Tag Archives: LongCane

Disability Q&A #16 Glen Sheader

Hello and welcome back to my #DisabilityQ&A Campaign 🙂
today’s interview is brought to you by a very interesting man called Glenn, we met on Twitter and he was keen to be part of my series. I hope you will agree that his interview is interesting, eye-opening and shows that if you have the right support, and determination, you can do anything!

Tell me about yourself:

Hi, I’m Glen Sheader, 33, I live in Blackburn, but from Bolton. I am a assistive Technology Coordinator. My hobbies Include: Walking, trying new food, reading, social media, technology, TV, football, and generally keeping fit.

Now we know the basics, can we learn a bit more about you?

What is the medical reason you have a disability?
I am registered blind/severely sight impaired due to Lebers Hereditary Optic Neuropathy.
Have you had your Visual impairment / disability from birth?
No, I developed my eye condition early in 2006 when I was 22.

Which terminology do you prefer: Partially Sighted, Visually Impaired,

Sight Impaired, Severely Sight Impaired or Blind?
I usually refer to myself as being Visually Impaired.

Do you have a cane, Guide Dog or neither?
I use a long white cane.

If you could extinguish your disability, would you?
This is a difficult question, you would think that the obvious answer would be a straight forward Yes, however I would say that I would be a 70% Yes. When I lost my vision, it went in around 5 weeks, and took almost 2 years to accept, and I fear that if it came back instantly, it would also take some time to accept. There would be some hesitation, but my answer would be a yes. I know that I still miss having sight, there are many occasions when I day-dream about what life would be like being fully sighted again.

For those who do not know much about your VI what can you see?
My vision is severely blurred, if you imagine a thick fogg right up to your nose and trying to see through it, that is what it is like. So most of the time, I can see what is in front of me up to a certain point, but I cannot see any details. So, I can see a person, but I have no idea what they look like.

How has your disability effected you?

*Socially – to be very honest, when I developed my visual impairment at the age of 22, I slowly isolated myself. From my perception, there was an obvious social awkwardness. My people did not know how to react or what to say when around me, plus I did not know how, or did not want to explain my condition. Now later in life, I have a small circle of friends, but it is hard socialising when you cannot recognise people. If someone walks past me and says “hi”, most of the time I am not sure who that person is. So 11 years on from developing my eye condition, I would say it is still a challenge for me socially.

*physically – I have no problems physically. I often think that I am physically fitter than most, as I do not have the luxury of jumping in the car. I am on foot or public transport everywhere I go.

*Mentally – I am fine mentally, but I do have down moments. There are rare occasions when I find myself feeling low due to the stresses and strains of living a life with a disability. Those first couple of years of trying to accept my disability were extremely difficult. I shut myself away, I had problems sleeping, I drank too much and I struggled to see a future as a blind person. It was a huge help to study as a Counsellor. I did this for personal and professional reasons. I gained an excellent set of skills and a qualification, and I benefited massively from understanding more about ways of thinking, emotions and feeling, and most importantly understanding loss and the grieving process.

Do you think your disability has made you who you are today?

I have strong feelings about this…I feel for some strange reason this happened to me as a harsh wake up call. Before my eye condition my life was not going anywhere. I lived at home with my mum, I drank every night, I liked to smoke pot, I was not very outgoing or adventurous, and I had no good qualifications or a career path. As difficult as those years were trying to get my head around what had happened to me, it was a period of time when I became broken and slowly I started a rebuilding process. Between then and now, I have developed as a person, I have carved out a worthwhile career path for myself, I have met lots of fantastic people, and I feel privileged to have volunteered and worked for some great organisations giving me the experience and opportunity to help and support many people in varying ways. For example, working one-to-one with a person as a Counsellor, or delivering a workshop to a group on Assistive Technology.

Is there a particular question you get asked often because of your

disability?

“Can you not just wear glasses”
Or not necessarily a question “You don’t look blind”
My condition is related to my optic nerves, I have no problem with my eyes, so glasses will not make any difference. Also, most visually impaired people do not look blind. I think both of the above are due to a lack of awareness of sight loss in general. Surprisingly many people think that you are either fully sighted or you see total darkness, with nothing in-between. Similarly, people do not understand what a white cane is, or they expect everyone with a sight problem wears dark glasses, taps a white cane around and uses a guide dog, or as many call them a “blind dog”.

What are the positives of having a disability?

I think that my experience of my disability means that I have a different outlook on life. I am a very positive person, I feel that the worst is behind me in my life, and I try my best to enjoy most days and I look forward with hope. I am confident that overcoming the hurdles that I have, have given me the strength and skills to deal with hardship in life.

What are the negatives of having a disability?

Of course I acknowledge that life as a visually impaired person has challenges and difficulties. Because I have had sight, there are times when I know that something would have been much easier to tackle as a fully sighted person. Similarly, it’s tough when you find yourself in a situation where you are treated differently, or even abused for having a visual impairment. These can be harsh reminders of the fact that I have a disability and the happy bubble of life bursts leaving you a little vulnerable.

What would you say is a difficulty for you being VI / disabled?

I think the point that I mentioned above; the issues of socialising are difficult. It is hard to sometimes communicate or more importantly maintain communication are the difficulties. If I could explain to the world that I am very unlikely to recognise them when passing, and a polite “hi it’s such a body” would be great. Many neighbours, associates, friends and even family, will pass me and not acknowledge that it is them, therefore socially communication breaks down. I am sure there are people that no longer talk to me, as they feel that I have ignored them in the past. Where as, the truth is that I have walked by in my bubble and been oblivious to people around me.

As a person with a disability, what are the things you face on a daily /

weekly basis that frustrate you?
*In your home – Not knowing where something is if it has been miss placed. Since being visually impaired, I have been very organised, as I need to know where things are, so that I can find them easily.

*outside your home – I really hate it when people obstruct the pavements, the main culprits being drivers parking their cars inappropriately. It is very frustrating when walking along and having to go into the road around a vehicle to get past. I think some drivers forget that they need to leave sufficient space for a person to get past on the pavement; and this also includes room for a pram, wheelchair, etc.

