Category Archives: Daily Living

How I Created a Vision Board without Vision

Empish Holding her Vision Board she Created to Get Out of Credit Card Debt in 2012

At the beginning of the year many people focus on their vision, dreams, goals and resolutions. In the past I have made New Year’s resolutions only for them to last a few months afterward.  Or I set goals that I quickly forgot about. Or I didn’t set any at all. But in 2012 I stepped out and did something totally different. For the first time I created a vision board even though I am blind. Today is National Vision Board Day and I am going back in time to share my story. I hope that it will help motivate and inspire you to create your own vision board. I want to encourage you to set goals and intentions for this year and to look beyond barriers or stumbling blocks to bigger and greater things in your life.

The first time I heard of the idea of a vision board was after reading the book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. I knew people wrote their goals and dreams for their life in a private journal but actually displaying that on a board that you look at daily was a different concept. At first, I just thought that was a very cool idea and dismissed it because I am blind. I thought how would a “vision board” help me with pursuing my goals and dreams? “After all I can’t see the board,” my mind told me. But the vision board concept came up again when I was invited to a women’s community meeting. When I read the invite, I was thinking again this is not for me. I am blind and can’t create a vision board. But since this was the second time it came up, I decided to   investigate the idea. I talked to a blind friend who really challenged me to go to the meeting and create a vision board too. She explained that I should not allow my disability to keep me from fully participating. I thought, “How will I do this?” Then the idea came to me. It was like   that little light bulb over the cartoon character’s head in a comic strip.

My Vision Board Idea

I would create a vision board but it would be a tactual one. Instead of drawings, pictures or written words I would use raised objects I could touch and feel. Before I got started creating my tactual vision board, I had to sit down and think about what my vision would be.  Lose weight? Make Lots of money? Get married? Travel the world? Advance my career? All of those were great ideas but not exactly what I had in mind. Then it came to me – get out of credit card debt.  I had one credit card that I needed to pay off and like a lot of people I was paying the bare minimum, which of course, will take forever! Next, I called an artistic friend and shared my idea. I told her I wanted to create a vision board that would show in one column my debt and in the next column would be a rain cloud with rain falling demonstrating a “rainy day” fund. I wanted to have arrows pointing from the debt column to the rainy-day column to show that I would be moving my money from one place to the other. One thing I have learned about money is that if you don’t assign it to a specific area such as things like vacation, retirement, home repairs or savings you will waste it. So, I wanted to get out of debt and then use that money to create an emergency fund for things that might come up unexpectedly.Board

Empish Writing a Check

Getting Help to Assemble Board

She agreed to help and we headed to Target to pick up supplies. She was great with helping select tactual items from the scrapbook aisle   in the store. I got raised self-adhesive letters and numbers to use for the words and dollar amounts. I got self-adhesive squares to use as credit cards. “Who knew that scrapbook supplies could be also used to create and design my tactual vision board?” Lastly, she helped me select a colorful posterboard to display everything on. As we chose items, I got really excited and realized that I could do this! Woohoo! I was envisioning myself actually creating a vision board. What a concept for a person who is totally blind!

When I got home with all my supplies, I responded to the meeting invite and contacted the coordinators. I wanted them to know that I would need some help assembling my board. They were more than happy to assist and were excited that I was coming. On the meeting day, they warmly greeted me when I arrived and had a table set up for me to use. I explained my vision for my board and we began to assemble the pieces on the board. Before permanently pasting and gluing the pieces down I told them I wanted to touch and feel everything to be sure the board was correct. Once I did, we worked together removing the self-adhesive strips and I pointed to the places on the board where I wanted them to be placed. While they put the pieces down, I got cotton balls and pulled them apart to resemble clouds. Next, we glued them on the board above the tactual raised raindrops to resemble rain coming down. For the square pieces that looked like credit cards we placed raised letters that spelled out the words American Express, Master Card and VISA on top of the squares. We then placed raised arrows between the two columns to show money moving from one side of the board to another. After everything on my vision board was in place, I touched again and felt around to be sure it was exactly what I had envisioned in my mind and a picture was taken of my completed vision board. After that I went to the front of the room and shared, with the 20 plus women assembled, my journey with creating this board. I told them how at the beginning I was not confident about creating a vision board since I had no physical vision. I told them how I decided to stretch myself and venture into doing something I had never done before. I explained the process of how I created my board and encouraged the women to come and check it out for themselves. The women were all impressed, praised me for being creative and finding a way to do this.

