Blog Posts by Maribel Steel

Two Blind Cooks in My Kitchen!

Food is the true universal language that breaks down barriers and brings us all togetherno matter who, where, or what we are. Penny Melville-Brown, Blind Baker and Holman Prize winner When I read a message on the VisionAware message board several months ago, I knew I had to reply. It was an announcement by a woman from England who had been selected as one of three Holman Prize winners, and she was coming to cook in my home city in Australia as part of her prize-winning Baking Blind Tour. Setting Off on a Blind Ambition When Penny was informed of a particular prize being offered to people with a visual disability, she decided to pitch her vision of the possible. The Lighthouse Foundation for the Blind and Visually

Why I Resisted Learning Braille

Editor's note: To celebrate the life of Louis Braille (1809-1852), who made reading and writing possible for people who are blind, we’d like to acknowledge his young entrepreneurial skill that changed night writing into a code of dots we know today as braille. VisionAware peer advisor Maribel Steel, shares an excerpt from her unpublished memoir. She reflects on her teen years when her sight mysteriously worsened and how facing the question, to braille or not to braille, was met with personal uncertainty. Physical

Eighteen Sayings to Focus on Renewal with Vision Loss

As we begin a new year, some people may find themselves suddenly challenged by a new detourhaving to navigate a life with low vision. I often find I have to renew my focus at times of great challenge and being legally blind with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), I sometimes think my parents should have given me Patience as my middle name because it certainly doesn’t come easily on those days when a situation can throw me off

Easy Ways to Become a Guest Blogger with Low Vision

Do you often think about sharing your experience of vision loss but lack the resources to blog your own post? Perhaps you have a passion in other areas of your life you know would help others if they only knew what you knew, but coding a web post is not your forte? No problemconsider becoming a guest blogger! Maribel Steel, who is legally blind, a VisionAware peer advisor, and a Top 100 Freelance Blogger (as listed on wants to let you know it’s absolutely possible! Here are some easy ways to help you get started as a blogger without having to set up your own blog and why it is a great way to sneak into writing on the Internet. Open the Gate to Possibility <img src=""

Self-Publishing: My Great Learning Experience

Compiled by Maribel Steel How exciting would it be to be able to announce to the world, My first book has just been published! I’m delighted to say that this is how I first heard of my fellow peer and writer friend, Mary Hiland sharing the story of her long overdue struggle to have her book published. For anyone in this similar dilemma to publish or not to publish, let’s see how it turned out for Mary. The Bumpy Road to Self-Publishing By Mary Hiland <img src="" width="250px" alt="Mary Hiland standing on a bridge

How I Self-Published a Book as a Writer Who Is Visually Impaired

What better way is there to leave a legacy to your family than to self-publish your own book? A book with stories and family recipes from three generations to nourish their future? This was my reason for keeping my publishing project a secret from my family so that I could produce the final book as a Christmas gift to my grown-up children. Come behind the scenes to discover how, as a writer who visually impaired, I created my book with three helper elves to make my legacy a reality. A Precious Gift The bright spark of an idea came to me in a flash three months before Christmas. I’d write a recipe book as a surprise and gift it to them for

Self-Publishing: Challenges and Rewards

Compiled by Maribel Steel Have you wondered about publishing your own book to share your life’s experience and expertise? You may think there are a lot of books out there about living with low vision and indeed, there are quite a fewexcept there is always room in the world of self-publishing to include your creative work too. In this post, two VisionAware peers, Sue Wiygul Martin and

Dialogue in the Dark Melbourne: An Eye Opener in Total Darkness

Editor's note: Dialogue in the Dark is a worldwide social enterprise that has arrived in Melbourne, Australia. One of our peer advisors Maribel Steel has trained and is working as a tour guide for the inaugural group for the Melbourne exhibition. Here she shares how the experience is helping to open the eyes of the sighted community in Australia from her personal account as a tour guide. Impressions in the Darkness Picture this if you can: I am standing by a sliding door in the pitch black and hear a group of people walking towards me, although it sounds more like a

