---------- Forwarded message ---------- From: avinash shahi <shahi88avin...@gmail.com> Date: Sat, 7 Apr 2018 17:32:02 +0530 Subject: Annabel Fenwick Elliott reports for the telegraph: I'm blind and deaf, and I've explored 127 countries alone – here's what I've learnt To: disability-studies-india <disability-studies-in...@googlegroups.com> Cc: jnu_vision <jnu_vis...@googlegroups.com>
Close your eyes, cover your ears, now go and tour Rome on your own. It’s a prospect that seems infeasible, and yet voyaging the world solo while blind and mostly deaf is exactly what Tony Giles does, and he’s almost certainly better travelled than you are. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/tony-giles-the-deaf-and-blind-world-explorer/ The Devon-based author and explorer, who was diagnosed with a rare genetic visual and auditory impairment during his early childhood, has visited 127 countries thus far, all 50 of the US States, and all seven continents on the planet. “I plan to continue travelling until I’ve visited every single country in the world, then keep travelling until I die,” he tells Telegraph Travel. Giles will turn 40 this year. He was nine months old when the problem with his vision was discovered - cone dystrophy and photophobia. At six, he was declared partially deaf in both ears. He could see in black and white until the age of 10. These days, he’s entirely blind and about 80 per cent deaf. A powerful hearing aid helps him to hear in certain scenarios but not others. "It's like having a phone conversation on a broken telephone line," he explains. "I hear some sounds and words clearly but miss others." group start Tony Giles, pictured at a floating market in Banjarmasin, capital of South Kalimantan, IndonesiaCREDIT: TONY GILES/CATERS Tony Giles, pictured at a floating market in Banjarmasin, capital of South Kalimantan, IndonesiaCREDIT: TONY GILES/CATERS group end Giles was educated at two schools for the visually impaired - Exhall Grange School in Coventry and later the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford - where he says he gained all the skills he needed to achieve independence; braille, mobility training and the use of special computer software among them. So without sight, and very limited hearing, what is it actually like to navigate the world alone - a task daunting enough to most people in and of itself? “I experience monuments by climbing them: as I have the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty,” he explains. “I experience cities by walking them. I notice shifting gradients, detect the changes in surfaces under my feet from gravel to tarmac, cobblestones to concrete, earth to marble. “I sense the change in space when hiking the narrow trails of a forest, as they lead out to an open field when the fresh wind hits my face. “I visit famous churches, mosques and temples, touch their crumbling walls and feel the textures that have been layered over the centuries. “I enjoy the aromas of a marketplace, the grilling of meat, the frying of onions and garlic, the zesty spices, ginger and herbs. “It’s the hussle and bussle of somewhere like Jerusalem’s Old City, or Zanzibar’s Stone Town - alive with people, animals and sellers haggling that gives me the impression of a place.” group start Jerusalem's Old City CREDIT: GETTY Jerusalem's Old CityCREDIT: GETTY group end Best of all though, are high-adrenaline experiences, he says. “I’ve bungee jumped 16 times thus far, skydived three times, and white water rafted in Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica and Zambia, to name a few. I love it because I can feel everything.” The thrill of movement, he says, and the challenges of getting from A to B are what continue to motivate him - he favours the richer sensations of trains and boats over other modes of transport. To plan his trips, Giles uses a type of software called JAWS which allows him to read his computer screen using text-to-speech output. This enables him to research destinations, book hostels, and organise his itinerary ahead of time. He often needs help booking his flights, he points out, because airline sites are notoriously clunky for the visually impaired. He then travels with a digital device that stores his documents and research, relevant phone numbers, directions to and from airports and around public transport, as well as e-books. Also on his packing list are his hearing aids, plenty of spare batteries (they die after three weeks and replacements are hard to source abroad), and a spare cane to guide him. The light-sensing cells in the eye's retina come in two varieties: rods and cones. Rods are extremely sensitive and work better in dim light, whereas cones are more effective in bright light. Cones