This month marks the one-year anniversary of my blog, Triple E and I am so excited! I have been a professional blogger since 2013 but rarely did I speak on topics that I was passionate about or in my own voice. Many of my friends, family members and colleagues would read my work and encourage me to write my own blog. They would encourage me to write my own stories. But at the time I was juggling several balls in my life and the time was just not there to do it. It wasn’t until last year when a door opened and I walked through. So, I took my skills and talents and created something of my own and did it for myself. There has definitely been bumps along the way, and that is to be expected, but it has been a wonderful journey so far.
As part of my creativity, I called my blog Triple E as a play on my name Empish. I wanted my blog to be about something special. Something significant. Something that people would read and be impacted by. I didn’t want it to just be some words on a screen that added no value. So, I developed this mission statement: The purpose of the Triple E Blog is to Educate, Empower and Enlighten you with news, stories and info about the blind and visually impaired community using my life as a focal point.
I also decided to blog about once a week. Knowing my life and schedule a weekly post was a commitment I could handle. I thought about you, my readers. We all get overloaded with content all the time and I didn’t want to add to the list. This schedule became my sweet spot. Last year I came very close with about 51 posts and I know this year I will be able to meet it with no problem. Knock on wood! Crossing my fingers! Pray to Jesus!
Now that I am entering my second year, I have some new things I want to add to Triple E. One of them is around my love of books and reading. If you have been reading my previous post, and I hope that you have, you know this is one of my favorite pastimes. Moving forward I have created a category for book reviews called Reading with My Ears. I plan on doing a review once a month. I am pretty excited about it and have some great reads lined up already. Other new developments you will just have to wait and see because I won’t spill all the tea here!
Last year was just the beginning of this blog. This year will be a great continuation of meaningful post about my life, that will educate, empower and enlighten you. I look forward to the journey and you coming along with me.
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
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.
Here I go again back to the polls to vote in Georgia. I have to say this past year was the year of the vote because I participated in 3 elections. First it was the primary in March where I used the new paper ballot machines and right before the coronavirus really struck. Then another primary in June where I voted absentee for the first time. Third time was early and in person for the Presidential election in November. For me this is a lot of voting going on! All kind of candidates to learn about, amendments to get educated on, and various election rules and regulations to keep up with–this all in the midst of a pandemic. And here I am again–wash, rinse, repeat going back to the polls to vote in the runoffs. Can we say I am a little tired! But I know the stakes are high so I push through and do my civic duty.
“Why is there a runoff in Georgia in the first place?” You might be asking. According to the Georgia election code a candidate must win a majority of votes (50%+1) to be elected to office. If that doesn’t happen, a runoff election of the top two candidates is held. Additionally, here is a little history from Voice of America to make things even more spicy. “The runoff system was instituted in 1964 after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a ruling that found Georgia’s election system violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because votes cast in small rural counties counted more heavily than votes cast in large urban jurisdictions. A 2007 U.S. Interior Department study said Georgia’s runoff system was proposed to “circumvent” the Black voting bloc.”
The results of the runoff will determine which party controls the US Senate. Currently, Republicans hold a 50-48 margin. If they win one of the two seats, they keep control. Democrats need to win both runoff elections to control the Senate because the US Vice President casts a vote in case of a tie; meaning that when Kamala Harris becomes vice president, she will hold that power.
Now, knowing all of this I understand how critical this runoff is to my state and to me as a Black woman. I put up with the numerous phone calls, text messages, mailbox flyers and the endless volume of TV commercials. Did I say the stakes are high? Also, the heat is on! Although the runoff election is today, I opted to vote early a few weeks ago. During that time, among all the voting phone calls I received was one for a free ride to the polls. I was pleasantly surprised and took up the offer only for it to be a major disappointment. The driver never showed up and the second one’s car broke down. So, I went back to old faithful-public transportation!
