Browse By Topic: Personal Reflections

Father's Day: "Daddy," a Title That Makes Me Most Proud

There are many things I am proud of in my life: my career as a singer, traveling the world from the age of 18 while getting paid to do something I love. I'm proud of the work I have done in the last three years raising awareness and supporting people with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) and Usher Syndrome through my poetry and books. But of all the things I've been in my life, singer, author, poet, the title I'm most proud of is "Daddy."


Being Invisible

Editor's Note: Today's post by DeAnna Quietwater Noriega is from the new series on disability. This personal story highlights the stigmas, stereotypes, marginalization, and lowered expectations people with disabilities are exposed to everyday. Read DeAnna's story and poem about how the attitudes of others have made her feel invisible and how she has chosen to make her life so much more than a stereotype. Being Invisible by DeAnna Quietwater Noriega When you are blind or visually impaired, it is easy to feel invisible. Many things are invisible to you: a stain on your favorite shirt, a dropped object that has skittered across the floor, the expression on a person’s face, or the number of gray hairs among those on your own head. Sometimes, you can begin to feel


Mental Health and Visual Impairment: Peer Perspectives

Mental Health Awareness Month Editor's Note: According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately one in five adults in the U.S., 43.8 million or 18.5 percent, experience mental illness every year. Since 1949, May has been observed as Mental Health Awareness Month, specifically highlighting and educating the public about mental illnesses. The campaign also seeks to diminish negative stereotypes associated with these diseases drawing attention to the realities of living with these conditions and providing effective strategies for maintaining mental health and wellness. Further, June is designated as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) month. <img src="http://www.afb.org/image.asp?ImageID=8382" width="450px" alt="logo saying I'm into mental health


Understanding Models of Disability

Editor's Note: In honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, VisionAware is happy to share the inaugural post of a new series on disability led by Steven Wilson. Steven was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome at the age of 41. (Usher Syndrome is an inherited condition that causes partial or total hearing loss accompanied by gradual vision loss resulting from retinitis pigmentosa.) He is enrolled at the University of Arizona and plans to get his master's degree in Rehabilitation Counseling. <img src="http://www.afb.org/image.asp?ImageID=7701" alt="Steven sitting at a desk with a laptop using CART"


Dancers: A Tribute to My Nine Guide Dogs

I wrote this poem while walking 16 blocks with my sixth guide dog to a dental appointment. I am sharing it to honor my nine guide dogs on April 26th, International Guide Dog Day! Dancers: A Tribute to My Nine Guide Dogs We are cloud dancers, You lead and I follow. Our steps synchronized Our bodies swaying to the same rhythm. Swept along in the current of the jet stream. Floating lightly on the swell of an updraft, Swooping into a glide down the slope of a


Raising Awareness About Living with Low Vision Through Poetry

Editor's note: In today's post, Maribel interviews Dave Steele, a visually impaired poet and song writer. We first learned of Dave and his inspiring poetry during Valentine's Day when he shared a poem on retinitis pigmentosa. Learn more about Dave by reading his personal story. Raising Awareness About Living with Low Vision Through Poetry <img src="http://www.afb.org/image.asp?ImageID=8128" alt="Dave Steele holding his book, Stand with Me RP"


Eyes Wide Open: Isaac Lidsky’s Philosophy and Learning How to "See" More Clearly

Editor's Note: During Vision Rehabilitation Awareness week, we continue to bring you stories about the importance of the array of vision rehabilitation services that are available to help people new to vision loss. Isaac Lidsky's Story Isaac Lidsky left to get an espresso a few blocks away from his house in residential Washington, DC. He wanted to practice his newly established independence as a blind individual, so with his cane and mobility skills, he went alone and made it to the cafe just fine. On his way home, however, he made one wrong turn in a complicated intersection and could immediately sense that he was lost. “I was on a quiet empty street, and I realized I had left my phone at home and in an instant, I was just overwhelmed with all of these


Taking Hold of Happiness When Challenged by a Visual Disability

By Maribel Steel and Lynda Lambert International Day of Happiness All Year Round People around the world now celebrate International Day of Happiness on March 20th each year. We hope that by taking hold of life’s unexpected challenges in a more positive way, we can appreciate life from a higher vantage point. If we can think of gratitude as a graceful eagle that can launch into flight to soar above the mundane, then an incredible sense of happiness flies into serving our every needall


My Guide Dog, Grant: A Reason, a Season, and for a Lifetime

It was once said, and now often repeated, that “people come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” Although the author of this quote is unknown, I believe that he would extend the meaning of this quote to service animals that come into our lives for a reason, a season, and a lifetime. For those of us who have gained the experience of working with a guide dog, there is certainly a special place in our hearts for their dedication and affection. The Reason My personal experience with using a guide dog came in my early 50s. Although I had been visually impaired all of my life, I


A Poem on Retinitis Pigmentosa to Shine On Valentine's Day

When Dave Steele learned that he was losing his sight to Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), he took to expressing his fears, thoughts, and experiences through writing poems, songs, and verses. Only two years on, Dave has produced many creative works in raising awareness of the challenges people face in a similar situation. His book, Stand by Me RP is a touching collection of poems reflecting on his journey. We couldn’t think of anything finer for Valentine’s Day than to highlight one of his love poems to his wife and thank Dave for giving VisionAware permission to feature a poem so close to his heart. "I have always believed that music and poetry can make an impact, touch the heart, and


Six Tips for Your Out-of-the-Box Museum Visit

Editor's note: Just in time for planning for Valentine's Day, we bring you this post by Lynda Lambert. Lynda suggests that you might consider a similar trip to a museum or art gallery as a fun Valentine's outing. Read and enjoy! Visiting the Andy Warhol Museum Recently, I invited my daughter and great-granddaughter to help me celebrate my birthday with a visit to the Andy Warhol Museum which is located about 40 miles from our home. Since my great-granddaughter was celebrating her birthday that month, it was perfect timing for us. This could be a great idea for a Valentine’s Day excursion with a friend or family member too. I wanted to take photographs in the museum, so I asked at the entrance desk for permission. My only restriction was to not use a flash


Chaperoning a Field Trip with My Sighted Child

Editor's Note: This post is part of the Blind Parenting series created to provide visually impaired parents with first-hand accounts of how you can raise a child safely and independently. Today's post from Beckie Horter relates her experiences in taking her child on a field trip. Being a Normal Mom I wanted to be a normal mom, and of course, that proved to be a problem. If, by "normal," I thought seeing 20/20 was the measure. Because I didn't see 20/20, that is. I was


Beginning on a Positive "Quote"

At this time of year, New Year resolutions abound. As a writer and a person living with a visual impairment, I am always on the look out for uplifting quotations that will help me focus on new ventures and goals. I find encouragement and peace of mind when I stop for a moment to consider the wise words of others and can gain insights for my personal aspirations. Like a beacon radiating with light, quotations have the ability to cast a more positive perspective on our thought process when life can get challenging. Following are 17 quotations especially chosen for their uplifting message under the three themes of acceptance, courage, and


I'm Thinkin' 'Bout Good Intentions

Do you look forward to making positive changes at the beginning of each new year? A couple of years ago, I thought I would make a new start. I wrote down my resolutions and a goal plan. But after a few months, my plans were forgotten for I seemed to be unable to sustain the level of attention required. Of course, I felt like I failed. Does this happen to you? If so, you're not alone. Statistics of New Year's Resolutions Roughly 45 percent of all Americans make New Year's resolutions, but only eight percent of them will achieve success. For Americans in their 20s, only 30 percent will be


Just One Word, Please!

Before we turn over that final page of the 2016 calendar, let’s think about doing something different or new in 2017. Like most people, at the beginning of December, I begin to contemplate the upcoming year. Do you also begin to have dreams and personal plans for the year ahead? Have you ever wondered what would happen if you could choose only one word to reflect and define the person you want to become in the upcoming year? Does any particular word come to mind as we begin to talk about it? What word would you choose? I am going to share a few examples of my own experiences with choosing one word. It all began near the end of 2014 as I was starting to think about the beginning of the next year. My cousin who lives in


Sue Martin: Dreams Fulfilled from a Bucket List of Yesteryear

This is the third in our end of year bucket list series coordinated by Maribel Steel Sue Wiygul Martin Shares Her Bucket List Adventures In this post, Sue Martin picks up from when she had just shared the stage with Debby Boone in Hollywood and shortly afterwards, went on a mission to "share the stage with Dean Koontz." But life is never that simple...Life Got in the Way Kismet, My Seeing Eye Dog Died Unexpectedly Kismet, my beloved Seeing Eye dog who had faithfully and skillfully guided me over a decade died unexpectedly. Life came to a screeching


Lynda Jones: Reflecting on What It Takes to Achieve Your Bucket List

This is the second in our end of year bucket list series coordinated by Maribel Steel Reflecting on Your Bucket List Do you ever take time to reflect on all of the dreams you've fulfilled on your lifetime bucket list? This might be the perfect time of year to do so. As the year almost waxes into the new, one more reflection from our bucket list series by Peer Advisor, Lynda Jones, CVRT, says “searching a fifty year period of memories conjures up more than a bucket full of events, accomplishments and dreams.” A Bucket Load of Memories <img


Real Dreams Achieved on a Bucket List

Coordinated by Maribel Steel Einstein once referred to reality as a "persistent illusion" and one could say, a bucket-list is one way to turn a "persistent dream" into a reality. The VisionAware peer advisors, all of whom are blind or visually impaired, began a "be a bucket list buddy" challenge early this year and wrote up their bucket lists of meaningful desires they wanted to achieve. Did they succeed? Did they meet their expectations or did they put their desires on a list for next year? Here is the first post in our end of year series describing what happened. Book on Hold <img src="http://www.afb.org/image.asp?ImageID=8033" alt="woman using


A Time of Joy and a Time of Sorrow: Grandmothering Without Sight

Editor's note: This post is part of the Blind Parenting series created to provide visually impaired parents and grandparents with first-hand accounts of how you can raise a child safely and independently. In today's post, Sheila Rousey shares her experience of becoming a grandmother with vision loss. A Time of Joy and a Time of Sorrow: Grandmothering Without Sight by Sheila Rousey


A Grandma's Thoughts

Editor's note: This post is part of the Blind Parenting series created to provide visually impaired parents and grandparents with first-hand accounts of how you can raise a child safely and independently. In today's post, Mary Hiland shares the importance of teaching children how to interact with individuals who have low vision and how to build positive relationships. A Grandma's Thoughts By Mary Hiland, grandmother


Accepting Life As It Comes

Editor's note: We just celebrated the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. In honor of the significance of this day, VisionAware's International Correspondent, Maribel Steel, from Australia, shares her personal reflections on accepting life with a visual disability (she has retinitis pigmentosa) by observing her granddaughter’s young wisdom in living life in the moment. More Than Child’s Play Have you noticed how the little people in your life know the true meaning of living in the moment? When we take time out of our busy schedule to


International Perspectives: Living and Working in Siberia As a Person with a Disability

Editor's note: This is the 3rd part of our series on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Be sure to read Part 1 on useful tips when you meet a person with vision loss and Part 2, "Speak to Me.". And stay tuned next week for Maribel Steel's post on "accepting life as it comes." by Elizabeth Sammons, Peer Advisor "Relax every muscle right now, or you’ll break some bones," the voice in my head bounced through my body as I started


