Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wondering about birds.

Last week, it was almost spring like here. I heard some birds and felt the sun. This morning it is freezing and windy and I heard no birds. Maybe they are there but are being quiet. Then I realized, I have no idea how birds move. I know they fly. I can hear the whirring of wings sometimes. But, do they flap both wings together? Separately? Slowly? Quickly? Do they hold them straight out to the side or tilted? And when they land and walk, do they hop with both feet or move one at a time? Never really thought about this before. If anyone can enlighten me, I'd be most grateful.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The opticon

One of the first high tech machines I used was called an opticon. It was extremely expensive and lived in the library at the school for the blind where I was a student. I was eight years old. The opticon had a base unit. You put your hand inside and there was a small display with vibrating pins. There was a camera you held in your right hand and slid across lines of print. Raised print letters appeared under your fingers, vibrating. You could read print in this manner if you knew the shapes of print letters. Thanks to magnetic letters on our fridge, I did know the shapes of the capital letters anyway. Some people still use opticons and love them. I haven't used one for years. Tomorrow, more on my personal technology journey.

Monday, February 27, 2012

How technology has changed.

Whenever I think back to the earliest technology I used, I am amazed at how much it has changed. I learned to read braille first. With a huge, heavy, braille machine and enormous books. Each book was several volumes of braille. I learned to type on a regular typewriter but I was always unable to proof read documents. I also never knew when the ribon ran out. Gradually, we began hearing about paperless braille. I couldn't believe something like this would ever happen. Braille that appeared and disappeared and you didn't have to carry it around? But it has happened. tomorrow, descriptions of braille displays.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The feel of the dog is so familiar.

It must be similar for those people who can see. But, I was thinking about this this morning. First thing in the morning, my little black lab guide dog leaps off her dog bed and bounces over when she notices me stirring. She comes over wagging her whole self, eager to start a new and exciting day. I was patting her softest ever ears, her stocky body, her softish short lab fur. Feeling through mmy hands near her shoulders the wagging of her whole self. This is my dog. And then, it occurred to me that the first time I touched her, she seemed so strange. So much shorter than my golden guide before her. So much more stocky. Such short fur and so little of it. Before that, the dog I touched all of the time had long fur and lots of it. Curly under the neck and curly when she had a bath or got wet. A long slowly wagging thin, feathery tail, Taller, longer legs. The sounds too are familiar. Gia squeaked when she got excited. She had a high pitched bark. She made certain little noises when you patted her or when she settled down to sleep. Tulia snores. She makes different noises when you pat her. She moves differently. Her paws sliding and swishing on the floor. When I had both of them, I knew who was moving around, who was there, who was wagging to let me know where she was. Interesting how sounds and textures and shapes of dogs become so familiar so quickly.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A walk in the snow.

After some almost spring like days, we got a big fall of snow yesterday. As I walked home in it late yesterday afternoon, I loved the experience. The feel of the snow on my face. Very soft against my skin. Soft and almost fuzzy. I closed my eyes. I don't need them to travel anyway and felt the flakes against them. I could hear the flakes tick tick ticking as they fell. I felt my feet moving through swishing the snow. Moving it as it rustled. My feet also crunched and squeaked. My guide dog pranced along. We've been a team long enough that I trusted her to help if I got turned around. Traveling whille it is snowing actively like that and windy too can be a bit disorienting but I felt confident and so did Tulia. It wasn't a long walk but was an exhilarating one.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Thank you to all of you commenters. It was like christmas or opening gifts to read your remarks

I realized the other day, I had many comments waiting for approval or to be posted.
I had forgotten to check. I read through them all and just wanted to thank everyone for them. For these comments which are lovely and encouraging. For suggestions of things to include when blogging. Thank you for the facebook support. Thank you for twitter comments, in person encouragement, and e-mails too. I love reading them and am so glad you like the blog. I love blogging a great deal too.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Are GPS devices wirth while?

