Tag Archive for accessibility

GETTING MY GEEK ON in Glasgow

Photograph of my gold Starbucks travel mug with the guide book to The Glasgow Science Centre with the SEC Armadillo building behind across the river Clyde.

Continued from … Welcome to Glasgow

After a relaxed evening in the hotel which included a Tai Chi class, a swim and a sauna before a gorgeous dinner, on Wednesday morninf I decided to visit The Glasgow Science Centre before embarking on another train journey deeper into Scotland (you’ll have to read on to find out where)

The Science Centre and adjoining iMax cinema were architecturally interesting buildings even before I walked through the doors.

 

Photograph shows a round ball like building on the left which is Glasgow IMAX with a large screen on the right of the photograph, with a small green area in front of it

Photograph is taken of the rear of the IMAX building where Starbucks sits amongst a glass wall sat beside part of an old dock areaPhotograph of the entrance to The Glasgow Science Museum, shoring what looks like the top half of a letter C shaped building, the glass front of the building sat to the right of the large screen

These building were custom built for purpose and opened to the public in June 2001, with a titanium clad exterior the Science Centre (science mall) with its crescent shaped glazing enables it along with the neighbouring imax to ‘blend in’ with the often grey overcast skies of Glasgow while offering a reflection from the river Clyde.

Set over three floors and including a planetarium and many interactive work station I could understand how it had gained its reputation and place on trip advisor as a ‘MUST SEE’ even though it was a pay for attraction (which many museums are not)

I fell in love with each and every floor.

Although I struggled with a few small issues (like no large print or alternative format maps or voice information on the lifts) I did find a very helpful member of staff who explained the floor levels to me and even explained where the stairs were as they were tucked away as the main traffic was directed towards the large lifts.

One perminant exhibit that I was interested in was ‘A Question of Perception’ that looked at optical illusions, the science behind it and how the human brain helps with this.  In addition to the illusions, I watched the cctv monitors for the centres own ‘wacky salon’ (you can find a video for this on YouTube, but as it is not accessible I have decided against sharing it here)

With interactive exhibitions across the whole centre, including a wonderful planetarium I enjoyed a good couple of hours here and took hundreds of photographs of the different exhibits, of which I will share just one with you.  This is of the ‘perfect triangle’ which from the angle of my photograph looks far from perfect.

Photograph of tabary - A mind blowing sculpture of a three part solid triangle, which is in fact an optical illusion and it is only when you get to within 2 foot of it that you see the sculpture is actulay 3 separate solid four sided rectangular, not actually a triangle at all.

However, too soon it was time for me to go, popping back to the hotel to collect my bags and head off for another train journey.

A train journey that saw me travelling from Exhibition Road to Glasgow Central, to hop on the shuttle bus to Glasgow Queen Street before boarding a train to Perth, where I would then change again (after a quick ‘wee stop’ for Fizz) to travel onto Pitlochry.

A place that could not be further from the hustle and bustle of Glasgow, with a population of just over 2,500 in comparison Glasgows 500,000….. It was a place I really couldn’t wait to escape to.

To be continued…….


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All Aboard

Stock photograph of Glasgow Central Station sign

Continued from The start of an adventure… 

With a coffee in hand, along with my suitcase, book bag, handbag and guide dog I soon found the mobility assistance within London Euston Railway station.  My assistance had been pre-booked so at just after 22:00 i was guided to my train.

The man assisting me happily took my case and my book bag and off we went.

It was a very different ‘check-in’ for The Caladonian Sleeper.  It reminded me more of checking in to a flight.

First I checked in and was informed by the staff that I would be upgraded to a berth, they allocated me the ‘accessibile berth’ so that I was directly beside the toilet and just a door away from the lounge car.

The train measured over a quarter of a mile long and I was towards the furthest end.  This is because the train that leaves Euston travels towards Scotland as one train, before splitting; with one part going towards Edinburgh and the other part towards Glasgow.

Photograph is of the side of The Caladonian Sleeper train carriage from the platform

Once onboard the train, my room wasn’t quite ready, so I was seated in the lounge car where I was able to enjoy reading the extensive whiskey menu before I settled for a glass of red wine; before making myself and Fizz comfortable for the night in our berth.

