Disability

Transcript: "Echoes put me off": How blind people choose a new home

This is a full transcript of "Echoes put me off": How blind people choose a new home as first broadcast on 14 September 2018. Presented by Damon Rose and Beth Rose

MUSIC - Hello, before you get to your expected podcast I want to tell you about Flip. It's the home of box set comedy from BBC Radio 4. You get a whole series at once from the likes of Matt Berry, Sarah Kendall, Joe Lycett and many more. Subscribe to Flip wherever you get your podcasts.

DAMON- There's something we've all done in the office fairly recently. Don't worry you can let your children continue listening to this podcast. A number of us have moved house, which of course is quite a big deal, perhaps even more so - god, I sound like one of those horrible documentaries, don't I, on Radio 4 - perhaps even more so if you are disabled or if you can't see.

Now, another of our number in our big wide collective office, Lee, Lee Kumatat, one of our friends at Ouch…

LEE - Hello.

DAMON- Hello Lee… is moving, quite a big move.

LEE - Well, it's not that far. It's only 200 miles from London, but I'm moving to Manchester.

DAMON- Well, we can all detect your Australian accent, I guess you did do another quite big move at one stage.

LEE - That was the biggest move. And to be fair I always thought that the next move would be moving back to Australia; but no, I'm moving to Manchester.

DAMON- Okay. I'm Damon Rose and this is Ouch. We've got Beth Rose - not related.

BETH - Not related. Hello Damon.

DAMON - In the studio as well. And Beth, you're just about to move.

BETH - I am also moving, and I am moving about 1.8 miles from my current place. But it's stressful as well, even just that short distance.

DAMON- And last year I moved. I moved back to London, which is something that no sane person would do - if you can sane on a disability podcast.

LEE - I don't think you can, Damon.

DAMON- We'll edit it out.

LEE - Okay.

DAMON- I moved almost 100 miles from Ipswich to London because the commuting was driving me literally nuts.

BETH - I was just going to say, Lee could commute 200 miles if you were doing 100 miles.

LEE - It was considered, I have to say.

BETH - No!

DAMON- Really?

LEE - Yeah.

BETH - Seriously?

LEE - Yeah.

DAMON- Because you've got a new job in Manchester, that's why you're…

LEE - That's why I'm moving, yeah.

DAMON- Salford in fact.

LEE - I am moving to join BBC Production North in Salford, yes.

BETH - Woo!

LEE - Having been freelance for about six years they finally decided to give me a permanent job.

BETH - Yay!

DAMON- And you've been looking for houses. You've been spending time up in Salford haven't you recently. Can you tell us a bit about that? How are you doing have you found a house?

LEE - I, cross everything, hope I've found a house, yes. Moving is one of those things where I just have to accept that I'm going to need a lot of help.

DAMON- You're blind. Did we establish that?

LEE - I am blind. And you may have just heard my new guide dog whining down there, so apologies for her. Frankie, sit down.

BETH - So, you've got everything going on: new house, new job, new dog.

DAMON- And blind.

BETH - And blind.

DAMON- Still blind.

LEE - And still blind. And new city. But in terms of looking for houses for me it's just about admitting that I need a lot of help with it. Remember typing pools? I had a link clicking pool of people that I would just send and my caption would be, 'this one sounds really good' so people would click on them and let me know what they thought. And then they were fantastic, Street View, they would look around and see what was around the place and how far it was from transport and they would do the whole thing, because that is actually really difficult. You could read the descriptions but it's actually looking at the layout of a suburb and where it is in relation to my job, that was the thing that I found really time consuming and I just handed that off onto somebody else.

But the viewing, going and actually looking at these places was so stressful, so nerve wracking.

DAMON- Why? What was the worst bit?

LEE - Well, people have been very kind and given me recommendations of places to live, like suburbs to live, but I decided that I wanted to try somewhere in central Manchester, in the city area. And everybody sort of counselled me against it; but no, Lee was going to go and try it anyway. They could tell me what a wasteland it was and I was still quite keen on that idea. So, we turn up in the pouring rain to Manchester Piccadilly, and we schlep all the way to this flat that really was in a wasteland and it was in a very unwelcoming building that just had echoey halls, and the flat itself had one of those floating floors that just for me anyway - this is my personal opinion - just don't do it for me. And it was just this uniform flat doors opening off a central hallway. And I immediately thought no, this is not for me. And I said to my friend who was with me, no, no, no.

