Tag Archives: Disability

Organizing Your Home Office in Four Manageable Steps

photo of a messy desktop

One thing that people who know me say all the time is, “Empish, you are so organized!” Some say it with awe. Others with annoyance, envy or pure astonishment. But regardless of the reaction I know the statement holds true. See, I was raised by parents that believed everything had a place and that when you finished using something you put it back were you found it. They also believed in cleaning up after yourself because there were no maids in the house. So, along with them instilling those principles and my Type A personality you can better understand why I am the organized person I am today. This is why I feel pretty confident telling you in this blog post how to be organized too. I also thought it was perfect timing to bring up the topic because today is Organize Your Home Office Day.

More and more people are working from home especially since COVID-19 struck. Therefore having a clean and clutter-free work space or office is critical to your productivity. If you got papers, trash, empty food containers and stuff all over the place it will make it hard for you to get any meaningful work accomplish. If your files are disorganized you will waste precious time hunting for important documents when it is time to look causing stress and frustration. Now who wants any of that? So, let me help you out a little bit. I got four manageable steps to whip your home office into tip top shape. By the time you are done applying these steps your office space will be nice and clean. You will be happier and who knows, you might even want to get some more work done.

Four Manageable Steps to Organize Your Home Office

Okay, so here is step #1. Clean off your work desk. Organize your work station. That means any papers, files, books, mail, etc. on your desk and put them in their proper place. Get a desk caddy for your pens, tape, stapler, and other office supplies if you don’t already have one. Wipe and dust off your desk and computer monitor. Also, clean your keyboard and/or mouse because they can hold germs. I have found it is good to do that from time to time because our fingers touch so many things during the day.

A standard home office file cabinet with two drawers. The top drawer is partially open to show files inside.

Next, move to your file cabinet. I have gotten in the habit of purging my paper files about once a year. I try and do it around the beginning of the year or tax time. I take out dated documents and papers I don’t need anymore. I also check my print and braille labels to see if they need a refresh because they become worn over time.

Something that I have been slowly doing over the years is migrating my paper to electronic. For example, bank and credit card statements, medical records, home repair invoices, I do electronically now to reduce my paper footprint. I also have found it a better approach since I am blind, I can access those documents with my screen reader verses trying to get a sighted person to read pieces of paper for me. 

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

Once I gather all the old paper documents the third thing, I do is take them to my shredder. I invested in a little shredder to protect my identity when it comes to documents that have sensitive info like my birthday, SSA number or account numbers. I also shred any medical documents. Keep in mind, if you work from home like I do a shredder could be a tax write off. Just saying Because tax season is here.

The last thing to get organize is go through your electronic files and press that delete button. That could be Word documents, PDF files, old emails, Excel spreadsheets, etc. If you are not using these files anymore. Or like me can’t remember why you have it in the first place, then it is time to let it go. electronic clutter can be just as burdensome as physical. Mark my words. I have spent time deleting old computer files and felt so much better afterward. It was freeing in a way that I didn’t even realize until I actually did it.

Share Your  Home Office Organizing Tips

So, there you have it. My four manageable ways to get your home office organized. Yes, I told you I would help you out.  Even this blog post is clear, concise and clutter free in the approach. But I am always learning and open to suggestions. Are there other steps you know to get your office cleaned up and organized? Share them with me in the comments section.

Blind Woman Dives Horses in Wild West Show

Color photo of Sonora Webster Carver posing with her horse

March is Women’s History Month

This month is Women’s History Month and I discovered an interesting woman that fits nicely in this category. She is truly a historical figure and did incredible things during her lifetime that not many women were doing.  She was also visually impaired   and later became an advocate for the blind. I first learned about her while watching a documentary on PBS. It was a short clip that I viewed on my smartphone. After that I was sold! I had to go and do my research to find out more on Sonora Webster Carver.  Then of course, I had to share on Triple E because you know that is how I roll! HaHa! So, get ready to read and learn about this fascinating blind woman who literally dived horses successfully in tanks of water.

Now, let’s start at the beginning. Sonora was born in 1904 right here in Georgia. She grew up with a restless mother who moved the family around a lot. Sonora had a lifelong love affair with horses, cutting high school classes to ride, even though her family never had their own horses. In 1923 she answered an ad placed by William “Doc” Carver for a diving girl and soon earned a place in circus history. It was her mother who first encouraged her to consider diving for Carver’s act, which was in search of a new “Girl-in-Red,” when she was 19.

She was a good rider, but nothing in her experience prepared her for diving. Her assignment was to mount a running horse as it reached the top of a forty or 60-foot tower and sail down on its back as the horse plunged into a pool of water below. After rigorous training She became an immediate hit and soon was the lead diving girl for Doc’s act as they traveled the country. Later, Sonora fell in love and married Doc’s son, Albert (Al) Floyd Carver in 1928. Al had taken over the show the year before after his dad passed. Sonora’s sister, Arnette Webster French, followed in her footsteps. She became a horse diver and joined the show but left in the 1930s.

