Sunday, May 31, 2009

Indentifying People by Smell

For many blind persons including me, we often use our sense of smell to identify objects and things. When I was able to see, I used to use a combination of smell, touch, and my limited vision, but now it is different. My sense of smell is extremely keen these days and at the best of times I also use it to identify persons. Yes, you read correctly: I use my sense of smell to identify people.

Believe it or not, we each have our own unique smell. I will not go into detail to describe the smells of my family and friends, but suffice it to say that this is how I identify individuals. Smells also remind me of different people. The men's cologne, Old Spice, reminds me of my dad who passed on so many years ago; whenever I smell it I think of him. In like manner, there is another men's cologne that reminds me of my brother Robert who passed on two years ago. The smell of baking bread reminds me of granny, the fragrance of spring flowers reminds me of my mom, and so on.

Certain smells remind me of other things. The smell of paint reminds me of the busy Christmas holiday season. The smell of Greek food reminds me of Montreal. The smell of sweaty socks reminds me of the ice skating rink. Many things and places are represented in my mind by smell.

Here are some other smells for you to ponder. The scent of pine reminds me of a cozy room. The smell of wet grass reminds me of a spring day. The smell of a baking pork roast reminds me of Sunday dinner.

I'm sure if you were to think on it, you too could probably come up with some smell identifications of your own. Many of our most intense memories and recollections are tied in with the sense of smell.

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 experiment with your sense of smell and see what memories it may trigger. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My Mission With a Passion

When I lost my vision a little over five years ago, I decided that I would follow through on a commitment that I made to myself up until then. A commitment that I had made to myself but never really did much about. A commitment that I made shortly after graduating from university so many years ago.

When I lost my vision a little over five years ago, I decided that it was time to start making my commitment worth something. I decided that I would work to help ensure the future of blind and visually-impaired kids. I would work with others to ensure that they could claim their rightful inheritance. I would work with others to ensure that governments and society as a whole would become more aware of the rights of blind and visually-impaired persons. Too many times, both government and society fail to realize that we have rights like anyone else. That it is our God-given right to be able to access anything and everything that mainstream persons can access. If the sighted world is able to access the Internet, then blind and visually-impaired persons must also be given the same opportunity and ability.

As an advocate speaker, this is the message that I spread to my audiences. As a conduit for change, I am constantly telling my fellow blind and visually-impaired brothers and sisters that if we do not work to ensure the future of our blind and visually-impaired kids, no one else will do it. I am constantly telling governments that as long as blind and visually-impaired persons are made to pay taxes, then they must be treated like anyone else and that their rights as Human Beings must be respected. Are you hearing me? Do you copy?

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 me to speak on this topic at any of your upcoming functions.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Are All Blind People Alike?

One of the most embarrassing mistakes that mainstream folks tend to make is this: They seem to think that all blind persons are the same; they look the same, walk the same, and even speak the same. And most blind persons have guide dogs!

A few years ago, a lady at work told me that she had seen me walking along the hallway and I seemed to be lost. She went on to say that when she approached me to render assistance, I rebuffed her and she wanted to know why. She even accused me of being rude. I was quite taken aback and started to rack my brain trying to recall my whereabouts on that day. I became quite perplexed and concerned because almost all of the time, I go to great lengths to ensure that I am polite to anyone offering assistance to me.

After a minute or so, I asked her to describe my physical attributes and what I was wearing that day. I will hasten to add that this conversation took place over the phone.

Just imagine my surprise when she told me the following. She described me as having long blond hair, about five feet six inches tall, fat, and wearing a red suit. I let her finish and when she was done I politely told her that I am five feet two, have jet black hair, and am slim. In addition, I told her I do not own a red suit. Just imagine the silence at the other end. She quickly excused herself and hung up.

You see, much of society honestly believes that most blind persons look alike, but I'd like to dispel this myth. The one thing that blind persons have in common is this: We are all visually impaired but this is where it ends. We do not look alike, we have varying degrees of vision loss, we think differently, we speak differently, and some of us use canes to get around while others use guide dogs. It's like saying that all Americans look alike and speak the same. If you take a minute to think about it, it's absolutely laughable and without logic.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your accessibility and special-needs business consultant wishing you a terrific day and asking you to go out there and tell everyone that each blind person has his/her own identity. Visit to learn more.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Can We Learn From Susan Boyle?

