On Friday, I turned into a blind spot and ran smack into a wall.

Before you go asking how my broken nose is, I should point out that it was a metaphorical wall.

Let’s put this into context. I am reasonably proud about having pretty good vision. I tend to think of myself as someone who is fairly aware of the world around me. My mother gave me an unexpected toolbox when I was young. She took a volunteer role at the Constance Lethbridge Center. Part of that work involved her learning sign language. She taught me some, and I have forgotten most of it, as I had no one to talk to, except that Mom would occasionally sign things at me (most notably after dental surgery where, under the influence of a whack load of anaesthesia, she gave me long series of instructions in a jumbled mix of English, French, and ASL). As she went through a loss of range of motion as a result of another illness, she taught me about physical supports for mobility in a variety of contexts.

I felt like I had been shown a secret world, and took some time trying to internalize the lessons and expand on them. The world was peopled by people who experienced it in different ways than I did. As a human being, I needed to learn something about their experiences and try to remember it enough to be somewhat considerate and not a giant, thundering, insensitive ass as I stumbled through my existence. After some applied effort, I got some of the basics into me. If you watch me long enough, you will eventually catch me muttering complaints under my breath as I navigate public spaces. The turning radius of a wheelchair is 24 inches. I am overweight and hate scraped knuckles and would prefer more. That pole is intruding into the space of the ramp. Those light switches are too high off the floor. What idiot put the braille signage above my standing eyeline? Those lights are too bright for a space occupied by an autistic child. Those lights are too dim for someone with reduced vision. Grumble, growl, snap.

On Friday, I was confronted with the realization that I had more learning left to do. Much more embarrassing, I wasn’t even aware of the thunderously large blind spot.

I saw this story about a wonderful young person called Mariella Satow who made it possible for young children who cannot hear to enjoy Disney movies. She figured out a solution to provide on-screen American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation. This is necessary because little children can’t make use of the closed captioning that is provided with these shows.

Very little children cannot read. The same is true of some adults, to be honest.

How on earth have I made it this far in life without even once thinking about what that means? I am deeply in love with the written word, and my addiction began very early. I was reading Stephen King novels in under a day in elementary school.

BUT. Not. Everyone. Reads.

And that’s where I slammed into the wall in my blind spot. Somehow, I couldn’t “see” these people in my world as I navigate through it. Now, I’m used to my near-pathological weakness where it comes to children in general, but this strikes me as the kind of thing I should have figured out sooner.

So, now you’re going to find out that I’ve a fondness for the Rite of Penance. Please don’t get me wrong: although raised in a Catholic household, I am not a Catholic. I’m a Humanist. But there is something about the fundamental process that pleases me:

  1. Confess the wrong. I don’t use a priest. I have a friend, and a cell phone. She probably has no idea that she is playing the role of my confessor, but she does it well. I texted her, admitting that I had this giant blind spot, and that there’s this really cool young person making the world a better place;
  2. Engage in active contrition. Be sorry for the wrong, and resolve to do my best not to repeat it; and
  3. Perform penitent acts. Yeah, I haven’t figured out what I’m going to do about this gap in my knowledge yet. I’m working on it. At least now I can see a bit more of my environment.

Thanks for being here, readers. I can write. You can can read. And for the record: little children cannot read the closed captions on Disney movies.

Tomorrow, we can do better.