Thursday, September 30, 2010

Interesting reactions

There is one thing that I can say for being blind!  There are always going to be actions or reactions that would either amuse, interest, frustrate, or annoy me.  Or even actions that often leave me with wonderment.


I'd like to highlight a few of these today.  Here goes!

I'm standing in line waiting like anyone else to receive services at the counter.  Along comes some kind hearted person and they take me to the head of the line.  They then ask the person at the counter to please look after me because I am blind.  Sometimes, I get someone who asks me if I would like to sit and wait until it's my turn.  They'll let me know when it's my turn.  Or I am in a line and someone asks me in a loud voice if I need help.


I am waiting to cross the street and someone comes along and grabs my cane.  They then ask me if I would like to cross the street.  Or how about this:  I am in a supermarket shopping and when I get to the cash the cashieer offers to help me pack my groceries but the person next in line says that I am taking up time by allowing the cashier to pack my goods.  I go shopping and the sales person chooses to ask my mom or friend what am I looking for?  Or, what would my preferences be?  I go to a restaurant and the waiter asks my dining companion to tell them my choice. 


On most days, I can deal with all of this.  I usually smile and do my best to be congenial.  Sometimes I try to educate the person who I come in contact with.  However, there are those days from time to time when I have some difficulty staying focused.


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

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Master of the water

If anything, I have always felt this way.  From the time I was born with very little vision to when I gained so much and even now with precious little to my name.  Vision or not, I have always felt like master of the water.


I have so many memories of me communicating with water.  From when I was just a wee one walking along the beach with mom and dad and being able to see the waves lapping against the shore.  I still remember being able to see those waves that reminded me of lace and frills; their white caps so soft and foamy.  Then as I progressed through childhood, I still remember being able to frolic with dad, my brothers Jeffrey and Robert, and my cousins in the warm ocean.  How well I still remember being able to somehow chase them around, look up at a blue sky, and all of it through very blurry vision.


Playing with my dogs in the breakers, swimming with my beloved granny, and holding on to either mom's or dad's hand as I struggled to stay upright against the waves.  All of this I did with so little vision.  Then came the day when I received my cornea and new vision!  How I loved to just sit and watch the ocean whenever we went to the beach.  I could see the sail boats outside glinting in the sun.  I could see other sea bathers, look up at a flawless blue sky with puffy white clouds drifting lazily by as I laid on my back floating in a calm green sea, and watch fascinated as the Air Canada jet bird floated effortlessly over a deep blue Caribbean sea with the sun shining down on everything. 


That was then and this is now!  My memories still rule and ask me for some of the cherished ones and here they are:  The day that my brother Jeffrey and my sister-in-law Gayle took me on an outing down the islands.  I watched fascinated as the boat drove through huge sprays of white foam and bobbed up and down over the water.  Then Gayle and I went swimming and as I looked around me, I could see other boats filled with party goers and dark water swirling gently around us.  The kids were there too, swimming around and around the boat and Gayle and I following in their paths.

The day that I went sailing, canoeing, and kayaking on Lake Joe in Ontario. 


That was all then when my vision was so much better and this is now and I am still master of the water.  My memories help me to enjoy and now I add new ones to my memory bank.  Mom and I sitting quietly on the beach chairs enjoying the smells and sounds of the sea.  She describes everything to me and I use my memories to draw pictures of white capped waves, blue skies, and jade green ocean.  Then I compose music in my mind to cap everything off.  Nothing will ever take it away from me; master of the water is what I shall always be!  With the swans and large white birds forever flying overhead.


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

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The blind dare devil

Well, I've finally admitted it to others; it's what my friends used to call me and I don't think that I am unique when it comes to this.  I hear so many other stories of blind folks being dare devils.


I can only speak for myself but for me, it was and continues to be something that I enjoy.  Of course, there are so many sighted dare devils around but when it comes to a blind dare devil!  The difference here is that much of the sighted world is often surprised when they hear our stories.  I guess that they do not think that blind folks would do scary things but that's okay.  It never hurts to shock others from time to time. 


