Thursday, March 31, 2011

Storytelling workshop

I am offering a storytelling workshop for six weeks in May and June.  Contact me for more details.

The adventurous portage

Another canoeing story as promised. When I was a camp counsellor in training, we had to organize a canoe trip for all counsellors in training. On one of these trips, I had a big portage adventure. We were canoeing away and got to some rapids. I was a little nervous about them. Firstly, I couldn't tell my canoe partner about any rocks or anything to keep away from. I had visions of us being tossed around or ejected from our boats. So, when one of the leaders asked if anyone would like to portage with the food pakcs just in case, I volunteered. My friend also volunteered. The portage path looked wide and easy to manage. There was a sign my friend said which clearly read PORTAGE. So we shouldered the food packs which were quite heavy and set forth. I felt very proud. Portaging was something the fur traders did. It was something the explorers did. And now, here I was portaging. We walked along, laughing and chatting and wondering if any of the others got wet. The path turned and then turned again. This was a good sign I thought and probably meant we were turning back towards the river. And then, my friend let out a series of expletives. "What is it?" "The path just ends," she said, "In the middle of no where. With nothing but rugged bush all around us." So, there we were. We contented ourselves with knowing that we had all of the food. That meant we could survive and that the others would be eager to search for us. We waited for a bit and then we blew our whistles. We heard answering whistles. My friend asked if I knew the direction of the sound. I thought it was straight ahead so we trudged through branches and brambles and thick bush. Now, we were hot and scared and tired and wished we had stayed in the boats. Rapids sounded safe compared to this wilderness. We continued to blow our whistles periodically and so did they. Luckily, we were getting closer. I'll interrupt this story to say that we were both about fifteen and that I was the first blind person to come through this program. Well, after several minutes which felt like hours, we stepped out of forest and my friend let out another series of colourful expletives. We were out of the forest all right. But, now we were standing on the edge of a cliff. Our group was below us. Quite far below. "No problem," I said, "We'll climb down." Sometimes not seeing the terrain ahead has its advantages. We did climb down. It took us quite some time but we were reunited with our group. The next day, there was another chance to portage around some white water. Did I take it? No! The allure of the word portage was no longer with me.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Great things about being blind. Meeting a beaver.

Of course I knew about the beaver for many years. I'm Canadian after all. I had touched trees they had chewed but had never been close to one. I was mentioning this to a friend and then we went canoeing and found many beavers and beaver habitats. First, we found a lodge and canoed up so I could touch it. It seemed like a random series of pieces of wood to me. At least the part I touched felt like that. Then, as we were canoeing in the river around sunset time, beavers came. A young one first so I was told. Quite close to the boat and it slapped its tail on the water. That sound is very loud. Like a loud popping baloon or something. I heard the splash as he dove under. Then more beavers came. Diving and slapping their tales. I felt badly if I was causing them stress but really enjoyed hearing the noises of the tails and the splashes as they dove. More canoeing tales in the next few days.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Great things about being blind. Touching animals.

Yesterday, I mentioned being able to touch a stuffed loon at a camp site museum. It reminded me of other times when I got to touch stuffed and mounted animals. One of the most memorable times occurred when I was running day camps for kids who were blind several years ago. I contacted the museum of nature and they were willing and eager to give us a special tour, take some animals out from behind glass, and let us touch them. I was more excited than the kids I think and I loved that day and still think of it. They let us touch squirrels, chipmunks, different birds (humming birds, owls, jays for example) they let us touch a beaver, a rabit, a polar bear, moose. It was so fascinating. I never knew what the animal fur or feathers felt like. I never knew their sizes, shapes. I could hear birds flying. I could hear the humming bird humming around flowers but didn't know how little it was. I heard the sounds of owls but could never imagine their shapes. Feeling a beaver's tail helped me to realize how they use them to signal danger. It was an amazing experience from start to finish and I will never forget it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Great things about being blind. The call of the loon.

