'You don't look blind': Woman tells of frustration of 'feeling like a walking curiosity'

ITV News Central Reporter Lucy Kapasi hears from Alice and Lucy who have spoken about their podcast which gives an insight on what it's like to live with a disability

A woman from Loughborough has spoken of her frustration at being regularly told she doesn't look blind when out with her guide dog.

Alice Evans tells ITV News Central she often feels like a "curiosity" and is urging people to think before they speak.

"It feels a little bit like you're a bit of a walking freak show sometimes, you're a walking curiosity because I cannot leave my house without someone asking me about my guide dog.

"The questions I get asked are: 'Are you training her?' 'Oh what can you see?' and 'You don't look blind'.

"It really makes you feel as though the only thing people see about you is your disability."

Alice is currently celebrating the first anniversary of the podcast lABLEd that she set up with Lucy Wood from Rugeley in Staffordshire to provide a funny, honest, personal and sometimes dark insight into disability and difference.

Lucy and Alice are proud of their podcast called lABLEd Credit: lucy wood

The pair who didn't know each other beforehand - but met after Lucy put out a tweet saying she would like to create a podcast - have recorded 30 episodes and interviewed almost as many guests.  

They're delighted to have notched up around 3,000 listeners - proof they say that people really do want to hear what disabled people have to say.

Lucy is more visibly disabled - she has Cerebral Palsy and uses a wheelchair. Alice is blind and has a guide dog. Lucy says they have learned a lot from each other and their guests.

"If someone asks why I'm in a wheelchair I've always told them because if you want to know I've got nothing to hide.

"But Alice will say something like: 'why are you satisfying somebody's curiosity about your disability when they don't actually need to know?'

"So I am now quite picky about who I tell and what I tell."

The women recently met up in person for the first time to celebrate their audience figures.

They had a great meal but say the response from other diners at the pub where they met was typical.

'It feels a little bit like you're a bit of a walking freak show sometimes', Alice Evans says

In the space of two hours Alice was asked three times if she was training her guide dog and Lucy was asked if she could look after people's bags on three occasions.

"Alice said to me: 'Do you think that's because they think you're not going to run off with their shopping?'"

The meeting required a bit of forward planning to make sure it was accessible for both of them.

Alice said she would always encourage people to ask for what they need. In this case Lucy needed to make sure there was plenty of space for her wheelchair and Alice needs somewhere well lit with plenty of space as her spatial awareness isn't good.

Both women hope their podcast is changing attitudes but concede there is a long way to go especially in the TV and media.

Alice said: "At the moment representation tends to be very basic, stories about people's experience of a disability, how they became disabled or how they overcame it, rather than this person happens to be disabled and goes on adventures. It's almost as if your disability is seen as a personality trait."

She said someone asking about her guide dog is so common it's almost boring.

Alice and Lucy outside the pub where they met Credit: Lucy Wood

Alice said: "I'm happy to talk about my dog, I understand people's interest and curiosity but it's the follow up questions and almost disbelief that I am blind.

"I feel like saying: 'They don't just give these dogs away you know!'

"There's a current campaign by Guide Dogs called Don't Dive on the Dog to raise awareness about the importance of not distracting a guide dog.

"My dog is there to be my eyes and to see obstacles and help me cross the road.

"She's just a dog, she can't multi task and when people start to talk to her and distract her I have to correct the dog. Our bond is so special, I don't want to use my cross voice with her."

Lucy says it is unusual if someone doesn't make a comment when she is out and about - and it always happens when she is on her own. Typical remarks she's heard hundreds of times are: 'That's a nice pair of wheels' or 'Have you got a licence for that?'

Recently when she went for a medical check, an NHS employee asked her a string of questions about being disabled before saying: 'If I were you, I'd kill myself.'

"I think at the time I just thought what did she just say and it was shock really. I was just shocked and thought: 'here we go again.' She took my blood and then I went home.

"Lots of people have said will you report it to the hospital and I did consider it but looking back now a few weeks down the line I genuinely think it was a line of questioning that went a bit too far and there wasn't any malice."

Lucy says she has a thick skin but says for someone who doesn't and who had perhaps become disabled after an accident, this kind of comment could have been extremely damaging, adding:

"I think one of the reasons people are so scared of someone who is disabled is because they know it could happen to them anytime. One day old age will come and they'll have reduced mobility."