Thursday, July 30, 2009

Can blind persons enjoy the outdoors?

This is a question that I am often asked and absolutely why not?  My inability to enjoy the wonders of Mother Nature visually in no way prevents me from enjoying through smell, touch, and feel.  Unlike many other blind persons, I am extremely lucky and fortunate that I can use visualization to help me enjoy the outdoors.  Having previously had enough vision whereby I was able to see color, I can now use my visualization to enjoy nature and the outdoors in a very unique way.


Most blind persons have never had the good fortune to be able to see the outdoors but that does not prevent them from doing so.  They, like me, can smell the sweet fragrances of flowers, feel the cool wet grass beneath their feet, enjoy the shade of tall trees, play with the sand on beaches, swim in the pleasant water of lakes, rivers, and oceans, and enjoy the cool fresh air in any season of the year.


Blind persons can definitely enjoy walks in the woods and along the beach.  They can ride bicycles built for two.  They can swim, and even enjoy such water sports as sailing, canoeing, plus more.  They can even enjoy such winter sports as skiing, ice skating, snow shoeing, plus more.  In short, despite their lack of vision, they can still enjoy the outdoors.  Ask me how do I most enjoy the outdoors and my response would be:  By ice skating on outdoor rinks, swimming in the ocean, walking in the woods, and lying on the cool sand of warm sunny beaches.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and inviting you to contact me if you would like to learn more about how I and my fellow blind persons enjoy the outdoors.  Please contact me at 

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Braille Faxes Not Available

This is one of the most interesting questions that the sighted world often asks:  Are there Braille faxes available?  The answer to this is a definite no and here is why.  Braille is made up of dots and not images or printed letters.  Dots are used to form letters.  Faxes are made up of images and letters. 


Braille dots are raised so that a blind person can feel them in order to read it.  Fax machines are unable to accept and reproduce anything that is raised.  So the next time someone asks you if faxes can be sent and received in Braille, you will be able to say most positively, no.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and tell others that Braille faxes are unavailable. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Putting On Makeup in the Dark

When it comes to putting on makeup as a blind person, it's really like doing it in the dark because I am unable to use a mirror to guide me.  There was a time up until five years ago when I was able to do so because I had enough vision then to see my profile in the mirror but now it's primarily by touch. 


Having been able to see before gives me an advantage now in that I am able to visualize things but not to worry.  Blind persons can be taught to put on their own makeup by using touch techniques plus some other important strategies that are really not too difficult to understand once you get the hang of it all. 


In the case of putting on lipstick:  I take the lipstick and gently move it along the line of my lips.  Then I take a tissue and blot it just like what a sighted person would do.  In the case of face powder, I use a cosmetic pad to do the job.  I gently place the pad on the top of the compact where the powder is, press lightly, and then apply the pad to my cheeks and nose.  In this way, I am almost certain to ensure that the powder is applied evenly.


Blind persons are also taught to apply such things as eyebrow pencils plus more and like sighted persons they too make errors when applying their makeup from time to time.  The only big difference here is that sighted persons can see their errors but blind persons are unable to do so.  So they need to depend on the sighted world to tell them.  If you would like to learn more about how blind persons are taught to apply their makeup then please visit or

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and spread the word that yes!  Blind persons can put on their own makeup.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Is Culture Blind?

This is indeed a very controversial topic but I'll do my best to explain.  In the normal scheme of things, much of society is often blind when it comes to recognizing that blind persons can and do live normal lives.  In North America and most of Europe including Britain, most of society is somewhat hazily aware of our existence and many mainstream persons do try to learn about who we are and how we function but sadly, the same cannot be honestly said for societies of the continents of Asia and Africa.


Over the years, I have seen some changes in the attitudes on the part of those societies of Asia and Africa but there is still very much to be done.  I have had many experiences with wonderful persons from Eastern countries who through no fault of their own have had difficulty understanding why blind persons need to be both seen and heard and as a result they have unwittingly been guilty of erecting artificial barriers. 


You see, in their countries, blind persons and disabled persons as a whole are often never seen or heard and why?  Because they are banished to homes and institutions; but this is beginning to change and blind persons in these countries are leading the way.  Here in North America there is much for us to do and this is so because of the multi cultural environment in which we live.


This is not going to change so we may as well get used to it and for me I find that the best way to help solve this problem is through education and awareness.  I am always willing to be a part of change and if you would like to contact me then by all means please do so by sending an email to

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and asking that you help me to bridge the cultural gap.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Disability Divide

This is probably not a term that many of you would be used to seeing so I am going to tell you a bit about it.  So as to be as concise as I can be, the disability divide refers to the difference between what a mainstream person can access through the Internet versus what a blind person is able to and it all refers to information, websites, and technology. 