Female Divers and Wild West Shows

Black and white photo of Sonora Webster Carver diving on her horse

 Now let me pause in the story to give some context on female divers and wild west shows. For their courage, horse diving women were compensated better than women in most other professions at the time which might be part of the reason Sonora took her mother’s advice. When she signed on to Carver’s show in 1924, she earned $125 per week. She would perform her diving routine up to five times a day, making   more than eight times what she had been as a department store bookkeeper. Another reason, was that female horse diving was among the most popular performances at Wild West Attractions. The stunt successfully combined attractive women, danger, and the magnetism of the “Wild West.” While women had been appearing as a novelty in Wild West shows since the early Buffalo Bill Cody days, female and male sharpshooters and trick riders were often interchangeable. Horse-diving acts, though, always used women riders, partly because Carver’s horses could support riders up to 135 pounds.

Of course, there was great risk in diving into a pool from heights of up to 60 feet on the back of a 1,000-pound wingless animal into a pool of water, yet Sonora survived her diving career in tack for about 8 years until 1931. While hitting the water off balance, face first and her eyes open; Sonora lost her vision from retinal detachment. She was diving her horse, Red Lips, on Atlantic City’s Steel Pier. In less than a year she came back and continued to dive horses. Although she was now blind, she kept diving for 11 more years until 1942.

Retirement and Protests against Diving Horses

After her retirement from diving, Sonora and her husband moved to New Orleans where she worked as a typist at the Lighthouse for the Blind and engaged in activism for the visually impaired. The act of diving horses remained a popular attraction at the Atlantic City boardwalk before being discontinued in the 1970s. An attempt to revive the act in the 1990s was short-lived, because of the protests from animal-rights activists concerned about horse safety. It was noted that when the show traveled the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals would investigate if there was any harmful treatment being done. They never found anything in all the years of the act. there was never a horse that was injured.

She wrote a book about her life titled, A Girl and Five Brave Horses. I was able to find an audio copy at the National Library for the Blind and Print Disabled. There is also a 1991 film of her life portrayed in Disney’s fictionalized movie, Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. Sonora died at 99  years old on September 20, 2003, in Pleasantville, New Jersey.

African American Slavery and Disability in the American South

African American Slavery and Disability Book Cover

Reading with My Ears Book Review

For many years I have been curious about the life of the disabled slave. My first exploration was learning about Blind Tom, the Georgia slave who was never emancipated. But that was not good enough and I wanted to learn more. Through digging a little deeper, I found a book at one of my favorite libraries, Bookshare.   The book is titled, African American Slavery and Disability: Bodies, Property, and Power in the Antebellum South, 1800–1860 by Dea H. Boster. The summary says that, disability is often mentioned in discussions of slave health, mistreatment and abuse, but constructs of how “able’ and “disabled” bodies influenced the institution of slavery has gone largely overlooked. This volume uncovers a history of disability in African American slavery from the primary record, analyzing how concepts of race, disability, and power converged in the United States in the first half of the nineteenth century.

The book was different than others I have read on slavery because it seemed more academic in tone but I thoroughly loved the historical context and the numerous real examples of disabled slaves. The book is broken down into three parts: Bodies, Property and Power.

Part I Bodies

This book shows slavery as a disability in and of itself. I never saw slavery in that light before but as I read the book the more, I saw what the author was saying. When you think of the word disability it means lack of control of a particular bodily function and the slavery of African Americans reflected that. One side said that slavery was best suited for African Americans because of their mental and physical state but then the institution of slavery debilitated them as well. Normal was viewed as controlled, healthy, moral, male and strong whereas disabled was viewed as the total opposite. Disability was considered a mark of dishonor except from war wounds.

Disabled slaves were used as the poster children to help eradicate slavery because many of the slaves became disabled from cruelty not from birth. Abolitionist used the testimonies of disabled slaves as part of their programs against slavery. Slaves would share about floggings, attacks by blood hounds and other bodily harms that caused them to become disabled. They would display their bodies during presentations or testimonies.

Another point under the part about bodies is that disabled slaves didn’t look at themselves as others did. Disability could come from mental, physical and sexual abuse. It could also come from unsafe work conditions, meager food and clothing, repetitive stress and punishments for infractions. They didn’t see themselves as week or useless. Much like today people with disabilities don’t see themselves the way society does. We view ourselves in a positive light and feel we have much to contribute. Disabled slaves would exhibit endurance and transcendence which was displayed in animal folktales. These stories displayed a weaker or powerless animal using their mental wit to overcome the more physically stronger one, like in Br’er Rabbit.

Soundness of a Disabled Slave

masters evaluated the soundness of a slave by three things: ability to perform manual labor, face value as a commodity and individual health. A slave’s overall health was low on the list and disease didn’t factor in on soundness, but things like epilepsy could because of its unpredictability. Poor diet, lack of suitable clothing and shelter caused disability. Rheumatism and blindness were mention often as debilitating conditions. Whippings were a form of punishment and didn’t render the slave physically disabled but it did have psychological affects whereas a branding was to totally humiliate the slave. Proper medical attention was hard because of lack of knowledge by owners, lack of compassion, or lack of medical doctors to provide care. As a result, slaves relied on each other or a conjurer or root worker for natural healing remedies.  This was a part of the slave’s identity and resistance.

Part II Property

Disabled slaves were sometimes labeled useless because of their inability to perform at peak levels. Their monetary value was decreased, or not able to be fully controlled or disciplined by their masters. Disabled slaves performed duties such as cooking and other house duties, nursing, child care, gardening and watching livestock. Owners wanted to get the most out of their slaves as humanely possible but slaves could negotiate as to how much of that labor, they could actually perform. You might think that duties of disabled slaves were light and less strenuous than an abled bodied slave but that is not true. For instance, the work of a cook was one of the most laborious because they had to rise early and stay late, prepare lots of meals, grind meal and gather firewood. Watching small children was also hard work for a disabled or elderly slave. Children ranged from small infants to 5 years old and a slave could be responsible for many children at one time.

