Category Archives: Health and Wellness

Strengthening My Body to Help Prevent Falls

Every since I lost my vision, I have become aware of my body and how it functions. When I went through my vision rehabilitation training program, I learned how to use my other senses to function and move in the world. As I have gotten older, I also recognized that the body breaks down and that I have to do more to stay healthy and strong. Adding to that a disability makes things even more interesting. So, with that in mind I work on myself all the time to improve and do better. Recently when I notice the arthritis in my right knee flaring up, I made an appointment with an orthopedic doctor. We had a telemedical appointment and discussed my daily activities, exercise regimen and scheduled an x-ray on that knee. A few weeks later we met again via another telemedical appointment and went over my x-rays. Yes, old Arthur was busy on my knee and causing all kind of trouble! That was nothing really new to me. But what my doctor suggested was-physical therapy.  I was pleasantly surprise at the thought and gladly accepted. We schedule for a therapist to come to my home twice a week to work specifically on strengthening my legs and reducing my arthritic pain. So, why am I sharing this? Why would you care about my knee hurting and what I am doing about it?  Well, September 21-25 is National Falls Prevention Awareness Week. I want to bring this to your attention for a couple of reasons using my life as an example.

First Reason is Fall Prevention is Not Just for Old People

 Whenever I am looking at articles, seminars, webinars or conferences on fall prevention they seem to always be geared toward seniors. They focus on those in the age group of 50 and up. But falls can happen to anyone at any age.  I know this to be true because I have had a couple of falls in the last few years and I am not a senior citizen. As a result, this has caused me to pay a little more attention to the way I live my life so that I can prevent more falls in my future. For example, I don’t talk on my cell phone while walking with my white cane. Talking on the phone while trying to navigate and use proper mobility can cause major distractions and possibly a nasty fall.

Second Reason Strength Training is Not Aerobic Exercise

When I started meeting with the physical therapists, she demonstrated several leg exercises she wanted me to perform. We worked on various leg lifts, hamstring curls, squats, and heel raises. Initially I was over confident because I do these all the time as part of my aerobic workout  for health and fall prevention. But she quickly informed me of the differences between  the two. Your focus is on strengthening   not sweating, fast movements or increasing your heart rate. You want slow and control movements. You want time for execution and recovery of the muscle group. It reminded me of when I took yoga classes. We would get into these poses and hold for a minute or two monitoring our breathing. When I worked on my leg lifts, I had to hold each leg for a count, alternating and only holding on to a surface with one hand. The point was to strengthen both legs and work on balancing. The ultimate goal is to stand and not hold onto anything while preforming these exercises or at least hold with two fingers.

I soon realized how weak my legs were and how much work I needed to do. But I was not discouraged; only determined because I wanted to get rid of my knee pain. I was amazed that in a short amount of time I began to feel results and that motivated me to keep going. So did my physical therapist. She started adding2 pound leg weights and having me ride my recumbent bike. I had been walking and doing floor exercises mostly; and had neglected my bike. Now I have started to ride it again adding resistance levels to making biking harder.

Empish on Recumbent Bike

In just a month’s time I have noticed a drastic improvement and virtually no knee pain. Sitting, standing, squatting, bending, and going up and down my stairs have all become easier to perform. I am so grateful and excited and my therapy is not even done yet! WooHoo! But I want to circle back to fall prevention. This is the thing. At some point in time we will probably all experience a fall or two. Let’s just be real about it. The question is how do you prepare and how do you recover? In the preparation you do the best you can by taking care of your body.  Exercise that includes strengthening and balancing. For the recovery, you educate yourself and learn the proper things to do. Here’s how to get up from a fall:

Third Reason is Learning How to Recover From a Fall

Empish Crawling to Chair

Note: don’t get up if you are in severe pain or unsure you can get up by yourself

1. Roll onto your side. Bend the leg on top and lift yourself onto your elbows or hands. Then on hands and knees crawl to a steady chair or table. If this is hard to do roll or crawl.

