Hhowdy! Below is a post I wrote last year about an uncomfortable experience I had while taking a Lyft with Dodson on my way home from school. I’m glad to say this sort of stuff is still pretty infrequent, but it happens. My words are blunt, but they’re saying something. Please take a moment to hear me out
Hello everyone. I hope your week is going well! Guess what? It’s Friday!
Today, I wanted to write about a recent experience I had while using Lyft. For those who may be unaware, Lyft is a ridesharing service that allows for paid transportation to a destination. Unfortunately Lyft, and its rival company, Uber, are very well-known in the blind and guide dog communities resspectively, for drivers denying service animals into their vehicles.
I’m happy to report that on this particular day, I was not refused service, thankfully. But, oh how I wish I was. Let me explain.
I was extremely grateful when my driver successfully located myself and my pup on my college campus, as it was raining terribly here in SoCal. When we settled into the car, the ride was pretty enjoyable. We exchanged pleasantries, the driver asked about my major, everything was going great. This, of course, had to end, due in part to the (apparent) elephant in the Prius.
“Are you blind?” He asked. I smiled and nodded in affirmation, feeling the dread in my stomach. “How do you do your schoolwork?” I relaxed, thinking that this was a harmless question. I responded by informing him that I did my schoolwork by using a Braille display, showing it to him briefly at a stop light. I explained how I used Word and a screenreader to do my work and affectively keep up with my peers.
Then, the “question” came.
“Do you believe in Jesus?” At this point, I’m pretty sure my stomach got left behind about a mile behind us. I tentatively answered yes. This, readers, seems to be a very big mistake when interacting with uninformed sighted people.
The rest of this uncomfortable Lyft ride was spent with my driver telling me that Jesus would heal me, that one day I would no longer need Dodson, because I would be made whole again. I was so exhausted, and frankly too anxious to be indignant. I fear the utter control this driver had over my safety, so I admit that I was complacent and didn’t advocate correctly. But, unfortunately, this can only get worse from here, so….
When we pulled up to my house, fifteen minutes into the Jesus-shall-save-thee lecture, my driver ended the trip. As I gathered my belongings, he locked the car doors, turned off his car, then proceeded to ask me the Question universally recognized by all blind people as the most uncomfortable and invasive of them all. “Do you mind if I pray for you?” Before I could recover from the shock that my driver had indeed locked me in his car, he began praying. And I became angry. He asked God to join our faiths, as I was (apparently), a fellow Christian in good faith and heart. He asked God to “fix” me. Notice the quotation marks around ‘fix’.
What many people will not realize that just took place is that the driver inevitably told God that I was broken, he pulled a power play move over me as a disabled blind woman. By locking me in his car, he told me that he had control of the situation. What he failed to realize is that, in his attempts to do, what he thought was a good deed, he put me in a vulnerable position that I despise. I felt dehumanized, judged for not “working” by his, and presumably, God’s standards, and boxed in. Worst of all, I felt invalidated.
To give some background, I was born with Congenital Glaucoma, something that is not very likely in newborns. Fifty four surgeries later, I went almost completely blind in 2016. At the time, I was devastated. Frustrated, because I would never know what my children would look like, upset because my nephew had just been born and I’d never see his milestones with my eyes, and scared. Uncontrollably, bone-jarringly afraid. I had moved about 300 miles away from home a few months prior to attend school at UC Santa Cruz, my dream university. All these emotions, fueled by a late night conversation with my partner, helped finalize my decision to reapply for a guide dog. Lo and behold, two years later, I have this golden raggamuffin, (who is currently sleeping with all four paws sticking straight up like the true derp he is).
So yes, my life is immeasurably better. I do get twinges of emotion, wishing I could see in the moment JUST so I could see my nephew in his blue footie pajamas dancing, or to see my just born niecelet sleep in her basinette. But no, overall, I do not want my sight back. If I could have corrective surgery, of course I’d consider it. But my eye condition is incurable, and I’ve long since given up this notion.
So what did this Lyft driver do? Well, besides being intensely invasive of my privacy, he decided for me that I wanted to be fixed. He made a choice for me that I never consented to. Silence does not mean “yes”. Uncomfortable silences and asking to be let out does not mean “keep going, speak for me, do what you want.” My dog whining and kicking the car door with his front paws does not mean “ignore us and our needs and try to fix us.” What this all means is stop, apologize, and Let. Us. Go.
After this prayer session ended, he let me out of his car with the promise that Jesus would save me. Needless to say, I reported him to Lyft and asked never to be paired with him ever again. What many sighted people do not understand is that many blind people do not want their sight back. Are there a few that do? Of course. But our wants and wishes are not the wants and wishes of others and vice versa.
As a community, society needs to realize that not all disabled people want to be “saved”. If you want to take that route, consider that God, or whomever you worship, made us this way because They wanted it to be. What’s even more possible is this: if you must, pray for us in private. Do not back people into a corner and use your able bodied self and ideas to further push the envelope. Trust in us that we know we are a minority. Always remember that your beliefs and your abilities are not the only ideals that exist in society. Remember that figuratively backing any person into a corner and continuously pushing your ideals onto them until they crumple beneath your will, is, and will always be, harassment.
As I conclude this piece, I want to leave you with this idea. What if a blind person cornered you and prayed to God or whomever their preferred deity, to have your abilities taken away? It’s angering, invasive, and feels like you’re being harassed, doesn’t it? Exactly. Safe travels, my loves.