Blog Posts by Empish J. Thomas

ADA at 29: Websites and Apps Still Not Fully Accessible

When the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed 29 years ago, the internet as we know it today and smartphone apps were not in existence. Fast forward to today and doing a Google search and downloading an app are as normal as drinking a cup of hot coffee in the morning. The majority of us, both sighted and blind, are constantly online searching, reading, and uploading information in order to work, live, and play. Smartphone apps make this even easier. Having access to technology has become extremely important, yet those of us with vision loss still struggle with accessible websites and apps. The ADA has assisted and many

Review of National Library Service Graphic Novel "The March Trilogy"

Editor's note: With the observance of Martin Luther King Day on January 21, this post by Empish Thomas is particularly relevant. It is part of VisionAware's ongoing book review series. Caption: Book Cover of March Book One I don’t typically read graphic novels. As a matter of fact, the book that I am reviewing is my very first. For those who are not familiar with the genre, a graphic novel is a

The Impact of Transportation Access on Health and Wellness

by Empish Thomas Medical Doctor Moves Away A few weeks ago I got some disappointing news from my neurologist. I was told that she was leaving the medical center she practiced at and moving across town. I was deeply saddened and in shock. I really enjoyed the rapport I had with this doctor. She understood my medical needs and was sensitive to my visual impairment and transportation challenges. Now, I would have to start all over again looking for a new neurologist closer to home. This situation and similar ones were discussed at a conference I attended this summer called Rides to Wellness. It was an all-day

REV UP for National Disability Voter Registration Week July 16-20

Caption: REV UP Campaign Logo, Courtesy of the Association of People with Disabilities While many people are vacationing, attending summer camp, relaxing by the pool, and firing up the grill, others will be hitting the streets spending this July focused on a voter’s registration campaign. Although the next national election is not until November, this campaign is concentrating its efforts early and specifically targeting the disabled voter. The REV UP Campaign is coordinating National Disability Voter Registration Week (NDVRW) during the week of July 16-20, 2018. The

Pickup or Delivery, a Different Way to Grocery Shop

Editor's Note: With Independence Day just ahead, VisionAware peer Empish Thomas has written about a vital aspect of independence for people with vision lossgrocery shopping. Empish discusses some new ways that retailers are making it possible to shop more autonomously than ever before. Pickup or Delivery, a Different Way to Grocery Shop A couple of months ago I started a different way of grocery shopping. In the past, I would inventory my pantry and refrigerator to restock, make a list, and catch the bus to my favorite grocery store. Once there, I would venture over to the customer service counter, get assistance, and do my

Cardelia Cunningham: She Keeps on Overcoming

Editor's note: In honor of Vision Rehabilitation Therapist Appreciation Week, we are publishing an article about Cardelia Cunningham, VRT, retired, and former employee of the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services. Ms. Cunningham epitomizes what the vision rehabilitation therapist is all about as a dedicated, hard-working individual who fulfilled her goals despite many adversities and who inspires others to take up the work. This article was originally published in the Summer 2017 issue of DIALOGUE Magazine, copyright 2017 by Blindskills Inc. Cardelia Cunningham: She Keeps On Overcoming by

Watching Movies Made from Books with Use of Audio Description

Editor's note: March is National Reading Month, and Empish Thomas has compiled a great list of movies that are based on books that you will want to check out. Also, if you love movies, her post on audio-described movies is a must read, and it includes links to other helpful articles. One more thing, the VisionAware peer advisors have put together an excellent anthology of books about adjusting to vision loss that may contain books of interest to you or a family member. Jumping

Calendars for People with Vision Loss

by Neva Fairchild and Empish Thomas It’s that time of year when we need a new calendar, resolve to get organized, and commit to keeping track of appointments independently. If you have a visual impairment, this can be easier said than done. None of the calendars at the store have large enough numbers or letters, and there’s not enough room to write even if you buy a desk-size calendar, which of course you cannot take with you. If you use a black permanent marker so that you can read what you write, it bleeds through to the next page. The letters and numbers are gray instead of black, and the spaces are too small to write what you need to know. Eventually, you leave the stationary aisle frustrated with nothing that meets your needs. Now what? Print

