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Writing A Wrong, #JusJoJan

A bunch of holes, punched into a piece of paper – what is it?

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As it was once done, braille still can be written with the slate and stylus, a piece of metal or plastic with lines of the six cells that make up braille.

A piece of paper is slipped inside the slate, lined up, so the stylus can
poke
holes in the appropriate spots to make all the individual braille letter combinations.

I know it sounds confusing and complicated to people upon hearing this, but it is how I’ve known to read and write since I was a child.

Handy when writing postcards when traveling, though they are less common than when I was younger.

It makes that simple thump thump thump sound as I press the stylus into the correct spot in the small six dot space, which lets me know I am right where I mean to be. One centimetre off and the letter I meant to write has a wrong dot in it.

Though I no longer use the slate and stylus method, as I prefer the speed of Perkins brailers or, nowadays, my electronic/Bluetooth braille display.

Sure, technology truly is amazing and has made literacy for the blind more efficient, but without the basic yet brilliant invention of braille to begin with, the world would be without the beauty of braille for all these years.

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Viewfinder, #JusJoJan #Outlook

Here’s my view. It’s taking a while to find what that is, but this blog allows glimpses of some of the insights I seek.

Welcome to 2020 on this blog and off of it too. New decade and I overwhelm myself when I look back on the last one. So, instead, I try to live in this moment.

I do like having this first month designated for finding my direction for the year head. The blogging world has given me many tools, including this
Just Jot It January #JusJoJan
for jotting down thoughts to hopefully unscramble them.

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Day one of
Just Jot It January
because January 1st was a restful New Year’s Day and a Wednesday, which will be my break day throughout the rest of this month and this blogging exercise.

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Today’s prompt is about taking a photo and posting/sharing with any jot that might go along with the image.

This image is one taken on Monday, my day to travel a distance of less than an hour, to my brother’s town to record the half hour radio talk show on disability/blindness. I do this with my brother.

We have guests on occasionally, mostly we like to do interviews, but this time it was a friend and we had him in the background, as more of a guest host really, as we did a round-up of 2019 for Outlook.

After which we went out for lunch to celebrate the holidays. We’ve known him since before we can remember.

Thing is, I am blind and I still find managing the world of the sighted difficult, specifically when it comes to photos. They are an important part of life for most people, or at least a common enough occurrence. Hell, my brother is a photographer and a damn good one, but my memories of pictures that capture a particular moment in time fades as the years pass me by.

I wasn’t born unable to see photos at all. I am at that point now though.

I find many things about losing more sight frustrating, but then I try to tell myself it doesn’t really matter, to focus on the things that do make sense to me.

I don’t take the pictures housed on my iPhone currently. My mother took this one, one of four she ended up leaving, after she deleted some. She told me what they were, but I forgot the order of the four and am on my own today as I post this.

I usually like to include a caption in words, when I post a photo on my FB page or on the public pages I run. I do this for any other blind people, like me, who don’t see the photos and still want to know, to feel included as best we can.

This time, I don’t know if the photo I have chosen is just my brother and myself or if our friend is in this shot. We were at a restaurant that had a Christmas tree and some photos were taken in front of it. The other, at our table.

I fight with my frustrations, the sighted world being one of them, but I wanted some photos to choose from, to post on the FB page of the radio show we do. It’s called Outlook and past episodes can be found at our podcast archive page:

https://soundcloud.com/ketchuponpancakes

There are more and more forms of technology now, including photo recognition apps, but they are far from perfect. I often grow more frustrated when trying to use them than I would if I didn’t bother.

I will find a more upbeat and positive outlook for my 2020 and here, hopefully, as the month goes on. It’s there and coming.

I think it’s important to share and show the frustrating moments, as well as the times where a more optimistic tone can be struck. I have both inside. That’s what this first month is for, finding a balance, though I’ve been away from this blog for far too long and I need to warm up to it again.

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TToT: Whether In Mirrors Or Lakes (Special Reflections Edition) #RIP #BeardGuy #JusJoJan #10Thankful

Another week has gone by. We’re back at another
Ten Things of Thankful
and,
like last week,
I’ve figured out how to link these two.