International Day of Disabilities Celebrated December 3

On December 3rd, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities will be observed worldwide. Started in 1992 with support from the United Nations, this day seeks to foster inclusion for all who live with disabilities by promoting dignity, respect, and community inclusion. The theme for 2016 is "Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want." In keeping with the celebration of this day, we will focus on disability etiquette as it applies to people who are blind or visually impaired. Be sure to read, "Speak to Me," Part 2 of this post. A


Alzheimer’s, Vision Loss, and Caregiving

Editor's note: November is National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month. Stephanie McCoy, VisionAware Peer Advisor, relates her family's battle with the disease and her journey in becoming a caregiver as a person who is visually impaired. The Long Road to Diagnosis Twenty years ago Alzheimer’s took my grandmother. And now my mother has been diagnosed with it. Though the contrast of how the disease manifested itself between my grandmother and mother was significant, after consulting with my mother’s physicians, it seems that 13 years ago, the clock began ticking for my mother. While my grandmother lived with the most severe symptoms of Alzheimer’s for


Gratitude, A Healing Resource for People Experiencing Vision Loss

Editor's note: Just in time for Thanksgiving, we bring you this thoughtful post by Rev. Laura Bratton, a United Methodist pastor in South Carolina. She is the founder of Ubi Global LLC and the author of the book Harnessing Courage. Her website is www.ubiglobal.org. Gratitude, A Healing Resource for People Experiencing Vision Loss By Laura Bratton, guest contributor How can gratitude be a healing resource when adjusting to vision problems? Receiving a diagnosis that results in vision loss is absolutely overwhelming. Regardless of the severity of the vision loss it is difficult to receive


How I Learned to Live with Type 2 Diabetes

Editor's note: This is American Diabetes Awareness Month and VisionAware is featuring the extensive material we have available on diabetes and its ramifications for people with vision loss. This year's theme, established by the American Diabetes Association, is #ThisisDiabetes Campaign. J Steele-Louchart's story is his "this is diabetes" contribution. Being Diagnosed With Type 2 Diabetes Came As a Shock The diagnosis forced me to question who I am, the choices I've made, and how well I live. I was diagnosed just before I turned


Overcoming Assumptions: A Blind Mobility Specialist's Perspective

Editor's note: Today's post is about overcoming assumptions people with vision loss face. Our new peer advisor, J Steele-Louchart shares his experience as a blind mobility specialist. Overcoming Assumptions: A Blind Mobility Specialist's Perspective Blindness is a quality of our being. It's as integral to our identities as our nationality, language, and personality. In fact, it's often so fundamental to us that we begin to forget that we're blind. Blindness is simply a part of who we are. To the sighted, however, or to those transitioning from sightedness to


How Congenital Vision Loss Affects Motherhood

Editor's Note: Not every woman grows up wanting to be a mother. For those living with a congenital eye disease, learning of a pregnancy can cause mixed emotions. The following story, based on an interview with a blind mother who has chosen to stay anonymous, depicts how genetic vision loss can dim the brightness of that maternity glow. How Congenital Vision Loss Affects Motherhood Our blind mom, who we’ll refer to as M, was born in 1966 with cataracts on both her lenses, rendering them completely opaque. Her parents were told the ocular condition was either genetic or from a flu her mother had contracted quite possibly being passed to the baby in utero. M had a few low vision relatives within her family tree. However, in the late 1960s


The Perfect Guide Dog

Often as I go about my business accompanied by my guide dog, people remark on his beauty, good manners, and say things like, I wish my dog was as well behaved as yours. They don’t seem to understand that a lot of work on the part of a puppy raiser, a guide dog instructor, and yes, me too, goes into creating the picture perfect dog at my side. He has the same instincts and impulses as the pet they have at home, but he understands that when in harness, he must focus on the job for which he was trained. However, he is first and foremost a dog. He has been bred for intelligence and carefully raised


I'm Not Blind

Editor's note: In honor of Worldwide Week of Service in Sight and World Sight Day, Steve Kelley brings you today's post, I'm Not Blind, a story of adjusting to visual impairment. As the world focuses its attention on preventable and unavoidable blindness, we encourage you to reach out to the rehabilitation services and eye care professionals that can help you cope with your vision loss and improve your useful vision. I'm Not Blind By Steve Kelley What comes to mind when you think about blindness? If you feel fearful or anxious about blindness, you are not alone. In a


What Does It Take to Become a Guide Dog?

Guide dog schools everywhere are committed to the mission of producing, training, and matching skilled guide dogs with handlers who are visually impaired, to provide safe and independent mobility. The mission is multi-faceted and requires a huge investment of time, talent, and money. Transforming a little ball of fur into a responsible and disciplined working dog takes patience and commitment from many people along the way. And the people who do this work are driven by a special passion, both for the dogs and the people they will serve. They would say the reward of witnessing a successful guide dog team working together makes it all worth it. Guide


Blindness and Infertility: A Mother's Story

Editor's note: This post is part of the new Blind Parenting series created to provide visually impaired parents with first-hand accounts of how you can raise a child safely and independently. If you are thinking about starting a family or experiencing the daily struggles of parenting, it is the VisionAware Peer Advisors' hope that these stories will encourage and support you on the journey of blind parenthood. Blindness and Infertility: A Mother's Story by


What to Do if Mismatched to a New Guide Dog?

With September being Guide Dog Appreciation Month, here is a post with a difference. What happens if you feel mismatched to your new guide dog? Peer advisor, Mary Hiland, shares her advice from personal experience to trust your feelings and not to feel you are doing anything wrong. It's All About the Match Instructors at the dog guide schools work very hard to make sure they have found exactly the right dog for each student. My first three dogs were proof of their diligence. Mindy, my first, was a very serious worker, but one of the most affectionate and loving dogs I’ve had. She was great for my first dog, because one of us had to know what we were doing, and it certainly wasn’t


Preparing for Pregnancy: A Blind Mother's Checklist Part 3, Resources and Services

Editor's note: This is part three of A Blind Mother's Checklist from the new series, Blind Parenting. Part 1 covered the basic questions to ask yourself when deciding to start a family. Part 2 reviewed the medical implications and various doctors a mother planning to get pregnant should have as part of her medical team. Preparing for


Determining the Livability of Communities for People with Vision Loss

Editor's note: Finding a livable community for people who are visually impaired can be very challenging. In 2003, the American Foundation for the Blind did a study to determine the key criteria for livable communities for people who are blind or visually impaired. VisionAware recently followed up on this study to determine if the criteria identified years ago was still viable and if the cities named in the study still made the list. Although not just for seniors, we are bringing you this post just in time for Healthy Aging Month. Developing Criteria on the


Preparing for Pregnancy: A Blind Mother's Checklist Part 2, Medical Implications

Editor's note: This is the second post in our new series, Blind Parenting. This series will provide you first-hand accounts of how other blind and visually impaired parents have used organizational strategies with adaptive techniques to parent safely and independently. This is part two of a three-part blog post. Read part 1 to determine if you are ready to start a family. Preparing for Pregnancy: A Blind Mother's Checklist Part 2 By


Memoir of a Guide Dog: It's Off to Work We Go

Editor's note: September is National Guide Dog Month. The VisionAware Peer Advisors have put together a few posts about their experiences with guide dogs, how much their dog improves their mobility and independence, and how they work with their four-legged friends. Today's post takes on the voice of Maribel's guide dog, Nev. Stay tuned for more posts later this month. Memoir of a Guide Dog: It's Off to Work We Go By Maribel Steel Our guide dogs have the most amazing personalities. Loyal, focused, protective, loving, and at times they can be highly entertaining. For Guide Dog Appreciation Month, I’m sharing a tale about my golden Labrador who was a real


Preparing for Pregnancy: A Blind Mother's Checklist Part 1, Am I Ready?

Editor's note: This is the initial post in our new series on Blind Parenting. Our new Blind Parenting series will provide you first-hand accounts of how other blind and visually impaired parents have used organizational strategies with adaptive techniques to parent safely and independently. This post is divided into three parts with separate checklists: the first dealing with your personal situation, the second with medical implications, and the third dealing with resources and services that you need to consider. Preparing for Pregnancy: A Blind Mother's Checklist <img src="http://www.afb.org/image.asp?ImageID=7758"


Guess What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Sharing Your Summer Vacation It’s back to school time and do you remember when you were a kid and you shared what you did on your summer vacation? As you gathered with your classmates and friends, you would share about your summer adventures and compare who had the best time. Sometimes your school teacher would give a class assignment on the topic or have you share during show and tell time. Now fast forward to adulthood and sharing those summer vacation moments are still there. So before the summer comes to a close, the peer advisors want to share our vacation travels with you. A Bubble of Americana by Mary Hiland <img


Say It Out Loud, "Suicide"

S U I C I D E There, your computer didn’t blow up. Your phone didn’t burst into flames. I guess it’s no secret that people are afraid of blindness and, by extension, blind people. But what about suicide? If you want to empty a room in ten seconds flat, start talking about suicide! Towards the end of the first Harry Potter book Dumbledore says to Harry, The truth, it is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution. So, while I am honest and open about my own suicide attempt, I am keenly aware that this honesty might be difficult for you depending on your personal experience. Please stay with me. Because life


8 Things I Wish People Knew About Going Blind From a Degenerative Eye Condition

Today's blog is from Joy Thomas of Double Vision Blog. Joy and Jenelle are identical twin sisters with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) who hope to share their perspectives, experiences, and challenges with vision loss. 8 Things I Wish People Knew About Going Blind From a Degenerative Eye Condition It usually occurs slowly. While there are some people who go blind overnight or in a matter of days, such as with detached retinas, following eye surgeries, or with


Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?

Editor's note: As we approach Labor Day, a day that is a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country, it is important to remember, that people who are blind or visually impaired need and want employment. This post brings up important issues to consider about blindness as a disability that impact every aspect of life, including employment. A Response on Becoming Disabled On August 19, I read a very interesting article


Finding a New Home: Bucket List Sequel Four, Part 2

Sue Martin--Unexpected Surprises This wasn’t on my bucket list, at least for this year, but…we’ve found our home in Maine. It’s under contract with a closing date in October. Our house in Alabama is on the market with strong interest. The house in Maine is a geodesic dome on 18 acres and it’s on a lake. It has a windmill and solar panels and we’ll be able to be off the grid. The property contains mixed woodland with open ground that’s a combination of grass and blueberries. It has a huge greenhouse and raised beds for growing vegetables. The Biggest News Here’s the biggest news. A member of he Senior Executive Service at Veterans


Writing Goals Achieved: Peer Advisor Bucket Lists--Sequel Four, Part 1

It's time for another update as the peer advisors continue to work on their bucket list goals for this year. We’d love to hear how our readers are doing with theirs as well! We have made so much progress on our bucket lists that we have divided this post into two parts! This first post relates to writing. Sequel Four, Part 2 discusses serendipity in finding a home and taking on a new, exciting job opportunity. Amy Bovaird--Writing Goals One of my big goals on my bucket list for 2016 was to complete three books this year (What was I thinking?!).