I always live in great hope that gps devices or aps will help me. I recently got an iphone and was eager to try out gps aps. Some of the ones I tried, work to some degree. I can while at home or standing still somehwere, check out what is around me. This is interesting and helpful. But, this morning, I tried using an ap while going to a familiar destination. It gave me wrong directions and told me I had reached my destination a block and a half before I really had done so. I put the phone away and just concentrated on walking with my amazingly smart and good looking guide dog and using my common sense and mobility skills. These aps are good for some things but as of yet, haven't found one that works well for me while traveling. I will say that I haven't yet tried the expensive aps and am not sure whether to or not.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The typewriter.

I saw an old typewriter the other day. Well maybe thirty years old or so. I guess not that old in the big picture scheme of things. I had a typewriter quite like it during high school and university. I picked it up. Boy it was heavy and clunky. I started to think, "How did I carry that around all over the place?" And I didn't just carry it either. I carried a typewriter, a huge braille machine, a huge taperecorder, and all kinds of other things. Things are so much lighter now. Thank goodness for that.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Driver's license?

While  in a store yesterday paying for a purchase, the gentleman behind the counter asked for my driver's license as ID.  This happens quite a lot.  It happened more when I didn't have a guide dog with me.  Tulia was right there by my legs so I said, "Do you imagine I have a driver's license?" as I pulled out other ID.  "Why wouldn't you?" he said and then Tulia moved and he said, "What is that there beside  you?"  He sounded a bit scared.  "My guide dog," I said. "Oh oh I'm sorry.  I didn't notice.  Oh what a cute dog!"  I had thought he might be dog phobic but he just hadn't seen how I entered the store I guess.  Tulia is better than a driver's license any time!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

On tv tonight and thanks to a friend.

I am on tv here in Canada tonight on a channel called cbc bold in a program called creative block.  I will provide its link at the bottom of this post.  The link just posts a small fragment of the show.  I don't believe it is on line but I could be wrong about that.  At the end of the season, I will receive a copy.  After I tried to listen to the clip, my friend Gary called and he described all of the action to me.  I was so glad.  What I heard in the clip was just me talking and I didn't know about the various shots, people shown, my poster for my show, etc.  I could hear the differences between my studio voice and my voice on stage.  However, I didn't know anything about the variety of shots and things they showed just in this small clip.  Thanks Gary for your kindness.  Thanks cbc for filming me.  Thanks storytelling for giving me such a great career.  Thanks to all of you for reading my blog.  I'm most grateful for it all.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Discovering nature. Things I never knew

Yesterday, after attending a wonderful storytelling performance, we were at the pub and somehow got talking about squid and octopus.  I always imagined them as kind of flat like a plate with legs sticking out of the sides.  I learned that a squid is different shaped than an octopus and more cylindrical.  I love learning things I never knew about how things look and are shaped.  I don't much fancy going to touch a real one of these creatures so will settle for the descriptions provided to me by sighted people.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sounds of a thaw

It is too early for it to be truly spring, but yesterday it lifted my heart to notice changes in the weather.  I'm sorry to all of you skiers out there.  But, it is nice to know that spring is headed our way.  First, I noticed bird sounds.  More bird sounds than I have heard in a few months.  The sun felt warmer on my face.  I also heard the drip drip drip of snow melting off the roofs and snowbanks.  I heard a pile of snow swish and then topple from our roof.  There were big puddles on the sidewalks which my guide dog hates.  But, she didn't need to wear boots yesterday.  There was a different smell in the air too.  Not quite a spring smell but nice none the less.  I'm always glad when I don't need hats and hoods that muffle sounds or gloves that blindfold fingers or thick boots that cover up tactile landmarks I can feel with my feet.  And Tulia will be happier when she doesn't need boots most of the time too.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Learn something new every day. Now I know about etch-a-sketches!

In a story I told last night, I mentioned my friends crazes with etch a sketches when we were growing up.  I also said that I didn't have one and didn't understand them at all. After my story, several kind friends explained them to me.  They sure didn't seem like fun when I was little and they still don't seem like fun but at least I know now what they are like and what they do. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Kids are so wonderful.

I spent a delightful afternoon yesterday with some tiny kids at a school. They were from about 3 to 6 mostly. I came in the room and they said, "You are blind." "How did you know I was blind?" "Our teacher told us." "Any other reason?" "One eye is open and the other isn't so I guess you are half blind." "No I'm all the way blind. How else do you know?" "you have a dog." Did storytelling and talking about Tulia. Then at the end, "Does anyone have any questions?" Many hands shot up but all had the same question, "When can we pat the dog?" Harness came off and Tulia and kids were all happy with their mutual admiration of each other. Guess they didn't mind the storytelling either! Smile!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Helping someone fulfill a dream.

I spent a good part of the afternoon yesterday at one of our local university radio stations. CKCU in Ottawa. We have recently come to know a young woman who has wanted to be on the radio since she was 13 years old. She never gave up wanting this although some would say it is not an easy dream for her to have. The reasons for this are that she is almost totally blind, uses a power wheelchair as she is not able to walk or use her arms too much. She has use of a couple of fingers only. Her speech can be quiet as well. She is smart and funny and full of life and she has a wonderful supportive family who do not baby her as they help her to succeed. This was our second trip to the station. A friend who also has limited vision is along for the ride with us. We practice in the studio. Learning to use the equipment, how to interview each other, record ourselves, play music on air, and much more. The volunteer coordinator Chris White is amazing at helping us make all things accessible. He put screen reading software on the studio computer. He explains things so well and helps us think things through. The future radio star came with songs to play and an intro about herself. She remembered where the buttons were to push the microphones and seemed in her element. We all loved it. Thanks to you all for letting me travel this journey with you.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Hearing voices.

The other day, while in a crowded room, I heard a familiar voice.  I said to my sighted friend who was with me, "Oh there's..."  They said, "No."  I said, "Yes." and then they spotted the person.  I was right.  Then, she asked me, "How did you do that?" "What?" "Hear that person in such a crowded noise filled room?"  Well, I guess it is because I focus on voices.  It always amuses me when I pick up the phone and say, "Hi there (name inserted here)"  And the person on the other end seems a bit surprised.  After all, I am at an advantage on the phone.  I can't see faces.  No one can on the phone.  but I identify people by their voices.  So, just as my friend would glance across a room and see someone, so I listen and hear them if they are talking.  It isn't always perfect.  There are some people who sound a great deal alike.  I  had twin friends once and it was very difficult for me to tell their voices apart.  Sometimes too, if someone comes up to me in a different environment from what I am used to knowing them in, I get confused and have to think for a minute.  Generally though, I am pretty good at it most of the time.  I  have to be.  Now, if someone is sitting quietly in the cafe reading, I won't know they are there.  Tomorrow a funny story about a friend waving at me from afar.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Here's to my friends with disabilities

I spent some time this week being a reporter for a blind curling championship for our accessible tv cahnnel here in Canada.
Find out more at
Spent lots of time with lots of strong and positive people who have disabilities.  Some other reporters who are blind, curlers who are blind.  And tomorrow, am going to the university radio station here to work on using the equipment and recording with a friend who is partially sighted and another one who is blind, uses a wheelchair, and has limited use of her hands.  We are not super human. We are not sub-human.  We are living our lives to the fullest.  We are showing the world that we are here, living full and active lives, demanding equal access to all aspects of life, figuring things out with skill and humour.  Here's to that!  Together we can make the world a more accessible place for us all!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Thos dangerous hanging plants.

I have a long day ahead of me.  Or, I guess I should say that Tulia and I have a long day ahead of us.  We are tv reporters again for the blind curling and then off to the banquet.
This morning I am learning stories, blogging, and getting all things ready.
Went for a walk with Tulia to the coffee shop this morning.  As we approached through the indoor mall, Tulia stopped and bounced on her paws.  Gia used to do this too when encountering some kind of barrier where we couldn't move forward.  They bounce as if to say, "I can't we can't we just can't go that way.  We can't do it.  Oh oh oh we can't we can't we can't."  I did what any good guide dog handler would do.  I probed forwards with my feet and with my hands.  Found nothing.  Encouraged tulia forward.  Again the bouncing.  The bouncing on the spot.  A woman came up and said, "Everything is clear ahead of you."  I told Tulia forward and she moved very tentatively ahead a little.  A few leaves from a hanging plant very gently brushed the top of my head.  I stepped back and hugged tulia.  She saw that even though the sighted person didn't.  The lady was amazed.  Once she moved aside, Tulia swerved to avoid the dangerous hanging leaves and off we went again.  The lady kept saying, "Amazing.  Amazing.  That is just amazing!  I can't believe it."  Yes Tulia you are amazing! 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Nice to know people are reading.

