Category Archives: Daily Living

My Giving to Charities Changed Focus When I Became Disabled

Empish Writing a Check

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

Little Black Girl Wearing Braids and Walking with White Cane

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.

Empish with Guest Roderick Parker at GaRRS Studio

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.

Empish Reading Braille

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.

Using Less Stuff: How My Blindness Supports a Minimalist Lifestyle

Empish selecting clothes in closet

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

Empish placing items in blue recycle bag

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.

Empish selecting shoes in shoe boxes

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

Empish Crawling to Chair

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

A paper shredder and a clear bin with paper being shredded.

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

Empish sitting on mat in a yoga prayer pose

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?

Georgia Poll Worker Used SB 202 to Deny Me Voting Assistance

Voting Booth

Preform My Civic Duty

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.

Empish Wearing Facemask and Gloves Standing Outside Voter Precinct After Voting in 2020 Presidential Election

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!

A pink birthday cake with a shiny gold #1 candle on top

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

Close Up of Accessible Voting Keypad

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.

Empish at Paper Voting Machine Demo

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.

Researched SB 202

Empish Sitting in Front of Laptop Wearing Headset with Microphone

Once I got home I went online to research SB 202. The information I found said nothing about assisting or not assisting a blind voter. This law has to do with the following:

  • Changes in absentee voting.
  • Changes to vote counting.
  • Changes in early voting.
  • Changes effecting local voter offices.
  • Changes effecting the state election board.

ADA Addresses Blind Voting

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

Filing Complaint

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.

How Do I Speak to a Blind Person? Here’s 13 Ways to Communicate

An older white man smiling. He is talking to an older smiling Black man. One has on a blue shirt while the other has on a green shirt.

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.!

Several blank colorful name tags

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.

A messy desktop

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

At the top is a red arrow pointing to the right. At the bottom is a blue arrow pointing to the left.

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.

10 Ways I Take the Internet for Granted and You Probably Do Too

Empish Sitting in Front of Laptop Wearing Headset with Microphone

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

Empish Writing a Check

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

Empish watching TV. She is sitting on sofa pointing remote control at TV.

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

A man with only his Torso visible. He is wearing a doctor’s coat and stethoscope around his neck. He is holding a cell phone in his hands.

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

Stack of Newspapers

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

Woman sitting at table using a laptop to look for a job

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?

Grappling with Disorganized Writing? Read My Tips to Write Better, Faster  and Save Time

photo of a messy desktop

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.

Empish Reading Braille Calendar with Her Fingers

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.

A closeup of various newspaper headlines

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.

Empish Sleeping

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.

Empish Using an iPhone

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.

Do You Know About the White Cane? Read These 10 Intriguing Facts

Two White Blind Teens Holding canes and Sign Saying Celebrate White Cane Safety Day

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

Empish Holding White Cane at Street Intersection

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.

In honor of White Cane Safety Day, I have listed some intriguing facts provided by the Perkins School for the Blind and Accessibility.com. Read them to see how much you learn.

10 Intriguing Facts

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.

Little Black Girl Wearing Braids and Walking with White Cane

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.

a blind woman wearing sunglasses and holding a white cane

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.

Can You be Safe Without Sight? Yes, and Here’s How I Protect Myself

Empish demonstrating a self defense pose with her hands near her sholders

Do you know One of the most  common misperceptions about blind people? It is we are more vulnerable  to attack than sighted people. This is a dangerous myth. First it implies we are an easy target. Second, it creates a false notion that if we were attacked we couldn’t  protect ourselves

Class and Audiobook on Self Defense for the blind

Sept. 26 is National Situational Awareness Day. This holiday made me reflect  on the time when I took  the Safe without Sight self defense course at  the Center for the Visually Impaired. I   remember feeling some stress because of the idea of being attacked. Who wants to think about that? However, I realized the value  because I needed to learn ways to protect myself now that I was blind.

I learned so much about  self defense  . Since that was some years ago, I refreshed my knowledge and recently read the audiobook from Bookshare, “Safe Without Sight: Crime Prevention And Self-Defense Strategies For People Who Are Blind” by Wendy David. The book was written  back in the 90’s but still packed with  excellent tips that I want to share. Hopefully after reading this post, you will be even more determined to protect yourself too.