If you have been keeping up with the arrival/saga of Susan Boyle on the show in Britain, then you'll know of whom I am speaking. If you do not, then here is a brief introduction.

A few weeks ago Susan Boyle made a very unexpected and unheralded entry on to the stage of the British show named "Britain's Got Talent." When the audience and judges first laid eyes on this 47-year-old lady, they did not give her any hope of success. Almost everyone present – judges and audience alike -- started to jeer and snicker, but within seconds Susan changed the entire hall and the world forever. You see, within seconds of beginning her song, both the audience and the judges had been stunned by one of the most awesome voices that they had ever heard. A middle-aged volunteer church worker singing "I Dreamed a Dream" from the musical Les Miserables had done it!

So what am I really getting at you may be asking? Very simple! Most of the world, those with sight enough to see, often judge people by their looks. When the audience and judges first set eyes on Susan Boyle they did exactly that. They did not give this very plain looking middle-aged lady a ghost of a chance of success. Why? Because they felt that she was just a bit too old to appeal to them. She was just too dowdy-looking to be taken seriously. She was just not good enough based on her looks. What a shock when she belted out her first notes.

I am afraid that this is the kind of thing that blind and visually-impaired persons face on a daily basis. We are almost always judged based on our blindness; the inability to see, and the inability to navigate our way like normal persons. Most of the rest of the world judge us on our disability rather than our ability. They do exactly what the audience and judges did to Susan Boyle a few weeks ago. Sometimes, blind and sighted persons do manage to shock their associates and acquaintances, and I hope that Susan Boyle motivates my sightless friends to reach out and provide some timely shocks as she has managed to do.

I am offering to help our sighted readers become less judgmental when it comes to their perceptions and hang-ups about persons who are blind and sight impaired. You can contact me at or if you are curious and open-minded enough you can visit any of these websites:,,,,

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your accessibility and special-needs business consultant wishing you a terrific day and suggesting that you should not judge a blind person by their disability. Judge them for their ability.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Living In a Sighted World

Living in a sighted world is something that I accepted as a child, and acceptance is something that enables me to function as best as I can. There are challenges to face, namely unhealthy attitudes on the part of individuals, governments, and society as a whole. There are technological challenges to face such as keeping up with the evolution of the Internet using access software that is a few steps behind the times. There are social and employment barriers to deal with as well as barriers from several other quarters, but I'll tell you this without hesitation: At the end of the day when I lie quietly in bed waiting for the sandman to take me off to dreamland, I thank God for my family and friends. Those who have never used my lack of sight as a barrier against me.

Unlike so many others with vision problems, I have been blessed with family who do not really think of me as blind; if they do, they have never really allowed it to get in the way. Naturally when I was growing up my parents, brothers, and granny were a bit overprotective at times, but apart from this I was treated normally in every sense of the way. My cousins acted normally around me but they always came to my rescue whenever I found myself in difficulty, like bumping into things, being unable to find my way, or not being able to find stray or fallen objects.

I have friends who do the same. Debbie in Tennessee, who has known me since we were in high school and who recently admitted to me that we never really discussed my blindness until now; when she read my blogs she realized that we had never done so. Gabriella in Toronto, who has never allowed my lack of sight to get in the way of a really warm and treasured friendship. I often call her my electronic cane! Dena in North Carolina, my friend across the border as I call her. This is a very special friendship because you see, we have never met in person since forming a natural and normal friendship in 2005. She never knew what I looked like until last December and I have trusted her to tell me what she looks like. A blind friendship if I may say so.

There are so many others that I can mention here but for now I think that this is enough for you to get the picture. If you would like to learn more then by all means drop me a line at and I will be happy to respond.

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 find someone who is blind and see if you can become friends.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Going Shopping With Mom

Going shopping with my mom is always a very special occasion for me. You see, she is not just Mom; she is my shopping buddy, my eyes, and my best friend. She knows exactly how to interact with me and how to make my shopping trip a joy rather than a chore. For I can tell you this: Going shopping with a blind person can either turn out to be a nightmare or a joy! It all depends on who is taking you shopping.

