Sunday, July 31, 2011

Great things about being blind. Thanks to the chain saw person.

As my guide dog and I walked down the sidewalk yesterday, I could hear the loud whine of the chain saw up ahead.
Whenever I hear loud noises ahead of us, I start thinking about whether or not I should change routes.  If there are loud noises near an intersection, I cannot hear traffic patterns and so may not be able to direct my dog effectively to tell her when to cross a street.  So, I heard the chain saw as I got closer to the corner and I wondered about walking a different way.  but then, as we approached, the chain saw stopped.  I listened for the traffic patterns, when the light changed I directed my dog forward and crossed the street.  As soon as I was across and walking again up the sidewalk, the chain saw started behind me.  whoever was operating it, thank you so much.  Maybe they know how important it is for me to hear things around me especially in street crossings.  Or maybe they thought it would scare the dog?  For whatever reason, thanks for your kindness and consideration.  You made my morning yesterday.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Great things about being blind. Taking video.

I  have had my ipod touch for a few months now. I knew that it took video footage but never really played with it until this week.  I thought that taking video would be easy and straight forward.  After all, when I do, the sound of my voice and of things around me is clear and easy to understand.  I took a video of myself and then my guide dog who was lying beside my chair.  A friend said that when I too the video of her, I actually ended up taking video of a restaurant in the food court behind us.  I thought I had the ipod right in front of the dog but it took what was beyond her instead.  I always forget that people can see much further than I can hear at times.  It is all a very interesting process.  I think that I will get my own youtube channel and I plan to put some videos up there.  In some ways, I don't mind if they're blurry etc.  I'm blind.  I take videos as a blind person.  Then, I took one while walking and it didn't look very good either.  I didn't know that while walking the video will be shaky and blurry.  The sound was good.  It is all very interesting.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Great things about being blind. Podcast?

In my continual love of learning new things, I'm thinking of trying out podcasting.  I am a big fan of podcasts myself.
I listen to many of them.
I asked on facebook about topics for podcasts and several people said some of the stories in this blog.
I was touched by that.  It means people like them and would like to listen to me talking about them.
Thank you to you all.
Writing this is a real pleasure.
If anyone has any thoughts for podcasting or tips on how to do it, please let me know.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Great things about being blind. Food surprises.

I just had breakfast and opened a container of yogurt to have with fruit.  I realized that I had totally forgotten what kind of yogurt it would be.  Opened it and was totally surprised when I ate it.  For some reason, I thought it would be strawberry and it actually was raspberry.  Very delicious.  If I wasn't blind, I wouldn't have had that surprise of wondering just what I was going to eat for breakfast.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Great things about being blind. What is dark?

I'm working furiously on my one woman storytelling show generously funded by the Canada council for the arts.
Yesterday, I was asked a question about how I perceive darkness.
I started thinking about it.  People who can see often find darkness frightening.
In the horror movies, all of the lights go out and scary things happen.
It was a dark and stormy night and all of that.
For me, darkness itself is not scary.
I used to like it as a kid when the power went out and everyone else was floundering around looking for things.
For me, darkness is friendly and blanketing and not frightening.
Being in noisy environments that are chaotic is much more scary for me than being in the dark.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Great things about being blind. Getting free stuff.

When I first started thinking about this blog post, I was going to talk about getting free stuff as a kid only.  but, I realize, it still happens at times.  Just yesterday, after riding my exercise bike for over and hour, I had a major brownie craving.  I went off to get one.  The man behind the counter said that he had picked out the biggest one he could find for me.  He also added that I had a very cute dog.  i am not sure whether he wanted me to eat the brownie, share it with Tulia, or just because he is a nice man.  It made me remember back to being a kid and trying to play those games at fairs that take your money and you never win anything good.  Like throwing darts at balloons.  For some odd reason, I seemed to be quite good at that.  Also, some of the owners of those games loaded me down with stuffed animals.  A couple of years back, friends and I were all admitted to a museum for free.  It was raining.  We did look bedraggled and had my bedraggled golden guide dog with me which may have helped.  Not that I necessarily wanted the biggest brownie (another hour on the bike awaits me) or to necessarily get into that museum totally free, but they are nice perks sometimes.  I can't lie though.  When I was a kid, I did really really want those stuffed animals at the fair. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Great things about being blind. Safety in traffic.