Photograph from the open electronic door on my berth, showing the open and close panel on the left, Fizz sat in front of the single bed which has an orange hand rail and a top bunk bed that is seen at the top of the picturePhotograph is taken from where I sat in the bottom bunk in the berth, showing the width of the bed, with a counter at the end of the bed and the sink with a bottle of water on the side

The bed was comfortable, I took the extra pillows off the top bunk and although I looked at the little ‘sleep pack’ that was sat on the bed, I chose not to make use of the eye mask or ear plugs.  For my first ever sleeper journey I wanted to be as aware of my surroundings as possible.

I plugged my phone and watch in the USB ports, worked out which switch was for the main light and the bed light; popped to the loo again for one last time and tucked in to bed to listen to my audio book all before the train had even left the station.

This was a school girl error as I suddenly felt very aware and awake when the train did start moving.  Especially at the beginning when we were stopping at other London stations (just like a normal train would) so it was not until we were clear of London that I found myself getting comfortable again and drifting off to sleep.

I remember waking several times throughout the night, but there was not a clear reason for it.  It wasn’t until I awoke in a panic when the train seemed to ‘turn off’ that I got a reasonable nights sleep.

My panic awakening was because I felt that we must surely have arrived in Glasgow, although upon reaching my phone I realised I was over an hour early for the arrival time of Glasgow, let alone for the extra thirty minutes I had to vacate my room once we did arrive.

So I took the time to get dressed and raise the blind in my room to let the Scottish scenery in.  I even made myself a Herbalife shake for breakfast and got packed up.

Photograph of the open blind within my birth showing the countryside with the sink and worktop in the foreground

It wasn’t long before we pulled into Glasgow Central Station and the kind staff gave me a bottle of apple juice and informed me that my requested station assistance was ready to guide me from the train to the exit of the station.

It was lovely to walk into a quiet station (being 7:10 on a Tuesday morning). The rail assistance asked me where I was heading and asked if I needed help getting a taxi, I politely informed him that I was going to head to my hotel to drop off my case and enable Fizz to stretch her paws along The River Clyde.

Because thanks to more support on social media and google maps I knew all I had to do was walk toward the river and then along it for 19 minutes to reach my base for the next day and a half.  The Glasgow Crowne Plaza.

TO BE CONTINUED …


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The start of an adventure – But first … London.

When opportunity presents itself, take its hand and let it lead you beyond your comfort zone.

A fellow VI friend informed me of an upgrade available to me as a guide dog owner to sleep in a cabin overnight on a train for the cost of a seated ticket.

The Caledonian Sleeper from London to Scotland gave me just such opportunity.  So in planning a trip I had hoped to take with my CPiC I booked a trip from London to Glasgow.

A journey which soon gave me the option to either cancel or put on my ‘big girl pants on’ to go alone….

Cancelling wasn’t really ever an option, as I would loose money not only on tickets, but on rooms already booked; plus my pure stubborn nature wouldn’t allow it.  So I decided to go alone (with my guiding girl Fizz) and a new plan was made.

London to Glasgow was recommended to me as Edinburgh was hosting The Fringe Festival.

So my plan started to come together.  I would travel to London on Monday, to catch the 23.20 sleeper out of Euston to Glasgow.

Monday was my day to explore London.

London is somewhere I have been many times before, however with my suitcase I wanted to stay close to Euston.  But just getting there wasn’t so simple.

Having used Euston Tube station as an interchange before for the northern line I was aware that it only had escalator access to street level.  So I made the brave (slightly silly) decision to get the tube to Kings Cross and walk back to Euston.

The walk was the easy bit, but the different lifts and levels of Kings Cross was a bit of a ‘challenge’ to say the least.  But one I achieved on my own.  The opportunity was there to ask for assistance, but I chose to put my problem solvcing hat on and just ‘get on with it’  Afterall, I have been to Kings Cross before and if in my mind if i couldn’t handle the tube, how would I manage Glasgow?

Hitting Kings Cross also gave me the opportunity to work out a green space for Fizz because with planned engineering works at Euston at the weekend, we would be returning to Kings Cross.  Thanks to the power of social media, I was made aware of a flower bed to the side of the station.