What visions or dreams do you have for yourself this year? Have you ever created a vision board? If so, what was the experience like? What about creating a tactual vision board? If not, has this post inspired you to do so? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Year 2020 is a Wrap!

Fireworks Display

Well, y’all the year 2020 is a wrap! And boy what a year it has been for all of us. Who what have known all the things that happened this year? Wild fires, hurricanes and floods, police brutality, racial tension, distressing elections and of course the big kahuna COVID-19.  I struggle sometimes just to remember what happened last week with so much going on! I am not going to sit here and write one of those top-10-year-in-review type blog posts because you can easily go online and read that already. But what I am going to do is make a meager effort to do a mini recap of some of the things I blogged about here on Triple E.

I started this blog in January of this year and I was able to successfully write a blog post on a regular basis. My goal was to write a post weekly. I didn’t quite make it but I came very close with 50 published posts and with 52 weeks in a year that is not bad! Actually, that is a major accomplishment with all the craziness going on, managing this blog on my own and having a visual disability. So, I am going to pat myself on the back for this one! Woohoo!

Empish and the Author, Noel Holston at Library Book Signing

One of my first post focused on reading and books. I attended a book signing at the library about a man who experience deafness. I was so taken by his story I not only went to the signing, chatted and took a photo with him afterward, but wrote a book review called Life After Deaf. This one post led me to write many more during the year on this topic of books and the devices I use to enjoy them.  I even connected Black History Month with a book I read on Haban Girma who was the first deafblind black woman to graduate From Harvard. One cool thing about blogging is that you can revise, revamp and reprint old post from the past. I did that a couple of times but noted it specifically when I reposted a review on the March Trilogy by Congressman John Lewis to honor him when he died this year.

Empish at Concession Stand Purchasing Popcorn

Besides my love for books and reading, watching movies runs a close second. Before the coronavirus caused the theaters to shut down, I would go to the movies a couple of times a week. But all of that changed in mid-March and I settled for watching movies at home only. Even when my AMC theater reopened, I decided to not go back and I shared why in a post.

Empish Sitting in Front of Laptop Wearing Headset with Microphone

I have been able to watch movies at home thanks to accessible technology. I wrote several posts this year on how important  this is from being my own tech support to the anniversaries of the ADA and GAAD.

 

The biggest technology change for me this year has been using Zoom videoconferencing. Prior to the coronavirus I used Zoom for one of my monthly book clubs but my usage increased tremendously. This year I started using Zoom for telemedical appointments, exercise classes, socializing and volunteering. I have been Zooming all over the place this year! Unfortunately, all my technology experiences were not positive and I hit some major road blocks. I struggled with depositing paper checks with my bank’s mobile app and my advocacy efforts didn’t provide any relief. I aired out my frustrations here on Triple E. Although I didn’t get a satisfactory resolution from the bank, I was able to from the issuer of the checks.

I felt okay about that and I realized during this COVID-19 crisis that my mental and physical health were more important than ever before.  I wrote about managing my anxiety,  exercising and strengthening my body at home, maintaining good eyecare, wrestling with my lack of sleep, and grieving during a pandemic. Due to all that was happening I made more efforts to keep a positive attitude and pursue happiness in the small things.

Empish Working in Home Office

Now it is time to say goodbye to year 2020. To let go of all that transpired this year and look ahead to the new year. I am excited about the possibilities of what this next year will bring. I have set more goals for Triple E. Writing more interesting stories about blindness and visual impairment. More reviews on books that I have read.  More of my views on current topics, technology and much, much more. So, stay tuned! I look forward to the journey and you coming with me. Let us all have a Happy New Year!

