Tag Archive for Ushers

What a difference a year makes

Selfie photograph of my face, with a scarve on that is blue with red popppies. I am wearing my glasses and my hearing aids with my hair

On 20th March 2017 I found myself sat in the audiologists office having my hearing aids fitted; which I wrote about in What does sound sound like?.

I had previously been told I would only need a hearing aid for my right ear, yet when I arrived at my appointment I was actually fitted with a hearing aid for both my left and right ear; a pleasant suprise, yet a very welcome on.  Because in giving me hearing aids for both ears the audiologist was able to programme the strength in each side differently so that I heard the same.

I wont’t lie, I hated wearing them.

It took me a long time to get used to ‘hearing’things again.  The little things, like the kitchen clock; the dogs gnawing on their bones; the sound of my feet on the pavement.  But (following the audiologists advice) I soon learnt to ‘not hear’ or rather ‘tune out’ these sounds; sounds that my brain had learnt to ignore (just as it does for most people who can hear perfectly well)

I also quickly learnt how little and inconspicuous my hearing aids were.  With very few people realising that I actually wore them.

When they were originally fitted, I had them set by the audiologist to automatically adjust with no input from me.  However this was not while I got used to them.

In July ((1 beep, 2 beep, 3 beep, 4) I had my hearing aids adjusted and since then I have gone from strength to strength in using them and wearing them each and every day, just as I would with my glasses (even though I now get so little from wearing them-wearing them is a daily habit)

I have also added to my ‘tech’ to go with my hearing aids, with my amplicomms personal t-loop system I am able to listen friends in busier environments, have calls streamed directly into my ears with the microphone around my neck; I am also able to listen to audible and music too.

My CPiC and I are working on using it as an aid to my climbing….. But that is a whole other blog post!!

So, what have I gained in the last year?

I have learnt that just like glasses for me, hearing aids to not ‘fix’ my hearing; however they do enable me to hear more and clearer than if I don’t wear them.

I have been able to feel safer out and about, especially with hearing traffic and its direction.  So much so, that in recent months I have gone back to enjoying walking into town (about 2.5 miles) with Fizz guiding me.

I have also learnt that I can ‘shut out’ noise if I want to sit quietly with a cuppa or a cold pint, then I can turn my hearing aids down, put them into the induction loop setting and I can sit peacefully.  So I can have ‘selective’ hearing too!!

Its been an interesting year of wearing hearing aids, I would be lying if I said I am getting used to them….. But I am finding the postitives with them, both with my own hearing and with the connections I have made with other people who have hearing and sight issues.

I am still wanting to work on fundraising for my own pair or ReSound Hearing Aids, which are so much more ‘tech’ friendly with my iPhone and Apple Watch, but that is a work in progress.

 


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Silly Self-Consciousnesses

The sun is out and so are the sunglasses!

Hello Sun…….

This leaves me feeling a little ‘vunersble’ though.  You see I have continued to wear my glasses as a way of ‘hiding’ even though I gain very little from them when I am out and about.

It is a comfort, because I don’t like how my eyes look.  Having always worn glasses it feels like I have huge dark circles around them, that they are ‘sunken’ within my head.  And because it appears more ‘obvious’ that I have a sight issue when people can see the continual movement of my eyes.

Team these ‘anxieties’ with the fact that I feel that my hearing aids are ‘HUGE and OBVIOUS’ when really they aren’t and you can see where my self-consciousness comes from?

Today though, today was a small victory kinda day…..

Sat enjoying a cuppa, tea it’s Fizz curled up at my feet; it was only when a woman tapped me on the shoulder that I realised I was being spoke to.

You see, not only did I have my sunglasses on my head, butI also had my ‘Amplicomms’ personal T-Loop system around my neck like a large lanyard.

But to the ‘unknowning eye’ it wasn’t as ‘obvious’ !!!

Today for the first time in a long time I am also wearing my hair up in a ponytail (instead of the usual plaits) which to me makes it feel like my hearing aids are in full view of everyone; when in-fact they are hardly noticeable!