Believe it or not, there are huge and ever widening gaps between what mainstream persons can access and what blind persons can.  When it comes to information, I as a blind person am unable to read documents in PDF format and much too often both governments and companies are guilty of failing to make their documents available in formats that I and others like me can read.  If these documents are not made available to me in any one of the following formats known as alternate formats, then information becomes inaccessible.  Formats such as:  Braille, large print, and electronic.


When it comes to websites, a similar situation prevails.  Many experts readily admit that about 97% of websites are inaccessible to blind persons due to various barriers such as:  Graphics and icons that do not contain textual descriptions, forms and fields that are not designed to enable blind persons to use them, files in inaccessible formats such as PDF, pop-up screens and pull-down menus, plus much more. 


In the case of technology, blind persons have to depend on manufacturers to develop special software that would enable them to take advantage of such things as:  MP3 players, PDAs, cell phones, plus much too much more.  These gaps unfortunately continue to grow and the only way for me to put it into perspective is like this:  Technology takes two steps forward, but for blind persons it's actually only one. 


If you would like to learn more about these gaps then you can visit or

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and help encourage companies to help blind persons close the disability divide.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gadgets and Devices That Talk

For the mainstream person living in a regular environment, one can easily say that talking gadgets and devices could be seen as a novelty and for most kids with regular vision, one can also easily say that they would look upon talking gadgets and devices as nice to have toys.  For blind persons however, the story is very different.  Talking gadgets and devices play a very huge role in our lives and I am going to take the liberty of introducing you to just a few of these wonderful inventions. 


Starting with my kitchen:  My microwave speaks; allowing me to hear various buttons as I press them.  I can set the time, choose the number of minutes that I need in order to cook my food, and so on.  I use a talking timer, a talking clock, and a talking scale.  In my home office, I use a talking computer that speaks what's on the screen to me; by character, word, sentence, paragraph, and by page.  I can set my parameters to have text announced, spelled, and with or without punctuation. 


I also take advantage of other talking gadgets and devices such as:  A talking language dictionary, a talking thermometer, a talking calculator, a talking color detector, plus more.  Last year, I added three new and wonderful talking devices to my arsenal.  A device that doubles as both an MP3 player as well as a book reader, plus a talking CD player and the greatest winner for me was the purchase of a cell phone that contains software that enables me to hear what keys I press, listen to input as I update my address book, listen to music, plus much more. 


There are several other interesting gadgets and devices out there that I would like to own some day but for now I would like to make mention of them.  A GPS unit that talks, a label recognition device that can read labels on boxes and cans, a device that can read printed pages and does it through a cell phone that has been outfitted with special software, and a PDA that has been especially developed for blind persons.  


You may be asking yourself this question by now:  What does it take to make a device or gadget talk?  Very simple.  Through the development of software better known as access software.  You can learn much more about all of this by visiting, or, or

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and tell the rest of the world that yes!  Blind persons do indeed use talking gadgets and devices to help them with their daily lives. 

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Flashing lights no good for me

In the normal scheme of things and in a mainstream world, flashing lights are used to signify certain situations and circumstances.  For example, they are used to tell pedestrians when they can cross streets, they are used to indicate when timers and clocks on appliances need to be set or reset, and as a general rule they are used to indicate when a certain action needs to be taken.  All well and good but for those of us who are unable to see flashing lights, we need to find ways to compensate. 


Here are a few things that I do in order to compensate.  Now that I am unable to see these wondrous flashing indicators, I use certain techniques.  In the case of knowing when to cross streets, I use the tried and proven technique of listening for parallel traffic.  Here's how this works.  As I approach the corner, I perk up my ears and start listening for the direction in which traffic is traveling and I am more concerned about the parallel traffic. 


You see, the flow of parallel traffic is what I use to tell me when/if I should be crossing a street.  If I hear the parallel traffic moving then I know that it is safe for me to move but wait a minute!  There is something else to think about but let me finish off the thought on the flow of traffic.  If the traffic in front of me is moving then I know that I need to wait.  Let me paint the picture more clearly.


As I approach a street corner, I start listening for the flow of parallel traffic and if it is already moving as I reach the corner then I stand and wait for it to stop.  When it starts to move again then I am safe to cross.  In the case of traffic in front of me, the process is similar.  If it is flowing as I reach the corner I stop and wait and when it stops moving then I cross.  If it is quiet as I reach the corner, then I stop and wait for it to start again then stop again.  Clear as mud?  I hope so.


