Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The right to recreation

As a resident of the city of Toronto, Canada, I feel that I am compelled to write an open letter to our new Mayor, Rob Ford. First, Mr. Mayor, congratulations on your recent elections. I know that for the next while, you will be busy putting your Mayoral house in order but before you get down to the business at hand, I thought that I would sneak in on the ground floor, so to speak, and make you aware of something which will probably become more important to Torontonians as time marches on.

For the last 15 years, I have been valiantly trying to get some answers from the City of Toronto with regard to whether or not they are ready and prepared to accommodate the needs of blind and sight impaired persons when it comes to recreational activities and programs. I have spent hundreds of hours talking to all levels of administration within the structure of this city but sad to say, I have not been able to obtain any satisfactory response.

I started my tedious journey in the mid '90s when I decided to take up ice skating as a leisure sport. I went to the then Scarborough Parks and Rec department and after many conversations, I managed to find an attentive official who decided to help me. I was fortunate enough to have received some great lessons through the kind auspices of the North York division and Mike LaFlamme and for three wonderful years, I enjoyed my ice skating. I also managed to engage the assistance of the good folks at the Ice Palace arena in Scarborough, and Jan Haney, head of the Skating Adventures School in Scarborough.

My ice skating fun lasted until 2003 and after that things somehow went off track as I was unable to find anyone within the city's structure who was able to help me. For the next seven years, I ran into insurmountable road blocks from various administrative personnel and the common theme seemed to be as follows: The city did not have any money to initiate programs for those who are blind and sight impaired. Yes, there was some funding, but it would not cover the needs of blind and sight impaired persons.

It is so heartbreaking when you are given reasons like this, especially when it comes to a city such as Toronto, Canada's largest city. It makes one feel as if they are being treated like a second class citizen and I can assure you that several other blind and sight impaired persons have expressed similar types of sentiments to me. To be told that there is no funding for I and other blind and sight impaired persons to be able to take advantage of recreational activities within the city is an absolutely devastating blow to the body.

Mr. Mayor: You must be aware that with a rapidly aging population, your city, and indeed Canada and the rest of the world, is going to have to find ways to accommodate the needs of a population that will undoubtedly be afflicted with a plethora of afflictions that will definitely include persons with loss of vision. Maybe it is just a matter of you taking some time to ensure that your staff is properly trained and sensitized to the growing needs of a changing clientele, or it may be that you may need to take a serious look at initiating programs that will include all persons of your city.

A few weeks ago I hit pay dirt after I went to my counselor's office for assistance to find someone to go ice skating with me. To my utter surprise, Counselor Michael Del Grande's office found me a North York staff member, Matt Hiltz, and he has since informed me that he has the resources to help me. Furthermore, he has informed me that these resources have been in place for some time now.

So, you may be asking why am I still complaining? I am doing so because of the fact that I have had to spend so much time discovering Matt Hiltz and it took a concerted effort on my part through the office of my counselor Michael Del Grande. Why did I have to pursue such a route in order to obtain positive results? Others have told me that they have had to deploy similar methods in order to obtain positive results. Some of the questions being asked include:
Are city of Toronto staff members fully aware of what the city really offers?
Could it be that most of our city's staff are just too overworked to really care about providing adequate services?
Or is it that they are just a wee bit too lazy to do their homework?

Whatever the reasons, I do believe that something needs to be done in order to ensure that blind and sight impaired persons are included in the city's recreational activities and programs. More funding? A definite yes! Better training for staff? A definite yes! Recreational activities and programs for blind and sight impaired persons should not be considered as just nice to have. It is a right. For as long as it is open to the mainstream person, it should be made available and accessible to the blind and sight impaired, as well.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan, your friendly accessibility advocate, wishing you a terrific day and inviting you to go out there and share my blogs with others.
Come by any time and visit me at

Friday, February 24, 2012

Blind woman or blind person?

This one of the biggest questions for me when it comes to how I am perceived by others. What really am I? Do people first see me as the blind woman? Or maybe as a blind person?

Maybe I should try to clarify! I am a blind person who is also a woman. A blind person/woman! Does this make sense? It does to me and this is really all that matters. Some may choose to turn this around and say that I am a blind woman that is also a person but I prefer the former. Suits me much more accurately.

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 others.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

How many grey hairs do I have?

I am not trying to be funny but now that I can no longer see the color of my hair, I am constantly worrying about how it looks. Is it still very black? Does it have some grey hairs or lots of them? What does my hair really look like these days?

Mom tells me that within the last few months I have grown more grey hairs. My aunt agrees but my sister-in-law says that I have silver streaks that look good. I do remember that I used to have jet black hair when I was much younger, but now?

Ah yes! What you can’t see and what you can’t or don’t know should not be a bother, but I do wonder. Maybe I should just stick to the memory of a head of jet black hair!

