14 May 2013

Disability and the Senses

Those who are deafblind rely on their other senses in ways most of the public are unaware. For those who have lost a single sense, adapting to life without it, is a lot simpler than the life I live.
I am a deafblind incomplete quad in the world of MCS (multiple chemical sensitivities). This poses a lot of limitations on my senses. My sense of touch for instance, limits my ability to read braille or feel sign language accurately.

In the early stages of MCS, an individual may not wear a mask at all so the sense of smell can give feedback about the environment aiding in their ability to safely navigate and receive input about their surroundings. For instance, if you smell fries or other food associated with McDonald's and know that you need to turn at the street right beyond their location, it would alert you to the need to turn soon. If you smell exhaust practically on top of you, backing up out of harms way would be the only thing to do!

When my MCS hit hard, I wore a cotton mask with carbon filter. It helped a lot, but not near enough. I was still getting quite ill every time I went out in public, but I also had feedback about my surroundings through the smells I encountered.

Eventually I came to the decision that I wanted my health back. I did not care what others thought any more about me wearing a respiratory mask (AKA gas mask) I knew for my health, that this was what I needed.

What I did not anticipate though was the loss of an additional sense! What a shock to have so much more about my environment ripped out from underneath me. Granted, I could go back to the cotton mask, or not fasten the respiratory mask as securely to let some smell through, but what good was that going to be for my health? My world went from precarious to down right dangerous!

With my service dog at my side, my world is a lot safer again. My service dog is a crucial tool in my ability to safely navigate and be aware of my surroundings. When he was so ill and it looked likely that he may not work in public again, I was forced to take life in public solo. I lived in a small town and limited my outings to the essential errands, but it was still very tumultuous. I could not just use paratransit because the toxicity, lengthy rides, and diesel played havoc with my health and skin. Frankly there were times when I wondered if life would ever really be safe for me again. Thankfully his health has returned and he is back at my side helping me navigate through life.

My service dog, is an essential tool in my ability to live an independent life. I can't imagine life without my sidekick. He, not only makes my life rich, but safe.

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