Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Great things about being blind. Giving speeches.

I know I know.   I said yesterday I would tell you a story about a pit bull in disguise.  But, that will have to wait.  A friend attended a guide dog graduation this past weekend.  She e-mailed me to say that a great thing about being blind is being able to give a speech, read your notes in braille, and still have your head up and facing the audience.
Morgan the CEO of guide dogs did this this past weekend and it impressed her.
Way to go blind people making speeches!
This way notes aren't covering our faces and the braille is just under our fingers!
Yay yay blind speech makers!  We are the best!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Great things about being blind. That is a vicious dog!

Yesterday, Tulia and I were walking down the sidewalk.  Tulia is a guide dog.  A little shiny black labrador female guide dog.  Tulia wags a lot.  She is a little over 50 pounds.  She is short and still has a cute puppy face.  tulia was wearing her harness and her leash but there was nothing near her face.  This woman said.  "Oh that must be a dangerous dog.  Let's cross the street.  It's wearing a muzzle!"  The man with her said,  "It isn't wearing a muzzle.  That's a seeing eye dog."  "No.  That woman isn't blind.  She's walking too fast."
Well, they did cross the street.  I don't know what in the world she saw or was thinking!
Ah well.  We had the sidewalk to ourselves!
Tomorrow, stay tuned for the story of the bus driver and the pit bull in disguise.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Great things about being blind. Being with wonderful blind people.

We spent the evening last night with some blind people and some sighted people, and several guide dogs.  It was in honour of a friend's birthday.  Much of the time, we spent out in the yard.  Since I don't have a yard, it is always nice to do that.  The three guide dogs ran and played, drank water, chased toys, and then would hang out with us or around our feet.  It amazed me that Tulia often came and sat by me even though she was off leash and loose.  I'd put my hand out and there was her little black head.  She is such a fast runner.  she would often get the toy and then let other dogs steal it.  It was so amazing to be there with such wonderful people.  We come from diverse backgrounds and locations.  From Newfoundland, to the prairies, Ontario, someone even originally from France.  Someone else from another country too.  We have different careers, family situations.  We might not have met if we hadn't been blind.  We had a fabulous dinner, cake, and lots of chat and laughter.
If I hadn't been blind, I might not have met these great people and guide dogs.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Great things about being blind. Driving my boss's car.

Yesterday, I talked about tulia wanting to drive a car and I told you that I drove my boss's car.

I did this just after I turned 16 which was the legal driving age here at that time.

I was working as a camp counsellor at a camp for kids aged 6 to about 12 I think.

The camp was located on a river and there was a long gravel road to get from the highway to the camp itself.

I was working away when someone came from the office and said that the boss wanted to see me. I was a fairly new camp counsellor and wondered if I had done somethingn wrong. We almost never got called to the office. I walked over there and I was pretty frightened as I tapped along with my white cane. When I got there, he said, "I understand that you are now 16." I said that I was. "so. You're of age to drive a car?" This puzzled me a little. I doubted that anyone would want me to take the 6-year-olds in my charge driving. I said that I was. "so. Have you ever driven a car?" "No." "would you like to drive my car?" "Oh yes."

So, off we went. He said that I could drive it out to the highway and then he would turn it around and I could drive back in.

It was great fun!

No mishaps either. When I was drriving back in, a group of my fellow counsellors were sitting on the picnic table. You know how sometimes people glance up to see who is driving? Well, one of my friends glanced up, looked at the car, and matteroffactly said, "Oh! Kim's driving." then, she thought, there isn't something right with this picture. then, she screamed, "Oh Kim is driving." And they all jumped up and followed the car calling out to us.

It really was a highlight of that summer.

The next summer, I also worked there.

II was the first blind person they ever hired. At the end of the second summer, I told my boss that he was the only one ever to let me drive a car.

He asked if I wanted to do it again so we did.

No one else has ever let me drive since.

He had a lot of faith in me and hired me when others were sceptical.

He let me go through the counsellor in training program.

He was always open minded and wonderfully natural.

A great first boss to have and the icing on that particular cake was driving his car twice!

Thanks to him wherever he is now!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Great things about being blind. Self driving cars.

Perhaps my guide dog Tulia has been reading somewhere about google making a self-driving car.  Yes they are creating one.  I'd like very much to drive it some time when it becomes available.
I guess Tulia would like to drive too.  Yesterday, while riding in a friend's car in order to go and perform as a storyteller/speaker, Tulia was lying on the floor at my feet in the front passenger seat.
She tried various positions to get comfortable.  One of them involved her putting her head on the gears and putting the car into neutral.
I heard this strange sound in the motor and that's what it was.  Tulia, making her first attempt at driving.
She's a little short for a lab so might have some trouble with the driver's seat and controls.
but she is smart and resourceful and can't stand working in the rain.
Since i'ts been raining here for what feels like forever, she has obviously decided she can't wait for the google car to be perfected.  She is sharpening her skills now.  Go Tulia!  tomorrow, I will tell you a story about driving my boss's car.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Great things about being blind. Additional jobs for my guide dog.