And this is another thing about moving, you need, I do anyway, need to rope people in to help, but then you kind of lose a little bit of the control of the situation. Because I had already decided there was no way I was going to live there, but my friend continued to ask questions about it. And whether I just didn't make my feelings known clearly enough, but that's quite difficult to do when an estate agent is standing there.

BETH - Or do you think they were just being polite? Like, oh god, we've dragged out James from Manchester Homes and he's wet because it's tipping it down outside.

DAMON- If Manchester Homes actually exists. That is an accident, incidentally, business. [Laughter]

LEE - And James, you were lovely. Well, maybe, except there were other people viewing and the estate agent had another viewing to go to and was desperately trying to get out of there. And so I was trying to make the situation as easy as I could for everybody, and my friend wasn't.

DAMON- But speaking as a blind person too, me, that's me, I totally understand and get your echoey halls business. I don't like places that are echoey as well. Beth, do you judge things, would you turn down a place on the basis that it was too echoey?

BETH - Not that it was too echoey, but because it's echoey obviously it's just really hard surfaces and three doors off a hallway, and that's not very welcoming, even if you have all the doors open. So, I think I wouldn't notice the echoes as such but it would be the general ambience I wouldn't really be up for. But a lot of flats, obviously I was looking in London, they are all identikit kind of. They're all like that. It depends how desperate you are I think.

LEE - Yeah, well I wasn't desperate at that point. But by the sixth flat viewing I'd had enough. We were all tearing strips off each other me and my two friends.

BETH - And this was all in the city centre, was it? You were still adamant?

LEE- No, I'd looked at one in the city centre and then we went further out to look at other places.

DAMON- So, you found a borough that you liked and you got a house. And what do you like about the house you've got?

LEE - It's got lots of walls. It is actually my dream house.

BETH - Really?

DAMON- Oh.

LEE - I've always wanted to live in a two up, two down, English…

BETH - In a little terrace is it?

LEE - It is in a little terrace, English terraced house. I've always, always wanted to, and so it is my dream house. It has a fireplace; okay it's a gas fire in the fireplace but hey, we can overlook that.

DAMON- Shall we talk about furniture, filling your house? How are you doing with that?

LEE - Well, I've got a little bit of furniture. I've got a futon that I love and I've got a double seater recliner couch. You've got to make your small spaces as comfortable as possible, right?

BETH - Yeah.

LEE - And this house is furnished, so I'm going to have to kind of negotiate because I do want to keep my furniture that I do have. But what about you Damon when you moved, because you had loads of furniture to move, did you keep it all?

DAMON- The thing about furniture is that I leave it all entirely up to my wife, because I don't really feel I've got the confidence to buy my own furniture, as someone who can't see, anymore anyway; not in a house that's got two kids, got a wife. When I used to live on my own of course I would just pop out and buy any old thing that had its practical use. I remember buying a CD tower once.

LEE - Did you buy it? So, you went out on your own and bought a CD tower?

DAMON- Yeah.

LEE - Or did you take somebody?

DAMON- Yeah, and it went round and round and round and you could sort of twist it round. And it was square. Actually it was pretty ugly looking but it served a purpose.

LEE - Is a CD tower really furniture? What about a couch? Because presumably you had a couch before you got married, right?

DAMON- I did have a couch. And when I met my wife, as she is now, and she came round the house she hated it, absolutely hated the patterns on my sofa, couldn't believe that I'd ever bought it.

LEE - So, why did you buy it? What drew you to it?

DAMON- Because it was comfortable and it had a wide seat. You didn't have to sit sort of completely upright, you know in those sofas…?

LEE - So, you could lounge?

DAMON- Yeah, lounge.

LEE - On a lounge.

DAMON- Lie down and watch the telly.

LEE - And so did you buy that on your own?