So, pausing the book I was listening to, I apologised to the woman for not hearing her and it was very pleasing to hear her reply

“I would have never guessed you had hearing aids in, or that you couldn’t see me, I couldn’t see you wearing headphones; I just thought you were ignoring me!”

Maybe I am the only one who feels self-conscious like this, or maybe this is a ‘common’ feeling amongst those with sight loss and hearing loss.

Either way, a strangers comments made me feel slightly happier with myself today.


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Inspiration comes in MANY forms

Today marks International Women’s Day.  A day where social media and such goes CRAZY over ‘inspiring women’ well I am bucking that trend.  I think that inspiration can come from ANYONE.  Man, Woman, Human, Animal ….. You get the idea!

In recent months with my changing hearing and sight I have been working hard on myself.  On how I deal with a situation and how I do not allow my ‘disabilities’ to take away my sparkle, to rob me of my mood or emotions.

If I said it was an easy task I would be lying.  But it has been a task I have set about with great vigger and enthusiasm; not always successfully I may add.

Within my climbing, Be it with fellow Para climbers or (regular) climbers I am free, everyone at any wall is always happy to offer support or suggest a different move Or body position.  But some of my greatest inspiration has come from fellow Para-climbers.

From my very on CPiC who has Fibromyalgia and Aspergers, he is continually in pain or ‘foggy’ which high levels of medication can simply ‘reduce’ but not ‘cure’,  He finds a great strength from within to push through it and to climb his ass off, always pushing himself and yet still there to offer me continual support and help ME with my climbing.

There is also my dear friend Anoushé,  her ‘visable’ disability is that she has no arm from just below her elbow on her right side.  She also has many other health conditions that are ‘invisable’

Anoushé is climbing within a ‘chimney’ at Ratho Climbing centre, she is surrounded by pink jug and bicycles handlebar type holds, her left hand is about head hieght on a hold and she is just moving her right arm, which is covered in white tape at the end onto a similar hold

We first met in September 2016 in Ratho, the first paraclimbing competition for us both.  And we have grown closer upon each meeting and now regularly try to fit in training sessions together.

I look at Anoushé and feel humbled to watch her climb (mostly via videos or in photographs )  As a guide dog owner and a long cane user I am more often than not walking with either my right or left hand full (be it with a harness or a cane) but if I REALLY needed to use both my hands, I can.

I am not, nor will I ever compare my disabilities to another person (not even another hearing and visually impaired person) as just as humans we are unique; how we live with ‘differing-abilities’ is also unique.

My disabilities have been a platform for me to meet so many people from different backgrounds, and just as I believe there is something to learn from each of the people who have come and gone from my own life; I hope that others can look to me for those lessons and ‘alternative’ views.

So, today on International women’s day I want to say THANK YOU to all of those who have enabled me to grow.


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Fears

Fear is a strange thing.

It can come from no where and just APPEAR before you even realise it is there, then it can stop you from achieving so much, holding you back from something that you don’t even realise is a SOMETHING.

For me, I have a fear of falling. Literally falling, not metaphorically falling.

Which you would think as a climber would be ‘part of the territory’ for me; and actually partly it is. However there is a big difference between taking a fall on a rope to taking a fall on a bouldering wall.

The most obvious of which is the lack of rope! That rope that even when I am 17 ft up a wall doesn’t guarantee I won’t hurt myself on the wall; or swing out; or come down a fair distance because of the give in the rope, or my belayer leaving too much slack.

And there are also times when I make a move on a roped climb and I am not actually at a height where the rope would have an affect. But it is a security, it is a safety net and one that even if it is purely psychological at times makes me feel safe.

When I boulder (outside of competitions) there are no top ropes, no safety net. It is all on me…..

And that is scary and fearful and makes me emotional just writing this.

One thing that I see other climbers doing, and I have watched dozens of instruction videos about, is jumping down from the wall.

Not from the very top, but most definitely from a height at least as tall as they are.

Which for me; as someone who cant even see the floor when I am stood on it, the thought of jumping any height is where my fear of falling comes from. You see, or rather I can’t see, so can’t work out where the floor is and how quickly I will approach it.

And it is this fear of falling and not being able to get off of a climb that has stopped me from wanted to boulder. It is only on the odd route where I can actually ‘top out’ climbing over the top of the wall and coming back down via the cafe seating that I happily give it a go.

All routes on a bouldering wall are colour coded. So you can go to ANY wall within the centre and know exactly what level the climb before you is. I had no real intention of actually bouldering on this evening. But then my CPiC said

“You need to be aiming for yellow”

I looked at the colour chart, I looked at the yellow and then I replied,

“I’m just going to work on biscuits”

As in the colour, not the food!

And why biscuit?

Well, basically biscuit is v0, the easiest of all the climbs. But it wasn’t because of the ease of the climbs, tonight I had decided I was going to work on something in a different way.

I was going to work on my fear.

My fear of falling and my fear of how I would get back off of the wall. As I said before, jumping down when you can’t even see your feet makes the ground a scary place. And as I had previously had to be ‘lifted’ off of the wall by my CPiC because I totally froze and couldn’t go either up nor down. (Something that he didn’t want to be repeating every time I attempted a boulder)

The climbs were easy, they were also over far too quickly (v0 climbs don’t tend to be high)

However it wasn’t about the climbing up, it was more about the coming down. And this is a point that anyone who climbs will tell you is actually harder than going up in the first place.

So, how do you climb down?

I often climb up by allowing my feet to follow where my hands have been, I didn’t know how I could just reverse this process seeing as I couldn’t actually see where my feet were.

I stopped thinking……….

May sound silly, but thinking too much is often my downfall.

It didn’t matter what holds I used to get down, I didn’t stick to biscuit, I just took the holds that felt safe and in reach. A reach that I naturally found myself doing with ease when I crouched down, climbing my hands down the wall first to enable me to then move my feet.

As good as it felt not to be scared of going up as I knew how to get down, I was exhausting myself.

Climbing down is harder than going up (I think I said that already) ……

But how do you jump when you can’t see the floor?

Maybe that was my problem? I was fixing on something I couldn’t see, rather than working with something that I could see. When I am on a roped wall I can’t see the floor. I don’t even look down anymore. I just sit back in my harness and walk down the wall with my belayer counting me down to the floor. (Initially he would just sit me down on the floor in my harness)

So, to jump off the wall. This is where the trouble with thinking reared its head again! I just kept thinking about it. So much so that I had built it up to be a lot more than it actually was.

With my CPiC spotting me (standing behind me) he put his hand on me to ‘show me’ where he stood against me (height wise) and knowing that he is just short of 6 ft I could gauge where I was compared to the floor.

But I couldn’t jump.

I had to climb down further.

And even then I just couldn’t jump.

As I said, I was thinking too much……. I knew the floor (safety matting) is spongy and have some give in it. So I knew I wouldn’t be landing on solid ground (for good reason too) but knowing that the floor would move made me even more scared of it.

I needed to just do it.

But how do I jump?

I was holding onto the wall…..
I was crouched down slightly……
I was less than waist height from the floor……
I just had to let go and jump down…………………….. But I couldn’t do it……………

I forgot how to jump.
It was that ‘thinking’ thing again……

So, letting go with my hands first and then i jumped……..
Only I didn’t …… Not really ………………………………………..

I forgot to bend my knees.
I landed with a thud.
It was purely because of my CPIC that I didn’t fall backwards.

I failed………….
I tried again…………

I struggled again………..
I forgot to bend my knees………

I ended up head butting the wall in front of me………
I went back to climbing off the wall……………………….

I faced a fear, and although I didn’t over come it, I tried. I gained a better understanding of my position on the wall.

I moved to purple holds,

I worked on my technique.