Going Back to School and Succeeding with a Dual Disability

Steven at graduation in his cap and gown Here is an in-depth interview with VisionAware peer advisor, Steven J. Wilson, who shares his life in how he went from having a successful career working on yachts to accepting his dual sensory disability as a deaf/blind person. He has recently completed a Liberal Arts degree program of studies while also raising his daughter as a single dad. His secret? It’s all about changing attitudes and addressing others with a smile! Being Deaf-Blind


Getting Selected for the 2016 Amtrak Writers in Residency Program

Earlier this year I was frustrated with the way my business was going. I didn't have any ride sales pending. I wasn't getting hired for coaching or being booked for speaking. Heck, I wasn't even sure I could get from here to there if someone did invite me to come share my story with their group. I live in a suburb of Houston where there is very little in the way of public transportation. We don't have a


Happy Birthday Helen Keller!

Caption: Helen cutting birthday cake Every year during the week of Helen Keller's birthday, the nation honors her during Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week. Helen Adams Keller was born a healthy child on June 27, 1880, to Captain Arthur H. and Kate Adams Keller of Tuscumbia, Alabama. At the tender age of 19 months, she was stricken with a severe illness which left her blind and deaf. Tuscumbia is a small southern town located on the Alabama-Tennessee state line. Who would have thought that one of the world’s greatest miracles would have taken place at a pump in Tuscumbia, Alabama? It was at this pump where Helen first realized, through the


Seven Lessons on Coping with Blindness: A Father's Day Reflection

My parents just sold my childhood home. We shared the house with my maternal grandparents, who I affectionately referred to as “nana and pop.” They occupied the first floor, while our apartment was upstairs. Although by the amount of time I spent with my grandparents, you would have easily been convinced I was actually a downstairs resident. Pop was not an educated man. He never even graduated middle school. Despite his lack of academic credentials, my grandfather was well-versed in the ways of the world. I distinctly remember him sitting at his kitchen table every morning and reading any newspaper he could get his hands on. Pop was both highly


Grandpa, Can I Ask a Question?

In honor of all our wonderful Dad’s…Happy Father’s Day! Sitting with his grandpa one day as they looked through a book from the library on the solar system, my 4-year-old son was fascinated by the illustrations. His grandfather pointed out the various planets and their orbits, making comments as they read together. His grandpa said, “Hey, did you know that our planet is the only one in the universe with people living on it?” My son thought for a moment, then looked up at his grandpa and said, “What about England?” On another day, my son and his grandpa were reading a book on the history of Aviation. Pointing to one of the captions under an illustration, his grandpa said, “This biplane was built in 1918.” “Was that the time of the


Get in the Swim for Memorial Day

Editor's note: Just in time for Memorial Day and the opening of swimming pools across America, Mary Hiland writes about the joys of swimming! So read up and enjoy the holiday with a dip in the pool! Discovering the Joy of Sports I have never thought of myself as an athlete. As a little girl, I studied dance and wanted nothing to do with any game involving a ball. then I discovered individual sports, starting with cross country skiing back in 1986. After learning to ski at Ski for Light, I was inspired to try other athletic endeavors, such as bike riding, hiking, ice skating, jogging, and even swimming. Afraid of the Water I


Peer Advisors Update Bucket Lists-Sequel Three

My Outrageous Bucket List in Review by Maribel Steel At the beginning of the year, some of the peer advisors shared their dreams and aspirations on our individual bucket lists in the hope of keeping each other accountable to fulfilling our goals. So far, so good. The rewarding aspect in sharing these lists has been in knowing that my fellow peers have already begun to tick some things off their list. For me, there is nothing like a deadline that helps me to stretch for a goal and sometimes, I really do feel stretched. So, if I happen to get anything ticked off my


May is Mental Health Awareness Month: Learn About Managing Depression Due to Vision Loss

A Tough Year The summer of 2011 slipped away, but I wanted it gone. Cancer destroyed the life of a loved one. At the same time, I underwent three eye surgeries, gaining significant vision loss and lived with uncertainty about my remaining sight. In July, my job let me go when my FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) time ran out and I was unable to return to work. Then the insurance company denied my long term disability claim. I spent hours on the phone, sometimes with help from my mom as I couldn't read the print on the important documents the companies mailed. I scribbled call logs in large letters with a black felt tip marker. Every call increased my heart rate and turned my stomach. For the first time in fifteen years, my income flat-lined. My husband worked and covered our


For Mothers of Blind Daughters

Editor's note: This is the third in our series of Mother's Day posts. This post is by new peer advisor Holly Bonner, a Staten Island based psychotherapist. She is also the Director of Education and Outreach for IlluminArt Productions, a non-profit organization that utilizes the power of theater to help children develop solutions for social problems. Holly currently has no vision in her left eye. Her right eye can detect shapes, shadows, and light. In April 2016, she was also diagnosed with alopecia areata, an autoimmune skin disease resulting in the loss of hair on the scalp and elsewhere on the body. Blessed To Be the Blind Mother of Two Little Girls I am extremely


On Being a Blind Mother

Editor's note: This is second in our series for Mother's Day. We hope you will read and comment. Just Like Any Other Parent How do you explain blindness to a two-year-old? You don’t. You don’t need to. As a mother of a son and a daughter and a grandmother of five granddaughters, I have some memories pertaining to my blindness I’d like to share with you. I don’t recall explaining why I couldn’t see to either of my children. Because they grew up with a mother with very limited sight(as a result of retinitis pigmentosa), that was the normal for them. One parent couldn’t see so well,


Motherhood with Vision Loss

Editor's note: This post is the first in a short series on Mother's Day. Stay tuned for another post tomorrow. My First Child Was Born When I Was a Peace Corps Volunteer My eldest daughter was born near the end of my tour of duty as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Western Samoa. Due to a tragic mistake at the hospital in country just before my daughter's birth, a healthy new born baby boy had died. Thus, the country Peace Corps director insisted that all three of the pregnant Peace Corps volunteers be sent eighty miles to give birth at the L.B.J. Tropical Medical Center in Pagopago American Samoa. The wife of the village chief where


Nurses with Disabilities Have Great Abilities, Part Two

Imagine after years of preparing to enter the workforce and finally landing your dream job, you begin to lose your vision. You feel defeated and everyone around you thinks you won’t be able to find gainful employment or continue to work. Despite the critics and those who doubt your ability, you must always remember that you are capable. Detra Bannister took those words to heart yesterday in her story, “Nurses with Disabilities Have Great Abilities, Part One” on the CareerConnect Blog. Read how Detra overcame her vision loss and championed her skills into a successful career in today’s story. Nurses with Disabilities Have Great


Sue Martin Pens a New Memoir "In Dog We Trust"

Editor's note: Mary D'Apice, VisionAware Correspondent interviewed Sue about her new book. In Dog We Trust Sue Martin's first book "Out of the Whirlpool: A Memoir of Remorse and Reconciliation," chronicles a young woman's battle with depression, a suicide attempt that resulted in blindness, and a courageous journey to rebuild her life. Her second book, "In Dog We Trust:


Successful Ways to Work with Sighted Volunteers

National Volunteer Week April 10-16 is National Volunteer Week. This week is about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities. It is also a time to show appreciation for the people who volunteer and serve in the community. But I want to take some time to look at the other side of volunteering. Instead of focusing on volunteering I want to discuss the other side-the people who benefit from the volunteers. As a person with vision loss I have been working with sighted volunteers for many, many years. Although I am a fairly independent person there are


A Mountaintop View of the World in Spring

As spring moves swiftly into her delightful season of wild flowers and longer sunny days, I am reminded how touch allows me to see as my world goes out of focus with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). But my desire to see through blind eyes is kept alive by traveling to foreign shores…or in this case, a mountain top! Climbing That Mountain Driving through the villages of the Auvergne region of southern France, vague splashes of colour whirl past my view. The Top Gear team are on a mission – we have a mountain to climb. My partner, Harry pulls up in the car park at the


What You Can Do to Prevent Identity Theft

Editor's note: Continuing with Financial Literacy Month, Mary Hiland offers tips on what she does as a blind person and informed consumer to protect her identity. Preventing Identity Theft, An Impossible Mission? Preventing identity theft seems to be an impossible mission because the thieves, i.e. hackers, are a whole lot smarter than I am. But here are my attempts at protecting my financial identity: Check on Your Accounts Daily Because many websites are not blind-friendly, I use a toll-free number to review my transactions


The Role My Disability Plays in My Identity

Editor's note: This is Audrey's response to the post that Elizabeth Sammons wrote on What Role Does Disability Play in Your Identity?. We hope that readers will read and comment with their own thoughts. Imagining a Bleak Future When I first began to lose my vision, my thoughts and fears about blindness were much worse than the reality. I imagined a bleak future of helplessness and isolation; a life where I would be left behind and left out, no longer able to manage a normal life. Nothing could


What Role Does Disability Play in Your Identity?

Editor's Note: Elizabeth brought this question up to the VisionAware peer advisors and it elicited a wide-range of discussion, which we agreed needed to be shared with the larger VisionAware audience. Elizabeth's post is the kick-off of this discussion. Other peers will be sharing their thoughts in future posts, but we hope that you will chime in. "First I’m a Human..." "First I’m a human. Then I’m a man. And finally, I’m a Hungarian." Not the usual self-introduction, but it’s what I heard from Bela, a high school student just a few years my junior while I was serving in Hungary as a Peace Corps


March is National Eye Donor Awareness Month

Becoming an Eye Donor Have you ever thought of becoming an eye donor? March is National Eye Donor Awareness Month and a time to honor the work of the Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA), corneal surgeons, and the donors and their families who give the gift of sight. Globally, corneal diseases result in blindness or visual impairment in over ten million people. Since 1961, more than 1,500,000 men, women and children have had their sight restored through the work of EBAA members. In the U.S. alone there were 76,431 corneal transplants


Be A Bucket List Buddy—Sequel Number 1

What’s a Bucket List? In case you didn’t see the movie where the expression "bucket list" was made famous, it’s a list of things you want to do before your life is over. Depending on how long your list is, it would be a good idea to get started on it now. Choose at least one item on your bucket list and resolve to do it this coming year. Don't let vision loss slow you down. Many of the VisionAware peer advisors wrote about their bucket lists in January and sharing them with our VisionAware audience. Here is the first update


Blindness Brings Kindness: The Win Win of a Visual Impairment

After reading peer advisor Sheila Rousey’s post for Random Acts of Kindness week, and the rewards that come from being open to the act of giving and receiving, I am reminded of how being visually-impaired is an unexpected gift we give to ourselves and to others. Attracting Attention As a person with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), I accept that


Random Acts of Kindness Week: February 15-20

The Rewards of Random Acts of Kindness Have you ever been the recipient or provider of a random act of kindness? If you have, then you can certainly understand the value of self-worth that you have either provided to another or have received yourself. The wonderful thing about random acts of kindness is that both the provider and recipient are rewarded in ways that neither expect. The month of February brings with it a day of celebration of love, friendship, and affection. We celebrate the 14th of February as St. Valentines Day. But did you know that the week of February 15-20th is designated as Random Acts of Kindness Week? Many times we look at our


My Two Bucket Lists For Living with Visual Impairment

This year I have two bucket lists. One is my getting through the day list and the other is my outrageous dream list. In my view, having both helps bring a sense of balance to get through life. If you are getting started with vision loss, you may think "sure, creating a dream list is good, but I am having basic problems with getting my life back in order as I lose vision. How do I find things in my own home or figure out what I can do with limited vision? Right now, there are other things I need to put on my bucket list…to be realistic and not a dreamer." Getting Through the Day Bucket List OK. So first, to get


