Tag Archives: visuallyimpaired

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/




Spring Staycation For Those With Disabilities

With recent unrest and Brexit on the horizon, a holiday in the UK is looking like an attractive option this year. There has been a recent rise in the ‘staycation’ due to economic reasons, but though you may not have to change your sterling into another currency, a staycation still requires a little organisation, especially if your holiday needs to include accessible elements.
Though many would assume sharing a language would make everything infinitely easier (which it does) there are other elements of a mainly meteorological nature, to overcome. The UK has many fantastic locations for every sort of holiday you can imagine, from the picturesque West Country to the action packed Lake District. Though as with most things in life, planning is key.
While the UK is making great efforts towards being more inclusive, accessible for one hotel means wider door frames and a lack of steps, while what you really need is specially adapted facilities and a hoist. Ensuring that you are getting what you expect is mainly down to clear and open communication from the start and at every element of your trip.
Not only is accommodation vital to your trip, but so are many other elements, but often overlooked is dining. While on holiday, you wish to treat yourself, but if all the best eateries are up several stairs and do not cater to those with limited mobility, it will not be the vacation you are hoping for.
We spoke to those who know best when it comes to accessible holidays, for their top tips for a staycation to create a little guide that everyone should peruse before they indulge in a British break. Including everything from accommodation to activities, dining to domestics, it allows you to do nothing but relax by the time your holiday comes round. Click here for the in-depth guide :

http://www.companionstairlifts.co.uk/news/planning-your-spring-staycation/
Keep up-to-date by following their social networks:
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Disability Q&A #15 Sean Randall

Welcome back to my #DisabilityQ&A series.
Today’s interview is brought to you by Sean, we met on Twitter and I asked if he would like to participate, thankfully he said yes 🙂 his no nonsense approach with his eloquent writing echoes everything I’ve come across in the blind community.

Enjoy!

Tell me about yourself:

My name is Sean Randall. I’m 28 years old and I live in a village just outside of Worcester in England with my fiancée, 5-year-old daughter and Guide Dog.

What is your job?

I am an accessibility and technology specialist at a school for the blind and visually impaired. My workday is split pretty fifty-fifty between working with a student and his or her technology needs, and providing accessibility support for the college as a whole.

When teaching the students we can be working on practicing typing skills to writing computer software or anything in between. Students bring me any technology they want to learn to use better, and together we explore all the options and find techniques for improving their access. It’s a great feeling when a student who has never used a computer before can walk into the classroom and reply to her emails before moving on to her next task without any input from me at all. We’re just at the start of a new school year, so there’ll be a new intake of students to get to grips with, and I was pleased to learn that over the summer, all our former students got their places at university or ended up somewhere they were happy (one of my best pupils is now working with the BBC!)

The other half of my job is not as immediately gratifying but it *is* important. I manage our school network and technology from an accessibility point of view. This can involve anything from making sure new software the college wants to obtain is accessible to all staff or students, right down to deciding on specific manufacturers and suppliers for specialist devices (such as Braille Displays. We also run a lot of outreach events, where teachers and support staff from all over the country come to see what we do, and I answer lots of questions and help find paths through the education system for young people throughout the UK during these sessions. I get questions from young blind people themselves, their teachers, parents and carers, and even sometimes their friends. It’s a hugely rewarding job I do, with such a variety of tasks on any given day that I’m never at a loss for something to do.

What hobbies do you have?

I’m a huge reader. If I ever have 5 minutes to myself you’ll find me sneaking a few pages of my current novel: I enjoy science fiction and fantasy books in the main, although a good contemporary fiction novel or legal thriller sometimes hooks me. I follow technological, political, disability and accessibility news very closely, mainly because it’s the sort to impact me and my family and job the most, so I don’t read much non-fiction for pleasure because I like my books to whisk me off to somewhere pleasant for a while!

I also enjoy horror films, long walks, country music, goalball and good food and spend some of my time volunteering to help people with their technology over the phone or in their own homes if they need it. I dabble in software development too, my fiancée is quite partial to having a pet programmer who can whip up little computer programs to do her bidding.

What is the medical reason you have a disability?

I was born over 12 weeks prematurely, so my eyes weren’t fully developed. I needed Oxygen to survive, and that further damaged my retinas. I weighed less than a bag of sugar at birth. People often ask me if it would’ve been sensible to try without the Oxygen to keep my eyes intact, and I always tell them the same thing. Without Oxygen I would die. With damaged retinas, I simply need to be a little more creative to live the kind of life I want!

Have you had your Visual impairment / disability from birth?

Yes.

Which terminology do you prefer: Partially Sighted, Visually Impaired,Sight Impaired, Severely Sight Impaired or Blind?

Blind. Even though I don’t live in pitch blackness – I can see light sources in one eye – I don’t have any “useful vision”. Blind is a simple word with a simple meaning and it makes sense for me to use it to describe myself, and it has the added benefit of being true!

Do you have a cane, Guide Dog or neither?

A guide dog. I took the step of getting him when my daughter was born, because I knew we’d need to go places. True enough, the walks to nursery, the bakers, butchers and shops around town were made much more efficient and pleasant with him and he is a faithful companion and family pet when he’s not working. I was very against getting a guide dog until I had a pressing need, and the village where we live at present is probably a little too small for him really (I find myself walking him for the sake of it more than work). SO even though he’s loved and a huge part of the family I would have to think carefully about the need before replacing him when he retires in a few years.

If you could extinguish your disability, would you? – If not, please explain why.

If you’d asked me this question 5 years ago I would’ve been emphatic and firm and said no. I was happy in my skin with a quality of life I was content with doing what I wanted to be doing. All this changed when my daughter came along. We have a great time, but there are things having vision would improve: getting around is probably the biggest one, the freedom to hop into the car and drive off somewhere is strong. Also just being able to know where we are by looking, and to see what my daughter is up to without needing to keep an ear or a hand on her would be a big incentive for me to gain any vision I could.

For those who do not know much about your VI what can you see?

Just light. It’s enough to tell where the sun or brighter sources (windows, larger lamps etc) are coming from. I do get burned-out quickly, which is hard to explain, but for instance if I was standing in a room and you turned the light on and off a few times quickly my eye would stop processing things and I wouldn’t be able to determine if it was on or not. Sometimes I get random flashes of light that aren’t there, which can be confusing, usually when I’m very tired or unwell.

