Category Archives: Special Observations

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?

Census 2020

Thirty Days to Census 2020 Deadline

If you haven’t heard the news by now, the US Census Bureau is ending all counting efforts for the 2020 census on September  30, a month earlier than previously announced. So that means if you haven’t filled out your form time is ticking and the opportunity to be counted is quickly closing. I completed my census back in March and found the experience fairly easy, stress-free and very accessible so much so I am sharing my experience with you. If you have not filled out your census form, I encourage you to do so in the next 30 days.

2020 Census is Totally Accessible

I found the 2020 Census totally accessible. In the past I would have to get a sighted person to read the questions and fill out the forms for me; but this time around I was able to handle the whole process independently. Historically people with disabilities have been under represented and so this year strong efforts are being made to make the census inclusive and accessible to everyone. A downloadable and printable Census Bureau fact sheet on accessibility is available to learn more about these efforts.

Once I got my census documents in the mail, I went on line to the census website. I use a screen reader called JAWS which stands for Job Access with Speech. This screen reader allows me to access the Windows operating system such as Word, Excel and Outlook. I can also access things like PDF files and get online with Google. I am even able to write this blog and manage this website in WordPress! It has allowed me to work, live and play as a blind person.

But back to the census. So, I went to the site and logged in with my census ID number. There was a series of questions I had to answer and it took me about 15-20 minutes or so. At the end they had the option to review your answers before submission. Strangely, for some reason that screen didn’t pop up and I could only press the submission button. Next, I got a confirmation screen with a confirmation number and the option to save and print; which I did. I called the census toll free number to alert them to the small hiccup I had with the verification screen and was told that others had had the same problem. They apologized and said they were working on that issue. Aside from that small glitch I found completing the 2020 census to be totally accessible. Additionally, I could have opted to call verses doing the census online. Now, that I am done I want to encourage you to do the same. If you haven’t already here are some reasons why.

Census results help determine how billions of dollars in federal funding flow into states and communities annually. That’s billions with a B! The results also determine how many seats in Congress each state receives. Community leaders and elected officials rely on accurate census data to make funding decisions about education, senior citizen and veteran supports, along with other community allocations. Therefore, it is important to have accurate numbers. Everyone must be counted including people with disabilities! The Centers for Disease Control  and Prevention (CDC) says nearly 1 in 4    people in the United States has a disability with nearly 5% having a visual impairment. This means that having some kind of a disability impacts all of us.

Census data plays a vital role in people’s everyday life Even though the census comes around once a decade. Specifically, census data determines allocations for real-life necessities like health care, public transportation, special education grants, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other benefits. In addition, the census helps advocates, community leaders and politicians address inequalities in housing, health care, employment and education.

Valid census data also helps ensure fair voting representation and enforcement of voting rights laws. Federal tax dollars cannot be distributed fairly and effectively without an accurate accounting of the population.

Lastly, when completing your census form you can feel confident that your information will be private. Your answers are kept anonymous. They are used only to produce statistics. The U.S. Census Bureau is bound by law to protect your answers and keep them strictly confidential. The law ensures that your private information is never published and that your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court. Additionally, no identifiable information about you, your home or business, even to law enforcement agencies can be released.

So, when you get your census form complete it. Go online, call the toll-free number (1-844-330-2020) or get a sighted person to assist you. This year the 2020 census is accessible so there is no excuse to not do your part and be counted.

Hadley Provides 100 Years of Remote Learning to the Blind Community

Empish Reading Braille

For a century the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired has provided remote learning to the blind community. This is an enormous accomplishment. Even more so in the midst of COVID-19 where distant learning, sheltering in place, social distancing and remote access are becoming the new normal. According to their website, the mission of Hadley is to create personalized learning opportunities that empower adults with vision loss or blindness to thrive at home, at work and in their communities. Well, I can attest to Hadley’s mission because I have personally benefited from their instruction. I am going to share my experience, but first let me give a little history on the organization because again 100 years is a long time to be in existence and knowing the back story is important.