I worked on my starting point on the wall. I worked on my start, pulling myself up from an almost sitting position on the wall and I focussed my energy on something else.

While my CPiC was busy with his own climbs I found myself relaxing about the jump down, I climbed down to the floor, then climbed back up several holds and jumped……

The benefit of me doing it is that I couldn’t see how stupid I looked (I felt stupid enough) I bounced on the matting, I sometimes stayed on my feet and sometimes not.

But each time I jumped I landed without hurting myself or anyone else.

It may well have looked ridiculous; your probably reading this thinking it sounds ridiculous. But do you know something. That doesn’t matter.

Because despite thinking, despite fear. I DID IT.


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New Year; New Challenges

And no, this isn’t about setting a (be it a belated) Resolution.  This is about the realisation that after just over a month into 2018 I have faced and fought, fought and (sometimes) lost and lost and re-found my own sense of strength.

If you are a regular reader you will know that this year started with the sad loss of my first guide dog Vicky.

But with the sadness of loosing her; along with the adjustment of ‘just having Fizz’ I found a passion.

A passion that has always been in me, but for one reason….. Or rather one EXCUSE or another I had forgotten it.

It is so easy to forget those simple passions that can bring such pleasure when ‘life’ keeps getting in the way.

Anyway, I digress……

When we said goodbye to Vicky I suddenly realised how much I loathed being at home.  How I couldn’t bare the ‘silence’, the little things about her like hearing her dream.

It also took me several weeks to ‘forget’ to say hello to her when we came in.

One of the strangest things was coming home to a silent house! Because for the past 3 years I have always left on the tv or the radio to keep her company, so she didn’t feel alone.

So, as painful and upsetting as returning to a quiet house was, sitting in one was even worse!

And this is where my passion reignited.

When the children weren’t home (because of school or being with their dads) I disappeared off for a walk.

The beauty of a walk is that Fizz could always come too.  The beauty of a walk is that I could just ‘stomp’ out my upset.

The other beauty of walking is that I could track it all on my Apple Watch, to judge the distance, to track my pace and after several weeks to gauge how my fitness had improved, because the very same walk from my house to town isn’t taking as long!

The other bonus of my walking is that I could feel free.  I don’t need to rely on another person to walk, I don’t need to rely on any equipment or memberships.

I just ‘harness up’ Fizz and head out.

Sometimes we get the bus to the beach, sometimes we take a different route into town.  And other times we enjoy a stomp through the muddy bridal ways en route to the pub with friends!

Your probably wondering why I am telling you all this in this post?  Well, you see I have decided to make this walking count.

I haven’t finalised the details yet, but with a group of friends I am looking to complete The Three Peak Challenge in late Summer.  Its just over 26 miles and with a tour guide is a walk that is set to take between 9 and 12 hours to complete.  And for obvious reasons (such as exhaustion, concentration and distractions) it is one walk that Fizz won’t be completing with me!

But that doesn’t mean that she can’t help with my training !!

And why I hear you ask……..

Well, you see ReSound have just made a massive development with their hearing aids, having raised just over £1,000 for them, I want to ‘earn’ the remaining £2,500 towards enabling me to purchase the new and improved LinX 3D (an improvement on the LinX 2 that I had previously tried.

So, one the challenge is set up you can show your support with words of encouragement, pennies to help reach the target OR by joining in on the walk yourself.

Domation can be made via the Just Giving Page Help TINK Hear


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Overheard in Costa (other coffee shops are available)

 “you can tell your teacher tomorrow how you saw a guide dog being trained, that is a very special dog and once that lady has trained him he will look after a blind person.”

“Mummy isn’t that lady blind?”

“No darling that lady isn’t blind, she wouldn’t be out on her own in coffee shops if she was!”

This whole conversation tickled me and I shared it with my friends on Facebook.

I would usually correct the mum, but on this occasion I wasn’t feeling myself so didn’t.

For which I am now kicking myself; I also find myself asking

“Why can’t a guide dog user go into a coffee shop alone?”


