I was glad diffrentcolours
warned me about the statue before I saw it. He probably didn't think of it as a warning, it just happened to come up in conversation one day: he told me there was this statue of blind World War I veterans outside Piccadilly, walking in a line, each with a hand on the shoulder of the person in front.
It was a very neutral explanation, mentioned because he knows I have an interest in anything about blindness. I only considered it a warning because I was on the lookout for ableism and cripspiration, especially since soldiers were involved.
I was interested to see the thing, but I don't use the main entrance of Piccadilly nearly as often as the other one, so I had time to forget about it before I encountered it.
So when I did, it was first as a nuisance. It's right
in front of the main doors. It causes weird eddies
in the spacetime continuum
as people ebb and flow around it. And worse, as people stop to take pictures
of both the statue and the explanatory plaque. Now, fully cognizant of the irony, I'm going to show you a photo I took of it the other day so you can see what I mean (click thumbnail to embiggen):
I took a bad picture here because I was so conscious of how in-everybody's-way I was -- had to be -- to take a picture at all. And I was at much greater a distance than people usually take photos from. You can actually see one or two doing so in this picture.
But all I wanted was to give you some idea of how close to the front doors of the station this statue is. People photographing it thus also tend to be pretty close by. It adds to the eddies and the obstacles. I expected to be in people's way when I was taking my photo because people are always in my way now, not looking where they are or where anyone else is but framing their shot. It's only a matter of time before someone yells at me for bumping into them and ruining their great insta moment with my actual, unlovely blindness.
Knowing I wanted some photos, I'd folded up my white cane beforehand so that...well, I don't know if I wanted to go incognito so that I wouldn't have to worry about "giving away" that I'm not completely bilnd, or so that my cane and I wouldn't end up in other people's pictures!
Honestly, I also didn't want to look like I was approving of the thing (which I assume most photo-takers are and I didn't want them to assume that of me), becuase I wasn't. I trust and hope that the charity that commisseioned it does good work for blind veterans, and as someone who'll never be a veteran I am not going to talk over them, but as a blind person I was pretty unimpressed.
I thought creating a statue that was a hindrance to blind pedestrians was already enough to die of irony poisoning, but on my first real visit to the statue (where I wasn't just hurrying by and cursing the increased chaos outside the station), after a cursory glance at the row of figures, I went over to the explanatory plaque. It is the same color metal as the statues.
And not just the plaque. All the words on it too. I couldn't read them, beyond the title which was a little larger. There was absolutely no contrast to the text. At all.
It was only on my later photo-expedition trip that I had a chance, because (as I said on Twitter this evening) my phone camera has much better resolution than my own optic nerves.
It saysVictory Over Blindness
Remembering the returning blind veterans of the First World War
More than 3,000 veterans lost their sight as a result of their service in the First World War. Making their way home from the front, they began their journey to rebuild their lives after sight loss.
In 1915 a charity was founded to support them.
Blind Veterans UK, formerly known as St Dunstan's, has continued to support thousands more blind veterans to live independently as they begin that same journey today.
It's not even anything about the statue, just the charity. And what a name! What is a "victory over blindness"? Not being blind any more? Being so good that it doesn't matter if you're blind? Is blindness an enemy to be vanquished in war? I can't think of a reading that doesn't sound ableist, I'm afraid!
There is a Braille version of the plaque too. The best statistics I can find say that fewer than 1% of the two million visually impaired people in the UK are Braille users.
When I got home, now armed with the name of the statue, I googled it. First thing I found was a BBC news page
about it that you can't rightfully call an article because most of it's a video (your reminder that pivot-to-video was always based on a lie
and sure as hell made the web less accessible) where most of the information is presented as text overlays that are not read out. Even here, blind people are being talked about, not even talked to
, much less with
. (The only speech is a few disjointed sentences from blind veterans who were at the unveiling or whatever you call it, and that is captioned, so at least our deafie friends can get more out of the video.)
I was also dismayed to learn from the accompanying text that this statue is a permanent fixture now. I hoped it'd be a short-term thing, for Remembrance Day and that -- at least in its current location. I don't mind there being a statue for disabled veterans (apparently this is the first) but does it have to be right goddam there?
I hope people get used to it and I can walk past it without somebody stopping to take a photo. But Piccadilly is the busiest station around; there's always going to be somebody who's just walking past it for the first time. Ugh. (And oh dear lord I hope I never end up in the photos; people would think it was oh so quaint and poignant to have a Real Life Blind Person in the background of their photo of the mythical blind people.)