Saturday, April 25, 2009

Remembering By Touch

Now that my vision has been reduced to almost nothing, I often use the touch technique to help me remember certain cherished images. Easter Saturday was a perfect example. When the doorbell rang and I asked who it was, the voice at the other end told me that it was a delivery man with some flowers for me. At first I was at a loss to think who would be so nice to be sending me flowers for Easte,r but I soon found out.

When I opened the door I asked the delivery man to read me the card on the delivery and it was from my dear mom. He quickly noticed that I was blind and asked if I needed him to put it on my table. When I told him no, he then proceeded to describe the flowers to me and a few minutes later as I quietly closed my door the tears came rolling down my cheeks. My dear mom had sent me an Easter arrangement. It was in a darling little basket, and that I could feel but I could not see the flowers themselves. So, after pulling myself together I proceeded to use my sense of touch to help me remember.

I gently felt each and every flower. Then I examined each leaf with my fingertips. I then bent and smelled the flowers and they had a fresh fragrant spring smell to them. I stood there for a few minutes with my fingers in the basket refusing to let go. I allowed my memory to take over and as I stood there, the colors came flooding back into my mind. I imagined yellow as vibrant as the sun. Purple as gentle as a dawning sky and white as pure as the Milky Way. I pictured the leaves as green as the grass grows and when I had them all pictured in my mind, I wept for joy! My mom had done me well! She knew how much I loved my flowers and she had taken the time to ensure that her basket to me was just right.

It reminded me of a few years ago after I had lost my vision; it was my birthday and I had received another delivery of flowers then. This time the delivery consisted of a huge vase of flowers and when I asked the delivery man to read me the card, he told me that it was from my brother Robert and my sister-in-law, Charmaine. Like mom they had taken the time to send me flowers that they knew I so loved and when the delivery man described them to me, I again wept for joy and used my touch technique to help me remember. Later on a friend told me that my brother had specifically asked for flowers that bore fragrant smells so that I could appreciate them even more.

This is one thing that no one can ever take away from me. The ability to remember through touch. I can use the sense of touch to conjure up the most vivid of memories, the most cherished of thoughts, and the most imaginative of creative thinking and it is one of the things that keeps me going every day. I often tell people that it does not matter if I am unable to see something, I can use my sense of touch to help me enjoy it.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your accessibility and special-needs business consultant wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and tell the world that yes indeed! Blind persons can certainly enjoy things by using their sense of touch. If you would like to learn more then you can contact me at

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Unreadable US Dollar

As a Canadian, I am very fortunate to be able to decipher our dollar notes. We use coins for one-dollar and two-dollar bills. Known as the Loonie and Twoonie respectively, they feel different to the touch and are different in size as well. Our notes are gaily displayed in different colors, and for those of us who have difficulty seeing the colors there is a bank note reader that has been developed to take care of that problem.

When I was able to see the colors of the notes, it was not a problem for me, but for the last five years I have had to depend on this wonderful little gadget to help me. The Bank Note Reader was developed by the bank of Canada and it emits audible messages in both official languages of Canada; English and French. In addition, it caters to those persons who are deaf/blind by emitting certain distinguishable vibrations to the deaf/blind person.

I recently received an email from someone living in Australia telling me how accessible their currency is. He told me that their currency notes are distinguishable through their size. Each note is of a different size.

For the US greenback however, it is not quite the same. All notes are of the same color and size and this makes it very difficult for blind and visually-impaired Americans to be able to decipher them. There have been attempts and efforts over the past years to legislate for changes so that the greenback could become more readable and accessible to Americans with vision problems.

On a recent visit to Los Angeles, I ran into this problem and had to depend on my sighted friend to help me decipher the US dollar. I felt very uncomfortable; not being able to decipher my own currency drove home the problem that blind and visually-impaired Americans face on a daily basis. I am sure that most mainstream Americans have never really given thought to this problem, but a problem it is and thanks to the National Federation for the Blind, this may soon change.

