Archive for May 31, 2013

What’s in a saying?

We all have little ways of saying things, little phrases that we all use every day, without thinking.

The most common of these are:-

” Have you seen this?”

“Look at this.”

“did you see that?”

my response to aloof these is no, but I have never, nor will I ever take offence to them.  I myself usually end a conversation with ” See you again soon,”

They are common sayings and I even do it, if I’ve been to a film having listened to the audio description, I still say ” I saw that…….film the other night, have you seen it?”

I also say that I’ve read a great book book lately, even though I listen to it.  “I’ve just listened to a great film/book” just doesn’t have the same ring to it!

The reason I am writing this blog about this is because yesterday when out with a good family friend and all our kids, he went to show me a photo on his phone and stopped dead and then apologised for saying the classic “look at this”

As the day went on he continued to say ” come look at this” again apologising after each time.

This unsettled me, not because he had said these things, because he was just saying the same things that we all say (me included) but that he felt anxious by the thought that he had upset me.

How perverted would it sound if I started saying “I’ll feel you later” ! Or my friends said to me, ” Come and touch this!” I know I would probably run in the opposite direction.

So, I will continue to tell my friends that I look forward to seeing them soon and do not want my friends to cringe or feel anxious when they say ” come look at this” or “have you seen this”

So, these are just typical English sayings and part of each and everyone of us.  I can’t talk for every VIP or people with other disabilities, but I doubt they would take offence either.

Walking in the woods

A gorgeous bright sunny bank holiday Monday is just what everyone wishes for.  Me too, but with bright sunny weather comes other issues For me.

Taking my son out to a great little play park in the Forest of Bere, this means that I can also free run my guide dog in the woodlands, she loves finding sticks and jumping in the streams and puddles.

Today as we got a lift up to the forest, it appeared that most families had had the same idea, there was nowhere to park, so a thankfully we were just getting dropped off.  But being a veteran of these woods I knew that this would be ok.

Walk just 10 minutes past the park and adventure playground and your have tranquility.

maybe the odd group of older children making a camp, oor the odd dedicated dog walker, but none of the families enjoying their picnics while the Kids play in the parks.

But although I know this area very well, but with the puppy out comes the long cane.  In an off road track this isn’t ideal, but its better than nothing.

As I said earlier, bright sunny cloudless day’s are a struggle.  For me this comes in stopping me from using my remaining sight, relying purely on light and dark and shadows and sounds.

Vicky free runs wearing a play collar, this collar has a bell on it the makes a noise every time she moves (fantastic when she disappears off into the woodland)

My son is a little chatterbox and loves to sing woodland songs, so with strategically dressed bright clothes that contrasts when he runs into the woodland too to find twigs & bugs. So I know where he is too.

But on brighter days my concentration to keep safer safe and be aware that I’m not smothering him in Cotton wool is exhausting.  Mix this with panics over shadows of the trees That are created by the sun above suddenly appearing out of no-where and its quite a tricky walk in comparison to doing it on a cloudy day.

I still enjoy it, but when we get home the dog isn’t the only one who is exhausted.

Would you be able to navigate around rough terrain if your vision was clouded so you could only see the light against dark or shadow?

I would love to experiment with a few friends, wrapping scarves around their face just to let the light in, but no view….

even if you read this, but don’t go that far, I hope this post has helped you understand seeing my way!



Another ending

My condition is such that it often alters very little over time, so on a daily basis I may not notice any difference from the day or week before.  But when I go to do something that I did some time ago, that it when I notice it.

This recognition that something has changed, often hits me like a smack in the mouth!

When I started working for my employer in 2011 I had been using my home computer and work computer on a much lower level.  By this I mean that in my previous role my work was split up between dealing with clients, the computer and general office work.

The new position was all computer based and telephone connection with clients.  No more face to face contact.  Isolating yes, but this meant that I could work from home in the evenings after the homework was done.

Working from full spreadsheets I started to notice problems, through a scheme ran by the government called ‘access to work’ I was able to apply for a grant for adaptions to my computer, this included zoom text software to magnify the screen and allow me to move around the page with ease, this worked well.

But like all companies, the software and processes that they used changed.  I moved from a spreadsheet to an up to the minute online calling system, all the information was there in front of me, the computer also did an automatic dial to the client.

The new system was a struggle.


I work very well with order and sequence, with the new system this wasn’t always the case depending on the needs of the client.  This was not a design fault of the system the company used.  It was an issue I had due to my sight loss.  The programme was very simplistic and easy to use, were you able to see it all on one screen, which with the magnification, I couldn’t.

Work were more than happy to offer support and to aid me with my work I was able to work at a reduced rate without financially missing out while I went through a transition phase working with the new system.

It was in this period that I began to struggle personally with my sight loss and its implications, as a person who has a very strong work ethic I felt that I was letting myself and the company down.

It took months to actually admit this, during which time I struggled on.  It was at my breaking point in June 2012 that I admitted my struggles to my doctor, who was very kind, understanding and started to work with me to get the help and support that I required.

I also contacted my employers accessibility team and explained my issues, they made an assessment and felt that moving away from magnification and moving to a screen reading technology would be better for me.  So back to ATW I went with my report and all of my needs, including a brailliant (a computerised braille reader) I was able to start on the road to doing my job in a different, new and exciting way.

In theory anyway……..

Because of the way in which screen readers read a page on the computer and the layout of the software used, the two were not compatible.  An issue that was not of great concern for me as I was to move back to working with the spreadsheets, a preference of mine.  They included more data so that I was not disadvantaged over my colleagues.

But I broke.

I have been using a Mac for a long time and using the built in accessibility and with the help of my voice Lily, I have got on very well with it when I have needed it.

