Thursday, May 20, 2010

Can Blind Persons Enjoy Art?

Here is another question that I am frequently asked and I say in response that every blind person has their own unique way of doing so.  I cannot speak for anyone else nor would it be fair for me to do so.  I can only speak for myself and here is my personal take on the matter.


I use my memory to help me enjoy art.  If someone describes a painting to me; my memory kicks into high gear and I am able to conjure up shapes and colors.  My mom probably does the best job of describing anything to me and this includes art.  If the art in question is that of a figure, then I need to work harder at remembering and conjuring up.


The thing that gives me the most trouble is my ability to picture animals.  I can do it for dogs, cats, birds, and some cattle but as for other animals like bears, lions, tigers, and so on; it is more difficult.  However, I am always open to enjoying any kind of art.  At least, I try.


Some of my favorite memories of pictures include beach scenes, paintings of skies, flowers, greenery, and a rising or setting sun.  It's what keeps me going and enjoying.  I love to remember colors and I can still bring them back into my memory without too much difficulty.


If you would like to learn more about how blind persons enjoy and appreciate art then please visit


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

When My Computer Crashed

A few weeks ago the living nightmare happened!  Yes, my computer crashed and like almost everyone else, I literally went into spin cycle.  It is hard enough for the mainstream person at the best of times but when you are blind and are unable to see the screen; you have no idea what has just happened.


Chances are that I would guess correctly but as to exactly what has happened!  No way of telling when your screen reading software does not speak and you are unable to see the screen.  Good thing that my technician was available and when he came over to my office he told me the dreaded words:  "Your hard drive has crashed."  For me, the hardest thing to deal with is not being able to see what's on the screen and there is absolutely nothing that I can do about it because when there is a major crash then everything goes down.  How I wish that someone would come up with some type of device that we can use to read a screen.  Some type of wand that we can move across the screen to tell us what is going on.  Can't blame me for wishing can you?


Maybe some day this will come to pass but in the meantime if you would like to see what types of technology is out there for blind persons plus more, then you can visit


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pretending in the Mirror

Whenever I feel like it and have a few spare minutes to spend, I love to go and pretend in the mirror.  There was a time when I could see myself in the mirror but now this is all gone.  So, here's what I do in order to cope.


I stand in front of the mirror and pretend that I can see myself.  I still have vivid memories of what I look like and I can also conjure up images of my mom, some of my friends, and my family.  So, in the quiet of my bathroom I stand in front of the mirror and allow my memory to bring back my beloved images to life.  Colors dance before me; blonds and brunettes, bright red lipstick, pink blush, plus so much more.  Bright yellow sweaters, powder blue cardigans, and red shirts also dance before me and I can even conjure up the image of me in a black business suit with an ivory colored inner blouse.


 Sometimes, I embellish these images by allowing my memory to add sounds of voices and I do this particularly when I wish to remember my dad and my brother Robert.  Call me crazy but it's my way of coping and remembering.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and if you would like to learn how other blind persons cope after they have lost vision, then visit

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Please Don't Sneak Up on Me

I don't think that at the best of times, the majority of us appreciate being sneaked up upon but I can tell you that as a blind person, it bothers me quite a bit when someone does this to me.


Some people may think that it would be fun to sneak up on a blind person; but it is not.  When you are without enough sight to see around you and then someone does this, it could make things quite difficult for the blind person.  Sometimes, I am able to tell if someone is sneaking up on me because I can either hear or sense their presence but whenever I am caught off guard, I get very nervous.  So, please do not sneak up on me. 


As a blind person, I do my best to take advantage of my sense of hearing but when this sense fails to warn me of impending sneakers, it's a bit of a downer for me.  It's enough to be able to cope with what's around you and we do not need unexpected incidents to throw off our balance.   Just my two cents for today.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Images That Do Not Match

That's how it is for blind persons.  If you were born blind, then more than likely, your images of things around you would probably not match the actual object.  I was born with little sight and then I received a lot of vision through a corneal transplant and when I was able to see things more clearly, I can tell you that in many cases my perceived images did not match the actual object.