Are there any tips or tricks you use in daily life you’d like to pass

on to another VI/ disabled person?

One of the biggest tips that I can give to another person with a visual impairment is to become confident with today’s technology. There are accessibility features on most popular devices today, that allow a person with little or no sight to get the most out of using them. There is so much that you can do with a smart phone, to help you be independent. The list is pretty much endless, but here are some benefits that might not be obvious: access print by using the camera, using it to help navigate, an accessible communication device in your pocket, look up bus/train times while out and about, audio description on videos/programs/films, get a picture described, plus all of the main-stream Applications are accessible. It can easily bring a person up-to-speed with their peers.

Do you use Assisstive technology in your daily living?

*Screen reader I am able to use many pieces of Assistive Technology due to my work, but personally I use JAWS on my work laptop and Voice Over on Apple products.

My main device that I use daily is my iPhone. It is such an important piece of technology for me. I use it to communicate by calling, texting or emailing, I use various social media to keep in touch and up-to-date with the world, I read the news, I watch TV/videos/films, I read books. Also, it is my magnifier, my note tacker, my calendar, my diary, my scanner reader, my audio book player, my radio, my GPS navigator, and much more. These are all things that historically I would have to buy as separate items costing a huge amount of money and would certainly not fit in my pocket.

What piece of advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed? Or going
through a deterioration in vision / or mobility?

I would definitely say speak to someone. Both professionals and others with similar issues. When the time is ready get practical help, whether that’s mobility training, or other things, get emotional support, maybe Counselling, self-help advice, peer support groups, and get out there and try your best to keep going. Try not let life stand still for too long, as roots can set in and it is then very hard to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone.

Any advice you’d like to give to a person with sight / no disabilities?

variety is the spice of life as they say. If you feel that someone maybe different to you, don’t make that negative judgement. Be open minded and why not accept some variety into your life. What’s the worst that could happen? You might meet someone new interesting, you might, if anything, learn something, and you just may be inspired.
Also, don’t park inappropriately on pavements.

Did you seek out any specialist services / charities to help you and your

family deal with your situation?

*RNIB Schools? I lost my job working for a Ford Dealership in the Motor Trade, so from here I attended an RNIB college in Loughborough.

I had mobility training from a Rehab Officer.
I had some Counselling.
I attended some social groups at my local blind society.
I did lots of volunteering to fill the gap in my skills and experience to help me seek employment.

Where can people find you out in the world?

FaceBook
https://www.facebook.com/glensheader

Twitter
@glensheader
@viparent_glen

Email
glensheader@gmail.com

❤❤ Thank you so much Glen for taking the time to be interviewed! Your journey with sight loss has definitely been an interesting one to read, I love how you’ve turned your negatives into positive’s, especially with becoming a counsellor, learning to understand yourself and help others is a great thing!

If you, or anyone you know, would like to take part in my Campaign, do not hesitate to contact me on the following:
Email:SassysWorld6@gmail.com
Twitter
Facebook

http://www.thinkingoutloud-sassystyle.com/category/disability-qa-campaign/

Why not take a look at the rest of the interviews so far? #DisabilityQ&A Series http://www.thinkingoutloud-sassystyle.com/category/disability-qa-campaign/




Bright vs White: The Cane Debate

Bright vs White.

There is an interesting debate in the visually impaired world as to whether a cane (the long white metal object used by visually impaired people to get around safely), should stay white or be colourful to represent a persons’ individuality.

Here are the arguments I have come across:

For:
* People should be allowed to show their individuality.
* a cane should be seen as an accessory as well as an aid.
* Visually impaired people will feel more comfortable using a cane if it is coloured.
* Those that already own a coloured cane have received compliments on their colourful/ sparkly cane.
* If having canes in different colours encourages children to use them, adults/ parents are more welcoming of it.
* Having a coloured cane extinguishes the prejudice of the stereotypical blind person.
* People are too busy in their daily thoughts that they barely pay attention to a person using a cane in the first place. – Changing colour would make no difference to the public’s ignorance.
* People recognise the cane for what it is, and the action in which it is used.
* Coloured handle/ grip and ball, but the main part should stay white. It gives individuality while still being a universal symbol.

Against:

  • White is the Universal colour of canes to represent to the public that a person has limited or no vision.
  • White canes with red strips signal visual and hearing impairment.
  • Changing the colour would then not distinguish hearing impairments either.
  • Having different colours means the public will not know what each colour represents, this can therefore confuse the public.
  • The public can barely differentiate between a standard cane and a red and white one.

A white cane is part of the universal symbol to the public, it is also part of the highway code. If the colour were to change, would drivers take notice, and respect the person?
If the highway code says to respect a white cane,, to change it could potentially make the blind person liable, not the driver/ foot passenger, if an accident were to happen.
* Visually impaired people may not get the support from the public, that we sometimes need.
If it were to change, would the public be aware?
Public may not be as ready to offer help because they see it as a cool gadget/ accessory.

Looking at the arguments for and against, it all seems to come down to personal preference, whether to accessorise a cane or not essentially it’s a case of what each person deems as a priority.
Do they want to look snazzy, safe, or both?




Personally if there was an option of changing the grip colour and ball/ tip and keeping the body of the cane white, I would probably go for that option. For me I am an individual, and it would be nice to show my individuality, with something I see as an extension of me.
However I do not agree with having coloured canes as a whole. Maybe for young children first learning to use a cane but I believe that as the white cane is a universal symbol,, it should stay that way.
I do agree that generally the public are too caught up in their own busy lives to really notice that you, as a visually impaired person, are even using a cane. But to me, white is the brightest colour, can be seen the furthest distance away, and is also the most reflective.

What would you choose?
Individuality, accessory or just plain and simple safety?

I would love to know your thoughts in the comments!

Much love,
Sassy x

 

Is Social Media Finally Becoming Inclusive?

The internet is changing,from a medium almost based entirely on text, it’s now becoming increasingly picture lead.

But what does that mean for blind and visually impaired people?