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I like me a good
reflection
blog post.

In doing that is how, where and why I discover my gratitude lists from within.

Thanks to this feature blogger,
for this word that’s fitting,
right along with a list of thankfuls.

I am thankful for
the reflections
of other creatives.

I am thankful for other bloggers. They offer endless reading and character in their owners. I can reflect back on all the bloggers I’ve gotten to know here, and even over on BlogSpot.

I am thankful for soda water. I have always loved water, back when I used to get a glass of the refreshing liquid, out of the jug in my oma’s fridge or from the tap, in the glass from my grandma that I now drink out of to remember her and the love of water we both shared. I like to drink less pop/soda and so bubbly water is refreshing and a nice compromise, no sugar.

I am thankful for violins in their beauty as my favourite instruments. I can reflect in how far I’ve come since I started to learn, from starting soon after turning thirty-two to soon turning thirty-five.

I am thankful for this blog, which will soon celebrate five years in existence here on WP.

I am thankful for WP. It is a platform I can at least minimally use, as a place to share my writing. I remember back ten years ago or so, when I tried to set up a blog here, but then I had different voice software and it was nearly impossible. Oh how far I’ve come, along with the technology I use every day.

I am thankful for the haircuts I get at my cousin’s salon, as I reflect back to the earliest days of me dying my hair, in my early twenties. She started out at someone else’s salon, and now she runs her own.

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Caption: me with my re-darkened hair for winter, in my new outfit.

I am thankful for gently used clothing. I can reflect on the person I used to be, afraid to wear anything secondhand, even though I’ve always loved and believed things used by others come with a story. I found a few things at the little shop she has, including a pair of boots to take when I travel in a few months, assuming #45 doesn’t hold his government hostage on an ongoing basis, making airports chaotic by the time I am scheduled to fly.

I am thankful for dinner with my father, lunch with a friend, and a spot on my municipal accessibility committee where I was well received my first time there.

I am thankful for the Christmas tree that is now a light tree, just outside my living room window. Thanks to my mom. Thanks, also, to my brother who is going to help me get a better deal on a plan for my phone.

These are simple yet powerful thankfuls, alongside all my reflecting.

I am thankful for this song. I used to love it, for a long time, without realizing who it was. Then I heard the news of the death of one of the members of the group. They had a memorial of music, in his memory, not far from me.

I can reflect on the year since Dolores of The Cranberries died suddenly and I understand that life is short.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bt-FHaFVH8

RIP Beard Guy.

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On Shoveling Snow During a Blizzard and Writing Memoir at 26

I started writing my “autobiography,” on my heavy duty Perkins Brailler, when I was fourteen. No technology because I didn’t rely on computers then. I soon changed the name of what I was writing from “autobiography” to “memoir” because I felt like I didn’t need to keep defending what I was writing, as memoir is about memory and living. We’re all in the process of living and all of us have the right to write about it. I look younger than I am often too. I still obtain wisdom and intend to use it, to share it, but I still (deservedly or not) get out of shovelling snow, though I like how the writer of this piece uses it as example for real writing life and struggle.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

Katie HS Square (3 of 1) (1).jpgBy Katie Simon

“What kind of writing do you do?” It is snowing heavily outside, and I am at a party, ice flaking off my quilted boots and melting into puddles on the hardwood floor. I get asked this question frequently, not just by buzz-cut, twenty-something, plaid-wearing, men like the one in front of me, but by people of all hairstyles, ages, and clothing preferences. I know what this man expects me to say: short stories; poetry; hot takes on pop culture trends. I am 26 years old, and anything I write must be imaginary or ephemeral.

I squirm in my boots, stare out the window at the weather I just escaped. I hate this question. “Memoir,” I say.

“Huh.” He looks at me skeptically. Even without asking my age, he has a general idea. I look younger than I am. “Kind of funny for somebody your age, don’t you…

View original post 714 more words

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TToT: Lightbulbs and Lightning Strikes, #LookBackMarchForward #10Thankful

January isn’t making anything easy on me, but it too shall pass.