It's funny but I was able to identify quite a few things; i could read the headlines in the newspapers, identify colors, but I had to learn how to practically see and transmit those images to my mind.  I used to think for example that a scorpion was a big thing, but in actuality it was not.  I learned what birds and flowers looked like, the shapes of the clouds, and butterflies, trees, and even people's faces. 


Matching images of faces to my perceived notions was the biggest thing for me but I learned fast.  Now I have a ton load of memories to keep me going for the rest of my days.  Ah!  Matching images in my mind continues to be a big hobby for me.


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 to others.

Visit to learn more.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Toronto Star Article about my Charter Challenge

Disability case headed to court
May 8, 2010 00:05:00
Helen Henderson

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s relationship with democracy has come under increasing scrutiny during his tenure at the helm of our country. Little things like circumventing Parliament and Canadians’ right to know come to mind.

You can add to that Ottawa’s obstinate refusal to provide Canadians who are blind with equal, interactive access to government websites for everything from pensions to passports.

Thanks to a tech-savvy MBA who also happens to be blind, the issue will be aired in federal court, hopefully later this year.

The case, which will test this country’s commitment to Charter rights for all citizens, including those with disabilities, is exactly the type of legal challenge that could go right up to the Supreme Court, costing taxpayers untold millions.

It’s hard to understand why. Affordable technology to rectify the situation is readily available.

And just two months ago, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, pledging equal, open access to everyone no matter how they move, communicate or process information.

Yet Ottawa seems determined.

The genesis of this case goes back more than a decade, when Donna Jodhan, who earned her MBA at McGill University, wanted to apply for jobs with Statistics Canada and other federal departments.

To her dismay, she found the online application process wasn’t accessible to her because she is blind. When she repeatedly tried to point this out, she says she was rebuffed if not ignored.

Finally, she sought legal counsel.

Bakerlaw, a firm that specializes in human rights issues took the case. But it wasn’t the only entity with legal expertise that thought Jodhan’s argument had merit.

She received funding from the Court Challenges Program of Canada, set up to help those who would not otherwise have the means to bring forward “important court cases that advance language and equality rights guaranteed under Canada’s Constitution.” (Stephen Harper would later cancel the Court Challenges Program, but not before it had agreed Jodhan’s case fell within its mandate.)

In her suit against the government, Jodhan is not asking for any monetary compensation. She is simply asking Ottawa to work with technical experts and Canadians who are visually impaired to make sure that government application forms for jobs, pensions, passports and other key services are accessible.

“The way things are it’s as if we just don’t count, as if we’re not important enough to bother with,” she says.

Yet a 2003 federal task force on access to information for print-disabled Canadians tallied the numbers at 3 million “or about 10 per cent of the population.”

Also on board as an adviser for Jodhan in her court case is Jutta Treviranus, director of the University of Toronto’s Adaptive Technology Resource Centre.

The real problem is not that the technology isn’t readily available and affordable; it’s that when it comes to interactive web technologies the government’s road map is flawed, says Treviranus.

In the statement of facts it plans to present to the court, Ottawa says: “Canada is committed to making federal government websites accessible to the broadest audience possible, including for the visually impaired. To give effect to this commitment, the Treasury Board adopted internationally recognized web accessibility standards through the Common Look and Feel Standards for the Internet in May of 2000.”

Sounds good on paper but Treviranus says the way the Common Look and Feel Standards are written make them counterproductive when it come to designing interactive websites accessible to Canadians who are blind.

“They really need to update the standards,” she says. “The supportive structure is lacking.”

A spokesperson for the Treasury Board declined to comment on the court case.

Jodhan started an online petition to Parliament asking it to ensure that all government websites are interactively accessible by Dec. 31 this year. Online is the only accessible way for Canadians who are blind to participate. But she says she has been told the government will not accept online petitions.

The Treasury Board spokesperson declined to comment on that, too.

Not my kind of democracy.

Helen Henderson is a freelance writer and disability studies student at Ryerson University. Her column appears Saturdays.

