Would you judge people differently if you were unable to see?
Reprint from Pfizer World October 21, 2013
We’re all influenced by other people’s appearance, whether we know it or not, and that includes signs of ageing, like grey hair or the lines on someone’s face.
But what if you were unable to see? Would you judge people differently if the sound of their voice was all you had to go on? How would you perceive your own ageing process if you were blind?
Ian Morris and his guide dog, Gunner
Ask Ian Morris, Supply Chain Planning Manager at Havant. Here’s someone who challenges perceptions and misconceptions every day of his life – that’s because Ian is blind, and gets about with the help of his guide dog, Gunner.
“I can’t conceptualise getting ‘old’,” he told us. “I understand getting older but what will ‘old’ look like when I get there?
“I remember that my grandmother was old. She sat in a wingback chair, suffered from terrible arthritis, was small and frail – so she was what ‘old’ is supposed to be. She read large-print books which were so big and heavy that they were propped on a little table. She didn’t care much for television – it was the radio all the way. She was born, lived and died in the same town. This was only 35 years ago.
“My mum isn’t old, she is nearly 80, but her ailments are all under control thanks to modern medicines. She reads books on a Kindle device. She goes to clubs where she mixes with old people, and enjoys showing them photos she has downloaded from the cloud. She took her first trip abroad at the age of 70 and has now visited most of the globe. She isn’t old.”
What will getting old mean for Ian? (who, incidentally, is aged 44. His dog, Gunner, is just three).
“I look forward to an age where technology is an enabler – it will give me time to walk the dog. I also look forward to a generation of medicines that we haven’t discovered yet, which could mean we live longer than any other generation in history. Perhaps I may even see again. That said, my lovely wife went into soft focus at 28, and will never be older than 32 to me. This may be one of the benefits of blindness!
“I think I will never get truly old in the traditional sense, but I will get older. This is already happening: my 13-year-old’s music is really dire, and it takes the barber longer to do my eyebrows than the top of my head. But proper ‘old’? Never!”
Blindness is no barrier Ian was working as a biochemist in 1991 when he first discovered he had a degenerative eye disease. He moved from the laboratories into Supply Chain and, as he puts it, “this is where my career really started”. Today, he leads a team that translates customer demand into supply plans. They look after two of Pfizer’s premier brands, Prevenar and Enbrel, shipping around 60 million doses a year to almost every country in the world.
“As my vision deteriorated, I moved through various assistive technologies and now work in a world of electronic voices,” he explained. “My faithful hound Gunner joined the team in 2011 and makes a world of difference to me. He is well loved by the colleagues in the office.
“Being blind is really rather tricky and I would prefer to see, but I live by the motto "no fear" and see blindness as just one of those things you have to find a way of dealing with, so that I can get on with the important things in life." Ian added: “I feel well respected by my colleagues who recognise me for the passion, energy and drive I can bring to the team. I feel valued for the skills and the experience I have, not the visual acuity I lack. I may be blind but I have vision.”