When I decided to try getting a guide dog, I thought about how nice a dog would be to have around.  How they would help me to travel around more quickly.  I didn't think much about their work in traffic.  But, all of my dogs calmly and competently have saved us from being hit by vehicles.  Bikes, cars, taxis etc.  It is not true that our guide dogs read traffic lights.  They don't.  The dog and handler work together as a team.  When we reach an intersection, I tell the dog when to go forward by listening to the way the traffic is flowing.  If it is unsafe to do so however, the dog will refuse to cross.  But, it isn't in these situations that my dogs have saved us from being hit.  It is the vehicles who speed out of parking lot entrances without looking, one cab that actually drove on the sidewalk and Gia pulled me out of the way, and yesterday someone coming out of a driveway fast without looking where they were going.  My guide dog and I were out for a walk in the early quiet of the morning.
We were walking along a street where buses travel.  As a bus went by, we also had to cross a driveway entrance.  I could only hear the bus but hadn't heard anything as I approached the driveway.  Tulia stopped dead.  I felt a car go by and heard the tail end of it after the bus left.  The driver was obviously going fast and not looking!  I hugged tulia and gave her kibbles but she just walked calmly along.  Yes this is my job.  Yes it is good.  Yes we're okay.  No big deal.
Always, these incidents with traffic make me feel closer and more bonded with my guides.
Especially with crazy driving these days and people driving while texting, I'm so glad I have that extra set of eyes with me all of the time.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Great things about being blind. A funny story about peeing and rabits.

Yesterday, in answer to a question from a blog reader, I wrote about how I find and pick up after my guide dog.  When the dog is in position to pee or poop, I stay quiet and let them be.  No one ever said that guide dogs are not smart or inventive.  I'm not sure which guide dog did this.  It was either my yellow lab Margaret or my golden Gia.  I took her out once at work to have a relief break.  She was on the grass, in position to pee, and she stayed there and stayed there and stayed there.  I was trying to figure out if she had had extra water.  I'd never known a dog to pee for so long.
Someone was driving by in a car and rolled down his window.  He called to me, "Your dog is actually sitting there looking at a rabit which is hopping across the grass."
I laughed and thanked h im.
Smart dog must have seen the rabit while peeing and then thought,
"Hey, she can't tell me we need to get back inside to work if she thinks I'm still peeing right?"

I laughed so hard but made her leave the rabit and head back inside.  I do think this was Gia now that I think about it some more. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Great things about being blind. Picking up after our dogs.

Someone asked me in a comment on this blog, how we pick up after our dogs.  Lots of people actually ask that question so I thought I would write a blog post about it.  I worried about it when I went to get my first guide but it really is very easy.
When you take your dog out on leash, you give it the command it knows to think about going to the bathroom.
It is fun to hear about the different commands schools use.
Ours is do your business.
Oops, hope no guides heard that on the computer simulated screen reader voice and just went to the bathroom in the house.
anyway, the dogs move around, sniffing and finding the right spot.
Some dogs are quick about it.  Some are more picky.
One of my guides would only go at home unless she really had waited a very long time.
tulia drinks lots and lots of water, is quite small for a lab, and so needs quite a few chances to pee.
All of  my guides have been pretty adaptable going on very many different surfaces when there was no nice grass or dirt to go on.
concrete is fine with Tulia and with my arizona raised Gia too.
When the dog starts doing something, you can touch their back to see if they are peeing or pooping.
If peeing step back.
If pooping, take the plastic bag, put it over  your hand, and wait.
When the dog is finished, I just kind of know where their back was, put the bag covered hand down and feel around for the presents.
If it is winter and snowy, you might get a lot of snow in the bag too.
Tomorrow I will write about how my guides have tricked me when they are pretending to pee.
Remember, pick up after your dogs everyone.
And Tulia is so good at finding various garbage cans, I can always find a place to put the bag.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Great things about being blind. Kindness in the heat.