In the case of dealing with flashing lights on appliances, I need to use a different technique and it all boils down to being able to tell if electricity has gone and returned.  Nothing tried and proven here but just common sense.  If you would like to learn more about how blind persons deal with flashing lights then please visit or  I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and inviting you to go out there and help educate the rest of the world about how blind persons deal with flashing lights.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My signature is no different

If there is anything in this world that puts me on an equal footing with the mainstream person it is this:  Signatures that are almost impossible to decipher.  It does not matter if you can see or not, at the best of times it is almost impossible to decipher the majority of signatures.


When I had vision I learned how to sign my name and according to my mom it was somewhat legible if I took the time to concentrate when I was signing but now without enough vision it is almost impossible for anyone to decipher.  There are signature guides that a blind person can use when signing their name but before using this they need to learn how to form their letters.  These signature guides are very inexpensive and easy to make if you do not know where to purchase one.


Here's how it works.  It is made out of a piece of material that does not slip when placed on a sheet of paper; like rubber or sturdy cardboard.  The shape of the signature guide is usually rectangular with a space in the middle.  The bottom half of the guide is placed on the bottom line where the signature is to be written, the space is where the person is supposed to place their pen to sign, and the top half of the guide is meant to prevent the person from going above the space where their signature is supposed to be.  The left and right bars of the signature guide are meant to help the person remain within the designated spot so that they do not start before and finish after the spot. 


This may sound very complicated to the mainstream person but to learn more you can visit  I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and inviting you to help educate others about how blind persons go about signing their names.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Is the TV On?

One of the daily challenges that I face is this one:  How can I tell whether or not the TV is on when I first turn it on?  Well, it's totally by trial and error and several of my friends use different techniques but here's mine for what it is worth.  My first job is to find the correct on/off button to press and after I have done so, the next thing is to ensure that I press it in the right way.  One task done and one more to go.


If I hear sound immediately then I know that I have pressed the right button to turn it on and now it's time for me to find my channel of choice.  I have to ensure that I know the locations of the following buttons before I can do anything else; the numeric keypad to select the channels, the up and down selector key, and the volume up and down keys.  If I do not make sure to familiarize myself with these keys then I am in huge trouble if I have any hope or expectation of being able to use my TV effectively. 


If I do not hear any sound when I press the on/off button, then there are three things for me to consider:  First I have to make sure that I have pressed the right button.  Second, if I am sure that I have pressed the correct button I then have to move to step two and that is to determine whether or not the cable is working or whether or not electricity is on. I will stress that it is important for me to know this because if after I am sure that I have turned on the TV I do not hear any sound, then there are two things for me to investigate. 


First I need to make sure that cable is working and I can do this by flicking from channel to channel.  If I hear a static sound as I travel from channel to channel this will tell me that there is nothing on the screen on the various channels and I will know that cable is not working and I have to wait for it to return.  If I do not hear that tell tale static sound then I have to check to see if electricity is on or off and I can do this by checking other appliances to see if they are receiving electricity.  My radio, stove, fridge, microwave, and so on. 


If electricity is there, and I am very sure that I have turned on my TV, then I can assure you that trouble awaits me.  Yes, you probably guessed it!  My TV is not working. 

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and learn more about how blind persons function on a daily basis by visiting

Friday, July 10, 2009

Working Blindly in the Kitchen

So much of the sighted world is still very much in the dark when it comes to understanding how blind persons work in their kitchen but in truth and in fact, it is very easy to understand.  The important thing to remember here is caution, caution.  For me, I do my best to be cautious at every turn but rest assured that like everyone else, stuff happens from time to time and I just have to deal with it.  I think that the big difference between my techniques and those of a mainstream sighted person is this:  I am more careful and I use some unique techniques.


So, let me now divulge my kitchen secrets to you.  My cupboards are super organized.  My tins and cans are placed in specific places on shelves and the same for boxes.  I put masking tape on boxes and tins to differentiate them if they are of the same size.  I often shake tins and cans to tell the difference.  The sound of beans is different from the sound of fruit cocktail.  Tins of beans are usually bigger than tins of peas and carrots.  The shape of a tin of corn is easily distinguishable and the same for corn beef, soup, and tuna. 


Tuna and sausages are placed in one specific place on my shelf.  Beans have their own place, and the same for soup.  My glasses, plates, and cutlery are also well organized and kitchen implements are also organized in the same way.  Pots and pans have their own drawer and condiments are grouped so that I can easily find them.  I often use my sense of smell to help me along.  Sugar and salt occupy opposite ends of my shelf so that I do not make the mistake to spoon salt into my tea or coffee. 


