Open Doors

Ive got the door open, she says to me as I approach the side of the car. Doors open, she says as I approach the entrance to the building. Nice gesture? Yes. Helpful? No. Just the opposite.

When the door is wide open, its usually not a big problem, although it is somewhat uncomfortable, not being able to tell exactly where the door is. My dog is trained to approach a door and point his nose to the handle. If the door is already open, its a little confusing to him. He doesnt know whether to go charging through and possibly get a correction or to hang back and wait for my command to go forward. If the door is almost open, but not quite, it can be a real face basher, if the dog makes a misjudgment and gets himself through, but not me. Then theres the way too common situation of a well-meaning companion or by-stander who opens a door and then stands in the way. This happens most often when the door swings out to the left, and the person stands to the right, with his arm extended over, forming a bridge Im supposed to duck under, and a narrow passage for the dog to figure out. This also happens when were on the inside of the building and trying to get out the door that someone is holding, from the inside. There just isnt enough room for a dog and a person to get by, with a body in the way. One of my most annoying situations is when someone holds open the left hand door, when there is a right hand door available. Its amazing to observe that when given a choice, most people choose the left door. Not true for dog guide handlers. We have the dogs harness in our left hand. In order to assist with the opening of the door, we have to drop the harness, hold the door with our left hand, then twirl around to hold the door with our right hand so we have our left hand free to pick up the harness handle again. Its just so much more efficient to go out the right hand door, holding the door with our right hand and keeping the harness in the left and continuing smoothly out the door. For some reason, people seem to think that blind people cant open their own door, especially with a dog, when in reality, letting us get the door open ourselves is so much handier. Why? When we let our dogs point out the door knob or handle, or if you put our hand on the knob, or tell us in words where the door is, we know exactly where the doorway is and how wide the space is to go through. It may seem mannerly to you to leap ahead and pull open the door, but for a person who can see nothing, it feels awkward and even embarrassing. But do you have to stand their with your hands in your pockets and do nothing? Try this. Use a few words to help your visually impaired friend. The door opens out to the right. This way, I know Im going to find the handle on the left side of the door, and I know I can go through without doing that twirly thing. If the door opens out to the left, then I can be prepared to do just that. Many times, Ive assumed the door is opening out to the right, and Im feeling around in space with my right hand to hold the door open for my friend behind me, only to find that the left door has been opened instead.

Opening the car door is one of the most potentially awkward of all scenarios. When were approaching a car in a parking lot, and I dont know which way the car is pointing, and the door has been opened for me, I have to figure out which way the seat is facing. Trying to sit on a seat that is facing the opposite direction of where I expected is not only disorienting, but also embarrassing. Once again, the use of a few words can be much more helpful than fumbling physical gestures.

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