give us our colour vision. Cone dystrophy is a genetic disorder which stops the cones working, leading to loss of central and colour vision. People with stationary dystrophy have the same level of sight loss from birth or early childhood. Progressive dystrophy, as in Tony Giles' case, develops later and sight is lost gradually over time. Giles' photophobia often accompanies cone dystrophy, and causes an intolerance to light. It makes his eyes extremely sensitive to sunlight and fluorescent light, meaning he must often wear dark glasses to alleviate discomfort. “I’ve had my cane run over on several trips,” he says. As for using a smartphone, unlike most other visually impaired people, it’s a firm no. “I don’t like swipe technology, it drives me mad,” Giles explains. “Yes, it may help me locate a specific place more quickly and independently, but I like engaging with the public to help me find places, and anyway, in places like Africa, the internet is hardly reliable.” Asked what he does when he gets lost and doesn’t speak the native language, Giles says: “I always make sure I have an address card with the place I’m staying written on it in the local language, so if I really become stuck, I can shout ‘taxi!’, show them the card and return to my accommodation.” Learning new languages on-the-go is a challenge, but Giles says he always attempts to memorise the basics (“hello”, “thank you”, “water”) for wherever he’s off to, and can almost always find someone who can speak a bit of English if he needs help. Giles funds his travels partly using the private pension his father left him when he died, and partly with earnings from the two ebooks he’s written, the second of which - Seeing The World My Way - was republished last year. He keeps to a tight budget, uses public transport wherever possible, joins free walking tours, and makes use of couch-surfing as often as he can. “It’s great for meeting and staying with local people, an exchange of cultures,” Giles remarks. “Which is the essence of real travel. Plus, for the most part, it’s free. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s magical.” The one place he wouldn’t re-visit? “Armenia,” he says. “I found getting about and visiting places difficult, and felt most people I encountered just wanted to make money out of me. There were only a few backpackers, so it was hard to network and get help with directions. I found a few kind people on the streets, but not many.” And the best place he’s ever been? New Zealand - (incidentally, Telegraph Travel readers agree, having now nominated it as their favourite country in the world five times in a row) - and Antarctica. “I turned up in Ushuaia, the world’s most southern city, found a cruise ship willing to take me at the last minute, paid slightly more for an extra guide and stepped aboard,” he recalls. “It was nine days of magic. I touched whale bones washed up on the shore, sat on huge chunks of ice, stroked glaciers and listened to the cackles of penguins all around.” Giles’ persistent trek across the globe has only ever been halted to address serious health issues associated with his condition. In 2001, shortly after arriving in Melbourne having backpacked the southern hemisphere unaided, he received an email from his mother. “It said, ‘Hi Tony, hope you’re well, you have kidney damage, you need to see a doctor, you could die – love mum’,” Giles recounts. “I did what any young, adventurous lad would do upon hearing such news - I went and got drunk.” Teetering on the edge of alcoholism, Giles had his last drink in 2002, then in 2008 underwent a successful kidney transplant - the donor was his stepfather - and within three months, was off on his travels once more, first around the UK, then the rest of the world again. Sometimes, he travels with his girlfriend of nine years. She is also blind and lives in Athens. They met after she came across his website, after which a friendship gradually evolved into a relationship, but Giles says that when they’re apart, though he misses her, he never feels lonely. As he prepares himself for Oman, we ask what simple things others could do should they cross his path to make his passage easier. “Speak to me before offering to help, rather than just grabbing me,” he advises. “It’s frightening to grab someone who’s visually impaired, and can often lead to an adverse reaction. “A gentle tap on the arm or shoulder followed by a ‘Do you need any help?’ will suffice. And please, people, don’t point when giving directions.” Albania: September 2012 Andorra: March 2014 Argentina: February 2004, January-March 2011 Armenia: November 2010 Aruba: February 2016 Australia: October-December 2001, February 2002, September-October 2016 Austria: September 2005, August 