Archive for May 25, 2018

Speechless (it doesn’t happen often!)

I umm’d and argh’d About writing this post; then I thought

“This is part of me, I should share it.”

last week I received an email that has taken me completely by surprise.  I have been nominated for an award.

But not just ANY award, this is for The National Diversity Award 2018 in the category of Positive Role Model.

I do not know who nominated me, but it has left me feeling slightly emotional and speechless.

Under the terms of the nomination it is for me to now write a Bio and supply supporting evidence as to why I feel I am deserving of this award.

Yes, I have no trouble talking or writing about myself; but in this way?  I’m not so sure.

But I am of the thinking that if I don’t at least try, then I will be disappointing myself and the person who nominated me.

So I am slowly working through the forms I need to complete.  And am sharing this nomination with you all, in the hope that you too agree with it and wish to vote for me?

All by Friday 1st June 2018.

You can cast your vote here National Diversity Awards 2018

Days like today…….

I have a ‘Have Guide Dog, will travel’ attitude to life, today I decided in the sun to visit Winchester (alone) something I don’t think I will be in a hurry to repeat.

The rudeness, the sly comments & general ‘opinions’ that were continually thrust upon me resulted in a very short visit.

I am more than happy to accept and I do understand that not everyone likes dogs, be that an assistance dog or  a pet.

I do understand that in some cultures dogs are not warmly accepted. But today the comments or actions of rudeness did not come from the here.

Today it came from,

A business woman looking down on her phone;

The art student with a VERY LARGE portfolio;

The man in the queue in Starbucks;

The woman behind me in boots who tutted at me when I asked the sales assistant to repeat herself for the 3rd time because I couldn’t hear her;

The van driver who got shirty when I waved him on because I wouldn’t cross in-front of him.

Were it not for the kindness of strangers I would have found myself fighting tears & heading for the nearest taxi.

it was thanks to ….

The window cleaner who moved his ladder so I would walk past;

Theassistant in Starbucks who offered me water for Fizz while pointing out to the rude man that assistance dog or not I had every right to enjoy coffee;

To the sales assistant in boots who guided me to a quieter area so I could hear what she was saying!

I know that I may stand in the wrong queue at times, I know that my guide dog likes to walk by the building line, which means we often walk right in front of the shop doors, I do understand that I take up more width on the pavement as I walk beside my guide, and she can’t tell me to “step in” the way a sighted person would if the path was narrow.

But at what point does vocalising your opinions change this? All it does is demoralises someone who just wants to get on.  And could even stop a (less stubborn) person from going out and visiting other areas.

Today has been one of those days where I have felt isolated and hurt by the actions of others.  But writing this now I am able to say that I won’t let it stop me, I share this with you now to raise awareness.

Because it can often be the ‘off-handed’ comment that you quickly forget making that can cause irreparable damage to someone.  We never know what demons people are fighting; so just be kind.

It really is THAT simple.

Silly ‘Blind’ Moment

I wonder about many thing.

Especially if that something is architectural or design related.  One such moment of wondering that I want to share with you is ….. Disabled Toilets.

From a design point of view I can still quote the minimum measurement requirements for a disabled toilet from The Metric Handbook: Planning & Design Data.  I can tell you the reasoning for the outward opening door; the height of the hand basin and so on and so on.

I can also have a discussion at length about badly positioned pull down nappy changing tables….. But the one point I find the hardest to fathom is the mirror.

Placing a mirror above the wash hand basin in common place, yet often missing in a disabled loo.

Instead there is often a LARGE floor to ceiling mirror (which covers all height differences in disability) instead.  Which makes perfect sense, after all despite the outdated signage there are many people with disabilities who do not use a wheelchair.

I for one am one of them!

A room I can go into, lock the door and know not only does my guide dog have space to sit patiently for me; But I know that I can find my way around the room (regardless of lighting) to do what I need to do, then wash and dry my hands afterwards.

But I go back to ‘That Mirror’ …. Why is it always positioned directly beside or infront of the toilet?

Surely nobody wants or needs to see themselves at that point?

Or in my case, no-one needs to hear me scream when a glimpse of my reflection (which didn’t seem to actually be me) mid-visit panicked me to thinking someone was in the room with me!

Like I said at the very beginning, this was a ‘Blind’ moment or maybe it was even a ‘Blonde’ moment…. But for someone with minimal peripheral vision it was most certainly an ‘embarrassing’ moment.