How to Get the Most from the Bard in Your Book

Being blind or visually impaired doesn’t have to be a barrier to enjoying a good book. As we celebrate National Reading Month in March, peer advisor and visually impaired freelance writer, Maribel Steel, highlights some of the benefits we can all continue to enjoy either on our own or with our children when we want to get the most from the "bard" in our books. First Impressions The magical world of words that first excites a child’s imagination is often conjured up from fairy tales and fables of childhood. This is a time of wonderment where the bard and the book are one, where nothing can replace the drama of a character as beautifully as in the voice of a loved one. My own experience when I first heard the bard come alive in books were in the voices my

Many Different Hats: An Audio Short Story

Editor's note: In honor of National Reading Month, today's post features an audio recording of Maribel Steel's story, "Many Different Hats." Whether you enjoy reading large print, braille, or following along with audiobooks, the VisionAware peers encourage you to continue to enjoy reading. Click the link below to listen to Maribel's story. Listen to "Many Different Hats" Transcript (Soft music plays then fades out as the narrator begins to speak) Narrator:"Many Different Hats," written by Maribel Steel and read by Carol Middleton. Playing Time: 7:51 minutes.

Friendship on International Women's Day

As women from every corner of the globe come together to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th, VisionAware peer advisor, Maribel Steel, acknowledges the feminine spirit that nurtures, supports, and uplifts through the sisterhood of friendship. Women in Collaboration A few years ago, I was the project coordinator for a World Premiere music event in Melbourne, Australia called, "Precious Music, Precious Water." I mention it here because it was a project commissioned by The Victorian Womens’ Trustit was an insightful experience to be at the

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

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="" alt="woman using

Travel Around the World this Holiday Season: A Postcard from Melbourne

Editor's note: Are you thinking about traveling this holiday season? Utilize your orientation and mobility skills to experience the holidays around the world. VisionAware peer advisor, Maribel, shares the festivities in her city in this excerpt from The City on Top in the Land Down Under. This blog was originally posted on Maribel's travel blog, Touching Landscapes. A Postcard from Melbourne By Maribel Steel The continent of Australia may be

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

The Reserve Bank of Australia Hits the Jackpot with an Accessible Banknote

Editor's note: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a celebration of a diverse workforce and the contributions of workers with disabilities. This year's theme is Inclusion Works. Maribel Steel describes what Australia is doing with their currency to make inclusion work in this post about the new accessible $5 AUD banknote. The Reserve Bank of Australia recently put a new, accessible banknote into circulation, the first of its kind in Australia. The new banknote has unique security features and allows easy recognition for people who are blind or visually impaired. More Than Meets the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit Guggenheim New York Without Having to Get out of Your PJ's

Take a Tour With a Difference For those of you who enjoy wandering through art galleries, going on audio described tours and keeping in touch with the art world, guess what you can do over the holiday season without even having to get out of your comfy warm PJ's? Take an online audio described tour at the Guggenheim in New York! An Experience

Food Gifts You Can Make for the Holidays - Part 3

Editor's Note: Many of these gifts require measuring. Before attempting them, you may want to learn more about measuring and safe cooking techniques. You may also find useful tools for cooking and other household tasks through AFB's product data base or through specialty catalog sources. Apple and Rhubarb Jam

Crafts and Gifts You Can Make for the Holidays - Part 2

Editor's note: We continue with crafty ideas that people who are visually impaired can make as the holiday season approaches. One of the nicest things to receive from a friend is a hand-made craft or gift. Check out Part 1. Part 3 covers food items you can make as gifts. Read Tips for Setting Up a Craft Area to get you started. Festive Gifts in a Jar by

Time to Make Crafts and Gifts for the Holidays – Part 1

With the holidays almost upon us, we are introducing a series of gift ideas and projects. We are starting with crafts that you, as a person with visual impairment, can make. One of the nicest things to receive from a friend is a hand-made craft, especially during the holidays. Join the VisionAware peers by getting crafty and surprise a friend or loved one by making your own homemade gifts this year. This post focuses on knitted gifts. Starting Small By Mary Hiland I’m just about the least crafty person I know, but for some reason, last summer, I took up knitting. I started with making a scarf or two and then decided to try making