Asides from that, the actual voting experience was pretty uneventful and I didn’t have too many problems. Except with the audio quality of my headset again. I am beginning to believe this might just be the way it is going to be. One of the poll workers gave me a pair of earbuds and that worked a bit better. But something I found interesting was the format of the ballot had changed in a short amount of time since November. The difference was at the end when you review your ballot instead of listing all the candidates and then emphasizing the one you selected, this time it just gave your selection only. This new change allowed me to review my ballot a little faster since I didn’t have to listen to all the other candidates I didn’t select.
As of this writing and posting, I don’t know the outcome of this runoff election. Some say we won’t know by the end of the day, maybe the end of the week. Who knows, there might be multiple recounts like the Presidential election. But regardless I voted because I believe strongly in our democracy and the power of the vote.
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 kahunaCOVID-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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
I know many people are having a hard time this year because they won’t be able to have that
traditional Christmas with their families. The coronavirus has turned our world upside down and many of us are still practicing social distancing, sheltering in place and wearing a facemask. That also means no traveling home for Christmas to see our love ones or having to celebrate with a very small gathering. Well, for me Christmas has not been one of those traditional type holidays. I don’t typically decorate with a tree, lights and all the fixings. I don’t send out Christmas cards anymore. I don’t do Christmas shopping for presents. Now don’t get me wrong I am not a Grinch. I do love and enjoy the holiday season. I am just not beholden to it. For me it has become a traditional non-traditional holiday. Depending on the year and the mood I am in, I will attend a Christmas theatre production, watch an audio described Christmas movie or play Christmas music. I also might even cook a small holiday dinner if I am so inclined. So, with coronavirus shutting us down for the holidays, I don’t have the same emotions around it that some might.
I think my lax attitude about Christmas might have come from my childhood. As a family we had traditions but they never seem deal breakers if we didn’t do them. I remember when I was small every year, we put up this all-white artificial Christmas tree with bright, red shiny bulbs. Then we moved on up like the Jefferson’s and got real pine Christmas trees. My dad insisted on it and I never saw an artificial tree again until I was grown. We did the traditional holiday dinner but dad did the bulk of the cooking. He would smoke some kind of meet like chicken, turkey or a ham while making mac and cheese, collard greens, sweet potato pies. Mom would chip in baking a cake with pecans on the top. The kitchen would be buzzing Christmas Eve as we listened to R&B Christmas songs on the radio and nibbled on Hickory Farms smoke sausages and cheese logs.
Sometimes we would travel to Alabama to visit my grandparents but mostly we stayed at home. As I got older and moved away, I was the one doing the traveling back to Texas and it would depend on Christmas or Thanksgiving. I couldn’t do both holidays since they were too close together with the expense and taking time off from work. Some years I did neither. Additionally, I had to incorporate my disability and the complexities that came with it. So those years, I established some of my own traditions like mailing out festive Christmas cards, playing holiday music and preparing a dinner.
after dad died in 1996, mom got artificial trees again but the dinner menu stayed pretty much the same although cooked by others. By that time, we were not particular as we were just glad to be together as a family and the food was secondary. We would watch TV laughing and talking while snacking on the three-flavor holiday popcorn tin. Or responding to the ringing phone as relatives from Alabama called to chat, gossip and give Christmas greetings.
This year with the coronavirus I am not traveling and that is not so unusual. But I am doing some nontraditional things all the same. To brighten the holiday up for me I decided to mix things up a bit and do some new things. In the past I was such a Scrooge when it came to Christmas movies. I thought they were so cheesy, unrealistic and sappy that I would barely watch them. Well, I have changed my tune and thanks to Netflix and audio description I have been watching quite a few. They actually have been very enjoyable and have kept my mental state balanced and positive right now. I also decided to cook some nontraditional foods this year. No turkey, ham, collard greens, etc. At first, I was going to do Mexican but changed my mine. I decided to do some chicken in the air frier with cabbage. Then make some homemade mac and cheese and vanilla pudding. I have been looking at recipes online and excited about trying new things and expanding myself. I even purchase a set of no-salt seasonings with some new ones I am curious about trying. This pandemic has pushed me to stretch myself and step out and not do the same old same old. Traditions are good but trying new things are even better.
