Adventures in Culture and Travel

21 October, 2012

Blind no more to disabilities

This week has been a very interesting week. Of course it always is here Brussels. First there was the interview with, class, eating an awesome fried grilled cheese baguette, and serving at Gare Du Nord feeding the homeless. Then on Saturday I was given the opportunity to be a part of Disabled Focus Day with Serve The City. A truly enlightening day that shed the light on disabilities and the services available to them here in Brussels. From learning sign-language, understanding ADHD, to blind simulations, it attempted to allow us to understand better the lives of the disabled.

As it was reminded to all of us, we all have disabilities. Some of us have no choice but to outwardly show them, while the rest of us hide them. This I know is true. We're all hiding something. Mine is a necrotic appendix which doctor's in the U.S. choose not operate on because it's not acute  It's left my lower-right abdomen swollen, infected, and pushes on my diaphragm. Having been someone who would run often, I've had to give up my running shoes for anti-biotics. It kills me being here in Brussels with all the beautiful parks that I know I could be running in. But this secret, which I've up to now, mostly kept private, is nothing compared to being blind (paralyzed, deaf, etc) in Brussels, and having to transverse the city alone. After two months of living here, I still get confused on the Simonis Line in the center city and I'm not blind (at least not in the non-metaphorical way). Finding a random location without sight, seems absolutely impossible. The trust you must have every time you leave your home seems insurmountably difficult to fathom.

Just as I wish to run again, imagine someone in a wheel chair staring at the racks of bikes at the Villo station wishing to do the same. It likely seems like a taunting tease, a opportunity within reach but beyond practicability.  But a group of three people are changing that. A company called Almagic brings bikes for everyone with specially designed, custom fit bikes for rent. As explained to us, these bikes are 3-5,000 Euros to buy unlike the traditional versions at Decathlon. This puts them far out of the reach of most people, but renting them by the day, week, or month gives an entire new freedom from both costs and lack of opportunity.

Another organization I had the chance to speak with is Solidanza, part of Handicap International which helps prevent, care, and enable those who become handicapped  Solidanza is their annual fund-raising event that encourages everyone to get involved with the gala where it's all celebrated through music and dance. There's various ways to fund-raise before the December 1st spectacular at Bozar, or volunteer on that day. For instance, have a dinner with friends over, and sell tickets for 5 Euros, then donate it to the project.

Most important I think what any of these organizations encourage is that we each reflect upon our lives, or daily routines and try to understand the difficulty of navigating in a world without sight, sound, or a leg or arm. Imagine a world where you truly are never disabled, but must be super human to overcome that which most of us take granted.