Tag Archive for independance

As the world begins to reopen – why does it feel less accessible ?

Selfie photo of me wearing a floral face mask and dark sunglasses with the pole for the bus stop behind me

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic the use of face masks has increased. It has been compulsory for most ‘front-line staff’ from the very beginning.

Then government officials suggested members of the public wear face coverings or masks when going into enclosed spaces where social distancing may be difficult, such as supermarkets, garden centres and medical appointments.

And I will admit, when this recommendation came in I also took this to mean to wear a face mask or face covering when using the bus.
Whixh as of tomorrow 15th June it will be compulsory to wear a face covering on all public transport. (Unless young, have certain health conditions and certain disabilities)

so, one afternoon earlier this week I thought I would road-test my floral cotton facemask for the bus journey and while I did some essential shopping.

Having not been on a bus for about Eight weeks I was initially a bit concerned about my journey, but the bus driver soon put me at ease. Our local buses have had clear screens to protect the drivers for many years, so this was nothing new, however implementing social distancing on a bus was definitely something I was uncertain of.

The driver explained to me that each of the seats in the aisle were taped off with yellow tape, as were both of the seats in every other row to enable passengers to sit two metres apart beside, in-front and behind.

For me, my sight enables me to see the bright yellow tape on the grey seats, however not to read the words. So the drivers instructions were very clear and descriptive; as you can see from this photograph that I took once I sat down.

Side on view of grey seats on a bus with many have yellow tape explaining about social distancing on the aisle seats and on both seats every other row

The bus seemed fairly empty and as I went to get off at the bus station, the bus driver again explained that social distancing was implemented inside the station. If I am honest, my guide dog was a little hesitant when we got into the station, but I gave her the command to turn left and out the station and she soon found her feet and walked with confidence.

As i have said previously, I have found it easier to shop for many of my essentials from my local Wilko and Poundland stores as they are smaller and generally have been quieter.

So, on this visit off to Wilko we went. I tried to scan for a queue outside the store and as I couldn’t I approached the door and asked the staff member if there was a queue to join, when she explained there was no-one else waiting so I could come straight in. She explained where the freshly wiped down baskets were and off I went to get what was on my list.

I walked down one aisle and at the end it appeared that they had put extra shelving in, so the pathway around to the next aisle was rather tight for manoeuvring me, Fizz my guide dog and the basket that was sat i the crook of my arm.

Shopping picked and off to the till. Here we hit a slight snag.

The store layout had altered. The additional shelving at the end of the aisles were actually there as the store had implemented a system similar to Tesco where you had to wait while socially distancing at one point before moving forward to the next available till. Which a kind shopper explained to me from the other side of the shelving.

So, after a bit of trial and error, we found the queue. With a light floor colour and the dark red Wilko signs marking each 2m space I was able to ensure I kept my distance. Then it was our turn to be at the front of the queue.

Again another snag…….

With no member of staff on queue control I patiently waited to hear a clue as to when it was my turn to go to a till. However the queue placement meant that we were at the customer service end of the tills with maybe five or six tills off in-front of us. When a couple walked very close beside me on my right, huffing as they did.

Another kind shopper who was now behind me (at a social distance) apologised as the couple that went passed me had got fed up of waiting as a till had become clear and I had not seen it; even though from their position this couple who jumped the queue did have a very clear view of my guide dog by y side. Thankfully at the next till to become free, the staff member had called out to me.

After hitting my basket off of the clear screen that had been put in place the staff member was kind and clear with her explanation and she even took my bag to pack my shopping for me.

Shopping done, back to the bus station, here is where I discovered the social distance implementations. I just want to add at this point, I am in full support of social distancing and of businesses and service providers who are taking care to ensure the safety of their staff and customers.

Fizz appeared to be walking right up against the metal benches, a place I try to move her away from as this is often where food has been discarded. Yet when I asked her to move in and walk more within the centre of the path she refused. I count in the large boards to get us to our stand. And then gave the command to find a seat. Fizz did this time move me to the right and to a seat by our bus stand. It was when I sat that I could then ‘see’ the issues that had caused Fizz to struggle; both when we left the station and as we returned.

