Today is one filled with mixed emotions, concerns and thoughts. Today, 18th January 2015 is the last working day for my guide dog Vicky. We have been working together as a qualified team since 18th November 2009, and it has been an amazing 5
It’s almost 11.00 o’clock, 12 hours after this crazy day started. The climbing arena was nothing like I had ever seen before and no matter how much I had researched and looked at photo after photo I was not prepared for the quarry that I
Well, this is something new……. I am sat in the passenger seat of my friends car doing 70+ MPH on the M6 Motorway travelling on my way to Edinburgh; while typing this blog. My iPad is tethered to my phone for 4G and my voiceover
it is time for me to ask for you to help me. If I were to write a book, giving in sight into my life and how I have got myself in and out of many a situation. Would you read it? I am talking
So, tomorrow is St George’s Day and at 2.40 this afternoon my daughters school sent out a text message to say that any Beavers, Rainbows, Brownies etc are free to wear their uniforms instead of school uniform… With full badges! This created 2 panics…. 1)
Prolonged hot weather and guide dogs don’t mix. So where I have been using my cane for all ‘ESSENTIAL’ journeys and cancelling those I could, the length of this heatwave is getting rediculous now!
I can’t keep cancelling things, I can’t keep letting people down. I can’t keep letting myself down!
Then a very such event popped up in the diary. An event that no-one would have judged me for for not attending; but one I really wanted to go to and be part of. So with some extra planning I didn’t let myself cancel.
I even arranged a ‘puppy sitter’ for my faithful Fizz so she would have company and I could take my time….. Also as this event saw me travelling to London it wouldn’t have been fair on her just having the neighbour pop in every few hours.
Yup, you read that right…. I went to London; more so I went to London dogless!
The event was facilitating and supporting route setting for an informal para-comp being hosted by VauxWall Bouldering Centre and Paraclimbing London.
The wall wanted to run the competition to enable abled bodied, non-sensory-Impaired climbers to gain an understanding of how someone could climb with differing abilities. The competition was also set up so that those with impairments could try out bouldering or improve on what they were already doing.
Being a very hot day meant that London would feel EVEN HOTTER to an outsider like me. The event was also set to take place on the very same day that The Gay Pride Parade marched on London; and if that’s wasn’t enough, it was also the day that the England Football team got into the Quarter Finals of the World Cup for the first time in decades!
So, as the title suggests ….. Who needs a comfort zone anyway?
Maybe it was the heat beginning to take its toll. Maybe it was the chance to climb. Maybe it was simply the fact that I felt I needed to prove to MYSELF that I could do this….. Who knows.
Anyway, train ticket bought, journey planned and even altered so I didn’t have to tube through London with my cane. (Vauxhall is just one change at Clapham Junction-a station I have regularly used) and I even (virtually) walked the route from the station to Starbucks and then onto VauxWall via Google Streetview.
I planned to arrive early, sadly delays due to network rail engineering works and cancelled trains changed that for me. However it did mean that I arrived ON TIME!
The climbing was great fun, even though I sustained an injury to my left hip and right knee. Paraclimbing London and VauxWall had a brilliant turn out (despite the weather, pride and football) And I found myself only leaving 30 minutes before I had originally planned; in case there were similar issues on the way home.
It wasn’t easy to navigate major (or even minor) railway stations with my cane. It wasn’t easy navigating where the door to Starbucks was and it most certainly wasn’t easy to navigate finding a seat (or even assistance) on the train.
But I did do it.
Big tick to me.
Although I wouldn’t do it again out of choice!
Its good to challenge yourself some times, it’s good to know that barring the odd ‘rib-jab’ my cane akills are still pretty good.
While with a group of friends today we were talking about faith. Discussing it and questioning what our understanding of it is.
One comment made about one way to look at faith was
If you’re sat on a chair, you hold faith that THAT chair is fit for purpose and will keep you sat safely and not break.
This made me think, as someone who has far too many questions about ‘religious faiths’ to have one of my own I thought of it a different way.
What (or who) do I have faith in and trust?
And when put like this I have just one answer
My Guide Dog Fizz.
I have total faith in her (and Vicky before her)
Each day i put on her harness and trust her to guide me to my destination; be that getting the kids to school or wherever we may be going to.
I give her the directions and instruct her on where we are going, but I have faith in her that she will get me there safely, not walking into traffic or causing me to trip or fall on steps, curbs or other surfaces.
And with the exception of the odd over-hanging branch I know she has me.
My faith in her is I guess some would say, similar to that faith of a religion. I have trust that she will protect me, keep me safe.
I know HOW she is trained and WHY she is trained, but no-one can say for certain WHY she takes that training and guides me each day.
That to me is faith.
I have the faith that she will do as I ask of her each and every time I put her harness on.
I trust her.
I can’t see what she does each time we go out together; I simply feel how she moves through her harness and I can react accordingly following her lead.
That to me is faith.
I trust her.
I may have totally missed the point of the discussion; I have never sat on a chair and though ‘this isn’t fit for purpose’.
Just as I have faith that a chair will be safe to sit on; after all this is what it is designed for. I have faith in my guide dog, because she has been trained to guide me.
To me that is faith.
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
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.
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!
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)
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.