I’m Donna J. Jodhan, your friendly accessibility advocate, wishing you a terrific day. To learn more about me, visit me at

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Memories of a cup

You may think that this is a strange heading but please read on. Last Christmas I was visiting my mom, and at one of our breakfasts she brought out a cup that I had not seen in such a long time. When I first felt it I had to stop and think for a wee while, but soon the memories came flooding back into my mind.

I ran my fingers down, around, and over its smooth surface. Then my fingers traveled to its little handle and there I stopped. I picked up the cup and held it lovingly in my hand. Then I asked my mom what color it was. It was blue!

No, I did not know its color until she told me but there were two other cups like this! Yellow, red, and this blue one. Three cups that played such wonderful memories in my childhood at breakfast time. You see, it was my job to set the table for breakfast every morning and how much I enjoyed doing it. The yellow cup was mine, the red one belonged to my twin brother, Jeffrey, and the blue one belonged to my older brother, Robert.

I was always sure to color coordinate the cups and saucers making sure that everyone got perfectly matched cups and saucers. Yellow for me, red for Jeffrey, blue for Robert, green for Mom, pink for Granny, and turquoise for Dad. Ah yes, but that was a long time ago! A time when my limited sight allowed me to have fun with colors.

I’m Donna J. Jodhan, your friendly accessibility advocate, wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and share my fun with others. Drop by some time and visit me at

Friday, February 17, 2012

Online shopping

This is one area where more accessibility is needed for blind and partially sighted persons. What am I referring to today? It is this! When it comes to online shopping, blind and partially sighted persons still have great difficulty accessing websites, and because of this they need to either depend on sighted assistance to help them complete their online shopping or they would have to do their shopping via phone.

In many cases, companies do not provide a phone contact and even if they do, there are very few live customer service reps on hand to be of assistance. I have had personal experiences where live customer reps have tried to refer me to their website to complete my shopping, but after I tell them that I am unable to do so because I am blind, it is smooth sailing from there on in.

My one request to those companies that provide online shopping is this: If you make your online shopping facilities more accessible to blind and partially sighted persons, you will also be attracting consumers who are technically shy, like seniors and those who did not grow up in the era of technology.

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 to companies about the benefits of making their online shopping more accessible to blind and partially sighted shoppers. Visit to learn more.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Checking out the decorations with mom

This is always one of my favorite things to do, checking out the decorations with Mom. Mom is so very patient. She takes the time to walk with me and place my hand on each decoration as we go by. She goes one step further to describe each decoration and every little detail is included in her commentary.

Of course, there was a time when I could see the decorations and those were the days when Mom did not have to describe as much, but nevertheless these precious times were still enjoyable. She and I do the decorations thing at Christmas and whenever we decide to check out decorations at various festivities. These are very special times to me. Times that I will always treasure. Times when I allow myself to trust fully, trusting that what mom tells me is the absolute.

I’m Donna J. Jodhan, your friendly accessibility advocate, wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and share my blogs with others. Come by any time and visit me at

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Braille Christmas card

Christmas has come and gone but sometimes I like to reflect on some of the highlights of this wondrous season. In 2011, one of the highlights for me was the receipt of a Christmas card with greetings in Braille. It is not very often that anyone would take the time to send a card to me with a Braille greeting but this is what my dear friend Liz Herdman did.

It sure made my day when I first discovered that she had Brailled my name on the envelope and then when I opened up the card there again was a Christmas greeting in Braille. It meant that I did not have to ask anyone to read it to me and that I could differentiate her card from all of the others. Thank you, Lizzie, for having made my day!

I’m Donna J. Jodhan, your friendly accessibility advocate, wishing you a terrific day and inviting you to go out there and share my blogs with others. Visit to learn how you, too, can send greetings in Braille to your blind family and friends.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Access technology versus mainstream technology

Well, what more can I say to add to this topic that is very near and dear to my heart. To put it into perspective:
Access technology is much more expensive than its counterpart and much less available on the market.
It is extremely challenging to have access technology repaired as opposed to its counterpart.
There are fewer manufacturers of access technology hardware and many less developers of the software.
The profit to be made for those who develop and sell access technology is much less than for those who do the same for mainstream technology.
Access technology has to be developed in such a way as to adapt to the mainstream world.
So there is the picture. Now, where do we go from here?

About 18 months ago, I bought a PDA that was developed for blind persons. It was a real find for me and one that I found to be really forward-thinking because of its features. A few weeks ago I was told that this PDA will no longer be manufactured and as of June 2012, no more hardware maintenance agreements would be available. Accessories will still be available as long as supplies last. Quite a shock and now we are all left holding the bag, so to speak.

I am not going to identify the manufacturers of this wonderful product but suffice it to say that it has made me rethink how I go about choosing my mobile devices. Do I continue to buy access technology that is extremely expensive and one that I am not sure will be around for too long? Or do I move towards the Apple world of mobile devices such as the iPad, iPhone, and so on?

Do I expose myself to heartbreak if I continue to buy these pieces of access technology only to learn that in a short space of time they are off the market and supplies of accessories or support are no longer available?