In yesterday's post, I wrote about additional jobs my guide dogs perform.  To read that, see the post below this one.  Afterwards, I had a few additional suggestions for other jobs they hold and added a few myself.
Foot warmer.  Gia my golden was very good at this.  Lying on your feet.  There was one time when another storyteller and I were performing in an old ice house at a local museum.  It was autumn and freezing down there.  Gia lay on his feet all night and didn't bother with mine.  But she was an excellent foot warmer.
Alarm clock.  They tend to try to get up around the same time every day.  I'm a morning person but still it is handy to have them carry out this task.
Tulia the circus performer.
Tulia does this thing when going down carpeted stairs.  She extends her back legs straight out behind her and slides down on her belly.
I've never known any other dog to do this.  She tried this while working but I discouraged it.
This circus trick is for home use only.
Bed warmer.  I don't let any of my guides on the bed but when camping, they have shared a tent and a sleeping bag and kept me nice and warm.  I am grateful for that.
Wildlife tour guide.  My first guide Gwenny caught a frog.  She held it in her mouth and brought it to me and tried to put it in my hand.  As soon as she opened her mouth, the frog hopped away.
Gia brought me a dead fish once to show me.
I wasn't grateful enough so she rolled her face and head and neck in it.
Gia used to pick flowers sometimes and even gave me one from a funeral display by the coffin when we attended a service.
Gia also liked to find and give me pinecones and other such things.
She really was a true nature guide although Gwenny was the only one to bring me a live creature.
Wilderness director.
My dogs have been great while hiking, going to work through blizzards, etc.  They always seem to find the way even when I might get a bit turned around.
Tulia says with all of these additional job titles, she would like a raise in salary.  More kibble, more belly rubs, more toys please please please!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Great things about being blind. One job only.

Yesterday, Tulia and I were waiting to be picked up by a friend so that I could go and teach my storytelling workshop.  We were standing on our walkway.  Well, tulia was sitting.  I was standing.  She was in her harness.  A man and a woman and a dog walked by on the sidewalk.  They were maybe five feet away I would say.  tulia wagged a little and the other dog seemed to be prancing and huffing but neither dog lunged for each other or did anything more than indicate they noticed each other.  The woman started yelling at the man.
"That's a blind dog."
Good for the man because he said,
"That dog isn't blind."
Yay man!
Whenever anyone asks if I have a blind dog, I always say, "I hope not."
Anyway, she says.
"keep your dog away from that dog.  It is trained to do one job and one job only."
She said it like she was the lifetime expert on guide dogs.
I started to get annoyed but I wasn't about to chase after them to set them straight.
Then I thought, "Oh how wonderful.  She gave me something to blog about.  How great is that?"
And then I thought.
One job and one job only?
I don't think so.
My guides have had so many jobs over the years.
I'll list a few here.
The average person also thinks they work all of the time.
They think it is a tough life.
Not so!
Tulia is currently snoozing on her huge bean bag with about ten toys surrounding her.
If I move in her direction, the tail immediately swishes and she flips over for a belly rub.
Not a bad job as I slave away at my computer is it?
Anyway, here are some of the jobs my guides have had over the past 19 years plus.
guide dog.  Yes this is number one.  Helping me to navigate my environment safely.  Crossing streedts, negotiating obstacles, construction, going through buildings, up and down stairs, on planes, trains, canoes, ferries, buses, cars, taxis.  In restaurants, schools, nursing homes, palliative care units, on stage, at festivals.  Anywhere I go, they go and assist.
Not a bad job considering they are also admired wherever they go.
Other jobs have included:
Unofficial therapy dog in all of the nursing homes, schools, group homes, palliative care units, I've worked at over the years.
My guides have known how to be with all kinds of people and just the right things to do.
When to lean a head on a knee.  When to keep distance.  when to wag and be silly.  When to be calm and serious.
Physio therapy assistent.  When I wrecked my knee, Miss Gia took this on without any further training.  Stopping for uneven patches of sidewalk.  Finding me ramps instead of stairs.  Helping me to balance at physio and when I got up and down.  Never complaining when we couldn't walk far or fast.
Story listener.
As I practice and learn stories for my career, Gia and now Tulia have been wonderful, uncomplaining listeners as I ramble on.
Ice breaker.  Nothing like having a dog with you to have people come up to meet you.
Fund raiser.  A couple of summers ago, at a storytelling conference, we were raising money for a worthy project called storysave.
And I offered pats of Gia out of harness if I was given donations for the project.
In an hour, she raised about $50.
Everyone was missing their dogs at home.
Stress relief coaches.
Nothing like having a dog beside you at the dentists or the doctors or when you're stressed at work.
Just giving them a pat or having them  come over and lean on you, helps so much.
Secret keeper.  A few months ago, I got a huge grant to develop a storytelling one woman show.
Thank you Canada council for the arts.
And, I couldn't tell anyone until I got the official letter.
I told Tulia and she kept it to herself nicely.
Clown.  Nothing like a dog with a toy in mouth, rolling all over the floor snorting, greeting everyone with a wag and smile, to keep everyone happy.
Official greeter.  Walmart should have dogs don't you think?  Almost everyone loves a canine welcoming committee.
Yoga assistent.
When I go to yoga classes, Gia, and now Tulia lies on her own yoga mat beside me.  She does the occasional downward dog movement, leans her little face on me from time to time,  keeps an eye on me, and is calmness itself.
Lifeguard.  I don't know if tulia swims yet but the others have loved it and have even taken it upon themselves to guide me in the open water which can be quite hazzardous for me.
Person trainer.  Can't we go out for a walk?  We must do that!  Let's do that!  Oh you can't, well you can throw a toy for me or play a vigourous game of tug can't you?
So there you go lady whoever you are.
You are wrong about the blind dog and you are also equally wrong about my dogs having just one job.
They seem to have high job satisfaction and always get great performance appraisals too.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Great things about being blind. Giving directions to lost sighted people.