So, what do I remember doing when I was growing up that shocked my peers?  I used to take delight in running through the hallways when I was in school and this often gave my sighted teachers a heart attack.  I would jump off the top step and land safely some 10 steps down and this shocked my peers.  My sister-in-law Gayle who attended high school with me reminded me of this not too long ago.  Then I used to jump tall snow banks in Montreal while I was at university and race across busy streets; something that often shocked my professors.


One of my favorite memories was that of walking across the top of a car while it was standing in a traffic line and waiting for the light to turn green!  What a hoot!  Then how about the day I jumped from the top of my friend's deck and down into her swimming pool!  Pure bliss!  About 20 feet from top to bottom!


Ah, but that was all then and this is now!  Would I try these things again?  Not too sure.  When you are blind and can't see around you, you really do not know what dangers could lie ahead.  You're really not scared by visual cues because you can't see them.  So you are left to perceive what you think is there but most times you are really not on the right track.


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


Thursday, September 23, 2010

The right to education

The right to education is for everyone; it is not a privilege.  It is there for all no matter what and as a blind person who has been so fortunate to have been able to receive a master's degree in Business Administration from one of the best universities in the world, McGill university of Montreal, I feel even more strongly that all blind persons should be given every opportunity to reach for the skies. 


They should be given equal access to learning whatever they desire.  They should be given equal access to the Internet and other resources that are used by the mainstream student and every effort should be made to ensure that they receive the best training and attention possible.  No school, college, or university should be allowed to offer excuses.  Technology has come along far enough to enable texts to be produced in alternate formats such as Braille, large print, and in readable electronic texts.


There is nothing to stop professors from being able to include blind and partially sighted students in their classes.  There is nothing to stop distance learning providers from making their online courses accessible to the blind and partially sighted and there is nothing to stop institutions of learning from opening their doors to blind and sight impaired students. 


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



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Why not us, too?

It's the question that I keep on asking each time a focus group gets together to discuss the demands and needs of the disabled community. But for some odd reason, and this happens too many times, the demands and needs of blind and partially sighted persons seem to be either ignored or forgotten.

Too many times we, as a group, are left out of research studies. Too many times whenever a focus group is brought together to discuss issues and concerns surrounding the disabled community, the voices of blind and partially sighted persons seem to be ignored. I am urging my fellow blind and partially sighted brethren to start speaking out. Do it and we stand a chance! Ignore the call and we'll continue to be left behind. Follow the lead of organizations such as the NFB, the AFB, the ACB, and the RNIB. Do not let their work be in vain. You can visit these organizations at:,,, and

I'm Donna J. Jodhan wishing you a terrific day.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sailing blindly on the lake

In early August, I and some friends decided to go sailing on Lake Ontario. It was a gorgeous day for sailing as the winds were just right, the temps were warm and the water calm enough. Everything was just right except that on this day I was going sailing as a person with little to no sight.

A few years ago, I had gone sailing and at that time I was able to see so much around me. I could see the horizon, other boats around me, and even some of the landmarks. O how well I remember! How much I enjoyed it all! I could still remember the sun beating down on us in the boat. The sparkling waters rushing by, the sails billowing in the wind, and so much more. It was an experience of a life time.

This experience was an exciting one of a different kind. Whereas then I was able to see, now I had to put my trust in the captain and everyone else. Still, I enjoyed it. The boat tipping backwards but I trusted in our captain. The sound of the sails billowing, the wind blowing, the water gurgling, and happy ones laughing and screaming in other boats around us.

Whereas before I used my limited sight to help me enjoy it all, now I was using my senses of hearing and smell. Sailing blindly on the lake was much fun.

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 yes! Blind persons can indeed enjoy sailing on the lake. Visit to learn more.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Please pay us for our expertise

I can only do my bit here in my blog to send a message to those who often request help from the blind and sight-impaired community. That is, whenever these persons put out a request for blind and sight-impaired testers to assist in evaluating their websites to ensure that they are accessible and usable.

Maybe these persons are not fully aware or maybe they have not yet thought about it, but here goes. If you require assistance for blind and sight-impaired persons to test your website for accessibility compliance, then you need to pay for their services. No, do not assume that they would do it for free, and why should they? No, do not assume that you could pay them a nominal fee for their knowledge and it would be okay. When you put out a call for blind and sight-impaired testers, you are, in effect, putting out a call for persons with specialized skills to provide specific services, and, accordingly, you need to pay for what you require.