2. Hold onto the chair or table and move yourself onto both knees.

3.  Keep weaker knee or leg on the floor. Lift the foot of the stronger leg and put flat on the floor under you.

4.  Hold to the chair and lift your body up from the floor.

5.  Using your arms for support slowly turn your body moving your buttocks onto the chair.

6.  Once on the chair move back securely onto the seat. Sit there for a few minutes to assess whether you can get up.

There is a lot more info on fall prevention. Way too much for me to write and blog about here in this post because I will be here all day!  I encourage you to use this week to learn as much about it as you can. The more you know the better prepared you will be and the better your recovery will be if you fall.

Preparing and Planning for an Emergency During COVID-19

Empish Putting Battery in Flashlight

Every day When I turn on the news it seems that a natural disaster like a hurricane, flood or tornado is happening. The latest are the devastating wild fires in California. I remember when Hurricane Irma in 2017 hit and how I was caught a little unprepared. It wasn’t the hurricane itself but rather the after affects that caused major power outages in my community. I had to figure out how to maneuver without electricity for a couple of days. I even think back to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Again, I was not directly affected because I live in Atlanta but   I ended up working directly with disabled evacuees. As I took their phone calls for emergency assistance I had to reflect on my own situation and ask some hard questions about my preparedness. Now that we are in the midst of a pandemic, I have thought seriously about how to handle a medical emergency and do I have things in place if I get sick and need to be hospitalized. I know that preparing for any  emergency during COVID-19  will help me to stay save and survive. September is recognized as National Preparedness Month  to promote family and community disaster planning now and throughout the year. The 2020 NPM theme is: “Disasters Don’t Wait. Make Your Plan Today.”

Over the years I have put simple things in place such as keeping extra water and  batteries on hand for my flashlights. I also created an emergency contact list including family, friends, and medical information such as insurance companies and medical doctors. Initially I had it displayed on my kitchen corkboard but today it is stored in my smartphone.  I have my family labeled in my contacts and I have a medical app for this purpose so that medical personnel can reach out to my contacts if I am incapacitated.

Empish Touching Fire Extinguisher Mounted on Wall

‘When I purchased my home 17 years ago, one of the first things I did was go to a home improvement store and buy 2 fire extinguishers. I have one in the kitchen and the other is in the hallway upstairs. According to the National Fire Protection Association it is best to have a fire extinguisher on each level of your home, in the kitchen, the garage and near exit doors. You never know when you might need to put out a small fire and you will lose precious time running around the house to get an extinguisher. Two things to remember though–be sure to check the agent class. They come in A, B, C or a combination. I purchased one for all fires so I don’t have to worry about if the extinguisher will work properly. Also, I try to keep track of the agent levels in the extinguisher. Over time the agent strength level decreases and the worse thing is to have a fire, grab the extinguisher, aim and spray and nothing comes out!

To help ease my mind about COVID-19, medical emergencies,  and hospitalization I do  a little reading. Emory Healthcare sends out a routine newsletter with updates and details on COVID-19 Procedures. I have learned that emergency rooms and hospitals follow strict guidelines for protecting people during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the following: universal masking, screening at all entrances, separate waiting areas for people who have or may have COVID-19, frequent cleaning and disinfecting,  and social distancing.

In case of a home emergency I have some supplies organized and ready. I can quickly grab a standard first aid kit, OTC medications, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and cotton balls. I also have an ice pack in the freezer and a   talking thermometer . When the pandemic started, I realized that I need to stock food supplies for illness. So now I have chicken noodle soup, crackers, bottled water, Sprite and Gatorade.

Empish Taking Temperature with Talking Ear Thermometer

Remembering my time working with Katrina evacuees, a thing I noticed in particular was the lack of access to important documents such as social security cards, birth records and government IDs. So, what I did was purchase a waterproof and fire safe storage unit. Since those days I have moved a lot of my life online and need to do the same with these documents. I can scan them into my computer and store and save in Dropbox to   easily access later from the cloud.

Another task is writing an advance medical directive. This document states what to do medically if I become unable to direct my own care. It would give who to contact to make medical decisions on my behalf and whether I want to be resuscitated or not. This is something I have never done before but need to take seriously because the wrong medical care could be administered without my knowledge or approval. During this time of COVID-19 a medical directive is even more important than ever before.