Lessons I Learned from a Frog

A frog jumping from a leaf

Once upon a time there were four frogs. They went for a little hop around town. There was a big hole in front of them, but, unfortunately, they didn’t see it until it was too late. All four of the frogs fell into the hole! Immediately after fallin into the hole, the frogs started jumping trying to get out. After a while, two of the frogs got tired and gave up. The other two frogs continued to jump, trying to get out of the hole. After many hours, the third frog also gave up. Only one frog continued to try and jump out of the hole. The other frogs cheered him on for a while, but when jumping out of the hole seemed impossible, they started to call him names. Hours passed and the little frog continued jumping, trying to get out of the hole. The other frogs continued to ridicule him, calling him all kinds of bad names, and saying, “Just give up!  It’s not going to happen!  You are wasting your time.” But the little frog continued to jump. And as he continued to jump, his little legs got stronger and stronger. His jumps became higher and higher, until one day he jumped right out of that hole. Oh, it was something to behold! Well, when he got out of the hole of course there were other frogs up top, waiting to find out how he got out of such a deep hole. The other frogs were bombarding him with questions, but the little frog never said a word. The little frog began to leave.  The other frogs went calling after him, but he did not turn around. They soon discovered that the frog was deaf. He never heard a word that they were saying and neither did he hear the other frogs ridiculing him and telling him that it was impossible for him to jump out of the hole. His deafness became his strength; it was the reason he got out of the hole. 

This story of the frog was adapted from a folk tale and shared with me by a former co-worker when I worked at the Center for the Visually Impaired. Occasionally, I go back and read this story to gather encouragement, strength and inspiration. Lately there has been so much negative and stressful stuff going on that I pulled it out of my files yet again. But this time I wanted to share with you along with a couple of valuable lessons I have learned.

Lesson in Perseverance

The frog taught me about pushing through and persevering. When he realized his predicament, he never stopped trying to improve his situation and get out of it. He kept jumping and jumping. Right now, a lot of us, including myself are dealing with COVID-19 fatigue. This virus has got us down and singing the blues in major ways.  But we have got to keep wearing our mask, washing our hands, practicing social distancing and push on.

Additionally, I am dealing with political exhaustion. I will be voting yet again in January for the Georgia U.S. Senate seat. The number of phone calls, text messages, TV ads, and mailbox flyers has got my head spinning. I understand the importance of this runoff election and how critical it is but boy am I tired! Then on top of that the political bickering and fighting over the recent presidential election results has been a bit too much for me personally

Lesson in Doing What You Do

The frog did what he always did. Frogs jump and hop around. That is what God created and designed them to do. The difference is that he did more of it and didn’t stop. For me I realize that to succeed in my goals, I need to continue to do what I do. God has given me talents and skills that are specific to me.  I don’t need to sit around thinking and pondering about it.  I don’t need to look at other people. Just do what I need to do and things will happen for me. Just like the frog, when he kept jumping his legs got stronger making it easier and better for him to ultimately get out of that hole.

Lesson in Turning Off the Noise and Distractions

The frog didn’t pay attention to the negativity around him. He was laser focus on his goal which was to get out of that hole. Even when he got out, he stayed fixated and didn’t even stop to conversate about it with other frogs but kept moving on. He didn’t get distracted and caught up in the chatter and noise. There is so much around to sidetrack me from my purpose. It can be easy to get off track and lose sight of the end game. But I have to remind myself don’t get caught up in the noise, drama, craziness and disruptions in the world.

So, after reading about the frog. what powerful lessons did you learn? Or did this story just reinforce what you already knew that you needed to do? How can a little frog help you to have a better life?

Giving Thanks During a Pandemic

a Thanksgiving horn of plenty with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables

This year’s Thanksgiving Day will be one for the history books. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade will be virtual. We are encouraged by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to have small gatherings, remotely  or none  at all. Black Friday store sales will be more online to avoid large crowds. And even the iconic holiday classic Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving special didn’t air on regular  TV but on PBS and Apple +. Additionally, these last few months have been hard, stressful and even depressing for a lot of people. Many of us have been isolated at home, dealing with economic ups and downs, work challenges, political and racial unrest. It has been an incredible year and that’s putting it mildly! We still got a whole month left to go before 2020 is over. Yet in the midst of all of this having an attitude of gratitude is so important to maintain hope and resilience. Thanksgiving Day is today and there are so many things to be grateful for during this pandemic.

To start off. The fact that I can write this blog post about being thankful in the first place! I can start right here because a year ago this blog didn’t even exist. I was working my way toward it and prior to it was just an idea that I had in my head. But here I am a year later; producing something that I am very thankful and proud to possess. This blog and website have stretched me. It has been challenging and wonderful all at the same time.

Another thing I think about is my basic necessities. I remember when this pandemic started and everyone was panic shopping toilet tissue. You remember that don’t you? Well, it seems that has slowed down a bit, or at least where I live. Online grocery shopping is still touch and go but when I go in person, I do get the items I need and I am so grateful for that. I do remember when the shelves were bare to empty and that has improved. I go into the grocery store more grateful now, especially when I see an item that was out of stock for a long time.

