Turn the Lights On, Please

I’m all for being green. We recycle. We moved to the compact florescent light bulbs early—probably too early. Mark grumbled about expensive those first generation light bulbs were. Now when we throw out the garbage, we have a tiny little bag of garbage, and big bins of plastic, newspapers, tin, and cardboard. Our recycling comingles. I’m convinced that it multiplies, too, but that’s a topic for a different type of blog.

Last night, we had an Israel trip reunion at the synagogue. Mark showed his video, which was great. There was only one problem. The synagogue had already dimmed many of the hallway lights and had no lights in the upper parking lot where the handicapped parking is. Mark escorted me out to my car so I could leave.

Here’s what happens in the dark for me. Without vertigo, I can’t see well in the dark. (Yes, I probably got that from my parents, too. And, I got my sense of humor, so I’m ahead.) With my vertigo, I can’t tell where down is. And, because with my oscillopsia, the world moves up and down, I can’t tell where side-to-side is very well either. I’m disoriented in the dark. Because I practice with the BrainPort with my eyes closed, I’m much better than I used to be. But I practice standing still. I don’t practice walking.

This happened to be at the synagogue. I’ve noticed this in other places, such as restaurants, where they want to give us atmosphere. I’ve asked for the lights to be turned up so I could go to the ladies room, because the lights were much dimmer than when I was seated. I don’t go to movies much, and when I do, I sit on the aisle, because I have a shot of finding my seat by the light of the movie.

Low lights are bad enough inside. Low light levels are quite dangerous for me outside. Most of the time, inside buildings the floor surfaces are smooth. But outside, the driveways or roads or sidewalks are not smooth, and have dips, cracks, potholes, bumps and other irregular surfaces that I can’t see in the dark. Murphy’s Law says that if there is an irregular surface within a few inches of me, I will find it, and it will trip me. When Rebecca and I were in Seoul, I tripped on a sidewalk in bright daylight. She had the flat sidewalk, and where I was walking, there was a bump. I didn’t see it, because I fix my gaze up so I can stay stable. (Yes, I still do this with the medication and the BrainPort.)

So, here’s my request for public buildings and parking lots: If human beings are going to use your buildings and lots, please turn the lights on and leave them on until the last person leaves. Use florescent light bulbs. Be green. But please, don’t turn off lights until the last person has left, and is really gone. In other words, wait until “Elvis has left the building.”

1 thought on “Turn the Lights On, Please”

  1. I just took a look at your blog. Ick, the changes we have to adapt to. It’s hard for me to picture you slowed by anything!

    I’m a big believer in neuroplasticity; I used to work for Posit Science. I hope the BrainPort works out for you.

    And that thing about the textured surfaces to alert the disabled to a curb cut — yeah, I know exactly what you mean. They’re a hazard. They don’t get me any more, since I use a Segway to get around. But when you can’t feel your ankle position, very small surface irregularities can trip you up. If I do move around outside, I do so very cautiously, looking at the ground, planning and watching each step.

    Adding vertigo to that, and not being able to look down — yikes, that’s a bad combination!

    I’m fortunate in that a Segway can restore so much of my abilities. My 79-year old mother has one too! But I wish they’d been around when they could have helped my dad (he had Parkinson’s, but they didn’t come out until around the time of his death).

    But one thing I learned early on is how little the able-bodied understand about our challenges. Or even how little we understand about each other’s challenges, sometimes. Little things. Like traffic light walk buttons, placed low for wheelchairs (a pain for me on the Segway, or even just standing!) — but not close enough for anybody with a wheeled anything to actually reach! Or boxes in the aisles of the grocery store. My wife leaving my bedroom door open, depriving me of the handle I use to stand.

    Since I drop things a lot, I’m fortunate to be able to pick things up — with difficulty and support and a great deal of discomfort. Am I adding to my disability, if I don’t pick things up, or have someone else pick them up? Or am I risking injury, if I do it? Both, I think. So I’m just glad I’m still able, if I do it, and I’m glad for the assistance, if someone can help me, or I’m glad it wasn’t all that important anyway, if I leave it!

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