Some disabled slaves were hired out and also learned specialized skills or trades because it made it easier on the body. If a disabled slave worked as a tailor or shoemaker, they could find some relief and still be found useful. The contributions that disabled slaves made on the plantation were important but owners viewed them as useless. This was evident in their printed records, journals, insurance policies and other documents. Unfortunately, this perspective still holds true today. People with disabilities add value and contribute greatly but mainstream society doesn’t always see, acknowledge or reward it. We are seen as less than and devalued solely based on our disability and therefore treated as such.

It was documented that some owners showed benevolence to their old and disabled slaves by allowing them to stay with their families as they aged and debilitated. But according to the author these examples are rare.   Disabled slaves received abuse and punishment just like abled bodied slaves. The most common was not completing an assigned task or duty. The idea of reasonable accommodation in the workplace was not a concept in the arena of American slavery.  Owners didn’t always take into account that a disabled slave would perform at a slower rate or that the task might be more difficult or complicated to do.  So, if a task was not done, regardless of disability punishment would be delivered. Depending on the degree of punishment some slaves died as a result. One would consider this murder although owners did not. Besides punishment disabled slaves suffered neglect. Many would get reduced food rations, no new clothes or poor shelter. Some slaves were even abandoned to fend for themselves getting no assistance from family or the slave community.

Disabled slaves were also used as part of medical experimentation.  According to the author the most well-known procedures that were done were on slave women. It was understood back then and even today that African-Americans feel less pain making them better candidates for medical experimentation. Doctors would perform surgery without anesthesia, test remedies and use disabled slaves in medical hospitals and schools for educational purposes. These were ways that an owner could recoup the cost of a disabled slave since the slave couldn’t perform hard manual labor.

Documenting Disability  for Estate Planning and Sale

Since disabled slaves were property it was important for owners to document their disability for estate planning and sale. Owners had to walk a fine line with being honest about a slaves mental and physical condition but not sharing too much or the slave might not be saleable.  They were documented in slave records with their particular kind of disability or if they were aged. Records would show slaves labeled as “gets fits”, “blind in one eye”, “hand injured”, “old Betty” or Old John”. They also gave them names of endearment such as “uncle” and “auntie” to indicate that the particular slave was aged. At the time of sale slaves were thoroughly examined to help determine retail value. Tests for hearing, eyesight and physical movement were performed. Slaves were required to disrobe to inspect their bodies for burns, scars and injuries. Scars from whippings were scrutinize more severely as a sign of a difficult or unruly slave. Bad teeth were a sign of poor health. Slaves were asked questions about their overall health and disability along with the examination. Owners would give a guarantee or warranty of health during the sale but, of course, there was no true absolute guarantee that a slave was totally healthy or sound.

To prepare a disabled or older slave for sale many owners would go through great lengths of disguise. Grey and white hair would either be plucked out or colored black to create youthful appearance. Scars, urns and injuries were greased over. Slaves were strongly encouraged and/or threaten to answer questions quickly, cheerfully and with a smile on their face. Some slaves were given large portions of food prior to sale and/or better clothing to wear. Slaves were aware of the transaction taking place in their sale and sometimes would hide or embellish their disability if it would help prevent their purchase, punishment or separation from family. One thing I found interesting    about this whole thing is that disabled slaves saw the lower value placed on them as a benefit because if ever it came time to purchasing their freedom, they knew the price would be more obtainable than an able-bodied slave.

Part III Power

Many times disabled slaves would use their disability to negotiate or manipulate their bondage. They were not totally powerless. By over exaggerating their condition the slave could get out of hard or uncomfortable work duties while still being in good favor with their owner. Many owners relied on medical doctors to help treat their disabled slaves. They did not rely or trust their slaves with the diagnosis of their medical condition. This feeling was mutual as slaves would sometimes hide their physical ailments and seek treatment among themselves. . .  Regardless doctors treating disabled slaves on a plantation was quite a lucrative business. Doctors could make multiple visits and administer various remedies, surgeries or treatments.

Some owners decided to forgo medical attention for their disabled slaves and allowed the condition to linger for months and even years.  It was directly connected to the financial value of the slave. The relationship between the owner, doctor and slave was a complicated one. Owners wanted their slaves cured and back to work. Doctors wanted financial compensation, good reputation and remedies that worked. Slaves wanted relief from pain and suffering. Yet many times these outcomes didn’t always happen in the way that was satisfying for everyone.

Another aspect of disabled slaves’ power on the plantation was faking or malingering their disability. A slave could embellish their pain or discomfort, tipping the scale to their advantage. Female slaves were more likely to fain their medical condition because it was directly connected to their reproductive ability. As a result, owners and doctors took their pleas of pain more seriously. Female slaves might complain of menstrual pain. She might fain repeated miscarriages to gain sympathy, lighter work load or more food rations. Additionally, a female slave’s ability to reproduce was directly connected to the soundness of the plantation and its owner. If a female slave was treated well by her owners then there would be no reason for multiple miscarriages or abortions. In some extreme cases a slave would intentionally injure or mutilate themselves to become disabled to get out of work, prevent a sale or removal from family. All of this was an important method of resistance however small.