Somehow, I’ve had Billie Holiday on my mind as this month stretches on, painfully on and on.

Ten Things of Thankful

I’m thankful for the never ending list of ideas that come to me, as potential topics to write about.

Writer’s block, no way, at least not in the usual way of things.

When I am given the job of writing something, I may get a block, but that’s more from my fear of not being able to do the job I was asked to do, not being good enough.

I’m thankful for a return to my writing group in 2018.

It was a difficult day/week/month, but those people are there for me.

I wrote about a young woman, musician, who was hearing the news that Kurt Cobain had died, and wondering how to navigate the perils of fame.

It is a question on my mind. The group listened to my clumsy story and seemed curious, as curious as I am about what I’ve been thinking since I heard Dolores O’Riordan was gone.

I did smile and even laugh, with my group of local writer friends. Worth it.

I’m thankful for a list of tough questions to answer, to better know myself.

I am a writer, but I have a lot to learn. Sometimes, it requires that I look deep into myself, to find the truth. Otherwise, my writing will not keep on the forward momentum I hope to have.

It’s hard work, difficult and painful and sensitive stuff, but I am determined to see things more clearly on the other side.

I’m thankful for a first successful meeting of
The Canadian Federation of the Blind,
Ontario, in 2018.

I’m thankful for a contract opportunity to write about something so important to me.

Braille is not a well understood thing, for many, even as technology takes on bigger parts of all our lives.

My early literacy is thanks to my parents and to the school I was in and braille is a large part of all that.

So, to share about the value of braille is so important to me. I just hope I can do it justice and give to it as much as it has given me.

I’m thankful Canada’s government didn’t shut down.

Disfunction at the highest level.

I know very little about trade agreements, but Canada is doing the work and staying involved with other countries, while moving away from what the US seems to be heading for.

They are being run by someone who only pitches America, America First, or whatever, all things made in America. Whatever, to bring more jobs. I guess that is left to themselves, in their own country. Isolation.

If his government can’t even work together, to stay open a year after his inauguration, how well will they do, on their own, if that is what they prefer?

I’m thankful I could be in on a meeting to discuss traveling out west, for a convention in British Columbia.

The Canadian Federation of the Blind have a convention, every May, where issues important to blind Canadians are discussed.

This year, Ontario is coming to western Canada and we are going to make our mark.

I was only in B.C. in the airport, changing flights to the Yukon. I intend to go back, to speak about the project to make audio description in movie theatres a common thing, and I will see the Pacific Ocean while I’m at it.

I’m thankful that the marching continued, one year later, with all the more reason to do so.

I wondered, did worry, that it was a one year hit action/movement and those who like to criticize would be able to point at the one time visual as a sign that making our voices heard isn’t needed or productive.

I did not see all the signs, but had a few read to me. Some smart sign writers in those marches.

This is a current US president thing, true, but it is bigger than that guy. It is a stand against what has been.

It leaves a bunch of us out, those who find marching in the streets difficult, but it is heartening to me anyway.

I want things to only get better, going forward, in the years to come. I have a vested interest in that, in compassion and in empathy, for not only one gender or class or whatever.

I understand the fatigue that can set in, but we all must keep doing something, however small. I am still working out what that something is for me.

I’m thankful for a chance to listen to a local orchestra, playing my kind of a symphony and to see a movie live, that I missed the first time around.

I saw Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the film, on a big screen at a sport stadium.

Then, I saw the soundtrack being played by live orchestra. It was a strange experience of my senses.

I heard parts of the soundtrack, differently than I’d ever heard them, when blended into the background of the movie on DVD at home.

Int was strange, seeing with a crowd of other major Harry Potter fans, with all the cheers and the comments made by nearby fans.

The bells and the percussion section and the other main instruments that make up that famously known and heard Harry Potter musical sound.

I’m thankful for things that happen (or don’t happen) for a reason.