The NFB as they are often referred to is lobbying strenuously to have Congress pass legislation that would somehow change the greenback in appearance so that it could become more readable to blind and visually-impaired Americans. You can read more about the efforts of the NFB by visiting

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your accessibility and special-needs business consultant wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and help the NFB to lobby for a more readable and accessible greenback.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Labels Cannot Talk

You got it! Labels cannot talk to me whenever I need to know the contents of a can, box, or anything else. In general, I am able to tell the contents of a box usually by its size and sound. That is, when I shake it. For example, a box of cereal is bigger than a box of Shake-n-Bake. However, when it comes to those cans and tins, that's when the fun begins.

Being able to read and decipher labels is one of the biggest problems for me. Not only do I often have difficulty deciphering the contents of a tin, can, or box, it extends to being able to read the label itself and knowing the description of the contents of the package in question. So there are two irritants for me: being able to read the ingredients on the package and knowing the actual contents of the package to begin with.

My woes often extend to being able to read labels on other types of packages, including CDs, labels on electronic products, and so on. Labels cannot talk, so I need to get sighted assistance to read them. A few years ago a bar code reader was developed to help blind and visually-impaired persons read labels on boxes and other containers. Some have told me that, for the most part, this nifty little device is extremely helpful, but it is also very expensive like so many other gadgets that have been developed for us. The bar code comes with a database of over 5000 entries and it is possible to add other entries; however, in order to do this one has to depend on sighted assistance. As long as there is a bar code, it is possible to add it to the database if it is not already there.

The bar code reader has made things easier for us but due to its exorbitant price I am unable to take advantage of it. You can learn more about the bar code reader and more by visiting the Independent Living Aids website at

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your accessibility and special-needs business consultant wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and tell others that blind and visuall- impaired persons can now use a special bar code reader to help them read labels on packages.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Technology Divide

I think that the majority of mainstream persons would probably be shocked to hear me say that as technology rumbles along, the gap between what is available and what is accessible to blind and visually-impaired persons is growing wider as time marches on. True it is that there have been some very telling strides with regard to the development and availability of technology for us, but on the other hand there are more and more gadgets, hardware, and software that are not accessible to us.

We can use special software known as screen readers to do such things as browse the Internet; read, receive and send emails; and perform word-processing and spread-sheet functions. But when it comes to being able to enjoy those new and exciting handheld gadgets…well, that's another story. As the development of handheld gadgets continues to evolve at a breakneck speed, it is not the same when it comes to making them accessible to those with vision problems.

I have decided not to purchase an iPod because on the whole they require me to seek sighted assistance to use it. Instead, I would have had to purchase a specially-developed device that enables me to use it without having to depend on sighted assistance. This device is called the Victor Reader Stream and for an exorbitant price, I could hear which keys I press and menus I navigate because this device has been built to give voice responses to key commands.

Likewise, I am unable to use the mainstream PDA and as a result have had to purchase a specially-developed PDA for blind and visually impaired persons. One that emits voice responses. This device is called the Icon and its price is really high.

Like any specially-developed device for blind and visually-impaired persons, it is a common rule of thumb that the price is at least three times as much as the mainstream equivalent. Why is this? I can only say that maybe because of the small size of the blind and visually-impaired persons market, companies need to charge a price that would bring them a profit. When it comes to the development of equivalent devices for blind and visually-impaired persons, ones that talk or emit voice responses, the list includes cell phones, PDAs, iPods, language dictionaries, and more. They are very well-developed but the prices are sky high.

What really frustrates me is, why do we as blind and visually-impaired persons need to depend on companies to take the extra step to develop products for us? Why is it so difficult for mainstream companies like Amazon to do so? For example: We are still waiting on Amazon to make their Kindle reader accessible to us. Apple has made some determined efforts but we need more mainstream companies like Apple to do the same.

