Tag Archive for Perception

Time REALLY DOES Fly when you are having fun

Fizz sat in front of a Mini the Minx statue on the street in Dundee

As someone with sight loss, it can often be quite painful to look back.

This is because looking back is a time when there was more sight, less struggles.

However, in this instance I am looking back to actually be able to measure how far I have come.

This time five years ago I was in the midst of training with Fizz, my second guide dog.

Training with Fizz was different in many ways to when I trained with Vicky.

For starters, I didn’t have the nausea that I had had during training with Vicky (as I soon discovered I was actually pregnant with my son)

I also discovered very quickly, that although trained the same, personality played a big part in how a dog behaved and works…

Unlike Vicky, Fizz was not a licker; she was however a very tactile dog and loved to be close, preferably touching me at any opportunities.

I was also quick to learn that Vicky had actually worked on me and twisted me around her paw!

This became apparent as we trained within our local supermarket.

(With Vicky) If I had forgotten to pick something up in the aisle we would walk up-to the end of the aisle, around to the next and complete a loop to get back to the beginning. As she (Vicky) would never just turn around and go back on herself.

I just thought that this was the way this was how things were done….. How wrong I was !!!

When going to do this same move with Fizz in the supermarket my GDMI (guide dog mobility instructor) asked what I was doing, so I explained to be told in a firm (but fair) tone

You turn your dog around. Right where you are!

My GDMI referred to my previous guide dog as a ‘double diva retriever’ as she was both a flatcoat retriever and golden retriever. Which only became more clear as my training with Fizz progressed. As I worked backwards from some of the ‘habits’ Vicky had me doing to suit HER.

Fizz was also different in that she was walking at the pace I SHOULD be walking at; I say should because I hadn’t realised that as Vicky had slowed in her older age, I had simply adjusted to that too. When actually my preferred walking pace was considerably faster. However to begin with, this made it feel like I was running to keep pace. Just 10 days in to training I was already finding each day a little easier and enjoying the long walks more and more.

If I am honest, I found it much harder to train with Fizz than I did with Vicky, however my life was so different from when I started training with Vicky back in 2009.

And a massive chunk of that was actually down to Vicky; down to the freedom and independence she had given me.

I was no longer the woman who relied on others to take me places, if I wanted to do something or go somewhere, with Vicky beside me I was able to achieve this.

Home life had changed to, when I trained with Fizz I was no longer working, but instead I filled my time with volunteer roles, climbing, socialising, walking and of course caring for my children.

And now I also had the time to be able to spend time taking Vicky out each day for a (non working) walk and play at the park so that she could enjoy her retirement at home with me and the children as part of our family.

Which is where she stayed with us until she passed away at the very beginning of 2018.

Fizz picked up on my hearing loss sooner than I did; she stepped up and kept me safe when I missed the odd bike or electric car.

She has been my rock.

She has taken the independence Vicky gave me and enabled me to expand on it, we have had some amazing and sometimes crazy adventures.

It’s hard to believe that Fizz has been my leading lady for five years now, however on the other side it is also becoming clearer that at eight and a half years old, Fizz is starting to behave in ways that show me that she is starting to slow down, isn’t as keen on some situations.

And that maybe; just maybe. It may be time to think about her happiness above my own and if it’s time to look into her retirement plan.

Changing Perceptions

I am in the midst of working on my 2020 challenge, but in a bid to let Fizz work and for me to get a change of scenery we popped into town.

But not before I packed a book I am reading at the moment. An actual hard covered book with pages as not all books are produced equal and come with an audio version.

There was nothing to tempt me in the sales, so off to Caffè Nero we headed. (Other coffee shops are available)

Coffee ordered, seat located and Fizz happily hoovering crumbs; I reached for my book. Realising that in my eagerness to get out I had forgotten to pack my magnifier. No problem though, I could always just use the magnifier on my phone.

My book is fascinating, but all the will in the world I can’t hold it, my phone and my coffee cup all at the same time. So I pop my book and phone down to enjoy some coffee and give my eyes a brief break.

When I hear

“Dad, I didn’t realise blind people could read?”

From a young girl and as the saying goes ‘out of the mouths of babes’ I was not expecting to hear what came next.

In fact it was such a shock I actually found myself fighting back tears. But not in the way you may think.

“Blind people can do ANYTHING, they just have to tweak how a little. That lady is using her phone to magnify the words so they are big enough for her to read, it’s not the reading that’s the issue, it is just the seeing bit.”

His reply to his daughter was perfect. All too often parents and adults shush children when they comment on someone or something that is different. But in my experience it is simply because they do not know or understand, so rightfully they have questions. And they aren’t saying it to be embarrassing or rude.

I personally am happy to answer questions, especially from children as they are raw and genuine.

Yet on this occasion I don’t think I could have added anything to what the dad said; which was just as well because his explanation brought a tear to my eye and a lump in my throat.

Myth Bust: Blind Girls (and guys) Can Wear Contact Lenses

Just as someone who is severely sight impaired (blind) can and does often wear glasses; they are also able to (sometimes) wear contact lenses.

And why ?

For the same reason anyone else would wear contact lenses…. And for me, wearing contact lenses enables me to wear non-prescription sunglasses; among other reasons. (Vanity induced)

Until I wrote this post, it is part of me that very few know about.

Having had hard contact lenses when my sight was much more complicated as a teenager I did not get on with them.

Yet now with my simpler prescription I have been introduced to the world of soft monthly disposable lenses and for the past month or so I have been trialling them and find them so comfortable and easy to use and wear.