This Was an Emotional Read

This was an incredible book and it took me a minute to read through it. I got quite emotional as I read the various examples of disabled slaves. My feelings ranged from distressed to anger to amazement. Slavery is a difficult topic already but reading about disabled slaves was even more trying. But I have no regrets because I took this journey willingly and am glad for it. I am grateful  for their examples of strength, endurance and resistance.

The Differences Between Living with Low Vision and Total Blindness

Black and White Photo of Amy Bovaird

Editor’s Note: Guest blogger, Amy Bovaird is a good friend and fellow peer advisor at VisionAware. We have been online friends for many years and lovers of the written word. Here is her story about living with low vision.

Everyday Misconceptions of Low Vision

Several years ago, my boyfriend’s housemate told him, “Amy can’t be blind, she makes eye contact with me.” In another situation, I was reading an excerpt from one of my books to members of a Rotary Club. Afterward one of the group members raised his hand and said, “You’re not really blind. How could you read that book?” Sometimes children come up to me and ask about why I use a white cane. When I explain, they often say, “But you don’t look blind!” One summer a Lions Club group sought out help to serve their famous BBQ at their fairground stand. I volunteered. Being a lion from another club, the leader took me on, albeit reluctantly. She put me at the end of an assembly line adding bread and butter to the plate.

Each of these situations perpetuate an inaccuracy or mistaken belief about blindness. I am legally blind but not completely blind. I am one of many who still has some useable vision, albeit not always stable or reliable. In fact, 15% of the people in the city where I live, Erie, Pennsylvania, struggles with some degree of sight loss. That is about 200,000 people. Many individuals never pick up a white cane. They simply manage the best they can, often keeping their loss to themselves. The amount of sight loss varies from person to person. It’s not liked a light switch, with one setting—on or off. Blind or sighted. There is a large continuum in between. That’s where meeting those with low vision often becomes cloudy. I want to clear up some of the confusion with you today.

February is Low Vision Awareness Month

February is both Low Vision Awareness Month and Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) Awareness Month, making it the perfect time for me to share my story. I have Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare, hereditary eye condition characterized by progressive sight loss. One in 4,000 people live with it. I first started to notice it in my late teens. My visual field narrowed and I had trouble in low light (at night or in darker environments). This progressed to tunnel vision, restricting vision more and more. It took me more than a decade before being diagnosed with RP. I was told I would “go blind.”  In 1988, even specialists did not distinguish between low and / or no vision. Some of the challenges are similar and some are quite different. Both are manageable with the right mindset.

Addressing Misconceptions of Low Vision

Let’s revisit those situations I started off with in this blog post. I could still make eye contact with my boyfriend’s housemate because I still had my central vision, which was quite strong at that time. I had lost—or was in the process of losing—my peripheral or side vision. Others with low vision may also be able to appear as if they can make eye contact, even if they have lost some of their central vision, the reason being—our brain can “remember” and connect with people to make it look like one is making eye contact even if he or she cannot actually see the person’s eyes. So yes, legally blind people can make eye contact.

Now, sometimes when I tell the story of the gentleman from the rotary club who believed I was not really blind because I could still read print, I smile. The belief about blindness, or any ingrained stereotype, pervades. Earlier in my talk that day, I had explained to the group about how those with low vision had different degrees of sight loss, which met the “legally blind” criteria. After his comment, I showed him the Large Print book I read from. It was a size 18 font and said any smaller print would be indistinguishable. Sometimes it requires patience and reminders to others. People don’t see their perceptions as limiting or that they need to reframe them.

Since even children believe those who are blind look a certain way, this shows how deep the stereotype exists in our culture. The truth is there is no specific way a blind person “looks.” To teach this aspect to school children, I created a video called “The White Cane Song,” a collaborative effort by Melissa and Larry Beahm, a professional duo of singers, and me. It educates about the use of a white cane and also about the spectrum of sight. One of the lyrics reads “I have some degree of blindness. But I use my cane to help me through.” The video shows two young girls and me walking down the sidewalk with our white canes. Some friendly townspeople let us pass. The song has a catchy tune and demonstrates how children with sight loss can pursue hobbies. The children learn yoga in the video. It’s important to educate children to create an environment of empathy and inclusiveness in the school place.

The final example is harder to combat. It’s sometimes difficult to change the low expectation society places on those with low vision. I could easily manage the task given to me at the barbecue yet the leader came to me frequently to ask if I needed help. My role was to give them assistance. I learned from that experience to clearly communicate my abilities. This misunderstanding took place with a member of an organization tasked with “Being a beacon of light for the blind” by Helen Keller. It becomes imperative to share our truths, especially in an organization who provides support to the blind. We need to bridge understanding and build teams of outreach to teach others who know even less about sight loss. Like every other person, those with sight loss have skills, talents and natural abilities. We are more than able to contribute to society. I call myself “The low vision motivator with high expectations.” We have much to contribute to society and need to overcome that limitation in all social circles.

Living with Low Vision

So, what does life with low vision look like for me? I lead an active life. I am a teacher by trade, and a storyteller by nature. So, when my sight loss made managing a classroom too problematic, I decided to turn my hobby into a second career. It combines writing, educating and telling stories within two arenas – faith and sight loss. When I finally got past some of the fears being blind threw at me, I started writing about my slice-of-life situations. And I always found important life lessons. So, I share these in my memoirs and at my speaking engagements.