How has your disability effected you?

My disability has shaped my life, in many ways. Socially it’s made me very keen to help others, and I enjoy a good level of engagement within the blind community (I’m active on social media, mailing lists and so on). I don’t have many sighted friends, but those I do have I get on well with.

Physically, I don’t know what impact it’s had. I’m not particularly coordinated or skilled with my hands and fingers, perhaps that would’ve been different if I wasn’t disabled. I am quite fit – I can run a fair distance and spent the first few years of my daughter’s life carrying her around on my back.

Mentally, being blind has made me realise that if I want something, asking for it has to be done the right way. So many of my friends have asked for “help”, without being specific enough that the person in question knows what to do. For example when our daughter started school, it wouldn’t have worked if we’d just said “we want letters in an accessible format: how on earth is the school receptionist supposed to know what we find accessible? The spectrum of visual impairment goes from needing print a little larger than average to deaf-blind people reading Braille and nothing else, and blind people themselves can often do things in a number of ways. “Can you email us letters?” is what we said, and we get them that way and everyone is happy. I think the core lesson here is that you as a person with a disability need to have the awareness of what’s out there to help you and the ability or advocacy to communicate that where appropriate. This is where the sociability comes in, being part of the blind community on social media or otherwise gives you a great resource when you’ve got questions.

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

Certainly it’s made me do what I do. I can’t imagine I’d work in the disability sector if I didn’t have a disability myself. I’d like to think it’s made me a more tolerant, caring and understanding person. It’s hard to separate me from my disability because it’s always been a part of me; if I’d lived nearly 30 years with working eyes then maybe I could answer this one properly!

*Please give a positive example of how this has done so… Example: Not judging people by their appearance

Although it mightn’t appear positive to begin with, I think the one thing my disability has done for me is to not take any excuses. There’s no reason why someone with my eye condition and nothing else wrong with them couldn’t learn to do the things I do. Not the things I’ve chosen to learn (like computer programming), but the day-to-day tasks of maintaining a house, paying the bills, helping with homework and going to and from my job are all things that society expects of me, that I expect of myself and that I would expect of anyone in a similar situation.

Is there a particular question you get asked often because of your disability? If so, please explain below.

I think the most widespread question is sort of an umbrella “how do you manage?” and of course that depends on what you’re doing at the time. The average sighted person tries to imagine themselves doing the task in question with their eyes shut (making a cup of tea, sending an email, changing a nappy, chopping vegetables) and of course to them it’s a scary and worrying prospect. They almost invariably decide they couldn’t do it, and so they assume I have some amazing secret that enables me to work on their level. I’m as guilty as anybody of this – I’ve met people with one arm or missing fingers, or who can’t hear or speak, and of course I find myself wondering how I’d cope in that situation.

There’s no easy answer, either. And that’s because we adapt in hundreds of little ways to thousands of different tasks whether we’re disabled or not. There’s no magic solution, and I think people leave perplexed because they’re expecting something to make up for my lack of vision when in reality, I simply do things differently sometimes because I’ve never had it.

What are the positives of having a disability?

Learning that things are rarely impossible. It’s probably the best time in history to be disabled because of the profusion of technology. I can work, bank, shop, play, study, interact and absorb online with, in nine cases out of ten, very moderate adaptations to the way anyone else might do it.

One of the best examples is books. I used to buy second-hand paperback books from charity shops because I had a huge beast of a scanner, which would scan one page at a time into the computer so I could read the book. I’d buy old tatty copies so I could chop them up and feed the pages into the system, and spend about a month correcting the scanned text to something readable. Seriously, weeks on a single book. Today? I just buy the Kindle edition. I cannot express the glee that it gives me to know that in less time than I could walk to the shop and pick up a print copy of the book I can be reading it curled up in my dressing gown, lounging in the sun, or heading off somewhere on the train. And the point here, of course, is that the same holds true for you if you are sighted. The difference is in how we absorb the material, not how we get it. And that’s the key problem historically and one where the gap is slowly but steadily narrowing.

What are the negatives of having a disability?

I have two big downsides to my disability. First, I can’t live as spontaneously as I’d like. If I wanted to go on holiday, drive to a random restaurant for a meal, go and see a film or treat my fiancée to a day out I have to plan more than most do. I need to look at audio-description in the cinema, menus at restaurants, travel assistance for trains or aircraft and guidance to or around unfamiliar areas. None of the things are impossible, but all of them are less practical. Perhaps not all of them are completely necessary (you can argue we can watch a movie without the audio-description) but why not use it if it’s there? I don’t see this ever going away completely. Things are improving, the sheer variety of apps on the market for your phone for accessibility is a staggering testament to this, but unless we end up living in a society where we have little robots to be our eyes I imagine there will always be situations where another person is put on the spot to render some small assistance.

The second negative to being disabled for me is the lack of belief and understanding from the general public. It’s by no means the majority, but I have come across people who tell me that my daughter “will be a help”. Really? DO people honestly believe that my fiancée and I live such dreary and doleful lives that we had to have a baby to cheer us up with the understanding that she’ll be a working pair of eyes when she’s older? Well, yes. Some people clearly believe that. And it’s utter nonsense, of course. She’ll do her fair share of chores as anyone else (washing dishes is a chore but we can’t stop eating and when she’s old enough to help out around the home she’ll do so). But that would happen whether we or she were blind or not, the two just don’t conflate at all. I know the great public can be stupid en-mass (remember Boaty Mcboatface?) but how they can’t perceive that we lived perfectly viable lives before her birth but must be bringing her up as a slave to our vision loss is a mystery to me. It’s not just about having a child, of course. I tell someone I’m late for work and I get “Oh, but it’s so good you’ve got a job!”. I ask a company to email me something and I’m told “isn’t it amazing that you can do email?” and on one memorable occasion I was told that “you’re a star” when I came back from a public toilet. What on Earth is that all about? So if I had to put it into a sentence I’d say that this downside to being disabled is the negativity that people project on me as a result of it. I feel very sorry for those who lose their vision later in life because as well as their own uncertainties and confusion about how things will work, they have this huge cultural bundle of negativity to deal with as well.

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

Perhaps my biggest personal difficulty is having a written signature that isn’t clear. I wasn’t instructed in the use of a pen at an early age. I have a vague memory of a week or so’s practice to open a bank account in my early teens, but that never followed through and so I can rarely duplicate a written signature the second time around. Luckily it’s something with time, effort and practice I should be able to resolve!