A while back, I was walking down the sidewalk.  I reached a corner and was about to cross when I heard two people debating about where they were.  I could hear the rustle of maps and they sounded totally lost.  I heard the name of a near by hotel.  I knew exactly where it was.
So, I said, "Excuse me.  Are you lost?"  It seemed odd to say that as often sighted people ask me if I am lost even when I am not.  I may be just standing waiting for someone, waiting for my dog to do her business.  Just enjoying the air.  So, it seemed odd but kind of nice to ask if they were lost.
They said that they were and told me where they were trying to go.
I knew exactly how many streets they needed to cross.  What side of the road the hotel was on.  How many traffic lights there were.  I gave them very detailed and specific directions.
They were impressed.
They thanked me so much and as they left, one of them said,
"Next time we're lost.  Let's ask a blind person to help us."
That felt really great.
It also makes sense.
Blind people have to remember and know many more things about our environments.  So, next time you are lost, ask a blind person.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The wake up dog.

With each new guide dog I've had, and I've had four, it takes a while for us to get to know each other.  Read each other's signals.  I was thinking about this the other day.  It was very hot outside and tulia had drunk a great deal of water.  We were walking along and all of a sudden she stopped and would not go forward along the sidewalk.  I probed with my feet and hands to see if there were any obstacles.  There were none.  So, then I wondered if she had to pee.  guide dogs aren't supposed to pee in harness.  They learn that they have to wait until it comes off to releive themselves.
This makes it less likely that they will go in buildings, stores, restaurants, or just whenever they feel like it.  I took the harness off and she did pee almost right away.  You grow to understand their movements.  HOw they think.  How they move around the house.  Where they like to sleep.  A prime example, is Tulia's first-thing-in-the-morning behaviour.  When the radio turns on or when I stir around 6 AM.  Yes I like to get up early.  She gets up from the doggy bed at the foot of our bed.  I hear her collar jingle, and she gives a long stretch with a vocalization which goes from high to low.  Then she walks over.  Tulia has an interesting sounding walk.  It is almost like the shuffle of someone wearing slippers.  Not sure why.  None of the others have made a shh shh shh when they walk on carpet like she does.  So she comes over beside me and she sits down with her head in reach of my hand if I choose to extend it.  She doesn't bug me.  She sits there and I hear a swish swish of her wagging hind end on the floor.  I put my hand out.  Stoke the head and velvety ears.  Then she gets up and shh shh shh shuffles back to bed.  Turns around and I hear a contented sigh as she lies back down.
It isn't a demand I get up.  It is just a sor tof,
"Wow it's another day.  I love you.  Good morning!"
It makes my morning bright and I would miss it if she wasn't here.
Those little things become so part of your routines.
And each dog has different ones and each dog finds their special place in your life.
And each dog leaves you richer for having known them.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Great things about being blind. Conversations in coffee shops.