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 with others.
Come by and visit me at

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Learning the way when sight is gone

Learning the way for me now has become a different way of doing it. When I had enough vision it was easier. I used as many visual landmarks as I could: colors of buildings, height and lengths of buildings, lighting, positions of trees, and anything else that I could see. I even used fences and gates as landmarks, certain dimensions of sidewalks and driveways, and anything else available to my limited vision. Garbage cans and mail and newspaper boxes were also a part of my landscape.

Now that my vision is down to a bare minimum, I have to depend more heavily on my cane. I have to use the touch technique, my sense of smell, and my sense of hearing. These three variables help me much more now but that’s okay. It simply means that I have to use other strategies to help me find my way.

There is one thing for me to remember, though, and it is this: It is easier for me to navigate in areas that I was able to see before because I have a mental picture of them. It is different for me when I go to learn new areas.

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 others.
Visit to learn more.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Story telling is for me

Growing up as a child, I had all of the ingredients necessary to become a good story teller. First, the best teachers that I could ever have hoped for: my beloved Dad and Granny. Second, the radio. Yes, the good old radio where I used to be able to listen to so many stories uninterrupted.

You may be wondering how these two ingredients were able to help me become a good story teller. It is quite simple. In those days, the availability of Braille books for me to read with stories in them was very limited, but nevertheless they were there and they enabled me to use my imagination to follow along. With Dad and Granny as my master teachers, my imagination was further developed and then the radio only helped to make me even better.

Granny pitched in to further help develop my story telling talents. Both she and Dad used to make up their own stories and then tell them to me. Teachers from both sides of the family, so to speak. Then there was my older brother, Robert, who used to read to me from those beloved nursery rhyme books.

Dad, Granny, and the radio helped me to become a better listener. They helped me to use my imagination and then I used these two ingredients to develop my own story telling. Now I am writing my own stories, mysteries and fiction, and soon I’ll be having my own radio show.

I’m Donna J. Jodhan, your friendly accessibility advocate, wishing you a terrific day and inviting you to go out there and share my blogs with others. If you have a moment then come by and visit me at

Friday, February 3, 2012

The joys of biking

So many of us enjoy the sport of biking and I am just one of them. As long as I can remember, I was able to ride a bike and you are probably going to ask how could a blind person be able to ride a bike?

I thank my dad for having made this possible. At an early age, he placed me on a four wheel cycle and gave me the confidence to go from there. Then he put me on a two wheel bicycle and spent endless hours teaching me how to hold my balance.

Dad and I would ride around our yard and then we would do it whenever we went to the beach. We had so many enjoyable races along the beach and I shall always remember this. Sometimes he would ride alongside me, talking to me as we rode and describing everything around us. Then he would sprint ahead and dare me to catch him. Sometimes I did and sometimes I could not.

My brothers also rode with me but I know that they were always watchful to ensure that I did not bump into anything. Now I ride a tandem bike with friends and I still enjoy my biking activities.

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 my biking activities. Visit to learn more.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

My shadow

It is one thing to have one’s shadow described to them, and when you can’t see it, it is even more difficult to imagine what a shadow really does look like. So just imagine the day when I first saw my shadow! That was the day so many years ago, shortly after I obtained my first cornea transplant.

This was at a time when I was discovering so many new things. My world was growing so fast and there were so many things to discover and explore. So how did I discover that it was indeed my very own shadow that I was seeing for the first time?

It was a beautiful, sunny spring day so many years ago as I set out for a walk on my own and as I cast my eyes downward, guess what I saw? Yes! A shape in front of me, a shape on the ground that moved with each step that I made. At first I was not sure what it was and as I reached down with my hand to try and touch it, I saw my own hand reaching down in unison with my hand movement. Then it dawned on me! It was my own shadow!

I stood still for a few moments and looked downward at my shadow. Then I started to kick out one foot at a time and I saw the movements being reflected back up to me with the sun shining on my movements on the ground. It was just so wonderful for me to discover and explore.

Later on at home, I played with my shadow on the wall of my bedroom and in the mirror of my bathroom. It was something new for me to discover. There was much more to come.

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 my discoveries. Come by and visit me at to learn more.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Different methods of reading

I am often asked by sighted persons to describe how blind persons read. Do they do this only in Braille? By having someone read to them? Or how?

In response, this is what I say:

There are a number of ways that a blind person can read.
First, if they have enough vision to read large print, they can do this either with a magnifier or by using a close circuit TV device.
They can do it through Braille.
They can do it by using access technology on their computers. In this way, they can hear what they read.
They can do it through their IPads, IPhones, IPods, and other mobile devices.
They can do it by scanning their documents and downloading them to their computers and then using their access technology to hear what has been downloaded.
They can also download books and documents from the Internet to their computer and read it as described above.
They can use CD players that are equipped to read documents on CD.

So you see, there are several ways for us to read books and documents. In short, we can hear what you see on a page or screen.

I’m Donna J. Jodhan, your friendly accessibility advocate, wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and share my blogs with others. Visit to learn more.