The flower bed was in fact right beside The British Library, a building that has always fascinated me.  So with time to kill I took the opportunity to go in.

WOW …..

The security staff were amazing, from explaining the bag search, to using a body scan wand on me and Fizz and continuing to explain it all to me; to then walking us down the ramps to the cloakrooms so I could have my suitcase stored while I explored.

Sadly there were no large print maps available, but as I explained to the staff that I used my phone as a magnifier they quickly radioed through to the other room attendants and security to make them aware that

“the blonde haired woman with the black guide dog who is deafblind has permission to use her phone as an aid to assist her, she isn’t taking photos, but simply magnifying the signs to enable her to enjoy her visit.’

This made me feel so very welcome and enabled me to enjoy my visit; while breaking down barriers for other visitors, who stopped to ask me how I was managing with the maps and signage.

I never went to look at the books (I do want to do this, but think it would be much easier with a sighted assistant) I purely went to look at the building…. The way the levels are open, the way the skylights are positioned, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Photograph shows the stripped skylights that run parallel to each other in a triangular flat roof of The British Library

Photograph shows rounded stairwells and the skylights again from inside The British Library

I enjoyed the fact that I could sit on each level, watch the world go by and enjoy the different ways in which other people used the space.

Because despite my failing sight, I love to read and I have always had a fascination with libraries.  So for a few hours after I explored the space I sat down with a comfy spot for Fizz and read my latest book. (Which is for another blog in the future)

This was just the calming and relaxed start to my adventure I needed before I met up with a climbing friend for a late supper.

We sat and talked, we ate, we drank and then realised this is the first time we have ever met outside of a climbing wall or competition setting.

And before I knew it, it was time to catch my train.

I felt nervous.

I felt excited.

I felt exhausted.

So, with a quick stop at Starbucks I went to find the assisted travel desk to board my train.

TO BE CONTINUED …


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When my disability felt disabling

This weekend I had a real wobble; anxiety, panic, fear and upset all rolled into one.  This weekend didn’t start off very well.

There are times when people say how inspirational or how positive I am, well this weekend I wasn’t any of these things.  In fact I felt like I was being penalised because of my sight and hearing issues. And I just wanted to leave where I was, give up on my plans for the weekend and walk away from it all.

Thankfully I was surrounded by some great friends; who didn’t allow the negativity to get to me, who stepped up and even stepped in to support me and change things around….. And for this I have gratitude.  Because what started out pretty shitty ended up being pretty AMAZING.

This weekend I attended a MAHOOSIVE Herbalife training event called ‘Summer Spectacular’  This training consisted of two days of training, stories and information from not only some of the best in the UK part of Herbalife, but also some of the best from America, France and South Africa.  Men and woman within the business that were not within my immediate reach.

So my ticket for the event was bought, childcare sorted, transport and sleeping arrangements sorted.  I had the support of my amazing team so I knew that both me and Fizz would be ok.

The training was at a venue I hadn’t been to before, but that was ok because an hour or so on google and I had found enough images of the venue to feel that I had a good enough virtual awareness of it to get through.  There was even a Starbucks on site, what more could I ask for?

The venue; The International Conference Centre (ICC) in Birmingham was also only a short ten minute walk from the apartment we were staying in AND there were plenty of grass areas between the two for me to know that Fizz’s needs were catered for also.

Saturday morning came and while my team mates were taking part in a very large ‘Fitclub’  I was able to grab a coffee, get my bearings and feel prepared for the next few days.

We came to entering the training room and a member of staff quickly found me (having the only dog in the building will get you noticed!!)

My team mates explained (because it was too loud for me to hold a conversation) that I would need to be seated near the front with space for both me and Fizz, but not in a direct walk-way as this could put Fizz and others in danger (black dog in a dark venue is a real trip hazard)

So, the staff guided me down the steps of the auditorium and sat me at the front, but with space the side where Fizz would be able to lay out.  Brilliant, a seat was allocated for my team mate too and I thought all was ok.  That was until the music started.  It was not that it was LOUD.  It was the fact that it was coming from a large speaker right beside where Fizz was to be able to rest…. let’s just say, she would have probably been more likely to burst an ear drum than relax.

