Tag Archive for Guide dog

Myth Bust: This blind girl CAN shop!

Today I had a very rough encounter with a shop assistant. A very quizzical, judgemental encounter….. But rather than be negative, this got me thinking; unless you have a visual impairment or live within close proximity to someone who does, this may be a common misconception that anyone of my readers may also hold.

So here in a series of blogs I am going to look at busting some myths and misconceptions. Now as my blog is all about me (selfish I know!) what I write here works for me and is my point of view. Sight loss has a MAHOOSIVE variant in the many that it affects, so what works for me may not work for another. After all VIs (Visually Impaired) are unique Human beings with their own individual characteristics.

I personally love to shop! Muse through rails of clothes, feeling the different texture. I find some shops easier than others, I also have my staple ‘go to’ shops for my essentials.

When I trained with my guide dog (both of them) it was explained to me about how a dog works in certain environments. How a dog works in a supermarket for example is different to how they work in a clothes shop. And most of this is down to how we as humans move around in said shops.

Mostly because of how the shops themselves lay out their stock. A supermarket is quite regimented, with aisles and shelving. Where as clothes shops work with rails, displays and a more ‘hap-hazard’ movable approach.

So, when in a clothes shop I do not ‘work’ my guide dog Fizz. By this I mean I do not hold her harness handle and ask her to guide me around….. Manly because we wouldn’t get past the first row of clothes as the space between rails isn’t wide enough for Fizz to work properly!

So once inside a clothes store I will simply hold her lead, I will keep her on my left hand side and I will use my right hand to feel my way around the store, feeling out mostly for the ends of rails that could cause me issues if I bump them.

The stores I frequent regularly are used to me and Fizz, they even know that at times she will just lay down if I am spending too long looking at a section! After all she is a dog; she has no need or interest in clothes!

But when we go into a different shop (which doesn’t happen often) the other shoppers (as today) and the staff appear amazed by it.

Today’s encounter saw me being asked to leave. And this was because the store assistant believed that I was not VI and that my guide dog was just a pet. (Despite her harness and all her ‘uniform’ stating she is just that)

The store assistant had watched me move around, touching the clothes, but that my dog was just walking behind me. I did explain the main reason for this was because the space between the clothes was only just big enough for me to walk in, let alone Fizz to walk beside me.

I explained how I am trained with Fizz and how dropping harness means she doesn’t have to be responsible for trying to navigate in such an unnavigable space. To which the store assistant became very interested and was then asking questions out of interest not judgement.

Another point to make is that clothes shopping isn’t a rushed affair (not for me anyway) So I take my time, I can focus using what little sight I have left on navigating my way around. It’s not ideal and at times it doesn’t always work. But it is making the best of the situation.

For me, I prefer to shop alone for clothes, not be rushed or concerned with someone else getting bored or fed up with me. So this is how I work around it. It’s a quirk and it is following my guide dog training; which means I can’t be the only person who does this.

After all VIs shop, VIs go out alone and VIs above all else, have their own minds.

Personally I would not consider going clothes shopping using my long cane. As most clothes are hung on rails a cane could alert me to the floor being clear, but won’t alert me to the tops hanging from a rail (if the lighting isn’t right for me to see) And for this reason I do understand why some VIs prefer to shop with others.

So, I hope you have enjoyed this Mythe bust? Feel free to comment below on this subject or other myths you may have questions about.

Discovering just how independent I can be

This post is probably the wrong way around.  But for me it seems only right that I write this bit first……

Today I am heading home after an amazing week away with my Guiding Girl Fizz.

Today I am realising that although this journey wasn’t the one I had originally planned for, it was the journey I needed to take.

And as much as I almost found myself not taking it …. I am grateful to my own stubborn nature and my ability to plan and organise.

And the fact that I would always have wondered ‘what if?’ Had I not at least tried.

So, try I did and I am so very grateful that I did.

 

…… TO BE CONTINUED

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?

 

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

The day we caught the train

Hang on, isn’t that the title to an Ocean Colour Scene song?

Well, for me and Fizz it was a journey home from a fantastic conference and social; with The Molly Watt Trust which saw us take a rather different diversion to one I would have expected.

Friday 15th September saw a terror attack on a London tube train at Parsons Green in South West London.  One that yet again reminded us as a country that there are those among us who wish to hurt, mame and distroy the lives of innocent people.

