Friday, September 30, 2011

Great things about being blind. Learning to sign.

Okay, I don't mean learning to sign as in sign language although I have attempted that too. Learning to sign my name. It was tricky. Every morning in grade eight we practiced it. I was told how to make each line using an empty braille cell for orientation. K for example is straight up the left side of the cell, back down to the middle, up to the right on a slant. Back to the mddle on the left, then down on a slant to the bottom right. Make sense? It did to me. Tomorrow, learning to type.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Great things about being blind. There's something on your shirt?

So, someone asked me the other day, "If I saw that your shirt was on inside out, if your clothes didn't match, if you had spilled something on your shirt, should I say something?" We all struggle with this right? We see someone with one of these things and don't quite know if we should say something. Well, I never have that problem but my answer to you is yes please say something. Not loud and embarrassingly but on the side. I do really appreciate it. Otherwise, I might just stroll into a job interview like that or something.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Great things about being blind. Getting my signature.

Someone asked about how to show a blind person where to sign a document. For someone who is totally blind like me, a very good way is to put something just below the line. Like a a credit card. That way I can feel where the signature line is. I often carry signature guides with a hole in the middle. You can then place the card on the paper with the line in the hole. Makes life a lot easier and you don't have to worry about me signing in the wrong place. Tomorrow, how I learned to sign my name.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Performing tonight at the tea party cafe

I'm performing tonight with another storyteller at the tea party cafe in Ottawa 119 york street. Wonderful tea, goodies, conversation, small and friendly atmosphere. We each have two stories. If you want to find out from me
What was my first job?
What was so unique about my boss?
Who made a bunch of blind kids cry?
Come and hear the tales.

Storytelling workshop begins again.

I've begun delivering my second storytelling workshop on autobiographical storytelling. what an interesting group and wonderful participation. I learn so much from doing this. We are in a new wonderful location and I enjoyed myself so much. You always learn a lot when you teach.

Great things about being blind. Kibble for the guide dogs.

Yesterday, I went to a new location to start teaching a storytelling workshop. My friend met me at the bus stop and showed me the way there and back to my other bus stop after. So, I had to find three new bus stops and a new building. I used back chaining and food rewards and my guide picks things up so fast. It is easy for a blind person to do too. find the door, bus pole, with a cane or someone show it to you. Feed the dog there. Step back two steps hold the leash and see if she surges towards it. She almost always does. More food. Back a little further, surge, more food. Then back to the corner and work to the pole or steps. She finds it like magic. How wonderful this is.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Great things about being blind. Accessible voting.

Yesterday, I voted in advance for our upcoming provincial election. I went to the station and they had an accessible voting machine there for me. They had to set it up first but once it was set up, it was wonderful. It talked me through the whole process, had large tactile buttons, confirmed my voting choice and then printed the ballot. It was absolutely wonderful and I could do it totally independently. How wonderful that is. It's about time.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Great things about being blind. Guiding on the stairs.

People have asked me how they should guide someone who is blind on the stairs. It is simpler than many people think. Do not grab my arm from behind. I will then be ahead of you and will have no idea what is in front of me. Let me take your arm. This way, I can feel as we ascend and descend stairs. When we get to a flight of steps, you don't need to count them. By feeling the motions as we move, I will know when we reach the top or bottom. Just tell me that we are going up or down and anything unique about the stairs. If they are curved, with steps spaced widely apart, or anything like that. Then, we can proceed.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The process of creation.

I'm working away at my one woman show which will get its debut this November thanks to Jan and Jennifer at two women productions. It is quite a process. Creating, recording myself, writing, editing, trying things out on others, discussing, working with my voice and words, and more. I spent a full day working on it with Jan and Jennifer and last night I felt like I had run two marathons, swam a river, and then walked across Canada. But it is tremendously exciting and rewarding and hard work. Seeing it take shape is amazing. Stay tuned for dates and locations.

Great things about being blind. showing me to a chair.