The Actiview App Allows for Independent Audio Description at the Movies

Have some time off during the holidays? You might want to try out some new movies at your local theater. A few weeks ago, I had a wonderful experience using a newly release app on my smartphone called Actiview. This app, available on the iPhone free of charge, allows blind and visually impaired movie goers to access audio description of a movie in the actual theater. Now you might be asking, doesn’t audio description already exist? Can’t you just ask for the accessible headset at your local theater? The answer is yes to both questions. But the cool thing about the Actiview app is that you have

Why We Decided to Not Use a Guide Dog

Compiled by Empish Thomas September is National Guide Dog Month and is a celebration of guide dogs throughout North America. According to Wikipedia, National Guide Dog Month offers a way to raise awareness, appreciation, and support for guide dog schools across the United States. Since I lost my vision many years ago, a constant question always comes up, Empish, why don’t you use a guide dog? This is a very fair and valid question. As I was talking to my fellow VisionAware peer advisors about National Guide Dog Awareness

Four Lessons I Learned from Hurricane Irma

Editor's note: September is National Preparedness Month. The theme this year is Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can. With all of the weather emergencies taking place throughout the world during the past few weeks, Empish Thomas relates her recent experiences and lessons learned.   I must admit when Hurricane Irma hit, I was more focused on the Caribbean and the state of Florida than I was on myself. I live in the Atlanta-Metro area in Georgia, and I did not pay as much attention to the hurricane as I probably should have. Perhaps that was the first lesson learned

Ways People Who Are Visually Impaired Can View the Solar Eclipse

It has been almost 100 years since a total solar eclipse has happened coast to coast in the United States. Typically, solar eclipses occur somewhere on earth about once every year and a half, but on Monday, August 21, everyone in the US will be able to see this momentous event. Image courtesy of NASA's Decorate Eclipse Glasses A solar eclipse occurs when the moon blocks the disk of the sun and, as a result, the day will darken. Lasting for only a few minutes, it is an incredible sight to see but very unsafe to do so because of the

Dishwasher Users Beware: Check Twice Before Putting Soap in Your Machine

Editor's note: This is part of our ongoing series, Laughter Is Often the Best Medicine. The contributors to this series hope their vignettes provide a chuckle, an aha moment, or dispel myths about visual impairment for all readers. Am I in the Middle of a Soap Opera? I have used a dishwasher for many years. I can load and set up the machine in my sleep. I simply rinse off my dishes and silverware, placing them in the various compartments.

Thumbs Up on the ADA and Audio-Described Movies & TV

I am not a film critic like Gene Siskel or Roger Ebert, but I want to give a thumbs up to the increased availability of audio-described movies and television. If you are not familiar, an audio-described movie provides extra verbal narration of visual elements happening in the film. It could be hand gestures, facial expressions, physical movements, a description of clothing, or action happening in the movie. It describes things that a person with vision loss might not notice or realize. There have been several recent developments that have

Five Reasons Why I Still Use a Landline Phone

Today, with the ever-increasing advancements in technology, many people are cutting the cord and getting rid of their landline phone. They are using their cell or smartphone to make those necessary phone calls. Their smartphone can accomplish that and so much more, so some might think, why continue to have a landline? Well, I can give you at least five reasons why I still continue to use mine. Even though I am in my mid-40s, I am a bit old fashioned and thoroughly enjoy my landline phone, and here are the reasons why. Five Reasons Why I Use a Landline Phone I can get to my landline quickly and

The KNFB Reader App Is a Print Reader I Can Easily Carry on the Go

Empish's Take on Using the KNFB Reader App Although the KNFB Reader App for the iPhone has been on the market since 2014, I just recently started using it. As I have been slowly migrating my life onto my iPhone, this app was one I had yet to try. I typically scan all printed materials, especially my mail, using my desktop computer with a flatbed scanner and software called Open Book. But I had been hearing such great things about the KNFB Reader app, launched by the National Federation of the Blind, that I had to try it out. Because the app is on my phone, I can easily carry it around in my