For those who have little or no experience taking a blind person shopping, here is how Mom does it. I take her arm and she gently but firmly guides me through mall, describing things as we walk. She describes the people passing by, tells me the names of stores, and, if I am interested in any of them as we walk by, we stroll inside for a visit. If it is a clothing store, Mom and I visit each rack and she tells me what is on each rack. If it is a shoe store, we do the same and if it is a supermarket then the fun really starts.

In stores, Mom takes her time to describe the merchandise in detail. She tells me the colors of things, describes the shapes of clothing and shoes, and if I am interested in something then she takes the object of interest off the rack and then we go to the fitting room to try it on. Mom then gives me her opinion of how it looks on me, whether or not the color suits me or if it fits me well. I trust her totally to tell me how things look. It helps a lot that I was able to see before, so as she describes things I am able to picture them in my mind.

Shopping in stores is a two-way street because in turn, when mom chooses things, she allows me to use my sense of touch to help her decide if something would be what she may or may not like. I am unable to help her with colors of course, but I can tell if clothing fits her by touching her shoulders if it is a sweater, blouse, or jacket, and feeling the length of skirts and coats. If it is a pair of shoes that she is trying on, then she allows me to use my fingers to make sure that her toes are not too close to the tips of the shoes. For handbags and purses, she places them in my hands and I can feel the shape and give my opinion.

Shopping in the supermarket is not much different for Mom and me. She describes what's on the shelves, tells me the prices, and places produce and packaged meat in my hands so that I can get an idea of what she is describing. We always have fun doing this because we both love shopping at the supermarket.

So there you have it; shopping with Mom and me. Shopping in a different way but getting the job done in style. If you would like to learn more about how to shop with a blind person, then visit

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your accessibility and special-needs business consultant wishing you a terrific day and motivating you to go out there and tell the world that shopping with a blind person is definitely possible and can be a lot of fun if you do it the right way.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Can Blind People Play Chess?

The playing of chess has become a favorite passion and pastime of many blind persons around the world. For me, it has helped to deal with my loss of vision. Three years ago, I started to learn how to play chess and quickly realized that if I really wanted to learn the game properly, I would have to be taught by those who really knew how to teach blind persons.

When I first started, I was fortunate enough to receive coaching from a wonderful Russian teacher who had taught chess to blind persons in her native Russia, but when I tried to join various mainstream clubs in my area and to have mainstream teachers teach me, it turned into experiences of great frustration and disappointment. Then I learned about the Hadley School for the Blind, an institution that offers courses at no charge to Americans and Canadians.

The courses range from high school courses in math, history, geography, law, and foreign languages, to so many other types of courses, including chess. I took the chess course and today am delighted to report that I am playing against other blind players around the world. I am making friends all the time and recently came across a young man who lost his sight due to an injury that he sustained while in the U.S. Army. I am presently engaged in a tournament that puts a North American team against a team from South Africa.

So how do I play chess? With a board that consists of squares that are raised and sunken to represent the difference between black and white squares. The white chess pieces have been made distinguishable from the black pieces through extra dots on their tops. Chess sets are readily available for purchase, but if you would like to learn more about how blind and visually impaired persons go about playing chess then please visit

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your accessibility and special-needs business consultant wishing you a terrific day and inviting you to go out there and tell others that, yes!, blind and visually-impaired persons can and do play chess and they can even play against sighted players.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

What Happens When Things Fall?

This is one of the most difficult challenges of my life. What really happens when things fall? In the ordinary world, a mainstream person simply bends over and picks up the fallen object, or if the object has managed to roll away, out of sight, they simply use their vision to find it.

For me, the process is quite different. If something falls out of my grasp I can usually locate it using my sense of hearing to determine where it has fallen, but it all depends on whether or not it makes noise as it clatters to the floor. If the object in question falls onto a hard surface, then the task is not too difficult. However, if it rolls away from me then I am in trouble. If the object falls on carpet or if the object itself does not make any noise as it falls, then all hell breaks loose.

A funny thing happened to me a few days ago. A friend was over helping me with some computer-related stuff and on his way out noticed something small lying on my carpet. When he picked it up and then put it in my hand, I realized that it was an SD card. To my horror I realized that the digital card had been lying on my carpet for almost three weeks, during which time I had vacuumed around that spot a few times. The card must have slipped out of my MP3 player over three weeks ago, as I had not used it since that time.