Sixteen Quotes to Keep Your Gaze on the Possible in 2016

Opening My Mind to a Different Perspective As a writer living with retinitis pigmentosa, the gift of blindness often opens my mind to a different perspective. While you might be reflecting on New Year’s resolutions, here are some of my favorite words of encouragement from successful writers and deep thinkers who might launch you into creating a vision of the possible in 2016 too! Choose the Possible "In this moment, there is plenty of time. In this moment, you are precisely as you should be. In this moment, there is infinite possibility." by Victoria


A Three-Step Process for Setting Goals for the New Year

Editor's note: Sheila Rousey is just joining the VisionAware peer advisor group and has written the first post out of the box for the new year! Read her take on setting goals, something all of us think about doing when January 1 rolls around. The Three Step Process In the educational setting, instructors are taught that goals must be observable and measureable. A more simplified explanation of setting or reaching goals include: identifying a specific goal to be reached, observing or looking for changes in understanding or behaviors, and lastly measuring the


Finding My Voice: Overcoming My Fears of Singing in a Cantata, as a Blind Person

Editor's note: This past week's posts have covered many aspects of dealing with loneliness and depression during the holidays in a positive way. In this in-between week between Christmas and New Year's, many of us start to think about what "resolutions" we should make. In this post, Mary Hiland discusses what she did to make her holidays brighter and more meaningful to her. But it takes preparation and planning ahead. Find out how she did it and get inspired! And, by the way, next week is Louis Braille's birthday and the start of Braille Literacy Awareness month. (Louis Braille was the creator of the braille code) We will be honoring that event with


Depression During the Holidays and Beyond

The holiday season is tough on those who are struggling with depression, anxiety and stress. Let’s face it--for many of us the family gatherings, endless shopping, and chaotic parties can leave us feeling down and exhausted. It’s a time that may be particularly difficult for someone new to vision loss. Many people who are blind or visually impaired find it stressful to go shopping, attend social functions, navigate crowds and manage family relationships. And that is just what the holidays are all about. Vision loss will certainly change the experience and may even trigger depression. Loneliness and social Isolation Predict Depression Social isolation is one of the biggest


Teaching Courage on International Day for People with a Disability

Editor's note: What can we write using the letters of the word "ABILITY" on this special day celebrating our talents and skills on International Day of Persons with Disabilities? The answer is two posts! This is the second post in the series offering encouragement to focus on how we help teach courage by being our capable-selves. Be sure to read the first post, A is for Ability, by Mary Hiland.


A Is for Ability on International Persons with a Disability Day

The United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities is annually held on December 3 to focus on issues that affect people with disabilities worldwide. At VisionAware, our peer advisors share how having a disability is more about what we can do with a so called ‘disability’ when we focus on all our talents and abilities. Celebrating this special day, we share the Abilities we are most grateful for. Living with ABILITY By Mary Hiland The word "disabled" does a great disservice to those of us who have vision loss. It sounds like we’re broken, like a disabled car. While we may be able


Helping My Family Cope with Diabetes and Understanding the Consequences

Editor's note: As we come to the end of National Diabetes Awareness month, peer advisor Amy Bovaird shares her concerns about diabetes and its impact on her family. Impact of Diabetes on My Life Diabetes impacts my life because three people in my family have it and I see how it affects them. My mother and two brothers all have Type 2 diabetes. Mom, frail and slender at eighty-six, is very careful about her diet. She exercises as much as she safely can at her age, which means riding a stationary bicycle each day. Yet because diabetes


Surviving the Holidays and Vision Loss

What’s a picture of two people in love hugging on skis got to do with a piece about suicide? A suicide attempt is the cause of my blindness. Creating a life worth living from the apparent ashes of my life thirty something years ago took a lot of work. And I needed a lot of help. I had great teachers. I worked hard. And I had support. This piece is dedicated to the person who has supported me over a thirty year marriage, my husband, Jim. Thanks sweetie. I couldn’t have done it without you. Warning: This piece of writing takes an honest look at a difficult topic, suicide. Further warning: I’m not going to sugar-coat my story. If you’re depressed,


Why Can’t We Serve: A Public Awareness Campaign About the Disabled Serving in Active Duty

Editor's note: while we are honoring Veterans with Veterans Day, we are bringing to your attention a public awareness campaign that Marty Klein has launched to advocate for people with disabilities to be able to serve in the military. by Marty Klein, guest blogger Why Can’t We Serve? For over twenty years, I have had a desire to help upgrade the standard of living for all people with disabilities by getting the people of our country to see how our military has been, and still is, discriminating against us in one very specific way. Since the passing of the


When Your Visual Impairment Isn't Visible

The Temptation to Pretend We Don't Have a Disability In honor of Invisible Disabilities Week, which falls from October 18 through October 24, I decided I would share a few thoughts about the temptation to pretend we don’t have a disability. What Is An Invisible Disability? According to the Invisible Disabilities Association, "the term invisible disabilities refers to symptoms such as debilitating pain, fatigue, dizziness, cognitive dysfunctions, brain injuries, learning differences and mental health disorders, as well as hearing and vision impairments. These are not always obvious to the onlooker, but can sometimes or always limit daily activities, range from mild challenges to


Lessons Learned in the School of Life: Going to School and Leaving Behind the Dinosaurs

Editor's note, as part of our Lessons Learned in the School of Life series, Mary Hiland has written her personal experiences as a sequel to the Going to School with the Dinosaurs post by Lynda Jones. Also check out the other "Lessons Learned in the School of Life" starting with Part One. Deanna Noriega's Swimming up the Mainstream post was published on


Lessons Learned in the School of Life: Going to School with the Dinosaurs as a Visually Impaired Student

Contemplating my twenty-two and a half years of school as a visually impaired student, I can divide the time into three periods: pre-technology, some technology, and the beginning of assistive technology. Kindergarten The half year I alluded to was kindergarten. For me, it was very disappointing. As I told my mother when I came home the first day, “I did not learn to read!” Reading was the bottom line for me. I did learn to climb the monkey bars and could even pass another student as we scooted along on the top. This was a definite achievement for a five-year-old with ten degrees of visual field. So…I dropped out and waited for first


Lessons Learned in the School of Life by People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired: Part Two

Edited by Maribel Steel Editor's note: As families and students old and young prepare to go back to school, VisionAware peer advisors share their insights on what they have learned when enrolled in the "school of life" as blind or visually impaired life-students. Vision Loss Teaches Faith and Humor by Amy Bovaird As I go through the "School of Life," I’ve learned to fall back on two principal strengths—which have never failed me. The


Just in Time for School: Shopping Online Made Easier for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Back to School Shopping Online Fleets of bright yellow school buses, children toting backpacks and lunch boxes are all signs of one thing-school time. And yes, if you are a visually impaired parent or a visually impaired adult student the months of August and September is the time of year that you are preparing for a return to that old school house. Now, you don’t’ have to take that long list of school supplies and rush off to the local office supply or big box store; you can shop easily and hassle-free from the comfort of your home. How is this possible? Through accessible online shopping. Next to the Christmas holiday season, back-to-school shopping is the largest shopping time


Lessons Learned in the School of Life by People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired: Part One

Going Back to School As families and students old and young prepare to go back to school, VisionAware peer advisors share their insights on what they have learned when enrolled in the "school of life" as blind or visually impaired life-students. No matter how old we are, it helps to realize there is always something new to learn. As the vision worsens, most people who are blind or visually impaired start to rely on other abilities to help adapt to their career requirements or hobbies. Vision Loss Teaches Patience by Audrey


Volunteering with the CNIB

Editor's note: CNIB is VisionAware's featured agency in August. One of our peer advisors carries out numerous volunteer activities for the agency. In this post she highlights the importance of volunteers to the agency's mission as well as what volunteering has meant to her. A Way of Giving Back Volunteering with the CNIB has been something I have been passionate about for a while. I feel like it is my way to give back to an organization that has been a part of my life for the last 25 years.


Firing Up the Gas Grill When You Are Visually Impaired

Firing Up the Grill With the summer upon us, it is time to get out those hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, fish, and veggies. It is time to get cooking and fire up the grill! The summer months are a prime time for picnics, backyard barbecues, and grilling out with friends and family. For some of us, this cooking ritual has been a big part of our lives and having a visual impairment shouldn't keep you away from the grill! Hadley Webinar on Grilling When I lost my vision, I stopped barbecuing because I felt it was too dangerous using charcoal, lighter fluid, and wood chips. However, after listening to a webinar from the Hadley School for the


What Helen Keller Means to Me

Peer Advisors Share About Helen Keller Helen Keller's Birthday Today, June 27th, is Helen Keller’s birthday. This incredible woman became deaf and blind at the age of nineteen months. Few could have imagined the leading role she would grow up to play in many of the significant political, social, and cultural movements of the 20th century. She worked for the American Foundation for the Blind for forty years, and until her passing in 1968, she worked unceasingly to improve the lives of people with disabilities. So in celebration, some of the peer advisors want to share how Keller has


Blind Bandits on the Run: An Adventure Tale

Editor’s note: As part of our Laughter Series and in honor of our wonderful fathers across the world, here’s an adventure tale for Fathers Day…hold on to your hats - my father doesn’t like to be late for any function, least of all, for a special luncheon we were invited to attend in Melbourne, Australia. Cruising the City Streets “One hour should give us plenty of time to find a car park.” My elderly father chirped as we cruised the city streets of Melbourne in his little car. “We’re way early.” I threw him a smile, keeping visually impaired eyes peeled to


Cataract Surgery Can Be Beneficial for People with Retinitis Pigmentosa: My Experience

Editor's note: This month is Cataract Awareness Month. Be sure to read this post and all the other important information mentioned in this post about cataract surgery and what you need to know. The Diagnosis I have Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) and two years ago my retinal specialist noted on a regular checkup that I had developed cataracts on both eyes. The cataracts were sitting right in the center of my only remaining window of vision. They were the type of cataracts that are commonly found in RP patients. About 50% of patients with RP develop them. My doctor explained that


Wind Chimes: Blessings From My Mom

It was a warm afternoon, so I slid open the patio doors and pulled out a patio chair to enjoy a few minutes of just being. Although it was warm, it was breezy, so the wind chimes hanging in the corner of the screened in patio were dancing and playing a simple but complicated tune. My feelings about those wind chimes were also complicated. The Entrance Last August, during the calling hours for my mother's funeral, our murmuring conversations were abruptly interrupted by the sound of clanging, clanging that was moving into the room. My first reaction was to be indignant. Why would somebody come clanging into this quiet room uninvited, and what on earth was that? Someone else jumped up and


The Fun and Joy of Motherhood As A Visually Impaired Mom

Editor's Note: This is part of our ongoing series on Laughter is Often the Best Medicine, a series that encourages people who are blind or visually impaired to laugh at blunders and celebrate victories. Celebrating Mother's Day in Style By Audrey Demmitt, peer advisor Dark restaurants are often very difficult to navigate for


Seeing Colors With My Brain Versus My Eyes

Healthy Vision Month Editor's note: May is Healthy Vision Month. Although Maribel has retinitis pigmentosa, a group of hereditary retinal diseases for which there is presently no definitive treatment, in this post she discusses her appreciation of vision. She encourages you to make your eye health a priority during this month. Take the first step by getting a dilated eye exam. And find out more steps you can take to preserve vision. <img


Blindness Brings Kindness

This is the last in our series of celebrating National Volunteer Week. It's not too late to show your appreciation! Showing Our Appreciation Showing our appreciation when another person goes out of their way to help us is a beautiful way to reciprocate the act of kindness. Like watering a plant, kindness grows and everyone benefits. If we know how to give as well as receive, the reward is not only the act of kindness but a genuine warm feeling in our hearts that we have made a difference in each others' lives. By showing our gratitude, we stay in touch with the selfless part in each one of us that knows how to see the best in any situation.


