Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Recalling when it was

I never tire of spending time to recall when it was; that is, when I was able to see enough to enjoy my surroundings, the beauties of nature, and the faces of loved ones.  Sometimes, I find myself growing sad because I am unable to enjoy the bright and vivid colors, the sun playing over the fields, and the faces of my loved ones but you know what?  I snap out of it by delving into my memory bank and using it to get myself back on track.


The other day, I asked my family to describe to me what my nephew Marcus looks like now; my memories of him having been ones of him when he was just a little boy and expectedly, he has now changed into a teen.  So now my memories are out of date and I have to depend on their descriptions to try and construct new ones.  New descriptions to replace old memories but wait!  I need to keep the old memories as backups and work the new descriptions into new memories.


There are many memories that will never change for me; the beauties of nature, certain faces, and scenes of Christmas and Easter.  Memories of red roses, yellow flowers, and white carnations.  Blue skies with puffy white clouds, golden sunshine, white sand and white capped waves.  Deep blue sea and green ocean.  Wet green grass, silver raindrops, big fat white snowflakes, and candles flickering in a church.  Lit candles on a dining table and dishes loaded with food on a countertop.  The silver Air Canada jet gliding lazily over a blue Caribbean sea with a blaze of sunshine overhead and figure skaters on the ice rink in competition.  My loved ones around me and my favorite Canadiens hockey team rushing up the ice.


I really do not mind constructing new memories from descriptions, smells, taste, and from touch.  My memory bank will only continue to grow and I'll just have so much more to enjoy as I grow older. 


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and inviting you to go out there and share my memories with others.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Using texture to decipher

This is one of my favorite little tricks whenever I am in a restaurant.  I use the texture strategy.  How does it work?  I use my knife to determine the texture of meat and potatoes and in doing this, I am able to tell how deeply I need to cut with my knife.    


Here is how it works.  First, I use my knife to touch my meat and potatoes.  Next I run my knife along the edges of the object in question and then down the side in order to determine the texture.  After doing this, I am then able to determine how to go about cutting my food.


I also use this principle when dealing with desserts and when preparing foods.  For example:  The texture of meat will help me to determine how long I need to cook it for and the same goes for potatoes and vegetables.  Simple and it works almost all of the time for me.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and inviting you to go out there and tell others how I as a blind person uses texture to decipher.  If you would like to learn how blind persons use various gadgets to help them decipher texture, then visit www.maxiaids.com.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Caught between kindness and patronization

In my humble opinion, there is a very fine line between kindness and patronization; something that many of my blind friends often tell me.  I know that there are many kind persons in the sighted world who definitely mean well when they set out to help a blind person in need but more often than not kindness can either come across as patronization or be misconstrued for the latter.


I for one prefer to take the high road and accept someone's help as kindness as opposed to patronization but I can tell you that in some cases, patronization definitely does show its ugly head.  How can I tell the difference you may be asking?  By tone of voice, and through action.


If someone responds to me in an offhand manner, then I may think of it as patronization.  For example:  If the security guard at the airport tells me to sit down and relax after I have asked for my cane because they have taken it away from me.  Or, and I am not sure if this is kindness or patronization; someone takes me out of a line without asking and puts me to sit on a chair that is out of the way.


For me, I need to make sure that it is kindness and not patronization.  This is important for me because I do not want to offend the person offering assistance.  A wrong move on my part could easily lead to the person offering assistance deciding not to help a blind person in the future.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and inviting you to go out there and help educate others.  Visit www.acb.org to learn more.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Being left out of studies

This is becoming more and more of a challenge for those of us who have a vested interest in ensuring that the demands and voices of the disabled are taken into consideration when studies are carried out.  Within the last few months, several persons from the disabled community have been complaining more and more about this particular problem and now I would like to give my humble opinion.


When it comes to seeking and understanding the needs, demands, and opinions of the disabled community, many researchers often fall woefully short.  We see it on a daily basis with regard to studies that pertain to such things as:  Customer services, online services, banking services, and municipal services.  I recently attended a meeting where a company wanted to share its research on a study that it had carried out with regard to its customer services.  It was dying to tell us about its findings; what it needed to do in order to improve its customer services, and which type of consumers it had included in its studies.  I listened patiently for about an hour and was quite impressed by what I had heard and when it came time for questions my hand was one of the first to go up.


When I asked if disabled consumers had been included in the company's research, the response was a firm no and when I asked why not, the response was a very stilted and sheepish one:  "We did not think to include disabled participants."  There still exists and unfortunately so, an attitude among companies and even within the mainstream world that the disabled community is one that does not really matter in the general scheme of things.  The voice of the disabled consumer is one that lingers way in the background and the needs and demands of the disabled consumer is of little importance.


This unhealthy attitude may soon be one of the past; especially with a rapidly aging population where it is only natural that more and more persons are going to become disabled in one way or the other.  Such things as disabling diseases that often accompany the aging process along with more persons being afflicted with disabling diseases due to such factors as obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, and circumstances of war.  It is time for researchers to start paying attention to a growing group of consumers; the disabled community. 