This was a reminder that being vigilant and staying safe (especially when travelling) was very important.  It was why I had questioned if I should travel to the event this weekend in Maidenhead.

But I decided Maidenhead was far enough away from London not to allow it to affect my plans.  I had planned and double checked all of my travel arrangements and the walk from the station to the hotel several times over (nothing different in that, I do it each time)

So, Fizz and I packed our case and off we went.  The train journey saw us change at Reading.  A station that has undergone lots of work to give it one central walkway, which is up above the train platforms and access is gained to the platforms by escalators and lifts.  The central concorse is home to shops and a verse open space.

This gave to it a very ’empty’ feel.   It also made it hard for me to find assistance to help me negotiate to the correct platform to travel from Reading onto Maidenhead.  So having finally found assistance, we were able to continue with our journey.

It was at this point the staff member that helped us let me know that for the weekend most of Reading railway station would be closed for routine work, with buses replacing trains.

That wasn’t an issue, it would simply just delay or trip home.  Not one I was concerned about.

Well, returning to Maidenhead railway station on Saturday saw me and Fizz greated by friendly GWR train staff,  they asked me where I was heading and gave me a diversion that I was not expecting.

Given the bus replacement services, I could get a bus to Reading, where I would then transfer to another bus and travel onto Basingstoke.  Where I would then get a train to Southampton before the final leg of the journey on a train to fareham.

Or……..

I could go to London!

A direct train would see us arrive at London Paddington in just over half an hour.  Where we could get a tube on the Bakerloo lint to Oxford Circus before transferring to the Victoria Line Tube, to London Victoria from where I would be able to get a direct train to Fareham.

Given the events of Friday in London I was anxious, but at the thought of saving over an hour on the journey home, I had to put my anxieties to one side and just go with it and know, that if anything given Fridays’ incident, people would be more alert and hopefully helpful.

We soon arrived at London Paddington, not long had I stepped off the train with Fizz and stood to the side to gain my bearings than i was approached by a Policeman.  He introduced himself to me, explained who he was and asked me how he could help.

I explained  I was trying to get to the tube station to get across London, so he took me to a member of staff who worked for transport for London (TfL) who kindly walked me and Fizz through the crowds and straight to the right tube train.  He put us in the front carriage and radio’d through to a colleague at Oxford Circus.

And sure enough a lovely TfL staff member was waiting for me and Fizz.  She walked us through to the Victoria Line, where again she placed me and Fizz in the front carriage and radio’d ahead.

All of these journey’s were taking place late afternoon early evening on a Saturday, a day that is by its very nature a busy day.  But everyone I came into contact with was chatty, friendly and happy to offer help.

Maybe it was because of Friday’s attack, but everyone in London and especially on the Tube on Saturday seemed to be much more ‘together’ much less rushed and more friendly to those around them that weren’t ‘natives’ to this vast city.

Arriving at Victoria tube station, me and Fizz were greated by a fantastic TfL member of staff.  He not only guided us through the tube station, he also allowed us to ‘cut through’ locked gates and closed escalators to enable us to get through to the main Victoria Train station, where he was all ready to take me to my platform to get my train, before I said I would be having a break at the station, take Fizz out for some grass and get a much needed coffee.  He kindly walked us to the exit for the park and wished us safe travels.

The TfL staff and both police and transport police get a lot of ‘stick’ for just doing their jobs, they are not always praised for it.  I wanted to write this blog to show my appreciation.

I have always received great support from staff and police while travelling.  But Saturday was over and above what I had ever expected.  London police were out in force and clearly had a job to do.

The initial police office did not HAVE TO offer his help, but he did.

The TfL staff member didn’t have to radio ahead for assistance to wait for me, but he did.

The second TfL staff member didn’t have to radio ahead to Victoria, but again….. She did.

And just as the last member of TfL staff didn’t have to take me on a ‘shortcut’ or guide me right to my train platform….. He did (or rather would have had we not detoured to a grass spot!)

So, a journey that sounded horrendous was made so much more bearable by kindness and friendliness of strangers.  Because the support didn’t stop there.  Several times as Victoria train station I was asked by both staff and fellow travellers if I needed any help.