DAMON- I bought it with the help of my parents, who unfortunately gave me no creative input at all to the purchase of this sofa. I think they thought, oh well, we're enabling him to purchase a sofa, doesn't matter what it looks like.

BETH - Was it also the cheapest one, do you think? Because sometimes they put a premium on the nicer material.

LEE - Well, they do, don't they?

BETH - And if you didn't really care then you were quids in.

LEE - But the other thing is…

DAMON- I did care. I went and sat on everything.

BETH - Well, you sat on it, but you didn't care what the fabric looked like.

DAMON- I suppose. It was all pointy and sort of arrowy.

LEE - Was it tactile?

DAMON- Do you know, that's interesting the tactile thing. For years as a fairly proud blind person if anybody…

LEE - Fairly proud?

DAMON- Yeah. … if anybody said to me, 'why don't you look at this? It's really nice. It feels really nice' I would sort of think oh god, they're thinking about me being blind. Feel - god, you think my life's all about feeling or something; what's going on here? And so I used to kind of reject that. But now I think I can openly say, yes I do buy things based on how they feel quite often.

LEE - Of course. I bought, my first ever lounge that I bought, my first ever sofa was red. I seem to go for red sofas. And it was very tactile and I loved it.

DAMON- And when you say tactile how was it tactile, in what way?

LEE - It was quite rough and quite stripy feeling.

DAMON- Yeah, I like rough.

LEE - Rough and stripy with sort of…

DAMON- If you know what I mean. [Laughter]

LEE - Shall we just quickly scoot past that one? And I loved it for its tactile nature, until you sat on it with bare skin for a long period of time and you would get up and you would have the pattern of my sofa on the back of your thighs. So, there is something sometimes to be said for not too tactile.

DAMON- Brushed aluminium I really like. You know that really brushed?

LEE - What piece of furniture do you have that is brushed aluminium?

DAMON- Oh well the most recent thing I suppose that we had that had brushed aluminium on it was our great big American fridge freezer which had handles down it which were a kind of brushed aluminium. Lovely, textured.

LEE - You're so middle class aren't you?

DAMON- Is it? I thought it was a bit tacky.

BETH - I've never even heard of brushed aluminium.

DAMON- Is that what they call it? Do I mean aluminium? Brushed steel - anyone?

BETH - I don't know. You're telling the story.

DAMON- No?

BETH - I don't think aluminium, that doesn't seem…

DAMON- Brushed metal.

LEE - It might be a brushed aluminium finish, but it wouldn't be aluminium.

DAMON- It's got that kind of rough feel to it.

LEE - Right.

BETH - I'd have thought you'd go for smooth.

DAMON- No, I don't like smooth, smooth metal. How do you feel about smooth metal?

LEE - Well, I'm trying to think when was the last time I felt smooth metal, but I think I probably prefer it to rough.

DAMON- This is what we should call the podcast, isn't it, to really drag people into listening to this: how do you feel about smooth metal? This is what they want.

BETH - Sounds like some rock band, some 80s radio.

LEE - Smooth metal.

DAMON- Okay, so have we covered furniture? Yesterday I was really interested, we were talking briefly and you were saying that one of your worries is about leaving the lights on.

LEE - Ah, I am really worried about leaving the lights on, yeah I am. And I do it all the time. And having just got this new guide dog one of the instructors said to me, I walked into my room at one point and it was dark, and she said, 'oh do you not turn the lights on for the dog?' and I said, 'no, never have and they seem to be fine'. And she said, 'well it is advised that you do turn the lights on for the dog'.

BETH - Really, turn the lights on for the dog?

LEE - Yeah.

BETH - Okay, I would never have thought that.

LEE - I know. So, now I am making a conscious effort. So, I turn the lights on for her but I forget to turn them off again. So, I am thinking about going the whole smart home thing. But then you'd have to put them on timers right, because even with the smart home you have to remember to tell whatever it is.

DAMON- What do you mean by smart home? What are we saying here? How does that help with lights?

LEE - Smart homes are like where many of your devices and appliances are connected to the internet and you can operate them either through apps or through voice assistance, the ones that big giant companies make. Am I allowed to say them or not?

BETH - You're doing so well at describing them without.

DAMON- There's only a few of them, aren't there, Amazon, Google, Apple.