This sounds simple. Some people make it more difficult than it needs to be. You are showing me to a chair in a room. do not lift me into it. Yes, this has happened. Do not place me in front of it and push down on my shoulders to get me to sit down. Yes this has also happened. Explain where the chair is in relation to me. My guide dog may find it if I ask her to do so. but, if you are guiding me to a chair, place my hand on its back or arm. Then I can deal with it. Pull it out, examine it to see the best way for me to get into it. Thank you for reading and for being so wonderful with comments.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Great things about being blind. Describing a room.

If you are orienting me to a room, here is the procedure. When we step in, you can describe the room to me as best you can. How big is it? What does it contain? Where are the doors, tables, bathrooms? Anything you would like to know yourself if you entered a strange room blindfolded. Then wait for my questions. I will ask what I need to know. Thank you. It is great when I get wonderful descriptions of new locations.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thanks for your comments.

Thanks to all of you for your wonderful comments and suggestions. I value them so much and they help me to write and create the blog.

Great things about being blind. The food on my plate.

Eating can be an adventure. What is in front of me? I know what I ordered so maybe the piece of chicken I need to cut is in front of me. Or maybe mashed potatoes. Or maybe the roll. I've speared little cups filled with cranberry sauce and brought them confidently towards my mouth. I've stabbed a piece of bread on a fork. But, mostly I just proceed with caution feeling with my fork around the plate to tell by texture what is there. But, if you help me at a buffet (another post topic) or if you put food on my plate telling me where it is is most helpful. People use the old clock face method. Your meat is at 12, your vegetables at 3, your potatoes at 6 etc. When mentioning this to a group of kids once a little boy was horrified and said, "You mean you eat your meat at 12 and can't eat your vegetables until 3?" I'm sure he imagined me sitting at a table all day long. I'm hungry now. Breakfast time I think?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Storytelling at the tea party cafe.

I will be telling stories at the tea party cafe 119 york street in Ottawa next Tuesday the 27th from 7 to 8:30.
My stories will be about first jobs, and about my relationship with our local fair.
Come and enjoy.

Great things about being blind. Pouring cold liquids.

So, a great thing about being blind and pouring and making tea is that you can do it in the dark with your eyes closed. Now on to cold liquids. They are easier. I line up the bottle, jug, or pitcher with my glass and then pour. Again, I listen to the sound. As liquid gets closer to the top, the sound is higher and different. I put the tip of my finger into the glass too and feel the liquid touch it. If you are giving me a drink, cold or hot, and if you put it down in front of me, let me know where it is. In front of your right hand. To the right of your plate. To your left on the table. Or pass me the cup and I will put it down. tomorrow on to eating!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Great things about being blind. Food on my plate.

People seem to be enjoying these posts and have lots of questions. Many revolving around food and drink. Let's tackle drink first.
Can a blind person make tea and coffee and carry hot liquids? Yes. If done carefully I can. To make tea, I have a complex system of funnels. I pour cold water into my teapot. Then, I put a funnel in my kettle to pour the water from the tea pot into the kettle. this means I know how much is in the kettle so can't hurt myself when pouring it into the tea pot again. Next, I boil the water. I have a different funnel that I put over my teapot while I pour the boiling water in. Maybe too complex but it works for me. I also have something called liquid leveler which beeps when water touches it when it is placed over the edge of your cup. I don't use it much though. I listen to the sound of the liquid filling my cup. It sounds different as it gets to the top. I do touch it briefly with the very tip of my finger too and don't burn myself doing that. Tomorrow on to more drinks and food. Now, I need a cup of tea.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Great things about being blind. Moving my stuff.

We are in a room together.
I have placed my bag, coat, etc on a chair or table.  Say we are in a meeting or workshop.
Maybe you have to rearrange the room.  Put tables up or take them down.  You move my bag.  Place it somewhere else.
Perhaps we all go for lunch.  I am alone in the room looking for my jacket and bag.
A blind person needs to remember where they put their things in a room.
My coat is on the chair nearest the door.  My bag is on a chair with arms in front of a round table.
And so, if you move them, I may search over every square inch of the room.  Literally,  for you, you can do this easily.  Scan the room with your eyes.
For me, I need to touch everything.
Now, my guide dogs have been and are pretty good at finding our stuff.  There are often kibbles in my bag or a water bowl which helps.
But please, if you need to move my stuff, can you tell me where you moved it to?  Thank you.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Great things about being blind. The hand shake.