And even on our train home, one that due to my own mistake would see me and Fizz needing to change just one last time (I got on the Portsmouth train, instead of the Southampton train)  But with a simple step off one train and Havant and then almost straight back on another train (without the need to change platforms) I received so much support and offers of help.

I think it sometimes takes a horrible event, like that of Friday for people to come together and support those around them that may not find the journey as easy as them.

I would like to extend my thanks to all the men and women who helped me and others in and around London over the last few days.

 

…….. THANK YOU …….

 

 

On the buses …… audio failures

As a girl with a visual impairment, having tech on bus journeys or train journeys are key to my ability to be independent.  If such an option isn’t available then I will set myself up to use another method of knowing my location and when or where I am to get off.

so imagine my surprise and upset when half way through a bus journey yesterday evening, I find that the audio has stopped?

I was travelling to an poorly lit area, I had Fizz with me and as I got on the bus I checked with the driver that audio was on.  And as we set off, the audio read out the next stop, confirming what the driver had told me.  All good, I could feel safe and secure that I could just sit enjoying the ride and await my stop to be read out.

There seemed to be a long pause in the audio.  I checked with another passenger sat near me and he confirmed that the screen (as the audio on buses is teamed with a visual; just like on the train) was reading the next stop, but he hadn’t been paying attention and didn’t know where we were as he was getting off at the last stop, so didn’t need to know.

it was then moments later that the audio returned, only to read out a destination that was much further along the route, a good 45 minute walk back to where I needed to be if I had got off then!

so instead I travelled back to the bus station and started the journey again.

This time, when I got on the bus I asked the driver for my specific stop and asked him to ensure that he stopped there for me, he said the bus had audio, but understood my concern following my previous journey.

The audio on this bus was on, it also continued to detail each and every stop, so I was aware of where I was and when I was due to get off.

I put it down to a glitch and having safely arrived at my destination all be it an hour later, I forgot all about it.

That was until this evening.  This time I was travelling with my son home after a shopping trip.  Again, it was dark but I was more aware of my surroundings as it is a journey I have done thousands of times.

Again, the bus left the station and the audio announced the next stop.  This continued until just before we were due to get off the bus, we were literally around the corner and the audio stopped.  I could work out roughly were we were, and having stopped at several stops to let people in and off of the bus, there were no further announcements.

Thankfully a block of flats lit the way to enable me to work out that we were approaching our stop.  But again, the audio had let me down.

Memtioning it to the driver as we got off the bus he simple said “I don’t pay any attention, I couldn’t tell you it had stopped.”

So, what is a gal to do?

I shall be sending this blog to the bus company, is it just really bad luck that I have encountered this issue?  Is it a relay issue with the bus audio?

I know that my hearing is going, but to hear the audio and then to not hear the audio….., that isn’t me?

I feel that I am not able to trust the audio on my bus journeys anymore, and with the dark early evenings. This is making me feel that going out after dark isn’t an option.  Or do I just walk?

Lots of questions.  But I am totally stuck with whatever I do.

Fun with Fizz

Today we (me & Fizz) found ourselves faced with a very different challenge.

Our local coop currently has one of its outer shutters down, so we have a slightly odd turn at the top of the steps by the door.  The door is set at a 45* degree angle to the corner of the building, meaning that when both shutters are down, the building looks square, yet with them both open, you can access from either side through the same entrance. (With one down, we have to walk around to the other, which isn’t at all an issue of difficult to do)

So, we did the turn & Fizz stopped dead and sat down.  This is a very odd thing for her to do.

She doesn’t just sit down like this if there is an obstacle, if there were an obstacle she would remain standing and then guide me around.  If she couldn’t guide me around it, she would turn me around to indicate the way was blocked.

Today she just sat, nothing would move her!

I focused in on a bull dog type dog sat by the railings a little way up, it’s tail was wagging and it wasn’t barking.

This is normally all the invitation Fizz would need to rush me over to say hello; yet she still sat.  So it wasn’t the dog!
Maybe it was a bike laid on the ground, I scanned but saw nothing….

A man came out the shop but before I could ask him, he rushed past and away.

Curious !!
Then out came a lady with a trolley and my mystery was solved

sorry dear, my cat has come out for a walk with me and my dog, he is sitting between you and the door.

So I scanned, I was able to work out another animal, about the same size as the bull dog and also similar colouring.

It was a cat!