We are maybe coming to the end of an extreme heat wave here.  Yesterday it was 36 celcius with the humidex felt like 46 celcius.
We stayed inside as much as possible but did go out a little.
Last evening, someone offered me a bottle of water for Tulia.
I actually had two bottles of it in my bag and a portable bowl.
I thanked them anyway.  He said, "Well take it for yourself then."
I didn't as I had quite enough.
However, it reminded me of a very hot day a few summers back.
My last guide dog, golden Gia, hated the heat.
Tulia seems to like it for the most part but Gia did not.
She would always try to get us to go into air conditioned buildings, to walk slowly in the shade, or to climb on a passing air conditioned bus.
With all of that lovely long golden fur, who could blame her really.
One hot day at the bus stop going to work, someone offered me water for her.
At a coffee shop, someone else offered water, on the way home, a third person did.
I'm usually well equipped and don't need to take them up on it but it is always so wonderful to experience the kindness of others.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Great things about being blind. Teaching the public indirectly about guide dogs.

That is a boring and strange title perhaps, but I couldn't think of a better one.
This morning once again, we set off for a walk before it gets opressively hot and humid. 
About two blocks from home is a garbage can we often need to find for Tulia's presents.
The garbage can is in a block with a lot of other things we can find.
There is a door to get inside a small mall we often use, a door into a hotel, a taxi stand.
Also, a month or so ago, Tulia stepped on something while crossing hot pavement and seemed nervous of certain surfaces.
One of the surfaces she did not like at that time was the bricks in this block.
So, I've spent a lot of time around there doing various things to teach her where things are.
When she was nervous of the surfaces, I heeled her over them several times using my white cane to guide us and giving her kibble and praise when she walked over them.
At first, she did not want to do this at all but soon improved a great deal and now is back to cruising over them with no difficulties!  Yay!
She has learned to find the garbage can which we did this morning and the door to the mall and the taxi stand too although we don't use that much.
the hotel has a door man who gets taxis for people and so is standing out there a lot.
I'm sure there are different ones.  But, this one has watched us a lot.
He said to me this morning how fascinating it has been to watch us work.
He saw me with my last guide dog too but by the time he saw us, we were a well oiled veteran team.
He said he didn't realize how guide dogs did things and he complimented me on how I show things to Tulia and how happy she is to work and how smart she is.
When she found the garbage can without hesitation this morning, I heard him cheering her on from his position by the hotel entrance.
I don't think we often realize how much we show others just by being out there!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Great things about being blind. The public never cease to amuse me!

I've been totally blind since birth.  Sometimes, I think I've heard everything from the public.  And then, I hear something new and astounding!  this morning, I wasn't sure what to blog about.  but, Tulia and I went for a walk early before it gets too hot and humid here.  And, the public stepped up to the plate.  We were walking along a fairly crowded sidewalk when a man came up to us and said,  "Doggy, do you  have a pencil?  I'm looking for a pencil."  My mouth dropped open.  Is there some reason why Tulia might carry a pencil?  Perhaps she takes notes for me in meetings or writes down appointments in my calendar?  If she did that, they would go like this. 
Go for a walk.  Give Tulia kibble each time she is brilliant which is all of the time.  Feed the dog.  Pat the dog.  Play with the dog.  Take the dog to the pet store.  etc.
Anyway, I didn't know what to say, so I said,  "I'm sorry but neither my dog nor I has a pencil."
"Are you sure you don't have a pencil doggy?  I really need a pencil."
And just where would she keep this pencil anyway I'm wondering?
Dangling around her neck?   Tucked behind her ear?
Very odd but I laughed about it all of the way up the street.
Thank you whoever you are for the chuckle but guide dogs don't tend to carry pencils.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Great things about being blind. NOt noticing weather?