For the majority it means we are left behind, kept out of the loop not being able to interact with our peers the way we want to because we lack the vision to see pictures our friends and family are uploading to Social Meia platforms.
Modern assistive technologies can only work so far… Screen readers can only do basic functions, unless coded otherwise. A screen reader is software used by blind and visually impaired people to navigate around their phones/ tablets/ laptops. On Apple products this is already part of the computer systems software, called VoiceOver.

However this is all set to change; in the last month both Twitter and FaceBook have set up new features enabling blind and visually impaired people to feel included with the use of Alt Text (Alternative Text,) and A.I. (Artificial Intelligence)

Alt Text is a coding function used by HTML attributes. Users of assistive technology called screen readers can read the Alt Text aloud, enabling blind and visually impaired people to understand the context of the picture. It is embedded within the picture so people with sight do not see the descriptions. However this does not come automatically with any picture uploaded to the internet. The person uploading the picture must configure the Alt Text; giving a brief description of what the picture contains.

For example this picture here is a picture of the beach. I have added the Alt Text: Sun shining on a beautiful Spanish beach.

Sun shining on a beautiful Spanish beach

I have given people that use screen readers a visual explanation of what the image contains.

If I were not to edit my images before I uploaded them to my blog, the picture may say something like Image46754524-spa213456 (ok so I just made that up, but it’s not far off what a person who uses a screen reader might hear.

This is the feature that Twitter has installed in it’s latest version. You can enable this by going to
Me > Settings> Accessibility > Compose Image Descriptions
*Adds the ability to describe images for the visually impaired*

Once this function is enabled, anyone who adds a picture on Twitter then has the option of adding a description. This can be a maximum of 420 characters. Again, this will be embedded within the photo, so people using screen readers can access it.

Here is a Tweet I sent out yesterday.


My description of the picture says: White figure on dark blue background using a white cane.
This is the test that will read to those using a screen reader.

I feel this is a fantastic way to encourage the public to be more aware of blind and visually impaired people using Twitter, especially if they have blind or visually impaired followers. It will make people like myself feel included, and trust me if people are anything like me, they will be jumping for joy at that inclusivity! 🙂

My thoughts:

Personally although I love the feature, people who do not pay attention to social media updates, or have friends with visual impairments may not know of this feature, and would therefore not have it switched on.
This in itself is a major drawback; although there are advocates such as myself for inclusivity and accessibility, it’s not widely known by the general public.

I believe if these sorts of updates were shown on the news and local papers, the public would be far more likely to pay attention, and try their best to support disabled people in whatever way they could.

So this is my polite request:
If you are adding images to your Tweets, please enable the *Compose Image Descriptions* and add a short line explaining the picture. It won’t interfere with your Tweet or character length, but would certainly make my day 🙂

Artificial Intelligence is a branch of Computer Science concerned with making computers behave like humans. Facebook servers have now been coded to describe uploaded images to the site.

Matt King,is a blind engineer who helped develop this feature.
“Our Artificial Intelligence has advanced to the point where it’s practical for us to try to get computers to describe pictures in a meaningful way.”

So far it is in it’s very early stages, but for people like myself it’s moving in the right direction. The system currently describes up to 80familiar objects and activities.
These include: transport, environment, food, appearance and sports.

Here is a recent image posted to FaceBook

The A.I. describes this image as




My Thoughts:

I am truly pleased that Facebook is trying it’s best to become inclusive of visual impairment on it’s site. It’s also fantastic that there is a blind man at the forefront pushing this along, no doubt he has put a lot of hard work and effort into getting the A.I.to work successfully.

I am going to be slightly pessimistic here though: for the most part, the A.I. almost sounds like it doesn’t know what it’s explaining… When VoiceOver is engaged, it says: “could contain” and “may contain”
Facebook has also exclaimed that this system can discriminate over 80 objects, yet the most i’ve managed to get from is vehicle, food or outdoors or “no automatic Alt text available”.
So not the best really for how much FaceBook is raving about this new feature.

HOWEVER

After lots of searching, and then eventual help from Gary I found this

It says: “Image may contain tree, sky, outdoor, nature.”
Houses, tree and green field

Without this sort of technology I would not have known what this picture included at all unless I asked Gary. I am grateful that this technology exists and that major Social Media platforms are trying their best to incorporate inclusion for all disabled people!

*Final Thoughts*

I am beyond pleased that I live in a day and age where I have access to all the technology I do, and use, on a daily basis to get around independently.
From talking scales, to GPS apps, to colour detectors.
I am extremely fortunate to be blind in 2016 and not 60 years ago, nevermind living in 1016! Technology has advanced so quickly in the last 10 years and if that has taught me anything, it’s to appreciate what access and technology we have, and in another 10 years who knows where the future will take us? What technology for the blind will be like?

Thank you FaceBook and Twitter… And please don’t forget to give your photo’s a quick description! 🙂

What are your thoughts on these new features? How quickly do you think technology will advance in the next 10 years?




Much Love, Sassy x

Disability Q&A Interview #4 Meagan Houle

Welcome back to my disability Q&A series where I interview people from around the world about their disabilities, and how they cope in daily life and overcome any struggles they may face.

Today’s interview is brought to you by Meagan, I stumbled across her Twitter page, a while ago, noticed she had a blog also, and got absorbed reading it she too blogs about visual impairment, disabilities and challenging stereotypes. So I thought who better to ask to join my campaign?

Now I hand you over to Meagan…
.

tell me about yourself?

My name is Meagan Houle, and I hail from the Great White North
(Alberta, more specifically). I’m a soon-to-be graduate of MacEwan
University, working on a Professional Communications degree. I’m
finally 21, so can now raise a glass anywhere I’d like! It’s terribly
exciting.
What hobbies do you have?
Language is one of my greatest loves, so I’m always reading, editing,
reviewing, or writing. Crowds don’t scare me, so I like to get up in
front of them and either speak or sing. Research is another great
love, so I’m always chasing some elusive answer or other.
Now we know the basics, can we learn a bit more about you?

What is the medical reason you have a disability?
My eye condition is Leber’s Congenital amaurosis, but its friends call
it LCA. It’s a rare genetic disorder that affects patients in varied
ways. Some may be completely blind, while others, like me, have light
and colour perception. The particular form I have is literally one in
a million, so I get to be special in at least one way. You might say I
won the genetic lottery.
Have you had your Visual impairment / disability from birth?
Yes. What little vision I was born with is declining now, but I’ve
always been visually impaired.