Four Things I Learned from the 1Touch Self-Defense Project

In March, I attended the AFB Leadership Conference in Alexandria, Virginia. One of the numerous workshop sessions on the agenda that I found interesting was on the 1Touch Self-Defense Project. I had taken a self-defense class for people with visual impairments, but it was many years ago, and I have to admit I was pretty rusty on the topic and even more on the physical techniques. So, I decided to attend the class to get a refresher and update my skills and knowledge. The session was only for about an hour, but I learned a wealth of information that I want to share with you in this post. <img

How I Honor Earth Day Every Day As a Person Who Is Blind

Editor's note: April 22 is Earth Day. Each year, Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Growing out of the first Earth Day, the Earth Day Network is the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement working with more than 50,000 partners in nearly 195 countries to build environmental democracy; 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day. In honor of this milestone, Earth Day Network is launching a set of goals to shape the future of 21st century environmentalism. "Waste Not, Want Not" From the time I was a little girl, I was aware of the importance of

Reading Bookshare Books Is Enjoyable but Maybe Not on iBooks

Reading Bookshare Books on iBooks Announced January 23rd is National Reading Day, which is observed as a time to encourage and celebrate the love of literacy among children. Although it has been years since I was a child, the love of reading has never left me. The ability to peruse a book, newspaper, or magazine has always been a delight. When I lost my vision 20 years ago, instead of reading printed books, I started reading audiobooks. One program I like to use is Bookshare, an online service that provides accessible books for people who are blind or

My Experience Using the LinkedIn Website and App

I have had a profile on LinkedIn for a couple of years now, and I am fairly familiar with the website. I will post news I want to share or will say congrats on a connection's work anniversary from time to time. Sometimes I will even post a comment on one of my groups when an interesting link to an article is posted. But admittedly, I have not been using LinkedIn to its fullest capacity. The reason is that there have been some updates to the website that are making it more challenging to use with my screen reader. This has discouraged me from using it as much as I should. Like most social media platforms, LinkedIn has frequent updates so by the time I learn a workaround for something new, my strategy or technique no longer works. Because LinkedIn

Feel the Power of the Disability Vote By Using the Accessible Voting Machine

As an African-American who grew up with parents who lived under segregation, I have known and understood the importance and power of the right to vote. My dad, who was born in Birmingham, Alabama, would constantly tell me that when I grew up to always have handy a copy of my government ID, library card, and voter’s registration card. He always stressed the importance of having those three things in my purse. Today, I am a 45-year-old living in Atlanta with vision loss, and guess what I have in my purse? You got it; my government ID, my library card, and my voter’s registration card. All with

Fall Prevention Is Not Just for Seniors

When I search for articles, seminars, webinars or conferences on fall prevention they always seem to be geared toward seniors. They focus on those in the age group of 50 and up. But falls can happen to anyone at any age. I know this is true because I have had a couple of falls in the last few years and I am in my forties. As a result, I have become much more aware of the way I live my life so that I can prevent more falls in my future. For example, I don’t talk on my cell phone while walking with my white cane. Talking on the phone while trying to navigate and use proper mobility can cause major distractions and possibly a nasty fall. Ten Tips and Suggestions To Prevent Falls <img src="" alt="woman

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

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

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

The Five Top Ways I Use Uber

Why I Use Uber The past year Uber has revolutionized my life. It has been an excellent alternative to public transportation, cabs, hiring personal drivers and asking for rides from friends. I have used Uber for all kinds of commuting around the Atlanta Metro area. Doctor appointments, work-related meetings, grocery shopping, and outings with friends and movie nights. You name it and Uber has pretty much taken me there. But with all of this traveling around Uber can be quite addictive. I mean, with the ability to call up a driver in about 5-10 minutes with the swipe of a finger on your smartphone just about any time you want? That is just hard

