Air density

When I walked from the platform of Lancaster Gate station up to the lift I passed through three distinct air qualities, that of the platform, then the stairwell, and then corridor.
I was able to appreciate how the thickness of the air processed as smell told me a lot about the nature and size of the space.
March 2013

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Seeing with your fingers. Moving without a spare hand

‘If you want to explain to a blind person what it would be like for a sighted person to go blind… put full tumblers of water into both of his hands and tell him to take them into the dining room.’

‘A blind person with a full glass in each hand is equivalent to a sighted person blindfolded with a full glass in each hand.’
‘To obtain insight into the manoeuvrability problems of anohter mode of cognition it is not enough to delete the faculty most immediately affected (in our case, sight). One must allow the ramifications of this mode be experiences by deleting a second sense (touch) showing how the nature of the second sense, and its usefulness whitin the mode as a whole, undergoes a change.’

‘As long as the blind person has one free hand, he sees with that hand.’

p.109 Touching The Rock, John Hull

The wind is observed incidentally, yet it is anticipated through your body

‘The invisibility of the wind does not make it mysterious to the blind, for whom there is no such thing as invisibility.’

‘This morning as I came up the steps from the underpass and around the corner, it hit me. It was a beautiful, warm, scented breeze, not hot like the Australian Northerly, but full of a perfumed richness; a moving, fragrant wind. It was an unsettled wine, suggesting the break-up of a rather sultry day… I leaned into it and away from it and breathed it in. It was delightful.’

‘Can the wind mean as much to sighted people? For the sighted, to whom the world is mainly visual, an invisible phenomena like the wind is only observed incidentally, it is one of many things which one notices in passing.
The wind itself, as felt byt he body, is only one of the ways in which sighted people experience a windy day. The blind person entres into the windiness of the day at first hand.’
Whereas sighted people are used to knowing where things go and where things come from. It is more exciting for the blind when there is some anticipiation given by the wind: ‘the distant tossing of trees across the park.; it comes like a wave rolling across a beach. Now it breaks upon my body…’

p.108 Touching the Rock, John Hull

Seeing in the Dark. John Hull and Zoltan Torey

Seeing in the Dark

In this fascinating telephone 3-way conversation, RadioLab bring John Hull and Zoltan Torey together to discuss the differences in maintaining a connection with images during blindness or not. Torey says sight is the primary sense and cannot imagine moving on leaving it behind, whereas Hull thinks this is dishonest and that you should accept and embrace blindness – concentrating on the remaining senses.

The Power of Powerlessness

Following a chapter about being treated as a lesser person in conversation, in a sense being marginalised. John Hull then writes about how in some situations your are unintentionally also the centre of attention.

It is so hard to find an intermediate way, that is, somewhere between being ignored and being the centre of attnention. It is so hard to be a normal person when one is not a normal person. It is also hard to avoid the situation whch arises when, because of one’s very powerlessness, one does have a kind of power of people. The disabled person tends to render other people powerless.

To judge the right use of this power is an important part of learning to be a disabled person.

p.106 Touching The Rock, John Hull

Unpredictable structure (navigation)

Whereas a staircase is a predictable structure, when there are unexpected, numerous unusual obstacles, realigining yourself with the original route – maintaining in your mind a map showing all these angles – becomes very difficult. The danger not being that you will walk into a parked car, but that you will get lost.

p.103 Touching The Rock, John Hull

Navigating open spaces

What the blind find difficult are smooth, open spaces. It is just these ares whoich are assumed by many sighted people to be the best for the blind, becase there is no danger of tripping. From theblind point of view, however, a flat, open surface is not negotiable because there are no orientating signals. There is no structure. It is not predictable, because it may end at any moment., and there is no way of telling where you are, once you are on it.  The problem for the blind is not falling over, but knowing where he is. For this reason, it is easier to find my way around a camput which is marked out by steps, little hills and valleys, low walls and lots of changes in texture, because I can mark out my route with sections. The structure becomes a sequence when I am moving through it.

p.103 Touching The Rock, John Hull

Control during navigation; accepting help

‘I lose my independence as soon as I accept my friend’s company.’ ‘I am being towed, moving at a faster pace than would normally be possible.’
Having a conversation means you cannot devote yourself to your route the concentration that it would normally require.

‘A sighted person cannot simply accept my company. Through no fault of his own, he has by walking with me, deprived me of my independence. Through no fault of my own, I have sacrificed my independence for the sake of his company. He then becomes responsible for me.’

By accepting help you become more dependent, yet this is not the ordinary state when navigating.

p.100 Touching the Rock, John Hull