If this community continues to be ignored, then much sooner than later, companies are going to find themselves being faced with no alternative but to react.  Would it not be better to pro-act now rather than react later?


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and help to convince researchers that they need to include disabled persons in their studies.  Visit www.nfb.org or www.afb.org to learn more.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Commercials That Do Not Tell All

It has always been a standard practice for advertisers to create and produce commercials that are glitzy, flashy, and commercials that are packed with lots of visual effects.  For after all, these are the ones that more often than not bring in the big bucks to all involved.  All well and good for those who are able to appreciate the visual effects, but what about for those who are not able to enjoy all of this?  Those who are blind, vision impaired, and those who have difficulty viewing TV screens?


Very often, when I am sitting down to watch or rather listen to some TV programs, I have difficulty understanding many of the commercials because there is not enough audio description for me to be able to fully grasp the content and meaning of the commercial in question.  Certain sounds within a commercial often give me a hint as to what it is all about but at the end of it all, I am still missing some important pieces to complete the picture.  For example; the commercial with noises of a family eating dinner, then I hear noises, but there is nothing to tell me what is happening in between.


Recently, I came across a commercial of a little girl asking if she could burst open a piñata.  When her mom said yes, I heard the noise of the piñata being burst open followed by someone spitting out something.  However, what I missed was this:  There was a picture of the face of the father's mother on the front of the piñata and the sound of someone spitting out something was that of the father when he saw his mother's face on the front of the piñata.  Finally, the mother-in-law herself was also in the room but her back was turned so she missed seeing her own face on the front of the piñata.  


I hope that somehow, producers of commercials will be able to find away to inject more audio content into their commercials.  It will not just benefit those with vision difficulties; the blind, the vision impaired, and those with learning difficulties, it would also benefit those with cognitive disabilities as well.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and tell others that commercials need to be made more accommodating to those who are Blind, vision impaired, plus others.

To learn more, visit www.rnib.org.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Judging by Voice

It's the main strategy that I use when I first meet someone; I use the sound of their voice to develop my judgment of them.  Or I should restate it as follows:  I depend on the sound of their voice to help me develop a mental picture. 


I favor voices that are firm, strong, and unfaltering.  I like voices that are easy to understand, clear in diction, and voices that are void of uncertainty.  However, I do my best to be fair and unbiased.  Not everyone has a voice that would possess these qualities but you know what?  A voice that is certain non hesitant is the one that I would more often than not favor.


If you think of it, when we make phone calls and whether or not we are sighted, we almost always judge the person at the other end by the sound of their voice and when we listen to the radio, it is almost always the same.  We judge by voice.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and inviting you to go out there and tell others that most of the time; we all judge others by the sound of their voice.

Visit www.acb.org to learn more.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I Can Talk for Myself

I can talk for myself


This is one major thing for me; the need to tell the sighted world that yes indeed!  Blind persons are more than capable of speaking for themselves.  When it comes to such things as making decisions at the supermarket, the pharmacy, or in stores, we can speak for ourselves.  When it comes to making decisions that concern our medical well beings, our social well beings, and decisions on things that affect our daily lives, we as blind persons can definitely speak for ourselves. 


Yes we are unable to see and yes in many circumstances we need sighted assistance to help us decipher documents and our surroundings but that's all!  We can understand, we can make choices, and we can respond.   We use access technology to surf the Internet and send and receive emails.  We use the phone to garner information.  We listen to what is going on around us; on TV and on the radio.  We do everything that the sighted world does; it is just that we do not see.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and tell the rest of the world that Blind persons can speak for themselves.  Visit www.nfb.org to learn more. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Stores Need to Know More

In a world where technology rules, where people are just a bit too busy to sometimes stop and render assistance, and where employees are being pressured to produce more in a lesser amount of time, it is really important for blind persons to help stores understand how they could be of greater assistance to us whenever we walk into their establishments.  We should never assume that they would understand what we need and what challenges we face; it would be a grave error on our part. 


So with all of this being said, it is time for us to assume a larger role as educators and teachers.  If we start out with not assuming that they ought to know, then that's half the battle won.  Next step?  We need to work very hard to help them understand that we need assistance with some of the following:

Negotiating the layout of the store in question.

Assistance to find the desired merchandise; it takes some additional time and patience on both sides.

Assistance with navigating touch screens and keypads that require us to enter our pin numbers.

Assistance with explanations with regard to prices and descriptions of products.

This list is by no means complete.


So how about it?  Are we ready to assume a greater role in helping stores to learn and understand more about us?  You can learn more by visiting any of the following:

www.nfb.org, www.afb.org, www.acb.org, and www.rnib.org.


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

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Voices Need to be Heard

As I see it:  The only way for blind persons to be able to enrich their lives, break down barriers, build bridges, and overcome challenges, is for us to have our voices heard.  If we do not make the effort to have our voices heard, then how will society know what we are struggling with?  How will they be able to learn more about our world?  How will they know that yes!  We want to be part of the mainstream society; it is our right and we are prepared to reach out and grab it?  