If and when a medical emergency happens, I want to be ready.  I know that being clear headed and focused will help me get the best medical assistance during an emergency. I have done my best to plan and prepare for a crisis. I can have peace of mind that I have taken the initiative. So, are you prepared for an emergency? What things can you start putting in place today to prepare yourself?

Man Getting an Eye Exam

Eye Health is My Health During Healthy Vision Month 2020

This year The National Eye Institute is hosting healthy vision month in July.  Usually it is held every year in May but because of COVID-19 it was moved down a couple of months. It’s the perfect opportunity to encourage you to make your eye health a priority — and to highlight the importance of preventing vision loss and blindness. This year’s theme is Eye Health Is My Health. NEI is putting a spotlight on the connection between eye health and overall health. You can be part of Healthy Vision Month 2020 by learning how protecting your overall health helps keep your eyes healthy. NEI has listed 8 things you can do right now to protect your vision and set yourself up for a lifetime of seeing your best.

1. Find an eye doctor you trust. Many eye diseases don’t have any early symptoms, so you could have a problem and not know it. The good news is that an eye doctor can help you stay on top of your eye health! Find an eye doctor by asking friends and family for a referral. Also check with your health insurance plan for suggested doctors.

2. Ask how often you need a dilated eye exam. Getting a dilated eye exam is the best thing you can do for your eye health. It’s the only way to find eye diseases early, when they’re easier to treat and before they cause vision loss. Your eye doctor will decide how often you need an exam based on your risk for eye diseases. Ask your eye doctor what’s right for you.

3. Add more movement to your day. Physical activity can lower your risk for health conditions that can affect your vision, like diabetes and high blood pressure. Plus help you feel your best. If you have trouble finding time for physical activity build it into other activities. Walk around while you’re on the phone, do push-ups or stretch while you watch TV, dance while you’re doing chores. Anything that gets your heart pumping counts.

4. Get your family talking about eye health history. Some eye diseases like glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration can run in families. While it may not be the most exciting topic of conversation, talking about your family health history can help everyone stay healthy. The next time you’re chatting with relatives, ask if anyone knows about eye problems in your family. Share what you learn with your eye doctor to see if you need to take steps to lower your risk.

5. Step up your healthy eating game. Eating healthy foods helps prevent health conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure that can put you at risk for eye problems. Eat right for your sight by adding more eye-healthy foods to your plate. Try dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens. And pick up some fish high in omega-3 fatty acids like halibut, salmon, and tuna.

6. Make a habit of wearing your sunglasses even on cloudy days. You know the sun’s UV rays can harm your skin, but did you know the same goes for your eyes? It’s true. But wearing sunglasses that block 99 to 100% of both UVA and UVB radiation can protect your eyes and lower your risk for cataracts. So be sure to bring your sunglasses before leaving the house.

7. Stay on top of long-term health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. Diabetes and high blood pressure can increase your risk for some eye diseases, like glaucoma. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, ask your doctor about steps you can take to manage your condition and lower your risk of vision loss.

8. If you smoke, make a quit plan. Quitting smoking is good for almost every part of your body, including your eyes. That’s right kicking the habit will help lower your risk for eye diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts. Stop smoking is hard, but it’s possible — and a quit plan can help. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free support.

So, what’s your game plan this month and every month to protect your eyes and maintain their health? What things can you do to improve your overall health? I encourage you to take time to implement some simple things you can do to help ensure that your eye health is your health.

Fireworks Display

Fireworks and Eye Safety During COVID-19

The Fourth of July is coming up this weekend. It is typically known as a time of fun, remembrance and celebration for many Americans. Friends and family gather together to enjoy early morning parades, backyard barbecues, and nighttime fireworks. But with the onset of COVID-19 what will this year’s July 4th observation really look like? I did a little  sleuthing around on the internet and got mix results. Some cities and states are going to proceed business as usual and have gatherings. Others are going to shut them down completely. But regardless of how you celebrate please stay safe and well. I am sharing what I will do this 4th and also some firework safety tips.