What to Do When Saying Thanks Seems Like Not Enough

Editor's note: Here is our third post related to volunteering and National Volunteer Week. She addresses how people who are blind or visually impaired can thank those who volunteer to help them with everyday life. Finding Creative Ways to Say Thank You Is Challenging Those of us who are a part of the blind and visually impaired community sometimes have to ask for help from others on a regular basis. Finding creative ways to show gratitude and appreciation for the help extended to us can be challenging because just saying thank-you never seems to be enough. But I have found some inventive ways that I would like to share, that go beyond the basic thank-you


Celebrating National Volunteer Week

Editor's Note: National Volunteer Week is April 12-18, 2015. This week is about inspiring, recognizing, and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities. Empish Thomas kicks off the week with this post and several others are coming your way this week. Working With Sighted Volunteers You never realize how much you need help with something until you can’t do it for yourself anymore. I would have to say that from the beginning of my vision loss, which was in 1996, I have always worked with sighted volunteers. They have helped me


A Spring Chorus of Twitters and Tweets

Ahhh, I welcome the crisp morning air and bright warming sun on a spring day. I wander the yard with my guide dog Sophie and we are both feeling the freshness in the breeze and have a renewed spring in our step. Sophie pauses, closes her eyes and lifts her twitching nose high in the air to inhale the kaleidoscope of scents. There is a definite smell to the color green. And rain has a distinct and lingering fragrance. Just as humans see the world in varying shades of color, dogs experience it in layers of exquisite smells. <img


How Poetry Helps Me Move On As a Blind Person

Editor's note: April is National Poetry Month. In honor of this month, Deanna Noriega has shared some of her poetry and encourages you to take part in the Library of Congress webinars on poetry starting April 1. Writing My Way Through the Tough Times Writing is a way to get through the tough times and also a way to think through a problem or even capture the joy of a moment. I wrote my poem "Dancers" in my head while walking sixteen blocks with my dog guide to a dental appointment! The joy of walking with Griffin made that walk a celebration of freedom and a shared celebration of our teamwork. Whether I am


My Experience with Using the Be My Eyes App

I am visually impaired and recently tried this app on the recommendation of my optometrist John Henahan, who has written a post about his experience. I recommend that you read what he has written as well as a recent review. History of Be My Eyes The idea behind Be My Eyes originates from the Danish 50 year old furniture craftsman Hans Jørgen Wiberg, who started losing his vision


Team Work and Practicality: What a Valentines Gift!

Steel Toe Boots and Helmet? This is my Valentines Day present? It turned out to be one of the best! My husband, Jim, and I live on 18 wooded acres in the foothills of the Cumberland Plateau. We partially heat with wood that we harvest from our own property. It’s a three stage process which involves cutting the wood, splitting it, and then stacking it in the woodshed. I am blind from a suicide attempt when I was 26. Since then I have gone on to work in the field of vision rehabilitation for over 20


When You’re Nobody’s Valentine

Valentine’s Day falls in the middle of winter when many people struggle against winter blues or depression. It can be especially hard to cope when everyone around you is being presented with flowers, cards candy or a special dinner out by a significant other. What can you do to get through the feelings of disconnection and loneliness that being nobody’s Valentine can bring? What is love anyway? We have all heard people exclaim: I just love purple; I love cats! I love lasagna; I adore hats! When people say they love…. They generally mean that the thing they are talking about makes them feel really good. However, love can cause pain; can make you sad, angry, or frustrated when it isn’t


My First Blind Date Led to Years of a Loving Relationship

Editor's note: Just in time for Valentine's Day, a touching story by Maribel Steel. Graduation From Guide Dog School When I was fifteen months old I graduated from the Guide Dog Victoria. It was a very proud moment in my puppy dog life. My family was there at my Graduation and they were so proud of me. We couldn't believe that I had passed my twelve months of socializing, five months of intense training and an endless week of exams. I was now a fully fledged


Surviving a New Year Festival in Australia--As a Visually Impaired Person!

The Decision to Go to the Festival I had heard a lot about the Woodford Folk Festival…that it was an amazing event and one should experience this music extravaganza at least once in one’s life. So, I was very excited when my partner booked for us to go to the festival in December 2014. "It might be a bit of a challenge though, getting around with one hundred thousand people?" he said. "Nah. I’m up for the challenge. It will be fun!" I reassured us both. Dealing with Heat and Thousands of People So off we went by plane to Queensland—inland, in northeast Australia --to make our way in the heat of summer…in high spirits with adventure in


How Can I Be Fashionable in the New Year If I Am a Blind or Visually Impaired Woman?

Fashion versus Style? To answer this question we need to understand fashion. Fashion unlike style is ever-changing and dependent on current trends. A trend that looks nice on one person may not necessarily agree with someone else. Style on the other hand, like art, is a form of self-expression and communication which encompasses the whole person. An extension of oneself, style begins on the inside with our personality, lifestyle, values, likes, dislikes, mannerisms and it permeates all areas of our life. Since fashion and cosmetics are multi-billion dollar industries, the process of finding professionals to tailor a personalized style program for you can be relatively


Coping with Caregiving in Your Own Way: You Can Help

Editor's note: Amy Boviard's sister passed away this week and she asked that we share this post as a memorial to her sister who has just ended a long journey with illness. You may want to read other posts in our caregiving series. Amy Many of you are visually impaired and/or hearing impaired like me. (I have retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and Usher's Syndrome, a condition in which people with RP gradually lose hearing.) Or maybe your age impedes you from doing all that you want to do. Caring for and communicating with a family member


What Happens When a New Year’s Resolution Doesn’t Happen?

Last Year’s Resolution About Learning Braille In January of last year I made a resolution to refresh my braille skills. I wrote a blog post for VisionAware called “My Journey Back to Braille.” In that post I shared about how I had learned braille many years ago but had not put it to full use. I shared how I knew the basics of my letters and numbers which is called Alphabetic Braille.


Technology Success Brings Renewed Self-Confidence

With the beginning of the new year, the peer advisors are enhancing the theme of independence on VisionAware. Be sure to read Audrey Demmitt's overview for the independence section, From Personal Loss to Personal Growth, the Road to Independence. I’ve had a really tough few months. When in the midst of it all I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know what it was. And it was only when I began my emergence from what turned out to be a minor depressive episode that I could see clearly what had happened. Technology is a big part of my


All About Braille: Six Dots, Four Perspectives

January is Braille Literacy Awareness Month, in honor of Louis Braille who originally developed the braille code. Braille has been a major contributor to the independence of people who are blind and visually impaired and we are honoring the month with personal stories about its importance. Bumps On A Page By Mary Hiland How do you make sense of all those bumps on the page? Do blind people


Celebrating the Holidays Alone? Three Tips for Keeping Your Spirits Up and Enjoying Yourself

Celebrating the Holidays Alone The end of the year brings the holidays which can be a joyful time, but for many it also brings added stress and feelings of depression- especially if you are celebrating alone, and coping with vision loss. Here are 3 ways to beat the holiday blues and have a blast. Beating Holiday Blues Remember the true meaning of alone. Alone actually comes from Middle English meaning all (wholly) one. Even though you physically may be by yourself, you are entirely complete and all one. One of my favorite musicians, Bob Sima, sings “Alone is not a time, alone is not a place, alone is where you are witness to your loveliness and


Fun For All During the Holidays

Don't Let Vision Loss Keep You From Enjoying the Holidays (or anytime!) With Your Grandchildren The holidays offer a special and important opportunity to spend time with your grandchildren or other children in your family. You may think that with visual impairment this is no longer possible. But that's not true! Keep on reading. Games and Activities to Try Mancala: It’s a game that you can play with your children or grandchildren that doesn’t require the use of print or braille. It’s a very tactile game with colorful stones and indentations that you use to score a win. No cards to read, no timer, no board to move little pieces on. It is available through


Blind Parent, Sighted Child

Editor's note: During the holiday season, we sometimes forget about the most important miracles of life, our relationships with those we love. In this poignant post, Maribel Steel brings this home to us. Later this week, Mary Hiland continues this theme with a post about enjoying time with your grandchildren. Playing with My Son My four year old son scrambles from one activity to the next at our local playground. He knows I can’t see him properly, my vision faded years before he was born but he still calls out, "Watch me, Mummy. I’m over here." I turn my head to face the direction of his chirpy voice. "There! Now, don’t move your head." he says, "You’re looking straight at


International Day of Disabilities and Impact of Talking Books

Editor's note: Did you know December 3 was the International Day of Disabilities? This year's theme is: Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology. The United Nations is honoring this day and, in its press release, states, "Throughout human history, technology has shaped the way people live. Today information and communications technologies in particular have impacted a lot of people’s daily lives. However, not all people have access to technology and the higher standards of living it allows. With an estimated one billion people worldwide living with a disability, and 80% of them living in developing countries, access to technology is key to help realise the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities." (http://www.un.org/en/events/disabilitiesday/)


Reflections on Veterans Day Visiting an Assisted Living Facility

Remembering Family That Served We were supposed to be reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, but I was so choked up that I could only mouth the words. We had just stood for the presentation of the American Flag by the Color Guard of the American Legion in our town. Tears were streaming down my cheeks, as we heard the haunting melody of “Taps.” Even though it was only a recording, I allowed myself to forget that it wasn’t a real live serviceman, performing the last rights of every American soldier. I grieved for my father, who served in the Army twice, for my brother, who served in the SAC division of the Air Force, and


Being a Caregiver and Advocate When You Are Blind

This post is part of our Caregiving Series in honor of National Family Caregivers Month. Mother in Emergency Room There are times when I feel more blind than usual, and when my 98-year old mother was sent to the emergency room (ER), this was one of them. First, when I got the call from the assisted living home, I had to recruit someone to take me to meet Mom at the hospital. It was the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. Fortunately,


Stranger Things Can and Do Happen When You Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Editor's Note: This is part of our ongoing series on Laughter is Often the Best Medicine. Sometimes You’ve Just Gotta Laugh! By Audrey Demmitt Sometimes when you’re visually impaired, you’ve just gotta laugh when mishaps and embarrassing moments arise. One day after shopping alone, I waited on the curb in the blinding sun for my husband to pick me up. I knew it would be a matter of a few minutes before he arrived; so when a reddish car pulled up, I hopped


The White Cane: Symbol of Dependence Or Independence

Editor's note:This is last in our series of posts in honor of White Cane Day. Our guest blogger, Kendra Farrow, CVRT, graduated from Western Michigan University with her Master’s degree in blind rehabilitation. She worked as a Vision Rehabilitation Therapist for fourteen years. Her experiences included organizing transition programming, leading activity and support groups, conducting community education on blindness and low vision, and providing one on one instruction with consumers in their homes.