It was a very HUGE cat, and he was happily sitting licking his paw with his tail wagging, just like the dog !!
Knowing now the situation I asked Fizz to walk on; nothing!

She did move eventually, but only then cower behind me until the cat had walked past !!

My clever.  Highly trained.  Intelligent. Problem solving guide dog is officially a WIMP.

Jumping without a parachute …

Who needs a comfort zone anyway?  Last weekend I not only stepped out of mine, I jumped out of it without my parachute !!

Not even those closest to me may have even realised the inner turmoil I was battling with …… Fizz knew, she kept me calm, she kept me from falling apart and she kept me safe every time I needed her to put on her harness and be my eyes.

Any event/conference/summer spectacular is daunting for many!

A room with 2,000 other people is also terrifying in itself!

Then add to the mix you can only see shapes and colours; the lighting is set up as corporate and moves with the music; the music that is loud, pumped out around the room to ‘raise the roof’ to ‘motivate’ and to ‘excite’ EVERYONE in the room.

Having recently decided to stop ‘messing around with diets and fads’ and actual take control of my eating, my inner nutrients and my health, I looked to my cousin for support.  She introduced me to Herbalife, a safe, clean, nutrition fuelled way of eating, not a ‘diet product’ rather a way to live, a way to improve myself from the inside out, while being able to support me through training, rock climbing, bringing up my children and running around with each of my volunteer roles.

… Fast forward a few months and here I was, sat in Manchester, watching, learning and feeling empowered by The Herbalife Summer Spectacular.

The chosen venue was literally a large box!  A MASSIVE exhibition space that was broken up and segmented by heavy curtains, false walls and carpeting.

Having previously been to Manchester a few years ago, this didn’t concern me.  With the new Google Street View App on my phone I was able to walk around the outside of EventCity, I was able to find Starbucks, plan how to get from the hotel in MediaCity, again having visited the area before, I felt OK here.

I had a room-mate for the weekend, she absolutely adored Fizz and was wonderful, even volunteering to take her out for walks having never met either of us before.

…. Back to the venue…. I was invited to sit at the front of the room, an area reserved for those prestige members, an adjustment made just for me if it would help me see the event clearer.  Sadly no where I sat would have done that, so I stayed sat with my cousin and her friends.  Fizz was fabulous, she was so calm and took all the noises and light changes in her stride, not letting it bother her at all.

In the evening, we returned to EventCity for a dinner and awards ceremony.  I though I would be OK, I though that I now knew the venue and would be OK.  I had realised in the 2 hours that we had left the venue for, that the room had changed, the big round tables were still in place, but upon our return they were dressed in white linen cloths, fully dressed with red, white and blue balloons.  The large screens were in place also, but now decorated with the same colours, there was now also a checkered dance floor and the lighting was much dimmer.

Dressed to match the colours, as advised on the invitation I found a seat with my roomy and sat down to enjoy the show.  I had preordered drinks, that she kindly collected from the bar, we had a fabulous time, laughing, chatting and watching the awards ceremony; that saw my cousins husband won first prize of £10,000 !!!

The food was interesting and incredibly difficult….. Apparently it looked very pretty, but served on white plates with dim lights and light coloured food, it was a bit of a struggle for a VIP like me !

I survived though, my anxiety didn’t get the better of me, I had a pretty good time and I am now going to be giving away my inner turmoils of the weekend to those who were with me and will hopefully be reading this.


 

 

Way back when I wrote for Guide Dogs….

Tee stood in Cascade Shopping Centre on the campaign day with Fizz laid on the floor at my feet.

My whole reason for writing this blog is to raise awareness, share some of the crazy hiccups that occur along the way on my journey in a world of sight loss.

I enjoy campaigning about issues that I found myself affected by.  So, way back in September I supported Guide Dogs on a campaign day collecting signatures for a petition to ‘The Big 5.’  For which I wrote a one off blog for guidedog.org.uk, which is linked below.

Pavement Parking causing headaches.

Perfect vision …. If only in hindsight.

Isn’t it crazy how even to someone with poor eye sight, hindsight has perfect vision?

Read more

Page Reader Press Enter to Read Page Content Out Loud Press Enter to Pause or Restart Reading Page Content Out Loud Press Enter to Stop Reading Page Content Out Loud Screen Reader Support
%d bloggers like this: