This time of year we celebrate the holidays and its traditions. Thanksgiving brings on lots of food, family and fun. One major Thanksgiving tradition is watching the Macy’s Day parade.
A Thanksgiving Day Tradition From Childhood
Since I was a small child, this TV event was a regular part of my Thanksgiving Day celebration. . I would get up early in the morning still in my pjs, grab a bowl of cereal and park myself right in front of the TV. For the next few hours my eyes were glued to the screen watching the huge helium balloons, colorful and beautiful floats and listening to the many marching bands.
Each year something new and exciting happened with the parade . It could be new helium balloon cartoon characters and a list of popular musicians and entertainers. The marching bands held a special place for me. My mother was in a collegiate marching band and later I attended Florida A&M University, famous for the infamous Marching 100.
While I was captivated by all the sights and sounds of the parade my parents were busy in the kitchen preparing our Thanksgiving meal. My dad would do the major cooking of smoked turkey, ham with pineapples, collard greens, mac and cheese and sweet potato pie. While my mother cooked and prepared the cornbread dressing with giblet gravy. Sometimes they would call me in to do a taste test otherwise I was barred from the kitchen until they were done. Of course, I had no problem with that command because the Macy’s Day Parade was on and I didn’t want to miss a minute.
Tried to Continue After Blindness
Years later, as an adult I still continued this Thanksgiving day tradition. Dawning my pjs and holding my cereal bowl I sat on my sofa and watched the proceedings again. It was just like old times. After vision loss I made attempts to watch it but after a couple of tries I knew it was not going to work.
The Macy’s Day Parade was too visual. Too many things to figure out. Too many things I couldn’t enjoy anymore. So, for years I let this tradition go and just kept my memories.
What is Audio Description
But about 3 years ago I noticed audio description became available for this parade. An audio described TV show or movie is when images, scenes, actions and descriptions of the actor’s appearance are described during natural pauses in the production. It allows the blind or visually impaired viewer to know what is happening and enjoy the film along with their sighted peers.
Audio description is available in a variety of mediums such as analog TV, streaming services, DVDs, cable, satellite and movie theaters. Additionally, you can find audio description available at live theatrical performances and museums. The Macy’s Day Parade was audio described live by Descriptive Video Works, Where I sit as an advisory committee member.
Audio Description Brought Tradition Back
I was so excited to reintroduce this Thanksgiving Day tradition into my life again. Even during the pandemic, The parade aired. Although condensed with a shorter route and no live audience on the street, it was still great. I got to hear one of my favorite entertainers, Patti LaBelle, sing. Woohoo! This year was the 96th anniversary. There was a performance from the Lion King, more balloons, floats and several marching bands. Then a finale of Santa Claus and Mariah Carey singing her famous song, “All I Want for Christmas is You.”
Like the Thanksgiving meal, it just wouldn’t be the same without watching this parade. I am just so glad and grateful audio description lets me keep this Thanksgiving tradition. And hopefully for many more years to come.
Charitable organizations have been a love and passion of mine since I was a very young adult. It didn’t start off that way initially. When I was in high school my guidance counselor encouraged me to do some volunteer work to enhance my resume and college applications. But it didn’t take much time for me to recognize the value and importance these organizations had on my life and community.
Giving to Charities Changed Focus
When I entered college I kept volunteering for the happiness and satisfaction it gave me. This mindset continued even after I went blind. However, it shifted and became more laser focused. Instead of just randomly volunteering or donating to the major charities , I gave my time and money to the ones that helped me the most. Perhaps I was being a little selfish but I wanted to give only to disabled nonprofits. It was my way of showing gratitude.
You see it all the time at charity events and in their marketing materials. There is a person sharing this powerful story of how this organization helped them and why you should too. These stories are impactful and highly influential. Now, let me give you some personal examples of what I mean.
1. Giving Back by Mentoring
One of the first ways I gave back was mentoring young people at the Center for the Visually Impaired, a vision rehabilitation center. It was a one-on-one relationship with a blind teenager who also had multiple sclerosis. I was in a program for blind adults and children that mimicked the Boys and Girls Club. I was matched with a male student and for a year or two I was his mentor. We met together for meals, family gatherings and even dinner and a Christmas play.
Then I mentored another high school student. But it was online not in person. She actually found me through the American Foundation for the Blind’s CareerConnect, a website for blind job seekers. I was a registered career mentor and she wanted guidance and support with figuring out life after high school. We regularly talked on the phone and through email. Ironically, she lived in the same city I grew up in. So, I gladly traveled back home to meet her in person and attend her high school graduation.
2. Giving Back with My Journalism Skills
I love writing and thought it would be a good way to give to my community. Since 2013 I have been a volunteer blogger with VisionAware. This is an online resource for people with vision loss. When dealing with a disability it is important to share stories of others who can relate. So, the blog features those of us who are already blind and how we live our lives. I have contributed blog posts on working, cooking, traveling, voting and socializing.
Another way I used my journalism skills was volunteering at a nonprofit radio station. The Georgia Radio Reading Service is where printed materials are read over the air to a blind audience. I hosted and produced a show called Eye on Blindness for about 3 years. I interviewed guests in the blind community on a variety of topics.
3. Giving Back with Monetary Donations
Nonprofits and charities need financial gifts to keep their services and programs available to the community. I am by no means the wealthiest person alive, but I do give monetarily. The Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired is one such organization. They help blind and visually impaired people worldwide through remote educational courses. I have boosted my braille, typing and LinkedIn skills through them. I have also taken advantage of their many online workshops, discussion groups and podcasts. So, it was a no-brainer for me to financially contribute to them.
This is the season for giving to charities and I encourage you to do so. There are many ways you can be supportive. Volunteering your time, talents or by monetary donation. We need them in our community, society and the world.
For most of my life I was a visual shopper. If I saw it then I had to have it. I also practiced retail therapy, buying stuff to feel better instead of dealing with my issues. I was one of those people who always had to leave the mall with a purchase. It didn’t matter if I needed the item or not. It was just the thought of buying something new. This behavior resulted in accumulating a lot of stuff over the years.
Then something strange and unexpected happen. I went blind. I could no longer see the items brightly displayed in stores calling my name. Sometimes I struggled with transportation to even get there. And online shopping was not even an option back then. I strained to keep up with trends and my stockpile of stuff was becoming too much.
Use Less Stuff Day
As a society we are accumulating too much stuff. People pay for storage, don’t always donate or recycle. Then there are landfills that are filling up with all kinds of things we have thrown away. Thursday, Nov. 17 is Use Less Stuff Day. This day is a gentle reminder to clean and declutter.
Clothes and Shoes
After going blind, I quickly realized I needed to make a mental change and trim down my stuff. First I started with my wardrobe. I focused on functional not trendy pieces of clothing and jewelry.
I kept my shoes down to a couple of pairs. The essentials of black, brown and navy dress styles with 2 pairs of tennis. These simple colors and styles can go with any outfit. It also made it easier to find and keep them organized.
Home and Office
To avoid falls, stumbles and bumping into furniture I downsized. I went to a modest layout, keeping furniture mostly on the perimeter of the room. Ask yourself, how much stuff in your home is a show piece? You know that sofa you never sit on because it is for those guest that don’t come over. Less is more and better. Having too much furniture can be a physical hazard and danger especially with vision loss.
Working from home has motivated me to scale down more. I don’t have to wear professional clothes to a job but I have several business suits I need to figure out what to do. I know I want to keep some pieces for videoconference calls or meeting in person.
I am an introvert so don’t mix and mingle too much in crowds. So, even my casual wardrobe has been scaled down. Just a couple of slacks and skirts with interchangeable tops to match.
Use Less Paper
I have also reduced my paper footprint. What I mean is paying bills online instead of using printed statements and envelopes for mailing. I fill out forms online and receive the majority of my info via desktop computer or smartphone. I read books from the library instead of purchasing them and watch movies through streaming verses DVDs.
Lack of Emotional Attachment
Another interesting yet peculiar thing that came with my blindness was the lack of emotional attachment to things. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a sentimental person. Like Marie Kondo, I do want to keep items that spark joy. Still, because I don’t physically see I don’t have that same level of emotional attachment.
The statement, “out of sight is out of mind” is really true. I do forget and/or lack interest in things I can’t see. This mentality leads me to constantly take inventory of my belongings. Do I still cherish it or have lost that lovin’ feeling? Every couple of months I check out what I have and what I can give away.
More Doesn’t Mean Less
However, I come from a place where more communicates prosperity, value and self-worth . When people have less the assumption is they are not doing well. But this is not necessarily true. Having less or should I say, the basic necessities of life, is peaceful and not burdensome. I know for a fact the more things I own the more I have to worry. The more I have to track and keep organized. The more stressed out I get.
A minimalist lifestyle is a work in progress. I have not perfected it yet because I live in a world of consumerism. The call to shop and buy is ever present. However, I work on it and do my best. Writing this post has energized me to do another walk through and declutter my home. Looking at what I need to keep and what I can remove. Plus, the holiday season is coming up and the perfect time to give.
Do you have a minimalist lifestyle? If not, what ways can you scale back your stuff?
I take my civic duty to vote very seriously. I have been a registered voter in Georgia since about 1996. You can do the math and see we are talking about a lot of years . Even after I went blind I still continued to perform my civic duty and vote.
Additionally, I am active with my local city government, attending city council meetings and having conversations with my local councilwoman. Lastly, I listen weekly to an educational podcast on government and politics called Civics 101 hosted by the New Hampshire Public Broadcast Service. I don’t profess to know everything when it comes to politics but I try to stay current, advocate and educate myself. This is why I feel so strongly and was compelled to share about my recent bad voting experience in the 2022 general election. I have shared many times about my struggles with voting here on this blog. But what I experienced in this recent election takes the cake!
Bus Driver Asked to Help
ON Monday, Oct. 24, I took the bus to early vote. This was not unusual because I do this on a regular basis. But what was weird was the poll worker asking if the driver would assist me with my voting. I said no because a poll worker usually helps me and the driver was just dropping me off. The poll worker told me to have a seat while she went off to find someone to assist.
I sat there and waited. I was confused because the precinct was not crowded. I continued to wait. Then finally I got up and walked toward where I could here people talking and asked when someone was coming over to assist me. This all seemed strange because I vote in every election and never been told to go sit at a table and wait, especially when it is not busy.
Poll Worker Said No to Assistance
I was then told that poll workers could no longer help me. They would have to get another voter to assist. I got very angry at this news and said this couldn’t be true. They insisted and it had to do with SB 202. One of the poll workers said she called and spoke to the director to confirm and verify. I pushed back more and shared about a blind friend who went to vote at my county headquarters location. She didn’t have this problem and voted the first day of early voting. I even shared about my time voting in the midterm and didn’t have this problem. However, they still insisted and refused to help me.
Type of Help I Needed
Now, let me stop my story for a minute to clarify what help I needed. Here are the specifics:
Filling out any paperwork. I give the poll worker my Georgia state ID and they fill out the form and then I sign it.
Escort to the accessible voting machine. They make sure I am seated and the machine is working properly before they walk away.
Escort to the second machine to cast my ballot and turn in my plastic card
Escort out the precinct.
Another Voter Helped Me Instead
As I stated earlier I have been voting for a long time as a blind person. In every election I get this help. Except this time. Another voter not a poll worker did all of this. That is the problem. Although the other voter was nice and kind she was not familiar with what to do to help a blind voter. They had to give her instructions.
After I voted and printed out my ballot she started to grab it off the machine. I stopped her and told her she could not touch my ballot. She quickly apologized and said she didn’t know. This is why I have a problem with this whole situation. She was not a poll worker and wouldn’t know the rules.
Confusion with Code on Ballot
Next, she escorted me to the other machine to cast my ballot. I was asked by a poll worker to turn in my plastic card. After giving it to him, he asked to see my ballot to get some kind of QR code off it. I have no idea what this code was or why he needed it.
I got upset and told him he was not supposed to see my ballot. I asked him what this QR code is because I don’t remember being asked that before. Another poll worker came over and began to explain, saying they needed to know my precinct. I gave them the info. But was wondering why you didn’t just ask directly for it. This made no sense to me.
After I gave my precinct info I was ready to cast my ballot. But before I could do so, someone offered instead. Again, this was strange because I cast my own ballot each time I vote. I explained again that no one was supposed to touch it and I placed it on the machine myself. Then the other voter escorted me outside so I could wait on my ride.
Additionally, the Americans with Disabilities Act, (ADA) specifically addresses accessible voting. Blind and visually impaired voters must receive accommodations when casting their ballot in a governmental election. State and local governments must help a blind person, whether it is to offer an absentee ballot, read voting information and/or have an accessible voting machine
So, the fact the poll worker told me I couldn’t get assistance was wrong. I called the Georgia Secretary of State office to file a complaint. They referred me to my county Election Office. As of this writing, I have attempted to file a complaint but have not been totally successful. There seems to be confusion about assisting a blind person when voting and no clear voting complaint process. I have also contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and they have documented my concerns. Because I know the power of my vote and have civic pride I will continue to press the issue. Although this experience was awful, I will not give up voting.
As human beings we are more comfortable interacting and talking to people who are like us. Those with the same kind of interests or backgrounds. Top on the list of similarities tend to be our religion, employment, marital status, education and income. This can also include race and gender. So, when the opportunity to converse with someone who is different it can be uncomfortable, awkward and challenging.
Even more so if the person is disabled. Although disability is common, we still struggle to interact because of fear, apathy or lack of knowledge. One question I hear all the time is, “What do I say to a blind or visually impaired person?” So, I decided to address it in this post. Nov. 1-7 is World Communication Week which focuses on bridging the gap in all the ways we talk and interact with each other. Good communication is critical for our existence and here’s 13 ways to do it effectively with a blind person.
1. Start with saying hello.!
Just like in any other interaction, saying hi is the way to get the conversation going. Or even just to acknowledge your presence. Some people are afraid to speak to me and so say nothing. This is not the best move because I might not even know you are there.
This has happened to me more times than I can count. For instance, I am trying to find a seat but it is already taken. The person seating says nothing to me and then we have this weird interaction when I step or bump into them. Just saying hello would have helped me tremendously, letting me know someone is there and avoiding the strange interaction.
2. Identify yourself after saying hello
This tip goes along with the first one. Please state your name when saying hello and introducing yourself. Don’t assume I know who you are and just start talking. People think blind folks have exceptional hearing. That we can detect specific voices. This is not true. Just light sighted people forget a name I can forget your voice. Now with that being said, my ability to recognize you will improve as we interact more.
3. Speak in a normal clear voice
People will unconsciously use a sweet or childlike tone of voice when first meeting me. This can communicate disrespect without even knowing it. We are all adults here, so no need to talk to me this way. Some will increase their volume. This is unnecessary because my disability is visual not deafness or hard of hearing. My last example is talking too slow, believing I have processing challenges. The best way to handle all of this is to not make assumptions. Talk normally and we will get along just fine.
4. Don’t speak for me
This is the one that really gets my goat! I am an independent and assertive woman. I don’t need you to speak for me. I am fully capable of talking for myself. This kind of behavior communicates you don’t think much of me and/or because of my visual disability I don’t know how to take care of business.
5. Be inclusive in your conversation
We live in a visual world. Yet, some sighted people forget or are not aware of how much visual cues play into the way we communicate. What do I mean here? Facial expressions, body language and hand gestures are all visual cues I miss resulting in misreading what is happening. It is helpful to clue me in and verbally communicate what is occurring. Don’t brush me off and say it is nothing or you wouldn’t get it. Include me in the conversation and interaction.
6. Ask permission before assisting
I know many sighted people are kind and their heart is in the right place. But, not talking to me first when helping can be a big no-no. It can be invasive and alarming. If you want to help just ask first. Allow me to say yes or no. Also, I can better direct the assistance by sharing exactly what is needed.
7. Accept that I don’t need your help
If I nicely say no to your assistance accept it. Please don’t be overbearing and insist. This communicates you don’t respect my wishes and think I am incompetent . Plus, accept the fact I might not share details. Many times, I have interacted with people who want a full explanation of why I won’t take their help. This is very frustrating. I am my own person and don’t automatically have to take help when offered.
Please trust I know my own abilities and limitations. I know when something is too difficult and how to ask for help.
8. Don’t apologize for saying sighted words or phrases
No need to cringe when saying, “see you later.” I know it is just a familiar phrase we say when departing. I won’t take it personally. I have accepted my blindness and fully understand I live in a visual world. So, no need to tip-toe around me or sensor your speech.
9. Don’t grab my arm
This one makes my blood boil! I am particular about folks in my personal space without any verbal communication. Think about a pregnant woman. Some people touch her belly without her permission. The belief is she will be okay because she is carrying a baby. But her body is her own.
When first meeting, grabbing my arm is especially intrusive. The thought is I need navigation help. Perhaps you see me about to run into something. This might be true but the best way is to talk to me. Just say something and allow me to correct myself.
10. Blindness is physical not a personality trait
It can be easy for all of us to place people in boxes and assign labels . But bear in mine we are all unique individuals. My vision loss is solely a physical thing. The essence of who I am would be the same regardless of blindness.
Let me give you a good example. I have always been an organize person. This stemmed from my childhood. Yet, when I went blind as an adult I didn’t stop being organized. As a matter of fact, it came in very handy because of my vision loss. My ability to keep things together complemented my disability because I could not afford to hunt around for misplaced or lost items.
11. Avoid asking personal questions about disability
Many sighted people are curious and want to know the story behind my blindness. But please refrain until we know each other better. On first meeting it is inappropriate to ask a bunch of questions about a person’s disability. Let them control that part of the conversation and reveal info on their terms.
12. Give specific directions
People love telling me it is over there when giving directions. But the funny thing is I have no idea what is “over there.” Usually, I have to follow up with specific questions to get a better idea. This can be avoided by giving details. For example, don’t say, “The bathroom is down the hall.” Instead say, “The bathroom is two doors down the hall next to the elevator.”
13. Give a clear word picture when describing something
You have heard of the phrase a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, blind folks need those thousand words because we can’t see that picture. So, when we are conversing include color, size, shape or landmarks.
Follow the Golden Rule
Feeling overwhelmed with my suggestions? Afraid you won’t get it right? Well, think of it this way. All of these ways to interact and talk to a blind person are summed up into one tip.
Follow the golden rule by treating others the way you want to be treated. Pause and think about how you would react if the shoe was on the other foot. Following this simple advice will help you interact and communicate with a blind person.
The World Wide Web became available to the public back in the 90’s. I was hearing a lot about it but struggled with its concept. I couldn’t visualize what a website actually looked like on a computer screen. So, I took a class with an assistive technology teacher and she did a good job describing it. She even took my hands and placed them on the computer monitor moving them around to help me visualize the actual layout.
Today, I am on the internet daily. This technology that was so new, at one point in my life, is old, mundane and ordinary. I mean I don’t even think about getting online. I just do it which shows me how much I take it for granted. Perhaps, you do too. Can you imagine going through the day with no internet? I know I can’t because of all the tasks I preform on it. Not being able to read the news, email, podcast or an audiobook is unconceivable. And that is just a small list of things. So, in honor of National Internet Day, Saturday, Oct. 29, I am going to feature 10 things I take for granted when using the internet. I am sure many of these items will resonate with you as well. My hope is this list will help all of us be more mindful and grateful for this invention.
1. Paying bills and managing finances
I use to do this task on paper. I remember a statement would come in the mail. I would read the bill, tear off the bottom and place in an envelope with a paper check. I paid my bills and managed my finances for years this way. Even after I went blind, I got sighted help until the internet made this chore easier and accessible. Today, I do all my financial business online. Not just paying basic household bills but managing online savings and investment accounts.
2. All kinds of shopping
Online shopping intensified during the pandemic because we all had to shelter in place. But I would dare to say many of us are still doing a lot online. Yep, I know I am. In the past I would do simple little things like purchasing household items and toiletries on Amazon. Or I would do a little clothes and shoe shopping. Now, I do almost all my shopping on the internet. Grocery, household, hair and beauty supplies, technology and electronics and more I purchase via the internet.
3. Entertainment like watching movies
I love watching movies on Netflix. I remember when they launched. Prior was the iconic Blockbuster’s where you had to go in person and rent a movie to play in a VCR. Do you remember those days? Netflix started with DVDs and then moved to streaming services. However, it is hard to stream a movie without a good internet connection. That WIFI signal has got to be strong and working.
4. online learning
Want to learn something new? You can take Online courses for almost anything. Courses online are the ticket to exploration. Learn basic home repairs, bake a cake , paint or garden. There is probably a course for that.
I lean toward career advancement so my courses have mostly been on ways to improve my writing or enhance my job searching. I take these courses easily from my home. They are convenient and sometimes free of charge. They are fairly accessible with my screen reader.
5. communication like zoom videoconferencing and web chats
The internet allows for multiple communication methods. We can use videoconferencing or web chats to not only connect with friends and family, but conduct business and medical appointments. If you can’t meet in person, set up a quick Zoom call. I have personally enjoyed the ease and convenience using videoconferencing for my book club meetings and community discussion groups.
6. Sending and receiving emails
Emails are as old as the internet itself. They are another way we communicate online. Emails are delivered extremely fast compared to traditional correspondence. Remember writing and mailing letters? We call it snail mail because of its slowness. Emails are sent and received all day and all year round. They are sent and received from any computer, anywhere in the world with an internet connection .
7. Read news stories, papers, magazines and journals
Just about every print publication can now be read online. Think of your local, regional or national newspaper and more than likely there is an online version. Same goes for magazines and journals.
I use to read my news in print. For years, I would grab a paper or magazine and hold in my hands to read it. Although print publications are sadly declining I appreciate digital content because it is easier to read with my vision loss.
8. social media interaction
Want to engage wit friends, make a professional contact or create a TikTok video? It can all be done online. Social media has provided opportunities for us to connect electronically and share our lives, interest and even be entertained.
9. Job searching
Those of you who spend time surfing the web know full well advancements in computer technology have made it easier and better to search for employment online. As a job seeker, we no longer must go in person and fill out a paper application or physically fax a resume and cover letter. Today we can independently and on our own time go online to search for jobs.
With my screen reader, I can upload my resume and cover letter to a prospective employer’s website. Or I can create a username and password to log in to generate an online profile. Or I can fill out an electronic application and search for a job using an online recruiting job board. All these advancements are awesome because as a blind person I can apply for jobs from the convenience and comfort of my home.
10. research and find info
I am naturally curious and doing internet research answers most of my probing questions. I can do a quick Google search and look up and learn about most anything. Have a question? Just “Google it” as they say. You will find all kinds of info. But use caution and check multiple sources
I got my 10 ways but what about you? How do you take the internet for granted? How has using the internet improved your life?
Did you know LinkedIn is the most underutilized social media platform compared to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok? It is the best search engine businesses, corporations and companies use daily. People wrongly assume that LinkedIn is only for job seekers. However, it provides a rich opportunity to make professional connections. As a result of this myth people assume they don’t have to develop and manage their profile as long as it’s there and the job info is accurate.
But when someone searches for you online your LinkedIn profile comes up first the majority of the time. If it is not updated, no active engagements and few connections, then you are missing important opportunities and don’t even know it.
Hosted LinkedIn Webinar
This is why I was excited to host a webinar titled “Level Up Your Career with an Eye Catching Profile on LinkedIn. It was held earlier this month to recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month. It was sponsored by Bold, Blind Beauty, a platform to demystify blindness through rich storytelling. The presentation focused on 6 sections of your LinkedIn profile: the Header, photo, contact info, summary, work experience and education. Although, there are more sections of your LinkedIn profile, I decided to spotlight these 6 because they are the most important for visibility and connection.
Webinar Mission and Focus
During the webinar I explained what LinkedIn is compared to other social media. Next, I discussed the 6 profile sections. And last I gave challenges to move you to the next level.
To learn more, listen to my presentation at this YouTube link.
As a blogger, I have plenty to do. Continuously coming up with creative ideas and content. Doing research. Reading news articles. Listening to relevant podcasts, and all to stay abreast of current and trending topics. Then there is the content on the written craft itself. Sometimes I feel disorganized and scatter-brained. Sometimes, I wonder how I get it all done? I mean, I haven’t even written the piece yet and I got a full plate. Well, I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve that help me to write better, faster and save time.
Well Organized Writer
Many of you know I am a well organized person. This includes my personal and professional life. Thank God for parents who drove this principle home when I was a child because it has served me well. Admittedly, I get a little anal and when I do I try to stop, slow down and breathe. The world won’t end if I don’t get it all done today.
However, strongly leaning toward organization helps me be a happier and more fulfill writer. So, I am passing on knowledge because it brings power. If you can get a little organized in your writing you will be more productive. You will write better, faster and save time. Now, let’s go!
1. Create an editorial calendar.
When I started professional blogging in 2013, I created a calendar. I got the idea from when I was a former freelance writer and pitched to magazines. Many publications had an editorial calendar for topics and themes coming up they were going to publish. You could read this calendar and know what story ideas to pitch.
So, I took that same concept and applied it here. I was writing a weekly blog post for my employer and I jotted down ideas for about a month or two. This method kept me organized, my mind clear and writing effective.
2. Keep track of updates, news and trends in your niche.
Reading articles, newsletters and other blog post will give you fresh ideas to write about. They will also keep you current so when you write, your stories have relevance.
For example, I checkout the National Holiday Calendar. I got the idea to write this post because Thursday, Oct. 20 is The National Day on Writing®. This day celebrates writing—and the many places, reasons and ways we write each day—as an essential component of literacy. Since 2009, #WhyIWrite has encouraged thousands of people to lift their voices to the things that matter most to them.
I also subscribe to Google Alerts. I made a list of key words in my industry and everyday Google sends me an email with current news items on that topic. I use all of these resources to keep a running list of blog ideas. Having this list will ensure you don’t dry out. Or if an idea doesn’t work your list will provide a plethora to choose from.
3. Get on a schedule.
This is not a hard and fast rule. What I mean is look at your day or week and plan things out. Keep in mind life happens and stuff comes up. But if you have a schedule you are more likely to get your writing done and not be so distracted. Each day I make a mini list of things to do for the next day. I try hard to stay on track and leave any extras for after I have met my daily goals.
4. Use non writing time to think.
My best ideas come to me at three o’clock in the morning. But now that my sleeping is slowly improving I am not always awake that early. However, I have other moments I can call on for inspiration. Traveling on the bus to run errands are times when my mind wanders and ideas germinate. Walking on my treadmill and doing household chores are two other times in my day when writing ideas magically appear. Now, the challenge is to quickly jot those ideas down because I am usually not at my computer. I have relied on the recording app on my smartphone to dictate an idea or two before it permanently leaves.
5. Go offline.
This is a real battle. So many of us are addicted to our devices. And we gotta check social media or emails to maintain that fix. But to be a better, faster writer that saves time you must do it. So, turn off emails and social media while writing. Plus, you will be less distracted and more energized.
6. Set a timer
This is a new thing I recently tried. Do you know what? It actually worked. Having the clock ticking adds a little positive pressure to push and soldier through a writing project. I want to get done by the time the bell rings so I don’t let my mind wonder as much and I stay focused.
Now with that being said, I use the timer method for actual writing not for major editing, preparation or research. Although, now that I am thinking about it as I write this post, it might be good for that too. When I research I can go down a rabbit hole. Before I know it, time has passed and I’m still not done.
7. Create an outline.
An outline will help you know how to start and end. It will help your piece stay on course. Have you written an article or blog post only to recognize you are rambling and all over the place? I will be the first to raise my hand and say yes. But writing a little outline helps me avoid that pitfall.
In order to write that well-crafted or soon to be award- winning piece you got to be organized. This will lead to writing better, faster and save tons of time.
Several years ago, I had a nice corporate job. The pay was good. Commute wasn’t too bad and I had excellent benefits. While there, I was slowly losing my vision. Initially I was using low vision aids and devices like hand-held magnifiers, dark lined notebook paper, magnification software and a CC-TV device. However, my vision continue to worsen and I took a year off to attend classes at a vision rehabilitation center.
Considered Leaving Job
But when I returned the company climate had changed. Granted I had changed too. A disability will do that to you. Nevertheless, the office was different. Yet, my supervisor was the same. My co-workers were the same. I finally put a finger on it. Although I was happy to return to the workplace I was dissatisfied with my actual work. I mentioned this to my vision rehabilitation counselor. I told her I was thinking about leaving because the work was no longer exciting or challenging. Her reaction was quick and not encouraging. She shared with me all the work and effort others put into me returning to work. I was a great example of a successful disabled person reentering the workforce. How could I just up and leave?
I was surprised by her reaction. It communicated to me a certain mindset. I told her I was only thinking about it and wouldn’t leave unless I had another job to go to. But this made me think. The unemployment rate for the disabled in America is pretty awful. Only about 21% of us are working. So, when we get a job we stay. We have been marketed as loyal and committed employees.
I soon realized I was a part of this working disabled community. How dare I leave this good job? People like me can’t be picky. I am blind and positions are scarce and options are limited. Whether I like the job or not I needed to stay. I needed to grin and bare it.
Hard to Find a Job
As we honor National Disability Employment Awareness Month I am going to flip the script. This is not a post about how important it is to hire us. Or how much value we bring to the job. Or how much we want to work. No, this is about quiet quitting. This term is trending right now but It is not new. People leave jobs all the time when they are not happy. Or they stay and do the bare minimum. But can the disabled do the same? Can we walk off the job and just leave when we are not being fulfilled? Or when we don’t get a raise or promotion? Well, the answer is no and here’s why.
As I said before a lot of work and effort go into employing a disabled person. We have to figure out transportation. We have to request and sometimes advocate for reasonable accommodations. We have extra barriers to overcome. Some physical and others attitudinal. So, we don’t quiet quit because the stakes are too high.
Employers want to feel comfortable hiring a disabled person. Unfortunately, a lot of employers do not and we don’t get the job whether we are qualified or not. This is not new info for people who are disabled. So, after much job searching and preparation when the job finally comes we grab it. We make real efforts to do our very best and try not to complain too much. We don’t quietly quit.
Employers Have Low Expectations
There is this attitude that people with disabilities should be ever so grateful for these opportunities. But I push back on that mentality. If I come to a workplace with the required skills and talents why should I be grateful? You are not hiring me because you feel sorry but because I can do the job and do it excellently.
However, over my 20+ years in the workforce I have learned this doesn’t always apply to the disabled community. I have come to realize employers will have low expectations regardless of my qualifications. They are only seeing a blind person in front of them and not much else.
So, when we get hired sometimes we are underemployed. Meaning we are working in jobs where are true talents and skills are not fully utilized. We are not challenged and called higher in our positions like able bodied people. Why is this? It is because people have a low expectation of our capabilities; thinking we can only do the bare minimum . This is not true. With the right motivation and supports we can go above and beyond what is expected.
Quiet Quitting Verses Quiet Firing
I was Working in a job where my employer saw my talents and skills. I was given challenging work and excelled in it. But management changed and I was relegated to a lower position. It impacted my morale and self-esteem. I continued to work the job because my prospects were limited. I didn’t quietly quit.
I realized years later this experience was quiet firing. LinkedIn News says quiet firing is going years without a raise or promotion, shifting responsibilities toward tasks that require less experience or a deliberate withdrawal of development and leadership opportunities.” Meaning, employees who are quietly fired might feel pushed out or set up to fail. Their employer is making their job feel like a thankless, unpleasant dead end.
Additionally, what on the surface may look like quiet quitting can actually be quiet firing. A disabled employee may exhibit lack of job enthusiasm or poorly preform their basic job duties. But in actuality it could be lack of reasonable accommodations to complete their tasks. I have witness disabled colleagues advocating and requesting accommodations only to get radio silence resulting in actual quitting or dismissal.
More Scrutiny and Consequences
Disabled employees can be scrutinized more than abled body colleagues. We sometimes feel we have to work twice as hard for half as much. So quiet quitting is more of a luxury . There are more consequences for us. For example, in all of my positions I have maintained a professional dress and wardrobe. I have taken extra time to properly groom myself. I know that because I am blind, people will focus more on my appearance than a sighted co-worker. I remember, at one job we had casual dress days but I still wore my professional attire.
What Do You Think?
When I think about all of this, I don’t see where quiet quitting is a real option for the disabled. I have given my perspective, but what are your thoughts? Do you believe the disabled can quietly quit? Have you experienced quiet quitting or even quiet firing? Share your thoughts and experiences with me.
When I first started using my white cane I learned how to cross busy streets and intersections. I learned how important it was to have my white cane directly in front of my body so that motorist could see it clearly. To a motorist, driving down the street or hovering at a streetlight, the white cane stands out because of its color and the red strips help deflect a vehicle’s headlights.
National White Cane Safety Day
Through my years of travel, I have learned how important it is to know and be aware of the laws that protect white cane travelers. The first national White Cane Day was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. It designated October 15th as National White Cane Safety Day. My home state, Georgia, went a step further and created a state law and protection for those pedestrians that use a white cane.
1. Did you know it’s legal to take a white cane through security at an airport? Yes, according to TSA. However, it has to go through the X-ray machine. So, when I travel through the airport I will fold my collapsible cane and place in the bin to avoid damage.
2. Do you know who was George A. Bonham? In 1930, Bonham, president of the Peoria Lions Club (Illinois), watched a man who was blind attempting to cross a street. The man’s cane was black and motorists couldn’t see it, so Bonham proposed painting the cane white with a red stripe to make it more noticeable. The idea quickly caught on around the country.
3. Did you know white canes are high tech? Inventors have equipped white canes with ultrasonic devices that detect obstacles up to nine feet away. Vibrations in the cane’s handle warn users of potential hazards in their path.
4. Did you know there is a standard technique for using a white cane? It was pioneered in 1944 by Richard E. Hoover, a World War II veteran rehabilitation specialist. His technique of holding a long cane in the center of the body and swinging it back and forth before each step to detect obstacles is still called the “Hoover Method.”
5. Did you know most people who are visually impaired don’t use a white cane? In fact, only a small number do; about 5% or less. The rest rely on their useable vision, a guide dog or a sighted guide.
6. Did you know there is more than one kind of white cane? There are actually three different kinds of white canes. The standard mobility cane, used to navigate. The support cane, used by people with visual impairments who also have mobility challenges. And the ID cane, a small, foldable cane used by people with partial sight to let others know they have a visual impairment.
7. Did you know certified Orientation & Mobility specialist can’t get their certification unless they train under a blindfold with a white cane? O&M specialists teach white cane technique but to become certified at least 120 hours must be spent blindfolded and traveling with a white cane.
8. Do you know what materials make a white cane? Today’s modern, lightweight canes are usually made from aluminum, fiberglass or carbon fiber, and can weigh as little as seven ounces. Some white cane users prefer straight canes, which are more durable, while others prefer collapsible canes, which can be folded and stored more easily.
9. Did you know you can’t use a white cane if you are not visually impaired? In some states, it’s illegal for a person who is not legally blind to use a white cane to gain right of way while crossing a street. For example, in Florida you’ll face second-degree misdemeanor charges and up to 60 days in prison.
10. Did you know that not all canes are white? A cane with alternating red and white stripes signifies that the user is DeafBlind. A cane with red at the tip indicates the user has no vision. However, this is standard. Although a little controversial because the white cane is strongly recommended for identification, some people will use other colors they like, or to make a fashion statement or to deflect from their blindness. Those who want to express individuality will choose a colored cane. The colors range from black to purple or pink and more.
What Did You Learn?
After reading these 10 intriguing facts, how much did you learn about the white cane? Are you familiar with the White Cane Safety law? Share your thoughts and comments and let’s discuss the use of the white cane.