I love the call of a loon over a lake when you are at a cottage or camping. It is haunting, breathtaking, magical. I'd heard it for many years before I got close to one. Once while camping and canoeing, we ended up very close to a family of loons. They wanted us to leave I am sure. They would dive and swim under the boat. I could hear them dive, come up, and call again. It was unbeleiveable although I felt some stress knowing that we were probably frightening them. Soon after this, I was at a provincial park camping. The people working there asked if i would like to touch a real loon that had been stuffed. It was kept in a locked display case and others were not allowed to handle it but they took it out for me as well as other birds some owls I think. I was amazed by the loon's long legs, the softness of the feathers, the feeling of its chest. Many birds seem to have a chest that feels brittle and fine boned. The loon's chest felt solid like a brick wall. Like an animal's not a bird's chest. It was amazing to touch it and to get an idea about the shape and size of the loon. As someone who has been blind since birth, I have no idea about the sizes of animals. A chipmunk rustling in the forest can sound quite large although it is tiny I believe. I always am touched when people show me things I never otherwise would have touched like the loon. Wow, writing about that makes me want to go canoeing but it is minus 10 celcius outside so I will hold off on that for a while I think.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thanks for the comments

Thank you all for your comments. I'm sorry I have captia enabled for people to comment. I hate captia myself. I'll try to go and figure out how to change that. Glad people are reading my blog. Thank you so much.

Great things about being blind. Feeling virtuous about earth hour.

Last night it was earth hour and everyone was supposed to turn lights and appliances off. I admit I did not do it. But I didn't turn lights on either. So, I think many of them were off. Or maybe they weren't! But hey, I am good for the environment. Here's why. I don't drive a car. I only drove my boss's car once and that's a story for another blog. I don't drive a motorcycle or a plane or any other bad for the environment vehicle. I leave lights off most of the time. I leave my computer monitor turned off. I've turned off the display on my ipod. I walk and use public transit. So, blind people are great for the environment. Should I have a T shirt made do you think?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Great things about being blind. The sound of a cardinal

I'm not sure if a cardinal is a cheerful looking bird or not. I am not the best at identifying birds by their calls. I keep meaning to study the calls and figure them out. I know the chicadee and the crow of course. I know gulls and jays and I think the red winged blackbird. But, I love the whistling sound of the cardinal. It sounds so cheerful and always makes me smile. It was terribly cold this morning as we set off for yoga class. The wind also was very strong. I heard the cardinal whistling cheerfully away as Tulia and I walked up our street. There weren't many people around. All I heard was the cardinal and the cheerful jingling of Tulia's collar tags as she bounced along at my side. I felt sorry for the cardinal in the bitterly cold wind but was so grateful for the beautiful whistling song. Tomorrow, I will write about the lovely loon calls.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Great things about being blind. The sound of the bean bag bed.

I have had a bean bag bed for the dogs for several years now. A friend of mine had bought it originally for her dog but her dog hated it. The dog I had at the time, my yellow lab guide Margaret, also hated it. I almost gave it away but am glad I didn't. When I got Gia (my golden retreiver) she loved it. She would literally bounce on it with excitement. the dog toys are kept in a box in the bottom of our spare room closet. One day, there were hardly any toys there. I wondered where they all could be. The bean bag bed stays upstairs in our office here just behind my computer. I came up and there was Gia lying on the bean bag bed after having bounced it into shape. When patting her and touching the bed, I discovered that many dog toys and bones were actually hidden in the folds of the bean bag. When Tulia came home, she also loved the bean bag bed. It was always a bit of a rush to see which dog would claim it when I came into our office. Gia would stretch out across it. tulia digs around at it and makes a nest and curls up inside it. She too likes to bounce on it and dig in it until it meets with her approval. If one dog and then the other lay on it, each dog would have to ajust the bean bag accordingly. Tulia makes quick digging motions and spins around. Gia bounced. The sounds of the crackling beans are happy sounds. The other day, I came to pat Tulia who was all curled up in the bean bag. Guess what I found in there with her? I'd say ten to fifteen toys and bones. She seems comfortable in bed with all of them but I don't know how she could be.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Great things about being blind. the conversation on the bus.