I now have come to terms with my five degrees of limited sight. With RP, this will decrease as my condition continues to deteriorate. However, I am optimistic about the quality of my life and I want to pass on that optimism with others.

The Six Factors of APPLY-G

6 factors have helped me maintain a positive outlook despite my unstable and unreliable vision. I call it hide-and-seek vision because it seems to be playing this game with me. Daily I remind myself to Apply-G because these factors are really ingredients in my personal sunscreen. They are:  Attitude, Power, Patience, Laughter, Say Yes to Change, and Gratitude. When I add this sunscreen to my life, it prevents me from getting burned!  

1.  Attitude is an area of constant rephrasing for me. Being viewed as “accident-prone” because I couldn’t see something hurts my psyche. I once dropped a stack of text books on the floor thinking it was the edge of my teaching table. Live that one down!  But I have learned to show kindness and empathy to myself and look at my situation in a more positive frame of mind—whether that means downplaying it, joking, explaining or establishing a life lesson.

2.  Power comes with choice. Since I can’t control what my eyes show me, or what I can or can’t see in a given moment, I have to choose how to respond. Making that decision reminds me, ultimately, I am still in control. That feels good!

3.  Patience has taught me to s-l-o-w down. Typically, I move fast. But since I can’t see well, it’s an accident waiting to happen. I am getting better at slowing my pace down.  Also, patience teaches me I can still pursue my passions. For example, I am discovering I can do many of the same things I used to do, such as running and teaching if I am patient enough to adapt my style. Recently, Zoom has given me new opportunities to teach English. I have trouble moving around safely in a physical classroom—which was my style—but online, I can keep my active personality and still teach my students the tenets of English. It’s not quite the same, but I am back “in the driver’s seat!”

4.  Laughter is healing, so I write and speak about mishaps. It helps me to enjoy my life, and makes me more approachable to others.

5.  Say Yes to Change enables me to get out of the doldrums. I give myself permission to stop what I’m doing and choose another activity. I take a nap, call a friend, go for a run or write in my journal and I begin to feel better.

6.   Gratitude is the secret substance to giving me my outlook.I keep a journal where I thank God for what he has done, or will do in my life, if I don’t see it happening now.  I find gratitude reminds me to live in hope and joy. Gratitude is The. Key. Ingredient. It makes all the other elements flow smoothly. I love the picture this paints in my mind.  I have only to recall the worst sunburn of my life when I sunbathed on a cloudy morning on the equator without any sunscreen. I didn’t think I needed it with the clouds covering the sun. The painful red as a lobster memory along with the visual to APPLY-G reminds me of the importance to Add sunscreen liberally. 

Chat with and Learn More About Amy

It’s been wonderful to share my thoughts with you today. I would love to hear your comments and any questions you might have about Low Vision Awareness Month or my eye condition, Retinitis Pigmentosa.

Amy Bovaird is a freelance writer,  ghostwriter, the author of the Mobility Series and the Finding Joy After … Series. She is the recipient of the “Distinguished Merit of Literature” by Ohio Valley University for her first memoir, Mobility Matters. A former ESL instructor, world traveler and inspirational speaker. She peppers her talks with faith, humor and culture. Amy is legally blind and losing her hearing. But she advocates living your best life, one rich in gratitude. Amy now lives in northwest Pennsylvania in the same house where she grew up. She strives for the upper hand with her three lively cats, and on most days, fails miserably. Learn more about Amy at her website.

Black Female Research Scientist and Inventor Advocates for Better Eyecare and Treatment of Blindness

A black and white photo of a young Patricia E. Bath

Patricia E. Bath

This month is Black History Month and I am so excited to share about this phenomenal woman I learned about from the podcast called Encyclopedia Womannica. I have been a listener and subscriber for a long time now, at least 2 years, and every day I learn about some incredible woman and what she has done in the world. Well, this time the woman was Patricia E. Bath. Much like our US Vice President, Kamala Harris, Bath, was the first in many categories. Let me list them for you:

1.  The first African-American to complete a residency in ophthalmology

2.  the first Black woman to receive a medical patent 

3.  The first American woman to be named a chair of ophthalmology.

Bath’s Early Years

Obviously, being the first to open the door is no joke and I can imagine that it took a lot of courage, strength and tenacity to get there. But Bath also got her grit from her parents as well. She was born in Harlem in 1942. Her father was the first Black motorman for the New York City subway system; and her mother was a domestic worker.  Both of her parents supported her curiosity about the world and interest in science. Her dad was a world traveler during his days as a merchant marine, which gave him colorful stories to share with his family. Bath was particularly intrigued with the story of Dr. Albert Schweitzer, a medical missionary, who dedicated his life to treating leprosy in the Congo.  Her mother’s contribution was using the earnings from her job to purchase Bath’s first chemistry set.

In high school she was one of a few students selected to attend a cancer research workshop sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The head of the workshop was so impressed, he included her findings in a paper he presented at a conference. Bath completed high school in two years, and went straight to Hunter College where she graduated in 1964. Next, she attended Howard Medical School in Washington, D.C.

