Thursday, August 27, 2009

Getting Around in My Home Office

Much of the sighted world probably has very little idea as to how a blind person would get around in their office or cubicle.  In reality, not much different to someone who is very meticulous but there are a few additional steps for me.  The word here is organization, organization and using my memory to help me along.  First, my furniture is placed in strategic spots so that I can move around freely and not bump into things.  The furniture is mainly placed around the parameter of the room and the middle is clear.


My desk is very meticulously arranged with my computer in the middle, and other equipment placed in such a way so as to enable me to reach them without too much difficulty.  The phone is closest to me and my braille machine, electronic dictionary, and calculator are also very close at hand.  I do not have too much paper on my desk.  Just a few braille sheets for me to take notes on.  My filing system is very meticulously arranged as well and I will tell you that I constantly have to ensure that things are filed in the right place.  Anything out of place and I am in deep trouble.


My file folders and diskettes are all labeled in braille.  When I had enough sight I had labeled them all in large print but now that I am no longer able to read and write in print, I have to use the braille method.  Everything on my desk has its specific spot.  Any file folders with printed material in them are very carefully labeled in braille as well.  Friends often tell me how amazed they are that I can almost always find what I am looking for.  As I said above, organization is the key to success when it comes to getting around in my home office.  My family is very good at knowing my ways and never has a problem when it comes to moving around in my home office.  As a matter of fact, my home office is also quite friendly to sighted visitors.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and share my info with the rest of the sighted world.  If you would like to learn how to set up your home office so that both you and a blind person can easily coexist in it, then please contact me at

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Are All Blind Persons Unemployed?

I'd like to take a few minutes of your time to clear up a very false myth.  I am not going to bash society for this terrible misconception; rather, I am going to try and clear it up. So here is the question of the day:  Are all blind persons unemployed?


Answer!  No!  Believe it or not, many blind persons work for a living but sad to say, not nearly enough of us work.  I have had a very interesting career.  I have worked for such companies as the Bank of Montreal, IBM Canada, and the Royal Bank of Canada.  I have been working for myself for the past 15 years and I continue to enjoy relatively good success as a blind entrepreneur.  I continue to advocate for more blind persons to be hired in the workplace and to become entrepreneurs.


There are some very daunting statistics that we as blind persons need to deal with however and that is; the more than 80% of under employed or unemployed blind persons as a whole.  Not just in North America, but on a global level.  Employed blind persons can be found in such professions as: As lawyers, programmers, admin assistants, psychologists and psychiatrists, social workers, translators, and the list is growing.  More and more blind persons are starting to venture out as entrepreneurs.  


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and asking you to go out there and tell the rest of the world that yes indeed! blind persons can and do work for a living.  Visit to read about one of Canada's most successful blind female entrepreneurs.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

No More Pets for Me

For as long as I can remember, I have had pets in my life.  As a kid, my family had loving and wonderful Retrievers and Labs as pets and o how I adored them.  When I left home I decided to have birds as pets and I never had a day go by without enjoying their wondrous singing and their voices as pure as angels in Heaven.


Each of my birds had a unique personality; and each touched my heart in their very own special way.  I shall always remember each for what they brought to my life.  Scottie was probably my favorite because I was able to see what he looked like; bright orange with a crown on his head.  A canary with a very unique personality.  Chip, and Robbie, who was named for my late brother Robert, were both wonderful in their very own way but unfortunately for me, I was unable to see what they looked like and I had to use visualization.  Nevertheless they meant the world to me and there were several others like Cory, Jamie, Alexei, Micha, Alexis, and Gretzky.


So, why am I saying that "no more pets for me?"  Well, here goes.  When I was able to see, it was easier to look after the little songsters and it was so much more enjoyable for me to see them fly around.  Now however, despite my still enjoying their selfless company, I don't seem to have the confidence anymore.  I am constantly afraid of them escaping if I hold the door to the cage open for too long.  True it is that for sighted persons it's probably the same; but when you're almost sightless it's even scarier if they escape and you don't know it let alone where they have wandered to.


This happened twice with Robbie and it really scared me but thank God that mom was there to help get him back into his cage.  What made me make up my mind that I would not want anymore birds as pets was an incident with Robbie.  One morning when we awoke, I went to feed him and after having put his apple into his container and changed his water, mom noticed that he was lying at the bottom of his cage.  He was dying.


Now, if mom had not spotted him, I probably would not have known that he was dying until sometime later when I would have noticed that he was not singing and by that time he would probably have been dead.  This scared and made me extremely sad and brought much pain to me.  So, no more pets for me.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and share my thoughts.  Visit or to learn more about the world of blindness.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Visualizing what someone looks like

For most blind persons, this is a very difficult chore.  However, if you were born with vision and then you have lost it later on in life, this is not too hard to do.  Why?  Because for someone who was born with vision, they have had the opportunity to see and it is easy to transform this into visualization after losing vision.