Oh boy! What if my vacuum cleaner had swallowed up my SD card? I would never have known! When I next used my MP3 player, I would never have known what happened to my poor SD card. Ah , the joys of having to deal with falling objects that do not make sounds and noises.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your accessibility and special-needs business consultant asking you to go out there and help educate the rest of the world about some of the challenges that blind and visually-impaired persons face when it comes to falling objects that do not make sounds or noises.

To learn more about how blind persons deal with things in their daily lives, visit

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Doctors Did Not Tell Me

This is nothing new when it comes to communication between doctor and patient, but for those of us who are afflicted with a vision loss it is even more difficult to deal with. For the mainstream patient they are at least able to access their information through their files, but when you are unable to read your own files because they are in printed format, that is an entirely different issue.

Here's what happened to me. In January 2004, the doctors performed surgery on me to reattach my torn retina and at the same time they gave me a new cornea. I lost almost all of my vision but no one really told me why. A second surgery was performed in September of that year, and I clearly remember the cornea surgeon telling me that he was very positive that I would receive some restored vision. But you know what? It did not happen and again no one really wanted to tell me why, in spite of my repeated questions. Lo and behold, I finally discovered the truth, but not until January of 2007. And the truth revealed itself purely by accident.

I had requested a copy of my files from my family doctor. When my friend was casually flipping through the pages, she stumbled upon a letter that my eye surgeon had written to my family doctor. The letter was explosive and explicit and emphatically stated that during my surgery of January 2004 my eye had been damaged due to blood trickling into it. What a horrible discovery! It was devastating and earth shattering to me. I could not believe that after three years I had to discover this all on my own and it only came through pure coincidence. My friend wept while I sobbed uncontrollably. Why no one ever thought to tell me will forever be a dark and mysterious secret.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your accessibility and special-needs business consultant wishing you a terrific day and begging you to go out there and urge your doctors to start being more honest with you whenever there is something difficult for them to share with their patients.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I Am Blind But I Can Smell

The other day I mentioned to a friend that I was thinking of traveling to Ottawa for the Tulip Festival. Every year during the first two weeks of May, Ottawa is ablaze with literally hundreds of thousands of tulips sent to the city by the government of The Netherlands. The tradition started as a result of a momentous event that took place during World War II and as part of its eternal gratitude to Canada, The Netherlands showers Ottawa each year with throngs of tulips.

According to history, during World War II the young Dutch queen of The Netherlands, who was pregnant at the time, was sent to Canada for protection from the Nazis. During her stay in Canada her time had come to give birth. In order to ensure that her child was born into the house of royalty of The Netherlands, her hospital room was declared territory of The Netherlands so that her child could be born on Dutch soil. The Netherlands has never forgotten this deed by Canada, and this is why it sends hundreds of thousands of tulips each year to Ottawa.

When I was able to see, I visited Ottawa one year for the Tulip festival and thoroughly enjoyed the fantastic sight of being able to admire all of those wondrous tulip. I vowed to return one day to enjoy it all again. This time, however, I would be enjoying it without being able to see it. So when my friend innocently asked me, "How could you enjoy it if you are unable to see it?" I was ready with a response. "I may not be able to see them now, but I can surely smell them!"

My poor friend was thoroughly embarrassed, but I quickly brushed it off and quietly told her that blind people sometimes use their sense of smell as a substitute to enjoy things that they cannot see. We both laughed it off.

If you would like to learn more about how blind persons can enjoy things that they are unable to see then please visit or

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 educate the rest of the world that blind persons can definitely enjoy things by smell.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Yes, I Can Tell the Time

One of the questions I most frequently asked is this: How can a blind person tell the time?

This is a very good question, and I am here to answer it as best as I can.

Blind persons can tell the time by using clocks and watches that can either speak or display the time in Braille or large print. These time pieces can also be part of calculators, note takers, or PDAs. The voice output is of course robotic but, nevertheless, they are easy to understand once you get the hang of it. Time pieces that produce Braille displays are also quite good and the advantage of these is that if a blind person needs to know the time, they can do so without having to let the rest of the world know that they are checking their time piece. Large print displays on time pieces are also quite good.