Sometimes I end up having very interesting conversations because I am blind. The other day, I went to the coffee shop to have a break, get some exercise, and get a drink of course. I ordered and asked if someone could carry my coffee. I can do it but would rather not spill hot liquids on myself, my guide dog, or other people. They said they would be happy to. I got Tulia to find a seat. She found one at a table which was occupied by one other person. she did find an empty chair. He said he would be happy if I sat there. So, we did. The man saww that I had an Ipod and asked how I could use it. We started talking about that and then I mmentioned I was a storyteller and it turrns out he is an artist too. He is a visual artist and also does some cartoons and things like that. We ended up having a very fasscinating discussion about the arts and how certain visual artt forms could become more accessible to those of us who are totally blind. If I hadn't been blind and had a guide dog, maybe I would have stayed home and worked. Maybe I would have driven somewhere. I wouldn't have gone and gotten my dog to find that chair at that table with that guy. And I wouldn't have had that conversation. Thanks tulia. I didn't know part of your job deescription as my guide was to find people who have interesting things to discuss to converse with me. You are a dog of many talents.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Great things about being blind. Greeting people on the street.

This morning, Tulia and I were walking along the quiet streets to go to our Saturday morning yoga class.
Someone ahead of me said hello. I said hello and smiled. but then realized, she was talking on her cell phone.
She hadn't actually said hello to me but had said it to someone else.
Nevertheless, I smiled and said hello.
I know that for me when someone says hello as they walk by, I like it very much.
It makes me smile.
I do say hi to people as I hear them go by.
Some people seem surprised and uncomfortabel when they respond.
Some do not respond.
As a person who is blind, I don't know if someone is talking on their cell phones.
Also, nowadays, everyone is listening to something all of the time while walking.
Or they are texting.
I do admit to having a huge love of my ipod and podcasts and audio books.
II always have it with me but don't use it while walking.
So, being blind, I say hello to anyone who says hello even if they aren't talking to me. Good thing about being blind? I say yes.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Great things about being blind. Meeting so many wonderful people through this blog.

Thanks to all of the new followers and the old followers too.  More people are reading this all of the time.  Sometimes I think what I have to say may not be all that interesting but aren't we all like that about ourselves?  I have met so many new and interesting people because of this blog and I really enjoy writing it.  Technology makes the world so much smaller.  And access technology has really assisted me with most aspects of my life.  I love all of the comments.  Thanks for them.  Last weekend, I was telling stories to a group and mentioned in my intro my blog.  Afterwards, someone came up and said they had already checked it out with their phone and really liked it.  If anyone has topic ideas for me to consider, please send them along too.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Great things about being blind. Working in the rain.

It is raining here today. Feels like it has been raining for weeks and weeks. Miss Tulia is not fond of the rain. I don't need a weather person or the weather channel to tell mme t is rainy. Tulia is sluggish. When I open the door, she ambles out with me instead of bouncing out looking for adventure. We have no yard so out wwe both go. This morning,,, a I stood there in the rain waiting for her to decide to relieve herself, I started thinking about my other guide dogs and rain. Gwenny too (my only other black lab guide) hated rain a great deal. She was raised in southern California and so she lived with me in rainy British Columbia before moving back east. The first morning we went out in a steady rain, Gwenny charged down our steps. She was a fast walker and an eager worker. she stopped in her tracks when she realized it was raining and promptly turned us both around and started walking back upstairs. Gia didn't mind the rain but she would often wipe her wet golden self all over me to keep herself more dry. Sometimes she would rub her head and face against my leg. I think maybe so she could see better in the rain. Her gollden coat got all curly in the rain and she took ages to dry out. I don't remember my second guide Margaret having much trouble with rain. Please excuse typos. I'm writing on my ipood and still trying to figure out how to make corrections.

Tomorrow, I shall tell you all about the raincoats and winter coats and other things my guides have worn.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Great things about being blind. Being able to blog about it.

I am honoured that guide dogs for the blind's blog, no bones about it, is featuring my blog.
Thank you gdb.
You can find out more about them at
I thought that writing an entry each day on great things about being blind was vitally important. I want to dispel some of the negative stereotyping about people with disabilities in the media and in the views of some people today. I thought it might be difficult but it actually has been fun.
On the day when my Gia retired guide dog died, I thought I wouldn't be able to blog but I did.
I blogged about her and continued that for the next few days.
It helped me to write about it and blogging has helped get ideas for my storytelling.
It is great practice to write each day as well.
I'd love to write a book some time too.
So thanks to all who have been reading and commenting on my blog.
Thanks to the other bloggers whose blogs I read.
I will create another post with their blog links in it.
If I wasn't blind, I wouldn't be blogging about this and meeting and hearing from so many wonderful people.
Thank you so much.