No trouble I thought my friend and companion  Jenny got the attention of the staff, asked for us to be moved and off we went.

The next seating we were offered would see Fizz sat directly beside the auditorium steps (a major trip hazard)  but as the seating within the venue was fixed in place the staff were a little perplexed.

Another member of staff was called upon and it was decided that a couple of chairs could be brought in from outside and placed by the door……

“Um sorry I am not sitting right beside the door, where people will be coming and going throughout the day, that’s hardly relaxing for Fizz or suitable for me.”

So the chairs were moved and we were seated beside the camera mans tripod.  But that was ok; at this time the meeting was starting and I just wanted to sit down.

So me and Jenny moved the chairs across slightly giving Fizz the space to lay down.  But by this point not only was I feeling anxious and upset, I was also feeling that because our seating was so different to everyone else that I was on show, a bit of a ‘look at our token blind guest’  and this was what ALMOST saw me walk out.

I messaged my teammate and cousin Charlie with a very frank, honest, choice set of words and we simply replied

”Stay put I will sort this”

Charlie is a rock.  Jenny got me a drink and Fizz nudged at me as if to say ‘it’s ok mum’

Charlie sent me a message a few moments later that simply said “it’s sorted” so I sat, listened to the speakers and awaited the break.

At the break we stepped outside and were greeted by the events coordinator who moved me away from the crowds (these events have upwards of 2000 people attend) and explained that there was a larger room just opposite that had the lights up, had tables, plenty of space and a large screen that was streaming the main event directly into the room.

Well considering at similar events I can only just watch the stage via the screens and never actually see the people as they stand on the stage, this sounded like a good solution.

So into the room we went, table found, cool air con and really good lighting and I felt both me and Fizz relax.  Jenny came with me and she instantly agreed that this was a great alternative and would make it easier for her too to write notes and move about. (The room was a large conference hall, with about two dozen large circular tables.

Fizz was aware that I was more relaxed and as such, she was more relaxed.  And thankfully the rest of the day was much calmer.

The events staff came back to find us to discuss the evening dinner and party.  It would be held in the very room we were sitting in, but dressed to celebrate.  There were set to be food stations, where festival themed food would be available.  The event team asked me to just come also for and try to see if I could cope.

Again they made arrangements for me, Fizz and the a guest of my choice to enter the room before it was opened up to everyone.  To enable me to come in while the lights were up to navigate the room.

Fastforward to the evening ……

I entered the room early with Fizz and Jenny, we found a table to sit at and I was able to familiarise myself with the room layout.  The food stations would be far to tempting and distracting for Fizz, so Jenny agreed to support me by collecting food for me.

Entering the room early may not sound like much; but actually it made all the differenxe to enabling me to enjoy the evening.

I felt relaxed; I felt much more relaxed than I have at any other party event I have attended with Herbalife.

I even got up and danced for a bit and found myself mingling through (with a Jenny’s help) to catch up with other friends and colleagues.

Sundays Training was so much simpler.

We went straight into the ‘break out room’ and we actually found a good few more people sat here.  News of the air conditioning had spread through to the auditorium and even some of our own team joined us.

I don’t feel that I missed out by sitting in the other room.  I did however gain so much.  I would highly recommend that such ‘accessible’ seating was available ….. And as such and email has gone off to the company to ensure more support is available.

After all, o can’t be the only person within Herbalife that has a disability or anxieties about large numbers of people?

 


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My 10 ‘MUST HAVES’

Everyone has their own ‘must haves’ or ‘can’t live without’ items.  And maybe mine aren’t that dissimilar, I have very little specialised kit to cope day-to-day.

In no particular order, here are my 10 MUST HAVES:

  1. One Touch Kettle
  2. iPhone
  3. Apple Watch
  4. Compact Dome magnifier
  5. Wrap-Around Polarised Sun Glasses
  6. Power pack
  7. Amplicomms Amplified Bluetooth Neck-loop
  8. Notepad/Pen
  9. Book
  10. Dog Bowl

ONE:  One Touch Kettle:  I like most can’t start my day without a cuppa.  My cuppa of choice is Herbalife Thermogenic Peach Tea; and although there are fantastic gadgets like liquid level indicators and tipping support for enabling VIs to pour a normal kettle, my kettle isn’t a specialist bit of kit.  It is simply a water saving, energy efficient way of pouring just one cup of water at a time.  I don’t even need to lift it.  I simply set the cup size (all my mugs are large-so this is easy) press the button and when the water has heated, the water is dispensed automatically.  With no risk to me….. This also means it is safe for my children to make them or me a cuppa (although this novelty has really caught on yet!)