Which terminology do you prefer: Partially Sighted, Visually Impaired, Sight
Impaired, Severely Sight Impaired or Blind?I tend to favour “blind” because it’s such an easy, uncomplicated
catch-all, and because I’m not sensitive about perfect accuracy. If
we’re being technical, though, “visually impaired” suits me best as I
do have a tiny amount of vision, though not enough to give me any real
perks! (Thanks, universe.)
Do you have a cane, Guide Dog or neither?
Oh, I’m a lover of the long white stick, for the moment at least.
If you could extinguish your disability, would you? – If not, please explain
why.
It’s a complex issue, but the short answer is, maybe. If there was a
medically low-risk cure available I might consider it, but only if
rehabilitation services were being offered afterword. I can’t imagine
suddenly being able to see with no one to help me process the new
information my brain was receiving. I’m not exactly happy to be
disabled, but I’ve grown used to living this way and the thought of
such a foundation-shattering change makes me shiver a little. For me,
it’s not a matter of snapping my fingers and making my problems go
away; it’s far more nuanced than that.
For those who do not know much about your VI what can you see?
I can’t properly answer this question, because I have no idea what
seeing normally would be like. I have no frame of reference. I can
tell you that I can see light and colour, though my colour perception
is fading as LCA continues to limit my peripheral vision. I can’t do
any of the useful stuff, though. I like to joke that I’m functionally
blind, for the most part. I can’t read print or recognize faces or
drive. I read braille, and use screen readers, and travel with a cane.
How has your disability effected you?
*Socially
It’s tough to say how exactly blindness has affected me socially,
because I’ve never been any other way. I will say that, within the
bounds of my family, it made very little difference. Certainly, my
cousins and sister had to slow down a little when playing tag or
hide-and-seek, but generally I felt like one of them in the ways that
mattered. School was a different story. I was lucky for the most part:
I wasn’t usually bullied, and when I was, it often involved some kid
running around me in circles chanting “You’re blind!” over and over.
(Really? I had no idea!) I was, however, ignored by almost everyone,
even the nice kids. I eventually made a few cherished friends, and I
graduated with a healthy social life.
Dating was harder, not least because I was introverted and shy. I
couldn’t exactly fall for someone I’d hardly spoken to because looks
were mostly irrelevant. I also found it difficult to exchange those
loaded glances you’re supposed to send across the room to the
potential new love interest. I met my fiance online (though not on a
dating site), so I haven’t dated in several years.
Now, I don’t find it much of a challenge to make friends and
socialize. It takes people some time to warm up to me, but once I
prove to be fairly normal, I find it simple enough to join groups for
work and school. While I do have a large group of blind friends and
acquaintances, I get along equally well with sighted people.
*physically
LCA is believed to be capable of causing all manner of delightful
things, like organ damage unrelated to the eyes, but so far I’ve been
spared. Blindness itself is not an overly physical disability, in that
you can still move uninhibited for the most part. With blindness, it’s
the external environment that’s more worrisome. I’ve sustained more
than a few minor and moderate injuries courtesy of a post I couldn’t
see or a wall I forgot about entirely. I actually gave myself a minor
concussion once via a support pole while playing a spirited game of
tag. I did forget which grade I was in and the names of my cats, but
what’s a knock on the head here and there for a life of carefree play,
right?

*Mentally
This can tie into the social aspects, I think, so it’s a hard question
to answer on its own. One of the most important parts of a human’s
general development is their relationship to the outside world, and
since I grew up in a rural community packed with sighted people, I had
no geographically close friends who understood me or my particular
struggles. The internet, when it finally came along, broadened my
horizons enormously, but as a child and young teenager, parts of my
life were quite distinct from those around me and I had no idea if I
was doing everything right. Any exclusionary trait is going to
interfere with mental development, so I doubt I could even begin to
quantify the ways blindness shaped mine. I was sometimes put in
separate classes, though not often as I went to public school. I was
excluded from many activities, and placed in groups with people who
had cognitive disabilities (the reasoning being that disabled people
should all be lumped in together, even when they have nothing in
common at all). I really think my small but loyal group of sighted
friends saved my sanity while I was growing up.
Now, I’m reasonably well-adjusted, so I doubt blindness is quite as
problematic for me mentally as it used to be.

Do you think your disability has made you who you are today?
I imagine it’s impossible to have a disability like blindness and
remain entirely unaffected by it. My identity is made up of so many
components of my life, and blindness is an undeniably important part
of that. Maybe I’d be more inclined toward sports if I could see,
though there are many blind athletes, so that’s unlikely. Maybe I’d be
more interested in fashion, though again, there are many
fashion-conscious blind people, so that seems unlikely, too. Maybe I
wouldn’t be as introverted or bookish; maybe I wouldn’t be as
interested in music; maybe I wouldn’t be as passionate about diversity
and social justice. Still, introversion, musicianship, and a passion
for social justice are fairly common, so I’m not convinced blindness
has made me who I am, from the ground up. It would be naive to claim
it hasn’t shaped me at all, though. Blindness has a habit of
encouraging certain traits while minimizing others. Music an books are
blind-friendly, so it’s natural that I would gravitate toward them. It
makes sense that I’d be passionate about diversity, as I’m a diverse
individual by default.
If I had to cite one positive, disability-related aspect of my
identity, I suppose it would have to be a certain empathy toward any
and all struggles, whether I understand them or not. I’m quicker to
get involved on behalf of someone else, and much more likely to
consider a new discrimination case carefully before making judgements
about how it might be dealt with. Disability has, in short, reminded
me on a regular basis that life is unfair. It has made me want to make
it a little fairer.

