A Furnace and Blindness

This post is about the installation of our new furnace, the new furnace having to be repaired 10 minutes after installation, and how the night’s events got me thinking about the ways I interact with people and how they interact with me.

Yesterday, we got the needed new furnace installed. Since the temperature Monday morning was 35 degrees when I woke up, I was really looking forward to having heat again.

Ten minutes after the technicians left, the brand-new furnace stopped working. I was shocked and upset. But part of me wasn’t surprised. After all, not much has gone according to plan lately.

When I called the company, I was angry and apprehensive. The anger resulted from the fact that they took a bunch of money, said the furnace was working, and it lasted for 10 minutes. The apprehension was caused by the fear I had of them wanting to go through diagnostics. While that is a normal, logical step, I heat it. Far too often the steps that need taking aren’t accessible to me as a blind person. So many times when I have acknowledged my blindness, people have assumed what they believe as my inability to do something has led to the problem. Honestly, it hurts when I know I have done what I can and someone still asks if they can speak to a sighted person.

I got a smart thermostat partially so I could control the temperature in here from an app, but I also got it so I could better understand what was happening with the heating/cooling system. Before I called the company, I used the app to make sure the settings were correct and that the system was running. Hoping the app reported correctly, I made the call.

When I wound up speaking with a technician, I told him all the steps I went through. He indicated it sound like I had done all the diagnostics that would be expected. Then he asked, “Is the display flashing?”

There it was: the question I couldn’t answer. I was going to have to admit I was blind.

When I told him, the technician said, “Well, I guess you don’t know then. Let me see if I can get out there.”

I was glad the technician was coming. I didn’t want another night without heat. Still, I felt a little like I had failed. Why did it matter if the display was flashing? I had no heat? The settings were all right.

Looking at the thermostat, the technician said, “Everything’s right and its not working.”

Sadly, I smiled and felt vindicated.

By the time the technician left, the furnace was temporarily working and he had contacted dispatch about getting someone here to fix the installation issue as soon as possible. Maybe just as important, I enjoyed interacting with him. When he had something to say, he made sure he addressed me. His tone and actions didn’t at all give me the impression that he was nervous around me.

I will regularly face people who use the high-pitched voice normally reserved for babies when they speak with me. I will regularly face people who raise their voice because I must be deaf too. I will regularly face people who assume I have no idea what I’m talking about. And I will regularly face people who who would rather talk to a sighted person than me without giving me a chance. But I must try to remember interactions, like the one I had with the technician, and use them as reminders of the reality that there are plenty of times I don’t have experiences with people that leave me feeling dismissed and disrespected. And maybe I would have more of those positive interactions if I could go into more situations not expecting to have to defend myself and/or preparing to overcome more hurt.

It would be nice if a few more people than seemingly do spent at least some time considering their reactions to and interactions with me. But I can only control my reactions to and interactions with them. Truthfully, sometimes I’m not as fair to them as they deserve.

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