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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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Silvers nice ….. Yet Bronze is prettier

This weekend saw the 3rd round of the BMC Paraclimbing series.

Manchester Climbing Centre was the venue – A beautiful former church, which has kept many of its original features, not to mention the lack of heating!! (Which was clearly felt this weekend ‘tup-north)

The routes were set, the atmosphere was buzzing and the turn out was phenomenal.

Selfie of me with Guide Dog Fizz with the Climbing Centre behind us and showing a large round stain glass window at the top Centre of the photograph

 

There were six competitors in female VI (according to the entry list anyway)  and Abi a fellow vi Climber who often ‘flashed’ all her routes and boulders was here.  So barring a natural disaster I set myself up for the best I could achieve would be a silver.

….. So what is a FLASH I hear you ask …..

To ‘Flash’ all routes and boulders is to get to the top hold on the first attempt.  With the top rope climbing routes you only had one go to get the best score or to ‘flash’ the route, but with the boulder problems you are given 3 opportunities.  Scoring a bonus 2 points if you succeed on the first go.

Anyway, I set myself the personal challenge to beat my scores from the same competition last year.  Knowing that the climbs had been set harder, this was my way of judging how I had improved in the past year.

This is the same challenge I have set myself for each of the rounds.  However one that, despite topping more routes and reaching higher in the routes I didn’t top, I didn’t actually achieve this in Edinburgh.  But as we don’t climb the EXACT same routes each year this isn’t always a clear sign of improvement, they may have changed the scoring against how everyone performed last year.

This was certainly the case for the 2nd round this year; after 3 of the 4 Male VI climbers scored maximum points, the route setters upped the challange for London.  Given that the 3rd top rope in Manchester was graded as a 7a (2a grades above my comfort zone) the Competition was seen to be set for a much higher status.

Usually as the routes go, boulder 1 and top rope 1 are lower grades, I flashed boulder 1, yet took a silly slip on top rope 1, costing me 26 points.

Photo shows me on toprope 1, just before I slipped. This is about 2/3rds up the route.

I got further on top rope 2 and just under the first ledge on top rope 3 (where I hadn’t expected to get too far from the ground!)

Photograph of me on top rope 3, my right hand is up on an underhand hold, my right leg is bent and the move I need to make is to stand up on my right to reach over the red ledge with my left hand.... I didn’t reach it!

The second boulder was a challange and one I had hoped to return to after a break (but time ran away from me) while boulder 3 was set as a challange to most.  I was happy to get the minimum points of 47 on this as it was such a hard set.  47 Out of 60 meant I got both my feet off of the ground, which given there was only one foot hold and the hand holds had an interesting placement was quite an achievement and similar to many of my fellow competitors.

This photograph is of boulder 2, I managed to get one hand hold higher having moved my right foot to a higher hold.    

Had time allowed I think a 3rd attempt on this route would have seen me complete it.

But time didn’t allow.

The sheer volume of competitors and lack of volunteers who could belay meant that the competition ran over by 35 minutes as it was.  In which time I competed in the 3rd top rope, where I found myself scoring much higher than I expected.

Once the competition was over it was time to calm down, take off my climbing shoes (hello feet) and harness and await the results.

There were no podium blocks, but an innovative use of the stone steps that led upto the bouldering area and my catagory was read out.

As expected, 1st place went to Abi (which I congratulated her on) then 2nd place …….. Me!

I took my podium; accepted my medal and had my picture taken.

There had been no 3rd place on the podium which I had felt was odd, but had honestly thought the person named as 3rd had left.

It was only after all the podiums were announced that the organiser explained that the medals that hadn’t been handed out in London were ready for collection.  It was at this point I discovered that a fellow female VI had been mis-catagoried and was in fact 2nd.  So back went my shiny silver medal and out came the beautiful bronze!

Sadly it was too late to re-take the podium photographs. So the only one I have is of me with my silver.  So here is my ‘incorrect’ Podium photo showing me beside the beautiful Abi.