I mentioned yesterday about the bad storm we had here the other night.  I was trying to figure out whether it is good or not so good that I can't see the weather outside, or around me at any given time.  sometimes good.  Possibly sometimes not so good.  But you can tell changes in the weather with senses other than sight if you are outside or if windows are open.  The wind can pick up.  The air can suddenly feel colder.  The birds can become quiet.  There is a smell in the air.  It can suddenly get cloudy and so you don't feel the warm sun.  One time though, we were on a hike.  Unknown to me, but known to everyone else, a huge black cloud was following us down the final very steep hill.  They chose not to tell me.  They said afterwards that they didn't want me worrying about it as we hiked.  I told them to tell me next time.  As we were walking down that hill, a couple came running down it fast.  I smiled at them and said, "Beautiful weather."  It had been beautiful weather all day and, as far as I was concerned, it still was.  The sun was still shining.  It was warm outside and a nice summer day.  I wondered why they just laughed and hurried on ahead.  Then, the wind, rain, and hail hit us full force.
I felt embarrassed.  Imagine me smiling and saying, "Nice weather." as the hugest, blackest, hailiest cloud followed us down that hill.
In one way, it was good to be oblivious.  I had a great time until the last three minutes of the hike.  I wasn't so worried about getting down that hill that I fell and injured myself.  I do wonder though what those people thought.  Mind you, I was hiking with my guide dog who was working but I bet they wondered why no one had told me that the skies were about to open!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Great things about being blind. Social networking.

Last night, we had a major thunderstorm and very strong winds here.  A concert stage colapsed at a near by music festival.  I knew that one of my friends was volunteering there and other people I knew too were probably there.  I quickly went on facebook to read updates from my friends and also asked if everyone was all right.  I must say, although facebook isn't always totally accessible, it does help with things like this.  Also, it has helped me to reconnect with old friends.  I can publicize storytelling performances on there as well as on twitter and of course post about my blog.  More accessibility would be nice and also keeping accessibility in mind from the beginning for these social networking sites, but it does help me to find out about things, about friends, and to update others on what I am doing.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Great things about being blind. The cuteness factor. Written on July 16.

I am told that I was a very cute kid! And I knew it! And I made use of that sometimes! I'm quite a happy person with a big smile! A genuine smile! but I found it worked wonders sometimes. I am friendly and chatty and that helped too. I was thinking about that yesterday. Tulia has the cuteness factor going for her. More I think than with any of my other guides. Gia was dignity itself. Very beautiful and smart but full of that gentle, calm, dignity. Tulia is full of cuteness, charm, and happy wags. Like I was a s a kid. Or maybe I still am! So maybe we are well matched. Tulia has a remarkable memory for places. I've said this before. The other day, we entered one of our favourite coffee shops. We ordered and she pranced up to this certain table that she likes a lot. It is at a corner. She is out of the way there and can see out the window and to the entrances also. There were people sitting there. We've had issues with her taking me up to seats with people in them. We've worked on this. So, she knows not to take me right up to people in seats. So, she has a new strategy. It involved taking us up to the table. Not right to the seats but beside the table. She sat her little black self down. She wagged her whole little self. She tilted her head back and looked up at the people. the people said things like, "oh your dog is cute and happy. But she seems worried. She seems to need to sit here. We'll move our stuff." I told them they didn't have to. but, Tulia did not get up. She wagged her whole self harder! She lifted one paw! She wagged some more! They moved. As soon as they had, Tulia pranced up and showed me the bench. "See. I didn't find a seat with people sitting in it. See I waited until they moved."

The cuteness! The cuteness! What is one to do with the cutest dog ever?

Great things about being blind. Adapting volleyball.

Yesterday, I went to a beach volleyball tournament to be a reporter for a story on the accessible channel.
As I listened to the sounds of volleyball games, I remembered how volleyball was adapted for me.
We first adapted it at school for the blind and later with family.
We had a beach ball with rice in it so that we could hear it as it came towards us.
Also, it was softer so that if it hit us on the head, it wouldn't matter.
We had different rules.
Those of us who couldn't see at all, had ten seconds to get it over the net.
It could bounce and move on the floor.
Also, when we were serving, one of our team mates in the front row, could go up to the net and clap their hands at it so we knew where it was.
The serving place was marked by a hula hoop although it slid around from time to time.
It was a lot of fun and taught me some of the rules of the game as we stuck to them as much as we could.  Here's to adapted sports.  Any sport can be adapted if we are creative enough.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Great things about being blind. no more records.