Kim Kilpatrick
Disability Awareness Presenter
Masc Artist in the schools and with seniors
Member of the Ottawa Storyteleers gig group
Blog about great things about being blind
Look for me on facebook at kimjkilpatrick@gmail.com
Follow me on twitter at kimtulia4
Sent from my iPod

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Great things about being blind. Wonderful grandfather.

My wonderful grandfather Kilpatrick was born on this day aand although he has been dead for many years, I still miss him as he was so wonderful and interesting. He was somewhat shy and soft spoken but he was an amazing storyteller although he wouldn't call himself that. As a storyteller myself now, I think about his natural timing, choice of story subjects and words, his irish lilt. He also taught me many songs as we were the only musical ones in the family. I was thinking about him this morning and realize that we never ever talked about my blindness. I never heard him say what he thought about it but he was always natural with me and never seemed to put barriers in my path. He was very excited that I had been accepted into University as only my father had ever gone to post secondary. He knew I ggot in before he died. Today I am beginning to teach a storytelling workshop. I think it a wonderful omen that it is starting on my papa's birthday.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Happy birthday to my first guide dog.

In some ways, I've come full circle with my guide dogs.  I've had guide dogs since the spring of 1992.  All from the same school.
Wonderful guide dogs for the blind in California and Oregon.
My first guide dog was born on this day in 1990.
She was a wonderful black labrador named Gwenny.
Gwenny was calm, smart, happy, and had a real mind of her own.
She would let you know if something you did didn't please her.
One of the first times I found this out,  happened on her birthday.
Gwenny's brother was also in our guide dog class.
There were about 16 people in class I believe.
Gwenny was black and her brother was yellow.  so, the student who had her brother and I bought cake and ice cream for the class.
Chocolate cake in honour of black Gwenny and vanilla ice cream in honour of yellow brother whose name I forget.
Then, I bought biscuits for all of the dogs from Gwenny.
Anyone who has a retreiver knows that food is very important to them.
Gwenny loved her food very much.
She was excited when she saw and smelled the bag of biscuits.
She had guided me to the pet store to get them.
We walked down the hall and at each door, I knocked and presented a biscuit to the owner of each new guide.
Gwenny started walking more and more slowly.
She kept banging my leg with her head. 
She would tilt her head to look at the bag of biscuits each time one came out and wasn't offered to her.
There were very few biscuits left when Gwenny sat down and stayed there wagging her tail.
"Hey woman!  What about me?  It is my second birthday after all.  And I guided you safely to that store and guided you up and down these halls.  Now just where is my biscuit?"
Point well taken.  Gwenny did get her biscuit.
Gwenny died suddenly of cancer at age 7.5 while still working.
Her loss was so devastating to me and all who knew her.
She is now on high and I hope eating well on her birthday.
This past winter, when I took that last journey with my retired guide who also had cancer, I thought of Gwenny waiting for my wonderful Gia.
And, as I sat on the floor stroking my golden Gia for the last time, talking to her, my second small black lab lay at my feet.
Another calm, compassionate, fun dog with a mind of her own.
Not like the others and yet like them.
For her wonderful raisers who I still keep in touch with, for all my raiser families who are now friends, for all of the trainers at gdb who had a hand in training my wonderful guides, for all the raisers and trainers out there, you are awesome.
Have a piece of cake or dog biscuit in honour of the best first guide dog any person could ever have.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Great things about being blind. Finding interesting material for my one woman show.

KK have been doing a great deal of research for my one woman show. I am so grateful for the grant I received to create it from the Canada Council for the Arts.
I've been reading a great deal about blind characters in literature.
They are a sorry lot.
They are one of the following types:
evil and mean
possessed of miraculous powers
totally self absorbed
not capable of having any normal relationships
I could go on and on.
It is sad and madening.
but, good fodder for my show.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Great things about being blind. the people you meet.

It is a miserable rainy day outside but I had a wonderful day inside.
I spent the day with some families who have young children who are blind and some very dedicated and enthusiastic staff who work with people who are blind.
I told stories and talked about advocacy.
If I wasn't blind, I wouldn't have been asked to do this and wouldn't have been there to do it.
Also, I continue to see anew the value of storytelling as entertainment, as a powerful art form, and to help educate others about what it is like to be blind.
I'm so glad I'm an artist with a disability.
Gives me great blogging opportunities too.
Thanks to all who were there for this wonderful day.

Kim Kilpatrick
Disability Awareness Presenter
Masc Artist in the schools and with seniors
Member of the Ottawa Storyteleers gig group
Blog about great things about being blind
Look for me on facebook at kimjkilpatrick@gmail.com
Follow me on twitter at kimtulia4
Sent from my iPod

Friday, May 13, 2011

Great things about being blind. Opening the eyes of the sighted!