Audio Described Fireworks Presentation

Empish Holding Replica of the Capitol and Surrounding Buildings

as for me I have decided for the first time to participate in a virtual audio described fireworks event. The American Council of the Blind is hosting their annual convention via Zoom Videoconferencing this weekend. Part of this event will be an audio description of the 2019 firework display at the Capitol. When I was sighted, I would attend fireworks for the holidays but after losing my sight it was very difficult and I really didn’t see the point. No pun intended! But now that audio description is available, I am going to give it a try and I am pretty excited. Oh, and for those that are saying, “what is audio description?” Audio description is a feature available to us blind folks that uses words to describe what is being seen. It is usually used for TV, movies and live theatre to describe scenes between the dialogue. For example, facial expressions, body language, costumes, movement in a scene and also sub-titles. It enhances the entire experience for those of us who are blind and helps us have an inclusive time with our sighted peers.

Staying Safe from Firework Injuries

If you decide to celebrate the 4th with fireworks at home because of COVID-19 there are ways to stay safe. Fireworks are exciting, fun and spectacular, but don’t let an accident spoil your celebration. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 180 people end up in the emergency room everyday due to injuries from fireworks during the  months of June and July. Lots of those are children, especially teenagers. The typical victim is an unsupervised teen, at home, with a group of friends. They are playing with fireworks and chances are one of them will end up in the emergency room. Some of those injuries are eye-related. The American Academy of Ophthalmology says that fireworks can cause devastating and life-changing injuries that range from skin burns and thermal burns of the eye to bleeding in the eye, retinal detachment, and even a ruptured globe and blindness. In order to stay safe, the CPSC has provided some tips to avoid injury:

1.  Never allow young children to play with, or ignite, fireworks, including sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit—hot enough to melt some metals.

2.  Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy, in case of fire or other mishap.

3.  Light fireworks one at a time, then move away quickly.

4.  Never try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Soak them with water and throw them away.

5.  Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Move to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.

6.  Never point or throw fireworks (including sparklers) at anyone.

7.  After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding the device to prevent a trash fire.

8.  Make sure fireworks are legal in your area, and only purchase fireworks that are labeled for consumer (not professional) use.

Fireworks and Eye Safety Tips

Prevent Blindness  provides useful info on eye safety and fireworks if you opt to use your own:

  1. If you suffer an injury due to fireworks, especially to your eyes, seek help immediately.
  2.  Do not rub or rinse the eyes. 
  3.  Do not apply pressure.
  4. Do not put on ointments or take any blood thinning pain medications like aspirin or ibuprofen.

I hope this post was helpful as you and your family prepare to enjoy the 4th of July. If you do decide to celebrate at home keep these things in mind about fireworks and eye safety.

Empish with Fresh Hair Style at Salon

I’m Now Feeling Safe to Get Hair Styled After Georgia’s Reopening

On Monday, May 18th, while dawning a facemask and gloves, I safely and cautiously return to the hair salon. It had been since mid-February and like most people in America my hair was long overdue for some professional TLC. During all this time I have been sheltering in place and only going out for essential errands. I was maintaining my tresses to the best of my ability and sought  guidance over the phone from my hair stylist. Since I work from home my daily routine was just to comb and brush and place in a ponytail.  Then shampoo and deep condition biweekly.

On April 24th, Governor Brian Kemp allowed hair salons, barber shops, gyms, and tattoo parlors to reopen. the following week it was restaurants and movie theaters. When this announcement was made the number of COVID-19 cases were consistently rising and many people were concerned with this decision. It was all over the state, local and national news and everyone had a thought and/or opinion on if this was a good idea for the state of Georgia or not. Whether they would venture out or not. It is a month later and the conversation is still going strong and as of this writing  and reported in the Atlanta Journal Constitution the number of COVID-19 cases has not decreased. But with all that being said a list of procedures were assigned to the reopening of these businesses.