Listen to Your Intuition

Intuition, common sense, gut reaction, funny feeling, small voice or even the Holy Spirit. We might all have different ways to describe that sensation  you get when something is a bit off. All I can say is trust it whatever you call it because  it will save your life.

Once I was in a support group  and when I sat next to  another member I quickly got a bad feeling. I was struggling to trust  my gut reaction. I didn’t know the man and felt I was being judgmental. His actions toward me didn’t display  anything harmful. So, instead of getting up like my intuition told me to do I stayed and sat next to him during the meeting.

A few weeks later  all of us in the support group were told he was not returning. Apparently he had been touching women in appropriately and there had been several complaints. I was in shock and this news sobered  me. I knew from now on to trust my gut  and do what it said no matter the circumstances or how uncomfortable  I became.

Why Don’t We Listen?

The million dollar question is why we don’t listen. We are trained to be nice to people. To not make waves or hurt people’s feelings. It is a standard Rule to disregard our own feelings over others. Also, we tell ourselves to be reasonable. We discount our own emotions even when things are glaringly obvious.

Pay Attention to Your Surroundings

Pay attention to your surroundings. In our highly distracted world,  we are looking down at our phones while walking or driving. I remember when I was a young girl, my mother  was teaching me how to ride public transportation. We were at the bus stop and this car kept circling by. She pointed this out to me and I hadn’t notice. She said always pay attention to what is going on around you.

I have never forgotten that lesson because now that I am blind it is even more relative. Today, as part of my awareness strategy, When traveling I ask questions. For example, what other businesses are in the area, what does the front of the building look like, are their stairs  or is there a flat surface. Or when sitting in a room, I sit close to the door and know exactly where it is located. I do this in case of an emergency  for a quick retreat.

Pay Attention to Body Language  and Facial Features

I also Pay attention to my body language and facial features. I walk and move with purpose and assurance. I keep my head tilted upward and straight ahead. I will look confident even when   I’m not. When interacting with people I speak clearly  ,No mumbling  or whispering.

Use Other Senses to Pay Attention

Empish Holding White Cane at Street Intersection

I use my other senses to pay attention and navigate the world. Sound, smell and touch all tell me what is happening. Someone’s tone of voice or the traffic flow at a crosswalk are pieces of valuable information. Interesting smells can tell you things about a person like their cologne, if they smoke cigarettes, or have bad body odor. Touching objects like walls, doors or furniture  communicate  location.

Spatial Awareness

Boundary setting is critical for good self defense. You must be clear, both verbally and physically, with your personal space. For us, blind folks, good spatial awareness  is key. It  means understanding  where you are physically  as it relates to other  things such as people and objects. I use this skill daily to find  furniture and turning  hallway corners. Mastering this skill has kept me free from harm and danger.

Spatial awareness Also includes my feelings. The ability to feel if you are close to something or not. It is a little hard to explain  but I can get a sensation  when I am moving toward or away from something without actually seeing it. This skill is handy when people get too physically close to me.

Setting Verbal Boundaries

Setting verbal boundaries  come up when people ask me personal questions. Two that raised a red flag are do you live alone, and how much vision do you have. This is a tricky thing to figure out sometimes. People  are naturally curious and ask questions  about my vision loss. This doesn’t mean  they will harm me. Admittedly, I get tired of this  but I try to be kind and gentle. I don’t always know the person’s intention when asking so I will proceed with caution. Sometimes I don’t answer at all.

Who is asking the question, what is my situation I am in? What is happening around me? Do I feel safe having this dialogue? Do I feel comfortable? I have learned it is okay to lie. This is  my personal safety  we are talking about and I don’t have to be honest. Or I will give a general answer especially in public settings. I realize other people are listening too causing me to be mindful of the conversation.

I practice this all the time at the doctor’s office. When I have to fill out medical documents I will request to do that in a private waiting room. Sometimes when I am asked to give my address I will hand the person at the counter my state ID instead of verbally  giving it out.