I am grateful for my telemedical appointments with doctors. During this pandemic I have been able to continue my medical care and have Zoom calls with my doctors. Additionally, In the last few months I have been meeting with a physical therapist to help with my right knee pain. As a result of those visits the pain is virtually gone and I have learned how to strengthen my body, improve my posture and balancing. I feel so much better not just physically but mentally too. I realized that I don’t have to live in pain. For a long time, I would just push through and now I know that is unnecessary and unwise.

During this pandemic many people have struggled with finding things to do to occupy their time. Well, for me it has been the opposite. I am so grateful for a full, rich and rewarding life. I have plenty of things to do. A variety of things that I can focus on each day-from my writing work, to reading interesting books, listening to a wide variety of podcasts, watching audio described movies and keeping up with friends and family. I got a lot on my plate. I have actually had to work on scaling back and learning ways to remove things and not allow stuff to stress me out if I don’t get to it.

So, today I encourage you to pause and think about what you are grateful for. It is easy to focus on all the things that are going wrong and are not happening. But take this time to concentrate on the goodness in the world. The things that bring you joy and pleasure. The people that you love and cherish. Even during a pandemic there are plenty of things to be thankful for in life.

Audio Description Podcast on Current Events and News Gives Me Visual Perspective

Empish Using an iPhone

I am sitting on my sofa watching the 6 p.m. evening news. The reporter stops the broadcast for a news break about a bombing, police shooting, natural disaster or terroristic attack. The reporter gives all the relative information, i.e. the when, what and why. But the scene is all visual and I can only speculate what is actually happening. Since I have some visual memory and imagination I can kind of piece things together but as the years go by and I spend more time on the blind side of things my memories are fading. Certain things I don’t remember anymore and are getting hard to recall. Sometimes when I ask friends and family, they are hesitant to describe the imagery because it is disturbing and painful to watch so I don’t ask often. Other times I refer to newspapers and magazine articles for assistance because this print medium must “show not tell” in its description.

Well, I don’t have to totally rely on any of those things anymore. I can listen on my iPhone to a weekly podcast called Talk Description to Me. The two hosts J.J. Hunt and Christine Malec discuss recent events and topical issues to explore the content of important images, and help place healthy descriptions in their cultural context. Their dialogue is lively, witty, colorful and enjoyable. J.J. is a sighted man and a professional audio describer while Christine is female, blind and curious about all-thins visual.

This podcast launched in July with an intense and sobering description of the killing of George Floyd. Prior to this listening I had not had anyone describe his death for obvious reasons. It was a hard one to hear but I wanted to get a full understanding of exactly what happened to him and the huge national and international reaction. It all began to make even more sense to me after listening to this episode. I went on to learn about the uniform of a current police officer. I realized how much things have changed since I went blind. That officers no longer look like they did when I was a child nor when I could see. Their uniforms have a more militarize look to them. This also helped me put the pieces together with the reactions and protesting that has been going on. Things became clearer and made more sense. I also realize that being blind has kept me somewhat ignorant too my surroundings even though I am not living in a cave with no WIFI. I watch the news, read the paper, books and magazines. The world is incredibly visual and images are so powerful.

Next were the vivid descriptions of the recent explosion in Beirut and the past attacks on September 11th. I remember my roommate at the time trying to describe to me the airplanes flying into those buildings. No matter how she tried I still couldn’t get a clear visual of what that totally looked like. I really struggled with it. But this podcast helped immensely not just with the actual attack but the aftermath and memorial.

Now, I know this podcast sounds like doom and gloom. You might think, “Why in the world would I want to listen to this sad and traumatic stuff?”  Well hold on. Not all descriptions on the podcast are disturbing or triggering. Other episodes focused on social media like Facebook and TikTok; or sport teams and consumer products like McDonalds and Uncle Ben’s rice. A recent episode was on Halloween which described the creative costumes like a Zoom call screen and the coronavirus. I thought how incredibly innovative people are in the midst of a pandemic. We are all trying to keep some level of normalcy in our lives.

Empish Holding Replica of the Capitol and Surrounding Buildings

Even though J.J. and Christine are based in Canada they have objective conversations on American issues and topics. They did a couple of episodes on our presidential election. One described this non-scalable fence around the White House. I knew about some kind of fence but I was taken aback when I heard about this one. Apparently new physical barriers were put up around election day. I remember when I took a vacation trip to DC and visited portions of the Mall. So much has changed since then. They also described one fence that was coated in protest signs. They. discussed current jerrymandering maps. Images of long lines to vote with social distancing. J.J. described photo essays of poll workers and voters. They read the headlines of national and international front pages with their images.