When I spoke to my hair stylist about all of this, she told me that her salon was not going to open right away. That they needed time to put in place the procedures issued by the Georgia State Board of Cosmetologists and Barbers to be sure that everyone would be safe in the salon. I agreed and totally understood. It was not until another week that she called me back and said that the salon was ready to open. She emailed the list of procedures to follow and how business would be conducted moving forward. In the email she listed things such as:

Temperature checks. Stylists and clients must check their temperature one hour before their service. If your temperature reading is 99°F or above you will have to reschedule your appointment. (Once the salon has a touchless thermometer all stylist and clients who enter the salon will be checked).   Any employee or client who has a temperature above 99°F should be sent home immediately and not allowed to return to the salon until they have no fever and no evidence of COVID-19 symptoms.

• Personal Protective Gear. All clients must wear a mask! This is mandatory to wear a mask.  The only time that a client will not have a mask is at the shampoo bowl. I will place a towel over your mouth and face.  When the shampoo is over you will be asked to put your mask back on. Also, all stylists are required to wear masks. Most of the time I will be wearing gloves.  You are welcome to bring your own personal towel for your face if you prefer.

 • Ask each client entering the shop the following questions:

Every client will be asked if they have had a cough? Ø  had a fever, Ø  or have you been around anyone exhibiting these symptoms within the past 14 days? Ø  Also, are you living with anyone who is sick or quarantined?

 • Limit people in the salon. I will limit the number of clients. I will only see clients by appointment. Since I am only taking appointments early in the morning, the number of clients in my waiting area will be limited. If a client arrives early, please call me on my phone and wait in your vehicle.

Maintain social distancing at all times! It has been recommended that clients not being serviced in the salon wait outside the salon until the stylist is done with the other clients. Also, spacing between persons in the salon should be at least six feet, except when I am servicing clients. I will move my chairs to the outside of my door so that only the client that I am working on is in the room with me. Each client will be draped with a clean cape.

After we discussed these new procedures, I felt safe to return and made my appointment. She specifically scheduled the appointment for Monday, which in the salon world is their off day and are closed for business. She knew this would be a good time because the salon would virtually be empty lessoning the opportunity to interact with other people keeping both of us safe. When I arrived, I was the only one sitting in the waiting area and I kept my facemask on the entire time until it was my turn. While waiting, I listened to podcasts on my smartphone. When she called me to the chair, I removed my mask and place the towel over my nose and mouth as she worked on my hair. I did the same at the shampoo bowl.  During the time I was there another stylist came into the salon but was stationed in the front while we were in the back. So, we were able to keep social distancing with no problems.

Empish Wearing Facemask and Gloves with White Cane

I am not sure if this will become the new normal of hair styling but I have a funny feeling that it will. Until we can create a treatment plan and vaccine, we will have to wear facemask and practice social distancing at the hair salon. I found the experience not much different than in the past but just a little mentally exhausting because of wearing a facemask. Also adjusting to the quiet is something I will have to learn to deal with. Salons are not just places to get your hair styled but also to chat and gossip. To talk, laugh and share but that is hard to do with a mask or towel over your face.  they are also places to congregate as people come in and out all day. Yet in order to be safe this all might have to change.

Spray of White Funeral Flowers

How Do You Grieve During a Pandemic

This blog post is one I never thought I would write but feel compelled to share. I have recently dealt with two deaths. One a friend and one a relative. One I was close to and one I barely knew. One lived near me while the other lived in another state. One was disabled while the other was not. But the feeling of sorrow and not being able to grieve in the traditional way is felt all the same. Grieving during a pandemic is something I would have never thought I would experience but yet here I am.

My friend was an active member in the blind community and died in March. She lost her vision to diabetes and was a fierce advocate when it came to health, fitness and diabetes education. We would talk about that quite often. For years she ran a support group that helped other blind folks who had diabetes and was very supportive of eating healthy and exercise. We use to take exercise classes together years ago at the Center for the Visually Impaired. We would also have occasional Saturday lunches with other blind friends in the community. I remember one of our last lunches we talked about life and family as we munched on salads at California Pizza Kitchen. We both were huge salad lovers! We also enjoyed reading and were members of a blind book club at GLASS Atlanta. When I got the call that she had passed in her sleep I was deeply sadden and in shock. The coronavirus was just hitting us here in Atlanta. Sheltering in place and practicing social distancing was launching., So, no large or traditional funeral gatherings. As I talked to mutual friends all we could do is just talk and share stories over the phone. We could not gather and commiserate in person. No humming to old favorite funeral songs and hymns. No eulogy. No crisp or glossy paper program to keep in your Bible or photo album. No passing out extra tissue to wipe tears. No hugs or embraces given to her family or other friends who also were grieving. No repass. This type of grieving was weird and strange and new. It was like she died but didn’t because we weren’t really allowed to get closure in the traditional way. You had to kind of figure it out on your own. And so, I did.