TWO:  iPhone:  Apart from the ‘usual’ needs for a smart phone to call, text and access maps; my iPhone is an AMAZING piece of accessible tech.  With the standard, ‘Notes’ ‘camera’ ‘Magnifier’ ‘Siri’ in addition to the ‘added at source accessibility features my phone is fully accessible’.  It is more than ‘just a phone’ it is a Canera, A CCTV Reader, a pocket sized PA, with the addition of recent apps such as ‘See Al’ ‘Big Spender’ ‘Station Master’ I have all the information I could possibly need at my finger tips means that nothing is ever far away.

THREE:  Apple Watch:  Just as my phone my Apple watch is an extension of the support I gain from Mac based products.  And actually my increased feeling of safety that my watch offers me, helps me to feel more confident in my surroundings.  With the use of haptics I can set a route on my phone that then gives instructions through vibrations on my wrist.  I have my watch set to enable me to zoom in on the screen, to read and send messages and even answer calls.  In addition to making contactless payments enabling me to keep my phone and purse both safely kept in my bag.

FOUR:  Compact Dome Magnifier:  This is my bewest piece of ‘kit’ that I actually received from the LVC (low vision clinic) at Moorfields Hospital recently.  It is a small Perspex domed magnifier that gives 2.5 magnification, which in the scheme of things isn’t much, but with a flat base and a domed top it enables the light to be increased and this has just as much importance to me as the magnification.

FIVE:  Wrap-Around Polarised Sun Glasses:  To protect my eyes from bright sunshine and glare. (Non-prescription)

SIX:  Power pack:  So that I always have a back up should I be using a lot of the apps on my phone and therefore depleting battery life.  As my phone running out is so much more than just ‘not being able to make a call’

SEVEN:  Amplicomms Amplified Bluetooth Neck-loop:  THIS IS a specialist piece of kit, this works with my hearing aids to support me.  I can stream calls direct to my ears (which works brilliantly for guiding from the ground when I climb)  I can listen to music or audiobooks (as I previously had done before hearing aids)  I can also use the amplification button on the front to enable me to hear a person stood in front of me in a loud, busy environment.  Or tune into a local ‘loop’ connection what is being said clearer and directly into my ears.

EIGHT: Notepad/Pen:  Because sometimes I like to jot down ideas for blogs or make notes and sometimes I like to not use tech.

NINE:  Book:  Just like the notepad, I like to just do the simple things, to enjoy escaping from the world for a few moments (after all with my magnifier and the right lighting, I can still read)

TEN:  Dog Bowl:  clearly this one isn’t for me, but with my faithful guiding girl I need to ensure that I can meet her needs and ensure that just like me, she is hydrated.

So, these are my lists.  And at times I will add other items to them and other times I may not include them all.  But I do start each day with a cuppa and I never leave home without my phone or watch (which probably isn’t any different to any other person in today’s society)  I am sure if you asked another VI they may have different items they consider important.

I just wanted to share with you mine.

i hope you have enjoyed.


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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.


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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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First Scarlet; Then Pink; A study of Sherlock

This is an interesting one.  Something a little different for me.  Something that is far too good an opportunity to pass up.

Through my volunteer role with Open Sight I was made aware of The Conan Doyle exhibition that is currently taking pride of place at Portsmouth Central Library, an exhibition that was bequeathed to the City of Portsmouth by  richard-lancelyn-green with funding from The National Lottery (among others) it had been made fully accessible to those with a visual impairment.

Sadly I had yet to find the time to visit when I received another correspondence from Open Sight giving very vague details of a residential writing course being run and funded on behalf of The Conan Doyle Trust.  For whole Open Sight were simply collecting details of those who were interested to be passed over for more information.

The residential course running 5 full days would be fully funded including accommodation and travel, so I fully expected the ‘application process email’ when it arrived.