If you would like to learn more about the company that developed the Victor Reader Stream then please visit
To learn more about the Icon visit
To learn more about portable products for blind and visually-impaired persons, visit

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your accessibility and special-needs business consultant wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and start motivating companies to produce products that would be accessible to and usable by all.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Getting Dressed In The Dark

For most blind and visually-impaired persons, this is it! It does not really matter whether the lights are on or off; we literally get dressed in the dark because, for the most, part we are unable to see what we are putting on. True it is that some of us can see enough to decipher colors, but as a general rule of thumb we are unable to see ourselves in the mirror and consequently we have no idea how we look when we step out in to the sighted world.

As for me, up until five years ago I was able to see enough to decipher colors and was able to match my clothes sufficiently so as not to look like a clown when I went out. Now, things are different for me. I have had to spend a lot of time getting my mom to organize my closet for me. She has helped me match up all of my clothes, and I have had to organize them in such a way that I know exactly where to find what I need. I use a color detector to help me decipher colors. This nifty little gadget talks and for the most part is accurate enough to give me an idea as to the color of a piece of clothing, but every now and then it goes a bit crazy and mucks things up for me.

Having had sight before helps me to deal with getting dressed in the dark, but for those who were born not being able to see colors, it is very different. These persons do not understand the concept and meaning of color, and as a result they need sighted assistance to help them match and coordinate their clothes. It is literally impossible to describe colors to someone who has never seen them. How can one describe the color red? I could say that red is like a rose and someone who has never seen the color red would associate it with the scent of a rose and that would be the extent of their mental picture.

I use my sense of feel and touch to identify my clothes, but if two pieces of clothing feel the same but are of different colors, then I use safety pins to help me. For example, if I have white and pink blouses that feel exactly the same, then I place a safety pin in the inner side of the collar of the white blouse.

My closet is super organized, and it is imperative for me to always have everything in its proper place. Blouses and skirts, pants and jackets, sweaters and suits, shoes, and coats all have their designated places. If I make just one slip in replacing anything, then all hell breaks loose and I then have to spend time reorganizing.

If you would like to learn more about the nifty color detector, then visit

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your accessibility and special-business needs consultant wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and tell the rest of the world: Yes! Blind and visually-impaired persons are able to get dressed on their own despite not being able to see what they're doing.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Problem With PDF Content

So many content designers just do not understand. They continue to put all of their efforts into designing pretty PDF content, but at the end of the day it is totally inaccessible to blind and visually-impaired persons. Why you ask? Very simple. PDF content is made up of an image that cannot be deciphered by screen readers. In other words, PDF files are image-based instead of textual-based, and blind and visually-impaired persons use screen readers to surf the Internet.

More and more online forms are being designed in PDF format and as a result of this blind and visually-impaired persons are being deprived of their right to privacy and confidentiality. If a form is in PDF format it means that blind and visually-impaired persons need to depend on sighted assistance to help them complete it. It is frustrating, scary, and a downright violation of our right to confidentiality and privacy. There is a way for all of this to be dealt with and it starts with the content developer using the appropriate tags to format the PDF content so that it is made accessible and usable.

What most content developers still fail to understand is this: If they take the additional time to tag their PDF content appropriately, they will not only be making it accessible to blind and visually-impaired persons, they will also be making it accessible and usable to the print disabled, the technically shy, and to those who are not technically savvy. Before you start to wonder who all of these people are, please allow me to define these populations.

The print disabled - those who are unable to read because of either physical, mental, or visual challenges.

The technically shy or those not technically savvy - those who have difficulty coping with modern technology and who work better with more simple environments. In short, the millions of aging baby boomers who did not grow up with the Internet at their fingertips.

I personally find PDF content to be frustrating. It is a useless and time-consuming obstacle for me to deal with, and a downright insult to my right to privacy and confidentiality.

Here is a URL that you can visit in order to learn why PDF content does not benefit the blind and visually-impaired.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your accessibility and special-needs business consultant wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and start educating the rest of the world as to why PDF content does not benefit blind and visually-impaired persons.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Doctor, I Can Hear You!

This is one of my pet peeves: Doctors who find it more efficient to talk over my head or to the person accompanying me to my appointment. You would think that part of their training would include teaching physicians how to interact with persons who are sight impaired, but it seems not to be the case. So many of my clients continue to complain about the total lack of bedside manners when it comes to doctors being able to interact with them. At the best of times doctors do not really know how to interact with their patients, but when you are sight impaired it makes things even more difficult.

As someone who has had to spend a lot of time in doctors’ offices, I can tell you that they really need to learn how to treat those of us who are sight impaired. Sometimes they create an impression of either not being able to communicate with us or they do not believe that we are capable of understanding. I have had doctors who prefer to talk to my mom rather than me, even though I'm an adult! I have had others who ignored my questions, and still others who have walked out of the office at the end of an appointment without even bothering to say that the appointment was over.

So many times I wish that I could say, "Doctor I am here! I am the patient and you can talk to me. I can hear you and I can compute!" I often wonder why is it that so many doctors have difficulty communicating with those of us who are sight impaired. At the best of times they have difficulty communicating with the mainstream patient but for us my opinion is as follows.

The eyes are what the rest of the world uses to communicate and when there is a situation whereby the eyes are unable to communicate, then all hell breaks loose and everything goes haywire. Blind and visually-impaired persons are unable to use their eyes to communicate. So, what is the solution? More education and more awareness training.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your accessibility and special-needs business consultant urging you to go out there and tell the rest of the world that they can communicate with blind and visually impaired persons in ways other than through the eyes. To learn more, you can visit

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Then and Now

I am not really sure why Easter time affects me like this but I usually call it my time for remembering and thanking. This is the time of year when I go back in time and remember what I had, and then thank God for what I have. What am I referring to?

Up until five years ago I had enough vision to do so much on my own, but a wicked turn of events conspired against me. In the matter of just a few months it was all taken away from me. Today I sit here with precious little sight but am extremely grateful that I still have enough to see the light of day.

My life has changed drastically over the past five years, and I have had to make so many adjustments in order to remain independent. But that's okay. What keeps me going are those wonderful memories that I captured while my vision was good enough. I consider myself to be extremely lucky because there are not many persons who can obtain new vision after being born with precious little. I am one of the few, and I shall share some of my precious moments with you.

In my hay day as I like to refer to it, I was able to read and write with the aid of special magnifying glasses. I used to play air hockey, ice skate on my own, jog along the sidewalk, and enjoy the wonders of nature. I was able to watch the sun come up over tall buildings and set below the line of the horizon. I could see the trees bending and bowing, the flowers swaying gently in the wind, and squirrels scrambling over snow banks. I could watch my favorite hockey team on TV flying up the ice in their red jerseys. I was able to see the blue skies with puffy white clouds chasing each other. I could see the fat white snowflakes falling gently to the ground, the thick green grass, and kids playing innocently in the park. I was able to admire the gorgeous orange plumage of my beloved Scottie Bird, my canary, and see the faces of my family.

One of my favorite memories is that of the silver Air Canada Jet floating lazily over a jade green Caribbean sea with the sun streaming down from above. Another is that of a beach with white-capped breakers rolling gently towards golden sand and pleasure boats laden with merrymakers. Yes, those were good times! I miss them, but it's not the end of the world. I can go on for pages, but I think that by now you are getting the picture. My world today is very different.

Now I have to depend on my senses of smell and touch to help me along. I use my memories to help me picture such things as layouts of stores and restaurants. I use my memory to picture what others may look like. I can find my way around familiar territory based on my memory of what it looks like. I may not be able to play air hockey anymore, but I have taken up chess as a substitute. I still ice skate but now I have to depend on someone else to guide me. I still enjoy movies but now I have to listen more attentively to what's going on. I use my sense of smell and touch to tell me if food is either going bad or if a fruit is rotting. Before now I was able to use my sight to do this.