Don't get me wrong,  music sounded good on vinal records.  Some say it sounds better than digital music or music on cassettes or cd's.  But I am so glad not to have to use records anymore.  Someone reminded me of this yesterday because we used to receive audio books on records.   And long books would have many many records.  And it was sometimes hard for a blind person to put the needle down in the right place.  Or the records would skip or get scratched right in the middle of a book.  When I attended school for the blind, when we had dances, I bet the DJ's hated us all because we were forever dancing and banging into their record players and scratching their records.
Books on tape were a slight improvement but again, you'd be right in the middle of a book and a tape would break and you would have no idea what happened and whether to read on or not.
I"m so grateful for my ipod and mp3 players.  For books available that I can scan and read or read from
It makes reading and music listening so much easier.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Great things about being blind. Helping loose dogs.

I was going to write about something else today.  I actually even polled my facebook friends to get ideas on what to write about.  but, after being out much of the day, spending time on the exercise bike, and feeding Tulia, we had an experience that gave me something to write about.  As Tulia and I walked up our street to the corner where I take her to releive herself, a loose dog came running across our street and right up to us.  It seemed friendly enough.  But, I live right downtown on a fairly busy street.  The dog zipped back across as we stood there.  I thought its owner was over there.  But, as we approached the corner, the dog ran back to our side.  Then back across again. It also crossed the busier street.  I was standing at the corner, listening for an owner to call the og, hearing its collar jingling, when two people came up to assist me.  The first lady had two dogs.  Two gray hounds.  She said, "There is a loose dog right in front of you."  The other lady read its tags.  It came from quite a long way away in the city.  The first lady said she had seen it and it had followed her before.  One lady took it away into her car.  I assume to the shleter.  They were very kind to me.  Helpful and making sure the dog didn't bug Tulia.  They also were kind in taking the dog away.  I had been debating going to get an extra leash.  It reminded me of the time a loose lab followed my first guide dog and I home.  I tried several times to tell it to go home, but it kept following us.  It was so skinny and had no collar on.  I brought it in.  It was evening and the shelters were closed.  I fed it and boy did it drink water.  It knew many commands, sit, down, stay, etc.  It drank and drank.  It played with Gwenny and her toys.  It was very good.  The next morning, the shleter people came.  When they saw all of the dog stuff I had, they tried to convince me to keep it as a pet.   But, I said I couldn't as I was hardly ever home.  I hope that loose dog finds a good home.  Just reminds us all not to let our dogs run loose and to microchip and collar them at all times.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Great things about being blind. Surprises in the mail.

I never used to be able to read my own mail.  I hated that.  would have to wait for someone to read it.  When the technology improved and I got a scanner and special software, I decided I was going to read every bit of mail I received all by myself.  No one would tell me that something wasn't important!  That it was junk!  So I took every bit of mail to my computer and scanned and read it all.  The novelty soon wore off.  There is a reason why junk mail is called junk mail, I soon discovered.  Now, I don't read mail much.  My partner goes through it and tells me about anything that is important.  Yesterday, something important arrived.  Probably delayed by our postal strike here.  What is it?  Shall I say?  Or keep you all in suspense?  Okay okay I got a grant from the city of Ottawa to create a storytelling show on my work experiences stories!  That's two major grants in the past several months!  I'm lucky!  I'm on a roll!  Need to go for a long walk!  I'm so full of energy!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Great things about being blind. Museums.

When I was little, I used to hate museums.  They were boring and they made me sad.   They were boring because most things were under glass and you couldn't touch anything.  They made me sad because I couldn't learn about things and I was so curious.  Museum staff have often gone above and beyond to allow me to touch things others could not.  Unlocking cabinets and letting me go behind barriers.  Letting me touch their period costumes.  Talking to me about history, how artifacts were found, and more.  I am always so happy when things are made accessible for me.  The fortress of Louisberg in Nova Scotia was particularly wonderful.  They allowed me to touch everything and took me around until I finally had to tell them that I just couldn't absorb one more thing.  In london England they were wonderful and had great audio guides which I also like.  I like listening to all of the information on audio guides.  Unfortunately, some guides are not easy for a blind person to use.  I've also recently seen downloads on web sites that you can put on your own ipods or mp3 players and bring with you to museums.  Also, once we went to a nature park in  Australia when my dad was living there.  The owner took me around and let me touch all animals.  Even the koala bear.  He kept saying, "I wouldn't even let the queen touch the koala bear when she visited."
At stone henge in England, no one is allowed to go and touch the stones anymore except for on June 21.
I was standing by the barrier listening to the audio guide when a guide tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I wanted to go and touch the stones.  I did.  She said as we ducked under and walked across the grass, that everyone was looking at me and wondering who I was.  "Stick your tongue out at them." was her advice.
I didn't.  but turned and smiled.
Thanks to all museum and exhibit staff for making some museum visits so memorable and special.
For other museums, remember they should be accessible to all.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Great things about being blind. bus tours versus walking tours

