A disability for a day: 'I felt like a hindrance'
In a nearby menswear shop, Donoghue had difficulty browsing clothes. “The jeans were hanging up so I had to ask Jonathan to take them down for me. Even with the sizes, the tags were at the top of the jeans, so I would have had to get someone over to look at all the jeans to find the ones I want.”
Changing rooms were also problematic. “The first changing room I went into, the chair didn’t fit in.” The next was a little bigger but, even after removing a stool, Donoghue got stuck at the door. “It was a 45-degree angle. I went through the process of figuring ‘can I actually get changed’.”
Donoghue developed blisters on his thumbs, but says “the overriding thing was self-consciousness. Feeling awkward and feeling that I was annoying other people. And people looking at you. It made me feel uneasy.”
A fine line of help
Clarke adds that the help received from other people was a plus. “People were helpful but it’s a fine line. You’re still very independent in a wheelchair and you appreciate kind acts being done for you; you’d still like to be able to do things for yourself.”
Mick Power experienced a similar self-consciousness when he tried to talk to people. “It was the awkwardness of having to engage with people and appreciating when you are dealing with someone with a hearing disability,” he says. “I wasn’t involved in conversations, I kind of stepped away because I didn’t know what was going on. It’s more of a general attitude. I think I had the easiest job. I could see what I was doing and I could walk, so getting around wasn’t the problem.”
One behavioural change he made was at pedestrian crossings. “I’d normally be jaywalking all the time. I felt a bit disorientated at pedestrian crossings because normally you’d wait to hear them rather than watch for the green man.”
“You find at the side of the road that you’re looking after him,” says Louise Callan. “Every time the pedestrian crossing beeped, I’d tap him on the shoulder to let him know.”
Blocking out sound entirely for someone with full hearing is almost impossible, but with industrial headphones, Power’s hearing was partially reduced, and he got some understanding of how hard it would be with all sound eliminated. “If I’m having difficulty at 90 per cent, I can only imagine the difficulty for someone that’s completely deaf.”
Dealing with staff in shops was frustrating. “I didn’t want to have to deal with them at all,” he says. “It would be nice if people knew how to engage with [the deaf].”
All three candidates were physically and mentally exhausted after their day but they had viewed their city from a different perspective, one that is all too often overlooked.