Is there a particular question you get asked often because of your
disability? If so, please explain below.
There are too many to name! I suppose I’m most often asked how I
manage living with blindness. I don’t have a satisfactory answer to
this, so I just tell people that necessity is very persuasive. If
you’re given a burden and told you must either bear it or not exist at
all, it’s not a hard choice to make. This doesn’t mean I don’t
struggle, and this doesn’t mean I necessarily enjoy being disabled,
but it does mean that I’m forced to handle it, so I do. Most days,
it’s not even on my mind much. >
What are the positives of having a disability?
I’d say the positive I most value is that I get to see the best of
people. I definitely get to see the worst of people, too, when they
discriminate against me or tell me I’m just a drag on resources and
ought to go home to my mother. I get to meet people while they’re
offering an providing assistance, asking how they can get involved in
associated causes, and generally trying to understand me. So many
strangers have crossed my path because they wanted to know how they
could improve the lives of others. It’s a privilege to interact with
so many who seek education and champion diversity for all people, not
just themselves. These are the type of people who make great lifelong
friends.
What are the negatives of having a disability?
There are a few too many to discuss properly here. The obvious ones
are social exclusion, chronic unemployment, accessibility barriers,
gaps in understanding, lowered educational an professional standards,
bullying and bigotry, etc. Even the most successful, functional
disabled people can’t escape at least a few of these. You just learn
how to deal with them. We have all the same issues as every other
humans; we just have a few extra ones, too.

What would you say is a difficulty for you being VI / disabled?
At the moment, my most immediate difficulty is finding gainful
employment. I’m on the job hunt, and I’m routinely bumping up against
barriers that wouldn’t exist for a sighted person with my
qualifications and skills. I’ll be looking at the ideal job,
daydreaming about the interview, only to find a few duties associated
with video editing or some other skill I just can’t learn to a high
enough standard. Then there’s the issue of disclosure: I no longer
disclose blindness on application forms, because it’s the quickest way
to guarantee that my resume will end up in the recycling bin and my
calls will go unreturned. More than once, a hiring manager has become
excited about me as a candidate, only to go silent when they realize
I’m blind. Suddenly, the position has been filled, or they no longer
need anyone at all. So, interviews are stressful because I’m
anticipating their reactions to me. I know I’ll be defending the
qualifications a sighted person would simply be assumed to have. When
sighted people point to their degree, it’s assumed they can do the job
until they prove otherwise. For me, it’s the opposite: I find myself
defending my degree, because it’s assumed I’m incompetent until I
prove otherwise. It’s highly discouraging.
As a person with a disability, what are the things you face on a daily /
weekly basis that frustrate you?
*In your home
Unless I’m very careful about organization, it’s easy to lose things,
even if I’ve only just put them down. I can spend ten minutes
searching my tiny apartment for my keys or cell phone. (Of course, I
can put this down to being a wee bit scatterbrained, as well.) Then
there are general accessibility issues, like labels I can’t read,
though I have developed labeling systems to get around that. The home
is the least frustrating environment because it’s the only one I can
control.

*outside your home
The most frustrating obstacles outside the home are usually outdoors.
While I can learn a route and travel with reasonable safety and
precision, any unexpected obstacles can really throw me off. (This is
partially because I have a cane, but it can hinder guide dog
travelers, too.)Construction zones, illegally-parked vehicles, and
snowbanks are just a few of the objects that can knock me off course
if I’m not especially familiar with the area I’m navigating. Of
course, outside the home, people are free to move objects around with
impunity. So, even if I’m organized, as soon as someone moves my
belongings around, it’s going to slow me down. This happens especially
in school and workplaces, where a huge volume of people come and go,
often touching and manipulating things I will later need to use. This
is why we can be so fussy about our own possessions, and why we hate
it when others move them.
Are there any tips or tricks you use in daily life you’d like to pass on to
another VI/ disabled person?
I don’t have a ton of handy tips and tricks that aren’t either common
knowledge or stolen from those wiser than I am. I think the single
most useful thing I can think of is the value of labels. Label
everything, even if you think you can probably remember where you’ve
put a thing. That way, if someone else comes in and shifts your stuff,
you’re not facing hours of fiddling. If you can afford one, get
yourself a Pen Friend. The thing is an ingenious piece of tech that I
use all the time.

Do you use Assisstive technology in your daily living?
All the time! Assistive tech is how I get through my life with any
degree of efficiency, especially at work and school. I use, among
other things, a screen reader, an electronic labeler, (pen friend),
multiple image recognition apps, a scanner, and my beloved Packmate
braille display (yes, I still live in the Middle Ages, sue me).

What piece of advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed? Or going
through a deterioration in vision / or mobility?
I don’t know what it would be like to lose or be about to lose your
sight, since I’ve never really had much of it myself. All I would say
is that it’s so important to reach out to others going through the
same things. The internet is full of support groups for every
imaginable struggle, and if you can’t find one, start one. I know it’s
cliched, but you’re never alone.
Any advice you’d like to give to a person with sight / no disabilities?
Assume we’re normal until told otherwise. Obviously there are some
differences, but I think you’ll find they matter far less than you
might imagine.
Did you seek out any specialist services / charities to help you and your
family deal with your situation?
I was diagnosed in infancy, so my parents sought out the CNIB to
provide some support. As I got older, I usually handled struggles
without tailored help, though the CNIB continued to provide occasional
guidance as I grew. Today, I’m almost entirely independent of
designated charities and the like, but I do know when to ask for
help–something it took me a long time to learn.

Where can people find you out in the world?
🙂
When I’m not being featured on the excellent blogs of others, I can be
found on my own blog (wheresyourdog.wordpress.com) where I write about
advocacy, education, and diversity, among other things. There’s even a
post about how horrible mosquitoes are; it’s definitely a riot. You
can follow me on twitter (@MeaganHHoule), where I share things that
make me laugh, cry, and think. You can also witness my addiction to
literature on Goodreads
(https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/27630033-meagan-houle). Add me so
I can fall in love with the same books you do!

Anything you’d like to add my lovely?

Thank you so much for taking the time to read about me and my dubious wisdom.
If you take nothing else away from what I’ve said today, just remember
to follow this blogger’s example and ask lots of questions (after
checking that they’re nice, polite questions, that is). We all need to
know how much we don’t know. Knowing how much you don’t know is half
the battle…or something. Now, get out there and (respectfully)
pester some folks!




Thank you Meagan for your fabulous answers! Not only did I see yet another great prespective of how you live your life as a person with a disability, but you embraced it with such humour and pazazz! I love your writing style, it’s unique and amusing; certainly puts my ramblings to shame! 🙂

Please don’t forget to follow her links, and why not share the love? Leave her a comment, we would both appreciate it!

If you or anyone you know would like to take part in my Campaign, do not hesitate to contact me on the following:
Email:SassysWorld6@gmail.com
Twitter
Facebook

If you enjoyed this interview why not check out the others in the series so far?
Interview 1
Interview 2
Interview 3

You are most welcome to subscribe to my mailing list so you do not miss any future interviews. For that I would be most grateful! 🙂

Thank you once again Meagan, it was lovely to interview and find out more about you as a person!




I hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I did?

Until next time wonderful people!

Much love, Sassy x

Embrace The Cane

Embrace The Cane!

Last week I filled out the fab VIP Daily living tag. Created by Holly and Elle and Within this tag a question I answered I talked about how I embraced my cane after feeling self conscious.

I also have been talking to a lovely guy, and a similar conversation arose so I thought I would give a more in-depth story of how I embraced my cane.

I first had cane training lessons when I attended a specialised college for the blind. My sight was deteriorating, and after speaking with my Mum about it, she suggested getting in touch with the mobility department and asking for cane training encase I needed to use one in the future.
And that’s what I did.

In my free periods, I would have cane training with a mobility teacher, she was very patient with me; knowing how much I despised the thought of using a cane, I saw it as an embarrassment, and a way to draw unwanted attention to myself.
I used to cringe when having to use the cane on campus, and about in public.

The specialist college that I went to had a large number of visually impaired people who were mainstreamed in high school, and they didn’t use a cane, the majority of these people, like myself, felt confident without a cane and just saw it as a nuisance. So for the whole time of my college years myself and others who were visually impaired did not use a cane. And as horrible as it sounds, I actually believed that I would get mocked and sneered at if I were to admit I was taking these lessons.

I was in a juxtaposition with myself; I didn’t want to learn to use a cane, because that meant there was a possibility I would need to actually use it, but when I was out with my mobility teacher and it was just she and I, I felt more relaxed and wanted to conquer it. I was eager to learn and get things right, and would constantly chastise myself when my swing was out of time with my footing. (I am a left handed cane user; so as I step out with my right foot, my cane swings across my body to protect that side from being caught by an obstacle).She taught me how to swing in step, how to go up and down stairs and how to cross a road safely and properly as a cane user. By the time I left the college, I felt confident that I could actually use a cane if ever I needed to.

*********

The first time I used the cane was about a month before I lost my sight completely. Again, I admitted to my Mum how hard it was to get around, how I felt scared a lot of the time and would ask people to come with me somewhere, or guide me whenever we were together.
I would see bollards or wheelie bins at the last possible second, and on a few occasions, it was too late and I got a bruising from inanimate objects. Likewise, I would jump out of my skin and sop dead thinking there was an obstacle in my path, but there was nothing there.

I was constantly nervous leaving my home, and avoiding doing so at all costs unless I was assisted. I was losing my independence and I hated it.
I said to my Mum that when I came home for the summer, I would conquer my embarrassment of the cane and use it, because I knew it was time I used it. I was becoming a danger to myself, and potentially others.
Mum agreed.

Note to self: don’t tell Mum anything!
Mum tells the entire family i’ve decided to use my cane after all these years! “Even though she should have been using it years ago!”!

Every time I went to leave the house: “Sassy are you going to take your cane?”

*Hates self for telling Mother about the cane*

“No, I don’t need to., it’s really sunny out and I know this town like the back of my hand.”

A few days of this conversation happening…… Mother had asked me to go to the shop and get some bits, knowing I would struggle finding the items and the stress of it all I waited until my Sister got home from school and asked her to come with me.

“Yes. But only if you take your cane.”

“Francis don’t tell me what to do, i’ll use my cane when I need to!”
“Well i’m not taking you to the shops then, Sassy you said to Mum weeks ago that you know your sight is too bad to not use it, and that you know it’ll help you not only get around safely, but it will allow people to see that you can see them and not just being ignorant!”

*Fuming at my little Sister for telling me what to do, and showing sense*

“Fine! Let me go change.”

“Go change? It’s really warm outside Sassy, what are you on about?”

I’ll be back in a second!””

“Why the hell are you wearing a hoody?”

“So I can wear my hood up.”

“What? Why?”

“So people can’t see me.”

“Sassy you’re wearing a bright pink jumper with your hood up in summer, people are going to notice you, regardless of the cane!”

“Just shut up and let me do what I want!”

*All the way down to the shops*

*Oh god this is so embarrassing, see I knew people would be staring. I hate this so much*
“Sassy you look so stupid. Put your hood down.”

“No!”

“Put your hood down and your head up, everyone knows you’re blind anyway. It’s pretty obvious who you are !”

By the time we got home Mother was already back.

“Why are you wearing a jumper, and with the hood up?”

“So I can hide.”

*Mother just laughs and listens to Francis retail the scenario. While I stalk off*

From then it became a bit more of a frequent occurrence, if I left the house I would take it. Still under duress I will say! But I used it more often, still deliberately leaving it behind if I could get away with it!

********

The day I lost my sight, and actually realised I couldn’t see I kept thinking thank god I brought the cane!

I left the hospital with my Parents and embraced this ugly duckling, that had transformed into the beautiful white Swan before my eyes. Figuratively speaking of course! 😉

In the strangest of ways losing my sight, opened my eyes to the independence I could now have with this ugly white metal object.
Because I couldn’t see people watching me, or staring, they didn’t exist.

The cane became MY cane: my aid, my ally and an extension of me.
And from then, on I’ve never looked back! 🙂

I hope you liked my story 🙂

Have you ever felt in a situation similar to mine? Or as a cane user can you relate to my story?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! 🙂




Much love, Sassy x

Challenges of Being Disabled: The Social Side.

Social Challenges.

As a wheelchair user:

The social challenges I’ve faced have been constant.People continually stared when I was in public. Strangely it was adults that were the worst. Children stopped and stared and asked inquisitive questions, which I could handle, and if I was in talking distance I explained that I couldn’t walk very far, and it was very painful to do so. Adults on the other hand stared and pointed me out to their friends. After time my Mother used to get angry at these people and shout

“Take a picture it’ll last longer!”