My First Mobility Lessons Learning to Use A White Cane

Editor's note: This is our third post this week in our series celebrating White Cane Day and what it means. Be sure to go back and read Using a White Cane Gives Me Confidence and Safety and How I Accepted the White Cane. Tomorrow we will have one more post from a guest blogger to honor this important day. My Life with Blindness My life with blindness began in my mid-twenties. I had no idea what to expect. I had been blind for about a month when my orientation and mobility (O&M), instructor,


Using a White Cane Gives Me Confidence and Safety

Editor's note: This is our second post this week in our series celebrating White Cane Day and what it means. Be sure to go back and read How I Accepted the White Cane. The Diagnosis "You are legally blind,” the doctor said to me, after making the diagnosis of retinitis pigmentosa, RP. "Your sight will never get better and probably will get worse." I was 18 at the time. Being a blind person was not in my life plan, but over the next


How I Accepted the White Cane

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series this week of posts on the white cane. Be sure to stay tuned for the rest of this series. Accepting the White Cane There comes a time when it just makes sense to use a white cane when you are losing your vision. Most of us resist this rite of passage, fearing the stigmas, myths, and images associated with the “dreaded white cane.” Something Awful Had to Happen In my case, something awful


To Help or Not to Help

Editor's Note: As we approach White Cane Safety Day next week and honor National Disability Employment Month, this post is a an excellent reminder us all about asking for help. It was originally published on Mary's blog Seeing It My Way The Art of Offering and Declining Help Have you ever offered help to a child, only to have your hands virtually slapped away? “I can do it myself!” Have you ever offered help to a person with a disability, only to have the same thing happen? Have you ever thought about offering help and then thought better of it, because you didn’t want to get your head bitten off? There’s an art to offering help, just as there is an art to declining it. Needing Help Twice, in the last


Being Organized is a Matter of Survival for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Organization is a Matter of Survival During September, as Healthy Vision and Aging month and Falls Prevention Day, may we continue to value the importance of considering the organizational needs of others in our lives. I'm sure that the older we get, the more we will value our filing systems! Familiarity Breeds Contentment "It's incredible what you can do if you just learn to do it in a different way. It's all about always knowing


What Do You See?

A Question That is Difficult to Answer As a person with a visual impairment, I am asked this question many times and it is difficult to answer. Often, I do not know what I see…for what I am looking at does not declare itself readily. The world through my eyes is a shadowy, ill-defined place with uncertain shapes and colors. I am losing the ability to detect light and color in increments as if the world around me is a watercolor scene fading into the canvas. At times, I see nothing, only darkness and danger; other times the world is brilliantly washed in diffuse light and a soft blurriness which is almost beautiful… like a Monet…


Happy Grandparents Day!

I hope that all of you enjoyed the day yesterday! I wanted to share what has happened in the year since I wrote about grandparenting with vision loss, the joys and the challenges. Well to quote an old song "the beat goes on…" A Tip to Adult Children I understand that you are caught in the middle. These are your parents and now visual impairment is changing their lives and yours. Like my children, you have a picture of what a grandparent is probably based on your own grandparents and now Mom and Dad don’t fit that picture. Dealing with vision loss is often frightening for them and for you. There are many times when you are not


Advocating for Yourself Within the Healthcare System

Editor's note: This post was written by Max Ivey, a new peer advisor for VisionAware. In honor of Healthy Aging Month, Max has written this post on his recent medical experiences. Do You Really Communicate With Your Doctor? A recent experience with my doctors had me wondering how well people listen to their doctors. I also started wondering about how well our doctors talk to those of us who are blind or visually impaired. And finally, it made me think about what suggestions I could give people to make their experience more


The Transportation Problem: Finding Rides When You Can’t Drive

Editor's Note: The information in this post has been updated in this article, The Transportation Problem: Finding Rides When You Can't Drive As an Individual with Vision Loss. For additional tips and transportation alternatives, check out the Transportation section on VisionAware. The Transportation Problem One of the most difficult challenges for people with vision loss is finding reliable and affordable transportation. Whether


Cruising with My Family

Imagine how thrilled I was when my daughter and her husband invited me to go on a 10-day cruise with them. And it wasn’t to baby-sit their two kids. They invited me, because they knew I wanted to try a relaxing cruise. I would be able to sit on the deck and listen to books or soak in the hot tub, I could swim in the pool, enjoy the live music and shows, dine like a queen three times a day, or have an ice cream cone whenever I felt like it. I could even attend the educational lectures, get a massage, and in general, pamper myself for 10 days, with the convenience and security of having my family nearby. I am not part of a couple or a group of single friends my age, so going with my family was


My Road to Independence

Editor's note: Amy Bovaird is a new peer advisor. In 1988, I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), a progressive genetic disease that typically results in blindness. I chose to continue a new career in Teaching English as a Second Language abroad. To my surprise, nothing much changed with my vision. I noticed gradual differences but I could retain my independence over two and a half decades of teaching English in different countries. In 2006, I returned home from the


Embarrassing Moments with Our Dog Guides

Editor's note: This is the first in a series on our new theme of Laughter is Often the Best Medicine. We often find it difficult to laugh at situations when we blunder if we are struggling to find our equilibrium of adjusting to life's demands along with vision loss. In time, we realize one of the best therapies for learning to accept and value our visually impaired selves is to laugh at our faux pas. Read, enjoy, share.... Asking for Assistance By Audrey


My Favorite 4th of July

Editor's note: This story was written by Mary Hiland, a new peer advisor for VisionAware My Story Do you have a story about your favorite 4th of July? Let me tell you mine. Training for My First Dog Guide It was 1982, and I was in training for my first dog guide at the Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ. I was in my late 30’s and had two young children. It was the first time I had been away from home on a holiday. I would be missing the Little League tournament game, the annual parade in my home town, the traditional cook-out, and the fireworks to follow. I could have been sad for missing


Independence Versus Interdependence

Independence May Be Overrated Editor's note: this is the first in a series of posts on independence. We are launching this post the week of July 4, a date which has special significance to people in the U.S. who are celebrating Independence Day. I used to be a fiercely independent type. When I received my diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa and the possibility of blindness registered, I panicked. What would life be like if I could not do "my own thing" on "my own schedule" in "my own way"? Lessons on Independence Little did I know at the time. Gradually, as my vision receded, so did my confidence, my out-going spirit, my freedom and my independence. There is so


Vision Rehabilitation Therapists Change Lives

Life Not Over After Vision Loss At the onset of a vision loss a person often feels helpless and hopeless. This helpless feeling is normal as vision loss impacts every part of life. Even the simplest task, learned as a young child, often seem impossible. More challenging tasks such as using a computer, appear to be exclusively for the sighted. Even beyond basic everyday living, greater fears such as loss of income and independence may be overwhelming. It is easy to understand why many feel life is over. Actually, Life as they know it is over! What


Vacationing in our Nation's Capital

Vacationing in D.C. As a Person Who is Blind I have been to Washington, D.C. on several occasions, but those trips were always work-related. It was always coming in for a meeting, workshop or conference and quickly leaving out. I rarely visited any of the historic sites or toured the Capitol and surrounding Mall. So when the opportunity to travel with a tour group presented itself I took advantage. I flew out of Atlanta to meet my group in Alexandria for a 3-day historical walk through our nation’s Capital. I decided to take my vacation with a tour group instead of traveling by myself or with friends and


Every Day Is Father's Day

Editor's note: Guest blogger Kevin Dunn, who lost his vision due to retinal detachment and optic nerve damage, talks about being a father. Wonderful and Life-Changing Years Kevin and his family Years 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2006 have been the most wonderful and the most life-changing times of my life thus far. After three months of doctors trying to stop the progression of my retina loss, I lost my sight entirely in January 2001. In April 2002, my girlfriend (who decided to keep me) became my wife. We


Traveling Blind: A Sensory Experience

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." Saint Augustine My husband and I just returned from a trip to California. We visited Yosemite National Park, San Francisco, Muir Woods, Carmel, and Sonoma Valley. He is an excellent vacation planner and travel companion! This was one of my favorite trips with such a variety of experiences and adventures: hiking among the giant Sequoia, picnicking and wine-tasting in lush wine country, riding the rickety trolley car, shopping in the “hippie” district in the city, lunching on dim sum in colorful China Town, sipping tea in the peaceful Japanese gardens, meandering in the serenity of Cathedral Grove among the regal Redwoods, walking the dog-friendly beaches with my dog guide Sophie, breathing in


Insights about Using an iPhone: Pros and Cons for Blind and Visually Impaired Users

Peer Advisors Talk About Their Experiences with iPhones Why I LOVE my iPhone! by Audrey Demmitt I was the last one in my family to have an iPhone. I resisted it for some time, feeling intimidated by the technology. Eventually, I got one for Christmas at my husband’s prodding. My adult kids were all home and spent time teaching me how to use it, setting the accessibility features and downloading helpful apps. They encouraged me to "just start looking around and using it and you will learn what it can do." Every day, I learned new functions


There’s No Place Like Home: Planning to Age in Place

Growing Old Gracefully at Home The saying goes that "growing old is not for the faint hearted." Most of us want to grow old in our own homes surrounded by the familiar artifacts that tell our life story and supported by our families and communities. We want to grow old gracefully and with dignity. We worry about becoming a burden to our loved ones. The process of aging presents challenges and changes in physical, mental, financial and social well-being. Many of us may lack awareness about the support services available in our communities which make aging in place possible. According to the Center for Disease Control(CDC), "Aging in


Musings of a Visually Impaired Mother

If My Mom Can Do This, I Can Do It Too I come from a long line of mothers. Women have been birthing babies since the beginning of time. You know that excruciating moment during childbirth when you are screaming “I can’t do this!" and then you dig deep and discover you can after all? I told myself in that moment "If my mom could do this seven times (yes, seven!), then I can too!" And then when the nurse placed my squalling, slimy, bundle of joy in my arms for the first time, I suddenly realized the labor was not even the hard part of being a mother. Learning I Was Expecting My First Child I learned that I was expecting my first child from a neurologist, who was working me up for some unknown vision problem. The news was dulled by the uncertainty of my


Paw-wheel Driving with a Dog Guide

By Maribel Steel The Big Day During the first weeks of dog guide training, you can become easily overwhelmed by the new skills required to be able to step out in confidence with your four-legged companion. The interaction required between your canine pilot and you as navigator takes a significant measure of trust, courage, and good humour to keep moving smoothly through a chaotic world of obstacles. If you have wondered what it is like to experience that first leap into the unknown, then hold on tight, we’re going paw-wheel driving with my dog guide


Maribel Steel, New Peer Advisor, Introduces Herself

Feeling Blessed As a writer, author and speaker, I delight in connecting with others through the sharing of our personal stories. I feel blessed to be the mother of four healthy children, an aromatherapist and masseur, and I enjoy a variety of interests: writing, singing, gardening, learning about art history and travelling. I have been legally blind since seventeen and share the day's challenges and victories with two wonderful men – my partner, Harry, and our teenage son, Mike. We live in Melbourne, Australia, where


Trying Art Again After Vision Loss

Trying Art again A few months ago I decided to try a new venture by delving into the art world of ceramic clay. I had purchased a coupon that allowed me to take a 2-hour individual ceramic clay class on a discount. Since losing my vision15 years ago, I had not done anything artistic and decided it was time to try again. Before losing my sight I was on the path of a new career in the fashion industry. I was taking fashion design and merchandising classes at a local college after work. I was working with paints and drawing with charcoal and