Setting Physical Boundaries

A side veiw of Empish demonstrating a self defense stanze with her feet apart and hands up near her shoulders

I am particular about people in my personal space, especially if  I don’t know you well. I have taken the initiative to shake hands instead of hugging. This lets the person know my boundaries. I will be verbal and extend my hand toward them. I communicate to not grab my arm. I have been  forceful  when necessary. Women are socialized to be quiet  and not assertive. But this is my personal space  and I have to speak up.

I know we can implement  these self defense techniques regardless of vision. Still, they are chiefly important for  people with vision loss  and even other types of disabilities. Listening to your intuition, being aware of your surroundings and setting boundaries are the keys to good self defense. Are there other self defense strategies we can do? What tips do you have about protecting yourself?

Dressing in the Dark? Here’s My 5 Tips to Organize Fashion Accessories for the Blind

Empish selecting clothes in closet

Reading a recent article  about New York Fashion Week in the Daily Beast, got me thinking. The article  noted the increase in disabled models and designers. It stressed the importance of diversity and accessibility. How representation  matters in the fashion industry. Although, the event just ended on Sept. 14, it  reminded me of my early years of vision loss. I knew how  vital it was to look my best and be stylish. I wanted to represent my community in the best possible way.

Reorganizing After Vision Loss

This meant reorganizing  my accessories and wardrobe. Nothing was really accessible for me. I couldn’t just go in my closet and grab  an outfit without sighted help. I had to figure out a way.

Why is this important to me? I have always been an accessory conscious woman, matching shoes with handbag, lipstick with nail polish and necklace with earrings. I was trained by very fashion-savvy parents  and female relatives. They were always impeccably dressed in colorful-coordinated attire.

As a young adult, I perused fashion magazines constantly. I even pursued a fashion design and merchandising degree but lost too much vision to finish. Understanding that first impressions are critical, I accessorized my clothing purposefully.

When I went totally blind dressing and accessorizing became very challenging. At first I pondered how to keep up with new trends, fabric selections and eye-catching colors. Determined to not allow my blindness to be an excuse to be a fashion misfit, I learned valuable techniques on how to organize my accessories to complete any outfit in my closet. I don’t profess to be a traffic stopping fashion diva. Yet, I find that paying close attention to my accessories and wardrobe goes a long way in erasing stereotypes and commanding respect.

1. Organizing Scarfs

I began by organizing my scarves. Before my vision loss I had scarves all over the bedroom hung on outfits, stuffed in dresser drawers and tied to doorknobs. Scarves are a great accessory and can add flavor to an outfit. They make a simple, drab outfit look colorful and stylish.

With the help of a vision rehabilitation teacher, I found a hanging bag with multiple pouches perfect for storing scarves. I put one scarf in each pouch. On the front is a Braille label description for the color and design . To conserve space, I use abbreviations like “bk for black, “rd” for red or “pk” for pink. For scarves that matched specific outfits, I tied the scarf around the outfit’s hanger so it is ready to go.

2. Organizing Shoes

Empish selecting shoes in shoe boxes

In the past, I was a fancy foot wearing female. Shoes were such a vital part of my outfits. I had shoes in multiple colors for dress and casual wear. Pumps, sandals, stacked heels and mules – I had them all. I kept shoes in rows on the closet floor in no particular arrangement. Now because of my disability and working from home I have scaled back to a couple of pairs. Yes, I know I am not the typical female  but less is better. I keep track  with little worry about disorganization. I tell the difference by touch, feeling for shape, texture  and style.

3. Organize Jewelry in Small Boxes

It has been said that diamonds are a girl’s best friend. For me it is diamonds, pearls, gold, silver, and all kinds of costume jewelry. I love jewelry and always had it setting out on my dresser. Pearl necklaces, gold bracelets, lapel pins and colorful earrings were arranged randomly. I discovered a brilliant way to recycle mini jewelry boxes. I store earrings, necklaces and bracelets in sets. If this wasn’t feasible, I organized according to similar color and design. For example, all red earrings were placed in one box and all pearl jewelry in another. I use touch to distinguish between smooth round earrings and fabric-covered lapel pins. I store the boxes in a large plastic container, so all  my jewelry is in one place.

4. Organize Lipsticks with Braille Labeling

Five tubes of lipsticks standing up in a line with one tube laying down in front.