As a person with a disability, what are the things you face on a daily /weekly basis that frustrate you?

*In your home

I think my number one irritation at home is consistency. I use a variety of apps to read labels and scan bar codes of produce so I know what things are, and if they are perishable items (such as food) when they go out of date or how to cook them. I’ve found that there’s rarely a simple solution to knowing exactly where on the packaging the bar code or expiration date is. It’s brilliant that I can do so much of this stuff on my own, but frustrating when there’s no consistency of labelling between brands. I understand getting the information in Braille would be a huge cost and mean changes to the manufacturing process, but surely a directive that best before dates should be on one side or other of a product’s packaging isn’t too much to ask!

*outside your home

My biggest issue when out and about is again consistency and awareness. If the bus doesn’t stop in the same place as it did last time I got off, I may only be a few feet from a landmark I know about but that might as well be a mile. Perhaps this is an endemic issue of how mobility training for a blind person works, but it is very hard for me with no useful vision at all to have an overview of an area. I can learn a very specific route from point A to B, and along that route I can identify stable landmarks to assist me, but very rarely am I able to find points nearby any of those landmarks and from there know where I am. This again is something that is changing with technology and I must admit, on the rare occasions I get lost, the public are amazingly helpful. But it would be good if bus drivers were able to explain the difference between where the bus is and where it should be, if shop owners are careful not to obtrude their goods and car owners keep their vehicles on the roads not the pavements. It’s a lot of little things which can add up to an unsettling traveling experience and that which with a little forethought and curtesy would make life much easier not just for me I am sure, but for many blind people too.




Are there any tips or tricks you use in daily life you’d like to pass on to another VI/ disabled person?

I think my biggest tip would be to embrace whatever equipment or aids you need. Whether that’s clipping your socks together for a wash or getting an app on your phone to identify the colour of the pepper you’re chopping into your meal.

Do you use Assisstive technology in your daily living?

Screen reader:

Yes, on the computer, phone, tablet an TV.

Braille note :I use a Braille display when needing to make notes in meetings or to read back things when I’m in conversation.

Colour detector:

Occasionally, usually for food and drink (i.e. the colour of milk bottle tops etc.

Talking scales:

We have 2, my fiancée is an avid cook. I found the scales useful for measuring baby milk when we needed to do that.

Apps are a huge part of my life, because I use them for reading text, identifying colours and currency, working out what products are and how long they’ll last. I’ve probably spent over a hundred pounds on apps on top of the cost of the iPhone itself, but its seriously worth it. Less used apps are handy for working out if the lights are on, GPS, getting lifts in bigger cities, playing games etc.

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

I think the best bit of advice is that there’s stuff out there to help and people who can help with it. Losing anything is bad, losing part of your sensorium must be a huge shock and adapting is never easy.

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

Don’t assume that because you can’t do something with your eyes closed that it’s impossible for someone else.

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

family deal with your situation?

No. I had support at school as a blind student, but remember, “my situation” was normal for me as an adult.

Where can people find you out in the world?

I’m on twitter @cachondo, write blog posts on my LinkedIN profile at http://UK.linkedin.com/in/AccessibleSean and review good books on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/Seanrandall

You can always email me on contact@SeanRandall.me or, if you like to talk and have a smartphone, send me a message on roger at https://rogertalk.com/cachondo

❤❤ Thank you so much Sean for taking the time to be interviewed! this is definitely an interview I’ll be reading and rereading. Your thoughts and values show that with a positive mental attitude and the right support we really can do anything We set our minds to. ❤❤

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/




Sightloss stress and depression

Did you know that 1 in 4 people suffer from a mental illness?
Were you aware that there is a positive correlation between sight loss and depression?
I’ve been diagnosed as clinically depressed since 2015
Through the support of my partner Gary and my GP, I sat and talked candidly about my erratic mood swings, lack of energy, motivation and my constant exhaustion.
We talked at length about my symptoms and the options available to me.
I opted to go on antidepressants as I have previously had counseling.

Antidepressants aren’t for everyone, and that’s ok. However for me they have been invaluable; they have improved all the symptoms I mentioned above, and most importantly for me it’s helped me focus on the bigger picture.

My deterioration in vision since the age of 14 has been a source of vexation and frustration for me.
I hated relinquishing control, having to ask friends and family for help, needing things like worksheets adapted and continuous hospital appointments.

I just wanted to be normal.

But I wasn’t.

I walked into people and inanimate objects, I would knock things over, not be able to read anything without a magnifying glass and so many other things.

I’ve always been a perfectionist so asking for help or embarrassing myself publicly always sent me into a spiral of stress.

Over the years this stress manifested into rage and because of this I pushed people away, or, pushed them to their breaking point.

At the time I genuinely believed my outbursts were justified and acceptable. I believed I had to fight: fight for support, fight to be heard and fight to prove myself.

There was always a reason, an excuse, a situation. I couldn’t see that my behavior, thought processes and even actions were out of control.

It wasn’t until I was at University studying psychology and having a truly fantastic network of friends around me that i recognised all of my grievances and anger were due to me losing my sight.
I still had my moments but they were few and far between..I would get riled up by the little things; dropping something on the floor and spending 5 minutes looking for it, tripping up kerbs or spilling my drink. everywhere.

I learned to laugh it off. Reminding myself that in the grand scheme of things they really weren’t such a big deal.

Yet as my sight deteriorated further and these menial things seemed to happen more frequently I realised I needed some support.

And that’s when I rang the RNIB counseling support line, and registered myself on the waiting list.

I wanted to talk through my problems, how to acknowledge my frustrations but not let it control me.
I wanted to know how I would manage with my impending sight loss and what techniques I could use to make my life and mental state healthier.

The waiting list was so long that by the time my first counseling session happened, I had already lost my remaining vision.

My counselor was fantastic,although I had lost my sight, and the worst had happened to me, she listened, emmpathised and talked through my anxieties and frustrations with me.

The counseling was invaluable to me and it wasn’t until the beginning of 2015 Depression decided to rear it’s ugly head again.
It took me a long time to acknowledge that I was changing and becoming angry all over again. It was always the small things: walking into doorways, pouring the kettle and missing my cup, dirty dishes and not noticing I wasn’t holding my cup straight so hot tea spilled over me and my interiors.

All those little things added up to one big thing: dealing with my sight loss.
This is why I started antidepressants,I was chemically imbalanced, so why not try chemicals to restore my balance?

I still have my down days, and that’s ok. It’s about acknowledging my stress levels and doing something about it.

Here are some ways I cope with stress:

  • Try your best to realise when you are in the midst of an angry outburst or thoughts.
  • Allow emotions to be present. Cry, scream, shout, But not at anyone. Be present in acknowledging the feelings, but don’t let them take over.
  • Don’t use expletives or negativity when expressing these thoughts.
  • Breathe deeply, and think only of what your breathing is doing.
  • Read up on mindfulness, and try putting it into practice.
  • Listen to music. Blast out one of your happy songs,
  • Distract yourself by making yourself focus on something small.
  • Exercise, it releases endorphins.
  • Text/ call someone. you care about.
  • Find a task that needs a lot of focus and thoughtfulness. Maybe like writing a blog post? 🙂
  • Watch something funny.
  • Make some tea, and enjoy the 10 minutes to sit and drink it.
  • Think of something positive. What are you proud of?
  • What are your passions? Find them and emerge yourself within them.
  • Smile! Yes, forcing yourself to actively smile, actually lifts your mood.

Constant stress can lead to depression so make sure self care is at the top of your priority list.
Depression is an illness, a brutal thought process that truly can take over your body and mind. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Establish your stressors and find a way to combat them.Only you know your triggers and only you can save yourself from stress.

Think positive, stay positive! 🙂

#GuideDogDiaries Day 12

#GuideDogDiaries Day 12

Ida settled really well and seemed very relaxed and content when it came to bed time.
I think I was more worried about her settling and getting a good nights sleep more than she did.
As I live in a one bedroom flat I knew she wouldn’t be too restless because she could hear and smell us from her bed.

When Gary’s alarm went off in the morning she decided to come in and say good morning to us. Ida was very happy to see us both and intruded our space to say her hellos’ and ask for a fuss, it was very cute!

Breakfast was a bit of a dance. Ida decided to follow me everywhere I went; just encase I was making something for her!
When it came to actually getting her breakfast ready she was very enthusiastic.
I wanted her to lie in her bed as I got everything prepared, but the second I walked away she would jump out and follow me!
I had to rope Gary into getting her to stay as I pottered around.
He had no luck, she would lie down for a few seconds but as soon as he moved or stopped looking at her she tried to sneak past him to find me.
We both found it very funny, and couldn’t help but giggle a little, but we knew we couldn’t encourage her excitement, so we tried to be stern telling her to go lie down.

Eventually when I was organised and ready for her to approach, she bounded through to the kitchen, skidded all over the place and finally sat wagging her tail furiously.
The waiting process was probably less than 40 seconds but in this time Ida had formed a pool of drool, that literally sounded like a dripping tap!
Both Gary and I were very disgusted, and said as such to one another!
I got Gary to clear it up… there was no way I was touching her slimy slobber!

When Gary grabbed his jacket and headed for the door, Ida thought it was time for a walk because she stood by the front door, tail wagging. She seemed rather sad that he was leaving, but I made sure to distract her and we had lots of cuddles afterwards.

Because it was our first full day together at home, and due to safety and insurance reasons I was not allowed to leave the house with Ida, we spent the whole day indoors playing lots of games and having lots of cuddles.




Due to the weather being rubbish, I decided to groom her inside. She loves being groomed and took this opportunity to start rolling on the floor and pawing at me. Although very amusing I had to be stern and get her to up stand and stay focused while I groomed her.
She did try her luck a few times but I just kept repeating the obedience training.
She thoroughly enjoyed her grooming and found it very fascinating when I started cleaning up all the fur.
I soon noticed Ida wasn’t a fan of the hoover because she disappeared and ran into a different room every time I was in the same proximity as her.

When Gary came home, Ida got a little confused thinking there was an intruder at the door… She began to bark and rushed up to the front door to investigate the noise.
She didn’t bark for long and with lots of stroking and some obedience I managed to calm her down.
Everything went to pot when Gary came through the door…

Ida bounded up to him excitedly wagging her tail and backing her body into his.
I had tried to hold her by the collar but she managed to wrench out of my grip as her focus was on Gary.
I asked him to ignore her until she settled down, which he did.
When she realised she wasn’t going to get any attention until she calmed down, she just sat in front of Gary wagging her tail and smiling up at him until he eventually said hello.

Dinner time was interesting: although Ida was more relaxed than she was in the morning, she was still very excited and it took Gary and I being a tag team for her to stop wondering through to the kitchen to see what I was doing.

The rest of the evening was spent playing lots of games with Gary and I.
Gary and I love our little pup so much already, she keeps us entertained and on our toes… We couldn’t ask for a better companion! 🙂




#GuideDogDiaries Day 11

#GuideDogDiaries Day 11

I can’t believe it; we’re actually home!
It’s so surreal being at home and having a new addition to the family! 🙂

Today has been a whirlwind, after treating myself to a cooked breakfast: very tasty indeed!
i came back to the hotel room and started to pack. For the most part Ida relaxed but thought it a better use of my time was to play with her…
She became overly curious when I started to pack her things away and the excitement got the better of her when Mikyla arrived and started taking our things to the car.
She started running around like a loon and wouldn’t listen when I tried to get her to sit and wait each time Mikyla came/ left the room.
Ida’s giddiness got the better of her and as she was pulling me Mikyla had to step in and tell her off in order to settle her down.
When she finally settled, with her tail wagging ten to the dozen, I put her gentle leader on her and headed out to the car.

Considering the car was full of our things, she settled quickly.
As it was still early in the morning Mikyla asked if I wanted to work Ida in the shopping center before she dropped us home.

The walk turned out to be a great idea, not only did it give us all a chance to stretch our legs, but it gave me another opportunity to work Ida without Mikyla using her guiding lead.

Ida did a fantastic job, we walked the entirety of the mall complex,going in and out of shops she knew, she even relaxed fully when we sat at a bench.
There were lots of distractions in the form of tiny humans saying “doggy” and lots of cooing from the big humans, aside from wagging that tail, she didn’t let their interest peak hers.

When we arrived home, we unpacked the car and put Ida’s things in her new home before bringing her in.
This was so the smell of her own scent would be welcoming to her, and that way she didn’t get confused or overexcited when coming into a new environment.

I brought her in on her gentle leader because Ida tends to get rather excited in her new surroundings.
When she had settled, I let her off the lead for her to go and explore her new home. 🙂




Mikyla and I couldn’t help but laugh: every time my automatic Air-freshener went off she would jump out of her skin and stare it down!

Before too long it was time for Mikyla to go. She informed me that Ida may be unsettled for the first few days because there has been a lot of change for her in the last few weeks.
Mikyla assured me that if I had any worries or problems I could call her, but she was going to leave us to it and would come back on Saturday morning to do our first route together.

After the initial sadness of Mikyla leaving had worn off, Ida settled nicely. We played lots of games with her toys, and spent the time bonding.

I was looking forward to Gary coming home, I was eager to see him but most importantly I was excited for he and Ida to meet again.

As I expected her to be a little tornado when Gary entered the house, I got him to call me when he had pulled up outside.
This gave me time to put the gentle leader on Ida and settle her down before he entered.
The second she heard the door go she tried to lunge at Gary and shower him with love.

Gary ignored her while I gave Ida lots of obedience getting her to sit and lie down.
Mikyla taught me to do this because it gives your dog another focus, and reminds them that you are in control and they need to settle down.

Ida did beautifully, her tail and entire back end would not stop wagging!

When she was more relaxed I let her off the gentle leader and allowed her to go and say hello to Gary.

It was so cute seeing the two of them together! Clearly Ida recognised Gary, and was very pleased to see him again.
Although Gary was probably just as excited as Ida he stayed very calm and relaxed when saying hello, this encouraged Ida to settled down much quicker and make her feel at ease.

Dinner time was entertaining to say the least.
I got Ida to lie in her bed while I went to get her dinner ready.
Unfortunately because it is Ida, and this is food, she kept running through to the kitchen to investigate.
I kept walking her back into the living room and telling her to get onto her bed.
She just thought it was a fun game and kept jumping out of bed every time i left the living room.

This kept us laughing for a good 10 minutes before Gary and I teamed up and I got him to keep repeating stay as I got her dinner ready.

When I called her to me in the kitchen, she shot out of her bed like a bat out of hell and skidded into the kitchen.
She tried to devour her dinner but I managed to get her to sit and wait until I had blown the whistle 3 times allowing her to go ahead and eat.
Another bed/ dinner saga happened as Gary made our dinner…
Ida wanted to witness it to make sure she wasn’t being left out so kept coming through to the kitchen.
Lots of “come”, “down”,, “stay” and “good girl” continued as we showed her how we wanted her to behave during meals.

She certainly kept us laughing, but i know it’s going to take a lot of time and practice for her to grasp what we want from her.
It’s a learning curve for all of us, but i’m really impressed with how well she has behaved so far.

I just hope when it comes to sleeping she will relax and not be unnerved by her first night in a separate room from me.

Here’s hoping 🙂

Much love, Sassy x




#GuideDogDiaries Day 10

#GuideDogDiaries Day 10

Wow, our last full day today… Even today has sped past!

The weather was really miserable this morning, I was aching because of the damp, and due to coming down with a cold I only got a couple of hours sleep last night.

Although this really had nothing to do with my circumstances above, I managed to have the worst case scenario known to a Guide Dod owner as I attempted my first ever bus journey with Ida.

Firstly there was a pigeon right under Ida’s nose, she did do really well until the thing decided to flutter it’s wings and she tried to lunge after it.
Once that was all settled I had a lady try and distract Ida by trying to stroke her.
On her gentle leader there is a sign attached saying: Guide Dog is working, please do not distract or feed me.
The lady came over and as she went to stroke Ida she caught a glimpse of the tag on her harness, at the same time Mikyla said: please don’t distract her, she is working.

The lady got a little flustered and said
“Oh, i’m really sorry.”
“Yes it does say not to distract her.”
Sorry, i’m really sorry.”

Me:
“It’s ok, thanks for apologising, please don’t distract working dogs in future.”

Her:
“Really sorry!”
“What is her name?”

Me:
“Ida.”

Her:
*Calling out*
“Ida!!!”

Bus pulls up.

Mikyla:
“Don’t distract the dog, she is working.”

Lady:
“Oh sorry.”

Mikyla to me:
“Tell her to find the bus.”
There is a small gap but no step up.”

Me:
“Ida, find the bus.”

I trip up on to the bus edge and go flying….

Me:
“SHIT!”

Me to the Driver:
“”See, this is why I need a Guide Dog!”

SILENCE.

The bus is rammed, a wheelchair user, a Mother and pram who’s darling toddler was delightfully screaming down the bus!

We finally got to the first set of priority seats, Ida going first. Which she didn’t like very much!
Talk about making a mess of the situation; I couldn’t find my seat, nearly sat on Ida because she was blocking my seat, and then sat on the harness because it was on the seat.

All the while lovely toddler screams away.

Me:
Christ, that was a mission and a half!!”
I don’t like this very much.”

*Ida wriggling*

Shall I get her to back up into the space, it might make things a bit easier for her?”

Mikyla:
“Yes, good Idea.”

Me to Ida:
“Sorry for making a fool out of us, you did a good job though!”
“Oh look, isn’t that noisy baby just delightful to listen to?”
“You are showing her how to behave and be a good girl. Showing her how it’s done!”

Get off bus, no falling over; point to me!

Lady with screaming toddler gets off too.
“Oh, how lovely Ida, screaming baby has followed us.”

Mikyla:
“Just get her to move over here and sit, and we can discuss the route back.”

Lady 2:
“Ooh doggy!!”
*Making a beeline for us.*

Mikyla:
“Let’s move forward, we shall discuss it on the way.”

Both ladies had learning disabilities, and they were not fully aware of the complications distracting a Guide Dog can have.
Mikyla and I had to giggle, she happily exclaimed that this was the worst case scenario for bus travel… Everything from now on will feel like a breeze!

Ida did fantastically on the route back to the car, it was a longer walk than what we have been doing, and towards the last few minutes of the journey the damp was really affecting my knee.
It became much stiffer and I had to slow down considerably. Lots of love for Ida because she slowed right down and allowed me to walk at a pace that was more comfortable.

The only issue we faced on the way back was at the zebra crossing. She slightly over walked so I had to turn her around and get her to find it after correction.
We settled nicely and I heard a driver coming very fast towards us…
I knew he wasn’t going to slow down so I put my hand up to signal what are you doing?!

But he just drove straight past…
So I shouted after him that he was a bellend!
This made Mikyla laugh and react in a similar manner!

The afternoon was far more carefree, we took our Dogs’ for a free run, sadly not together though.
Ida spotted Hope and barked and whined when she realised what she was doing.

When it was her turn, Ida was clearly excited.
She started to pull on her gentle leader and speed up her pace.
We combatted this by walking away from the free run area, this automatically slows her down.
And when she got too overexcited I got her to sit.
I had to do this several times.

You want your Guide Dog to let off steam, charge around and be a normal dog. The issue is, they are still a working dog and you do not want to get them hyped up and losing control.
By slowing her down and giving her commands such as “steady” and “sit” I was able to calm her down so she entered the free run area much calmer and focused.

When I let her off the lead she went speeding off, running here there and everywhere and even made some doggy friends.

There was a Doberman Puppy and a Spaniel out with their owners.
The owner of the Spaniel was throwing a ball about for his dog, and Ida and the Doberman puppy decided to join in.
Neither were as fast as this Spaniel, but they seemed to be having lots of fun anyway.

The guy with the Spaniel kept walking further and further afield away from us, even though he was fully aware that Ida and the puppy were following.

After a good while I blew my whistle to recall Ida. This failed miserably because the guy threw the ball every time I blew my whistle so Ida was far more interested in what he was doing than what I was wanting her to do.
He kept moving further and further away making it even harder for me to get Ida’s attention.
Even Mikyla wasn’t having any luck blowing the whistle and recalling her.

It took Mikyla to go over and get Ida for her to actually come back.
The reason she was not coming back was because she had somehow managed to get the tennis ball, and refused to let it go.
She is such a cheeky madame!!

When she finally came back, she was panting like a good one, at least chasing the dog and ball has worn her out!

Ida rested all afternoon, and it wasn’t until dinnertime things became a bit chaotic.
I took her out to spend and she became very stubborn, not coming back to me when I called her.

In fairness to her there were a lot of distractions in the form of people using the fire exit and walking past the spending run, but it took me a good 5 minutes to get her to come to me.

When we left the spending run it was like she was spooked, she pulled and pulled on her lead and I even had to get her to sit, in order for her to steady.

When we got down to dinner she headed straight under the table and wouldn’t reverse. I had to physically pull her back by her lead.

Thankfully I got her settled down and the rest of the evening went off without any stress.

When I spoke to Adam about it he did say that high distraction levels, the wind and her gentle leader slipping off her nose may have all contributed to her erratic behaviour.

I’m glad to say she settled quickly and she has been fine ever since.

Adam had mentioned that Hope had watched him pack and her behaviour had changed.
Maybe the dogs can sense something is going on?

All I can say, is i’m glad my little pup is back and I plan to give her lots of fuss and cuddles as soon as i’ve hit publish on this post.




Things I’ve Learned.

•Ida prefers her space after a free run because she has knackered herself out so much.

•Ida really does not like the hairdryer!
I went to use it on her this afternoon from our very wet soppy walk and she literally freaked out.
This has made me very concerned that something has happened to her with a hairdryer and it has spooked her since.

•When the gentle leader is not around her nose, the strength through the lead is far stronger and I feel like she is constantly pulling.

She loves making new doggy friends! 🙂

•She doesn’t like feeling like she is missing out!



I’ve packed the majority of our things, i’m really excited to be going home tomorrow, I just hope Ida settles quickly and doesn’t get too stressed.

Wish me luck!

And as always, i’ll keep you updated 🙂 xxx

#GuideDogDiaries Day9

#GuideDogDiaries Day 9

I can’t believe it’s been a whole week since my lovely pup was handed over to me! I am loving learning and experiencing new things with and about Ida everyday! 🙂

In the morning we set off for the same area as the day before to run through traffic awareness.
We covered the same routes and that darned lady in the blue car was still trying to run us over!
Ida was 100% responsive and did not get us maimed or killed: winning! 🙂

Because the morning was so successful and we were close to the shopping centre we decided to head straight there instead of breaking for lunch and coming back again in the afternoon.

We followed the building all the way around, giving Ida plenty of opportunities to steer me through crowds, objects and furniture.

Again I was totally in control of Ida on harness, Mikyla didn’t use the support lead and deliberately followed behind us so Ida would not get distracted by her.

Ida worked very well, listening to me every time I told her “over” “left” and “right”.
She really has been a joy to work with on harness and it’s great that she is very responsive to me now! 🙂

I only had to correct her the once.
A part of the wall had jutted out, and Mikyla got me to stop, tell Ida “watch” and “over”, if Mikyla hadn’t of stopped us, Ida would have caught/ walked me into the wall.
These moments are all learning experiences for both of us, and it makes Ida more aware of the distance between us and the inner shoreline.

Ida successfully took me to the toilets, overshot the cubicle, and when I pointed this out to her she shot in there as if she was the one desperate for the loo!
I even got her to guide me to the sink, handdryer and get me back out into the mall.

We met up with Adam and Hope on the last leg of the journey, and the girls stayed nice and calm until Adam deliberately tried to get Ida’s attention, she held off for a little while, but this girl can’t refuse a fuss!
So naturally I got my own back by distracting Hope! 😉
Once the fun was over we headed back out and towards the car.

Ida made us chuckle; asking her to find the car she decided to head off to the car parking space where the car was parked the day before, instead of looking around at where the car actually was… She found her way eventually! 🙂

The afternoon was spent playing and having lots of down time before we headed down to dinner.

When we first arrived she did try to commando crawl under the table . to pick up a crumb i’m sure… But when I put on my authoritative voice, she settled down very nicely and stayed relaxed for the whole meal.




Things I’ve Learned.

•Ida and I have a great partnership on and off harness, but her obedience is paramount when on harness.

•I too have to be vigilant that if I feel myself getting too close to inner shorelines or objects, a quick flick of the harness and “over” really works wonderfully.

If Ida is trying to turn and I don’t want her to and she may not have registered my commands, stepping right up to her head and using my body to physically block/ push her in the right direction will always work.

She loves finding things even when she is not on harness.
•She is getting so good at finding our hotel room door! 🙂

•She loves playing with me, and especially when her toys are involved.
I even have to ask her to leave her toy dinosaur behind when I put on her gentle leader.
I deliberately leave it near the door, (where I put her lead on), so she heads straight for it as soon as her gentle leader has been removed!
It is the cutest thing!



I cannot believe that it is our last full day at the hotel tomorrow!
I’ve absolutely loved being here at the hotel with her, but I am truly excited to be taking her home and settling her in.

All going well, mostly weather dependant, we are going to be taking our dogs on a free run and doing our first bus journey together! I’m really looking forward to it! 🙂

#GuideDogDiaries Day 8

#GuideDog Diaries Day 8

I can’t believe it’s Monday already! This week has sped past and i’m loving every minute of it!Even when Ida tries to be a little madame! 😉

Last night I had a bit of a scary moment.
At dinner we were not in our usual area for eating so when it came time to leave the cafe I became disorientated.
Not that I realised that at the time…
I ended up heading in the opposite direction to my room and tried to get Ida to “find the way” (don’t do this when your dog is not on harness).
She ended up taking me to a flight of stairs that went down into the bar.
I only knew this when it was too late and i dropped onto the first step. Luckily I caught myself and got Ida to stop.

I took her back over to where we were sitting and set off again.
Again, asking her to find the way.
The same thing happened again.
I will point out here that stairs have always scared me., my arthritis hinders a steady and smooth assent or descent, meaning I can lose my balance quickly, which can then end in disaster.

Ida once again took me over to the steps and walked down them, because I was still totally unaware that i was going the wrong way, I got a shock all over again, and I became very stressed.
Thankfully a member of staff noticed me and came over to offer help, she got us to our corridor and i thanked her and headed to my room.

It wasn’t until I was safely in the room that the terror hit me like a tonne of bricks.
I phoned Gary and started crying, saying I didn’t know how I would cope having a Guide Dog.

I’m truly scared off stairs, and falling down them. So much so that I was reserved about having a Guide Dog and having it pull me down the stairs.
I was so scared and unsettled I didn’t want to train with Ida, encase it happened again and this time one or both of us weren’t so lucky.

Gary helped calm me down and see sense, explaining that I really needed to tackle my fear of stairs with Ida, speak with Mikyla in the morning, and ask her to show me how to manage stairs safely.

I felt better after talking to Gary and gave Ida some cuddles, more so for my own comfort than anything else.

I woke up ready to tackle the day.

I spoke with Mikyla first thing and she reassured me that it’s ok to be scared and stressed, but of course with us both being disorientated Ida took me back to the same place a second time because she wasn’t sure what I was actually asking of her.
All of this is my fault and I took and take full responsibility for it, and I think once I slept on it, and saw just how much I had expected of Ida when she wasn’t on harness and I was steering her in the wrong directions, I would be ok to manage stairs with her as long as I was under the guidance of Mikyla.

I skipped lunch and spent time bonding with Ida, I felt terrible for my behaviour the night before and knew that this gorgeous little pup was the best decision I had made.
Also, not one to be defeated by my own psyche I decided that i was going to take Ida up and down a flight of stairs to ease myself into it, and put a lot of rigidity on the gentle leader so I would not allow her to pull me.
This was successful and made me feel more confident that I could slow her down, or even speed her up if she wasn’t going the right speed for me on the stairs.

In the afternoon after our walk I asked Mikyla if I could do stairs with Ida on harness and under her supervision, which she fully supported.

Having Ida on harness, on the stairs, especially going down, made the world of difference to me and my confidence.
She was far more controlled and because the harness Is a metal handle there is no room for slack, which gave me the perfect walking distance between us when travelling down the stairs!
The relief I felt was overwhelming and I couldn’t help but give my pup the biggest love and fuss she deserved!

Mikyla also said that there was other options of using the stairs with a Guide Dog and she gave me instructions on the different methods available.
I tried them all, but having Ida on harness was definitely the best way for me to travel on stairs safely and confidently! 🙂

As Gary rightly said the night before, i’m going to make mistakes, and doing it while on training is the best time, because I have support in the form of Mikyla to talk things through and find new solutions to each and every challenge I face.
This is exactly why I love him, he knows me better than I know myself and he brings me back to a place of sanity and roundedness! 🙂

The very best part of the day definitely had to be the morning, a day of my life I will never forget!
WE did traffic awareness.
Traffic awareness is when you and your Guide Dog are in a controlled environment, in the form of another GDMI, driving a car at you and your Guide Dog, and wanting/ hoping that they will spot the car and disobey your command to cross the road!

We did near traffic: asking Ida to cross the road right as a car is pulling up in from of you.
You give the command to go; “forward” and you want them to stay stock still/ plant themselves and not go.
I am beyond ecstatic to say that Ida did this perfectly and disobeyed me!

As Ida is such an obedient Guide Dog on harness both Mikyla and I were apprehensive that she would follow my command and try and move.
Mikyla reminded us that we needed to stay as calm as possible, use your normal voice, and if, Ida did move forward, gently correct her and say “no.”

My clever little pup didn’t move a muscle, completely disobeyed me, and shocked me so much that I actually squealed with excitement and gave her massive fuss…
Mikyla had to tell me to calm down haha, and we both laughed about it.

Because this was a controlled environment and Suzie was driving the car, as part of the traffic awareness she deliberately stopped and didn’t pull off straight away. Giving me time to ask Ida to go forward again.
Again she did not move, and i’m happy to report, I managed to keep my composure this time too! 😉

Once I had waved Suzie on, and checked all traffic was clear, I got Ida to cross the road. 🙂

One of our controlled traffic awareness tests was to cross a back alley where Ida’s view was blocked by a wall.
I was to tell her to go forward, and when she saw the car approaching she was to stop.
Again, if she did not, it was a firm no, but not chastising.
We want our Guide Dog to learn through positive
reinforcement, not negative reinforcement.

The other type of traffic awareness we did together was far traffic.
This involved crossing the road and Suzie meeting us in the middle. The goal was for Ida to stop us continuing to cross the road.
We did this twice, and both times she aced it!
Mikyla reassured me that Suzie would be travelling quicker, because she had to time it correctly to meet in the middle.
I will admit when I heard the engine go faster than it had previously I was a bit nervous, but I knew this was a controlled environment, and Ida was amazing!

The last type of traffic awareness we did was being vigilant of a car pulling into a drive. Stopping us continuing, even as we were walking at a steady pace in the middle of the pavement.
She did a cracking job, and I made sure the driveway was 100% clear before I asked her to go on.
This meant she was aware it was safe to continue.

In the afternoon we went back to a familiar area, where we have been doing our walks.
Ida took me through the town, full of human traffic and obstacles. This included bus stops, bollards, A-Boards, wheeliebins, parked cars and the odd dog and pigeon distraction.
She did fabulously!
We also did a number of different crossings including, side streets, driveways, 4 way intersections, zebra, pelican and split pelican crossings.
This was the first time I was out in the area without Mikyla using the support lead to assist me and gently move Ida.
As I had had some practice the day before in the mall, I was far more confident asking Ida to move over if I felt her going too close to anything.

This was also the first time i had done a split crossing with Ida and she did a brilliant job of guiding me!

As I had been getting Ida to move across a lot in our last couple of walks together she was very aware of keeping a safe distance from objects.
This just happened to include the pedestrian crossing button box.
With my little arms and legs I couldn’t quite reach far enough so I got her to come up to my side after I had positioned myself next to the button.




Things I’ve learned.

•How to walk up and down stairs using both the gentle leader and harness.

•What to do in each situation when there is near or far traffic.

•If Ida goes in a different direction to the way i’m asking, and she doesn’t register, then getting her to sit and doing a controlled turn works very well.

•If Ida is not sitting straight before setting off, and she seems to be getting in a pickle correcting herself, putting the gentle leader in your right hand and feeding it around your back, and then swapping back to the left hand will get her straightened up perfectly.

•Ida does not like to be benched: a battle of wills occurred this morning, and after speaking to Mikyla, she said to put her lead on, and this will snap her back into doing what you want.



After my wobble the night before it was great to wake up happy and ready to take on the day.

Ida’s fabulous traffic awareness, smooth and safe stair travel and then having a focused afternoon really reminded me just why this little pup is perfect for me and just how lucky I am to have her!
I’ve known her 5 minutes and I love her so much already! ❤

Bring on tomorrow, round 2 of traffic awareness! 🙂 🙂

#GuideDogDiaries Day 7

#GuideDogDiaries Day 7

With it being Sunday we were able to have a bit of a lazy morning, well Gary did; I still got up with Ida. I did manage to sleep in until 08:00 which was great! 🙂
We headed down for breakfast and decided to treat ourselves to a naughty cooked breakfast.
Because the restaurant is so hectic in the mornings we’ve been asked to leave our dogs’ in the hotel room.

As Ida has been pushing the boundaries and getting onto the bed Mikyla said it was best to bench her.
Benching is where you use a specific lead and tie it around a sturdy surface and attach the dog to it.
This is good because it meant that although the lead itself wasn’t short, it was short enough that Ida could not climb onto the bed, which is exactly what she tried to do before the lead stopped her a foot short.

When we came back we made sure not to give her attention, as to not excite her. After a few minutes I released her from the benching lead and gave her lots of praise for being good.

Gary was invited by Mikyla to join us on our walk. We headed off to the city centre again and headed for the mall.
As it was a Sunday it was a lot less busy than the previous day.

From a mobility standpoint I was actually quite uncomfortable and felt my right foot sticking right out as I was walking.

This was the first time Mikyla relinquished the use of the support lead, giving me more scope to really feel Ida and have more control of her while she was on harness. Unfortunately with my foot pointing outwards at an angle to the right this then encouraged Ida to slightly come across me meaning she too was going slightly at a right angle instead of being straight at my left hand side.
I had to keep telling Ida “over,” giving a flick of the harness off to the left and saying the command.
This made her more aware that she needed to be straighter and more streamlined, rather than following the angle my body was taking us.

Mikyla really insisted I do this because it is good for Ida’s awareness and cements her obedience.
I did feel guilty though because this was the first time I had full control of her on harness by myself, I really had to tug the harness to get her to move across.
Mikyla assured me it wasn’t uncomfortable to Ida, but it didn’t stop me feeling bad.

I did manage to bump into a man slightly and I did say a snooty excuse me, but I was quickly informed that he had tried to manoeuvre out the way but as Ida was so close, and I hadn’t made her move over, it was going to happen. Oops!

We walked through the mall and Mikyla said that we were going to head into M&S, a route that Ida had been learning, so I was to relax and let her take the lead.
We walked through the food and then clothing section, she moved me beautifully and smoothly. I was very impressed! 🙂
It really is great to be able to give them that scope to make decisions and let them lead the way. It enhances their level of concentration as a Guide Dog and shows us how well they learn and remember routes!

In the car on the way back Gary explained how interesting it was to walk behind and watch us together. He did say that he was unnerved at some points where it looked like Ida was going to walk me into someone or something, but right at the last moment she smoothly and successfully managed to guide me around the object in question.
Gary said it gave him a better insight into how important the partnership is between Guide Dog and owner, and how impressed he was with her focus and work ethic! 🙂

With it being a Sunday and both Adam and I having visitors Mikyla gave us the afternoon off.
This gave Gary and ida more chance to bond and have fun together.
I could definitely tell they both had a soft spot for one another! 🙂
It was perfect to see them bonding so well and Ida being so at ease with having Gary around, It makes me more excited for us going home next week 🙂

Gary left after 7 in the evening and because neither of us were sure how Ida would react to him leaving, I made sure to distract her with food not too long after he left.
They did have some playtime not long before he left, but I encouraged Gary to then get her to relax and settle down before he was due to leave, that way Ida wouldn’t be too wound up or overexcited.
I definitely think the food made a perfect distraction! 😉



Things I’ve learned.

•It is a big difference taking full control of Ida in harness in comparison to having Mikyla using the support lead and helping to keep her straight.

•Ida will follow the pattern/ angle of my body as I am walking,. so if I am having a tough day with my leg jutting out I have to keep her as straight as I can.

•Using the word over: giving the verbal command and giving the harness a good flick gesture to move over.
This was tough because I did have to put a lot of arm strength into it because of my awkward body angle.

•When she is familiar with a route, Ida’s concentration is at peek level and she is very steady and careful guiding me through all different types of obstacles.

•having Gary visit was actually really important for their bond and interaction together.
Even though they have only met that once, i’m hoping this will make the transition to going home much smoother.



I’m really ecstatic because I got to see Gary, have some quality time with Ida, and, having him be so calm and gentle with Ida,, and, being on board with obedience made me appreciate them bonding even more.