You need to look at it in a similar way to when you go looking for someone to provide you with specialized services in areas that are specialized. Example: Technicians to install electronic or security equipment, technicians to fix your appliances, or plumbers to test and fix pipelines. I think that you get the picture. Maybe I should close by asking this question: If you require the assistance of blind and sight-impaired persons to test your website for accessibility compliance, is it not safe to assume that you should be paying for specialized knowledge? Or maybe the question should be this: How important do you think it is to be accessible compliant? Another topic for another blog.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan, your friendly accessibility advocate, wishing you a terrific day and inviting you to go out there and share my concerns with others. Visit to learn more about accessibility and how to design and develop accessible websites.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

No need to ask mom

This is something that I have written about on several occasions and continue to write about. It's all about sales persons who seem to feel that when speaking to me, they feel more comfortable doing so by asking my mom or whoever is with me at the time.

A few weeks ago I went shopping with mom, and as we started to choose some clothes for me to try on the sales lady came up beside us and proceeded to start asking, "What does she like? What are her favorite colors? Would she like this jacket, you think?"

In the normal scheme of things, I would have said something but on that day my tongue seemed to have frozen and I let it all go. When we got home, I asked my mom for her observations and she agreed with me that she would not have appreciated the sales lady doing this to her. I guess that the reason that I may not have spoken up was that the sales lady did not seem to
realize her insensitivity. She was very nice and extremely polite.

This is really not an excuse for my not having spoken up. If I and my fellow blind and sight-impaired brothers and sisters hope to change things, we need to speak up and do it consistently, politely, and gently. Educating others is the only way to do it and hopefully the by word of mouth technique will do the rest.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and help spread the word. Visit or to learn more.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Blind Twin Sighted Twin

Yes. That's me and my twin brother Jeffrey. He was born first and he was sighted. Then eight hours later I made my appearance into this world and I was blind! Truth be told, my parents had no idea that I was on my way. They never knew that mom was having twins. So what a shocker when they were told that another baby was on its way after my brother was born, and then? Mom knew right away that I was blind!

My mom has always told me that when family and friends heard that she had given birth to twins, they all wanted to see us. But when they heard further that I was blind, well, a double reason to want to visit us and see for themselves! Growing up with a sighted twin has never been a problem for me. Both he and my elder brother Robert were always very protective of me. They let me play with their cars and trucks. I played hide and seek with them, swam with them, and did everything else with them. Playing with them was never a problem. I was never made to feel that my blindness was problem.

I can't really tell you how my parents really felt having a sighted twin and a blind twin, I can only speak for myself. What I can tell you though is that they did everything to treat us equally, but in minor instances they balanced things whenever they had to if they felt that my blindness would be a drawback.

I have met at least two other set of twins, one sighted and one blind and for the most part their stories have been similar to mine. Nothing really to it; just that one sees and the other does not.

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

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Someone Else's Eyes

You got it! Whenever I perform certain tasks or go shopping or go socializing, I need to depend on someone else's eyes. The minute I step out of my home, I need to depend on someone else's eyes. I need someone else's eyes to help me find my groceries in the supermarket and pharmacy. I need the eyes of sales persons to help me choose my clothes and electronics. I need the eyes of family friends to help me out whenever I am unable to decipher things for myself.

If I am in unfamiliar surroundings, I need someone else's eyes to describe them to me; objects, people, and so on. If I am in a restaurant, I need someone else's eyes to read the menu to me if it is not in Braille and if I am at the beach I usually depend on someone else's eyes to help me navigate my surroundings.

This is the reality of life for me as a blind person and I have learned how to take advantage of someone else's eyes whenever I need them. Most persons are only too willing to lend their eyes and I just need to determine for myself how much help I need, how much of the information being proffered I want to use, and what I store for future use. All in a day's work.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and tell others how blind persons take advantage of someone else's eyes. Visit to learn

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The frustration of depending

For me, it often becomes a real frustration when I have to depend on others to get things done and it is especially so in the world of technology. So many times I feel as if I am at the mercy of others because I have to depend on them to assist me with tasks that I am unable to do for myself.