LEE - Apple. Yeah exactly. So, you can say to your voice assistant, 'so and so, turn off the light in the bedroom' but you still have to remember to do that, right. So, what's the difference then between finding the switch and then turning it off?

BETH - I think a timer is a good idea.

LEE - I think I'm going to have to get a timer.

DAMON- How would the timer work?

LEE - The timer would work so that if you wanted your lights to come on at 4:30, because it is like a northwest of the UK that's going to get dark really soon up there, then they would just come on and then they would turn off at like 11:30 or something, and then they would turn back on at a certain time that you set.

DAMON- I wouldn't keep them on until 11:30 at night because then people could see into your living room if you've got the curtains open. Do you worry about curtains?

LEE - So, I have to get my curtains on a timer, is that what you're saying?

DAMON- You're going to have to think about shutting the curtains too. Smart curtains is what you need.

LEE - Smart curtains, yeah all right, I'll think about that. Lights in general is just really tricky, isn't it?

DAMON- Why?

LEE - Well, because I wake up in the morning and forget to open my curtains, and I can be in perfect darkness and not really care or know.

BETH - What if you get just one switch?

LEE - What's the point in opening your curtains if you can't see?

BETH - I don't even use curtains myself; I'm the complete opposite.

LEE - Are you a blinds lady?

BETH - No, nothing. Everyone is saying to me, 'ooh what blinds are getting, what curtains?' None, it's not even on my list, why would I?

LEE - What, you're just going to have blank windows?

BETH - Yeah, I never shut anything.

DAMON- But when you get changed and things do you not think I could do with a bit of privacy?

BETH - That's a risk I take.

LEE - What floor are you on?

BETH - I'm on the second. I've never been overlooked. Well, I did once turn around getting changed and I saw two eyes staring at me, and I looked and it was a cat. But that's as risky as it's got as far as I'm aware.

DAMON- What you need is an app that tells you whether people are looking at you from other windows.

LEE - Oh no, that's true.

BETH - Hopefully they've just enjoyed it. I've never met them, so. They're a long way away.

DAMON- They just enjoyed it! [Laughter]

LEE - Hopefully they just enjoyed it.

BETH - Yeah, I think Lee just go with my philosophy: ditch it.

LEE - Okay, but the difference there I think Beth is you could see if somebody was looking in.

BETH - That is true.

LEE - And I wouldn't be able to see that.

BETH - That is true. And if you're in a terrace there are probably some houses quite close opposite.

LEE - And a cul-de-sac.

BETH - And a cul-de-sac okay.

LEE - So, sorry, I'm not going to go with that recommendation.

BETH - Okay. But I do think if you get one switch next to your bedside table which links every light in the house then you just think to press it once in the morning and press it once at night.

DAMON- Master switch.

BETH - Master switch yeah.

LEE - A master switch.

BETH - Yeah, all done.

DAMON- But I do know blind people who have got smart devices so that they can control their lights more easily.

LEE - Yeah.

DAMON- But of course there are apps where you can go round the house and literally check each room to check if there's a light going.

BETH - Yeah, but that's a bit of a drag, isn't it?

DAMON- The light detector.

LEE - Don't have time or the inclination. Damon, I do have one question for you: are you someone who likes assembling furniture? You say you don't necessarily want to be involved in choosing it, but would you tackle the Ikea bookcase?

DAMON- I remember when I was a student I used to happily go down to DIY stores with my pals and buy shelving that you could just quite easily put together, the really simple ones, you know, with the metal kind of struts that you attach wood to with those - what do they call them? They only have them at DIY stores; not screws. Alum keys. Who invented those? Where did they…? Everyone just accepts them. What's wrong with screws and screwdrivers? I don't know. But they were simple and I used to quite enjoy putting them together. I don't know if it was a boy thing or not but I felt quite accomplished in doing that.

But when you come to the more complex item of furniture, like Billy shelves and things like that from that big famous Swedish place, I mean they are pretty tricky, aren't they? You need to be able to look at the diagrams, the instructions, and they feel unachievable and there are too many bitty little parts.

LEE - There's always something left over I think when anybody does them. Would you do yours, Beth?