As for me, I was born with very little and when I was a teen I got quite a bit of vision that enabled me to see faces.  What a shock it was for me.  Before I received my new vision, I had imagined certain things about specific persons; specifically what they would or could look like and when I got to see the real person, then I had to learn. 


In a few cases, I was halfway there but for the most part I had to learn about looks, faces, body structures, and so much more.  I had to learn that everyone in their own way was unique in look.  Each person had a unique walk and set of mannerisms.  Each person had a unique combination of facial structure, skin color, mannerisms and gestures, and so on.


Now that I have lost most of my vision, I can still visualize and it helps me to characterize persons.  Lots of fun for me.  If you would like to learn more about visualization, then visit


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and share my experiences with the rest of the world.



Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Avoiding a Heartbreaker

I have learned the hard way that avoiding a heart breaker may not always be as easy as you may think.  Sometimes, and especially so in my case, I allow myself to be caught up in the moment as they say and in doing so I often fail to use my logic and experience to save me from heartaches.


This is what happened over six years ago when I decided to go for broke and gave my approval to the doctors to perform a third cornea transplant on me.  This despite my gut feeling that I should have left well alone and that my doctor's warning that the success rate would probably have been 50-50%; but the quest for additional vision clouded my judgment and six months after the surgery my heart was aching and breaking and I was fighting to keep my life together.  


Anything and Everything that could have gone wrong, did.  My retina detached in three places and the cornea failed.  As the doctor later said to me, it was one of the worst detachments that he had ever seen but there was more.  In a subsequent surgery to repair the damage, the eye itself was damaged and a piece of my heart died that day.  A terrible accident had taken place during the surgery and I was left to pick up the pieces all on my own. 


My family and friends were extremely supportive but nothing could have helped me deal with this tragic loss.  It's so easy to say that I should have done this or done that but it's too late now and all that I can do is to use this experience to save myself further pain for the future.  The lesson here for me is this:  Look before you leap.  Think carefully before you act.  Temper my hopes and dreams against reality.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and learn more about causes of blindness. 

Visit or

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Can All Blind Persons Play Music?

I'd like to clear up one of the more common myths that society is guilty of and it's this; not all blind persons can play music.  Too often, blind persons are classified as all being able to play music because of people like Steavie Wonder, Ray Charles, Clarence Carter, and so on.  These people are blind and they play music but please do not take this to mean that we can all play an instrument or sing.


For the record, I play the piano but I do not sing.  True it is that most blind persons possess more than just a bit of a keen sense of hearing, but that does not mean that they can play an instrument or sing.  Being blind does not mean that it is natural to assume that we can play music.


I am not sure how this myth originated but there you are.  Just a myth and nothing more.  In the same way, it is not very logical to assume that because the late Michael Jackson was one of the greatest entertainers, it would follow that all black persons should be the same.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and help dispel this myth.  To learn more about blind persons, please visit

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Races and Faces

One of the most frequently asked questions is this one:  How can a blind person identify races and faces?  A very good question and I'll do my best to answer this one.  For as long as I can remember, I was brought up to understand the differences between and among races and faces.  My family was extremely describing these to me and when I received my gift of new vision as a teen, I was able to tell the difference between races and faces.  That really helped me and now that I operate mostly in the dark, it has all served me well.


For someone who was born with insufficient vision to be able to distinguish races and faces, the story is quite different.  Many blind persons are fully aware of the various races and they also know that each person's face is unique in its own way but how do you ask, can they tell the difference among and between races?  Ah, and alas, enter the sense of hearing and for the most part it works.  It's usually telling the difference through someone's accent but wait!  Sometimes this strategy does not quite work.


If for example a person of either Chinese or East Indian descent has grown up in Quebec and has a French Canadian accent, then there is the challenge and more often than not, a blind person has to depend on other techniques such as:  Listening to the intonation of the person's voice.  I should point out here that the type of voice also helps to decipher races.  A Caucasian person for example has a different type of voice to someone who is black.  When the ear is so finely tuned as that of a blind person, they can often use it to dig deeper to decipher even more.


If you would like to learn more about all of this, then by all means, visit, 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 how blind persons go about telling the differences between races.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Through the Eyes

This is my opinion for what it is worth.  It is a well known fact that much of society communicates through the eyes and for those without sufficient eye sight to do this, it is a definite drawback.  For blind persons who are unable to make eye contact, it is a definite barrier to the sighted world.  Remember the famous saying that says "The soul is through the eyes?"  Well, for blind persons, they are unable to see one's soul and in turn it is often extremely difficult for the sighted world to see their soul.  Not very difficult to comprehend if you think about it.