I thought I would write this post because earlier this week I was asked to ‘prove’ that I wore them. (By someone of authority-not just a random stranger)

This found me standing in the middle of a very busy London area, cleaning my hands, then moving and removing one of my lenses.

Which was followed by apologies and a long conversation about assumptions !! (And me getting a little bit told off for being ‘sarcastic’ )

My visual field is now at less than 3% and even with the best lenses I still can’t make out the top line of the eye chart, yet I still wish to make the most of my remaining vision and as I have found the days getting brighter (another part of my sight issue) I find contact lenses with wrap around (non-prescription) sunglasses help me with this.

I guess the point I am trying to make here is that it is the assumptions of others and people’s need for ‘proof’ of disability that needs to change; which is only going to happen by people asking questions (something most adults aren’t good at) and by people having conversations.

Those who know me, know I will happily have these conversations over and over again…. But I am just one person.

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.

Just over there

‘Over there’ is a world of myths and legends, often where ‘that way’ can be found. (Or so I am told)

It’s a place where as someone with a visual impairment upon asking for the location of something I have been directed to MANY times.

“It is a place I have never found !!”

Usually such explanation to a location comes with a wave of a hand or arm, but rarely any eye contact from the person giving the instruction.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when such directions do come with eye contact, but due to other people or a counter my guide dog is often obscured.

I am more than happy to press the matter and ask for more detailed direction. And thankfully on most occasions it has been easily obtained.

But it reminds me of how we can all become so familiar with our environments that we forget that someone new (with or without sight-loss) may not find it so easy to navigate.

I know people get flustered giving directions; do they give it from their point of view or the person asking?

If it is a shop or business and you are the employee being asked for directions the easiest way to direct someone is to walk them there.

Asking if the person would like to take your arm, explaining to them when you are turning left or right and most importantly when you are walking through a doorway, even if the door is open.

I am thankful that Fizz will fall in behind someone guiding us and simply ‘follow’ but for me I like to have the verbal directions as it means that should the need arise I can find my own way if there is a next time.

Gosh, four years since The Gherkin

Photograph of The Gherkin building behind a church with the side of The Cheesegraer on the very left of the photo

Its hard to believe that Monday this week marked four years since I took on my first challenge….. The challenge to climb The Gherkin.

A challenge that took a twist when my CPiC and I decided rather than to climb the height between us, we would climb the height each.

All 180m.

For me, ‘The Gherkin’ was to prove (mostly to myself) that I could undertake that level of endurance.  For Simon it was a slightly different challenge; for him it was about climbing blindfolded.

A challenge that together, we improved upon in May 2017 when we chose another iconic and interestingly nicknamed building of London’s skyline when we set about the challenge of scaling all 225m of ‘The Cheesegrater.

So….. 180m up a gherkin, 224m up a cheesegrater.

What number could possibly come next?

Can you keep a secret?

What if I told you the number involved was 270?

What would your thoughts be?

I can also tell you that the next challenge WON’T be a climb.  However, it will very much involve LONDON.

 

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…….

All Aboard

Stock photograph of Glasgow Central Station sign

The story starts here 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 …

Hybrids are great … BUT

…. When your visually impaired even good hearing wouldn’t have helped.

This beautifully hot summer that is killing the grass and creating havoc with everyone’s sleep is also creating issues for us guide dog owners, I am seeing friends arrive at work for 6am and getting taxis home as they must have their dogs with them.  I have been taking Fizz out early morning or late evening.

But I still have things to do.  Appointments to attend and meetings to sit in on.

Today was one such day.

Today’s meeting was at 10am, by which time temperature was already mid-twenties, knowing that I would be travelling home again by lunch.  Fizz was left with daytime tv and a cool house (all my curtains were drawn-the neighbours must thing I am sleeping all day!)

Anyway.  With my faithful hound limited to her work, I too have been limited to how much I have been walking also ….. And it’s starting to annoy me!

So today on my way home after my meeting I decided to get off the bus earlier and walk the 25 minutes home (instead of getting a second bus)

Using my cane I am walking slower, taking more time crossing the road and ‘scanning’ my route more; which is creating eye strain issues as-well.

All was going well, I was even managing to navigate the bins left precariously after the bin-men had done their rounds.

Then before I knew what had happened I felt a sharp pain in my left thigh & hip.  The moments that followed are a bit blurred and also a time that seemed to last for too long.

I must add that I am ok.  I am after all writing my blog about this.

But today I was hit by a car.

It was low speed, the car was reversing off a driveway and as the title suggests….. it was a hybrid so at such low speed wasn’t omitting any sound.

The man driving the car was quickly by my side as I found myself falling down.  I suffered bad bruising and scratches to both my thighs (one from the car, the other from the pavement) and some soreness in my hand where I put it out to push against the car.

No lasting damage and thankfully no damage to my cane or the contents of my bag (which included my iPad) from being on the side of the impact.

Bruises will fade, grazes will heal and for now I won’t be wearing any short shorts! (Although my leg looks pretty colourful!)

But for me, my confidence has been knocked.

This evening as I headed out for another meeting I found myself fearful walking past houses with driveways.  I stopped at each and every one as if it were a road crossing.

I found myself doubting my ability to do this.

I found myself wanting to turn around and go back home….. But I didn’t.  I got the bus into town and sat in the sun with a cold glass of water, pottered about getting some shopping and found myself writing this.

Hybrid cars do have their place and I am very pro them.

However the law in the EU about them having a ‘white noise’ added doesn’t take affect on new built cars until July 2019 and retrospectively added to older models until 2021.  As detailed in many newspaper articles earlier this year.  Such as this one I have included below:

Daily Mail Article May 2018

 

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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