History of the Hadley Institute

William Hadley, a former school teacher, lost his sight at 55 and loved reading. He wanted to learn braille but was frustrated with finding a teacher so he taught himself. Along with an ophthalmologist and neighbor, Hadley found a way to share his love of learning with others who had lost their vision too. So, in 1920, the Hadley Correspondence School and the “braille by mail” curriculum launched.  The very first student, a woman in Kansas, had also lost her sight later in life and wanted to continue reading. She mailed her lessons to Hadley, and he corrected and returned them along with encouraging notes. This was the beginning of the close instructor-learner relationship that is a trademark of Hadley learning today.

Ways I’ve Benefited from Hadley’s Instruction

I too was one of those who lost vision as an adult. I learned braille previously at a vision rehabilitation center but realized too late that I didn’t have a good solid game plan on how to implement it beyond the alphabetic code. I learned braille because that is what I was supposed to do and I saw some immediate benefits such as labels for my Music CDs, spices for cooking and metal labels for my clothing. I was not thinking about reading braille books or magazines. Outside of that braille was just a vague thought in the back of my mind. As a result, my reading and writing skills stayed on a rudimentary level; much like a kindergartner at school. So I contacted Hadley to take a braille course and began my journey back to braille. Unfortunately, life got in the way and I didn’t finish my course however I accessed other learning tools from Hadley.  The next course I took was on LinkedIn where I went through the modules online to complete my profile and then connected with my instructor. Once we connected, my instructor gave constructive criticism on my LinkedIn profile that was helpful. Another Hadley course was on the keyboard. Over the years my typing and keyboard skills had gotten slack and sloppy. I was making several key punch errors. This course helped me get reacquainted with the home row and other important keys, practice proper posture and slow down my typing for accuracy.

I love a good informative and entertaining podcast. Hadley offers Tech It Out is an hour long, monthly call-in discussion group; but I listen to it afterward as a podcast. There I have learned about all kinds of technology for home, work and entertainment. The very first one I attended we discussed grocery shopping and food delivery apps.  So many people joined in the conversation and that was long before the pandemic! Other podcast topics have been on accessible small kitchen appliances, using tablets, watching audio described movies and learning about streaming services. Their most recent topic is accessing tech support for your devices.

All of the remote learning I gained from Hadley was at no cost, at my own pace and from the comfort of my home. They are a non-profit organization and receive donations to provide these services. I applaud Hadley for the work they have done and have no doubt they will continue to be successful in educating the blind for many more years to come.

Empish Working in Home Office

Working and Writing in the Disability Non-Profit World

If someone told me in college while pursuing a journalism degree that 6 months after graduation, I would be visually impaired and later have a career in the disability non-profit world I would have said they were crazy. But that is exactly what happened! During that time, I was laser focused and incredibly ambitious; obtaining a public relations internship each semester. I was determined to work in Corporate America, make lots of money, own a home and a fancy car. However only one of those things happened! I got the home but the rest went out the window. Obviously, God had other plans for my life. I ended up working and writing in the disability non-profit world as a direct result of my disability.  It has been about 20 years and I have no regrets. So, why am I sharing all of this? Well, today is National Nonprofit Day.  This day recognizes the goals and positive impacts nonprofits have on communities and the world. Through nonprofits, awareness, research, and aid reach the people who need it most.

Working at Disabled Non-Profits

This above statement holds true because after losing my vision I needed to understand how to advocate for myself as a disabled person. My career plans for Corporate America didn’t pan out. Plus, I wanted to find a way to use the well-earned journalism degree I had just recently obtained. So, for 7 years I worked at disABILITY LINK, an independent living center that focused on advocacy, peer support and self-determination for people with disabilities. There I learned about ways to speak for myself, advocate for others and the self-confidence to start writing.  My next job was at the vision rehab center that provided the training I needed to be more independent as a blind person. At the Center for the Visually Impaired I worked as their public education and outreach person. I gave speeches, conducted tours, managed volunteer speakers, wrote for the community bulletin and started their blog, SightSeeing. Also, I was side hustling working for two other nonprofits. At Disability Resource Group I was contracted to do public education and community outreach on their breast cancer project. I reached out to disabled women encouraging them to get annual mammograms and supporting them in self-advocacy.