Last week, I was writing about wonderful encounters I have had with small children. This is one of my favourites and it took place several years ago. I was sitting on a bus with a former guide dog who was about three years old. A little kid maybe about three or four got on with his/her mom. He/she asked why there was a dog on the bus. I explained about the dog and how my eyes didn't work and the dog helped me to get around.
I had the following delightful conversation with the young person.
"How old is she?"
"I am three too. That dog is going to grow very very big. As big as this bus."
"no she is full grown."
"No she is going to grow as big as this bus?"
"Well that will be hard for me. How much food will she have to eat?"
"Lots and lots of food. About 20 hamburgers at a time."
"And how will I walk with her?"
"You can ride around on her."
"And what will I do with her when I get home? She won't fit in the house if she is as big as a bus."
"Oh you can just park her in the driveway."
I've never forgotten it. One of my most favourite conversations ever.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Great things about being blind. voice recognition

We were on a flight home yesterday. When the flight attendent came to do my pre-flight briefing, I thought she sounded very familiar. The pre-flight briefing for me involves them telling me how many rows of seats to each exit, where the bathroom is, where the oxygen mask would fall, about your life vest, where the call button is. One flight attendent showed me where the reading light was too. One time, they told me that if I had to slide down the evacuation slide, I should fling my dog over my shoulders so her claws wouldn't puncture the slide. I couldn't quite imagine how that would work. Sometimes they say if something happens, I should wait until everyone else has left and then they will help me. If I'm ever on a flight in trouble, I won't be doing that!
Anyway, I thought her voice sounded very familiar as I said before. Then, I remembered taking a flight once where one of the flight attendents told me that she read books for the CNIB library service. These are audio books for people who cannot read print. You can borrow them. So, last night, I asked her, "Are you the one who reads books for CNIB?" And she was. She thought I had such a good memory and I do I guess. But, her voice just sounded so familiar, I was sure I had heard it a lot in the past.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Great things about being blind. dogs in new places.

I have been away for a few days. Visiting relatives about two hours flying time away. All of my dogs have been there. Whenever I go, they all seem to go with me. This was Tulia's first trip. She flew like a pro. Lying on the floor of the plane in front of my feet. Not moving a muscle. Sleeping with her little black head on my foot. This calmness also helps any flying jitters I might have although I am not really afraid to fly. She went through security, strange airport, cabs, cars, staying in a new apartment, and she took everything in stride. I know the city well so could direct her to the best place for her to releive herself, to the garbage can, apartment building door, elevators, apartment door, some familiar stores. And she did it all. After one time or two and a kibble reward, she found elevator buttons, doors inside and outside, and all manner of things like a pro. We walked a lot and I think she was tired by the end of each day. But, she was always up for new adventures. Today, it was cloudy and windy being by the atlantic ocean, but we visited one of my favourite parks ever. All of my girls have loved it. Tulia was not working and so we let her walk and sniff and she had a great time. We encountered many many dogs and although she showed mild interest a few times, she was so great. When we reached the apartment on saturday night, she sniffed every inch of it. Bet she smelled Gia for sure.
We're home and Tulia ran around like a little black dervish and now she is crashed on her bean bag. Having dogs with you in new and also in somewhat familiar places, sure helps you get around. Everyone says how beautiful Tulia is too!

Monday, March 21, 2011

My blog. Great things about being blind. Dogs that find elevator buttons.

I have recently been spending quite a lot of time visiting relatives in a building with elevators. I don't live in a building where I use elevators often and I wokr in various places and from home. I used food rewards to show my guide dog tulia where the elevator buttons were. I showed her once and she has found them every time since. It is quite amazing. The other day, as she quickly took me right to the button, I put out my hand and pushed it, a memory came back to me. I remember looking for elevator buttons when I was a white cane user. I would feel around on the wall for the buttons. At that time, people were still smoking inside buildings and often there were ash trays just under or around those illusive elevator buttons. Many many times I would end up putting my hands right into those filthy ash trays. How disgusting! As Tulia once again targeted the buttons, stopping so I could just reach out my hand and push them, I wished I had had a smart guide dog in the days of the elevator ash tray mishaps. Happy spring everyone.

Kim Kilpatrick
disability awareness presenter
I'm proud to be a masc artist.
My profile is at
My daily blog about great things about being blind is at
Contact me by e-mail at

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Great things about being blind. Accessibility of storytelling

Happy world storytelling day to all. I'm so glad I became a storyteller and story listener. Storytelling is one of the most accessible art forms for someone who is blind. It's all about the words and the language. It's all about the voice; its pace, tone, rhythm and words. It's all about timing. I don't need to worry about actions or props. I just listen and absorb stories. And as a storyteller; I feel my audience. Hear their laughs. Pick out a person by the laugh, a comment, sometimes even a cough or clearing of the throat. What a joy and an honour it is to be a storyteller and a story listener. To find out more about my storytelling performances or workshops contact me at

Kim Kilpatrick
disability awareness presenter
I'm proud to be a masc artist.
My profile is at
My daily blog about great things about being blind is at
Contact me by e-mail at

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Great things about being blind. Helping others get over fears of dogs.