Especially when fellow patrons were knocking on the door to offer assistance and asking if I needed medical attention!

When riding a bike is not like riding a bike

Photograph shows a ‘selfie’ of Simon smiling at the camera, with me, Tee sat behind him on the left. The photo is of us both sat on the Tandem, but the bike is not in the shot.

About a month ago I bought myself something rather quite special.

I bought a tandem.

I bought it from a fellow blindie who had had a change of health and although the bike had been serviced and well looked after; it had remained sat un-ridden.

It is only through the ‘on this day’ feature of Facebook that I can tell you that it has been just under two years since I have ridden a bike.

It was when we were away on holiday with the children, it was when we were riding on site of a Haven Holiday Park.  After this I am sure that there was one further bike ride back at home before my bike was left to gather cobwebs and become home to spiders in the garage.

I did not stop riding because of an injury.

I stopped because with my hearing going in addition to my sight I did not feel I was safe either for myself or for other road users.

Many would be surprised that it is only in the last two years that I haven’t ridden my bike.  Thinking about it now, it was pure stubbornness that had stopped me from hanging up my riding helmet before then; in the same way I can only imagine that a car driver who is in denial about their sight feels about surrendering their driving license.

A tandem was a way of gaining back some of me.

Yes, by the very definition of it I would only be able to ride with someone else.  But riding a tandem with someone else feels less of a lack of independence than riding a bicycle with another adult beside me.  I think that this is because a tandem is for ANYONE.  A normally sighted person can ride a tandem, it isn’t a ‘mobility aid’ in the conventional sense of the word.  Even though when I think about it, in my case it kind of is just that; a mobility aid.

Anyway……

I had the bike serviced and checked over.  I spoke with a few friends about coming out for a ride with me and then, earlier this week.  One of them took me up on my offer.

Having spent time looking over the bike and following the workings of it I was instantly struck by the fact that as the rear peddler (the stoker in technical, bicycle jargon) I had no gears or brakes.  I was to simply just peddle. (Which when you think about it sensibly it makes perfect sense, but to me as a former solo cyclist-I had always had gears and brakes)

So, if all I was to do was to peddle. When and how would I know to peddle?

How would it feel sitting behind someone else (The Pilot-more jargon) who was in control of where we went?

How fast we got there?

And in what intensity of gears we were to achieve it?

I guessed I would just have to ‘go with them’ … LITERALLY.

My faithful Climbing Partner in Crime (CPiC) Simon was my first volunteer; we have ridden together before (on individual bikes) and he more than most understands my sight loss, and more to the point my anxieties of something new.

First he took the bike for a ride to the end of the car park without me.  This gave him a feel for the length of the bike and the kind of turning circle it would have.  Then it was my turn to get on with him.

My first ‘odd’ feeling was that I had both my feet off the floor, on the peddles and yet the bike was still upright and stationary.  This being because Simon is taller and still had his feet on the ground!

We set off; it was wobbly, but it soon became smoother as we got into a rhythmic pattern.  And surprisingly; not being able to see infront of me wasn’t concerning (because all I could see was the red of his jumper) felt O.K.

It felt ‘odd’ in the sense that I didn’t feel I was peddling enough, not as much as I thought I remembered from when I had ridden my bike before.  However, what I was forgetting was one simple rule;

”Double the bodies means half the power”

Easier said than done.  When the pilot slowed down I felt that as the stoker it was for me to peddle more.  This wasn’t the case.  In fact at one point I was told very bluntly to “JUST STOP”

I began to relax into the journey, I began to feel when it was time to coast and when it was time to peddle.

I also felt the exact point where my shoulder relaxed and my anxieties of ‘letting the other rider down’ were disappearing.

I only got off the bike and walked at a point where we crossed a road on the footpath (rather than add the complication of the road junction into the mix)

And before I knew it we were heading back towards home.

I could lie and say my arse wasn’t hurting from being sat on a not so padded saddle.  I could lie and say I didn’t get cramp in my thigh….. But then were would the fun be in that?

It was interesting to discover that I can suffer with ‘Elvis Leg’ when riding a bike, just as I do at points when I am climbing….. This usually comes at a point where I am concentrating so hard that (as silly as this will sound) I forget to breathe!

We managed to clock up just over 9km on our first ride.  After all I live in The Highlands area, which as the name suggests is an area with many a hill; which for the most part I want to be avoiding until my bike fitness has improved somewhat.