(I won’t detail EVERYTHING here)

But hence to say, an interest in Sir Conan Doyle and his infamous charactor Sherlock Holmes were part of the process.

The first criteria was to submit TWO examples of our own work (published or not) to give an idea of writing style.

The second criteria was to write (in no more than 500 words) what you could gain from such a residential course, while explaining your interest in The Conan Doyle Collection.

So, I set to work, this is what I wrote:

Oh how I dream to study Sherlock!

The opportunity to attend a creative writing course will enable me to learn properly how to put my own ‘interesting’ writings of my journey with sight loss. To discover that the whole thing is not only being supported by The Arthur Conan Doyle Collection that was bequeathed to the City of Portsmouth; but it is to work on the ongoing projects funded to take part in 2018, possibly enabling me to write about my love and enjoyment of more recent adaptations of one of Doyle’s infamous characters Sherlock Holmes and I find my fingers tingling over the keyboard to find the right words.

Just 500 words to explain myself, that in itself is a challenge!

Honestly, until the 2010 BBC TV series of Sherlock written by Steven Moffat and Mark Gattis I hadn’t really had an interest in the works of A.C Doyle. I initially took each episode as it was, set in today’s time yet with the iconic ‘nod’ to the originals by seeing Holmes and Watson share rooms at 221b Baker Street. I never realised just how many other ‘nods’ each story held.

And it was the special in January 2016 of The Abominable Bride that I gained so much insight into the original works of Doyle. Being visually impaired it is difficult to ‘read’ yet with audio description turn on I was able to enjoy every detailed part of the theatre that played out on the screen. The detailed explanation that had led the writers to take a trip into the past, the additional details within the current stories that all held historically to the original works. I was transported to a world of intrigue, mystery and found myself wanting to join The now consulting detective.

The whit and sarcasm were bought to life by a great cast, which I relate to as I often find myself writing with these; to turn some of the sadder stories that I relay into a more positive light.

My mind often runs away when I am writing and the words flow easily for the most part. I write in the hope that just one person will find comfort or happiness in reading my words. I write on my own blog www.seemyway.co.uk – about my own life, my journey, about the little ‘tweeks’ or ‘blind fails’ I encounter regularly. I also use it to talk about my passion for rock climbing, volunteering and not letting my sight beat me. It isn’t always pretty happy stories, but then it is real and sometimes there is no way of adding a positive spin to something.

I want to expand my knowledge of writing, my understanding and use of the English language as my hope for the future would be to become a published author, supporting others with sight loss, their families and friends to gain a better understanding of how people can see the world when they are visually impaired.

(the supporting work I included)Screenshot photograph of my blog post “Familiarity is a blind gals best friend”Screen shot photograph of my blog post “Blindly following google”

And now I wait….. A concept that requires Patience; something that doesn’t come naturally to me !

Despite my work being ‘found to be very interesting’ I was put onto the ‘shortlist’ which meant that if (for whatever reason) anyone was t able to attend I would get to go.

So, I kept quiet, made arrangements as if I were to be going.  Only to hear at the beginning of this week that I would not be attending.

So, for now I am looking at the positives and have taken some learning away from this experience and I am also looking at other adventures that my blogging could open for me.

So….. Watch this space !!!


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An Open Letter

DEAR CAR DRIVERS

Thank you for your kindness. I do not want this post to sound ungrateful. Really I don’t:

When you see me and my working girl (guide dog) Fizz waiting patiently at the curb edge to cross the road, I do not think you rude for driving on.

Stopping and (I can only assume) flash your lights, waving at me or even tooting your horn, (this I can hear) will not make me walk out into the road.

By stopping early for the junction you are being kind. But you are also putting me in danger. If I were to cross in front of you, your engine noise could mask that of a car coming the other way, or a car behind you could decide to overtake.

Unless I am on a designated crossing, Fizz is trained to not go before you. So I will stand and I will wave you on. I will put my hand up to wave a thank you, or give you a thumbs up; but please just keep going.

(Even more so when it is dark, both me and Fizz will be in high viz, but we are both dazzled by your headlights)

When I wave the first car on, why would I then walk before the 2nd? I am not doing it to be ‘carist’ I will wave each and everyone of you on.