You see, my world has changed but I am still here -- alive and well to tell the story. My message to you is this: There is always a silver lining in those thick dark clouds. If something is taken way from you, then it is always possible to find a substitute. Be thankful for what you had and what you have.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your accessibility and special-needs business consultant wishing you a terrific day and urging you to enjoy life no matter what.

Friday, April 3, 2009

So Sad for a Blind Parent

In my humble opinion, one of the saddest things that anyone could ever have to face is that of being a blind parent who is never going to be able to see the faces of their kids. I have had this very sobering conversation with so many persons over the course of my life, and I especially feel for those parents who have lost their vision after having been able to see the faces of their kids. That is, those who have lost their sight after their kids were born.

It's something like this: You receive one or more very precious gems; gems that shine like the stars, moon, and sun. You treasure their precious smiles and their images quickly become imprinted on your mind forever. One day, however, you suddenly realize that you can no longer see them. Poof! Try as you may, you are unable to see the shine and glitter of their smiles. So you start to use your memory to help you preserve the image forever.

You are devastated! You can still hear them, smell them, touch them, but sadly now you are unable to see them. What do you do? What can you do? Sadly nothing but hold on to your memories for dear life. It's not the end of the world, however. Life goes on, and my dear friend, Guido, is a perfect example.

Guido is the proud papa of a loving and adored daughter, Alex. At one point he was able to see her cherished face, but for most of her life he has not been able to do so. This has not stopped him from being a proud and involved papa. So why am I so sad for blind parents?

I guess that as Easter makes its way towards us, and I think of Christ dying for us and rising again, there are certain things that just get to me at this time of the year. Yes, it's sad for blind parents who are unable to see the faces of their precious angels but as my associate Geof told me recently: "I don't think about it. I just keep on going for if I did I would go crazy."

Time for me to do the same.

Happy Easter everyone!

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your accessibility and special-needs business consultant wishing you a terrific day and reminding you to go out there and tell the rest of the world that being a blind parent is not the end of the world.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Please Speak Directly To Me!

This is one of my pet peeves with the sighted world. So many times throughout my life I have found myself being addressed by others in the third person. They somehow find it necessary or more comfortable to speak to me by talking to the person accompanying me. Sometimes the person accompanying me would politely tell the person asking the question that they should ask me what I need instead of asking them. On other occasions, when I am feeling up to it, I would also politely say, "You can ask me directly." This can be a big problem, if I allow it to be; the solution that I have come up with and the one that works for me is to educate those I come in contact with.

There is no pattern to the type of person that chooses to address my companion instead of me; salespersons do it, bus drivers do it, doctors do it, so many do it. I would go into a store with my friend and the salesperson would ask, "What would she like?" I would visit the doctor's office with my mom and the doctor would turn to her and say, "She does not have much of a chance of regaining her vision." Or I would go to the post office to mail letters and the postmaster would turn to my friend and say, "What does she have in the package? Documents or what?" Or at the restaurant, the waiter would ask, "What would she like to order?"

The classic for me is when I am traveling. I get to the counter escorted by an airport attendant and the ticket agent asks the attendant, "Where is she traveling to?" Of course the poor bewildered attendant has no idea where I am traveling to so I have to step in, although I obviously should have been addressed directly to begin with.

Here is another example. I go to the post office on my own with my package to mail, and the friendly postmistress asks, "Do you know what you have in the package?" This time she has no choice but to speak directly to me because I am alone.

On most of these occasions I have taught myself to smile and speak up, but there are the odd times when I become so frustrated and say in a sarcastic tone, "You can speak to me. I can understand you." As I see it, the only way to reduce these types of unnecessary incidents is through education. You can help by spreading the word that blind persons can hear and understand. You do not need to ask someone else to interpret for them.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your accessibility and special-needs business consultant wishing you a terrific day and inviting you to contact me at if you would like to learn how to communicate more effectively with blind and visually-impaired persons.