progress or lack of it in some areas.  While I have tended to illustrate that people with sight loss can participate in social discourse in matters such as the arts, history, literature and yes, trainspotting, I haven’t as yet touched in any great detail on the sciences and politics – apart from my first post regarding the perception of blind people within some Christian communities, I haven’t said much.  To put it another way, the jury is out, though I have had some favourable responses from some quarters. 

Regarding science, I must take some of the blame because when I lost my sight I more or less put my previous life on the shelf.  It was reminiscent of the scene on an aeroplane movie where the captain of the plane walks up the gangway with a guide dog, much to the consternation of the passengers.  I paid a visit recently to the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), having been a member for 30 years and was surprised to find from the librarian that I was only the second person in her 18 years experience at the library in Burlington House who had sight loss.  I have since returned to the RSC twice and have been welcomed back, most recently at a debate hosted by the RSC on nuclear energy.  You can follow the debate on:  Some 36 hours after the debate someone had spotted me on the video.  I will be reporting on aspects of science more frequently now that you might know I have a PhD in Chemistry. 

I’ve remarked favourably on many of our public services and can comment on a wonderful audio tour which I had on my own with the aid of the staff at the help desk of the British Museum (BM).  This visit was made two weeks ago to the “Treasures of Heaven: saints, relics and devotion in medieval Europe” exhibition running from 23 June – 9 October (  I will post on this exhibition separately, but would encourage anyone using a long cane to try this exhibition out on their own  if you have a little sight.  The audio tour and the player are really good and there is a big surprise if you use your long cane to navigate within the exhibition.  The tour has 20 objects which are described in detail and though some are visible, e.g. a mosaic one metre square at least, some are very small but you can establish what they are by the description.  I was at my 15th object out of 20 by the time I twigged how the exhibition worked.  It’s really imaginative and the guides and guards are really helpful if you’re on your own: a big thank you to the BM staff and Kinga at the Help Desk for suggesting that I try it out.  The BM has other tactile exhibits in the various departments, but it was refreshing to find the Help Desk making suggestions and in such an imaginative way. 

Below I’m posting two comments received in my personal email, which was destined for the comments section but there have been problems with the Blogger system.  The writer of the first comment has known me over the years.
Comment 1:
‘Professor Whitestick's experiences in galleries like the National and the Wallace make interesting reading.  It was inspiring to read about the innate kindness and natural good manners exhibited by those members of the staff who went out of their way to help you.  I really hope that the directors of both those great institutions as well as those who run other galleries will get read about your experiences.  I have to say, too, that it was instructive to learn more about the nature of blindness - that being blind does not necessarily mean the loss of all sight or the ability to see shapes and colours.  This is fascinating blog on lots of levels, but the main thing is its originality - I've been involved in one way or the other with museums and galleries for 40 years and have never before read an account by any member of the public (let alone one who is visually impaired ) describing a visit that is as vivid as yours.  Good luck and keep up the good work.’

Comment 2:
I've been reading through your blog, and it's been fascinating to read the art/theatre reviews and see how institutions respond and cater to patrons with reduced vision, especially because I've been working in the museum field. It's been pretty enlightening for me, so a big thankyou.