This podcast is so full of information yet richly entertaining. Presented in a respectful and unbiassed way. each time I listen I walk away learning something new. It brings a fresh perspective to current news trends and keeps me abreast. I look forward to each new episode where the “visuals of current events and the world around us get hashed out in description-rich conversations.”

People Watching Movies at Home

Enjoyed Three Evenings of Diverse Shorts at the Virtual Superfest Disability Film Festival

The true story of a bi-polar American white woman who joins the circus in Vietnam. A young woman who has Cerebral Palsy and a sexworker share an unusual story of love which challenges social norms. An unemployed disabled actress takes a job advising a film star on how to be disabled for his latest role. An eager to please doll in a wheelchair is placed in the perfect world of the self-absorbed, and must find a way to fit in or be thrown away. A Black woman who uses a wheelchair and wants to be an actress learns that accessibility isn’t just about physical space. These are summaries of some of the short films I saw during the Superfest Disability Film Festival a couple of weeks ago. The 15 pictures featured were written, produced and/or directed by people with disabilities and included actors with disabilities as well.

I watched 1 feature and 14 short films in audio description virtually from the comfort of my home on my computer. In the past the festival was held in the San Francisco Bay area but because of the pandemic they opted to show everything via Zoom. So being the movie lover that I am I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by and especially over a weekend.

Empish Sitting in Front of Laptop Wearing Headset with Microphone

According to their website, Superfest Disability Film Festival is the longest running disability film festival in the world. Since it first debuted in a small Los Angeles showcase in 1970 it has become an eagerly anticipated international event—hosted by San Francisco’s Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University. For more than 30 years, Superfest has celebrated cutting-edge cinema that portrays disability through a diverse, complex, unabashed and engaging lens. Superfest is one of the few festivals worldwide that is accessible to disabled filmgoers of all kinds.

I enjoyed the variety of films because of its diversity not just in subject matter but because they were produced overseas. I have long been interested in foreign films but because of subtitles can’t always view and enjoy them. Yet this time I was able too; seeing films from Japan, France, Italy, Finland and England. I appreciated universal story lines, complex characters and dealing with relatable issues which shows that people with disabilities are exactly that-people. The films didn’t shy away from real topics such as race, relationships, sex, employment, connection and community, rejection, isolation, illness, joy and happiness. These are all things that people can identify with every day.

The other part of the festival was the round table discussion. During the 3-day event there was a panel of people discussing the films, the production and writing process. I also enjoyed this part of the festival because it gave me insight into the world of film making. I learned a little about what happens behind the scenes, what took place to bring these films to the festival and even more so during a pandemic.

As in any large event it takes a lot of work to put all the pieces in place. There were a few hiccups and glitches along the way but I was impressed with how the organizers got things quickly back in place and moving again. As they say in the bus, “The show must go on!” And it did. I will definitely attend this festival again if hosted virtually. It was an enjoyable experience.

Review of For the Benefit of Those Who See

For the Benefit of Those Who See Book Cover

In a few days the month of October will end and so will Blind Awareness Month. I read this book where the author deals with her fears and curiosities about the blind and embarks on her own journey of blind awareness. The book is titled For the Benefit of Those Who See: Dispatches From the World of the Blind by Rosemary Mahoney. According to Barnes & Noble  here is a quick overview of the book:  In the tradition of Oliver Sacks’s The Island of the Colorblind, Rosemary Mahoney tells the story of Braille Without Borders, the first school for the blind in Tibet, and of Sabriye Tenberken, the remarkable blind woman who founded the school. Fascinated and impressed by what she learned from the blind children of Tibet; Mahoney was moved to investigate further the cultural history of blindness. As part of her research, she spent three months teaching at Tenberken’s international training center for blind adults in Kerala, India, an experience that reveals both the shocking oppression endured by the world’s blind, as well as their great resilience, integrity, ingenuity, and strength.

I appreciated her boldness and honesty when talking about a topic that people can be uncomfortable discussing. People really do fear the blind which has been on-going for a long time. Initially she was afraid and unsure about teaching at the school. This was partly due to her own fears about blindness in her own life. She indicates that she was already not a well-adjusted sighted person and was born inpatient and annoyed. But over time she adjusts and learns a lot from the blind students she teaches.