I know that phobias can be hard to get past. Since I was bitten by a boa constrictor at around age 4, (Yes a story for the blog at a later date) I have been very afraid of snakes. Even non-poisonous ones). I know they can't hurt me. I know they're in a box or a cage. Still, I don't want to be anywhere near them. So, I understand that some people have a fear of dogs. Many people who have been a fraid of dogs though, become surprised that they have no fear of my guide dogs. The other day, I was sitting in a coffee shop working on some writing and e-mail. A woman beside me tapped me on the shoulder. She said she had been sitting beside me for about half an hour. Suddenly, she realized that there was a dog within about a foot of her. she is usually terrified of dogs. She generally couldn't imagine sitting anywhere inches from a dog. But, even when she realized Tulia was there, she was not afraid. I've heard this before from people. Also, non-dog lovers have really loved my dogs. It's nice if I can lessen some of the fear of dogs that is out there. Next time I'm sitting in a coffee shop with a snake, maybe it will help me get over my fear of them too.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Great things about being blind. Noticed from afar.

Yesterday, two different people that I don't know, asked about my new dog and commented on Gia. They both said, "Your other dog was so beautiful." They both had genuine sadness in their voices when I said that she had died. One of them said, "I loved to watch you two walk together. She took you around everything so easily. She looked up at you like you were the most wonderful person in the whole world." That touched my heart. Even now as I write it, I tear up. It was my honour to have her with me. And now Tulia too. I guess I don't always think about others being able to see us from afar. Being blind, my world is what I hear around me, what I smell, what I can touch. I don't always remember that the sense of vision allows people to watch things from their cars, from a block away, from across the street. Not that my world is pitiful or closed in but it is different. I am glad that those people sensed what we all know about Gia. She had a calm, quiet, strong, loving soul and when I think of her now, I can feel that calmness, that loving spirit, that dignity, that sense of fun. Thanks to my four raisers for raising these wonderful dogs of mine. Thanks to the guide dog trainers who did the hard work of getting them trained safely. But, thanks most of all to my girls. Gwenny, Margaret, Gia, and Tulia for being the wonderful and unique beings you are. You've touched my life in ways I can't explain and touched the lives of so many others. Gotta go hug a Tularoo now.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Great things about being blind. Listening to accents.

Happy saint Patrick's day to everyone. Being of Irish descent, I had to comment on something Irish today. And what do I love that is Irish? Well I'm not a beer drinker but I do love Irish music, stories, and of course the accents. My grandparents had traces of their Irish accents even after more than 50 years in Canada. My gran would sound especially Irish when she got excited or furious. I've always loved accents and wish I was good at imitating them. I am not. Several years ago, I visited Ireland. I stumbled off the plane in Dublin and I didn't stumble because I am blind but because I was so jet lagged. And then, right there in the airport, was a beautiful lilting announcers voice talking about lost luggage, and delayed flights, and I thought it was poetry. I thought I'd never heard anything so beautiful. I love talking to and listening to people speaking english with accents. Maybe it is a little like people looking at other people. The colours of their clothes and hair, their facial expressions. The lilting irish accent, the wonderful burring scottish accent, the lovely british variations, I love listening to african accents with their musicality and wonderful stress on words, I love the musicality of indian accents, caribean accents make me feel like I'm somewhere on a beach. I love the asian soft accents and the variety of european ones. I don't mean to leave any accent out. I try to determine the differences between australian and new zealand accents with little success. And yes I love american accents too. And of course, we Canadians have varieties of accents and speech patterns which I love to listen to as well. Thanks to everyone for providing me with a wealth of colour and variety in your voices, accents, and speech patterns.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Great things about being blind. Can you see this?...