I know that as a general rule of thumb we all need to depend on each other for one thing or another from time to time, but when it comes to technology, here are some of my challenges, for what it is worth.

I need someone to help me make changes to my website when necessary and this would include ensuring that the website is esthetically pleasing to the sighted world. Whenever Google makes changes to its blogging process, I need help to institute the necessary changes.

I need assistance to download certain pieces of software whenever I am unable to gain access to the website where the software is, if the website in question is not accessible for blind and partially sighted persons. That is, if there is not a textual interface for me to interact with. Screen readers for blind and sight-impaired persons are unable to interact with graphical interfaces.

There are more examples that I can give but if you would like to learn more about some of the tasks that blind and partially sighted persons need to depend on sighted assistance for, then visit

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

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Thanking my lucky stars

I always do my best to thank my lucky stars. That is, be thankful for what I have and thankful for being able to help others. There are many in our society who often feel that blind persons may not be able to make a worthwhile contribution to life but I am here to tell them that this is definitely not the case.

We contribute in so many ways that would surprise many. There are things that we can do for others such as just simply listening to someone when they need a friendly ear. A few months ago for example, I learned this in great terms when my cousin Robert had a heart attack! As my mom and I advanced into his room at the hospital to visit a few days after his attack, my first thought was what could I do to help him.

I could not see him as I approached but as I heard his voice in greeting it dawned on me that yes indeed! There was something that I could do to help my beloved cousin. I could listen to him and do my best to comfort him in his time of great need and distress and it is exactly what I did then at that moment and continue to do.

It is difficult for me at times because I wish so much that I could see his face as I was able to some years ago. However, I have memories of his image and I use it to help me help him in whatever way that I can.

Im Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Living in the suburbs

As a blind person, there are definite challenges to living in the suburbs as opposed to living down town.  For what it is worth, here are some of my challenges.


If sidewalks are not clearly identifiable, I have difficulty finding my way.  Malls and other buildings are more spread out. 

Some streets may be quieter than the downtown ones but I need to exercise much more caution in that I have to ensure that no cars would sneak up on me if there are no traffic lights.


Finding people to help me on quiet sidewalks are more difficult than down town.  I may not have too much trouble avoiding crowded sidewalks but that's the trade off for not being able to get help as readily as if I were living down town.  During the winter, sidewalks are not always cleared of the snow on side streets and there may be the odd snow bank to deal with; not as bad as living down town.  If there is no direct transportation to malls, and if they are not within walking distance, I need to take a cab.  In short, transportation in the suburbs is often more of a challenge than down town. 


Socializing is also more of a challenge when you live in the suburbs because it takes a blind person longer to get to their destination when they are unable to drive and have to depend on public transit.  There are different challenges to face for a blind person when they live in the suburbs as opposed to down town.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and tell others about the various challenges faced by blind persons who live in the suburbs.  If you would like to learn more about how blind persons find their way around, then visit or

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The fight for independence

What does this really mean?  In my opinion; it means being able to do as much as I can on my own.  To access information on the Internet with no sighted assistance.  To be able to complete forms online without any assistance.  To be able to read information in alternate formats thus not having to depend on someone else to read it to me.


The right to make my own decisions without having someone else speak on my behalf; be it in the supermarket, in the pharmacy, in the shopping mall, or anywhere else.  My independence would also include not having anyone else speak on my behalf at such places as restaurants, at the bank, or at airports.  No one should be placed in a position to have to speak on my behalf and I should not be subjected to have to put up with clerks and attendants asking my sighted friend or family member something like "What would she like," or "Is she okay," or "Can she sign her credit card bill?"


There is a huge difference between someone wanting to be helpful and someone assuming that a blind person is not independent enough to speak or act for him/herself.  Blame it on society's attitudes or our unwillingness to speak up for ourselves; a bit of both maybe.  We as a community need to speak up and speak out.  We need to fight hard to maintain our independence and we need to do it in an affirmative yet positive way.  No need to snap at those who mean well or those who do not know any better.  We can become teachers of independence to the mainstream world.


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 yes! Blind persons also need to fight for their independence.  Visit to learn more.