See article here

Lights out at the rink

This is what it feels like every time I go ice-skating.  When I had more vision, it was so easy for me to skate around on my own and I used to love looking at the lights as I skated around.  Sometimes I skated at rinks where the lights were nice and bright and on other occasions I would skate at rinks where disco type lights were present.  Flashing and o so bright and colorful.


I loved it all!  Especially at Christmas time when I ice-skated with friends at rinks where the colorful Christmas lights were on display.  It is very different now; I skate oblivious to any lights around me.  However i use my imagination to create memories and weave pictures laden with lots of colorful lights of all sizes and shapes.  In the days when I could see, I usually skated on my own with someone beside me.  Now, I ice skate on the arm of a friend.


Lights may be out at the rink for me but the memory lives on.  I enjoy my ice-skating more than ever and will probably do so for the rest of my ice skating days.


If you would like to learn more about the type of sports that blind persons engage in then you can visit or


I'm Donna J. Jodhan yur friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and spread the news that indeed! Blind persons do ice skate.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

My Mother's Day Gift

Each year I usually send my mom flowers and each year it is always the same for me.  I have to phone and order them through Flowers by Sears but good thing that the call takers are always so willing to describe things to me.  Having been able to see before, I have a fair idea in my mind as to what the intentioned bouquet or arrangement would look like.  So 99% of the time, I am successful at sending my mom something that I know she would love.


When I had enough vision, I used to be able to look at large pictures of floral arrangements and I never stopped admiring the beautiful shapes, colors, and artistic work.  Now that my vision is not good enough, I set my imagination to work.  Shapes and colors dance in my mind.  They all come to life and I have so much fun imagining my mom receiving them and appreciating them.


Ah!  What would I do without my trusted memory and furtive imagination?

Happy Mother's Day my Dearest mom!


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Springtime is For Me

Spring has always been one of my favorite times and now that I am no longer able to see Mother Nature's beautiful wonders, I use my memory to bring back memories of years gone by.


O how I love to sit on my balcony and imagine!  Tall trees swaying gracefully in a gentle breeze.  Flowers of vibrant colors tossing their heads in the wind.  Green grass glistening in the golden sunshine and blue skies with big fat fluffy white clouds coasting quietly by. 


I have no difficulty conjuring up memories of puddles of all sizes on the sidewalks.  Raindrops racing down the lens of my glasses, and colorful rainbows sitting peacefully in the sky. 


Ah!  My memory bank!  Filled with thousands of unblemished photos that will forever remain with me.  Every season for me has favorite moments but springtime is extra special.  You see, spring was the season that greeted me when I had my first cornea transplant so many years ago.  There were so many bright colors to get used to, and so many new things for me to see, touch, and explore.  Wonderful memories forever.


I thank God that I can still rely on these special memories.  I am very lucky that I was able to enjoy springtime's specialties and I will forever hold them close to me. 


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day.  To learn more about how blind persons use their memories to enjoy, visit

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Remembering Robert

Yesterday marked the third anniversary of my brother's passing.  My big brother Robert; just as if it were yesterday.  How well I remember his voice, the smell of his cologne, my hand in his whenever he guided me around.  When he passed on, I had already lost most of my vision but o how I remember his face. 


Robert and I looked alike but there were definitely so many other things to remember about him.  He was one of my biggest supporters.  He always used to say to me that being blind should not be a problem but only something to overcome.  He understood so many things about me.  He never held my blindness as a barrier for me and he was there to egg me on and encourage me to reach for the stars.


I know that Robert would have been proud of my efforts with regard to my present charter challenge and as I write this I could just hear him saying "Why not!"  Robert was daring, unafraid, fiercely loyal, and always there to lend a helping hand.  He used to let me play hide and seek with him and his friends and whenever we went swimming in the sea; he would unceasingly throw sand into my hair, or duck me under the water. 


Robert was four years my senior but yet he found time to play with Jeffrey and me when we were growing up.  As we matured, our relationship was one of mutual respect and support.  He always made time to visit me whenever he flew into Toronto; he was an airline pilot.  When he became ill, he never stopped supporting me.


His face is forever imprinted in my mind; I shall never forget him!  His photo lies well wrapped and undamaged in my memory bank.  I am no longer able to see photos of him but that's okay.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day.