Once I had my accessories organized, my next challenge was establishing a similar system for lipsticks. I love lipsticks and don’t wear any other fascial cosmetic . Before learning Braille, I determined lipstick by touch. Manufacturers use different tube designs. Some  tubes are round with ridges while others are square and smooth. Today, since I know Braille, I placed a label on each tube. This helps me to know the differences in color.

A black and white braille label gun with turn dial displaying both braille and print letters and numbers.

5. Organizing Clothes in Closet

Accessories add flair  to an outfit completing  the  ensemble. But I needed to focus on my clothing too. In my closet I have my clothes organized in sections. Short sleeve tops, then long sleeve. Next is skirts and pants. Finally, is two-piece outfits  . They all have Braille color labels. This system makes it easy to find  what I want to wear.

These techniques have been very successful, resulting in numerous awe-inspiring compliments from friends, co-workers and even strangers. People always ask me how I do it, and it gives me the opportunity to share my creative fashion organizing tips. It has also been a big boost to my self confidence as a blind woman.

Blindness and My Hair: Why I use a Professional Stylist  to Help Me Look Fabulous

Empish with Fresh Hair Style at Salon

After I lost my vision I knew I had to seek a professional stylist. It had nothing to do with my self-esteem  or confidence. Rather  it was about being practical. No more were the days of coloring my own hair or using at  home hair relaxing kits. I didn’t have enough vision to do the job properly. And with working in professional  environments,  I had to be especially sure my appearance  was spot on.

Many wrongly assume people with vision loss lack interest in their appearance.  They think it is because of the vision impairment. They think because we can’t see ourselves  we don’t care as much. But I am here to tell you this is a bold face lie! We spend time and attention to our appearance  because we care about ourselves  and know we will be judged more harshly  in certain circumstances.

So, I went off seeking a professional stylist. I was fortunate and lucked out with a great person. She has been my hair stylist for 20+ years. That’s a long time and here’s why I am still a loyal customer.

Adjusted Hair Regiment Because of Medication

In the first few years of my blindness, I was taking several medications that cause hair damage. The texture of my hair changed and it was falling out. My stylist immediately recognized  this and shifted my hair regiment accordingly. She put me on a treatment plan  that would help my hair while  not causing more damage.

Once things had settled down and I was totally off meds she went back to my  routine hair treatment. That was several years ago. Today I am undergoing  more changes. Mostly from getting older. I have more dryness, grey and thinning on the top. So, we have shifted again to adjust to these changes. She  moved to another haircare product line  and suggested  the same for  at home. If I were doing my own hair, I seriously doubt I would have known what to do or had the same results.

Sensitive to My  Disability

My stylist has always been sensitive to my disability. First, she has created styles  that I can manage independently. She will describe what she is doing and give me instructions  for home maintenance. This could be how to style and apply haircare products, to using curling irons and hair dryers.

Second, she is aware I use Paratransit, a specialized transportation system for the disabled, making sure we start and end on time. She is always done by the time they arrive  to pick me up. Even the other stylists in the salon will help look out for my transportation. They will Walk me to and from the bus when it arrives.

Clear on Salon COVID Protocols

When the pandemic struck  barber and beauty salons  shut down quickly. Do you remember that? Nobody was going to get their  hair  styled, shampooed or cut anywhere. I was hearing about people on YouTube  trying the DIY  thing. There were all kinds of videos on coloring, styling and cutting your hair. I stayed away from all of that because we talked over the phone  about steps to take. She gave me directions  on what to do to maintain  my hair at home. I was really grateful  to have a professional stylist during this time  because again I  don’t think I would have known what to do.

Empish wearing orange top with her college alumni, Florida A&M University, facemask

Once businesses  reopened, she gave clarity on the salon’s COVID procedures. She emailed  what would be happening and how I needed to handle myself. We all wore facemasks  and the stylist spread out in the building.

National Beauty and Barber Week

This week, Sept 11-17, is National Beauty and Barber Week. I wanted to acknowledge  the people in this profession. They work hard to help people look fabulous. Do you have a professional hair stylist? If so, how  is your experience? Or do you  manage your hair on your own?