We should never assume that the mainstream world knows what we need, what challenges we face, and how we navigate and move around.  It would be foolish to assume this so my answer to all of this is to say to my fellow blind brethren; more voices need to be heard.


We need to stand up and be counted.  We need to overcome our fear of speaking up.  We need to become more proactive!  Easier said than done?  Not really!  Just take a deep breath and follow me.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and help bridge the gap.  To learn more, you can contact me at donnajodhan@sterlingcreations.ca.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Different Levels of Vision

For much of the sighted world, it is often difficult to make them understand that when it comes to being blind or having a vision disability, there are different and distinct levels of vision.  The word "Blind" is often used as a blanket term to describe someone who does not have perfect or 20/20 vision but I'd like to take a few moments to expand on this.


In our world, there are varying degrees of levels of vision and I myself may or may not get it right so I will apologize in advance.  Here is my take on this topic.


Totally blind - unable to see anything.

Light perception - someone who may be able to discern light and shadows.

Low partial - someone who can distinguish light from dark, sees some shadows, and identify colors.

High partial - someone who can distinguish light from dark, shadows, colors, and may be able to read large print using reading and writing aids.

Low functioning - similar to high partial.

High functioning - someone who has enough vision to travel independently, can read and write comfortably with strong lenses, but does not have enough vision to drive a car.


Of course, my definitions may be disputed by others but I hope that I have given you a feel for what it is all about.  You can learn more by visiting any of the following:

www.nfb.org, www.afb.org, or www.rnib.org.


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

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Dilemma with Salespersons

This continues to be a challenge for me; how best to deal with sales persons.  I don't think that it would be much different for the mainstream person but when you are blind you somehow need to put much more trust in your sales person.


It is easier for the person who can see but when you can't you have to depend on them to be honest with you.  If you ask for something you have to depend on them to aptly describe the merchandise to you.  For example; color, style, and in the case of food, that it is fresh and not rotting or spoiling.  I can normally do a good job at feeling the merchandise to ensure that it is what I want but when it comes to colors and styles of clothing, then I am at the mercy of the sales person.


I have met really nice and honest sales persons but from time to time I meet a bad apple who tries to slide one past me; maybe just trying to either get rid of me or not having enough patience to deal with me.  Whatever it is, I have to be ready to deal with it.  All in a day's work.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and tell others about the challenges that blind persons face when dealing with sales persons.

Visit www.afb.org to learn more.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Blind Women and Blind Men

One of the most frequently questions that I get asked is this one; who has it easier when it comes to facing challenges as a Blind person?

A very challenging question and not an easy response in return.


As a Blind woman, I some times get the impression that my chances of success are a bit less than if I were a Blind man.  As a Blind woman, I have to deal with many who do not feel that Blind women can function either professionally or in the home.  Women on the whole still face many barriers in the workplace and when you add being blind to this then you have an even higher barrier to deal with. 


In addition, there are many sighted men who do not feel that a Blind woman can be an adequate partner for them; socially, as a wife/girlfriend, or otherwise.  I have found that it is sometimes easier for a Blind man to find female partners.  However, I have been told by some of my Blind male friends that they too have their own set of challenges to face. 


In many cases, society views both a Blind man and a Blind woman in the same way but in other cases; they somehow seem to view Blind women as not being really up to par when it comes to such things as being able to function adequately in the home both as a mom and/or wife.  Then if you add the cultural variables, many cultures take a very poor view of Blind women because to start with, they do not favor women in a very good light. 


I suppose that Blind men have to face challenges such as:  Feeling adequate to look after a family, dealing with the social and dating environments, plus more.  It is the best that I can do to answer these questions for now.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and ask questions on this topic. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Blind Parents and Sighted Kids

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of seeing first hand how my friends as blind parents interact with their little sighted boy.  I was very impressed and am here to tell you that yes indeed!  Blind parents can and do make fine parents to sighted kids.


My friends have a three year old boy Graham; the light and joy of their lives.  Melanie is partially sighted and Brian is totally blind.  They are wonderful parents and Graham is just a joy to be around.  From my observations, he seems to understand that his parents are blind but sometimes he forgets; he is just a kid still.


For example:  If they are seeking to find out where he is he would say in his tiny voice "I'm over here."  I love the way he describes things to his parents in his childlike way.  Whenever they need to, they would tell him to hold on to their hand as they walk.  Whenever they go walking, Graham seems to know exactly what to do.  I was so impressed when Brian asked Graham to tell him where the garbage was and like clockwork, Graham took him right up to the garbage bin.


Graham is only three but just imagine what a fine young man he will be by the time he reaches his teens.  He would have had years of experience at interacting with blind persons; something that so many of our sighted kids miss out on.  What if we were to have some kind of training session for our young ones?  Maybe put it in as part of a schools curriculum?


When I went on my ski trip to Utah earlier this year, I was privileged to see that one of the schools in the area was teaching their kids how to guide blind skiers.  Good work!


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and help educate our kids on how to interact with blind persons.

Visit www.nfb.org to learn more.