Then a few weeks ago I got a call from my aunt that my Paternal grandmother died of natural causes. Again, I am sad and in shock. But my grieving is different as I was estranged from my grandmother and this side of the family. Due to no fault of my own she decided to not have a relationship with me. I grew up not really knowing her. When trying to reach out she rebuffed me and now any chances for a relationship are permanently gone. That is a big part of my grief   and what I feel the saddest about. When I got the call the grave side funeral was the next day in Alabama. So, there was no opportunity for me to attend. I had to absorb the news and grieve at home in my house. Not sure how to think or what to feel for a blood relative that I had no relationship with for most if not all of my life. I was told by a relative that attended the funeral that social distancing was practiced and that people had on facemasks and gloves. Obituaries and programs were mailed to me. Again, I had phone conversations with friends and family but all of this is from a distance. I must figure out how to deal with this death as well.

During this time of a health epidemic we are not able to participate in the traditional funeral ceremonies and rituals of our culture. It is hard and we must find new ways to find closure and celebrate the lives of the people we love and cherish. whether we were close friends or complete strangers as we move through these days of the pandemic and figuring out our new normal, we will all have to find our way through the grieving process.

Empish on Treadmill

Celebrating National Fitness Day by Exercising at Home

Today is National Fitness Day and the goal is to inspire others through the power of fitness. Fitness is more than just staying in shape, losing weight or completing exercise goals it is about being good to yourself and celebrating what your body can do. It is about finding joy and confidence as you support others. So, as I was reading the website about National Fitness Day I was thinking about my years of exercise and now what that looks like under COVID-19. I have not been impacted too much with sheltering in place and practicing social distancing when it comes to getting in a good workout because I had stop going to gyms long ago when I lost my vision. I created a home gym back in 2003.

All my equipment is placed right in front of my entertainment center so I can either watch TV or listen to my music CDs while I work out. I have even placed one of my audio book players nearby to listen while I exercise. On a typical week I work out about 3-4times alternating between my treadmill, exercise bike, floor mat and hand weights. I am still making efforts to lose weight but I feel so much better that I created my own home gym to exercise. Whether it rains, snows or is sunny outside it does not matter. Whether a friend comes to workout with me it does not matter. I have everything I need set up in my home so I can do it independently and when I want.

 

Now that the coronavirus has hit us, I am even more aware of the importance of exercise. I need to stay active to fin off medical and health problems. I want to stay strong both mentally and physically especially if I have to combat this virus. When I heard about Angel Eyes Fitness, a non-profit program that helps blind people stay in shape, I added that to my repertoire.  For April and May the class meets via Zoom videoconferencing each Saturday for an hour. We do a combination of aerobic type exercises. I am really loving the change in my routine plus the connection to others in my community. It has been a long time since I have been in an exercise class and I enjoy the camaraderie and working with an instructor.

So, what do you do to stay fit and active? What game plan have you created to exercise at home during this pandemic? Share your exercise regimen in the comment section below and let’s inspire each other to stay fit.

Empish Holding Shopping Cart

Online Grocery Shopping Difficult During COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 has  hampered my ability to do online grocery shopping. It has virtually come to a standstill. I have been purchasing my groceries this way for the last couple of years and loving the ease and convenience. Plus, as a person with a disability it has been a God sent. No more dealing with public transportation or trying to get a ride or paying for an Uber. No more waiting patiently for a store representative to take me up and down the aisles to help me find items.           I even had same day delivery so I could order in the morning and my groceries be at my home by late afternoon or early evening. What a breeze!

