Since August 13th, I have been living in Hamburg and started to familiarize myself with the new surroundings and people. Although Hamburg is not known to be “the city of the blind” like Marburg, I
discovered a lot of ways that make life easier, some of which do not yet exist in Marburg…
Firstly, Hamburg is a way bigger place than the city of Marburg and therefore has a lot more public transport, such as buses, Metro (S-Bahn and U-Bahn) or ferries. The first thing I check on Google Maps is what public transport I should use before I look for further directions after arrival at the nearest S-Bahn, U-Bahn, ferry or bus stop. Mostly, I don’t even have to watch the public transport schedule very closely to be on time because it operates regularly in a short manner of time.
Most of the S- or U-Bahn stops also have a convenient infrastructure, at least on the platforms. At most of these stations, you only have two tracks on the same platform so you just need to know which side of the platform (direction in other words) is yours. This way you don’t have to listen to the announcements which mostly don’t exist anyway, at least for S- and U-Bahn trains. I sometimes accidentally hopped on the wrong train but thanks to the convenient platforms at most of the stations, I just left the train at the next stop, went on the other side of the platform and took the next train back. However, the central station is the spot where they usually announce the trains arriving and departing and you can find braille labels on the staircase railings to clarify on which platform you are. The more difficult part is catching the right ferry but I use them quite rarely anyway.
In one of my recent articles, I compared a couple of ridesharing and taxi apps. Of course, I also take advantage of those apps a lot as well, especially MOIA! However, sometimes FREE NOW is a little more convenient.
Navigating and people
Putting public transport and ridesharing aside for a while, I find navigating in Hamburg way easier than expected in first place. The pavements are usually pretty wide and rather filled with people than with obstacles such as bicycles, E-Scooters or tables and chairs; in other words, enough space for a crazy blind person like me speeding down the streets of Hamburg! 😀
As I already stated in one of my recent posts, a lot of people in Hamburg observe the near surroundings and if they are curious about something (some blind guy with a cane trying to find his way, for instance), they either just have a closer eye on you and approach you after a while when they think you cannot make it yourself to ask what’s the matter or it might happen that if you share a way, they would just walk next to you and start talking about this and that. Mostly, they begin with something like “I admire your skills and confidence, keep it up!” or “Isn’t it sometimes difficult to navigate through the city with all those cars, bikes and E-Scooters and other obstacles on the pavement?” Another common phrase is “I hope you don’t get fed up with me and my silly questions”. Well, not really, because it is basically just our nature to ask questions in order to improve our knowledge; but I really got fed up with people approaching me just to express how terribly sorry they feel about my blindness, sometimes combined with questions such as “Are you completely blind? So this means you cannot see? Nothing at all?” Some people did change their mind when I told them that, except of my eyes that don’t work, I am a human being like anybody else who likes to explore the surroundings and live its life; others couldn’t stop expressing even louder than before what a poor person I must be and why other people on the street wouldn’t give a shit. Nevertheless, I got used to situations like those and found my own way to cope with it (walking away and/or telling very annoying people to get lost and leave me alone is one way).
What really irritates me sometimes are people who don’t say a word and grab and guide me to who knows where. This happens way more often than in Marburg, so whereas in the beginning of my internship I kept calm and tried to talk it out, I nowadays figure that, even if those guys might not have any bad intentions and just want to help (not knowing how), there are better ways to approach me and ask whether I need help or not.
Most of the people who behave that way are not capable of speaking any German nor English, in worst case. Nevertheless, as long as one is capable of talking – regardless of the language – it is not too much of an effort learning words like “Help?”. Learn the words for “yes” and “no” and you know enough vocabulary to approach someone and ask if one needs help or not. I hope you got my point and if you have similar experiences or other suggestions to solve communication issues, feel free to comment or get in touch; I’m curious to hear your opinion about this.