Bath Notices Differences in Care Between Blacks and Whites

Finished with her degrees, Bath accepted an internship back home, at Harlem Hospital. The succeeding year, she also began pursuing a fellowship in ophthalmology at Columbia University. While traveling between the hospital and the university, Bath noticed a stark difference in the number of blind or visually impaired patients at Harlem’s eye clinic compared to Columbia’s despite how close the two facilities were located to each other. The one notable difference was that Harlem’s patients were largely Black while Columbia’s were mainly white.

Man Getting an Eye Exam

Drawing from her childhood curiosity, Bath led a retrospective epidemiological study. She found that blindness among the Black community was double that of whites. She concluded that high rates of blindness among African-Americans was largely due to the lack of access to care. She convinced physicians to offer surgeries at the Harlem clinic. And she proposed a new discipline called community ophthalmology. This new discipline combines elements of public health, community medicine and clinical ophthalmology to support underserved communities. Screenings were done for eye threatening conditions like glaucoma and cataracts. Volunteers were sent to senior centers and daycare facilities in the community. Children in need of glasses were identified early, giving them a better chance at school success. This discipline is still practiced worldwide today.

Bath Breaks Race and Gender Barriers

Bath began the final stage of her training at New York University In 1970. She broke a racial barrier by becoming the first African-American ophthalmology resident in American history. Shortly afterward she married a fellow physician and they had a daughter. A couple of years later Bath and her family relocated out west to California where she broke another barrier by becoming the first woman faculty member in UCLA’s Ophthalmology department. When she was hired, she was offered an office in the basement next to the lab animals. Instead of accusing her employer of discrimination Bath worked on getting more appropriate office space. By 1983, Bath was the chair of the department, and breaking yet another barrier by becoming the first woman in the US to hold that position.

Bath Invents Device to Remove cataracts

Bath believed that eyesight was a human right so in 1977, she and several colleagues created the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness. They traveled around the world training volunteers, teaching, speaking and experiencing different cultures. During her travels, the most common cause of blindness she saw was cataracts. So, she decided to do something about it and in 1981 she invented a new device and method for treatment called the  laserphaco probe. The probe is a fiber optic laser surrounded by irrigation and suction tubes. It lets surgeons to remove cataracts in a matter of minutes. Not only was the process quickly sped up, but it minimized the patient’s pain.

A color photo of an older Patricia E. Bath

During this time, Bath’s concept outpaced current technology. She spent almost five years conducting research, trials and development work. In 1988, Bath broke another barrier becoming the first Black woman doctor to receive a patent. Today, the probe is frequently used around the world, and revolutionized the way cataracts are treated. Bath used her device personally restoring vision to several people who’d been blind for over 30 years. But in 1993, she retired from her position at UCLA to focus on telemedicine. She held positions in telemedicine at her alma mater, Howard University, and at St. George’s University in Grenada. In 2001, she was appointed to the International Women in Medicine Hall of Fame. Bath died on May 30, 2019, from complications with cancer. She was 76 years old.

I’m Networking From Home During COVID-19

Empish Working in Home Office

This is International Networking Week

After working many years in the disability non-profit sector, I have learned a lot of professional skills that have elevated my career. I am sure you have heard of a couple of them like:  Don’t send an email out when you are feeling stressed, angry or frustrated because the outcome could be damaging. Or arrive at work and meetings 15 minutes early so that you are ready to go on time. Or keep clear of office gossip and politics. Yet one of the biggest tools in my career toolbox is networking. In today’s workforce, who you know is just as important as what you know. I feel that for people like me who are visually impaired, it is even more essential to network and build strong working relationships that can help lead to career success. As a result, I have been able to maintain my employment over the years primarily through my connections.

this week is International Networking Week and the perfect opportunity to reach out to current contacts and make new ones. You might be wondering how a person with vision loss networks and meets people? The answer is something I had to figure out through a lot of trial and error. Typical networking advice does not always work for those of us who cannot see so I had to add my own little twist to the experience. Now back in the days of BC (Before COVID) When I attended new events, I would contact the coordinator in advance and let them know I had a disability. This gave them a heads up and allowed time to explain I might need some extra help like a sighted guide as an escort to meet people. Other times I would just come to the function, sit down and converse with people who are sitting nearby. I have learned to not be stressed, put a smile on my face and allow the conversation and interaction to flow naturally. I know that some people might feel uncomfortable with interacting with a blind person so I don’t let that ruffle my feathers and I just take things as they come.

Current Methods to Network From Home

Now with the coronavirus still in high numbers, I am continuing to practice social distancing and work from home.  Gone are the days, at least temporarily, when the typical in-person networking included:  small talk, giving elevator pitches, and exchanging numerous business cards. Usually, networking involved attending large events where shaking hands and meeting face-to-face meant you could form a meaningful connection with another person. I have learned this can be accomplished through networking from home and fits perfectly with the fact I am an introvert . The possibilities of learning about a job opening, getting career advice, finding a mentor, meeting a future co-worker or colleague can all be done from the comfort of my house with my internet connection, computer, landline phone  and  adaptive technology . This is all a part of the new normal; yet the key to successful networking is to get to know people, have genuine conversations and add value.

Empish Using a Landline Phone

The bulk of my home networking has been on LinkedIn. Since COVID I have ramped up my interaction a bit more. I have been trying to have more meaningful conversations and not just reply with the standard auto fill responses. I have also been making more comments on the pages of other fellow bloggers that are disabled or who write. Engaging with others that do the same kind of work I do helps build a connection. Lastly, I started attending my college alumni chapter virtual meeting each month. I have only been to a meeting or two but I am hopeful that being consistent will be fruitful and I will meet people there too.