Blind persons do not and are unable to communicate through the eyes because they are unable to make eye contact but for those who were born with vision and then lose it later on; they have already had the ability to make eye contact and after losing vision they are still able to use their eyes to somehow communicate with sighted persons.  That's because they have learned to do this and can still visualize enough to keep on using it.  So, let me just summarize below.


If a person is born blind, they are almost always unable to make eye contact.  If they have been born fully sighted and lose their vision later on, then they have already developed the technique of eye contact and so are able to visualize enough to simulate eye contact.  As for me, I was born blind so I have had to work very hard to develop a way to make eye contact using creativity on my part and tutoring from my mom.  Clear as mud?


If you would like to learn more about how blind persons communicate with the sighted world then visit or


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and inviting you to go out there and tell the rest of the world about how blind persons


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Tribute to My Mentor, Friend, and Adviser

How he touched my life.

The day I heard that you had passed on was the day that I lost a small piece of my heart and the moment I realized that you were no longer with us was the one when I discovered that one of the most important persons in my life was gone forever.


It has been said that as a general rule of thumb, there are at least five persons that one would meet during the course of their life that would have a lasting impact on them and for me the late Maurice Connor was one of these.  I first met MR. Conn as a child when I attended the School for the Blind and from then until now I was privileged and honoured to have known him.  As a student, he was always there for me; coaching, mentoring, encouraging, and sometimes pushing hard for me to keep on fighting the good fight.  As an adult, he continued to mentor me and was never tired of listening to me tell him all about my ventures and adventures.  He was one of the best listeners that I have ever known.


As a music teacher, he was tough but at the same time, gentle and encouraging.  Each time I returned to Trinidad from abroad, I made it my priority to call and visit him and sometimes he would visit my home and have a meal with my mom and me.  I loved his unique sense of humor, his ability to analyze quickly and offer words of wisdom, but most of all, I appreciated his closeness to God.  Our friendship was one that stretched across the seas; from Canada to Trinidad and way beyond.


I always looked forward to receiving his early morning emails.  He never complained about anything.  Instead, he wanted to know how I was doing and his words of encouragement were always welcomed.  MR. Conn had an insatiable appetite to learn.  Whenever he did not hear from me he would send an email inquiring about my well being and each time I came to Trinidad we would speak regularly on the phone.  The exchange of Christmas Day and New Years Day calls were traditions between us.  How much I treasured our chats, his rich laughter, and his quiet words of wisdom.


In 1972, MR. Conn was part of a very successful team that helped to ensure my success at the O level examinations.  He was so proud of this accomplishment and never tired of telling me how happy he was to have been part of the effort.  He would never know how very grateful I was to have had him as my coach and mentor then.


When I lost my vision five years ago, it was MR. Conn who helped me to cope.  He would often write me saying:  "Put your hand in the hand of the lord and walk with him."  When I lost my brother Robert 2 years ago, it was MR. Conn again who helped me to cope.  He came to Robert's funeral and He would never know how much I appreciated him being there.  He told me that it was God's will that Robert was taken and that I had to trust in the good Lord.


This soft, gentle and peace loving man was unique.  His music will live on for many moons.  His dedication and commitment to the causes of blind Trinidadians will never be forgotten.  MR. Conn was one of the most selfless persons that I know.  He was extremely modest despite his many achievements and he never sought anything in return for his tireless efforts.


Rest in Peace MR. Conn.  Your Soul is free now and I am sure that on a very quiet night, I will be able to hear you playing your lilting music and I may be even lucky enough to hear you say "D.J!  How goes it?"  Now you will be able to see the bright yellow sun, the fragrant flowers, the swaying trees, and the rolling blue sea.  I will never forget you and I will always do my best to live up to your expectations.  I promise to keep on fighting the good fight.


Thank you for having allowed me to be part of your life and for having come into mine.

D.J (for this is what he always called me).


Thursday, August 6, 2009

In the Classroom

As someone who has had the good fortune of being able to obtain several degrees, I can tell you that education for blind persons is today more possible than probable.  I am proud to tell you that I am one ofthe first Blind persons in Canada to have obtained a Master's degree in

Business Administration and I am one of the first blind persons in the world to have obtained certifications in Microsoft systems engineering and Novelle network administration. 


My road to success has been one of bumps, lumps, but it has also been marked with great enjoyment, satisfaction, and an eternal gratitude to all those who have helped me along the way.  Many things have changed in the classroom since I first set out on my long journey and as time goes by we can certainly expect more changes to take place.  When I first started out, I used to take notes with writing devices that were very noisy.  These devices produced Braille and were called Braillers.  Then I graduated to taping my lectures and then coming home to listen to them and take notes on my Brailler.  Many of my textbooks were read onto cassette while others were put into Braille for me.  Sometimes, readers read to me.  The longer textbooks were taped and the more technical ones such as Maths were brailled for me.  My exams were put into Braille for me and I reproduced my answers by typing them out on a clunky typewriter.  Quite often, important technical texts were also brailled.  That was then and this is now.