Using Uber As an Alternative Transportation Service for People with Vision Loss

What is Uber Nearly a year ago I started trying out a new transportation service that hit my city called Uber. I had been hearing about it all over the place from both sighted and blind friends. I had not tried it yet because I had no smartphone and I also was not sure of its effectiveness. But after purchasing my iPhone and having to wait longer than I wanted at a doctor’s office, I decided to try Uber. It was a funny situation that you can read about in VisionAware’s

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

The Challenges of Applying for a Job Online

Editor's note: As we end the observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the peer advisors decided that another critical topic to address is how applying for a job has drastically changed and what they means to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Online Job Applications Are the New Norm As a visually impaired job seeker you will notice that more and more these day’s employers are offering and sometimes requiring that you apply for positions online. Nearly gone are the days of paper applications or

Visiting the Library of Congress and the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Impaired

Traveling by Bus to Baltimore and DC A few weeks ago I joined the Center for the Visually Impaired’s Braille Club as they boarded a bus for a 3-day trip to Washington, DC. We were all on our way to visit the Library of Congress and the National Library Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). The purpose of the trip was to bring a deeper awareness in the use of braille and trigger additional excitement in reading. So all 24 of us left on a Wednesday evening. We rode all night and arrived in Baltimore at the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Center

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

My First Adventure with Uber

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 themselves and celebrate victories. An Accidental Adventure Early this week I tried Uber for the very first time. It was more by accident than anything else. I had finished up at the doctor’s office and had booked my trip with my local PARA-transit service. But when the appointment was over I had over an hour to wait for them to come and pick me up. I quickly realized that I did not want to wait that

Practice Good Eye Safety Around Fireworks This Fourth of July

Happy Safe Fourth of July! The Fourth of July is a time of fun, remembrance and celebration for many Americans. Friends and family gather together to enjoy early morning parades, backyard barbecues, and nighttime fireworks. Fireworks are exciting, fun and spectacular, but don’t let an accident spoil your celebration. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), each year thousands of people are injured by fireworks during the months of June and July. Almost half of those injured are children and especially teenagers. The typical victim is an unsupervised teen, at home, with a group of friends, playing with fireworks. The chances are

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

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

I Finally Got an iPhone!

I Got an iPhone About two years ago I wrote a post for VisionAware on why I don't use an iPhone. In the post, I vividly described how I was totally unconcerned about the fancy bells and whistles of this growing technology. I shared how an old fashion flip phone suited me just fine. I explained how I was uninterested in downloading books, reading my stock portfolio, or listening to music on my phone; how I just wanted to make a simple phone call and hang up. Well, this past December I turned over a new leaf and purchased an iPhone.

My Medication Education and Self Advocacy

New Customer at Walgreens At the beginning of the year two medical things changed for me: my insurance switched and I started taking a new medication. On the surface both events were not traumatic or life-shattering just life adjustments that needed to be made. Changing my insurance and taking a new medication both required me to switch my pharmacy. I had originally purchased my medications at my local grocery store pharmacy but since they were not a national chain my insurance would not accept them as a provider. When I called my insurance company they gave me a list of pharmacies in my neighborhood and Walgreens was on the list. So I decided to make that my pharmacy from now on.

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.

Russian Tea Takes on a New Twist

Editor's Note: This is part of our ongoing series on Laughter is Often the Best Medicine. My Unintended and Very Tart Version of Russian Tea Contributed by Empish Thomas Last year in December I attended a holiday jazz concert sponsored by my local talking book library. After the concert was over we all gathered for refreshments and conversation. I was served a mug of Russian Tea and immediately enjoyed its warmth, spice and sweet flavor.

