Yesterday Mobility Matters went live for sale on Amazon.
I happily posted my review on Amazon and wish her much luck with the book.
Here is an interview, to learn a little bit more about Amy Bovaird and her journey.
Could you share a little bit about yourself with my readers.
Yes, certainly. I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania where most people knew each other. I’m the third of four siblings but most people think I’m the youngest because of my size. We’re a close family and on every holiday, traveled to my father’s mother house. It was like going back in time; it was such an old-fashioned town. For fun, I liked to read those Scholastic arrow books for fun and hang out at the library. I was so quiet. That’s probably why I surprised everyone by attending an out-of-state college and moving overseas to teach English.
Why did you choose to teach overseas?
A couple of reasons. I graduated with a new major: Teaching English as Foreign Language (TEFL). Back then, no one had heard of this, at least in Pennsylvania. Besides, I was drawn to missions. I thought teaching overseas would allow me to support myself and work in the mission field. In 1984, I went to a mission conference and found a job where I could do both!
Where did you teach?
In Latin America, the Far East and the Middle East over a twenty-five year period. I taught from pre-school to adult military, at language schools and at a women’s college. I don’t know if I was natural at it, but I loved my students and used to travel within the country I lived and to nearby countries during our school breaks. I was so blessed!
Did you ever have any doubts about your career? Or Scares?
I had both. In Colombia, one day after starting on my walk to work, I was ordered by members of a Colombian SWAT team to return to my apartment. A child of a wealthy Colombian family had been kidnapped by FARC, a terrorist group, and the kidnappers were thought to be hiding out in the enormous apartment complex that also housed the teachers at my school. The kidnapper escaped and shortly, thereafter the child was released. Except for the danger to the child, that was pretty exciting!
The only doubt I ever had came when I was diagnosed with a degenerative eye condition that would lead to blindness. I had accepted a job in the Far East and didn’t want to give it up but didn’t want to go blind in another country, either. After a week or so and a lot of prayer, I decided to continue with my plans to live and teach in Indonesia, the farthest I’d ever traveled. My mother couldn’t believe it. I think that gave her many gray hairs!
What is this eye condition and how has it affected your life?
It’s called Retinitis Pigmentosa, RP for short. Although it’s hereditary, no one in my family or any of my relatives who suffered from it. As far as we knew, I was the only one. It’s different for every one who has it but some common characteristics are night blindness, a continual narrowing of peripheral vision, which leads to tunnel vision and ultimately, blindness. I’ve been legally blind since 1988. For me, the progression of vision loss has been gradual, so it hasn’t affected me overnight. I lived it with it for years without telling anyone. People just thought I was air-headed and clumsy when I ran into things. Aside from that, I lived my life like anyone else.
At what point did your situation change?
In 2006, my vision had deteriorated to the point I was stumbling and people thought I was drunk or on drugs, or something. I had returned to the United States and started noticing other problems connected to my hearing as well, especially over the phone. I still never talked about my RP. That year, I started two new teaching jobs. To maintain my jobs, I knew I had to check into help. That’s when I discovered the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services and learned how to use a cane, and received hearing aids. I had 50% hearing loss at that point. My hearing loss is a condition that sometimes accompanies RP, and is marked with progressive hearing loss and ends in deafness.
Okay, let’s talk about your book. What is the significance of your title? Is it a play on words?
Yes, it is. It’s all about how important it is to keep living life and being connected to others. I couldn’t do that without help in getting around. So, the book is about coming to terms with terminology like “blindness,” and “vision-impaired,” and using a cane. I share my mobility lessons with my readers so they can feel what it’s like to make the changes, both physically and in mindset I had to make in order to accept using a cane and becoming, ultimately independent.
Exactly how mobile are you now with your cane? Can you get everywhere you need to with it?
I’m as mobile as I need to be at this point. I can get around well.
How do you let people who see you with your cane know that you are not 100% blind? Or do you just let them assume that you can’t see anything?
That is a great question! And one I grapple with often. I’m getting much better when it comes to talking about my vision loss. Sometimes people don’t understand why they see me running without a cane but walking down the street on the same day with one. They don’t understand how I can see my cell phone and read a book but I need a cane to walk across the street. They might even think I’m faking it, especially if I have a good vision day. People often say, “But you’re making eye contact with me. How can you be blind?” It’s so understandable. I didn’t understand either until my vision got worse that there is a continuum of blindness from sighted to totally blind. Many, many people are in that continuum! Sometimes I tell them and sometimes I let them think what they want.
Familiar places are probably easier to navigate? What about places where you’ve never been before?
I can travel on public transport like planes and trains without too much difficulty. It’s always a little strange because this is when people assume I can’t see anything and want to do everything for me, including printing out my e-ticket. In the beginning, I was too proud to explain that I had holes in my vision and could see some things but not others. The first time I flew with my cane, airline personnel put me in a wheelchair to reach the gate of my connecting flight. It was horrible! I was only traveling to Detroit but having someone push me in a wheelchair robbed me of my dignity in my own eyes. There was nothing wrong with my legs. I wanted to shout, “It’s just my eyes!” I’d maneuvered myself through intricate international airports and now, in my own backyard, I couldn’t even go without being pushed. After that trip, I learned to tell the airline personnel, I only needed someone to walk with me to my connecting flight. That worked out a lot better!
What is the take-away value of your book? What do you want readers to remember?
Really, it doesn’t matter what kind of problem you are struggling with, if you trust God to help you through the difficulties, you’ll get through it. He may not change your situation, but He will change you. Also, we need to have a good sense of humor to get through the mishaps, of which we all face. Those who don’t know much about vision-impairment will learn a lot about it through my experiences, and those who do know about it will be comforted that someone else is going through what they are. It’s dramatic, it’s funny, and it’s fast-paced. I want readers to look at blindness in a new way, without pity, instead, to view it as any other characteristic that a person has but not one that defines.
I am so pleased to be featured on another blog today.
Visit Young and Twenty’s thought-provoking blog and read through some of her moving words. She writes with a brevity I wish I could accomplish, but it is what makes her blog about navigating the twenties a rare find.
Thank you Jennifer for giving me the chance to be brief with you and your readers.