In today's world, many students use computers as note takers and in several instances they have human note takers to take notes for them.  Their texts are on CDs and quite often, professors send texts of important information to students via email.  These texts are formatted in readable alternate formats such as Word, or in RTF or TXT forms.  The pursuit of the more technical courses such as Maths, finance, economics, accounting, and information technology has become much easier today but there are still several challenges to overcome.


With regard to where is best for a blind student to sit when in the classroom; I guess that it would be a matter of choice just like any other student.  For me, I used to tuck myself away at the far end of the room, on whichever side that was furthest away from the professor's lectern and towards the front of the class.  There are several organizations that provide reading services for blind students and I am going to recommend two to you;, and 


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and tell others how blind students get along in classrooms.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

When Did I First Discover...

One of the most frequently asked questions that I have had to answer throughout my life is this one:  When did I first discover that I was blind?  In other words, how early in my childhood did I realize that I was blind?  Boy o Boy!  A simple question but not a very straightforward response on my part.  You see, I really do not remember how or when I discovered. 


Thinking about it now, it seems as if I always knew that I was blind.  I seem to remember as a child that I always knew that I could not see very well.  I knew that I could not see well enough to run around and play hide and seek but my brothers never let this get in the way.  I always played with them and played with their toys.  I knew that I could not read and write print but my parents and granny were always there to read things to me and as for writing?  I remember trying to write with a pencil like my brothers but I would make up what I wrote and then commit it to memory. 


I remember that my dad used to play soccer with me using a brightly colored ball and when it came to cricket; both dad and brothers used to use a huge bright red ball.  Then when it came to flying kites; my dad always let me fly brightly colored kites.  Everything that required balls, bats, kites, and so on, were always brightly colored.  However, I was unable to draw or paint because I did not have enough vision but it did not prevent me from trying.


My first days of primary school were spent at a school for blind children and I had to get used to reading and writing in Braille; the use of dots and devices used for us to communicate.  Braille was first developed in the days of Napoleon so that his soldiers could communicate with each other in the dark and was then quickly expanded to include helping blind persons to communicate.  Braille was invented by a Frenchman named Louis Braille and the year 2009 is being marked to commemorate his 200th birthday. 


I can tell you with great delight that I have had the privilege of being able to function in both worlds; the blind and the sighted and I owe all of this  to a wonderful and devoted family made up of two terrific parents, brothers, granny, and cousins, aunts, and uncles.  In addition, to friends, and teachers and mentors.  I can also say that having received an excellent foundation as a blind child has enabled me to walk through life listening, learning, and understanding how to adjust to my blindness without too much difficulty.  True it is that I have and continue to face many challenges as a bind person but that's okay.  It's what makes life interesting and exciting. 


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 indeed!  Blind persons can adjust to their blindness if they receive the right grounding as kids.  Visit or to learn more. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Sighted Man's Barriers


Now, here is a topic that most blind women often shy away from; the sighted man's barriers.  This is a topic that can be viewed as somewhat embarrassing but for the books, I am going to jump in with both feet and give you my humble opinion. 


When I had much more vision, it was much easier to meet and date sighted men but many of them were still quite hesitant when it came to having a meaningful relationship with a blind woman.  It was always often safe for them to be friends but taking the next step for many of them was always quite a challenge.  In other words, they found it comfortable and easy to enjoy a platonic friendship but when it came to the serious stuff, then this is where you could say that it was very easy to separate the men from the boys. 


Now that my vision has been reduced to just light perception, I have deliberately chosen not to venture in to the world of sighted men because I know how difficult it would be for me to convince them that despite my lack of vision, I am still able to function independently.  Over the years, several other blind women have expressed similar opinions to me and there is not very much that we can really do about this. 


So what you may ask do most sighted men fear when dating a blind woman?  Based on my own experiences plus those of others, here are just a few fears:  Sighted men seem to have difficulty understanding that despite our lack of vision, we are very able and capable of functioning as mothers, housewives, and as social and sexual partners.  The latter seems to be the most difficult barrier for them to overcome. 


In general, they seem to have difficulty comprehending that blind women, despite their lack of sight, are normal in every other way and are able to overcome their lack of sight by compensating in many other ways.  I personally know of some blind women who are happily married to sighted men and others who are involved in meaningful relationships.  I am not saying that sighted men need not worry when dating blind women; no, but what I am saying is this:  Sighted men need to give us an opportunity to show them how we can become meaningful partners to them. 


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and spread my message.