Accessible Kitchen Aids for Successful Holiday Cooking with Vision Loss

Editor's note: This post is the first of our Cooking with Confidence series, associated with the Peer Guide to Cooking Safely with Visual Impairment. It Is That Time of the Year It is that time of year when family and friends gather for warm cups of cider or hot chocolate, friendly conversation, laughter, and of course, lots of delicious things to eat. For those of us who are blind or visually impaired, there is no reason that our vision loss should keep us from

How I Pursued a Portfolio Career

Editor's note: As we celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness month, Empish Thomas brings her perspective on today's job search for a person who is blind or visually impaired. Welcome to the Portfolio Career I have noticed that today’s job market has drastically changed. I seldom see people working many years at one company until retirement. Additionally, I have observed people no longer getting a degree in only one field of study. People no longer work the 9-to-5 Monday through Friday type of schedule. The job market has

Light at the End of the Tunnel: My Travels on Amtrak

Guest Blogger, VaShaun Jones is the Managing Partner of Fedora Outlier LLC, the first nationally-recognized firm delivering consulting, teaching and support for Apple’s range of born accessible technologies to individuals who are blind or have low vision. The firm was founded in mid 2011. Fedora’s mission is to educate, equip and empower the blindness community for success in the workplace, classroom and at play. Outside of managing his company, Jones enjoys playing the saxophone, working with people who are deaf-blind and advocating for the rights and responsibilities of people who are blind. I Enjoy Traveling on Amtrak Trains,

Free Bill Readers Offered to People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

How Do You Identify Your Money? One of the most frequently asked questions I get as a blind person is how do you identify your money? Since US paper currency is printed with the same color ink and each denomination has the same shape and texture it is very difficult to determine differences. This challenge reduces the level of financial independence for those with vision loss. It also creates opportunities to be taken advantage of by dishonest people. Multiple Ways to Identify Money It can be hard for me to answer that question about identifying my money because there are multiple ways to do it. As a result, I have strayed away

Take Me Out to the Ball Game! Beep Baseball and the Atlanta Eclipse Team

Written by guest blogger Judy Byrd, Manager of Atlanta Eclipse Beep Baseball Team, and Volunteer with the Georgia Blind Sports Association and the Beep Kickball Association The Beginning of the Atlanta Team In March of 2010, the first practice of the Atlanta Eclipse Beep Baseball Team took place with about 15 players and 8 volunteers, most of whom knew little to nothing about beep baseball. We all joke about it today, recalling that it was definitely the "blind leading the blind" since neither the players who were blind nor sighted knew what they were doing! What Is Beep Baseball? Beep baseball is an adapted sport for people who are

24 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Anniversary of the ADA: What is the Law and How Does It Apply to Those with Vision Loss. July 26 will mark the 24th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA was created to bring about "equality of opportunity, full participation in society, independent living and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities." For too long people with disabilities have struggled with full inclusion into mainstream society and the ADA was passed to even the playing field and provide more opportunity and access. The ADA concentrates its efforts in five major areas: employment, transportation, state and local government, public

Joining a Book Club Provides Great Reads and Socialization

Reading From an Early Age I have enjoyed reading books since I was a small child. My enjoyment began with my parents reading me bedtime stories from the Golden Book series, which were short stories printed in a hard-bound book with gold trim on the binding. During my middle school years it was Classics by Charles Dickens and contemporary fiction by Judy Blume. Once in high school and college I was introduced to African-American stories by Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison and Richard Wright. Today as a visually impaired adult I can still dig into a good read because books have always been a large part of my life. But it was not until a couple of years ago that I took my enjoyment of

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

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

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

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

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

Blind Tom: The Story of a Georgia Slave Who Was Never Fully Emancipated

Famous Native Son Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriett Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Washington Carver, Malcolm X, and Fredrick Douglas – these are names of famous African-Americans that are well known and observed during Black History Month in February. This year I wanted to bring to your attention a famous native son whose story is not typically in the history books or spoken about in conversation. Thomas Wiggins who was born a slave in Columbus, Georgia in 1849, was an incredible musical performer and entertainer. From a very young age, he traveled all over the US and Europe playing classical music

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

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

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

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

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

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