Now, when you meet a blind person, do you shake hands?  And how?  This is often a comical situation.  I meet someone, I put out my hand.  They see it.  They put out their hand.  In the mean time, I don't feel their hand so I withdraw mine.  They withdraw theirs.  Maybe I hear something that indicates this.  A rattle of some jewelry.  The hand hitting the leg.  So, I put my hand out again. Etc.
So, you can take my outstretched hand, or say that you are giving me your hand.  Or we can have fun wiwth this hand shake game.  As always, talk naturally but verbalize as much as is necessary so that we understand each other.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Great things about being blind, Entering and leaving a room.

So, you enter a room where I am.  Unless it is very quiet and I heard you open the door or walk in, I might not know that you came in, who you are, where you are in the room.  So, when you enter a room and if you know I am there and am blind, say something.  You could just say something natural like hello.  If I know your voice, you don't need to say who you are.  I'll ask if I don't remember.  If we've never met, it would be helpful if you say who you are and if anyone is with you.  And, if you  have to leave our conversation to go somewhere else within a crowded room, could you tell me first?  I've had many conversations with walls, posts, or other objects when I thought someone was still standing there talking to me.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Great things about being blind. Guiding a blind person and their guide dog.

Now, you ask me if I need help, I say yes.  I have a guide dog with me.  What do you do?  Well, you don't call the dog and give her directions.  You don't grab the dog's leash.  You ask me how you can help.  Perhaps, I will say that we can follow you.  You will walk ahead and keep talking to me.  You will give me and not the dog directions.  Perhaps, especially if we are carrying on a conversation, I might say that I will take your arm and have you guide me.  At this point, I drop the dog's harness handle and she is no longer working.  You are the guide.  Tomorrow more etiquette tips.  HOpe they are helpful.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Great things about being blind. Guiding a blind person.

Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of always asking if a blind person needs help.  Once I say, yes that I do.  What do you do next?  Well, you don't grab my arm from behind and start pushing me ahead of you.  This is , as you can imagine quite unnerving and also unsafe.  Think of you being in the dark and shoved from behind.  If you are ahead of me and I take your arm, then I can feel as  you move around things, climb or descend stairs, and if I feel you are not the guide I want, I can let go of your arm and go my own way.  Smile!  Or, once I am not needing you to guide me, I can let go, thank you, and proceed on.  Do not grab my white cane and guide me with it.  This has happened.  Tomorrow, how to guide a person with a guide dog.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Storytelling at the tea party cafe.

I will be storytelling in two weeks at the tea party cafe in Ottawa.
I am sharing the stage with another teller.
Come and hear stories about my first job and about the super ex.
You'll love the stories, the company, and the tea and treats.
September 27 from 7-9 PM. 119 York street.

Great things about being blind. When in doubt, ask.

I have been asked several questions about proper etiquette and guiding for blind people. So, I start a series of posts about that over the next few days. Hope they are helpful. It is great to be blind and be around people who get this. First, guiding a blind person. Since I am totally blind, the rules are slightly different here. Someone with low vision may tell you what to do to be most helpful. for someone who is totally blind, first ask if you can help in any way. Perhaps I am just standing outside enjoying the sun. Maybe I am waiting for someone. Maybe I know where I'm going but am taking a break. Ask if the person needs assistance and listen to what they say in order to determine what kind of assistance they need. That is the first step. Always ask. Don't grab my arm, my dog, or my cane. That feels like I've been attacked in an alley.Tomorrow, the various guiding techniques.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Great things about being blind. Independence in colour identification.

I don't always know what colour my clothes are but I tend to know by feel what goes together after I am told about it. I hang clothes together. I remember them by feel. but, sometimes I need a certain colour. Yesterday, I was asked if I could wear a red shirt for some photos taken of me. I forgot to ask Richard in the morning if a certain shirt was red. I thought it was. He was gone and only my dog was here so I took my ipod, and my colour identification ap aid colors and first I took a picture of my black lab Tulia. The ap said, blac. So I took a picture of my shirt and the ap said red. And red it indeed was. What a rush of independence I had. May not seem like much but it is to me.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Great things about being blind. Not seeing images.