I am one of our local storytellers telling historic stories at a local museum this summer.  I wasn't telling stories last week but went to hear two of the other storytellers.  As I listened to stories bringing our history to life, I thought about history and tours.  I have gone on bus tours, boat tours, and walking tours in various cities.  If the bus or boat tour has an engaging guide that describes things, they can be enjoyable.  However, when enclosed in a bus, you don't hear the sounds around you.   You don't smell the scents.  You don't feel the breeze.  Your feet don't move along streets or paths.  So, it is limited.  On a boat tour, you might hear or feel or smell more things.  But, the most multisensory tour is a walking tour.  If you have a good guide who explains things well and has entertaining and educational things to say, the walking tour or the tour of a museum or site can be wonderful for the tourist who is blind.  Museums have improved in their ability and willingness to allow me to touch things that others cannot touch.  I'll blog about that tomorrow. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Great things about being blind. Bicycling.

Yesterday, I wrote about the sports I choose and why.  One of the ones I mentioned was cycling and people asked me a little about that.  I got my first bike as a toddler.  A tricycle. I still remember it.  I used to ride it independently around in front of our town houses with all of my friends.
I would listen to the sounds of their bike wheels and their chatter and laughter and follow by sound.
I was puzzled that I seemed to be the only one who fell off the curb or rode into the garden.
but, I continued to ride it.
Then, when I was about 5, I got a two wheeler with training wheels on it.
I could ride it with training wheels on.
I liked it because it had streamers on my handle bars and a bell and a great seat.
I rode it up and down the driveway but couldn't balance well when the training wheels came off.
Some kids teased me that I still had the training wheels on.
when I was about 8, we got a tandem bicycle.
It was heavy and had almost no speeds but there were no other tandems in our neighbourhood.
Now, they are much more common. 
We would be riding around.  I would be on the back listening to the sounds around me.
I would often hear,  "Oh cool.  Look at the double bike."
I've cycled tandem on and off ever since.
Not so much since getting my guide dogs.
I have a stationery bike here at home and use it regularly too.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Great things about being blind. The sports we choose.

Thanks to a wonderful friend and her car and canoe, my guide dog and I went canoeing and swimming in a lake last night.  It was wonderful and magical.  It got me thinking a lot about the sports I like and choose to participate in.  I love canoeing.  I love it more than being in a motor boat.  I would hate a jet ski or any of those things.  It is partly I think because I am able to hear what is around me more in a canoe.  We heard loons, a dog barking on shore, the rustle of the trees, near the end the hiss of rain on the water.  We smelled the air and felt the wind.
Swimming in the lake is also a multi-sensory experience.  I heard others, felt the water, the rocks, the sand, listened to my guide dog attempting to swim for the first time.
I love the sound of the paddle as it moves through the water.
The feel of the water under your paddle.
For the same reason, I prefer tandem cycling to being on a motor cycle.
I prefer snow shoeing or cross country skiing to snow mobiling.
I prefer walking to going on a driving tour of somewhere.
So, blindness keeps me active and fit right?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Great things about being blind. Accessible news letters.

I have received newsletters from various organizations I belong to by mail for quite a long time.  At first, I couldn't read these at all and needed someone to read them to me.  Then, after obtaining a scanner and special OCR software which reads to me what I scan, I could scan in newsletters and read them independently.  At times, this worked well.  However, sometimes the software would not read columns well and I would find myself reading part of one article and then part of another one.  Now, many organizations and groups provide elctronic newsletters and I am very happy about this.
One of my favourite newsletters is the one put out by the Ottawa Storytellers and its editor Dean Verger.
It is a wonderful news letter and very informative for our local storytelling community.
I also like the audio clips and interviews.
It is very easy to read and accessible.
Thanks Ottawa Storytellers and Dean for your hard work and for allowing me to read this newsletter independently.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Great things about being blind. Talking bank machines.

