Senior Architect Given A VIP Experience Of Maidenhead Town Centre To FEEL What It Is Like To Travel With Limited Sight.

Confidence and independence… oh yes!

The most overlooked but crucial aspects of a human’s life skillset.

Independence gives us freedom and the ability to proceed with the choices we make.

Confidence helps us to be brave and MAKE those choices. When these two are combined, we can live our lives to the fullest.

But one without the other, oh no, that’s not good!

We need BOTH traits to truly be successful and be independent.

Hi, I am Maleeka, a 13 year old VIP (Visually Impaired Person) and the founder of Online Blog, Meeks Speaks VIP. 

I have lived in the little town of Maidenhead, Berkshire for a good few years of my little life and I have LOVED IT, however going to the Nicholson centre has always been a challenge for me due to the problems that I mention in my videos such as LAMP POSTS and uneven surfaces.

So, when it came to my attention that Maidenhead’s town centre was being rebuilt; I jumped at the chance to share my opinions on how the town could change to accommodate accessibility needs of a person with physical challenges. 

The idea started off several months ago when I shared my suggestions to the team at JFT Developers and amazingly, I was featured in the slides for the public meeting in the town hall about the redevelopment plan.

My mum, Fizz and I were invited to the private shareholders executive meeting. Wow this was exciting.

I met some nice people with whom I shared my ideas, but the highlight of the event was meeting Rob Tincknell, the man who bought the entire shopping centre

I had my plan, even though I handed in my statement sharing the problems and their ideal solutions my squishy brain actually had another idea!

”What if I BLINDFOLDED one of developers and give them a once in a “VIP” lifetime experience of visual and physical challenges that I face everyday. 

Who needs a 329 page statement!

But who would it be?

Well, one lucky senior architect, Emmet O’Sullivan kindly volunteered and placed his life in the hands of a 13yr old VIP

I planned on trying four experiences with our pal Emmet as the VIP.

1. Completely blindfolded

2. Partially sighted 

3. Partially sighted with a guide my mum as sighted guide 

4. Partially sighted whilst outside…ALL ON HIS OWN!

The experiences are thoroughly covered these in my video, so I will just give a brief.

1. Completely blindfolded

For the first experience, (completely blind) Emmet, naturally was very cautious and nervous. His walking pace slowed down significantly as well.

However, Emmet told us that he could hear the sounds of running coffee machines and many other otherwise unnoticed sounds.

This proves that when sight is not in the picture, your other senses become more sharpened and you can identify things that you would have completely missed before.

I believe “Sight is s distraction,” and I am lucky to see the world in the weird but unique ways in which I do.

2. Partially sighted 

For the second experience, Emmet’s confidence rose quite a bit as he gained more visibility. Though he still appeared a little cautious, Emmet moved faster and said that he could differentiate some colour and light. Emmet did walk into a few CHUNKY POSTS though, but that’s expected for a VIP!

As Emmet progressed, we noticed how he gradually became familiar with the environment he was in and learnt to use more of his sense of smell and hearing.

Again, this represents that if one has more special awareness of their surroundings, they feel more safe and confident when maneuvering around.

3. Partially sighted with a guide my mum as sighted guide 

During the third experience, we saw a drastic change in Emmet’s posture, stride and overall confidence. This was because my mum was acting as the sighted guide and giving Emmet a real-time audio description of his surroundings. (YAY for audio descriptions)

Adding to our previous points, we can conclusively say that the more spatial awareness you have, the more comfortable, confident and independent you feel. My mum represented the sighted assistance one could receive; though they would still rely on another person to “be their eyes”.

This is both negative and positive due to the fact that Emmet is moving more freely but is still bound to another; for the younger VIPs, this could be the barrier between friendships as they could feel like a burden upon their supposedly “Normal” peers.

4. Partially sighted whilst outside…ALL ON HIS OWN!

Finally, for the fourth experience, we let Emmet wonder free into the BIG WIDE WORLD and feel what it’s like to be a VIP in the very loud and crazy place, known to man as the dreaded outdoors.

This experience most closely represented what I go through during my time out and about. (A lot of POLES with poor contrast)

This time, Emmet did not retain his high confidence, as this environment was completely different to the contained shopping centre.

He again seemed to be more focused on listening out for hazards while still traversing at the slower walking pace.

There were many more obstacles outside; this meant that a higher risk for injury was ALSO THERE.

All those bumpy pavements and large, greedy, path-hogging signs demonstrated one thing to me,

“The most consistent thing in this place is…INCONSISTENCY!”

Overall, I learnt a lot during my experience of VIPifying Emmet.

Just seeing the drastic impacts we made just by limiting someone’s sight was truly astonishing, and I can safely say that we rely on our over-proud eyeballs WAYYY TO MUCH!

I also learnt how an average person who is suddenly put into a tricky situation has the natural instinct to utilise their other “Superpowers” while remaining slow and cautious to familiarise themselves with the change.

To end this all off, I just want to say a HUGE thank you to Emmet and the JTP team for helping me pull this off.

I wanted to make an impact, not just by handing in an essay, but by giving someone a LIVE experience of what us VIPs have to face every day. 

I honestly believe I have achieved my goal on making that impact!

I can’t wait to see what changes will be made to Maidenhead as this won’t just help me but everyone with a physical challenge.

In fact, we can educate the whole community by implementing these changes. Young children will let curiosity take the lead and ask millions of questions and even the older generations will notice the special little added features around the town centre

I can’t wait to see what the future holds and seeing how many loves we can change…TOGETHER!!!

Thank You,

Maleeka Abbas