Maybe I don’t get what I want, in one moment, but that leads me to something else. Maybe I am getting what I can handle, what I need to teach me what I need to know.

Who knows.

I resisted the “door/window” line of optimism.

I am ending, this week, with another comforting song from The Cranberries, the Irish band that was and is no more.

My brother generously added it to his playlist on the radio show he hosts, every Friday morning, on a college radio station in London, Ontario.

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Bumps Under Fingers #WorldBrailleDay #JusJoJan

January 4th is Louis Braille’s birthday, French inventor of the braille code.

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I think two of the best qualities any person can have are passion and compassion. I believe we’re all passionate about something.

Just Jot It January, #JusJoJan

I am passionate about braille literacy, as an extension of literacy as a whole.

Braille is hard to learn for many people who lose their vision later in life. I’ve known braille since I started to slowly learn it in my first five-seven years.

I am practically allergic to math and numbers. I am deeply passionate about words and braille.

In this world of technology, there is less and less push for blind people today to need to learn braille at all. That, to me, would be like never learning to read. Though many prefer to listen to the talking programs on computers and phones, I still wouldn’t trade that for the feeling of those bumps beneath my fingertips.

Thank you, Louis Braille, for what you did so long ago.

This first-Thursday-of-the-month JusJoJan post comes from
Rosemary Carlson, Writer
with her prompt word-of-the-day: passionate.

What is it you’re passionate about?

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A Reckoning: 2018 and the next 100 years #Disability #Equality

Today I am giving a friend a platform. Since he no longer has a blog, and I do, I am sharing this here.

***

Today, I’m so angry, I can’t concentrate on my labs. This morning when I checked my email here is what I read:

“With sight loss, everything you have ever known becomes unfamiliar. Your favourite T.V. chair, your reading nook, your computer desk: all become symbols of the quality of life you feel vision loss has robbed you of.

When you donate to CNIB, you help give that quality of life back. You help people learn new ways to enjoy their favourite movie. To read a book. To connect with loved ones.

Friend, your donation today can give families back their life.”

This has been eating away at me for a while now, but I am finally sick of it and I have to say something.

My friends, everything in the quote above is an absolute lie. If you were to dress up as a beggar on weekends and hit people up for money even though you have a good job, it would be no different from what is happening here.

“With sight loss, everything you have ever known becomes unfamiliar.”

Wrong! In fact, just the opposite is usually true. In my experience serving hundreds of people over the years, I have found that familiar things take on special significance and offer tremendous comfort to the newly blind.

This email says that newly blind people resent familiar things, that those become unfamiliar, mocking, threatening, icons of a supposed life we have lost. Get that monkey off your heart strings for a minute and try and think about this logically.

If you undergo a major life change, no matter what that is, wouldn’t you rather be in your familiar home surrounded by your possessions?

This email says that sight robs people of their life, but that isn’t true at all.

I have seen this countless times for myself. A newly blind person is not going to deny themselves their morning coffee just because they went blind. No, they are going to fiddle and futs and do what comes naturally until they get their coffee. They may not be confident of making coffee at a family member’s house, but they aren’t going to go without at home. In fact, something as simple as fixing coffee for a guest can be an outstanding source of pride and self-confidence for someone. There are always variations in situations, experiences, and coping mechanisms, but generally speaking, people take pride and comfort from being surrounded by familiar things.

Losing sight requires a person to develop new skills and use new tools, but it doesn’t rob most people of their life.

Only a very small percentage of us actually commit suicide because of losing sight. Many of us are turned away from daily activities because of the fears, low expectations and preferences of the sighted.

“don’t pour that coffee! It’s hot! you’ll burn yourself.”

We can damage some one’s fragile outlook by so denigrating something they take pride in. The newly blind person pours coffee for himself every day when the sighted person isn’t there, but it’s too much for the sighted person to watch. Thus, something the blind person worked hard to accomplish and may have been looking forward to sharing with the sighted person is diminished because of the low expectation of the sighted person.

Low expectations are the damaging factor here, not blindness.