Giving Up Your Car Keys When You Have Vision Loss and How That Affects Where You Live

by DeAnna Quietwater Noriega Fair Housing Month April is Fair Housing Month. And I thought this might be a good time to consider vision loss and housing choices. Considering Where To Live When You are Visually Impaired One of the things that a person with vision loss has to consider is where to live. When you reach the point that driving is no longer an option, getting where you need to go


Enjoying the Miracle of Seeds with Vision Loss

Miracle of Seeds Do you remember the sheer delight of planting a bean in a handful of dirt in a Styrofoam cup and watching it grow as a child? There is nothing quite as wonderful as a cup of seeds. The variety of color, shape, fragrance and flavor contained within that tiny package is a miracle. It is spring now and miracles await to delight, inspire and calm the soul. “In every gardener there is a child who believes in The Seed Fairy.” ~Robert Brault. I remember the first time I planted my own vegetable garden. Enthralled with the simplicity of the seeds, I lavished them upon the


Seven Ways to Spring Clean Your Life

Spring Brings New Beginnings Angela Winfield In the northern hemisphere, spring is here and, although it’s not quite warm enough yet, I feel the spring itch to open all the windows and air out my house. There’s something about the melting snow, thawing lake ice and birds chirping that makes me hopeful and eager for growth and new beginnings. Spring is a perfect time to get out of the house, pull out your white cane and go walk around. Spring is also the perfect time to check in with yourself, clean up and clear out anything that’s stunting your


Discovering That I Had the Non-24 Sleeping Disorder

The Beginning of Severe Sleeping Problems In 2006 I began to have severe sleeping problems. For years I had always been a good sleeper. Going to bed at the same time each night and rising around the same time in the morning. Even taking a long nap during the day did not negatively impact my ability to get a good night sleep. But something shifted and I began a long and stressful battle with sleeping. At first I thought it was just stress from normal life challenges. My schedule at work had changed. I was doing sub contract writing work on the side. My roommate had just moved out. A romantic relationship had just ended. So I naturally


The Checkered Eye Project

Steph McCoy's Introduction: "You don’t look blind…" is a comment many of us who have the hidden disability of low vision hear. The physical aspect of no longer being able to see is only one of many issues to deal with. A decline of self-confidence, navigating the stages of grief along with learning to adapt to a new way of life after vision loss can take its toll. One of the tools that helped me through this challenging process was a discreet self-identification pin that afforded me the opportunity, if I so choose, to share my low vision. When I contacted Libby Thaw, Founder of the Checkered Eye Project (CEP) back in 2009 after being diagnosed


What I Learned at the 2014 AFB Leadership Conference

First Time Attending Conference Encouraged, motivated and excited were the three dominant emotions I felt attending my first AFB Leadership Conference. The conference was held from Thursday, February 27 until Saturday, March 1st at the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge Hotel. Despite the freezing cold weather in New York, I jumped at the opportunity to engage with others in the blindness and visual impairment arena. As I combed over the jammed-packed agenda I saw several sessions I wanted to


Adjusting My Career to Vision Loss

Editor's note: Welcome Audrey Demmitt, new VisionAware Peer Advisor. A Career I Dreamed Of The day I graduated from the University of Arizona in 1983 with a nursing degree was a personal triumph. I looked forward to a career I dreamed of since childhood. I was certain I had found my life’s passion in nursing. My future was full of promise and excitement. Then at age 25, a vision exam turned everything upside down. The diagnosis was retinitis pigmentosa and my future became uncertain. Continued to Work After Diagnosis A long journey followed as I struggled to


Adapting to Changes In Our Lives As We Grow Older with Vision Loss

Editor's Note: In honor of National Senior Independence Month, Peer Advisor Deanna Noriega has written this poignant reflection on growing older and learning to do things a little differently. Reflecting on Changes that Being a "Golden Girl" May Bring As I look forward to my 66th birthday, I have been reflecting on the changes being a "golden girl" might make in my life. At my feet lies my 8th dog guide, a sweet, funny, little Chocolate Labrador with a light pull and a timid but willing heart. He is a lot


Readers Want to Know: Part 3, How Soon Should I Look for Support Services?

Editor's Note: To answer questions posed by readers,we have started a “Readers Want to Know” section of the Peer Advisors Blog. This is the Part 3 in that series. Question "How soon after vision loss (already seeing physician) should I look at support services to meet my needs? I personally had a hard time getting my eye surgeon to admit that my vision wasn't coming back anytime soon and was trying to work for 3 months until I was finally given someone to talk to. When talking with the services personnel, they said that this is common." Sue and her dog guide at the Seeing Eye Peer Advisor, Sue Martin,VRT, Provides Thoughtful


Tips For Dating for People New to Visual Impairment

Getting Back Into the Dating Game When I lost my vision I was already single and unattached. I had been going out on dates and was very interested in marriage. But my top priorities were getting some vision rehabilitation training so that I could live more independently. I also was laser focused on getting back to work and getting my overall health back to normal. Once all of those things were successfully in place and I was feeling good about life again I wanted to return to the dating game. But that is when the challenge began. No


Dating My Sweetheart Again After Losing Vision

Editor's note: Guest blogger Kevin Dunn talks about losing his vision, how it affected his relationship with his wife, and the steps they had to take to stay together as a couple. Dating from a Blind Man's Point of View With Cupid's holiday just around the corner and his arrows poised to meet their target, I was graciously asked to offer my two cents on the subject of dating from a blind man's point of view. Though it may not be worth the two cents, I agreed to give it a shot. Relationship Future Uncertain Truth is, when I lost my sight in 2001 (due to retinal detachment and optic nerve damage as a result of


Dating When Blind or Visually Impaired – From Single and Ready to Mingle to Off the Market

Editors note: Guest blogger Joe Strechay is the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) CareerConnect Program Manager and is a prolific and well-known blogger for AFB. Joe: I have written on the American Foundation for the Blind’s Blog about online dating and how I met my wife. Prior to all of that, I wrote this piece but never published it. I have been asked many times for tips on dating as a person with vision loss. So, I thought I would bring this piece to you as a


A Cross Disability: Visual Impairment and Autism

My First Interaction with Autism My first real job after graduating from college was teaching braille and remedial education to adults with visual impairments. One of my first students was an 18 year old girl who had had significant vision loss since birth. This sensory impairment seemed of little consequence compared with the other unusual behaviors she exhibited every day. She did the traditional “blindisms” rocking, rubbing her eyes, and holding her head in non-typical ways. Additionally, she did not converse, but made short monologs. She


Readers Want to Know Part 2: Learning Materials for People with Visual Impairment

Editor's Note: To answer questions posed by readers,we have started a “Readers Want to Know” section of the Peer Advisors Blog. This is the second part of that series. Question "I am completely blind in left eye and now the right eye has decided it is tired also. I would like to see listings of learning materials for us "newbies" in being able to take care of myself at home, It is vital that I learn these things. Thank you for all I have learned already." Sue and her dog guide at the Seeing Eye Peer Advisor, Sue Martin, Provides Thoughtful Insights VisionAware has loads and loads of resources and learning


Readers Want to Know Part 1: Peer Advisors Respond to Readers' Questions

Sue and her dog guide at the Seeing Eye First Question of the Peer Advisor "Readers Want to Know" Series "What could a person with sudden vision loss expect for outcomes and how to manage their expectations?" Peer Advisor, Sue Martin,VRT, Provides Thoughtful Insights Based on questions visitors ask, it’s clear that readers want to know what to expect if they or a family member is losing vision. Ths, we are starting a “Readers Want to Know” section of the Peer Advisors Blog similar to the series Maureen Duffy has


Have a Visual Impairment? Think Exercising Is Out of the Question? Learn How I Created My Workout Game Plan

Participating in Exercise Rituals Editor's note: Going along with Angela's New's Year's Resolution post, it's the time of year to think about getting and staying in shape. Empish, who is blind and is a VisionAware peer advisor, offers readers her "game plan." Even though Olivia Newton John sang her song “Let's Get Physical" back in the 80s; the concepts still rings true in 2014. Aerobics, fitness gyms, workout videos, and those 80s spandex exercise outfits with leg warmers were the craze that we are still embracing today. Well, maybe not the leg warmers! We have upgraded to the grueling


My Pressure Story: Sight That Is Lost Is True Hindsight

I'm not talking about diastolic or systolic pressure, as in hypertension or high blood pressure; instead, I'm talking about eye pressure, as in glaucoma – a silent, sight-robbing thief. I shouldn't have been surprised when my retina specialist finally diagnosed me with primary open-angle glaucoma. After all, my maternal grandmother had the same condition and was on eye drops for as long as I can remember. The fact that glaucoma is


Rock Your Resolution for 2014

Making a New Year’s Resolution Angela Winfield Have you made a New Year’s Resolution for 2014? If so, wonderful. If not, that’s fabulous, too. But since it is the beginning of a New Year, I thought it would be the perfect time to talk about how to rock your resolutions whether it’s one you’ve made for New Year’s or one you’ve made for life. A Perfect Time for Resolutions New Year’s is a great time to set a personal or professional goal for yourself because it is a fresh year and gives you a specific period of time for accomplishing your goal. If you are familiar with the business management concept of


Dog Guide Airs Views about the Holidays

Editor’s note: Gentry, a black Labrador retriever, shares his views and advice on how to help your dog guide have a happy holiday. His owner and peer advisor, DeAnna Noriega provided editorial assistance. Gentry’s View on Christmas Christmas is such a confusing time, all the everyday rules seem to change. A tree is not for the kitty cat to climb, or where to leave your markit's strange. Master covers it up with lights on a cord, in which it is easy to tangle your paws. But woe to the dog who breaks any laws. Don't chase the kitty cat up


How to Avoid Those Holiday Blues

Those Holiday Blues When Elvis sings "I'll have a Blue, Blue Christmas," most of us know just what he means. All during the holiday season music and ads tell us we should be happy and spending time with people we love. Sometimes, that just doesn't happen. During those "blue times" when we are alone, we must dig deep into our experience and find many little ways to enjoy our lives. I grew up in a Christian culture and so I use Christmas as the name of the key holiday in my life. The same strategies I will share for avoiding the "blues" apply, of course, to the key holidays of other world religions. Most of them apply to people who have no religion,


Packing for Holiday Travel

Editor's Note: The peer advisors can't get enough of sharing their tips and advice on travel tips for people who are blind or visually impaired. Last week Sue Bramhall shared her travel tips from the perspective of a business owner of a travel tour company. This time DeAnna Quietwater Noriega shares hers but with a focus on dressing for travel, packing your suitcase and traveling with a dog guide. Packing and Identifying Your


Travel Tips For People Who Are Visually Impaired

Traveling with a Visual Impairment Editor's note: with the holidays just around the corner, the peer advisors thought it would be good to share some travel tips. This guest blog post was written by Sue Bramhall: Sue Bramhall I’m a lifelong traveler who has Retinitis Pigmentosa, or RP, and I also run a travel agency for the visually impaired. So, if you have vision loss, I’d like to share several useful travel tips. And for those of you not affected, you may find at least a few of them useful as well. Ask for Help When Needed