Photograph of me stood on the left hand side of stone steps with a silver medal and certificate with Fizz stood beside me and fellow climber and gold medal winner Abi on the right


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Familiarity is a Blind Gals Best friend

Just as a car driver does not need to actually look at the gear stick to change gears in a car, there are places where I can move around with great ease without the need to see.

To a degree I can walk around in my local gym without the need for my cane or guide dog. The machines all have their set place, it is just me needing to focus on where the other gym goers are, although given the location of the mirrors and the windows in the gym I can easily become disorientated.

One such place I do not need to look is my own home.

Although this does not include my childrens’ bedrooms ….. These are the only two places in my home that I walk with shuffled feet and taking extra care.  But then I have it on good authority that many of my sighted parents do the very same thing in their childrens bedrooms as they are a minefield of Lego, cars, clothes and all things child!

I can also extend this ease of movement to The Scout Hut where I volunteer, although with this environment I have to factor in moving children.  However the main hall, entrance hall and kitchen are set out in such a way that apart from the odd additional table, everything has its place.

Suprisingly another place that I can move with ease is Calshot Climbing Centre.  For obvious reasons the walls never move.  Even though the holds and routes on the walls may alter.  The blue fencing around the climbing walls and the black cubbyhole benches don’t move.  It is just the climbers, their gear and the ropes that do.

The wall also has marked out areas on the floor where you can and cant walk.  These are depicted by a dark red floor for the climbers and belayers to stand in and a black mat flooring where you can wait, stand and walk without being in the way of a climber or their belay partners.  Although saying this, there is not much contrast between the two colours and if I don’t concentrate I can occasionally get it wrong.  But generally I am ok.  Although if I am moving between different climbs; for ease I will link into the arm of my CPiC.

Should I need to go and top up my water bottle or pick up a set of hold keys, because a hold has slipped, I can do this unaided and unsupervised by my partner.  Although I will often ask him

Is there a clear path?

I know to walk with my head down, so that I can look out for objects on the floor.  I also find myself asking others if they are belaying if there is the odd person stood.  Because although I can see the person, I would really struggle to see the rope they were holding on to and as a considerate climber, I would never want to walk near a belayer that may need to suddenly move to support their climber.

This familiarity that is great for me is often an issue of concern for those who do not know me.  Especially as I tend to wear a top that says ‘Blindclimber’ on the back.

I have previously, in other circumstances had people question my blindness.  It is a common occurrence and one that does not faze me. It does however occasionally upset me when people are critical and rude in the way they question.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, Friday while climbing I had one such occurance.

The climbing wall was cold.  So while belaying I had my fleece on.  This covered my top.  So as is usual, I don’t look up to watch my partner climb.  Not because I am rude, but because once his feet are over my head height I can’t see very much of him.  And because I feel is climbing and movements through the rope; I learnt a long time I didn’t have to get neck ache and pretend.

This does however often lead to other climbers (not so) quiet whispers of

Oh my God, he isn’t safe up there.

How can he be safe with her? She isn’t even watching him!

Wow, he’s brave.  How can someone belay without looking out for the guy on the rope?

This is a conversation I have had many a time with my CPiC, he knows I have him.  He knows he is safe.  He would not be happy to climb if he didn’t feel either of them.

Friday was very much the same.  With my fleece on the group of three chatting by us were not so subtle in their conversation and accusations.  So me being the outspoken, no shit personality that I am.  Without them even asking, I politely said

Hey, just so you guys are aware, I can’t see too well, so if you are climbing near here you will need to be more aware of where my partner is as I can’t warn him of where you may be on the wall.

This was met with the usual mumbles and apologies as they were well aware that I had overheard them talking.  And as such were very detailed in the position they were going to climb, which was actually several climbs over and no where near (but this I also already knew from the direction of their voices and the movement of their rope bag)

But it enabled me to make my point and be heard loud and clear.

So, it was my time to climb and off came the fleece.  The back of my top visable and I never thought anything more of it.

