I see people with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences which includes people with and without disabilities. I’ve seen war veterans who have recovered from severe injuries, people who are physically handicapped, and a even smaller number of deaf or blind clients. People oftentimes ask, “Do any of your clients make an impact on you?” Aside from injured war vets, who always amaze me by what they’ve gone through, one person stands out in my mind. I remembered him the other day: a semi-regular client from a few years ago who has been completely blind since birth.
I saw him a number of times over the course of a year when he would want to come out and gamble (slot machines mostly). Nothing sexual ever happened, and I don’t even think I got naked for dances during these visits. I definitely remember him taking care of me, typically for 3-5 hours blocks over several days to accompany him around town. Normally when people pay just for company, I have to think of transportation; where am I going? how should I dress?, etc. For once I didn’t have to consider hopping in a cab and I actually drove him around in my own car. We usually went to dinner and then I took him shopping wherever he wanted to go. The rest of the time was spent in the room talking about his personal issues — living by himself at home and how he deals with things that we oftentimes take for granted in our everyday lives, like grocery shopping or simply getting around. He really just needed someone to talk to and I felt bad because you could really tell how alone he felt when he was home. Sometimes he got overly emotional during our conversations.
While out shopping or eating, I really started to notice how different life is when you can’t see anything, and particularly if you have never been able to see your whole life. Imagine not knowing what “color” is, what “brightness” is… or darkness. Things that we might use as adjectives to describe something to someone else are limited by only things you can hear or feel. He liked going shopping for nice timepieces because of the way the watches ticked and felt in his hands. I tried describing the faceplates or colors of the armbands or shininess, but this was all unimportant and useless information to him. Most people would be enamored by the way a watch looks, but he liked them for completely different reasons that I would have never noticed before. Even counting cash is impossible if you can’t see. You have to trust that the person who is giving you change is really giving you what is right. I know that in a lot of countries currency has different sized bills or braille to differentiate, but he had a system of folding bills in his wallet six different ways for the six different denominations (I never saw him with a $2 bill). He also liked staying only in hotels that had an elevator that said aloud “going up” and announced each floors. At dinner I often read the menu to him to help him order (and eventually knew what items to skip over that he didn’t like).
And then I had to think of creative ways to “show” him around town. What is something good to hear? Or feel to experience in Vegas? Once I took him to the Bellagio fountains to hear them exploding only to be disappointed that it was a windy day. The more explosive shows were replaced with soft, swaying water sounds. He still enjoyed it.
Though I don’t see him anymore and his numbers have all changed, I used to check in with him every so often to see how he was doing. I couldn’t imagine a world where I couldn’t see or hadn’t experienced color or light before. And what he showed me in his world definitely made me more aware of what I experience in mine.