house hunting for blind people is a little more tactile than Wedding planning. this is, of course, after you get past the process of searching the internet for a suitable property. I remember looking online at houses that sounded perfect! right town, right number of bedrooms, good rent. but then we would have to ask sighted people questions such as:
“where abouts is this road in relation to the shops, church, doctors etc?” we found a lovely house once, only to be told by mum and dad that it had a huge garden which would require a lot of maintenance. while we wanted something with a small garden to accommodate the guide dog and so we could sit out in the summer with our children (God Willing), a massive garden with lots of flowers, acres of grass and 20 or so trees was just not practical. I had visions of us either having to use scissors to cut the grass, or one of those manual push along mowers with one of us pushing it up and down, and the other on hands and knees on the lawn trying to find out if we’d missed any patches of grass.
what we were looking for was simple. a 2/3 bedroom house, with access to a back garden/area for the dog etc, and near the shops and other amenities in Potton.
we had chosen Potton because it is a small town, which isn’t too much of a jump for me from a tiny village, and it has all the shops you would need for day to day things, a butchers, bakers, Londis, grossers, tescos, co-op, chemist, etc etc etc. it has a post office too, and the doctors which I am registered at are in the town. plus, we would be attending Potton baptist church, and our plan was to walk to church on a sunday.
the bonuses are, a fish and chip shop, Chinese, and indian take away, and a hairdressers and barbers. the only thing it lacks is a bank, but after all, its rear we need to pay money inn, and it seems to leave the bank account all on its own.
the other thing that drew us to Potton was the community spirit. because we would be shopping locally, people would soon get to know us. plus we have a lot of c friends in Potton.
so having chosen our location, we just needed to figure out where abouts in Potton we should live to be close to everything.
I remember one night finding a house that was on the same street as the church. i went into my mum’s room and asked excitedly
“mum, how long is Horslow street?” her reply was, “from one end to the other”. not helpful, but she was half asleep!
we were looking for private rented accommodation, as being blind does not get you far up the priority list for social housing, and since we are hoping to have a family, we didn’t want the risk of being put into a 1 bed house for a while, then moved to a 2 bed, then a 3 etc as required. its important for us to have a base point to work with. we can’t just have a stroll around town and work out where things are, we have to be taught. it requires someone coming out to us each week to show us repeatedly how to get to the same location, until its ingrained in our minds. moving around a lot is not really an option for us as blind people.
My parents were the ones who spotted our new home. is a 2 bedroom ground floor flat, with a back yard which is concrete. It was right on the market square, and all we need to do to get to the shops is cross the road and they’re there.
The front door opens straight into the lounge, which is a long room. off to the right is the kitchen, which is another long room, and is quite narrow. the space has been really well used though, and there are loads of cupboards, something which Mum and nearly every other cook we’ve shown it to is impressed by. going back into the lounge and turning right out of the kitchen door gets you into the small hall. on the right is the bathroom, to the left is a massive walk in cupboard, and facing you are the spare room and the master bedroom.
It's strange as blind people, walking into an empty house and trying to imagine furniture there. when we first saw it, it felt small to Will, and I imagined a lot more furniture fitting in it than actually did.
measurements mean nothing to us, so we had to try and imagine how big sofas and tables etc were in relation to the room. sometimes you can make something fit in your mind, but when you ask someone sighted they say “you think that’s going to fit? you’re joking!”
It's taken me since April until now to begin feeling confident walking to the shops. I love the fact that everyone is helpful, and everyone looks out for us. It's nice to feel among friends wherever i go. I have also learnt the way to church and decided that it has the longest steepest drive in the world!
It will be lovely to begin our new life together from Saturday, and we can’t wait.
Choosing appliances is an interesting adventure too. for example, our cooker needs to be one which is as safe as possible. an induction hob is the safest way for us to cook, and it is magnetic, and so are the saucepans we use on it. this means that the only place it gets hot is the place where the saucepan is. it effectively uses it as a hotplate. The hob around the saucepan is cold, so if anything spills or if we touch it by accident it doesn’t burn us. There is no way of protecting ourselves from oven burns, just being sensible. We have labeled the oven with tactile bumps, so we know where settings such as 180C are. we had a job to find an induction hob cooker without touch controls, but we eventually found one with dials and were bought this as a wedding present.
My washing machine was supplied with an braille control panel by hotpoint. It's made of plastic and is durable and was supplied with a braille key of the symbols on the dials. This can be done for any dial operated washing machine. so there is no excuse for either of us about doing the washing. we have to sort it with a color detector which tells us roughly what colors things are. There are a lot of other things we have, such as talking freeview box, a talking phone, and a braille thermostat for our heating. The flat is just right and a real God Send. It's centrally located, small enough to be manageable housework (we can hoover the whole flat without unplugging the hoover once), and it is big enough to suit us for a few years yet. We are really blessed to have found it.
Now we are in the middle of the final preparations for our wedding. Will let you know how it all goes.