At that point the adults became embarrassed and looked away.

  • People frequently would walk in front of the wheelchair and either stop dead to stare or jump out of the way dramatically just in time. Comical for the first few times but after years of it, it gets very annoying.

People insisted on talking to my Mother or anyone else who happened to be pushing me at the time. It is a strange misconception that people who happen to use a wheelchair, have other disabilities or learning impairments.
When this happened my Mother would say:

“She does have a tongue in her head, and knows how to use it.”Adults would talk to me as if I were 2/3 years old, or bend down to talk to me so they could be eye level. I found this extremely patronising and said on several occasions:

“I am a teenager, not a baby!”

“I can see your face from where you were standing.”




 

As a long cane user:

 

  • Ignorance:

Over the last 2 years that I have been using a cane I have had very similar experiences with people stopping and staring, jumping out of the way at the last minute, and speaking to the person I might be with rather than addressing me directly. As I am much older and more mature I tend to ignore these incidents, and realise that I shouldn’t allow myself to get aggravated with these people as I can’t see them and i’m not likely to notice them ever again!
Children have asked their parents about my “white stick” and again if I am in talking distance, I explain that I cannot see things clearly, and the cane is there to let people know I cannot see.

  • New people:

My main social challenges are interacting with new people; whether that’s talking to staff in a shop or restaurant I feel awkward because 9/10 times I can feel the uneasiness of the other person interacting with me.I always look at the persons face but if I am staring at their mouth or their forehead when i’m talking it’s obvious to them I can’t actually see them standing in front of me and i believe it makes them feel awkward too.
Making new friends has also been a challenge for the same reasons mentioned above, but the way I see it *ahem pardon the pun* 😉 they aren’t worth my time if they can’t get past my visual impairment.
Buildings:

Finding new places/ buildings is a stressor to me, I have to plan a route and use a a SatNav application to reach my destination, and i’ve heard people laugh if I walk into objects/ walls.

  • Helpful people:

If people have seen me waiting to cross a road they have taken my arm without me asking, people have also picked up the end of my cane, or taken the cane completely off me to grab my hand to cross me over. With these incidents specifically I hadn’t necessarily noticed there was a person there as I was too busy concentrating on listening to the traffic and judging when it was safest to cross. I find it pretty bewildering and at some points stressful as they plonk me on the other side and walk off.Or most importantly they have taken the thing I need the most to aid me crossing the road safely, and sometimes it’s stunned and shocked me into silence.
My last social challenge was a sort of scary one; I was walking home from the local supermarket bags in hand, when I was approached by a guy who said hello, we chatted for a minute or two then I made my excuses to leave. The guy didn’t get the hint, and asked me for my number, saying how attractive I was. I explained I was flattered but I don’t give my number out to strangers. He was persistent saying he only wanted my number to be friends and chat, but I said I really must leave I’m meeting friends soon. I walked away. As I reached the top of the hill he came rushing up to me asking if I was meeting my friends in town, and if i needed a hand to get there. I politely declined but he continued to follow me, returning to our previous conversation about asking for my number and going on a date. At this point I was getting quite close to home and had to really insist I wasn’t interested, and I needed to go now. Eventually he stopped walking with me, to which I couldn’t be more happy about. I was close to my house, and knew I was safe, but I needed him to back off as I didn’t want to show him where I lived.

My heart was pounding as I got home, I knew deep down he wasn’t going to hurt me, he was just a guy trying his luck, but as a petite female who can’t see past her nose, I was genuinely worried he wouldn’t leave and therefore find out where I lived and potentially stalk me. Thank the gods that never happened!
I know some of you who are reading this might perceive my thoughts and reactions as rude and inappropriate, but if you could put yourself in my shoes for a day, you’d understand. I strive to be pleasant and polite when I am out and about, but it becomes frustrating and boring hearing, and seeing, the same things from the same people everyday. I think more needs to be done to educate children and adults on how to approach and speak to people with disabilities. The more we educate, the more we learn, and the more we can end the awkward surrounding disability!

I will also say that these are just my bad experiences of dealing with people interacting with me as a disabled person. I would like to input that from being in a wheelchair as a child and teenager, to becoming blind as an adult, my perceptions and attitudes towards people have changed, and I am far more reserved, and polite when interacting with new people. I attempt to be pleasant when out in public, and educate those around me, especially when children or adults have asked questions. I won’t stand for people patronising me or being ignorant, but the ways in which I will express it is in a mature manner, and diplomatically show them the errors of their ways. I’m not sure if it’s because I have a changed persona from my childhood, or I give people the benefit of the doubt now, but i’m very lucky that I have had far more happy, interesting and pleasant interactions and conversations with the public since I went blind.
If you’re worried about interacting with people with disabilities, check out SCOPE’s End The Awkward campaign 🙂
Thanks for reading, I know my posts can be pretty hefty. Feel free to comment below if you have any comments or questions on this weeks blog 🙂

Sassy x




Challenges of Being Disabled: The Emotional Side.

Emotional Challenges.

As a wheelchair user In a lot of ways my emotional challenges were probably typical of anyone with a disability who needed to use a wheelchair to continue with daily life. Although I was not completely immobile, the pain I suffered in my childhood was beyond anything I can put into words, so having a wheelchair was a large relief not just to my body but my mind too. Don’t get me wrong I definitely had my moments: stress, frustration and anger were not only my weakness,I became emotionally drained, but it was also my empowerment. I needed that frustration and anger to keep me going, screaming at my own body to move when I was seized up, and the agony that ensued for moving it.
I really had to train myself to accept help from family and friends, and try not to be so fiercely independent. Trying to do everything on my own was deep seated within me, I didn’t want to look weak, or behave differently from my classmates, so I tried my hardest to keep up and stay involved. Unfortunately children can be quite cruel, and on a number of occasions when my friends got annoyed that I walked so slow, and couldn’t run around, they would make fun of me, and more than once actually ran away from me. My temper and sadness got the better of me, I would shout after them horrible names for leaving me, but then break down and cry whilst hobbling home, knowing that I was different and they didn’t like me being disabled.

