I became vision-impaired when I was about 13 years old. I woke up one day and I just couldn’t see the blackboard or the reading book very well. My vision decided to go about 10 years later. I’ve had about three guide dogs. My latest is Ted, a black labrador who’s four years old.
I loved school. When I was 14, I went to Townsend House, a school for the blind and deaf. I lived in one of the cottages with 10 other people. It was good for me. I was very shy, so this school helped my confidence. We went camping, kayaking, canoeing and did other adventurous activities. They taught us that blindness is just a small hurdle.
I am one of seven children and the oldest of all of them. My favourite memory is when my sister and I were young, we dressed up like Kiss. We loved Peter Criss and Paul Stanley. Our mother did our make-up and we went in a special Kiss parade in Hindley Street, which finished at Downtown rollerskating rink.
I have a great tribe: two children, three granddaughters and two grandsons. Watching my grandchildren grow up makes me feel proud. I’ve lived in Adelaide since 1973, when we moved from Melbourne to Gawler. I’ve moved to different places, but I always came back to Gawler, including after I divorced.
I was doing fundraising before I did The Big Issue. I liked my job, however, I was going to different shopping centres every week and I thought, I just can’t do this anymore; it’s getting to be too much of a long day. I also did family day care, where I looked after other people’s kids. I’ve also done a lot of hospitality work. I worked in the kitchen at the Adelaide Oval and at a lot of coffee shops, which I loved mainly because of the fast pace. I was cooking and serving food to people.
I started my Big Issue journey in December of 2020. On my first shift, another visually impaired vendor gave me a couple more magazines and stood with me. He told me to slow down my voice and to breathe in and out and just relax.
The Big Issue is very good because I’m learning to get around the CBD by myself. I’m also getting my confidence up and earning money, and I like that I’m communicating to different customers.
I’m saving up for an outdoor setting. My sister passed away in January. We were selling together and had decided that we’d both buy an outdoor setting together, so it’s in memory of her.
I’d like to keep selling. I also want to get back into the Red Cross and do telephone support as a volunteer. I’ll probably do other volunteer work, but I haven’t worked it out yet. Just helping the community, to let someone know that they’re cared for. I have a pretty simple philosophy: don’t be afraid to be yourself. Be grateful about everything!
Susan and Ted sell The Big Issue at The Body Shop on Rundle Mall, Adelaide
Interview by Ashley Snell
Photo by Nat Rogers