Writing at Disabled Non-Profits

The other nonprofit was Blind Skills, Inc who published Dialogue Magazine. For 17 years I wrote a career column where I interviewed blind and visually impaired people about the types of jobs and careers they pursued. Over the years I met chefs, small business owners, travel agents, property owners, musicians, artists, app developers, school teachers and more. Using my blogging experience and interest in web coding landed me a contract position with VisionAware where I coded and edited blog posts from our visually impaired peer group. Today, I  work from home  as a freelance writer. I have a contract assignment with Outlook Business Solutions, another agency that focuses on helping those with vision loss. There I write and edit blog posts and have written stories for their annual report.

Volunteering at Disabled Non-Profits

Empish with Guest Roderick Parker at GaRRS Studio

While working and writing at nonprofits I developed a sincere passion for the nonprofit world and the mission they have to help those in need. I used my journalism skills in a new meaningful way through a volunteer opportunity at the Georgia Radio Reading Service. Instead of writing I was on the radio in the broadcast world. I hosted and produced a show called Eye on Blindness for about 3 years. I interviewed guest in the blind community on a variety of topics. I no longer volunteer at the radio station but write Occasional blog post for VisionAware and recently wrote a post for one of my favorite libraries and another non-profit, Bookshare about the ADA.

Who would have ever known this would be the direction my life and career would take me? But I have embraced it and am grateful for this wonderful journey; that is still not over. I encourage you to learn about non-profits, support them either as a volunteer or by monetary donation. We need them in our community, society and the world.

Display of NLS Player Cartridges and Earbuds

Every Day is Book Lover’s Day for Me

Today is National Book Lover’s Day but every day is book lover’s day in my world. If you have been reading my blog or know me personally you know full well how much I enjoy reading and I couldn’t let this day pass without saying something, right? Of course not. And it being the weekend makes it even sweeter because I can truly relax and get into a good book or two. Honestly, I usually am reading at least one or two at the same time. One on my NLS talking book player and the other on my iPhone.

I have loved reading books since I was a child. My enjoyment began with my parents reading to me bedtime stories from the Golden Book series, which were short stories printed in a hard-bound book with gold trim on the binding. During my middle school years, it was Classics by Charles Dickens and contemporary fiction by Judy Blume. Once in high school and college I was introduced to African-American novels by Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison and Richard Wright. Even after losing my vision I didn’t quit reading. I did try reading braille for a while but found the process stressful and laborious. So, I stopped with just the rudimentary skills learning my numbers and letters. Today I dig into a good read in audio format.

The ability to escape to another place or time, learn something new or improve my life comes from reading books. Another benefit is the soothing effect and stress relief I gain from reading. Life can get busy and there is lots to do and many things to distract but sitting still and reading a good book slows me down, gives me some peace and helps me to be calm. I encourage you reading this blog to take time today and every day to read a book.

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.

ADA 30th Anniversary Logo

Four Reasons I’m Thankful for the ADA

July 26th will mark the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It was in 1990 when I was a freshman in college that Former President George H. W. Bush signed this powerful piece of civil rights legislation into law. On that day, with  disability advocates and policy makers present, the door was  opened wider to more opportunities and access. People with disabilities have struggled with full inclusion into mainstream society for many years and the ADA was passed to help remedy this problem. The ADA has four principals: equality of opportunity, full participation in society, independent living and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities. Additionally, there are five titles:  employment, transportation, state and local government, public accommodations and telecommunications. I lost my vision many years after the ADA was passed so didn’t know much about this law or feel its full impact. It wasn’t until the late-90s when I was dealing with employment and transportation that I began to completely understand its authority and be grateful for its existence.

First Reason is Employment

When I went blind, I was young and entering the workforce. My employer was familiar with the ADA and provided work accommodations. I was given magnification devices, low vision aids and later when my vision worsen screen reading software for my computer. Since that time at every job I have received the necessary work accommodations. using these tools have not only helped me to work, but continue working, boost my self-esteem and enhance my quality of life.

Second Reason is Voting

I have been voting since I was eligible, but when I went blind the process changed. Thanks to the ADA I can now vote with accommodations. State and local governments must provide assistance to a blind person whether it is to offer an absentee ballot, read voting information and/or have an accessible voting machine. I have shared about my recent challenges voting in Georgia’s primary elections but it is because of the ADA that I can speak up and advocate for myself.