I am not being rude, I am ensuring my own safely. Please understand, by stopping early you are often creating traffic build up, reducing the ‘natural gaps’ that would enable me and Fizz to cross safely.

I am not alone with this, all guide dog owners are taught this, as are all (or where when I was trained) long cane users.

If I am with a friend or a kind stranger has offered to help me cross.  AND if crossing in front of you would be the only option, I will drop Fizz’s harness handle (walking her just by her lead) and taking the arm of the person with me.  This removes the responsibility to guide me from my guide dog and is the only time I will ‘break the rules’

This is because we have assistance from a sighted guide.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter xx

safe travelling to you all xx

Warm Wishes xx Tink


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The Weekend that almost wasn’t

Those of you who have been following me for some time will know one of my mantra to life is:

Have dog, will travel.

And with this mantra in place and a connection made through the power of Facebook, when a fun social event that would be followed up by an information and tech based learning event popped up; I found myself booking a hotel and myself for an evening with an Amy Whinehouse Tribute act.

The Facebook connection was that with the talented Molly, The founder and inspirational woman behind The Molly Watt Trust, along with the younger company of Molly Watt Ltd.

With my (relitively) recent hearing loss, I had used my ability to connect through Facebook to link with groups that supported those known as ‘deafblind’.

Having made contact with Molly at the beginning of my blogger journey, along with having a guide dog connection with her I had taken more of an interest in the work of The Molly Watt Trust and found myself naturally drawn toward them with my increasing issues around my sight and hearing loss.

So, when this weekend came up to join in on a ‘social’ and learning based opportuity arrived.  I jumped at it.

THE PLANNING COMMENCED……

What type of journey would it take to get from my own home town to Maidenhead?

And from the station to the hotel?

The hotel that was hosting the dinner on the Friday and the Ushers day on the Saturday was on hotels.com, so I booked my room and set about not having to worry about travelling between venues.

The price was right and would save me additional travel; it was all falling into place …..

……. Or so I thought!

I was looking forward to the event and had everything in place, so now it was just a case of picking which shoes to pack to go with my dress.

After all, not having to go out of the hotel other than to allow Fizz to spend meant I could pack the hot pink heels without the worry of walking any great distance in them.  Not because I can’t walk in heels.  Rather I prefer to be in flat comfortable trainers if I am walking in an area I am not aware of, or in the dark, where I find more difficulty than I do if it were daylight.

Come September 15th my case was packed, my train ticket was collected and off with Fizz, we were on our way.

And then came the first of our hurdles…… Reading Railway Station!

This station is something from a futuristic movie; a large metallic, vast and somewhat oversized pedestrian gangway, which is accessed via long escalators (and multipul lifts) to enable you to walk safely away from the trains to any one of the stations many many platforms.

Yet without a clear indicator as to which train leaves from which platform.  And more importantly because I am well aware I may have missed the obvious large screens giving this information I need I couldn’t find any members of staff!

I only managed to find staff on the actual platforms as and when a train arrived.  Not ideal, as some of the staff I found actually arrived and were set to depart with the train….. So couldn’t direct me around the station.

It was ok though, I wasn’t going to let this get to me, I had managed to find Starbucks on my travels around the station, so when I found the platform and train I needed it was time to grab a nice coffee for me and a bowl of water for Fizz while we waited.

We (Fizz and I) arrived at Maidenhead and out came Google Maps.

It was at this point I realised my error.

The Thames Riviera Hotel (where the dinner and information day were occurring) was not The Thames Hotel I had in fact booked my room for the night!

They were so very close, just a short 5 minute walk along The Thames between the two, yet they were very different hotels.

This was when panic started to kick in.

How could I have made such a simple mistake?

How had I got it SO wrong?

A quick message in a Facebook group about the event and I was calmed.  I could do this.  I am a grown woman; who just happens to have an eye condition and hearing condition that may make life a little more of a challenge at times.

But I am strong and independent.  Who just happened to have a blip.  That was all it was…. a simple blip.  I had come so far, the hotel was already paid for, it would be silly to turn around and go home now……. Right?

So, as I said before.  On went Google Maps and off I went.