RunMelbourne: A Walk in the Park with Our Guide Dogs

Editor's note: September is National Service Dog Guide Month (originally National Dog Guide Month). To start our coverage of this annual occurance, Maribel Steel, VisionAware's International Correspondent, shares her story of a "Walk in the Park" event in Melbourne, Australia. Stay tuned for more. Gathering of the Team The team had come prepared. Dozens of orange caps and water-proof ponchos packed by the staff of Guide Dogs Victoria (GDV) to be handed out to their clients – the rain was not going to dampen our fun-loving spirit for this year’s RunMelbourne event. The sun came out in a burst of support while the hive of volunteers buzzed about helping clients who are visually impaired to attach name badges to orange t-shirts and time tags to the inside of

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

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

Finding a Nice Man When You Cannot See

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. Being Single Again Many, many moons ago, when I found myself back on the singles shelf, a divorced mother sharing a new home with my toddler and two emerging aliens (teenagers) and a food-challenged guide dog, life was so full it was hard to imagine ever needing to be part of a loving relationship ever again. I stopped looking at the

Choices We Make: Independence We Celebrate, Part Two

Coordinated by Maribel Steel Editor’s note: To celebrate independence in this month of many independence-related events, our peer advisors share their perspectives when it comes to choosing a white cane or dog guide to maintain personal independence. Be sure to read Part One on Choosing a White Cane. Why Choose a Dog Guide? by Mary Hiland

Choices We Make: Independence We Celebrate, Part One

Coordinated by Maribel Steel Editor’s note: To celebrate July as "Independence Month," for all of its independence-related celebrations, the peer advisors initiated this topic of "independence" last July and have a lengthy series of posts to peruse. Be sure to read Part Two on Choosing a Dog Guide. The White Cane: A Useful Tool That Opens Up Your World <img src="" alt="picture of person walking with long

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

How to Make Your "Home Sweet Home" Safe

Home Safety Month There is nothing so comforting as our "home sweet home" to return to after being away for a few hours, a day or a vacation. But often, it is our homes that can pose the greatest risks to our safety especially if you are blind or visually impaired. At home, we take off our emotional armor to relax, our dog guides are off duty. Our sighted family can even forget we can’t see and are in relax mode too. Distractions abound and before you know it, a dining chair was left out from the table, a cupboard door left ajar and a glass of water was perched right where you could knock it from the bench to smash on the floor. Accidents do happen – but why not eliminate

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.

Reading and Writing Blind with My Buddy Called JAWS

Editor's note: Our last installment for National Reading Month. by Maribel Steel Have you ever wondered how people who are blind or visually-impaired are able to operate a computer without seeing the screen? How do they move around in cyberspace without cursing the cursor? Well, they use specialized technology to retain independence by learning to log-in to life using a variety of software choices. If you are noticing signs of your sight deteriorating or you are experiencing difficulties staying on top of visual tasks on

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

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

Caring for the Caregiver through the Seasons

This post is part of our Sandwich Generation Series. Becoming The Unplanned Caregiver “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa Even though I was caring for a family of three young children and was helping my husband to establish a new business, I somehow fell into the role of caregiver for my mother-in-law. Eighty year old Vera arrived for a two week holiday and ended up living with us for seven years! During her visit, Vera had cried out

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

From Cataract to Accomplishment

by Maribel Steel Sometimes I get the feeling that we are meant to meet certain people in our lives or be in a specific place at a specific time – even though we don’t quite understand why. Getting a Diagnosis Twenty years ago, when my many roles included being a wife and mother, a care-giver to my elderly mother-in-law, a midwife to a menagerie of farm animals and the secretary to our family business, the cloudiness of my vision had become disturbing. The diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) had been a part of our lives for several years but the constant haze as if looking out from behind a foggy windscreen obscuring vision was getting worse. It was time

Wearing Many Hats For Independence: Traveling Safely

Editor's note: This post has been updated to include an audio recording of Maribel Steel's short story, "Many Different Hats." Listen to her story. Traveling Through a Battle Zone Editor's Note: In the wake of Independence Day, we bring you this 3rd in a series on independence. When a blind person ventures out from their home, it can feel like going into a battle zone. Navigating a safe path around obstacles and unpredictable barriers and maintaining one’s dignity is like taking a merry waltz through a mine-field. At

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

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