But now my favorite grocery store app is no longer working because of the high demand. Each time I tried the app an alert would say items are no longer available and pick a substitute but sometimes the substitute is not available either. Or the item appears to be available but when I tap on it for some strange reason it won’t go into my cart.  I have to have a $30 minimum to checkout and I can’t get enough in the cart to make the purchase. I had even signed up for their annual subscription for delivery thinking with COVID-19 happening this would be a wise thing to do. But during the 15-day trial period I cancelled it without penalty.

I am back in the store again. But this time feeling a little stressed because we are dealing with a pandemic and I should be at home sheltering in place and practicing social distancing. It is kind of hard to do that in the grocery store as a blind person because you need assistance. A friend took me and we both dawned our gloves and homemade scarf masks. We got there first thing in the morning when the store opened in hopes of avoiding large crowds. I held on to the shopping cart while she pulled it from the other end. This would give some distance although it was not completely 6 feet. As we went down the aisles, I began to get hot. I had worn a sweater because it was a cool day. I took the sweater off thinking that would help. But I remained hot and began to sweat. I realized the scarf mask was the problem. While taking a tissue to wipe my face; I am thinking that people are going to see me and think I got the virus! Then I really began to sweat! LOL! I finally had to take my scarf mask off because I was just getting too hot and feeling agitated. I needed to calm down and breathe. Relax and clear my mind. Tell myself that everything was going to be okay and that I would get through this. My friend was encouraging as she told me to do what made me comfortable.

We were amazed at the lack of body soap on the shelf in the health and beauty section. there literally was little to no soap! What was up with that? Of course, we had to hunt around for toilet tissue. We finally found some no-name brand. But who can be picky? We grabbed 3 packets and asked at the checkout how many because we didn’t want to hog. All the food items I needed I was able to find and I was grateful for that. At the checkout my friend explained the 6 feet distance markers on the floor. I had heard about that. I also had heard several ways to keep my credit card clean–from wiping it down with sanitizer to using a tissue to wearing gloves. I opted to just clean my hands with sanitizer and go from there. I brought my own cloth earth bags I had washed beforehand and we loaded up my groceries in them and headed out of the store. Once I got home, I changed my clothes, ate breakfast and then began the process to sanitize my groceries before putting them away.

Beside dealing with my Scarfe mask situation the experience was not too bad. It was more mentally exhausting than I realized. Perhaps just because of everything going on and trying to keep social distancing and being blind and touching things too. But what else could I do? This is all new, different and challenging. How are you grocery shopping now? Are you shopping online or physically going into the store? What has the experience been like for you?

Watching Movies at Home During COVID-19

 

People Watching Movies at Home

People Watching Movies at Home

 

This weekend I would normally be out of the house watching a movie at my local movie theater. I would have already checked the listing of new releases earlier in the week and started making plans. I would have gone online reading the reviews and ratings on the films I wanted to see. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic I am at home.    The theaters are closed until further notice and I am watching more movies at home than ever before.

 

Prior to COVID-19 I would watch movies occasionally through streaming and mostly on DVD. My primary place to do this is Netflix. I have been a subscriber for many years and used it as a backup to going to the actual movie theater. If I missed a movie or wanted to watch it again, I would rent the DVD and catch it at home. In the last year or so I upgraded my subscription and added streaming.  On my iPhone I can watch all kinds of movies from miniseries, classics, blockbusters and Netflix’s own original content. the thing I love the most is that a lot of Netflix content is accessible to the blind and a large amount of their movies are available in audio description.

 

Let me explain what I mean by that. When it comes to the DVD’s I can go to the Netflix website and check for audio description. Movies are usually labeled under the details section with the verbiage “video description English” or descriptive audio” or some similar terminology. Not all movies on Netflix are available in audio description. If it is something I still want to see I will do some research beforehand so when I do watch it, I understand what is happening.  Now, the tricky part of watching a movie on DVD in audio description is that I have to get sighted help.  The audio description track is inside of the menu options and is displayed on the TV monitor which of course I can’t see. To remedy this, I use an app called Be my Eyes that uses sighted volunteers via my iPhone’s camera. The volunteer will see my TV monitor and direct me through the menus to turn on the audio description for the movie. So, what I do is hold my phone in one hand with the camera facing the TV while in the other hand I hold my DVD remote to press the buttons for the menu options. You might be saying, “That seems like a lot of work just to watch a movie!” And I would say, “You are right!” But I love movies and so I do the work. I am also sharing this with you so that you understand what the blind community has to deal with just to do things that sighted people take for granted every day.