I've been writing about wonderful encounters with kids. One of my favourite encounters took place over several days. It was when I had my first guide dog I think. I would be walking home from work. Often taking the same route. I passed by a house and heard this little voice, "Excuse me. Excuse me." And this little kid (never knew if he/she was male or female) ran to the end of the sidewalk.
"Can you see?"
"No I can't>"
"Can you see anything at all?"
"Is that why you have that dog with you?"
"Can you see my very cute stuffed bear?" And he/she held it out eagerly.
"No. But I could touch it and know what it is like if you pass it to me."
So he/she did.
I thanked him or her and walked on.
The next day same time, there he/she was waiting on the walk.
"Excuse me. Can you see my crayon?"
Then he/she put the crayon in my hand.
"It is a red crayon. It is my favourite." he/she told me.
The next day,
"Can you see my wonderful bike?"
And on and on it went for several days. We had really great conversations and I looked forward to them.
It was as if he/she thought that maybe if he/she brought out enough things, there might be something I could see. One day it was pouring and he/she wasn't there.
I was glad not to find him/her standing out in the rain, but I missed our conversations.
I never saw him/her again which made me a little sad.
I always looked forward to hearing that voice.
"Excuse me. Excuse me.
and my favourite memory was,
"Can you see my GI Jo?" For some reason, that is still how I remember him/her.
"Excuse me. Can you see my GI Jo?"
That still makes me smile.
I know the GI Jo might mean it was a boy but you never know.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Great things about being blind. You can't be blind because?

I have heard many reasons why I can't be blind. I have been blind since birth. Here are a few. A delightful little girl told me once that I couldn't be blind because my hair wasn't in my eyes. People say that I don't sound blind. Not sure what that means exactly. One man said I couldn't be blind since birth because I had a great smile. Not sure what that meant either. Some people say I don't act blind. Again, I'm not sure. And a few people that I don't look blind because I look in the direction of a person when I converse with them. One woman on the phone said I couldn't be blind because blind people don't work. These things aren't great at the time sometimes but make interesting food for thought and it is especially great when the kids say what they say. I assured the little girl that despite my hair being out of my eyes, I was indeed blind. She proceeded to try to show me her picture book just for confirmation.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Great things about being blind. Washing out your eyes?

Yesterday, I started a series of posts about amusing interactions I have had with young kids about my blindness. My very first job was as a camp counsellor at a camp for kids without disabilities. Early on, we were swimming and this little boy was convinced that if I ducked my head under water, opened my eyes for quite a long time, and then came up, I would see. He kept saying I must have lots of junk in my eyes. I should just try it. Once he realized it wouldn't work, he was quite sure that I had gone blind when my house blew up, caught fire, or something dramatic. He was also disappointed that it was nothing movie worthy after all.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Great things about being blind. Delightful encounters with little kids.

After having a wonderful lunch and time with my friend and her great almost three-year-old daughter, I got to thinking about encounters with little kids. I have had some hillarious and amazing ones. For the next few days, I will share them. This one is quite short. Future ones will be longer. Many kids will ask why the dog is in public (in the mall, on the bus) and I always answer. I don't like it when adults tell their kids to be quiet and not ask. If kids don't ask, they don't learn and could grow into adults who may think that people who are blind can't do anything. Once, a little kid started asking about the dog. I said that the dog was working and helping me to get around. After asking what the dog did, the kid asked if the dog got paid. I explained that yes she got paid with kibble, with toys, with love and praise. "Yes but doesn't she get any money?" he asked. He seemed disappointed that she didn't get a salary. Perhaps he also assumed she would go off on her own for vacations?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Great things about being blind. Learning to do visual things.

I live in a very visual world. I know that. Even though I've been blind since birth, like it and am comfortable, the world around me is so visual. When I am faced with challenging visual situations, sometimes I shut down. Withdraw into myself. but, I've told myself to stop it. To learn about visual things and do them when I want to. So, I like to learn about colours. I like to know what people think things look like. I've just recently started learning to take photographs. My photographer friend and I are still experimenting with how best to do this. So, I won't discuss any techniques or tips yet. But I will say how surprised I was that I felt so powerful with a camera in my hand. Not quite sure why but I did. I didn't know if I would like it or be bored by it. I didn't expect to love it and want to do it again very soon! That really surprised me a lot! Nevertheless, I am thrilled with the challenge of it. Life is full of surprises.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Great things about being blind. Listening to rain.

