Spectrum was a long-running weekly radio documentary series which captured the essence of New Zealand from 1972 to 2016. Alwyn Owen and Jack Perkins produced the series for many years, creating a valuable library of New Zealand oral history.
This episode looks at the daily life of Mrs Ethel Curry who has been blind, almost from birth. She’s lives alone in Hastings and is a music teacher. She has a pet bird (which is heard in the background of the recording.)
She has a daily helper called Mrs Aldridge who assists Mrs Curry around the house. Aldridge reads Curry’s mail. She helps with shopping, and describes colours to Curry.
Mrs Curry uses echolocation to help her navigate. She snaps her fingers to help keep her orientated, and uses a cane which she taps.
Jack Perkins and Mrs Curry visit downtown Napier. She explains as they walk past a construction site that she finds the rough ground, the loud sounds and lots of open space difficult to navigate. Mrs Curry uses a white cane which she uses to scan her surroundings and which she taps to get an echo. She explains that in very difficult situations she will often wait to ask a passer-by for help.
Mrs Curry navigates past parked bicycles and across a road, explaining her strategies for navigating pedestrian crossings. As they look for a shop for Mrs Curry to buy bird seed she explains that she will sometimes use her sense of smell to help her identify different shops.
Perkins and Curry go into a coffee bar. Mrs Curry describes how her sense of space influences how she perceives the atmosphere. She speaks about how she perceives objects in the ways that she knows them, but struggles to understand paintings. She doesn’t dream in sight, but sometimes will dream in what little colour vision she used to have.