The emotional stages of fear, grief and denial I went through was extremely hard as a child, I once was a “normal” child, and then I wasn’t. I would rely on friends to push me around in my wheelchair especially when my arms and wrists got tired, but if they weren’t interested in helping because the novelty had worn off, I had to find a way to get home, or for the next week or so I wasn’t invited out to hang out, and because I depended on them for support, if I wasn’t invited, I had no option but to stay indoors, and find something else to do those evenings.

Due to the physical challenges it unfortunately impacted heavily on my emotional state, it was draining not just on me as a person, but everyone around me, and for those years of my childhood, they were harder to cope with than I would have ever imagined.




As a long cane user: My emotional state has definitely varied over the years since my sight loss began. In some ways it was similar to my emotional state when I was in a wheelchair but it dipped and progressed in lots of different ways. As I started to lose my sight I feared a lot for my future and became frequently angry over the lack o control, my late teenage years were particularly distressing because although I had accepted I couldn’t see as well as I used to, I was in denial that it could get worse, and exclaimed several times over the years I would take my own life if I ever lost my sight completely.

Because my sight deteriorated in stages it was in some ways easier to get a handle on it and adjust to my lack of vision, but because I knew exactly what I was losing I became far more angry and upset, and it all boiled down to the loss of control, and asking others for more and more help.

When I suddenly lost my remaining vision, it was a real blow. I went into the hospital knowing I would regain more sight, and waking up from my operation with nothing. The reason I say knowing was pure denial; my Surgeon, who was also my Professor, had done this more than once over the years, so even though I knew the risks I refused to believe there would be a bad outcome. After 24 hours I had light perception and a tiny pin prick of my old vision, that was what made me carry on with life, and realise things could be worse. I’ve still had my moments of ultimate distress, fear for my future, and grieve for what i’ve lost. But through the help of family, friends and a counsellor I now take each day as it comes, and see everyday as a new challenge to conquer! 🙂 🙂 🙂




Challenges of Being Disabled: The Physical side.

This post is going to be a bit more doom and gloom this week i’m afraid. It focuses on the challenges i’ve faced as a disabled person, but I am going to explain it from 2 different stand points. Unfortunately over the years I have had some negative experiences, but as they say: you gotta take the good with the bad!I am going to break it down into 3 main categories and have 2 sub sections looking at the viewpoints from a wheelchair user and a long cane user.




Physical Challenges.

As a wheelchair user:

 

  • Steps / flights of stairs. these have been the bane of my existence since my arthritis hit full throttle. I used a wheelchair to get around easily but that was always hindered by steps. Getting into places such as restaurants, or shopping stores, If I was by myself and there were no ramps or lifts available I had to get out of my wheelchair and get it up the step. If it was a flight of stairs I had to make an informed decision on whether firstly, I could manage the stairs, and secondly, if it was safe to leave my wheelchair unattended. The reason I got so upset wasn’t just because it was an inconvenience for me, but I thought of all the people who were paralysed or unable to get out of their wheelchair for other reasons. I’m glad the law has changed but I always made sure to make a point of complaining either directly or indirectly to the staff members of the establishments.

Pavements:

  • Another source of vexation for me! I don’t think people are fully aware of just how high pavements actually are, unless I was being pushed by someone who was happy to bump me off the kerb and then recline me back again so I could get back up the other kerb, it was like strapping yourself into Oblivion at Alton Towers, and just hanging there, waiting to plunge face forward. If the persons’ body weight was not counterbalancing my tipping point, I would fall forward and have the wheelchair on top of me. Trust me on this, don’t try doing it yourself, it hurts! I learnt that the hard way! And what if someone wasn’t pushing me? I would have to wheel myself halfway down the street, passing the path I needed to be on, just to find a sloping pavement. Imagine how annoying and not-to-mention how tiring it is when that’s just a small part of your journey!

Buses:

  • Before buses in the UK had hydraulic suspension fitted getting a wheelchair on and off them was a total nightmare, combine that with the previous challenges I mentioned earlier, and you’ll understand why I was extremely displeased to get on one of the older buses.
  • One time I can’t go without mentioning, again,buses. My partner and I were on a packed bus home at rush hour, full of people of all ages:specifically referring to 3 women with pushchairs sitting at the front with their toddlers. As you can imagine, traffic was practically at a stand still, and the journey was extremely long. If it wasn’t bad enough that it was hectic, one toddler insisted on screaming the bus down until his Mother lifted him out of his pushchair. When we eventually got to the next stop there was a gentleman in a wheelchair waiting patiently to get on… The bus driver opened the doors and shook his head at the man in the wheelchair; because there were women on board with their toddlers in pushchairs!! The driver did not ONCE ask any of the women to fold up their pushchairs and hold their child on their lap, which is a policy of UK bus companies! I’m still so enraged to this day thinking about the injustice that the poor gentleman suffered! The woman already had her toddler on her lap, yet the driver didn’t even acknowledge this and do his duty as a bus driver! I even tweeted the bus company just after the event and got no response! It baffles me why some people can be so completely ignorant!!




As a long cane user:

  •  Being a long cane user is quite physically demanding, and unless it’s a route I know like the back of my hand, I have to be fully vigilant at all times when travelling around. If wheelie bins have been left out, or cars are parked on the pavement, my cane gets caught in the smallest of gaps and cause me to jar my wrist or stab myself in the stomach. Not a pleasant experience!
    Pavements: walking through the town centre or generally around the area I live in, i’m almost guarantied i’ll trip, or my cane will get snagged on the raised slabs and cause me to twist my wrist or have my cane fly behind me, as I try to continue and I haven’t noticed it’s stuck! It’s sort of painful, but in truth, more embarrassing than anything else…

People:

  • On several occasions people have not paid any attention and caught me with their body part, pushchair, or handbag, and as strange as it sounds, it’s physically demanding to retain your balance and not steer off track when this happens. I think it might have more to do with me being more unsteady on my feet due to my arthritis, but using a cane in public really takes it toll physically on a visually impaired person.