2012, September 2012 Azerbaijan: October 2014 Bahrain: November 2015 Belarus: October 2015 Belgium: August 2000, October 2005, August 2009 Belize: June 2016 Bolivia: March 2011 Bonaire: February 2016 Bosnia and Herzegovina: September 2012 Brazil: January 2004, November 2012 Bulgaria: June 2010 Burkina Faso: March 2017 Burundi: October 2013 Canada: June-September 2004, April 2006, April 2007, March 2008, December 2009, June 2016 Chile: March 2004, February 2011 Colombia, (Republic of), December 2012 Cook Islands: November 2016 Costa Rica: March-April 2016 Cote d’Ivoire: March 2017 Croatia: September 2012 Cuba: May 2004 Curaçao: February 2016 Cyprus: March 2014 Czech Republic: October 2005, October 2012, September 2017 Denmark: October 2008 Ecuador: December 2012 El Salvador: May 2016 England: from 1995 to present Estonia: November 2008 Ethiopia: December 2013 Falkland Islands: February 2011 Faroe Islands: August 2015 Finland: October-November 2008 France: April 1994, September 2005, June 2012, March 2014, February 2017 French Guiana: November 2012 Gambia: March 2012, April 2017 Georgia: October-November 2010 Germany: August 1998, October 2003, October 2005, September 2007, July-August 2009, October 2012, June-July 2014 Ghana: February-March 2017 Gibraltar: January 2008 Greece: November 2009, January-March 2010, April-June 2010, July 2010, September 2010 November-December 2010, April-May 2011, May-June 2011, October-December 2011, January 2012, April-May 2012, June 2012, September 2012, December-February 2012-2013, April-June 2013, January 2014, April-May 2014, September 2014, January 2015, August-September 2015, December 2015-January 2016, December 2016-January 2017, August 2017 Guatemala: May-June 2016 Guernsey: May 2013 Guinea: April 2012, April 2017 Guinea Bissau: April 2017 Guyana: November 2012 Honduras: May 2016 Hungary: September 2005 Iceland: October 2007 Indonesia: February-May 2015 Ireland: April 2001, March 2007, May 2011, June-July 2016 Isle of Man: July 2013 Israel: October-December 2017 Italy: June 2005, September 2005, December 2005, May 2006, October 2006, July 2011, November 2011, April 2012, December-January 2012-2013 Japan: April-May 2017 Jersey: October 1997, May 2013 Jordan: October 2017 Kazakhstan: September 2016 Kenya: November 2013 Kosovo: July 2010 Kuwait: November 2015 Latvia: August 2014 Lesotho: September 2004 Liechtenstein: August 2012 Lithuania: July 2014 Luxembourg: August 2009 Macedonia: May 2010, July 2010 Malawi: December-January 2004-2005 Malaysia, May 2015 Mali, (Republic of), March-April 2012 Malta: January 2012 Mauritania: February 2012 Mexico: May 2004, June 2016 Moldova: June 2014 Monaco: March 2014 Montenegro: September 2012 Morocco: February 2008, February 2012 Mozambique: September-October 2004 Netherlands: August 2000, October 2005, February 2016 New Zealand: December-February 2001-2002, October-November 2016 Nicaragua: April-May 2016 Northern Ireland: February 2006, May 2011, June 2016 Norway: February 2008, October 2008 Oman: March 2018 Palestine: November 2017 Panama: March 2016 Papua New Guinea: March 2015 Paraguay: March 2011 Peru: March-April 2011 Poland: October 2005, July 2014 Portugal: January 2008 Qatar: January 2016 Romania: May-June 2014 Rwanda: November 2013 San Marino: April 2012 Scotland: April 2005, January 2007, August-September 2007, July 2010, July 2013, June 2016 Senegal: March 2012, April 2017 Serbia: June-July 2010 Slovakia: August 2012, September 2017 Slovenia: September 2012 South Africa: September 2004, January 2005 Spain: December-January 2007-2008, July 2009, March 2014, December-January 2014-2015, October-November 2015 Sri Lanka: October-November 2007 Suriname: November 2012 Swaziland: September 2004 Sweden: October 2008 Switzerland: April 2008, August 2012 Tanzania: September-October 2013 Thailand: February 2002 Turkey: August-October 2009, October 2010, November 2010, April-May 2014, September 2014 Uganda: November 2013 Ukraine: June 2014 United Arab Emirates: November 2015 United States of America: April 1995, August 1998, January-June 2000, June 2002, December-January 2002-2003, March-August 2004, July-August 2006, April-July 2007, March-April 2008, December-January 2009-2010, September 2011, June 2015 Uruguay: February 2004 Vatican City: 21st July 2011 Venezuela: August-September 2008, November 2012 Vietnam: February 2002 Wales: August 1996, August 1997, June 2001, October 2006, June 2011, April 2014, July 2015 Western Sahara: February 2012 Zambia: November-December 2004 Zimbabwe: November 2004 -- Avinash Shahi Doctoral student at Centre for Law and Governance JNU -- Avinash Shahi Doctoral student at Centre for Law and Governance JNU Search for 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