It is messy out there. We had snow and then freezing rain and then straight rain and it is still raining. There aren't puddles out there. There are lakes, creeks, rivers, and oceans to cross and I have a guide dog who does not seem to like to get wet. Luckily we got rides to and from our meeting yesterday and the rest of the time, I worked from home. Last night, I could hear the rain coming down. I always like listening to it at night when I'm curled up with a good book or podcast. The light rain with a kind of gentle soft noise like running water. The heavy rain that sounds like the drops are bigger. Banging and pounding on the metal railings outside. The rain with wind which flings the drops with a tap tap or drum drum on the windows. I like to hear the swish of cars driving past through puddles. In the spring or summer, I like the smell of the rain when the windows are open. I always feel rain is an excuse to read as that's what I did when I was growing up. Of course, I never need an excuse to read. Later, I"m off to brave the wild, wet streets. Do they make hip waders for little black lab guide dogs? She does have a very cute raincoat.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Great things about being blind. Blind people and cell phones. Funny story.

There are good and bad things about cell phones. I don't use one while I'm walking for the same reason I don't talk to friends and work my guide dog at the same time. When working with a guide dog, it is like driving I would imagine. You need to concentrate and focus on you and the dog. If I'm with friends and want to have an in depth conversation, I drop the harness, (not literally drop it on the ground of course) heel my dog and walk with my friend letting them guide me. It is the same with cell phone use. I want to be aware of all that is going on around us, be able to praise and talk to my guide, and to travel safely. However, cell phones have great uses. If I'm at a bus stop and want to know when the next bus will come, I call the automated number and check. If I get lost or turned around on my way somewhere, I can call my destination for assistance. If I'm going to a new place, I can call when I arrive for further building directions. So, one time when a friend who is blind and also has a guide dog and I were going to meet for coffee, I'm glad I had my cell phone and she had hers. We figured that the dogs would get excited to see each other and bring us together. The coffee shop was quite crowded. I arrived, got my beverage, and sat down. I wondered why my friend who is always on time was late. After about ten minutes, I pulled out my cell phone and dialed her number. I was quite shocked when a cell phone rang right near me. And then I heard, "Hello hello." She was sitting about twenty feet away waiting for me. Another customer said the two dogs were looking at each other but just lying on the floor being good. If not for a cell phone, I might have gotten up and left eventually and thought she had abandoned me. Of course, she might have heard my voice or my dog's collar when I got up. So, here's to cell phones some of the time anyway.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Great things about being blind. Bad bus experiences turned good.

I've had many city bus experiences over the years. Most good. Some not so good. There was the time when I was headed for a job interview and the driver let me off at the wrong place and I wandered the neighbourhood looking for the interview spot. Then, my briefcase strap broke, a button popped off my jacket, and it started to rain. I didn't get the job. One time last summer when I was meeting friends for lunch, I asked the driver for a very specific stop. We got to a stop and he said it was mine. As I got off, I asked again if it was the right one and he said yes. On exiting the bus, I found myself in the middle of residential nowhere. No one around to ask. Nothing around me. I called my friends on their cell phones. Cell phones can be life savers for people who are blind. I asked if they could see me. They said the couldn't. They drove the bus route looking for my guide dog and I and we were at least ten minutes driving time away. I wonder if the driver didn't want a quietly-listening-to-podcasts blind woman on his bus with an extremely well behaved golden guide dog? Very strange. Anyway, now we have automated bus stop calling. This is generally good. In the past, especially if I was on a route where you couldn't identify stops by the turns of the bus, the climbing of a hill, etc, bus riding could be very stressful. I would sit and feel for turns, for clues, and I would ask drivers to remember my stop. Most drivers are very good and do so. But now with the automated system, I can hear each stop announced and know where I am. Unless, as happened yesterday, the name of the street I wanted wasn't called out. I knew we were getting close and so I asked the driver repeatedly what stop I needed. He didn't answer until it was too late and then he had turned onto another street. Then, he further infuriated me by saying I could stay on his bus until he came back to that street. 45 minutes later! I don't have better things to do than sit on a bus when I need to meet someone in ten minutes? I got off the bus. This is where the bus journey turns very very good. A woman got off and said she had heard me ask repeatedly for a stop, that she lived right near where I was going and would be happy to walk there with me. She asked if I wanted to take her arm. She chatted naturally and animatedly to me all of the way back. If I had gotten off at the right stop, I would have known exactly where I was. As it was, I did not. I don't know this area of the city well. She was so great and natural. If you ever read this, I'm the woman with the little black lab guide you helped on March 8 international women's day. Thank you so much. And to all of you wonderful bus drivers who have helped me over snowbanks, given great directions, etc, thank you too. My friend Lisa has a great blog at
This woman did a great deed for me yesterday so thanks to her.
The bus journey was not great, but the great conversation and natural and nice help I got from a total stranger, made up for it. No bus trips today for me. Off to do some accessibility training. Remember if you want to book me as a storyteller, disability awareness presenter, please contact me at

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Great things about being blind. Free money?

this happened to me last summer and a similar thing has also happened to a few of my friends who are blind and have guide dogs. I was very embarrassed about it at the time but it does give me good story fodder so...
It was very hot that day last summer and my former guide dog Gia and I were waiting for the bus. Gia was a beautiful golden retreiver with lots of fur. Lots and lots of fur! And she really hated the heat a great deal! Since my current guide dog Tulia loves lying in the sun, I suspect she won't mind the summer heat and humidity so much. I knew we had quite some time to wait for our bus. So, I took the dog water bowl out of my backpack and filled it with water for Gia. After she drank most of it, I realized that I didn't have anything to dry it with before putting it back in my backpack. So, since it was a cloth type dish, I stood there waving it and bouncing it around. Then, to my horror, someone came along and put money in the dog bowl. A toonie for us Canadians. A toonie is a two dollar coin. As soon as I heard the clink of it in the bowl, I cried, "No no no!" I paniced a little. I didn't want someone's money and the thought that anyone would think I was standing begging for money equally horrified me. But the person was long gone. Then, I heard a female voice with a very strong Scottish accent on my right. She said, "My dear. Just accept the money." She spoke so calmly and with a humourous giggle in her wonderfully accented voice that I stopped panicing. Pocketed the toonie and the dog bowl and had a great conversation with her while waiting for my bus.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Great things about being blind. White cane bars?

I was assessing some web sites for accessibility the other day. I do this sometimes to help with web access and to make a little money too! If anyone wants me to assess their web site and/or if anyone wants unique and fun disability awareness training, contact me and we can talk about this. I love giving workshops and leading groups and talking about disability awareness.
Contact me at
On to the blog.
On one web site, they mentioned that they had white cane bars. I have never heard this term before. What are white cane bars? My imagination went wild. White canes are the colour of canes people who are blind use for mobility purposes. My white cane is here. I use it a little but mostly use it to dig things out from under the bed these days. Anyway, back to white cane bars. Are they bars where white canes congregate and complain about all of those blind people getting guide dogs and forgetting about them? Or how the public steps on them and never says, "Oh what a beautiful cane you have?" Or is a white cane bar, a special bar for blind people to go? Perhaps all staff are blind there and it is totally dark? I have no idea what a white cane bar is but I love imagining these situations.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Great things about being blind. Happy doggy snorts.

As I've mentioned on this blog before, I go to a yoga class for people who are blind. There are always other guide dogs there too. Yesterday, Tulia and another guide dog played before class. We close the door of the room and let them run. They ran and they rolled and wrestled and they snorted. Tulia likes to snort when she's happy. She has a particularly joyous sounding snort when she is running towards me with a toy in her mouth. It makes it easier to hear where she is too. There was lots of snorting yesterday when the dogs were playing. I thought, "What a great and happy sound this is." We have lots of snow here today. Tulia also snorted when she put her face in it this morning. I love to hear these happy dog noises.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Great things about being blind. Dogs that show initiative and care.

I'm trying this out from my ipod. Hope it works. Today is not a good day for travel. It started off snowing hard and now is raining hard. Tulia and I went to yoga this morning. she traveled the snow covered sidewalks with ease. When we reached a familiar corner, she slowed down and looked to her left. "Do you want to turn left or go straight?" "Good girl left," I said and must have been slightly turning my body left as she started fluidly turning left. I love it when I reach the psychic period with my guides. Where they seem to know what you want before you say it and you start to know their movements and how they read things so well. We crossed the street. When we reached our grocery store, she glanced right. "good girl no thank you." We had crossed the next street. The snow was falling with a tick tick tick and the sounds were muffled. I was just thinking how much I love guides with initiative when she must have read my mind again. "Initiative you say? I'll show you some amazing initiative. The sidewalks are covered. the street is more clear. shall we walk on the quiet street?" "No we shall not." "Oh damn! Where is your sense of adventure Kim?" After yoga, on the way home, the rain was falling hard. When I first brought Tulia home, she would not move in rain. Today she did although she wasn't spritely in her movements. The snow and then rain gave us some very very bad icy patches. Close to home, I slipped and fell. The first fall with a guide also tells you a lot. Will they take off? Stand there? Check in? I fell on my bum and there in my lap was a soaking wet black lab licking my face. "Are you okay? Did I do that?" Up we got and the next icy patch, I could feel Tulia slow way down and her head turned towards me. This new much lighter harness that guide dogs has, makes you really feel the movements of the dog much better. Tulia has retired to her bed. She also had a play session with another guide before yoga class. Everyone stay warm and safe.

Sent from my iPod

Friday, March 4, 2011

Great things about being blind. Listening to laughs

The other day, I was out in public and heard a woman with the greatest laugh. She laughed pretty loudly with lots of energy in it and it really made you want to laugh too. I started thinking about the way people laugh and how I can pick some people out in a crowd by their laughs. Some people have tiny (almost apologetic) laughs. Some people have huge deep laughs. Some ascending or descending as they laugh. Some kind of snort when they laugh. I imagine it is like people's appearances. All different. Many identifyable from a distance. When I'm storytelling and I hear a certain laugh in the crowd, I think, "Oh good. My friend -- is enjoying the show." Do I often use humour in my stories because I like to be aware of my audience and who they are? Could be part of it. But, I think I am a humourous person and see humour in life and that's part of it too. Share a laugh today. It's good for our health right?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Great things about being blind. Using my ipod right out of the box.

It might not seem like a big deal, but it is. Since I was very small, I would go into bookstores and wish I could buy books like everyone else. Up until very recently I would be sad in bookstores and libraries. It was like books were calling out to me but I couldn't read them. I had to wait for them to be put in alternative format. I had to wait for someone to read to me. And even when people read to me, they read as much or as little as they wanted. Not as much or as little as I wanted. The power was not in my hands and I hungered for information. I longed to just walk in and buy a book. Last weekend, I bought an ipod touch. Apple makes the ipod touch, ipad, and iphone accessible right out of the box with voiceover. Voiceover reads the touch screen elements. I went to ibooks and downloaded free folktales there. Then, I bought the books I loved as a kid. The lord of the rings and the hobbit. Of course, I loved all books but loved them so much and couldn't have my own copies. And so, there they were on my ipod and I could read them. I just need to be able to afford a braille display to pair with it and I can read them in braille. Yesterday a friend helped me with some things about the ipod when I was stuck. She has an ipad. She is sighted but we could compare aps, notes, and talk about this on an equal footing. Access technology up until now was something you had to buy extra, you had to add on and hope a product worked.
I hope this is just the beginning of accessibility for me right out of the box. I deserve it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Great things about being blind. Knowing people on the phone.

A friend called me recently and we hadn't talked in several months. She seemed slightly surprised when I knew exactly who she was from the first second she spoke to me. Naturally I do. I know who people are by their voices. So, I almost always know who someone is even without call display. I often can hear background noise and talking and a pause if it is a telemarketer so I can prepare to hang up quickly. I often only need someone to introduce themselves to me a few times. Some people do it for longer than I need and I have to say that I know who they are. But please, if you leave me, tell me you're going. I can't count the number of times I've carried on conversations with the empty air space or with a pole or tree or some other non-talkative object when someone has left without telling me. If it is quiet and just myself and the other person, I can often hear them leave. But, in a crowded situation, it is almost impossible. Happy conversing everyone.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Great things about being blind. Signs of spring.

I know I'm a bit ahead of myself about spring coming. We did have quite a bit of snow yesterday and the wind is cold today. But, this morning while waiting for a ride to a day of artists meeting teachers, I felt like spring was coming and admired the signs. I love hearing signs of spring. The sun was definitely feeling stronger and warmer on my face. I heard the melting of snow as it drip drip dripped. I heard a few more birds. Birds singing happily. the wind had a bit of a different smell. I remember once being out for a walk on what I felt was a glorious early spring day. I was thinking about the birds. The sun. The smell of the spring earth. The fact that I didn't need as warm a coat. I mentioned this all to a sighted friend when I reached my destination. She seemed puzzled by my saying that it was beautiful outside. She said that you could see lots of garbage along the side as the snow melted. Dog droppings, paper cups. And the snow looked dirty and not clean white like it does when it first falls. I was glad I hadn't seen that and just thought about the wonderful springness around me. Blindness is bliss sometimes.