The route was recorded on my Apple Watch and all the specifics as to times, heart rate and distances are stored within my fitness app.  So next time we can follow the same route and see the improvements in it.

I wasn’t really able to talk to Simon much while we were cycling (but then there really was no need to) so when we arrived back I asked him how he felt, his answer wasn’t what I think I expected to hear;

”It felt creepy having someone riding RIGHT behind me, so close; I felt I wanted to ride to get away from them.”

…. But as he never managed it, he said it was just something he would have to get used to.  And he has agreed to go out and ride with me again.

So watch this space for more tandem cycling antics.

 

 

The simplest of tech can make the Biggest impact

if you have followed me for some time you will know how much I like my coffee.  It’s no secret, I enjoy sitting with a nice cup and ‘people watch’ (yes even as a VI I do this!)

 

But of late I have really struggled.

Not so much with the people watching part; but rather the collecting my coffee part.

Just a short bus ride away from me is the lovely Whiteley Shopping Village.  It is home to a great variety of shops, restaurants, cinema and yup you guessed it coffee shops!

It has the three MAJOR brand names of Costa, Nero & Starbucks, in addition to The M&S cafe.

Whitely was purpose built.  Many of the storesmake use of the high ceilings and glass outer wall to add a mezzanine floor, while the cafes and restaurants leave them to create the feeling of space and ambiance.

But here in lies an issue.

Starbucks in particular……

with its solid floors, wooden traveled, coffee ba and very minimal in way of ‘soft furnitings’ the inside has an echo.

The seating is positions around the centrally placed counter that leads you around to the right where you can collect your coffee at the end of the bar, where the bar continues again to the right (and right again) to enable friends to sit on the stools while enjoying a coffe with easy access to PowerPoints that are built into the bar.

There are standard level blue benches that cover one entire wall of the store with small tables, then at the back there are simple couch like seating around low tables.

With a further bar seating in front of one of the windows and more 2 seated wooden tablespoon dotted about.

So for me, I can easily find somewhere to sit that works with the lighting, be that natural, bright sunshine that we are enjoying at the moment or artificially lit by the store itself.

So, hopefully I have set the scene for you.  The fact that the coffee machine is not directly beside the till make for easy ordering and it also enables the staff to have a ‘queue’ system for drink collection.

But it is this ‘drink collection’ that has become a real struggle for me.

With the height of the ceiling, the multiple coffee machines and the general ‘noise’ of the store; even with my hearing aids I can’t hear any particular voice clearly.

These are all factors I can’t change.  And I am not one to be beaten into having to avoid a store (particularly one that sells coffee) because of it.

With my visual impairment I can’t make eye contact with others, although I can thankfully usually recognise a member of staff at datrbusks by the iconic green apron they all wear.

So now, when I arrive at ‘the bar’ I politely gain the attention of a member of staff and then I show them my phone…..

And this is what they see. (Or similar depending on my order)


Photograph of my Apple iPhone with the ‘notes’ app open, with the words “I am hard of hearing. Ordered a coconut mocha no cream realisable cup”

Where I have found that a kind member of staff then directly passes me my drink when my order is is completed.  Saving them shouting out to deaf ears and saving me from tepid coffee because it has been sat too long.

Such a simple little app is ‘Notes’ which I use every day for one thing or another like many people.  But one that has enabled me to keep just a little bit more of my independence (even if it is something so trivial as ordering a coffee)

I now feel more comfortable when dealing with such noisy situations.

And I don’t have to miss out … So it’s win-win situation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m still here

This year hasn’t had the easiest of starts, with changes in my sight, trouble with my hearing and ‘other’ issues;  It has all been a bit much to deal with at times.

All of this compounded by a need to explore who I am and where I belong, and it isn’t hard to realise that my anxiety and mental health has also taken a beating.

But that’s ok.

It is alright to not be ok ALL the time.

And it is ok to admit that; however hard it may be.

There are a few things I want to tell you about, I have realised I never finished off my 2017 BMC Paraclimbing competition blogs, or even mentioned the Team Selection Day back in February 2018.

So, for now I am going to spend some time going ‘backwards’ but as all posts are dated to (around) when they happened, humour me.

And once I have completed these, take a good look through the past six months.  I can promise you there will be laughter, whit and sarcasm.  But be warned there will also be sadness, upset and moments of total despair.

Enjoy xx

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