Does She Need A Chair?
Image of Sarah dressed in a theatrical queen gown. It has a lace up corset with a massive long, puffed out skirt bit in black. She has a 2 layered cape over her shoulders. One long gold one, then a smaller black and white faux fir to around her shoulders. She is holding up a black and hot pink striped fake leather cane. She has turned the roller into a massive eyeball with fake gold lashes on. The look on her face says 'Yes, I'm here Darling...' She is also wearing a diamante tiara. She is standing on a wooden house chair with a vase of roses on either side of her. At the top in royal blue writing are the words 'part of the ecosystem.' On either side of this are 2 hand drawn white hearts with wings on them.
It’s funny, but after a long period of disengaging with a physical world during the Covid lockdown, I had time to reflect about a lot of things including the inequalities partially sighted, blind people and many other people with “differabilities” have to face. I realised just how much the physical world can be so draining - whether it’s avoiding other people’s obstacles, being left on trains because the assistants forget about you, being grabbed in the street, always having to wait in the shops for somebody to assist, having to endure people shouting comments at you sometimes, yes, or about you as if you’re not there. It happens in the 21st century in the UK.
Contrary to what many other people were feeling during lockdown, I actually felt like I was coming up for air and it was only after we started being released that I realised I didn’t want to go back to it all again, as, just within a few weeks of being out in the physical world, I had three incidents of taxis not turning up or being an hour late, a mobility scooter running over my foot as if I wasn’t there, and a woman asking my friend I was with in a shop (without speaking to me or acknowledging me) “does she need a chair?”. It’s an effort, and test of our inner strength and capability to completely ignore what the outside world thinks of us.
There was a period in my life when I felt so angry that simply trying to get from A to B was always a battle whatever I was doing (other than being on a stage of course). I used to get angry and frustrated when people didn’t recognise me for the professional I was, how hard I’d worked for my career, the life I’ve given to charity to try and make a difference in other people’s lives, and my contribution to this world and society. When these kinds of things happened to me, I would be screaming inside, “you’ve got me wrong, you don’t see me, you have me wrong.” I used to get angry with the music and entertainment industry as every time I attempted to do something online I found that nobody had thought about accessibility for all the millions of blind and partially sighted people out there, every single platform being inaccessible. I used to get angry at the hours I’d have to spend phoning and emailing people, constantly fighting for my place. I used to get angry that once you had got through these barriers there were more barriers because people wouldn’t take you seriously unless you had millions of followers on social media (despite the thousands and thousands I’ve reached via radio stations or television or magazines). I used to feel angry at being rejected for jobs because I “didn’t look blind enough” or I looked “too sighted”. Or I couldn’t get sighted roles because I was partially sighted. I used to think, but why should I get a “blind role”, why can’t people just cast me as an equal? I’ve always had the philosophy, even as a child, that whenever I saw divisions or injustices of any kind, I would think “cut us all open and we’ll bleed the same blood, breathe the same air, share the same planet.”
At one point in my life, I did have severe depression because of all the constant rejection, all the barriers, the ignorance that I’d have to face whether it was in work or trying to just be in the world without being interfered with. I wasn’t angry at the people, I was angry at the situations, I was angry at why it felt so unfair - it seemed that all I wanted to do was what I could to give to the world, but nobody and nothing was allowing it, eventually I myself did not allow it because I was so worn down. My confidence was so battered and self-esteem so low that I stopped believing in myself to the point where it seemed that I had completely lost my identity - from being a passionate person who loved my art and loved giving to audiences to this broken person flailing about with a cane, which is how most of the world saw me.
I got angry with myself for allowing this to happen and then I thought “come on Caltieri, you’ve done more than you ever did without vision than you did with vision and there must be a way through the oppression and challenges and social barriers. It’s lack of education in the world, it’s fear that causes the ignorance so don’t oppress yourself”. I then sought therapy for it all and worked with multiple world therapists and spiritual leaders to eradicate the mindset that I’d got myself into about who I was. It took a lot of effort and a lot of work, but I found a place where I remembered who I was again, I was Sarah Caltieri. Does she need a chair? No, she needs to manifest more chances, more equality, a world where you see at least one blind or partially sighted person in every single television programme or film, at least ten on billboard (including me of course 😉). She needs to keep visualising a world in which everybody is counted, a world which is educated about the millions and millions and millions of people who do not fit into other people’s ideals or systems, but who are remembered and who do not have to fight for their very existence all the time. A world in which people accept that there are people with different body shapes or “differabilites” or who count because they have a soul - they have feelings, they are here for a purpose, just like we all are. The universe excludes nobody.