I met a friend on the bus today on my way to an appointment.  It was so nice to see her and chat with her on the bus.  She mentioned that she reads my blog every day.  Then she said, "I don't think you wrote in it yesterday."  I hadn't.  Sometimes I wonder if people notice that when I miss a day.  I didn't miss a day for a year but I am not so tough on myself these days although I am still drawn to blog regularly.  But it felt good to know that people read and look forward to my entries.  Thank you to you all out there.  More adventures in future posts I promise.  For now just a huge thanks to you all!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Learning all about blind curling

One of my many jobs is to work as a reporter for accessible media inc.  All of their programs are audio described and captioned.  Yesterday, I went to do the first of three days reporting on a blind curling championships.  I learned so much all about it and loved spending time there.  I also love the new AMI staff.  They are teaching me so much about being a reporter.  How I love learning new things.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Advantages of not looking in a mirror

I suppose there are disadvantages to not being able to see myself in the mirror.  What if I have something stuck in my teeth?  On my face?  If I have a stain on my shirt?  But, I listened to a podcast yesterday from a gerontologist who talks about how we feel younger than we look and how we are suprised when we see our older selves in mirrors.  Blind people will go on how they feel and not how they look!  What a great advantage. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

My morning walk. The sounds I heard. The things I felt. The smells.

The other day at our accessibility training, I was asked to have a speech about a day in my life.  How I do things.  How I adapt things.  I did that.  I do that in this blog a lot too.  I thought then that I could go through some things in more detail.  Explaining how things are as I move around the world.  So, I will talk today about our walk to yoga this morning.  We set off about 8 AM to walk the 20 or so blocks to yoga with a meeting at starbucks with a friend on the way.  I put Tulia's purple pawz boots on, her leash and harness, and off we went.  Tulia eager to walk.  I was too.  It was clear and quiet outside.  Tulia stopped at the top of our outside steps and off we went.
I love the noise of Tulia's boots shuffling along the sidewalk.  Shuffling like people wearing bedroom slippers.  They made a shh shh noise along the sidewalks.  Tulia stops at each down curb and at each up curb so I can listen for traffic.
As we moved along, I felt a little sun on my face but also the cold wind.  Someone passed us pulling a cat with squeaky wheels going the other way.  I sang a little bit as we walked.  Tulia wagged  her tail against my leg.  Someone moved past us talking loudly on a cell phone I imagine.  Then, at a corner, I heard someone's music through their head phones.  As we passed a coffee shop I know, Tulia turned her head left and looked.  The door squeaked open.  I heard the feet of someone coming out and smelled coffee and heard a bit of music.  We passed a bakery and I smelled bread.  Traffic was quiet and predictable.  A cyclist went by.  I heard the tires shh shh in the slush and the squeak of brakes.  Someone's car was running in their driveway.  We stopped and waited.  But he was scraping his windows and said he saw us and to go ahead so we did.  I heard birds chirping and realized I haven't heard them much in a couple of months.  A lovely sign.  We neared the starbucks.  tulia pranced to the door wagging herself.  As I pulled it open, the warm coffee shop air came out to touch my face and hands.  In we went.  Tulia stamping her feet like a little pony.  "Get my boots off please.  We're now inside."  I obliged.  Our friend soon arrived and we chatted and laughed and then went to yoga.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Touched by the kindness of others.

I have been away for a couple of days.  I went off to do some accessibility and disability awareness training.  I love this work.  It is one of my favourite things to do.  Throughout the trip, I was touched by so many little kindnesses and thoughtful gestures.  First, my friend who drove with me.  He described things as we drove, as we walked, and helped me orient to the hotel and presentation room.  My hosts at the accessibility day helped me get food, drinks, anything my guide dog needed.  They also described the room, described people, and were so warm and friendly.  Other presenters described slides they put up and all share my passion for disability awareness.  More blogging on our adventures tomorrow but thank you to you all.  More of this work this afternoon.  I cant wait.  I love it so much!