While teaching in the program, she talks about the isolation, fear, ignorance and hostility toward her students. She gives vivid details about how the surrounding community reacts to the school as well as the stories the students share about their experiences back home. But what is interesting is that these same things happen right here in the United States today. The United States has some of the lowest rates of visual impairment in the world, yet bblindness is still among the most feared physical disabilities.

I enjoyed reading some of the historical misconceptions about the blind she researched for the book. The blind has been thought of as idiots incapable of learning, as artful masters of deception or as mystics with supernatural powers. One of the most persistent misconceptions about the blind is that it is a curse from God for transgressions making them not just dangerous but evil. I could totally relate because I have experienced all of this and much more. There have been times when my intelligence was challenged or where I was perceived as either being very close to God having more spirituality or totally removed from God and cursed.

As humans we fear what we don’t understand or cannot relate to. Blindness can be something that is unconceivable and hard to imagine. Out of our five senses, vision is premium providing endless amounts of information. Facial expressions, body language, and other visual cues are a huge part of how we interact with each other. So, if a person is blind how do you interact? How do you have a conversation? How do you share common experiences? How do you connect?

Because we depend so heavily on our vision, we can’t even phantom how to live without it. People sometimes overload me with questions about my life as a blind person. How do you get dress? How do you put on your makeup? How do you cook? Do you work anywhere? If so, what kind of work do you do? How do you travel? Do you live alone? Do you have children? And the list goes on and on. People are naturally curious and fascinated at how we live our lives. They just can’t imagine that we are able to function and live a happy, normal and prosperous life. 

With that being said the perception of the blind can be that we are amazing, inspirational and super heroes. This is a form of ablism. I am just a regular everyday person like most people. I get stressed out at times. I laugh at a funny joke. I worry about the environment. I cry watching a sad movie. I have good and bad hair days. I live my life much like everyone else. We have to be careful that in our desire to esteem the blind we don’t go overboard that it becomes insulting. She says, “I do not intend to suggest there is something wonderful about blindness. There is only something wonderful about human resilience, adaptability and daring.” I personally appreciate this comment and think it can apply to all people; sighted or blind.

This was an interesting read. What are your thoughts on this topic?Why do you think people fear the blind? Can anything be done about it? If so, what? Let’s discuss and help change the negative thoughts and attitudes about blindness. Share your ideas in the comment section below.

Blindness and Disability are Popular Themes for October

The fall is my favorite season and time of the year. The weather is cooler. The autumn colors of brown, orange, golden yellow, dark red and green are on display. October is the month when all of this jumps off. But one other thing I recently noticed is the number of blind and disabled observations happening at this time too. Not sure why this is the case but I couldn’t let another day go by without pointing them out. Or at least the ones I know about.

Man Getting an Eye Exam

1.  World Sight Day is held on the second Thursday of October every year and aims to focus global attention on vision impairment and blindness. There is a different theme every year, with many of those who mark the Day taking the opportunity to both celebrate achievements to date and advocate for increasing attention towards eye care.  According to the World Health Organization 1 billion people around the world have a preventable vision impairment or one that has yet to be addressed.  Reduced or absent eyesight can have major and long-lasting effects on all aspects of life, including daily personal activities, interacting with the community, school and work opportunities and the ability to access public services.

2.  White Cane Safety Day is observed nationally on October 15th. It was a law passed to protect white cane pedestrians by giving them the right of way and recognizing that the white cane was a symbol of blindness. President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law in 1964.

3.  Blind Americans Equality Day. In 2011, White Cane Safety Day was also named Blind Americans Equality Day by President Barack Obama. The mission is to celebrate the continuing achievements of blind and visually impaired Americans and reaffirm the commitment to advancing their complete social and economic integration.

4.  Meet the Blind Month is hosted by the National Federation of the Blind every October. Throughout the month, members conduct a variety of outreach activities in their local communities. Many of these activities focus on White Cane Awareness Day, lived experiences with problem solving, self-confidence and intersectionality.

5.  National Disability Employment Awareness Month acknowledges the ingenuity people with disabilities bring to America’s workplaces. Each October NDEAM celebrates America’s workers with disabilities and reminds employers of the importance of inclusive hiring practices. In 1945, Congress declared the first week of October “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, the word “physically” was dropped to include individuals with all types of disabilities. Congress expanded the week to a month in 1988, and changed the commemoration to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

6.  Blind Awareness Month  was created by The Little Rock Foundation in Voorhees, New Jersey to promote improving blind and visually impaired children’s lives. The goal is to educate the public about good eye health, and treatment of eye disorders.  Inspire people with stories of the blind and their accomplishments. Advocate for research, resources and laws that benefit the blind community.

After doing my research I would dare to say that October is the month of the blind. I would encourage you to take some time and learn more, volunteer or donate to an organization serving the blind community.

Its a White Cane Not a Stick

The white cane has enabled me to travel safely and confidently by detecting stairs, sidewalk curbs, doorways and obstacles. It gives me the added security and protection I need so that I don’t stumble, fall or run into things. It identifies me as a person with a vision impairment. When people see my cane, they have a better understanding of my situation and can respond accordingly.  Or at least I think they should. I have found that people want to refer to my cane as a stick. I get responses like, “Where is your stick, Empish?”, “My relative who is blind uses one of those sticks too.”  Or my favorite is, “Where can I get one of those sticks?” My emotions range from frustration, annoyance to amusement.

So, why is my mobility aid a cane and not a stick? Have you ever wondered why the white cane is white and not some other color?  Who made the decision for the color white in the first place?  When did the blind start using white canes anyway? Well, since today is National White Cane Safety Day I thought it would be fitting to do a little digging into the history and the safety law around traveling with it.

Little Black Girl Wearing Braids and Walking with White Cane

Prior to the use of the official white cane people who were blind and/or visually impaired used staffs, sticks and canes as instruments in their modes of travel.  These tools were use more to alert the blind person to obstacles in their path rather than for noting their blindness.  It was not until the 20th century that the “cane” was used for identification purposes.  During the times of the two World Wars canes began to be used by people with vision loss; first starting in Europe and then branching out into the United States. According to the American Council for the Blind, James Biggs of Bristol claimed to have invented the white cane in 1921. After an accident claimed his sight, the artist had to readjust to his environment.  Worried by the increased motor vehicle traffic around his home, Biggs decided to paint his walking stick white to make himself more visible to motorists

The White Cane Becomes White

It was not until ten years later the white cane established its presence in society. A national white stick movement for people in France was launched. The campaign was duplicated in England and was sponsored by Rotary clubs throughout the United Kingdom. Yet, in the United States it was the Lion’s Clubs International that helped introduced the white cane to the blind community. In 1930, a Lion’s Club member watched as a blind man attempted to cross a busy street using a black cane. Realizing that the black cane was barely visible to motorists, the Lion’s Club decided to paint the cane white to increase its visibility. In 1931, the Lion’s Club International began a national program promoting the use of white canes for persons who were blind.H-

A Tool for Mobility

Black Man Wearing Shades and Walking with White Cane

Up to this time, blind people were using their white canes primarily as symbols of blindness not as a mobility aid. But when the blind veterans of World War II returned, the form and the use of the white cane changed. This was an attempt to get veterans active and involved in society again. Doctor Richard Hoover developed the “long cane” or “Hoover” method of cane travel. These white canes were designed to be used as mobility aids and returned the cane to its original role as a tool for mobility, while maintaining   the symbolism of blindness. This also ushered in the concept of orientation and mobility training; where a person with vision loss learned about their surroundings and how to travel safely and confidently.

Today, the white cane is a visible identifier that the person has some form of visual impairment.  Much like the wheelchair symbolizes a mobility impairment. People with vision loss travel with their white canes directly in front of their body so that others can see it clearly. This is especially critical when approaching a street intersection. To a motorist driving down the street or hovering at a street light; the white cane stands out because of its color and the red strips help deflect a vehicle’s headlights.

White Cane Safety Day Passes

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

The white cane began to move into the political scene and state legislation began to pass. The first two states to past safety ordnances were Illinois and Michigan. The ordnances protected white cane pedestrians by giving them the right of way and recognizing that the white cane was a symbol of blindness. In the early 1960’s, several state organizations and rehabilitation agencies serving the blind and visually impaired encouraged Congress to proclaim October 15th of each year to be White Cane Safety Day in all fifty states. This event marked an exciting moment in the long campaign to gain state and national recognition for the white cane. National White Cane Day was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Its designated October 15th as National White Cane Safety Day. Georgia went a step further and created a state law and protection for those pedestrians that use a white cane.

