By Kathryn McPherson
Welcome Host, Dialogue in the Dark Melbourne
When I was younger, I always felt out of place. I was always different from my friends, always trying to fit in and never quite doing so.
Isn’t it funny, the worst thing that can happen to you in high school is to be ‘different’, and then all of a sudden when you leave school, it’s what we all crave…
I feel as though I was put on this earth to make it just a little better. When I finished VCE at school (aged 17), if you had’ve asked me “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, I wouldn’t have hesitated to tell you I want to be a massage therapist – I always wanted to help people, make them feel better.
By the time I was 20, I would have told you I wanted to run a cafe and make people happy with delicious and soul filling food and drinks. My paradigm of what I could do had broadened, but I still wanted to help people.
Now, aged 24, I would tell you I want to be an educator, or a public speaker and raise awareness for those who are blind. Because I know, already, that the possibilities for me are limitless… and that the sighted world has a long way to go to understand this.
Just because someone is blind, that doesn’t make them stupid. I don’t particularly think that people consciously think this, but being rejected from so many jobs AFTER telling them I am legally blind makes me question people’s opinions of the blind community. Hopefully, it’s just lack of awareness.
But now, I have a new job – one which embraces my difference, and gives me the chance to alter other people’s views of what it means to be legally blind, to raise awareness that we are not worse off than them, just different. We can do things too, we sometimes just need to find a different way.
I am a welcome host at Dialogue in the Dark, and I have the greatest pleasure of working with some truly amazing people. People like me, who have low vision or blindness. It is the first of it’s kind in Australia, and I have never been so proud to be a part of something that can truly create impact, make a difference for the community – both blind, and sighted.
Sammie [my guide dog] and I are much happier here. In only a few weeks, I’ve learned a lot about myself, and about others who are also living with blindness or low vision. And I’ve learned not to be scared any more about what my future holds.
I have never been around so many like-minded people at once, and I am in total awe of every single one of them. Many of us have already experienced a transformation of our world views, and our futures.
For me, the travel situation has changed: I am now no longer close to home, so Sammie and I commute to and from work with public transport. Initially the thought of that scared me – I didn’t think I could have that level of independence – but honestly, I have been pleasantly surprised! Not only am I not scared of the city anymore after only a few weeks of traveling to the city, but I also am now so much more confident. Now, I feel confident that I would be able to meet someone in the city. I couldn’t do that before.
I’m also more comfortable with being legally blind, and after having experienced Dialogue in the Dark, I am comfortable with what true blindness could be for me… knowing that it’s a real possibility for my future.
One of the most amazing things about Dialogue in the Dark, is the transformation of people’s perceptions of blindness – from before they enter the darkness to when they emerge from the experience. And I get to experience this every day, it never tires.
Before people enter the experience, people are often nervous, and uneasy about what they are about to do. However, when they come out, the change in attitude and mindset is obvious. The most amazing thing that I hear is not so much the words that people say, but in the tone in which they say them.
Honestly, I couldn’t be happier in my employment if I tried, I have never been that person to shout about where I work, but I feel like this is different. I’m proud. All in all, I feel as though this new adventure is exactly what both Sammie and I needed.
I feel like there is so much good to be done in Melbourne, and this exhibition is the kick in the pants that Australia needs to make it more open to giving people who are blind or vision impaired a fair go, because thats what Australia is all about right? We all just want a fair go.
So book your tickets now, and come and say hi. Thank you for letting me share my transformation, I can’t wait to witness yours.
Kathryn has had low vision since birth, and is legally blind – which for her, means that she can’t drive a car, but she does get to have a best friend and partner in crime in her guide dog, Sammie. This article is an excerpt of a post that was originally published on Kathryn and Sammie’s blog. You can follow the daily musings of Sammie the Guide Dog on Instagram.