So, what traditions are you keeping for the holidays? Has this pandemic caused you to make some changes in your celebration? Or are you like me and will have a traditional non-traditional Christmas?
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.
Today is the day that many people across the country are casting their ballot for our president and other government officials. In the past, I would have been doing the same thing at my local precinct. But not this year! It is way, way too much going on and if you have been watching even a little bit of the news you know exactly what I am talking about. All kinds of problems real or imagined with our postal service. Extremely long lines and wait times to vote. All kinds of misinformation shared online and social media and the list goes on and on. So, this year I decided to bypass some of the stress and craziness and vote early in person. I am so glad I did because my experience was good. There were some problems with the audio quality of the machines which I will share in a moment but overall, I had a fairly pleasant time.
initially I was not sure which approach I was going to take; whether to vote absentee or vote in person. So, I requested my absentee ballot way in advance and had it weeks early; like back in the first of October. I wasn’t concerned about mailing it back because I knew that I would either carry it to a local drop box in my neighborhood or to my local precinct. But then I began to reflect on the lack of accessibility of the whole process to vote absentee. I would have to get a sighted person to fill out my ballot for me which also mint lack of privacy. I also thought about my signature matching with the one on my state ID. Well, I can’t see that and trying to write my signature exactly the same after 20 years of blindness is a bit much! I just didn’t want to run the risk of my ballot being considered spoiled and thrown out on a technicality. Also, it was that issue during the primary when I voted absentee of the missing internal envelope. An explanation was given by the DeKalb County Voter Registration Office but I know how important it is to follow instructions exactly as written or your ballot could be thrown out. So, to alleviate my stress and worry I just voted early and in person.
Early voting in my area started on October 12th and lasted until the 30th. The first
few days, yes, the lines were long but I expected that. So, I waited about a week and went the following Monday on the 19th. I also wanted to do some more research on the candidates and amendments. Next, I made my transportation arrangements. I prepared for long lines by packing a snack and bottled water, brought my own folding chair and wore comfortable clothing and my Dr. Scholl’s tennis shoes. And, yes, let’s not forget my facemask and gloves! I had even read up on the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendations for voting. I also brought my absentee ballot to return so they could know that I was not trying to vote twice.
Once I arrived, I got set up and a poll worker walked me over to the accessible voting machine. I began to vote and that is where the problems started. The audio quality was awful again. I have talked about this here on the blog. I have shared this problem with friends and family. When I participated in a research consulting project with Georgia Tech on accessible voting machines, I stressed this point. I have filed complaints with the Georgia Secretary of State Office on this. In other words, I am a broken record and will continue to be until this issue is resolved. I just don’t understand with our advanced technology in speech output that when I go to vote, which is one of the most important things I can do in life, the machine sounds like your grandaddy’s old transistor radio from back in the day. Not only was the audio quality bad but it kept fading in and out. The poll worker came over several times to adjust the cord. He was talking to me like a Metro PC commercial, “Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now?” I even thought that if I placed the keypad on the desk and didn’t move it that would help but when I got to the portion to review my ballot the whole thing went out again. The poll worker came back and got it talking. I was able to finish and print out my ballot. I just can’t believe that the state of Georgia spent thousands of dollars on these brand-new machines and they don’t work any better than the old ones the blind community complained about in the past. I did file yet another complaint with the Secretary of State Office for what it’s worth.
Next the poll worker escorted me to the other machine to cast my ballot. There I placed the print out on the machine and waited to hear it click. Afterward I went outside to take my photo that I had voted and waited on my transportation. As I sat and waited, I observed people coming in and out but no long lines. The poll worker told me that the precinct had about 30 machines and things were flowing fairly smoothly. He said there were long lines at the beginning and early in the morning but that was decreasing. It was even nice to see a couple of new voters because announcements were made and everyone clapped and cheered when they cast their ballot. As I listened, I reflected on the first time I voted for the President many years ago. I was a college student and it was a good feeling for me too.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.