We have come a long way in accessibility.  I know we have a long way to go still but, yesterday while using the bank machine to withdraw cash, it made me realize how far we've come.  When I first used bank machines, I had to remember exactly what to press when, where buttons were, and didn't always know what cash was given to me.  Also, once I was at the machine and a guy was right behind me, offering to help, leaning in.  I promptly left without putting in my pin.  Who knows,  he may have been just trying to help but I was alone at the machine and didn't want to take my chances.  But, yesterday, I went to the machine, put in my ear buds, and blanked out the screen so no one behind me could see what I was doing.  They offer you a tour of the screen and its buttons and where the different slots are if you aren't familiar with them.  I did what I had to do easily and independently.  Oh yes, Tulia found the machine for me.  I taught her this.  Perhaps a bad decision?  Shes' so smart she's likely to figure out how to withdraw cahs and head for the pet store!  After we did that, she found the steps to go down and the hand rail too.  At the bottom, there is a bench where I've waited for friends a few times and she pranced up to that and showed it to me.  Then she showed me the coffee shop, the garbage can, the door to get outside!   Bank machines and guide dogs to find them!  Great steps forward in accessibility.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Great things about being blind. The piano revisited.

I started to play piano at about age 6.  Took lessons for several years but quit in early high school.  I didn't think I liked piano.  That it was boring.  It's odd because when I started, I loved the sounds that came from the piano.  The different textures and colours.  I stayed away from piano but when I studied music and then Music Therapy in University, I had to use it for various courses and as a Music Therapist I used it too.  I'm not a fancy player but have an excellent ear for picking out melodies and can harmonize using basic chords.  A friend has recently begun teaching me piano again.   She too is a Music Therapist.  We studied together.  Yesterday, I dusted off my very dusty keyboard for our first lesson.  We did basic things, scales, technique, chords and simple melodies.  But, I was reminded as to why I loved piano as a kid.  The joy of putting melodies and harmonies together.  The different textures of the various registers of the piano.  Like an old friend talking to me.  I used to create stories and illustrate them not with paints but with musical notes.  BAnging on the low notes for giants and elephants.  Plucking at the high notes for birds, etc.  I'm glad to be spending some time with the piano again.  For me, the piano is like a box of paints might be for a sighted person perhas?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

great things about being blind. Stories to tell. Shows to create.

I'm in the midst of creating material and editing already created material for the one woman show I am creating thanks to a grant from the Canada council for the arts.
The show is still taking shape but will b entertaining, humourous, insightful look at how I grew up as a person who is blind in a sighted world.
Yesterday, I went for a walk with my guide dog.  I bumped into (not literally) a friend and we had coffee.
but, all the time we were there, I was thinking about how I wanted to get back home and create and edit and work on my stories and my show.
Good sign.
I don't see a clear line for the show to take yet.  The material is all tangled up but a structure will become clear as I work on it.  Besides, I have faith in my great coaches and storytelling community to help me along and give good feedback.  So, excuse me.  Now I've blogged, I'm off to create and edit.  and if I wasn't blind, I wouldn't have any of these stories to tell.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Great things about being blind. American friends.

It is independence day in the U.S. and so happy fourth to all of my American friends and blog readers.  Americans have been very influential in my life as someone who is blind.  We lived in the U.S. from the time I was 5 until I was 8.  My dad was a canadian diplomat and we were posted there.
So, it was there that I met my first blind adult.  At least, the first one I can remember.  She was a social worker.
She came to our house by herself on the bus and that really impressed me.
She brought me a braille book and showed me a little about how to read.
That impressed me.
She had a braille watch and showed it to me.
Later, we went to her apartment and she had braille timers and had marked her stove.
One time, she and I went grocery shopping and cooked pizza and cupcakes.
I began to learn that blind people could be independent working adults.
My family had always told me this but it is when you really meet someone that is doing it, that it sinks in.
I also had a blind baby sitter.  She was great.
She was about 18 and played guitar and read braille and also came to our house independently.
I've received my four guide dogs from a school in the U.S.
Guide dogs for the blind
And to them I am grateful.
All of my wonderful puppy raising families live in the U.S. and my dog's wonderful trainers too.
Thanks to you for giving me independence.
And also my wonderful classmates many of whom are American.
so, on this independence day for Americans, I am grateful that many Americans have contributed to my increased independence.
Thank you all!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Great things about being blind. the cell phone.