 

Now, streaming is a bit easier to manage. Through my iPhone I have audio speech settings turned on and when I launch the Netflix app audio description will automatically play if that is available for that particular movie. Again, Netflix will indicate on their website if the movie is available in audio description. Additionally, I can get a listing of  audio described titles from the Audio Description Project. each week the site provides an updated list of titles along with a listing in alphebetical order of movies available. I place those movies on my play list and watch when I get ready.

 

because of these two options I have the ease of curling up on my sofa, laying in my bed or relaxing in my recliner to watch a movie at home whenever I want. But today it seems that having Netflix is not just a luxury but a necessity to keep me entertained since I can’t go out.

 

Zoom Videoconferencing Helps Me Live Work and Play During COVID-19

Zoom Logo
Zoom Logo

I don’t know about you but I have seen an increase in the request to join a meeting through Zoom videoconferencing.  I would dare to say that almost daily if not weekly I get an email invite to a webinar, meeting, seminar, townhall or chat. If you have not gotten an invite for Zoom in your in box just wait it is coming! But for those who are not familiar with Zoom let me fill you in.  According to their website, Zoom brings teams together to get more done in a frictionless video environment. Our easy, reliable, and innovative video-first unified communications platform provides video meetings, voice, webinars, and chat across desktops, phones, mobile devices and conference room systems.

I have been using Zoom since last year but my usage has really ramped up with the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been a great tool for those of us in the blind and visually impaired community because we can easily connect with each other without the stresses of transportation. The Zoom platform is also very accessible with our adaptive technology that we need to use on our computers, smartphones and tablets. So, when I saw this increase in Zoom invites, I had to smile and chuckle a little. As we shelter in place, practice social distancing and work from home the Zoom platform has become even more essential. As a result, I have found some ways that Zoom helps me live, work and play during COVID-19.

  1. Socialization-As I shared before I was using Zoom last year. It started when I joined the Bookshare book discussion. I talked about Bookshare in a previous post here on Triple E and how much I love reading their books on Voice Dream. Well, last summer I decided to join their Zoom book discussion and I have been participating ever since. Each month we get together for a live chat to share our thoughts on reads we like, love or can’t stand.
  1. Education and Technology-To keep up with my adaptive technology I listen to webinars and seminars through Zoom. Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired and Freedom Scientific offer a large volume of educational opportunities for me to learn about the latest technology advances for blind people. Recently I attended a webinar about Microsoft Teams as it related to a current blogging contract.
  1. Volunteering-For years I have been a peer advisor with VisionAware, a website that provides resources to the blind community. As peers we meet once a month via conference call to discuss ways we can enhance the website, contribute blog posts and respond to inquiries from the community. We recently switched to Zoom for our calls so that our international peers can participate easier and more often.
  1. Medical-Just last week I participated in my very first telemedicine Zoom call. One of my doctors opted to meet with me this way verses a face-to-face visit because of COVID-19. A link was sent to me and we talked during our pre-scheduled appointment time. Things went very well except for the video portion Since in my previous meetings I don’t use it. After a couple of tries I was not able to turn it on. I am currently reading a tutorial so I can correct this problem.
  1. Physical Fitness-I exercise on a regular basis in my home using a treadmill, recumbent bike, mat and weights. But I get bored and have been looking for a change. I came across Angel Eyes Fitness, which is a non-profit program that helps blind people stay in shape. They offer Zoom workout classes because of the challenges with transportation. So, this past weekend I went to the website and took advantage of the free Pilates class.

Zoom has become a great way for me to live, work and play while dealing with COVID-19. As I shelter in place and work from home, I anticipate I will be using Zoom more and more. I see Zoom as a way for all of us to stay connected and live as we move through this challenging time.