New Methods to Network From Home

Also, I have been putting my network chops to the test in a new way. I signed up for two online courses related to my work. One is a blogging course and the other is for freelance writers. Both of the courses have forums which are new platforms for me and have challenge me in the way I engage with people. I decided to do it because I wanted to meet new people in my field and build relationships. I am optimistic that out of these courses I will meet some folks I can forge a long-lasting connection beyond the lessons so we can get together and talk shop about the writing life. additionally, because of COVID many writer conferences are going virtual this year which is a perfect opportunity for networking. I have never really attended a writer’s conference because of distance and cost yet this year I might do it.

A Network Challenge for You

My challenge to you is this. What one or two things can you do to move your networking forward this week? How will you engage more with your current connections? How will you make new ones in this time of COVID?

Adding Some Spice to My Life with a Little Braille

A white plastic two-level spice rack with a variety of spices and containers.

January is Braille Literacy Month

I would be remiss to let this month go by and not talk about braille. Although I use it sparingly it is a part of my everyday life and this month is Braille Literacy Month. This is also the birthday month of its inventor, Louis Braille. In my very first post on Triple E I shared about Braille, how he created the code and how I use it daily. I won’t rehash it here but feel free to click on the link and read it.

Back in December or maybe November I ordered a set of no-salt spices from Amazon. I was getting bored with the three options I was cooking with:  black pepper, kosher salt and paprika. Sometimes I would include other seasonings but I needed to spice up my life a bit. So, I ordered this set of 24 spices and got excited about the possibilities. I know, 24 seems like a lot to get started but I can be ambitious and adventurous when I want. Once they came in the mail I had to sit and figure out how in the world I was going to keep track of all of them. I had a lot of spices to choose from and I didn’t want to make mistakes and pick up the wrong one to season my food.  I mean, adding extra black pepper is one thing, but adding extra ground cinnamon or cumin is totally another. Sometimes I would use my sense of smell to determine the differences like sniffing garlic or chili powder. But that is not always reliable especially if I am working with spices I am not accustom to using on a regular basis. This led me to an idea! I decided to use my little braille skills to solve the identification problem.

Creating Braille Labels and Spice List

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

First, I pulled out my brand-new handy dandy braille label gun. I bought that too in December and boy did I need a new one! The old one had problems releasing the Dymo tape, the printed alphabetic numbers and letters were rubbed off and the thing was just old as dirt. Second, I got a sighted friend to come over and help me out. The one cool thing about using a braille label gun is that a blind or sighted person can use it. It has braille and printed numbers and letters on the dial. We tagged teamed the project. We created the spice list in alphabetical order to make things easy. She created labels of 1-24 and I typed up a printed list on my laptop computer. She would tell me the name of each spice and I would type it on the list. Then I would give her the assigned number and she would create the braille label.

Empish Sitting in Front of Laptop Wearing Headset with Microphone

Need Additional Info on Unfamiliar Spices

photo of a variety of spices displayed in tubs on a shelf in a shop

Now my spices are ready to go. Each one has a braille number that corresponds to my electronic printed list that I have stored on Dropbox. Yet I still gotta little more work to do. As I mentioned I bought these spices to attempt something new and there are definitely some I haven’t tried or even heard of. “Anyone know how to cook with ground turmeric?”  “Has anyone heard of Provencal aromatics or seafood aromatics?” If you are scratching your head or furrowing your eyebrow, join the club because I am right there with you. This means back to my computer to do some research. Next, I will be going online and searching around the internet for info on the ones that are unfamiliar and learning how to cook with them. Watch me learn and get ready to burn in the kitchen! Intimidation is not in my vocabulary and I am up for the challenge. I am excited about this new phase; and how using a little braille has added some spice to my life.

Being an Introvert Helps Me Survive COVID-19

Wall of Book Shelves

Reading with My Ears Book Review

Although a vaccine for COVID-19 is on the way this pandemic is not over by a long shot. There are still a lot of unanswered questions that we have to deal with. As for me I am trying to learn as much as I can about the vaccine. I am still wearing my facemask. I am still practicing social distancing and sheltering in place. This all leads me to something very interesting I have learned about myself over the past year. This new but old discovery is that I am an introvert. I sort of kind of knew this about myself for awhile yet when this pandemic struck and we had to shut down I found myself really being okay with it. Don’t get me wrong, I do have my days when I get a little squirrely but for the most part, I am fine with being quarantined at home.

I spoke to a fellow blogger, Steph McCoy over at Bold, Blind Beauty, about it. As I shared my thoughts and feelings, she commiserated with me and recommended a book for me to read that would help me figure some things out. Of course, I am a book lover and at home, so I got time to read, right? This was right up my alley.  So, I downloaded the audio version of The Introvert Advantage: Making the Most of Your Inner Strengths by Marti Olsen Laney and got to learning more about myself.