With hearing aids in place, I had to rely on holding my phone to hear the directions, while trying to keep out of the bright sunshine to roughly follow the blue line.

I didn’t even realise my first error with this.

Maidenhead Railway Station has 2 exits.  And I found myself leaving via the small, unassuming exit.

The second error came when I misheard a direction.

While walking alongside busy traffic I was sure the direction had been to walk forward.  Sadly, it hadn’t.  It had been to turn right.  And by the time I had realised my error, in true Google Maps programming, my route had been recalculated.

A walk that saw me walking along an almost non-existent path beside a dual-carriageway.  Walking into a multi story car park attached to a local Sainsburys store to find a foot bridge to cross the aforementioned carriageway.

A footbridge that landed me by a leisure centre and bowling alley just as the rain started to get heavy.

I bit the bullet, I went into the bowling alley and collected the telephone number for a local taxi.  Upon calling the firm, I explained my location and where I wanted to go, no problem a car could be with me within a few minutes.  So I kindly mention I have my guide dog travelling with me; that was when suddenly a car would not be available for almost forty minutes.

So, I gave up on the idea of a taxi and returned to my trusted phone and four-pawed companion to find the hotel.

This was a journey that took us another twenty-five minutes and a desperate plea to my best friend for help and linking my location on Google Maps to his Google Maps; and an hour after we had left to station to walk the seventeen minutes to the hotel, we arrived.

Both Fizz and I were damp (actually that was an understatement)

The doorman at the hotel instantly took control.

He collected my case and walked us to our room.

He commented on my damp dog (which I instantly apologised for), which he would hear nothing about.  He left us for only a few moments, before returning with an armful of towels.  He explained that these towels were clean, yet had lost their crisp white finish, so were no longer used for the guests……. But would be absolutely perfect to rub down my soggy dog with and give her a comfortable soft bed to dry off on.

This was too much, I managed to thank him before closing the door and collapsing in tears on the floor.  The anxiety of the day was taking its toll. But with a nudge from Fizz (I like to think as her ways of asking if I was ok.) I realised it was all going to be alright.

A conversation with my best friend put my mind at ease regards the hotel I was staying at and the hotel I was set to attend for dinner.  A dinner for which I was going to wear hot pink heels, that I would not feel comfortable walking outside (For the reasons I mentioned above)

What was stopping me wearing my trainers on the walk, with my ‘pretty shoes’ in my bag?  The answer….. Nothing.

This time, I not only looked on Google Maps for the direction, but I used Google Street View to actually walk the route virtually between the two hotels, a very straight five minute walk along the river, passing a park (perfect for spending Fizz) before crossing a large road to get to the hotel.

This time (although I would be walking in ‘twilight’) I was not leaving anything to chance!  Although, I did feel like I was taking my and Fizz’s life in my hands by crossing the road infront of the hotel, a road that was also one of the large bridges across The Thames River.

The rest of the evening passed with a blur of fun, entertainment and enjoyment, of putting faces to names and adding new friends into my life to enrich it.

I did wear my trainers for the walk; quickly changing upon arriving at the RIGHT hotel!  Switching them out again before leaving at the end of the evening.  One of the benefits of going to an event with others who have sight issues, is that such incidents are easier to hide.

I returned to my hotel, for a very comfortable and refreshing sleep, ready to return after breakfast for the chance to chat, chance to learn and more importantly, chance to find support and similarities with others going through their sight and hearing loss journey.

…………………………..

The walk The Riviera Hotel to the railway station was minus the difficulties of the previous day.  I even found the point where I had taken the wrong turn.  The turn that had caused so much anxiety.

Although the train journey home wasn’t without an interesting twist either!  That I found easier to write about at the time and you can read about it in  The day we caught the train

So, for the weekend that could have easily found me returning home, I discovered just how, as a strong independent (somewhat stubborn) woman, I am also human.  I make mistakes, but I also learned I am not to be so hard on myself.

This weekend did do one thing for me; it confirmed that I had to find a way of being able to channel my phone directly to my ears (as if I were able to wear headphones again)  I am still £4,000 away from the ‘ideal’ ReSound hearing aids I am fundraising for.  But there has to be an interim answer, isn’t there?

 

 

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