That was until later in the evening when I went to full up my water bottle  (afterall when it is cold it is just as important to be hydrated!). and The Three Amigos were sat around the other side of the wall laughing and joking.  I was met with

She can’t really be blind, look she is walking with such confidence she can clearly see what she is doing.  Why would you lie?

I don’t even warrant such comments with an answer.  I just got my water and went back to my partner.  He instantly realised I was bothered by something and so I told him, he knows how this gets to me and told me (sincerely) to ignore them and enjoy the climb.

Which is exactly what I did.

And exactly what I will continue to do each and every time someone questions my abilities.

Afterall, those who are technically blind can often see something.  And they will use that minimal sight to appear as ‘normal’ as the next person.  I don’t believe I am any different to others in that way?

Or maybe I am?  Why don’t you put your comments below.  I am always interested in people views.


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When Molly and Chris gave a Masterclass

Image of Members of the group sat around a large table with phones, iPads and other tech sat on the table with numerous cups of tea, coffee and water with Molly stood at the head of the table showing her iPad:

Would you think of a pair of glasses as a mobility aid?

When you see an item every day and used by everyone then it becomes ‘the norm’ and not seen as an aid to support someone with a disability.

There are many products that are designed to support those with disabilities, these include glasses, hearing aids, walking sticks, wheelchairs and even other everyday products like iPhones and iPads.

It may not seem like it to a person who has no sensory or motor disabilities, yet all apple products were designed with accessibility and intergration as their base principle.

There are obviously other computer operating systems, programmes and technologies available.  But as a Mac (made famous in a Mitchell & Webb sketch) which I have been ever since I studied at university; way back when Apple Macintosh was for everything design and Windows was for everything administrative.

I have spoken before of my liking for Apple products, and in this I am not alone.  Molly from The Molly Watt Trust is a big believer and user of Apple products, her charity have also helped to support and fund those with Ushers Syndrome by funding an Apple Watch programme as she herself had found its features so very beneficial.

As part of an Ushers Social and awareness weekend (The Weekend that almost wasn’t) Molly was going to give a presentation similar to that that she gives to large companies about accessibility and awareness.

Her work as a Keynote speaker and accessibility advisor sees her working alongside Chris from Sigma (https://www.wearesigma.com/) Among others.

Molly explained the way in which she made use of the accessibility on her iPad.  She spoke of the obvious ‘voice-over’ and how she didn’t use it, how she found ‘zoom’ and ‘speak screen’ more neneficial to her.

She spoke of how you could set you home button triple click to bring you a list of accessibility options.  Including how to use your camera as a magnifier.

These little ‘nuggets’ of information were some that I was aware of and some that I wasn’t.

Since the latest iOS update there was also a rather clever new accessibility feature called ‘smart invert’ this is where the screen and text are inverted in the colours used, but the p have photographs are not……. Savi g confusion with colours when looking at images.

Chris spoke of how accessibility is in the every day, how as I said at the start of this post , “ when something is used and seen every day it becomes the ‘norm’” and how the work he does with Sigma and Molly is about making that a reality.

Molly explained how she found “Hey Siri” a great help; although this was when she realised that another piece of technology she was used stopped the others in the room from heading the response.

You see, Molly wears ReSound hearing aids; hearing aids that stream her iPhone and iPad directly and clearly into her ears.  Just as if she were wearing headphones!

Molly’s work has seen her work with ReSound and it is through this work that I have followed her and learnt about the fantastic products that are available.

Molly and the work she does through her company Molly Watt Ltd is paving the way for those with sightless, Ushers and hearing loss.

This masterclass have me some fantastic information to work with, some new connections to talk to and more importantly new friends who enjoy similar struggles to me.

The session was just a snapshot of what Molly and Chris do when talking to big companies, where there is often very rarely anyone with additional needs in the audience.

But it was enough to make me feel confident that accessibility becoming part of ‘the notm’ Could be a reality in the not to far distant future.


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