Having some useable sight I struggled to let go of that completely and with that I developed an eye strain that had a great affect on my levels of concentration for which I need to take eye drops on almost an hourly basis if I am using the computer or even watching tv or a film.

In October I took the step to visit my doctor again and explain these issues, she felt that it was important for me to understand my depression and how to deal with this and in turn my altering eye condition.  So she made an alteration to medications and put me forward for counselling.  Oh, and she signed me ‘unfit to work’

Having undertaken many changes in my life, some positive, some not so  I attended a final stage sickness review with my employer, and on Monday my contract with them was terminated on medical grounds.

I had always hoped to return to work, but this position was one, that even with assistive technology and support I would not be capable of, not through lack of knowledge or an imcompetance, just through circumstance.

This I think is a decision and understanding I had come to by myself long before the meeting, after all to get to stage three, I had been through stages 1 and 2, an in-depth report from my own doctor and an independent medical assessment.

It is heartbreaking to say goodbye to this job, today was the final ending as my ,ine manager collected all 6 boxes of computers, technologies and the hub that they had installed on the start of my employment.

This equipment has been boxed up for a few months to save it from the kids and dust, but the space it has left caused a tear or two.

I see this a defeat, I HATE to fail, to let people down.  To let myself down.  It is always hard for anyone to walk away from something when it is not working.  But hopefully this is one stress crossed of the list and will enable me to move forward.

Wish me luck.


I will never argue with her again

Every guide dog owner can tell you of a time when they have had to deal with SDS (stubborn Dog Syndrome).

A good gd is well trained, a great gd is able to problem solve and think outside the training. But no matter how good or great, there is a key factor that many people forget, they are still dogs and as such have a very active mind of their own….. Many a gd owner who has had a retriever, will tell a tale or two about their stubborn streak, their dislike of walking back on themselves, so if you forget something in the supermarket aisle, you have to con them by walking in a round route down the next aisle to get back to where you actually started.

This stubborn streak can also come out when you do the same walk, say to the corner shop that they do each and every day, all gd’s retrievers or not are dogs and have a very loveable and funny sense of humour.

This evening on my way home from a friends, after a very stubborn day from my gd I was reminded that she is my guide, my protector and that she has an extra sense, that even with full sight I would never possess.

Tonight my puppy saved my life.

We were heading home, Vicky had taken me to the crossing that we had used so many times before, I pressed the button and awaited the beep to say we could walk. The beep started, but she refused to move. She was in fact backing up, as if to says he wanted to go back where we had come from. So of course, I corrected her and tried to move her forward. It was in that milli-second that the truth came out.

The crossing was still beeping, yet I heard and felt the air where two rather loud, turbo charged cars whooshed right in front of me.

If she had let me cross, we could have been severely hurt if not worse.

I was so shaken that I just sat down on the path and grabbed her in a big hug. A women walking on the opposite side of the road had seen the whole thing and rushed to see that we were ok……

We were both fine, although I was a little shaken by what could have been.

Guide dogs are trained not to walk in front of cars when they have their engines on, unless on a designated crossing, but it is never the gd’s responsibility to say when it is safe to cross the road, that is always down to the owner. They are trained to stop for cars and bikes and not to cross, but as I said as her human, it is always my responsibility to say when to cross or not, because some dogs loose the ability to judge traffic if they don’t use it. Which I can say since training Vicky has only had to do it once (not bad in 4 years!)

But I couldn’t even hear these cars approaching the lights, a sound of gear changes that I have come to understand to tell when a car is slowing down, and judging by the speed in which they’d went past, they hadn’t been close by before the lights had changed.

I have heard stories of this happening before, one Guide dog was even awarded a medal for doing the very same thing for his owner on a busy street. But I couldn’t believe my luck when I discovered that my very own Vicky was capable of this and had as a result saved us both a lot of pain.

Tonight I am a very proud gd owner & will think twice before arguing with her at the crossing.

Playground Whispers

When I was younger and at school myself I had my fair share of taunts in the playground, but as an adult with two children of my own I did not expect tobe subjected to such hurt yet again.

i am (or try to be) a strong women, but yesterday when taking my daughter to school it took ever ounce of courage to stand in the playground an wait until she had gone into her classroom.

As a mum with two children to get up and dressed in the morning, a dog to feed and walk before the school run, I am lucky if I get to grab a quick shower and a coffee, so I am dressed, presentable and my children are ready for the day ahead.

I have never been one to wear makeup on a daily basis, a dab of Vaseline on my lips is as good as it gets.  That is just part of who I am, it has nothing to do with my eye condition.

But apparently it has a much greater bearing on my life and my capabilities as a mum than I had ever imagined.

My inability to see the importance of wearing makeup lead to me being hurt and upset by two women who should only be described as playground bullies.

Because what I lack in sight I more than make up for in hearing.

Within my earshot they stood chatting about “my poor children” “the state my house must be in” ” no wonder my partner isn’t with me anymore” ” what must it be like to have sex, with someone like that” (me that is)

Even writing this post I find the tears welling up again.  I am me, a person, sight loss or no sight loss I have feelings and comments like this hurt, the most painful is my ability to look after my children.

I’m not a perfect parent, I don’t think such a thing exists, but I am a bloody good one.  This isn’t just my opinion, this is also the opinion of family, friends and teaching professionals that have all come into contact with me and my children.

My children are and always will be my first priority, now you see I am feeling that I need to justify myself, because of these comments.

i don’t is the simple answer.

Being a VIP means that I often do things in a different way to others and it is with this blog that I hope to explain this to others.

My reasoning for telling you about this incident is to make you aware that little off hand comments said like this can cause great upset and hurt, even questioning a persons abilities and it doesn’t stop when you finish school, it continues throughout life.

I walked home from the school grounds in tears, then spent hours questioning myself, none of which I needed to do, but I did.

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