When I first became aware of cell phones, I thought I would never get one.  After all, I have to concentrate when I'm traveling around.  Why would I walk and talk and be guided by my dog all at the same time.  When I am out with friends and we want to talk, I often hold their arm and heel my dog.  If my dog is working, for one thing, they need to be either ahead or behind people I am walking with.  This is because if my friend is walking right beside me, the dog perceives him/her as an obstacle to be avoided.  Makes sense really and stresses the dog.  So, if my friend is walking behind me or ahead, we can't really have a conversation.  So, I didn't think cell phones would be useful.  My mom urged me to get one just for emergencies.  I soon saw its uses.  First, I could call the bus stop numbers to know when the next bus would arrive.  Since, I couldn't see the printed schedule at the bus stop, this was useful.  If I got lost or turned around, I could call someone.  If I was going to a new place and needed someone to look out their window and give me directions, I could call.  But, I never thought of cell phones as useful in quite this way.
Several years ago, I had arranged to meet a friend and her guide dog for coffee.  we were sure the guides would spot each other.  They knew each other well.
I got to the coffee shop, ordered, found a table, and waited.  My dog was lying by my feet on the floor.  My friend was almost never late.  I too am pretty punctual and so I was surprised.  I waited.  I began to get a little agitated.  Where was she?
I decided to call her cell phone.
I dialed and heard a phone ring near by and then a voice say, "Hello hello."
I'll say in our defense that the coffee shop was very crowded and noisy.  She was sitting maybe 50 feet from me.
We laughed so hard.  There was a gentleman also sitting near by.  Once he understood the situation, he told us that our guides had been lying there gazing at each other.
That would have been one instance when it would have been useful to have a somewhat dog distracted guide dog.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

My blog. Great things about being blind. Swimming dogs continued.

My third guide dog golden Gia loved to swim. She grew up in a household with a pool so was a very comfortable swimmer from a young age. This was great and also a little problematic.
Gia would swim in lakes and the ocean gladly.
I have very fond memories of swimming in lakes with her. Of hearing her jump gleefully off rocks into the lake. Of being in the freezing atlantic ocean on a hot day and Gia lying on her stomach in the shallow water wagging her long golden tail. Gia would feel so much thinner when she was wet as she had so much curly golden fur. I loved it when she wagged her tail in the water.
The problematic part happened with pools. She grew up with a pool and loved swimming in it. So, when she came home with me and I swam in pools, she could not go with me into them. she didn't like this and couldn't understand it. So, as I swam lengths, I would hear pitiful crying and whimpering and moaning from the side of the pool.
She even once tried to drag herself and a bench a lifeguard had attached her to right into the water.
After a while if you ignored her, she would stop crying and realize that she could not get in the pool. The problem was that people made a fuss of her when she cried. They would come to the pool and tell me that my dog was missing me.
I told them that no she just wanted to swim and please ignore her and she would be quiet.
Well, in a public pool with a steady stream of new swimmers coming through, even if one ignored her, the next couldn't.
And she would start crying all over again.
gia was beautiful and knew it. She would lie there pathetically crying, giving people a sad sad look. Hoping someone would just untie her and let her loose because if they did, she would be in that pool.
As for Tulia, I don't know if she will swim yet or not.
Stay tuned to this blog to find out when I find out.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Great things about being blind. Being blind in Canada.

Today is our national day.  Canada day!  Happy Canada to all of you readers wherever you are.  I'm so glad to be a blind person in Canada.  No, things aren't perfect for me.  But things are pretty amazing.  I have access to technology that assists me.  I am able to travel independently with dog or white cane.  It is fairly easy to move around.  Canadaians are generally friendly, fair, and open-minded.
I am so proud and honoured to be a Canadian who is blind.