By Dawn M. Sanders

Today I was greeted with yet another example of barefaced discrimination and prejudice by none other than a supposed life coach and organiser of a women’s wellbeing group here in Exeter.

When the walk was posted on Hello Spark the meet-up group

, I was of course immediately interested and up for it as a keen walker and lover of the outdoors.

I ‘never disclose’ my visual impairment – whether it’s applying for a job or even something as simple as joining a group for a Sunday walk, because I’ve had so many instances as the one I’ve just been confronted with, yet again.

Despite a policy of not disclosing my visual impairment, the walk is to take place in a small village I probably can’t get to easily by bus or train without it taking ages on a Sunday service or not being familiar with the bus route – as it’s automatically assumed people are going to drive there.

So, I put out a reasonable request for someone to meet me off the train in 2 different locations – according to what would be convenient and even posted my phone number for someone to get in touch.

Yet, what I got was no response for a day – then only to wake up to a message from one Catheryn Hope:

“Hi Dawn, Becky & I have talked about your request but we feel that the Sunday walk is not suitable for you if you have a sight impairment as the ground is very varied from hilly to stoney plus 7 miles plus in total & we could not be responsible for your safety especially as it’s quite a large group. There will be other walks happening that are more leisurely & flatter in the future. Apologies for any disappointment, but we are thinking about overall safety. Hope you have a good weekend. ”

My response to this was of course in the form of reminding her that being visually impaired does not affect my legs, it isn’t up to her and someone else to ‘decide for me’ on how far I’m able to walk or in fact whether or not I can handle rough Touraine, my opening statement was:

“Yet another example of barefaced discrimination under the guise of health and safety.”

As, people often insist that, to have a visual impairment not only means you can’t walk up steps, feel the undulating ground under your feet or need to be wrapped in cotton wool – taking the ‘easy way’.

I also reminded her why, I usually don’t disclose my visual impairment, due to this very reaction and prejudgement and decisions made by people who don’t even know me – all this despite the eloquent waffling on her website.

The astonishing prejudice that comes from someone who is supposedly a life coach, not only means she herself and others like her have a lot to learn in their limited mind-set, but a lack of willingness to understand people in different situations with a view to appreciating diversity.

This is not the first time I have been prevented from a simple walk in lovely nature, to the tune of people who create ‘issues’ that don’t exist.

The stinging clincher being – people like Ms. Hope just put out these unwelcoming, discriminating messages, yet she’ll not want any angry reaction from me, any repercussion or debate – it’s just: “Sorry for the disappointment, have a good weekend.” End of story, but ‘I’ think not!

People of this mentality should never be organising a so-called wellbeing group if they think they yield the power to prevent the wellbeing of someone – based on their own prejudice or prejudgment.

So, I strongly suggest Ms. Hope tries a little practicing-what-she-preaches or walk her talk…


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