Promotions like this one add insult to injury by demeaning the actual bereavement process people go through because of something like vision loss. As much as people learn, adapt, and go on to lead full lives, being blind in a world designed by and for the sighted is not without it’s sense of loss, of being singled out in a negative way.

We get through it, not because of money, but because of family and peer support, and the tenacity of the human spirit.

Playing on the natural grieving process of the newly blind to tragify us and scare you into giving money is an insult.

According to
Charity Intelligence
there are an estimated 500,000 blind Canadians, and CNIB provides approximately 560,000 hours of service delivery across canada each year. You can do the math in your head.

That’s just over one service hour per blind Canadian.

The annual budget of CNIB is just under $30,000,000 per year

– 54 cents of every dollar goes to programs.

The top ten earners at CNIB earn approximately $2,000,000 per year collectively, with the president earning $350,000 per year.

I believe this aspect of the pay structure is not reflective of the income experience of most blind Canadians, and I choose to be insulted that this one person makes so much money from the blind while the actual state of the blind continues to be abysmal and expectations continue to be oppressively low.

Can we do better? I think we can.

Is CNIB the answer? Maybe at one time they provided real value, but in my view that value is at an end.

How can the blind achieve dignity, respect, inclusion, equality, and increased quality of life if people who haven’t experienced blindness believe life ends with blindness?

If blindness is an irrevocable, life shattering tragedy, why will a human resources person want to hire someone who is blind?

How can we convince people to design all things inclusively, …that including every one in design benefits every one?

How can we convince people to rent us places to live, include us in social orders other than those specifically for the blind, or let us raise our own children in freedom?

If blind people are viewed as perpetually broken, how will we ever have our ideas, accomplishments, and opinions respected?

How can we lie to people and beg for money and expect to teach those same people that blindness is not hopeless, …that blind people are successful in their own right and deserve equal participation in society?

Please be angry. It is time. As long as we channel that anger properly, it can be a source of passion and determination blind people can use to build a future for ourselves where-in we are included as equals, not tagging along as third class citizens.

It would mean more to me as a blind person, if you would take the money you would have donated to CNIB, buy yourself some beer and pizza, and spend an hour or two a month coming to CFB meetings where we can work together to find sustainable ways of delivering needed services that don’t require us to lie, grovle, and debase ourselves to get the crumbs left over from sighted executives.

The blind community is not made up of deficient and damaged people. We have creators, innovators, educators, technology, legal, medical, and financial professionals, and thousands of hard working talented people who can be successful in their own right with real support, tools, reduced societal barriers, and sustainable services.

The blind community has society, culture, political agendas, philosophies, all intertwined with, having things in common with, connected to but not completely the same as those of the sighted or any other social political group.

Let’s build our own movement large enough to provide a valid alternative the state we have now that sells us at a premium, yet far short of our true abilities.

***

Here is my take!

I was born with vision loss (blind) and so was my brother. We grew up with the CNIB who sent us braille/audio books and where we learned how to properly use a white cane to get around safely.

The CNIB is the organization most people would name if asked, have heard of here in Canada, mostly because it has been around the longest. It is celebrating its 100th birthday next year, but things aren’t the same as they were back in 1918 and that can reflect how things are, here and now in this moment.

I don’t want to just be angry either, to demand without being willing to listen, but I do think there has been a reckoning.

We are all individuals of course and I don’t dare speak for all people with sight loss by any measure. This is only one woman’s opinion, mine, and my friend’s reaction to the status quo.

From what I’ve seen and experienced lately though, the disability community, as a whole, are declaring the intention for more equality and rights. I know some of it rests on our shoulders, and that’s why I believe it is time I used my abilities and talents to make life better for the next one hundred years and beyond.

I do wonder who wrote that bit for the newsletter though.

There are only a few weeks left in 2017, but this next year of 2018 is when I plan on becoming more active, both with the American Foundation and Canadian Federation of the Blind.

American Foundation for the Blind

We need to make more changes and to do that, we need to use our collective voice.

Canadian Federation of the Blind

Signed,

Chair and Secretary of the newly formed Ontario chapter of the CFB

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