Summary and Goals of the Book

Before I share with you some of the key points, I gathered from the book, let me give you a quick summary from Bookshare. “At least one out of four people prefers to avoid the limelight, tends to listen more than they speak, feels alone in large groups, and requires lots of private time to restore their energy. They’re introverts, and here is the book to help them boost their confidence while learning strategies for successfully living in an extrovert world. After dispelling common myths about introverts-they’re not necessarily shy, aloof, or antisocial–The Introvert Advantage explains the real issues. Introverts are hardwired from birth to focus inward, so outside stimulation-chitchat, phone calls, parties, office meetings-can easily become too much. The Introvert Advantage dispels introverts’ belief that something is wrong with them and instead helps them recognize their inner strengths-their analytical skills, ability to think outside the box, and strong powers of concentration. It helps readers understand introversion and shows them how to determine where they fall on the introvert/extrovert continuum. It provides tools to improve relationships with partners, kids, colleagues, and friends, offering dozens of tips. Finally, it shows how to not just survive, but thrive-how to take advantage of the introvert’s special qualities to create a life that’s just right for the introvert temperament, to discover new ways to expand their energy reserves, and even how, when necessary, to confidently become a temporary extrovert.” After reading that detailed summary, I knew this book was for me and was a great suggestion from my friend. Now that I have finished the book, I am ready to share the little gems I learned with you about being an introvert and how it is helping me survive COVID-19.

As I was reading there were three goals the author wanted to achieve:

1. Determine if you are an introvert or not

2. How to understand if you are

3. How to nurture your valuable introversion

I Am an Introvert

After reading through the first couple of chapters I realized pretty quickly that I am an introvert. Some of the characteristics are that we have ongoing dialogue with ourselves; and we think too much. Introverts walk around with lots of thoughts and feelings in their head. Yep, that me, especially at 3 a.m. in the morning. That is when I get my best writing and blogging ideas. Who knew?

Books on desk with cup of tea

I also realized that it probably started from my childhood. Funny how so many things in life come from when you are a kid. As I thought back to those days I remember before my siblings came along, I spent a lot of time alone and by myself. Playing solitary games and reading books. Two memories stand out specifically. The first memory was selecting toys from the Sears Christmas Wish Book that I could play mostly by myself. Some kind of way I already knew as an only child that I needed to do that. Second memory is winning the summer reading contest in the 6th or 7th grade and feeling bittersweet about it. I was glad that I won but sad that I had time to read all those books. I realized   that I needed to spruce up my life with some other activities besides reading.

Socializing as an Introvert

I have even seen it in my friendships and romantic relationships. I enjoy hanging out with friends but only for a while then my energy starts to go down. Before the pandemic if I was at a get together, I would set a time for about an hour or two because that was about my limit. Not that I didn’t like the people I was with I would just get tired and want to go home. Now with the men in my life, I tend to date guys who are very outgoing and charismatic. I figure it’s that old saying that opposites attract. But sometimes it would get stressful and complicated because the guy I was dating was ready to roll but I was winding down. I would want a quiet night at home but he would want to hit the town.

I also noticed it with crowds especially after I went blind. I don’t care for large crowds anymore because of the sensory overload and sometimes I feel a little bit anxious. No large auditoriums. No mega stadiums. No large crowded and busy malls. Small groups work best for me. This has come in very handy during the pandemic because there is less chance of spreading the virus if I stay in a little group.

Even better if I stay home and that is what I have done the bulk of the time.

Working as an Introvert

A couple of years ago I made a career change and started working from home. I am a freelance writer and blogger–a quiet and isolating type of work life. I am self-motivated, set my own schedule and don’t need supervision. Unbeknownst to me this job shift complemented my introversion.  Then the pandemic came and we all had to stay home. So, I am reading online about people having to work remotely while I was already doing that. It was a lot of change for people and I felt empathy but I personally was not struggling with it. I began to question why and now I know why. Being an introvert has not only helped me with my overall career but also my blogging during this pandemic. I have written multiple blog posts about how people can successfully work from home. Many of those posts were ideas that came from my personal experience along with research and keeping up with trends.

Final Take Aways and Last Thoughts

The final take-aways are pacing myself and taking on extrovert skills. The last couple of chapters of the book were encouraging and reaffirming as they delt with self-esteem and self-confidence. It is okay to be an introvert. That there is nothing wrong with me and the way I move in the world. I really felt good about that because I have felt that my behavior was not always supported. The author took time to explain pacing and energy levels, how they work and how to restore them. I use to think that taking long naps and cuddling up in my bed to read all the time was a bad thing. But after reading this book I see that it is a part of being an introvert. That it is a part of restoring my energy levels and especially since I have a sleeping disorder. This is called nurture your nature.

But there are times when you will have to take on the skills of an extrovert. I have done that many times in my life. I have friends that would even argue me down with the writing of this post to say that I am not an introvert because I am so friendly, talkative and outgoing. Yes, those things are true but I do them because the situation warrants it. If I am at a gathering or event, I will get out of myself and engage with people there. I will not be a wall flower. I will put my best foot forward, smile and be a Chatty Pattie. I now realize that takes a lot of energy and that is why I stay for a short time and leave. When I get home, I go straight to the bed or sofa to rest. 

This book has been a confirmation for me. I can identify who and what I am. I am able to take better care of myself. As they say knowing is half the battle. Now that I know that I am an introvert I can use this to help me survive COVID-19.

It’s the One Year Anniversary of Triple E

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

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.

How I Created a Vision Board without Vision

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

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

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

My Vision Board Idea

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

Empish Writing a Check

Getting Help to Assemble Board

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

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

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