Third Reason is Website Accessibility

Since I work from home and use the internet constantly, I interact with inaccessible websites daily. Graphics with no alt text, edit boxes that don’t work, check boxes that don’t check and on and on. I also struggle with inaccessible mobile apps on my iPhone. But the ADA says that websites must be made accessible to people with visual impairments. Some folks say that the ADA does not specifically address the internet and was written prior its creation but the world wide web is considered a public accommodation and is covered by this law. A recent lawsuit against Domino’s Pizza demonstrates this point.

Fourth Reason is Entertainment

Empish at Concession Stand Purchasing Popcorn

One of my favorite forms of entertainment is watching a movie. A fast-pace action, suspense thriller, a funny comedy, a classic animation, a gory horror or a sappy romcom—I love them all! But the funny thing is that I didn’t really get into movies until I went blind and couldn’t see the screen! Go figure?! Then I really, really didn’t get into movies until audio description became readily available. The ADA requires that movie theaters provide audio description to blind and visually impaired people so now I can watch the latest blockbuster.

If you are a person with a disability or know someone who is what ways are you thankful for the ADA? There are a lot of things we still have to work on when it comes to equal access and full inclusion. As I shared before, I still struggle daily with website accessibility and mobile apps. I also have challenges with attitudinal barriers because of the intersectionality of my disability, race and gender that I contend with often. However I celebrate the numerous achievements we have made in these past 30 years and look forward to more success.

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.

Photo of Helen Keller

My Favorite Quotes from Helen Keller

Today is Helen Keller’s birthday. She was an icon in the blind, visually impaired and deafblind community. She was an American author, political activist, and lecturer. She was the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. The story of how Keller’s teacher, Anne Sullivan, broke through the isolation imposed by a near complete lack of language, allowing her to blossom as she learned to communicate, has become widely known through the dramatic depictions of the play and film The Miracle Worker. Her birthplace in West Tuscumbia, Alabama, is now a museum and sponsors an annual “Helen Keller Day”.

This incredible woman overcame and accomplished so much during the course of her life. So in celebration, I want to share some of her famous quotes  that I like from her book To Love This Life: Quotes by Helen Keller. To start my most favorite one is, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” I realized that shortly after losing my vision that I had to take “the bull by the horns” and jump into life. I realized my own mortality; that life was too short and that I might only get one chance to do the things that I wanted. It is amazing that a disability brought me to this decision. Looking at Keller’s life also inspired me as well. I first read about her when I was a little girl and was amazed that a woman who was deafblind could accomplish so much. She learned how to read and write. She graduated from college. She traveled all over the world. She met famous and important people. She fought for civil and human rights. She co-founded Helen Keller International, an organization initially for blinded WWI soldiers. She was outspoken and a feminist. She did not allow her disability to keep her from enjoying the fullness of life or participating in it. Her life was truly an adventure! I model my life the same. Continue reading for more of my favorite quotes.

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”

“I think the degree of a nation’s civilization may be measured by the degree of enlightenment of its women.”

“True teaching cannot be learned from text-books any more than a surgeon can acquire his skill by reading about surgery.”

“I cannot but say a word and look my disapproval when I hear that my country is spending millions for war and war engines—more, I have heard, than twice as much as the entire public school system costs the nation.”

“Personally I do not believe in a national agency devoted only to the Negro blind because in spirit and principle I am against all segregation, and the blind already have difficulties enough without being cramped and harassed by social barriers.”

“The woman who works for a dollar a day has as much right as any other human being to say what the conditions of her work should be.”

“I am younger today than I was at twenty-five. Of course the furrows of suffering have been dug deeper, but so have those of understanding sympathy and inner happiness. Whatever age may do to my earthly shell, I shall never grow cynical or indifferent—and one cannot measure the reserve power locked up in that assurance.”

“The chief handicap of the blind is not blindness, but the attitude of seeing people towards them.”

Now that you have read some of Helen Keller’s famous quotes are you motivated, inspired or encouraged by her life? Did you know about Keller before now? What do you think about her and her contributions to society? Share your thoughts and feelings about Keller in the comment section below.