I fascinated someone today.  I think I really caused her to see people who are blind in a new way.  I'm not bragging.  And I didn't do anything out of the ordinary.  Since I work from home, I will often go out for a walk with Tulia and then end up in a coffee shop or something to do some work.  Gives me a change of scene, a destination for Tulia to find, and let's me still do my work.
I'm right now trying to learn some material for a show we have coming up on May 27 at a local museum Billings estate.
come if you can and if you live in Ottawa.
It will be a fun, light show in which I recite the poems of one of Canada's worst ever poets "The chaucer of cheese"
Anyway, I had my braille note taker with me to read and practice my script.
Tulia and I walked to the door and she found the handle so I could open the door.
A woman said, "Oh I'll help you find the door."
but Tulia had already done it.
In we went,  She said,  "I'll help you find the line."
Tulia had already done it.
Then I ordered and asked if they would carry coffee to a table for me.
They agreed.
I said, "Tulia find a chair."
At the same time, the woman said, "I'll help you find a chair."
But, you guessed it, Tulia already had done that too.
I sat down, took out my braille notetaker, and started reading and working on the script.
After a few minutes, the woman came over and asked what that machine was.
I explained.
She seemed awestruck.
"You don't need any help with anything do you?"
There was amazement in her voice.
She wasn't being condescending or sarcastic or even upset that I didn't take her help.
She was truly amazed it seemed.
In a good way.
Now, I do need help with things.
We all do.
but today, I was just doing what was normal for me.
And I blew her away and taught her something just by being out there in the world and functioning.
And of course I had the smartest and cutest guide dog ever showing off.
I'm glad she learned that people who are blind are just people out there doing what we do.
And I happen to be blind.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Great things about being blind. Tag on the golf course.

Yesterday, I overheard a little bit of conversation about golf.  I know there are blind golfers and they are very good.  I haven't done much of it but I was not at all good.  One time, I went to a driving range and got a bucket of balls.  I ad the same ball on my tee for about 20 minutes.  I would think, "this time, I will hit it far."  and I would miss altogether or hit it about six inches or something.
It was the funniest thing.
I ended up lying on the ground laughing my head off over the whole experience.
But, I digress.  One great thing about being blind as a kid was that our cottage was on the edge of a golf course.  That golf course provided us a place to play tag.  And, to make things fair and equal for me, we played tag there at night.
Wide open spaces.  Nothing to fall over.  It was dark so the sighted kids weren't at a huge advantage.  We loved it.
The feel of that short grass under my feet.
The running.  The tag.
Our black lab charging around up there with us.
It is a great childhood memory for sure.
So when people talk of golf, I think of that.
And also how we used to crawl around in the ditches finding golf balls and then selling them to my dad to use when he played.
Golf may be fun but there is nothing like a golf course at night for tag.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Great things about being blind. Not looking at the scenery.

We are finally having spring like weather here. I was out yesterday running errands, going for a walk, and polishing stories for a performance I gave at a local cafe last night. If you are in ottawa some time, go to the tea party cafe 119 York Street. They have hundreds of kinds of tea, lots of good food too, and they are wonderful people. I was thinking how beautiful it was outside. Sun shining, birds singing, nice and warm. I was waiting at a corner to cross and just thinking about the beautiful day. Two women were standing waiting to cross. One said, "Isn't it disgusting all of the garbage on the sidewalks and the grass is still brown. I hate this time of year." That surprised me. I thought it was a beautiful day. Guess it was good that I couldn't see it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Great things about being blind. The guide dog who does those little things that touch my heart.

Yesterday, I had my follow up visit as I mentioned in this blog yesterday. It went very well. One reason that I love these visits is that I get to learn about things my guides do that touch my heart. People talk about guide dogs and are amazed at the big picture. But, what touches my heart so much is learning about the little things hey do in their work that I never even know about at the time. The things they do to keep me safe not on a large scale but on a small scale. For example, as we walked down the sidewalk Tulia swerved left and then right just a little. The guide dog instructor told me that she had swerved so that a person's large back pack would not hit me in the face. Once, he told me that Gia had swerved to avoid an umbrella that was being raised in front of us. Tulia stops for broken sidewalk or uneven surfaces. Or, she slows down. She had to zig zag around some people sitting on the sidewalk. She had to weave through some newspaper boxes and poles I didn't even know were there. And she does it with grace and a sense of adventure and does it like a pro. I feel sad sometimes that I don't know always to praise for the miraculous small things my guides do that I never know they did. But, they keep working for me so I must be doing something right?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Great things about being blind. Testing the guide dogs?

Today I will have a follow up visit from my guide dog school. Some guide dog schools do this while others do not. We have a yearly follow up visit where we can go for a walk, work on any issues or difficult routes we have. As the dogs get older, the field representative can watch and let you know if anything might be unsafe in their work. I have a wonderful field rep and really like follow up visits. The dogs seem to know they're being observed. You know how when you have an exam and you ace it? You get all excited. That's what they do. Show off. Sometimes, I will tell my field rep that my dog needs work on something. One time with my first guide, I said she wasn't going right up to the edges of down curbs. We worked on this. We walked for blocks and blocks and she never did it once. I kept assuring him that she did it a lot. but, she worked flawlessly and never did until the very last curb near my house. Often, after the walk, they come in the house and run around and get all excited. "See how brilliant I am?" I don't have any big issues with Tulia but I have a few bus stop poles and crossing poles I want to find, so we may work on that.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Great things about being blind. A great mom!

This is Mother's day.
My wonderful mom is not technologically adventurous.  She does not go on the internet, do e-mail, or facebook.
Nevertheless, this posting is for her.
My mom has always loved me and treated me with respect and as if I were an intelligent person who happens to be blind.
I am forever grateful for that.
When I was trying to learn to tie my shoes or zip up a zipper, she would let me struggle until I got it for myself.
Mind you, I was so stubborn that I wouldn't let others do those things for me and would insist on doing it for myself.
She says that sometimes she had to leave the room so she didn't watch me struggle, but she did that.
My mom is a great shopper and has an eye for colours and helps me out with matching clothes which is important.
She learned braille when I was learning it so she could write me notes and put them on the fridge or in my lunch bag or label gifts at christmas and birthdays.
She has dog-sat all of my guides at various times.  Not Tulia yet.
She read to me countless books.
Thanks mom for all you do!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Great things about being blind. finding the right chocolate

Someone gave me a box of chocolates for my birthday. It was a mixed box. I didn't know what any of them were. It came with one of those guides but I didn't want anyone to tell me. Just reach in and grab a chocolate and be surprised. The element of surprise is fun. Besides, if you get one you don't like, you just have to eat another one to get the bad taste out of your mouth right?
I always like doing this. If I wasn't blind, I might be tempted to read the chocolate map inside the box.
I just had a delicious dark one with nuts in it!

Kim Kilpatrick
Disability Awareness Presenter
Masc Artist in the schools and with seniors
Member of the Ottawa Storyteleers gig group
Blog about great things about being blind
Look for me on facebook at kimjkilpatrick@gmail.com
Follow me on twitter at kimtulia4
Sent from my iPod

Friday, May 6, 2011

Great things about being blind. Do guide dogs work all of the time?

People often assume that my guide dogs work 24 hours a day. So, let me clear this up. They do not. People often think my guides guide me around my house. No they don't. When they are home, they are dogs. They sleep and play and wander around. Tulia is snoring on her bean bag bed beside me in my home office. She doesn't have to be here. She could be lying in the sun in the livingroom or anywhere she wants to be. But, she tends to stay in the room with me mostly. When we first bring guide dogs home, it is recommended that we keep them with us on leash for a while. This is so they don't get into bad house behaviours. Yesterday, when I was writing about the sounds of my various guides, I thought about where they like to be in the house. Gwenny liked her own space. She did not usually follow me around except when it was dinner time. Margaret stuck to me like glue and always had to be right with me. We have low windows in the livingroom and she enjoyed looking out of those windows a lot. Tulia seems to like this very much too. Gia liked to lie at one end of the couch or stretched out near the stairs. As she got older, she liked to lie at the bottom of the stairs going to our home office. She didn't always come up here although when Tulia came, she climbed the stairs more often so both dogs could be with me. Tulia likes to lie in front of our couch. She likes to lie by the livingroom window and look out. She loves to lie in any patch of sun she can find. She tends to curl up. Gia would sprawl out. Sometimes the dogs move out of my way. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes they wag or move their collars so I know they are there. I just walk carefully and slide my feet so I don't trip on them. They're pretty good about letting me know where they are. So, don't feel sorry for those working dogs. They get lots of down time too. One of the doctors who had patients in our nursing home where I used to work said that she wanted to be reincarnated as one of my guide dogs in her next life.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Great things about being blind. Disability adavantages?

I read a very interesting article yesterday.  It was about broadcasters hiring people who were deaf and lipread to tell them what Kate and William were saying at various times.  I laughed at first and then thought about it.  There are some deaf people who are using the skills they acquire because of their disability to make money.  So, I started thinking.  What other types of jobs could people with disabilities do using their disability as an advantage.  Comments most welcome.  I know that I'm a good conversation eavesdropper.  Does that make me a candidate for the secret service?  Don't think I'd like it.
come on and be creative.
Would love to hear people's ideas for various disabilities and careers.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Great things about being blind. The sounds that become familiar.

Tulia is snoring on her doggy bed. She is the first guide dog I've had who snores loudly and often. when I first heard this in training, it was a little hard to get used to. With each dog, I get used to a different set of noises. It takes a while to learn to read these noises and know what is going on. My first guide would howl when she got excited and prance her little front paws and I heard the click click as she did that. She really ran in her dreams moving paws all over the place. Tulia has some very active dreams too with much tail wagging and running of paws. My second guide dog Margaret made whimpering noises when she wanted to go and see another dog. I heard Tulia do something like this the other day when a friend was coming to meet us. A little tiny whimper of excitement but I don't think I've yet heard her bark. Gia made little squeaking noises when she was excited and she wagged her long tail in a certain way always with a thump thump. She also made little snorting noises when happy and always made a certain long sigh when she settled down to sleep.
A very contented sigh which she also made just before she died.
Tulia snores as I've said. She snorts when she gets excited and wags fast and furious. She also makes a kind of rumbly sound when she is settling down or curling up and she makes a long drawn out slide of vocalization from high to low when she is stretching.
I'd miss these sounds if she wasn't here.
Gwenny used to scratch the carpet looking for just the right spot to sleep on. I would discourage this when I could. After she died, I woke up one morning to a similar scratching sound. My heart leaped for a moment thinking she was back. Then, I realized that the sound I heard was someone scraping ice from their car out in the parking lot.
The other day I was playing with Tulia and realized how much I still miss Gia's squeaks when she played and how they growled together when they wrestled or played tug.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Great things about being blind. More ice cream adventures.

Writing about ice cream adventures with my guides, reminded me of my first dog Shana.  shana was a family pet that we got when I was about 5.  she was a lab mix.  she was black and felt mostly like a lab.  she was a wonderful dog.  she gave me my love of dogs and help me move towards getting a dog in many ways.  We didn't take her to obedience.  I guess they had it then.  We also let her have some of our food.  She ran loose at our cottage.  One thing we used to do was to give her the empty ice cream cartons to clean out.  I would not do this now with my guides.  She loved to do this.  One of my most favourite sounds as a kid was hearing Shana clean out the cartons.  She would get so excited and walk around the kitchen pushing the carton ahead of her, licking furiously at it.  Her whole head would be inside the carton and so she would bump into the cupboards or other furniture.  She wagged furiously all the time too.  Her tail banging against the stove which made a hollow sound.  Her tail was a wildly wagging thing and always whacked into everything loudly and with gusto.  What a great sound memory that is.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Great things about being blind. Steps towards accessible voting.

this is a federal election day in Canada.  I have voted in every election (federal, provincial, and municipal) since I was 18 and of legal voting age.  I feel voting is a responsibility and a privilege.  Voting has not always been easy for me.  The first tool I used to assist me was a template.  This is a cardboard which is placed around the ballot and has holes in it to mark where you should mark your x.  The early templates were not labeled with braille or raised numbers and they were worrying in that ballots could slide around in them.  Newer models like the one I used in the advanced poll the other day are much better but still not perfect.  Last fall, when I voted in the municipal election, they had a talking voting machine.  this was amazing.  For the first time, I could vote completely independently.  The ballot was slid into the machine, I put headphones on, blacked out the screen, and the machine talked to me and as I arrowed through my options, read the names and confirmed my selections before printing the ballot.  The other day when I voted federally, the official had to come in and read the list of names.  I have been asking for years for a brailled list of names at least to go along with the template, but this has not happened yet.  I've heard that the provincial election in the fall will include talking voting terminals as well.  Hopefully, the time will come soon when I can vote completely independently in all elections all of the time.  I am optimistic.  Things are moving forward.  We just need to keep educating and advocating. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

GGreat things about being blind. Royal wedding watching?

II'm not a huge royal follower or royal watcher. II don't care much about a dress, auniform, a look. I do love music and sound and the sounds of bells. But, I was very happy the other day to discover that the royal wedding was audio described by accessible media here in Canada. On a channel called the accessible channel. 888 for me and many of you. Recently, I have been hired as a freelance reporter for them and did my first story a couple of weeks ago. The stories are of things interesting to their viewers. Everything on that channel is audio described meaning visual things are inserted into the sound track. I didn't get up in the middle of the night to watch. But, when I did get up, I turned it on to check and see what it was like. It was good if you like that type of thing. The best thing about it though was that a person who is blind could watch it on their own at the same time as everyone else and talk about it around the water cooler later. I smiled when I thought of scaring people by saying, "Yes I really liked the audio description of the dress!"
To find out more about accessible media, go to