What the Law States

Here is a summary of the law:

1. Only people who are blind or visually impaired should travel with a white cane.

2. When a motorist comes in contact with a person traveling with a white cane at an intersection that driver should come to an immediate stop to avoid injury or harm to the white cane traveler.

3. Any person who is in violation of the above will be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Now you have learned some history on the white cane. Why it is no longer called a stick. You now know why the white cane is white, do you think that motorists stop for it? Do you think that people see the white cane as a mobility aid and symbol of visual impairment?  For those using a white cane, do you have to explain its usage a lot or barely at all? What things do you think can be done to make people more aware? Share your comments.

I’ve Become My Own Tech Support When Working From Home

Empish Sitting in Front of Laptop Wearing Headset with Microphone

Although I got a degree in journalism sometimes, I wish I had also gotten one in computer and informational science because I have had to become my own tech support over the years. This is partly due to my disability and using a screen reader on my computer. I have had to learn not only how it works but how it relates to the software and hardware that I use it on. I have had to learn how important it is to keep everything current and updated because that affects how smoothly things work. I have also had to learn how to troubleshoot because technology is not perfect and things happen. Initially there were few people I could reach out to for assistance. When I would call tech support and say I was blind and used a screen reader, I would get this sense of their eyes glazing over and there would be silence on the phone or sometimes it would go dead. People just didn’t know how to assist a blind person with computer problems. But today things have changed and I have a lot more tools available for me.

Staying Current with My Technology

The first thing I have learned about being my own tech support is keeping my hardware and software current and up-to-date. This can be challenging because of the cost. Yet I try and work into my budget and write it off my taxes as a work expense. When working from home it is essential for me to keep my computer, printer, smartphone and other devices running  flawlessly. When they are not it impacts my earning potential. Recently I had to purchase anew headset and computer monitor with a webcam for Zoom videoconferencing. I am doing a lot more meetings, webinars and conferences this way and needed to upgrade my equipment. Also, I purchased a mechanical keyboard with spring-type keys. This particular keyboard is a better fit for writers and heavy keyboard users.

I am not a tech geek but I do try and keep up with industry news by accessing Technology blogs, newsletters and podcasts.  This information is from a consumer angle and helps me learn about market and industry trends and available software training. For example, I have an iPhone and iOS 14 launched recently so I am downloading that and learning about all the new features through the AppleVIS podcast.

Empish using iPhone

Before Calling Tech Support

Before calling tech support I do some troubleshooting. I check that all wires, cords and plugs are securely in place. If it is software, I will check for the latest update. Sometimes doing a quick update to the latest version can solve a glitch. Other things I do are to reboot my computer and/or shutdown the running program. If it is my smartphone, I have occasionally turned it off to refresh it.

Using an app called Be My Eyes is a key strategy when being my own tech support. Through this app I can call up a sighted volunteer for free who accesses my camera and mike. I have them look at my computer monitor when my screen reader is not speaking and I need to figure out what is happening on the screen. Or when I am working on a quirky website that might not be accessible. They have really come in handy when replacing ink and paper in my printer. My printer has several color cartridges and they have helped me to decipher the colors and place them in the proper location.

Calling Tech Support

Now, when I call tech support, I know the type of operating system, version of software and assistive technology I am using. These three pieces of info are critical when trying to troubleshoot a problem. I usually lead the conversation this way and then move into my problem or question. I let tech support know what troubleshooting techniques I have already tried and if they worked or not. I call tech support on my landline phone and put them on speaker. This way I am hands free and they can listen to my screen reader keeping both hands on the keyboard. Depending on the situation, I will give tech support remote access to my computer. We can work on the problem together and they can see more clearly the issue and solve it quickly. The companies I call have disability customer service departments or have become more familiar with interacting with disabled customers. So, when I call with challenges, I have a much better response in getting the help I want. No more eyes glazed over or dial tones!

If worse comes to worse and all my methods don’t cure my computer blues, I do have a professional tech support person available. I learned years ago to build relationships with people who work in the industry. So, I have a tech guy that makes home visits and will come and work on major issues. He has helped me install a whole new computer system, set up my printer and assisted when my computer crashed.

Combining all of these things have helped me to be successful at being my own tech support. As a person who works from home problem solving and troubleshooting are skills sets, I have had to acquire to move my career  and life forward. So, if you are working from home how do you do tech support? What ways do you troubleshoot computer issues when they come up?