Plan Your Journey Through Life With An Open Mind

Angela Winfield Editor's note: This is the second installment in the OPEN series begun last month by Angela Winfield,Esq. It is a fitting post to launch Thanksgiving, a holiday that is full of hope. As W.T. Purkiser said, "Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving." Where Do You Begin Your Journey At times, you may feel lost, like you have a long way to go. Or, perhaps, you don’t know where to turn or where to go now that you are visually impaired. I know that was the case for me. Sometimes even the


Bar Codes, Stickers and Labels

Importance of a Title November is National American Indian Heritage Month. You are probably wondering what this has to do with the title of this article. I am of native American descent. My great grandmother chose Quietwater as my true name. This is not the one that appears on legal documents or government records, but the name that tells others who I am as a person. When my children were small, they were given true names at family ceremonies. My great grandmother named my eldest daughter. My mother named my younger daughter. I chose the names


Living with Diabetes

Facing Diabetes and Its Complications "You can eat all the ice cream you want in heaven." So began the eulogy for my friend Sally who had died of diabetic complications two days before. The minister's talk was aimed particularly to Sally's six year old son on the front row of the chapel. I cringed because I have diabetes too. My feelings were exactly the same when my doctor informed me that I had the scary disease six years ago. I loved sweets, still do, but I thought then that they would be available to me only in the next world. That's what everyone says: "No sweets." I knew that I wanted a different answer. Educational Seminar I attended a day-long diabetes educational


Women Who Are Blind Can Lean In

Initial Reaction to Lean In When I first heard about Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, I responded like so many other women in America. I thought how could this woman who has graduated from an Ivy League school, has wealth, a high level senior position, and a husband challenge me to "lean in?" I am working hard as a single, African-American woman with a disability. How in the world do I lean in? Is it possible? Maybe this book does not apply to women like me? So I found myself quickly dismissing all she was trying to say. I saw her interview on


Getting Started: Responding Proactively To the Challenge Of Losing Your Vision

Challenges Everyone has been presented with many challenges throughout their lifetime. Some more than others, but we all have challenges. When presented with any type of challenge it is natural that our behaviors change initially. For example, often when we hear any discouraging news, our knee jerk behavior is to react. We ask "Why me?" or "What did I do to deserve this?" That is a "reaction" and it is normal, but reactions are not productive. Another behavior is to "respond," to ask thoughtful questions, to be proactive in finding solutions. When we respond, we are taking a positive step towards rising to the challenge


Open Yourself to Life as a Person Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Angela Winfield Editor's note: New peer advisor Angela Winfield, Esq. who lost her vision from complications with cataracts, glaucoma and uveitis, is a practicing attorney at a prestigious firm, but does much, much more. In her own words,"In my different roles as attorney, author, motivational speaker and professional coach, I help people break through barriers, overcome obstacles and resolve conflicts so they can succeed in


Reaching for the Stars Through Specialized Services

Editor's note: Shirley Jordan, our guest blogger, has been served by the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind and was recruited for this post by Michelle Miller, peer advisor. A Shining Star Covered by Clouds When my neighborhood reached the time between light and dark, right at that magic moment of twilight each evening, I instantly began to shut down mentally and physically. The fear of the dark was so paralyzing I stopped doing anything after sundown. The


You Don’t Know What You Can’t See When You Can’t See It

There's Nothing More That Can Be Done The news was devastating. "Ms. McCoy," the doctor said, "I'm so sorry to tell you there is nothing more we can do for you." Those simple words confirmed my worst fears. I am now legally blind. I was numb and my heart was beating so violently I had a difficult time focusing on the doctor's next words. After what seemed like an eternity, the doctor continued, "Ms. McCoy, you have lived with myopia all your life and you have done everything you should do by regularly visiting the eye doctor but you have reached the point where


My Love of Reading

Editor's note: With all that has been going on with the close down of the Federal government, one of the programs that was initially affected was the BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) Program, through which people who are blind or visually impaired can download books to read from the National Library Service (NLS). (Note:The program was brought back online on October 4). BARD Shuts Down The suspension of BARD really didn't make me happy.I am thankful, though, that I had a heads-up and knew that the site would be going down. When I heard that BARD would be off-line when the government was shut down, I logged in and began


Thoughts on Preparing for Employment

Editors Note: Today marks the beginning of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Peer Advisor Deanna Noriega wrote this post to bring attention to the importance of employment in her life and to demonstrate how persons who are blind or visually impaired can prepare themselves for employment. Deanna: At age 14, I was the eldest child in a family of five children. Money was tight, and we were all expected to pitch in around the house. I wanted to be able to save money for things I would need for college, buy the occasional treat like a record by my favorite musical group or new dress. I had lost my vision at


The Rewards of Grandparenting with Vision Loss

Parenting and Grandparenting Adventures Parenthood was one of the greatest adventures of my life. It was filled with highs and lows, many firsts from sleeping through the night to walking down the aisle at a child's wedding. There were sticky kisses, scraped knees and broken hearts. For my children there was also Grandma. They all have wonderful memories of the time they spent with her, so for me, being a grandparent meant sharing adventures, stories, teas and ballgames. How do you play catch or read stories when the world is a blur? How do pass on a tradition, whether that is knitting or stamp collecting, camping or music when you cannot


A Teacher's Toolbox of Old and New Technology and Methods

by Lynne Tatum Editor's note: This is the last in the technology series that VisionAware is running this month. Lynne is a new peer advisor for VisionAware and also a teacher at the Computer Center for Visually Impaired People, featured on VisionAware as the agency of the month. Teaching for over eighteen years has propelled me to adjust my teaching techniques and tools to try to maximize student retention and interest. The same methods I use with my students are those that have worked well for me through the years as I do my best to keep up with the latest and greatest technology. Students have always been encouraged to take notes but I offer notes in order that they have every


The Joys and Frustrations of Technology

Technology--Both Exciting and Frustrating! Technology is one of the most exciting and frustrating things in the world today. It can do amazing things; however, it can be the cause of countless hours of frustration and seemingly wasted time. As a blind person, I have used various kinds of technology over the past twenty plus years. It seems that in the past, in the blindness world, there has been that one new technology that leaps into the forefront, and everyone who is blind must have it. Now, however, as a blind consumer, I have many more options than ever before. In many ways, it’s great to have choices, but


Becoming an Effective Self-Advocate

What is Self-Advocacy There are many times in our lives when self-advocacy is an important tool to use. When you are blind or visually impaired, you may need to hone your skills even more. Self-advocacy is a lifelong skill which enables you to speak up for yourself and for your personal rights. Self-advocacy also means speaking out against personal discrimination. Becoming an effective self-advocate requires you to develop and nurture your existing skills and abilities, to build up your self-confidence, and to practice the critical skill of communicating effectively. Effective communication means that you listen to


Summer Travel Adventures with Vision Loss

Traveling is My Passion Traveling is my passion. There is nothing more exciting to me than stepping onto an airplane and flying off to a new and unexplored destination. I’ve had the love of travel ever since I was a very young child. At age five I traveled with my family across the United States to the coast of Washington state in a motor home that we rented. Twice again during my growing up years my family drove across the United States, visiting famous landmarks and spending time with my relatives who live in Arizona. I had seen much of the United States as a child, so as a college student I yearned to see more of the


ADA: The Path to Inclusion

Passion, dedication, empathy, and education, the hallmarks of advocacy, are traits that can prompt a seemingly ordinary person to perform extraordinary feats. One such achievement was the enactment of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) which in reality began many years prior to its implementation on July 26, 1990. The road to the ADA was long, bumpy and full of obstacles, from 1817, with the founding of the American School for the Deaf (the first school for disabled children in the western hemisphere), to 1986 when the outcome of a report,


My Navigational Dance in the Bathroom

Editor's note: Leading up to the celebration of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, Empish Thomas brings us her very special take on navigating public bathrooms with vision loss. Figuring Out the Layout of a Public Bathroom One of the most fascinating things that I had never thought about before losing my vision is figuring out the ladies' bathroom. Trying to find the stall, the sink, the soap, the paper towels and the door are a constant song-and-dance for me each time I venture into a public bathroom. Since I consider


Self-Advocacy: How Aggressive and Assertive Behaviors Differ

Have you ever been around people who are loud, demanding, and just downright rude? You have probably had this experience and it is not a pleasant one. This type of behavior is considered aggressive, not assertive. It turns people off and even makes them angry. Aggressive Behavior Aggressive behavior means that you are trying to get your needs met without considering the rights and needs of others. It is fundamentally unfair. Aggressive behavior may actually hurt your chances of getting what you need. It may affect public attitude toward people with vision loss by making people less likely to listen and to respond positively to


My Perspective on Educating the Public on Your Vision Loss

We have all seen the image of that typical blind person, a person with dark sunglasses swinging a white cane back and forth or walking with a dog guide. We can tend to wrongly assume that all people with vision loss only read braille, or have an extraordinary sense of smell, taste, touch, and


Tribute to My Father

Sue and her dog guide at the Seeing Eye In the first weeks and months after I became blind I struggled to find things to do, things that would interest and engage me. Even before my rehab teacher, now called a vision rehabilitation therapist, came to see me for the first time, I learned something infinitely precious from my father. Daddy had lots of hobbies, including doing needlepoint and crossword puzzles. One of his greatest passions was growing plants. As my sighted self, I had never taken too much interest in this hobby of my father's.


That Computes: Teaching Ways to Access the Computer

Sue and her dog guide at the Seeing Eye Note from the editor: This month VisionAware is honoring vision rehabilitation therapists (VRTs). VisionAware peer advisor, Sue Wiygul Martin, VRT, has written a book, Out of the Whirlpool: A Memoir of Remorse and Reconciliation, about her experiences as a VRT, which will be published soon. This blog is an excerpt from Chapter 26, "Two Clients, One Goal," which will be posted soon on VisionAware in text and audio formatwith Sue's own voice! This excerpt is about Gordon, who has


Looking Good Without a Mirror

One of the funny things about living with vision loss is that we often get stuck with a picture of ourselves that dates from the time of our vision loss. I was 8 years old at the time. At sixty-four, I know that I am no longer a pint-sized little girl with long dark chestnut braids, a baby face, and a snub nose. The ruffles my mama used to enjoy dressing me in are probably not current fashion either. Planning Your Wardrobe Women who are visually impaired need a plan to take into account current trends in fashion and what they have learned about their appearance. They need to be realistic when buying. Is the item easy care?


Confessions of a Reluctant Technology User

I was born in the generation who left for college lugging a reel-to-reel tape recorder, Perkins Brailler, and a manual typewriter. As an aging Baby Boomer, I find myself trying to figure out how to use equipment never dreamed of when I got my first job. Most of it is expensive and there are few opportunities to get hands on instruction before purchasing. Attending a national conference or technology conference is one way, but time is limited and vendors are often too busy to spend time with you on the use of the device. They are eager to sell the item and too busy to provide training. We live in an age when new methods for


My Mother, the Wind Beneath My Wings

Editorial note: This post marks the initial post for our new Peer Perspectives on Vision Loss Blog. In honor of Mother's Day, Peer Advisor DeAnna Quietwater shares this tribute to her mother. My mother was seventeen when I was born. I was the first of her five children. Six months after my birth, I was diagnosed as having congenital glaucoma. The prognosis was not good. My mother was told that I would probably be totally blind by age ten. Back then, many of the surgical techniques which are used successfully today, did not exist. The primary treatment was a course of drugs administered in eye drops to


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