BETH - I quite like a project so I would. But having said that I've got a new bed arriving two weeks after I move in, because why wouldn't I organize it like that, and I'm assuming and hoping and praying that it will come with a helpful man or woman who will just construct it for me. But I don't know for sure, so I might have to get out this alum key or invest in a screwdriver or whatever, or just phone up a handy friend.

LEE - Hire a hubby.

BETH - I could yeah, that's the ideal, isn't it? I have said to a few people at work actually, so I've got this electric violin which is blue and I didn't know what to do with it and I thought ah, I'll put it on the wall because I'm quite musical so it's quite cool, and one of my colleagues said, 'oh yeah, cool, I'll come round and have a look. It'll be really good to see' and I was like, 'you'll be coming round to put it on the wall, not look at it' [laughter] because I don't know where to start.

DAMON- Last question: your new house, can you describe what it looks like please at the front?

LEE - At the front?

DAMON- Yeah. What does it look like from the street?

LEE - Did I mention it was pouring with rain? So, I didn't get a chance to loiter in the street or in the front yard quite a lot.

DAMON- I'm digging here. I want to know if you know what your house looks like. It's a little trick.

LEE - It's got a front window and it's got a little path that goes up to it. And the front garden is quite leafy and I believe there's a gate.

BETH - Sounds nice.

LEE - That's all I know.

DAMON- What colour is the brickwork?

LEE - What! I'm going for red.

DAMON- What colour's the front door?

LEE - I don't know, but the inside is light blue.

DAMON- Okay.

LEE - Is that enough? God, that was stressful!

DAMON- Can you look it up on Street View?

LEE - Yeah.

BETH - Let's have a look. What's the road? Do it as though you're on a bus.

LEE - Can I not give my address out?

DAMON- We'll cut it out.

LEE - Thank you very much!

BETH - I'm just opening up Google Maps or whatever, Street View, very slowly, tick, tick, tick. Oh it looks nice. So, there is one which has a gate and it has got a tree and it does look quite leafy.

LEE - And there's a little path that goes up.

BETH - There's a little path. I can't see the door so I don't know what colour the doorway is, but it's two storeys, you've got chimneys so that works for the fireplace, although yours is a gas fire but anyway room for the real thing.

LEE - I did not know I'd got a chimney.

DAMON- And Santa.

BETH - They've taken this picture cherry blossom season so it looks very lovely.

LEE - Oh, I'm going to have cherry blossom.

BETH - Lots of trees.

DAMON- What colour is it the house?

BETH - The house is a red brick.

LEE - Ooh, ding ding.

BETH - One of your neighbours has a white door, one has a black door and one has a red door, so nice and colourful. There's lots of parking. They are parking on the path which might be annoying I imagine.

LEE - Okay, that's good to know. Frankie will have to sort that out.

BETH - Yeah, he'll just have to scoot past them.

LEE - Yeah.

BETH - But it looks nice, very leafy. And it's sunny, which I should imagine is a rare occasion in Manchester.

LEE - Yeah, they waited for the sunny day, THE sunny day in Manchester. But what happens now if I don't get it?

BETH - You will.

DAMON- Oh, I thought it was a… I thought you'd got it.

LEE - Well, it's a let agreed.

BETH - That's good enough right?

LEE - That's good enough yeah.

DAMON- Yeah, you'll get it.

LEE - I'm going to be paying my deposit today which is like £1200 quid or something.

BETH - Well, there we go, it's yours, done, sealed deal.

DAMON- Yeah. It's yours. Well done, congratulations. I hope it all goes well.

LEE - Thank you very much.

BETH - Good luck.

LEE - Thank you. And you're going to come to my farewell wrap.

BETH - Yes definitely.

DAMON- Yeah we are.

LEE - Thanks guys.

DAMON- So, this has been Ouch with Lee Kumatat, Beth Rose and me Damon Rose, and two dogs who you will have heard shaking in the background from time to time. If you want to email us about house moves or whatever, email ouch@bbc.co.uk, find us on Twitter @bbcouch and we're on Facebook as well. Until next week goodbye.

BETH - Bye.

LEE - Bye.

Around the BBC