One more 9/11 inspired post. I am a history and news enthusiast. I love podcasts, reading articles, listening to the radio. I love history and figuring out history and so after 9/11 I spent some time with the media trying to figure out what had happened and would happen. Many of my friends and family said they had to stop watching because they showed the same graphic images again and again. I didn't see them. For this, I am grateful. I know what happened and knew what happened but didn't have to watch the same images over and over. I could absorb things at my own pace. At my own rate. In my own way. And so, I could filter the media and absorb the disaster in the ways that made sense to me most. Not that anything about it ever made sense. so glad to be blind on that day.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Great things about being blind. 9/11 and my guide dogs.

In the summer of 2001, I had a yellow lab guide dog named Margaret. We had only been together for three and a half years but she was showing me in no uncertain terms that she didn't want to work anymore. She would refuse to board the bus, would pull me towards traffic, would not walk past loud noises, would run from her harness. So, I had to retire her and re-apply for a guide dog. I was due to fly from here in Canada to Oregon to get my third guide on September 29 2001. On september 11 2001, what did I get in the mail? My airplane tickets. At first I said, "I won't go. I can't fly." But, I did go and met my wonderful Gia. And on September 11 2010, I graduated from training with my tulia. I'm glad I have great guide dog memories associated with 9/11. Tomorrow one more post on the media and 9/11.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Great things about being blind. September 11 and the dogs who were heroes

All guide dog handlers think our dogs are heroes.  And they are.  As we all are at times.  And at times they are funny and annoying and not always well behaved.  but, yesterday I watached a youtube video of a guide dog and his person who got out of the world trade centre on 9/11 and it touched my heart and made me cry.  The fact that the guide wouldn't leave him even though he let the dog go.   The fact that around all of this chaos and noise, the man and dog continued to walk, continued to move.  For a blind person, loud noise and chaos is one of the most frightening things for me.  I don't even like loud bars as I have no idea where anyone is, where I am in relation to anyone or anything.  I don't like construction noise as I walk as again I can't hear what is around me.  So, I can't even imagine how chaotic that day must have been.
Another grad from my guide dog school,
guide dogs for the blind
Got out of the centre with his dog and has recently published a book about it called thunder dog which is very good.
After 9/11, I didn't cry.  I felt numb.  I couldn't see the TV images and was grateful for that.  But, a few days later, on learning about the two grads and their guides who exited the trade centre, I put my head down on my computer keyboard and cried and cried.
Amidst the chaos, the wreckage, the violence, there was a canine and a person and the two of them working together in friendship, in harmony, in trust.
And, to know every day that I have a creature who if called upon would do what those dogs did, makes me so so glad I'm blind.  And makes me cry!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Great things about being blind. Up in the night.

Last night,I woke up when it was still dark and quiet and read a bit of my audio book. Then, my guide dog came over and gave me a paw. She does this sometimes when she hears me stirring but this time, she kept it up. So, I figured, she needed to go out. Advantage for me, get up, find clothes, leash, bags, without turning on the light and disturbing anyone, Downstairs and outside with eyes still kind of closed. Tulia had to go and then guided me back inside. We both returned to our beds without lights having gone on. She isn't sick. Just needed a pee. I know some of you would ask about that.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

finding stories through conversation.

Yesterday, I met with a storytelling partner for an upcoming performance we have together in October. I wasn't sure what stories I would tell. Would I create new ones? Rely on already created ones. Take bits I have and weave them together? Through conversation and laughter, I found the stories or the stories found me. Autobiographical stories are like that sometimes. Someone mentions something they did as a kid, in university, or at work, and a story kernel starts to sprout. I'm always amazed how many new stories are in me and just need the right words to bring them forward.

Great things about being blind. Providing braille.