When cooking, pot handles are placed in specific positions on my stove so that I know exactly how to maneuver them.  When pouring stuff into pots, I feel for the edge of the pot and then pour.  If I am frying or grilling and need to turn things over, I take the pot or pan off the stove, place it on a board on my counter, and then use an implement to turn it over.  This helps me not to splatter things or burn myself at the stove.  Baking is done in the same way and the microwave is not a problem for me.  I have a talking microwave that I can work with and I also use talking timers when cooking.


My fridge and freezer are also super organized so that I can find things easily.  I use my sense of smell to help detect spoiling food and produce.  So you see, not too difficult to understand if you think about it.  I use my fingers to tell me if there are any spills on my counters and dressers and I am extra careful when I pour liquids.  I do it over the sink whenever I can and if I can't then I use my fingers to guide me along.  I am always wiping my counter with a wet cloth so that I can accommodate any allowance for tea or coffee spills.  These are one of the worst things for me because it is practically impossible to detect stains if they are not sticky.


From time to time things make their way onto my floor but every week I sweep it and often get down on hands and knees with a dust pan and hand broom as it is easier to find stray stuff on the floor using this technique.  So there you have it!  Working blindly in my kitchen.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your accessibility and special needs business consultant wishing you a terrific day and inviting you to learn more about how blind persons work in their kitchens and deal with challenges on a daily basis.  Visit or

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Buying blindly at the supermarket


You got it!  This is exactly what happens if I go shopping at the supermarket and have to depend on the staff there to help me.  If I go with mom or a friend it is a bit different.  They know what I need and they take their time telling me what's on sale and describing various products to me.  However, for the staff at the supermarket it is very different.  They often do not have time to help me in such detail but at the supermarket where I shop they are as good as can be.


For the last 25 years, I have been shopping at the same supermarket; the Metro supermarket at the Bridlewood Mall in Toronto and on the whole they have come to know what I need and they are very good at describing things to me and telling me what's on sale.  I am luckier than most of my fellow blind folks because I have been told when often time when they visit the supermarket to do their shopping they literally have to trust blindly.  They have to trust the staff to tell them things like:  What's on sale, whether or not the desired produce or meat looks good, whether or not the things that they are looking for are available, and similar things to what they are seeking.


It's one thing to go in with a shopping list and having one when you go in sure cuts down on time for both blind person and staff member but when it comes to filling one's basket with one's goods; here's where the fun and nervousness come together.  Blind persons literally have to trust blindly and have to expect that any of the following can and do often occur:  They come home with exactly what they set out to buy.  They come home with not exactly what they set out to buy because the staff member may either have substituted something for something else or mistakenly put in something different.  They come home with things missing because the staff member either forgot to find it or could not have been bothered.


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 educate your supermarket about the needs of blind and visually impaired customers.

Visit or to learn more.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Terror at Security Checkpoints

With more and more security checks being implemented at airports across North America and indeed at major airports around the world, it is becoming scarier for those of us who are blind and visually impaired.

I ran into a very scary episode recently at Toronto's major airport, Pearson International. When I got to the security checkpoint, I placed my carry-on bag along with my cane and jacket into the plastic box as instructed, but the fun started after I walked through the tiny tunnel. A better way to describe it is "the tiny enclosure that one has to go through before a security agent pats you down."

Without any warning, I was told that my bag had to be searched because they found chemicals on it. In addition, I had to be given an entire body search. Nothing too out of the ordinary with all of this except for the fact that I felt completely helpless without my cane.

I am quite aware that they had to x-ray my cane, but what most people of of the sighted world do not understand is this: A cane is practically part of a blind person's physical being or makeup. Take it away from them without warning and the blind person becomes extremely anxious and starts to develop feelings of helplessness. If not explained properly as to why it has been taken away, then the blind person can often become extremely stressed. A feeling of nakedness without my cane is how I felt.

A cane gives me confidence. It enables me to find my way. It helps me to feel secure; somewhat like having a security blanket. Take it away from me and I am left to negotiate my way blindly (pun intended). When a blind person has their cane taken away from them in unfamiliar territory it is thrice as bad. Add to all of this the stress of having to deal with unfriendly security agents and you have just created a powder keg for disaster.

If you would like to learn more about how and why blind persons use canes and where you can purchase one plus much more then please visit either or

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 they need to be more aware of how blind persons react when their canes are taken away from them without warning.