Large print time pieces can not only benefit those who have enough vision to see them; they can also benefit those who prefer to see the time in large print. Persons such as seniors who find it difficult to read smaller displays or any other mainstream person with the same preference.

There used to be a time when time pieces for blind persons were mainly available in Braille only, but not anymore. Now there is a choice and for those without enough vision to see: Braille display and voice output. There is a little trick that I often use and it can apply only to those non-digital clocks. If you remove the face of the clock or watch it is possible to touch the hands and dots that represent the hour. I still have an old faithful clock that I can use in this way. I can remove the cover that acts as the face of the clock and gently touch the hands and dots.

Digital time pieces are much of a problem for me because there is no way for me to be able to feel the hands and dots that represent the hours. To counteract this problem, I have a clock that chimes the hour at every quarter. It's the best that I can do for now, not being able to read the clock on the VCR, the stove, or the microwave.

If you are thinking of purchasing a time piece for a friend or family member who is blind then please visit

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your accessibility and special-needs business consultant wishing you a terrific day and asking you to go out there and tell the rest of the world that blind and visually impaired persons have ways to tell the time.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

I Am Blind, but I Can Walk

Believe it or not, many people seem to think that blind persons are unable to walk. This leaves me speechless! This is especially so when it comes to travel time at the airport. At first these incidents used to make me very frustrated, but now I giggle to myself and every now and then will take the time to explain that, despite not being able to see, I can walk.

So many times whenever I go to the airport the attendants will ask me "Do you need a wheelchair?" When I say no, I can tell they are at a loss as to why I do not need one. I wonder if they think that because I am unable to see, then somehow my legs are also unable to move? What is really going through their minds at this point?

I guess that the only way to beat this is for me to do a wee bit of educating here. We may not be able to see, but the rest of our bodies are just fine. The legs are not connected to the eyes and the inability to see has nothing to do with our ability to walk. Blind persons are fully capable of walking and they use a cane to find their way around. Many can be seen using guide dogs to navigate their paths.

Blind people can walk to the supermarket, to the bank, to the pharmacy, and can even enjoy hikes and walks. Yes, they can certainly walk. So, the next time you meet a blind person, just remember that they may not be able to see where they're walking, but they can walk just fine. If you would like to learn more about how blind persons function in a sighted world and the types of devices that can help them to do so, then please 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 tell the rest of the world that, yes!, blind persons can walk and do a lot more for themselves!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Mystery of Colors

To many of those who are unable to see colors, the word color remains a great mystery and at best a great desire to discover the unknown. As someone who was able to see colors all my life up until five years ago, I can faithfully tell you that it is practically impossible to teach someone who is unable to see colors what colors look like. This is one of the things that I miss the most; the ability to see colors.

One cannot hear colors or smell colors. One cannot feel colors or taste colors. One cannot sense colors or touch colors; but one can see colors if they are able to. I often wonder if there could be a way to teach a blind person what colors are all about, but several of my friends who were born with no vision often remind me that colors do not really mean anything to them because they were never able to see them in the first place.

Colors mean the world to me and will probably always mean the world to me despite my loss of vision. You see, when I hear a word or think of something, I think of it through color. Whenever I smell or touch something I put a color to it. Whenever I play or compose music, my thoughts are covered with colors! I dream in color and I think in color!

Whenever I take those joyful jaunts down memory lane, I can see a sunrise as pure as gold, a sunset that is a soft pink, the placid sea that is a shade of royal blue and a sky that is a much lighter shade of blue. I can see a big silver Air Canada jet bird and the fast flowing silver water of the Niagara Falls. The big fat white snowflakes and the smiling red rose. My favorite color is yellow with blue running a comfortable second and red coming in third.

Colors will always play a very important part in my life. I used to depend on colors to identify objects but sadly no more. Now I use colors to remember persons and things and even as I write this there are some special memories that will forever remain imprinted on my mind such as my beloved dad, who passed on 21 years ago, in his light grey suit. My beloved brother, Robert, who passed on two years ago all decked out in his pilot's uniform: a handsome black uniform adorned with gold stripes. My beautiful mom standing before me in a turquoise dress forever and so much more.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your accessibility and special-needs business consultant wishing you a terrific day and inviting you to go out there and enjoy your world of colors. If you would like to learn more about how blind persons function without color then please visit