Thursday, 22 September 2011

Blindness - disability or different life style?

Useful Hereford thePoint4 location linked to the RNCB inspires thoughts on remote working, leads to interesting contact and thoughts on blindness - disability or a different life style.

Spending time in Hereford whilst a relative is having a new Gas heating installed, I have been popping into thePoint4 Bistro, just off Venn's Lane. The refreshments were welcome and access to the free Wifi even more so as it permitted me to keep up with e-mails and do quite a bit of remote working on a range of urgent projects. Tweeting about the venue brought me to the attention of the very active twitter streams of @thePoint4 and @RNC_official, leading to an impromptu friendly meeting with the marketing and communications manager, Katrina Wilcox.

Now, I had not really given blindness or partial sightedness a second thought as it is a common sight to see students wandering confidently with either white canes or dogs around the Venns Lane part of Hereford, where the Royal National College of the Blind is situated. Pure convenience had taken me to the associated venue thePoint4 - food, drinks and free Wifi being the driving factors. However, with a few minutes to relax at the end of the day, it did remind me of an educational business accompaniment I had undertaken earlier in the year.

I found out by accident that the director of one of the companies from Germany visiting London, a quality fruit wine manufacturer whom I was to accompany to various business meetings with potential UK partners, was practically blind. Going into overdrive I thought of all the issues about travelling around the metropolis and contacted a number of organisations to see if they could advise me on how best to help my guest in terms of moving around. I was prepared when meeting him at the airport - and found myself a victim of my own preconceptions.

My guest had brought a companion to assist but, quite frankly, most of the time did not seem to require them as we wandered through the busy streets of London from appointment to appointment. Everything had been thought out including the arrangement and storage of the samples to be shown to potential partners, such that they were taken out and arranged in a convenient sequence to go with the business conversation. By day 2 I'd forgotton his "disability".

At the end of the trip, as we were having a last celebratory Indian meal in a relaxed restaurant by the Thames and I asked, how on earth my guest had come to be a specialist wine producer, fermenting and bottling all the products himself. "Well", he said. "It was easier to set up my own business doing what I enjoyed than trying to find a job!"

Which brings me back to my meeting with Katrina at thePoint4. She has a fantastic project underway - a full colour book under the aegis of the RNCB with stories of 14 or so similarly inspirational people. I also know that she is open to finding funding and sponsorship for this book. The aim is to publish early in 2012.

To find out more and see if you can be involved to help complete this project, contact Katrina at the RNCB on 01432 265725.

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