Last week, someone I know contacted me from their work to ask if I would be able to braille something in appreciation of a blind colleague for their work and contribution. I was thrilled to do this. I was also touched that he thought of asking me to do it. I know how happy I am when someone provides me with accessible materials without having to ask them to do so. It always makes my day. So, if you aren't sure what format to use when communicating with someone who is blind, ask. Then try to remember in future to provide that format to that person. It is so much appreciated. Thanks to those who do this automatically. You make my day.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Great things about being blind. September 11 and dogs vs canes.

As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, I heard a very interesting interview with a man who escaped the world trade centre with his guide dog. There were two men who did that. One has spoken publicly about this for years and is very wonderful to listen to. He has recently written a book called thunder dog which is very good. The other man hadn't spoken until now. The thing that shook me up was that they said that all guide dog users got out of the building and all blind cane users died inside. That gave me the shivers. I was a cane user for many years and still do use my cane but for myself really prefer having a dog. And having a dog in a chaotic situation would seem much less scary I would think. Every blind person has to make their own choices about how they travel safely. For me, it's a guide dog all the way. It feels like driving a really cool car to travel with your dog, it is much less mentally exhausting for me, and it's great to have such a wonderful creature with me all of the time.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Great things about being blind. books books books.

On this first day of school for many, I thought about first days of school I've had. I always loved school. I loved reading and learning. And books. Braille books are huge and heavy and take up a great deal of space. In fact, during my last year of highschool, I had a storage closset instead of a locker to hold all of my books and supplies. So, how nice now to be able to read braille on an electronic display. To read whatever audio books I want. To look online for books I want to read. It is like I said yesterday, I like to have the choices of what to read and when. My love of and access to books has grown immensely. I'm so grateful for that. I like books from

Monday, September 5, 2011

My obsession with news aps for my ipod

I've always been curious. Wanting to know about things. Read things. Experience things. I used to wish I could skim through the newspaper like my parents did. They would read me articles if I asked or if they thought I might be interested. But, that meant they were filtering articles and I wasn't. So, when I got my ipod and even before that, I began reading news articles for myself. Picking what I would read. Now, I love RSS readers on my ipod that give me the articles. Then I can decide what to read. It is a freeing thing. That is why I have about three of them on my ipod. I know. I don't need three but I choose to have them and so I do. Happy news reading to all. Oh and I love reading blogs too.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Great things about being blind. Reading while exercising.

I mentioned to a friend the other day, how I get a lot of good reading done while on the exercise bike. I listen to news articles on my ipod. I listen to podcasts. I go over my stories for storytelling. I can bike for a n hour and be totally lost in what I am reading. She said, "Oh I can never read while exercising." So, here's to being blind and reading while you work out!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

finding my way back to the story.

I am working on a one woman storytelling show about growing up blind. Thanks to the generous support of the Canada council for the Arts. I spent a few weeks madly creating, writing, reading, recording. It went along well and then stuck. Went along again and stuck. And stopped. I stepped back and spent time thinking about how I do things. How I find my way around, cook, read, know who someone is by their voice, steps, jingling of keys. Not that I will describe these things in depth but a few well chosen words will bring people into my world. So, last night, the story started calling me back again. So, back at it I go with fresh perspective. If anyone wants to find out more about my storytelling or book me as a teller, please contact me.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Great things about being blind. Getting a driver's license?

Our provincial government here has recently made it possible for blind people to get a non-driver's driver's license for ID purposes only of course. I am going to go soon to get one. The reason this is great is that often people want driver's licenses for ID and won't always accept other forms of ID. It can make things difficult at times. So, off soon to get my license. Never thought I'd say that. Great progress. Thanks to all who lobbied for this change.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Great things about being blind. Listening to chords.

I ook piano lessons from about age 6 to 14. Then again I had to do some in university when I studied music and music therapy. Recently, I started taking lessons again from a good friend. Playing piano is nice and relaxing. I love to get melodies and find chord progressions for them. The feeling of tension when you know you need to find a new chord. Then, the feeling of great happiness when you find the right one. I love playing chords and hearing their colours and richness. It is so much fun.