Photo of the inside of Fareham Bus Station, a large metal timetable board is on the left and infront is a orange cone with red and white tape and a sign pointing left to state that this is the direction to walk.  In the background past the tape is a metal bench.

There is a gap between the tape to enable people to get to the right bus stand, there also appears to be a yellow line on the floor, but as can be seen the space on each side of the tape is not very large and is why Fizz had found it a struggle both when leaving the bus station and when we returned.

Sadly, after the ordeal of our shopping trip a bus driver explained that I had over an hour to wait for the next bus. (As they are running a very different service, which is understandable) So I gave fizz the command to leave, and I decided we would just walk home, as that would take us about 40 minutes.

This whole experience had exhausted me mentally and I just wanted to get away from it all. My shopping was (if I am honest) a little too heavy for walking home; however I felt vulnerable. My confidence was thrown, especially as I was in what I would consider ‘familiar territory’, although with all the additional safety measures the whole thing felt alien to both me and Fizz.

So, tomorrow as more stores open I think I will actually be less likely to be visiting my local town. Because with these additional MUCH NEEDED safety measures I don’t feel that the routes and places that were so familiar to me prior to the Covid-19 will remain as such until social distancing is a distant memory…. Which I am well aware is not going to be the case anytime soon.

So for me, as the world re-opens I feel it is much less accessible for me.

And I am pretty sure that I am not the only one. I would love to hear your views and experiences. Please comment below.

Take Care and Stay Safe.

The only Corona I want is the ice-cold one that comes with a wedge of lime

Over the last week to ten-days there has been a real shift in how we all behave; And rightly so. Covid-19 is no joke and not something we should take lightly.

This is a strange time, unlike any other I have ever faced in my lifetime and actually many people have never faced since WW2.

It is a time when the vulnerable are simply facing greater vulnerability..

The simple things that many people (vulnerable or not) take for granted, like having your supermarket shop delivered to your door; even being able to buy toilet roll because your on your last roll.

For me, this time has been one of increased anxiety, and I would put much of that down to my disabilities.

My disabilities don’t place me in the group of ‘at risk’ thankfully, however many of the measures in place are much more difficult for me.

When at home, washing my hands and cleaning are easy for me. However when out and about, not so much.

In the last day or two WHO (World Health Organisation) have recommended social distancing. And this has been a major issue for me.

Made even more difficult because I have an incredibly sociable guide dog !!

Keeping a significant distance of two meters when you have no depth perception and a visual impairment that means if you put your arm out in-front of you, you can’t see your own hand; How do you actually know how close to someone you are standing?

All of my many volunteer roles have been put on hold. My social life (aka my coffee habit) has significantly decreased. However my walking and ‘escaping to the great outdoors’ has increased.

The biggest challenge for me at this time of uncertainty the most difficult thing for me is asking for help or accepting help when it is offered.

I am stubbornly independent, however I had a moment early this week when I had to swallow my pride and ask a friend to take me food shopping. Because no amount of independence would have made it possible for me to do a ‘usual’ fortnightly shop in person because no deliveries were available. That very same friend has been absolutely amazing in ensuring that both my physical and mental health are not being affected by all of this.

Thankfully social distancing doesn’t have to be a adhered to when working my guide dog. She is and can continue to be my left hand lady. Our walks have been very different, but with more time for her to run around and she hasn’t seemed to mind too much.

My message to you all is to stay home, to stay safe and more importantly share with those who are not as fortunate as yourself. However if you do catch the Coronavirus, isolate, order in, and ASK FOR HELP.

Convenience or Necessity

This is one of those posts that I can’t use my usual humour and sarcasm….. Although I will try!

There has been lots in the news of late about the dangers of ‘single use plastics’, straws and in turn packaged, prepared vegetables and fruits.

But what are often marketed to those with disposable income and little time are also an expense for someone for whom cutting up a whole cauliflower or pineapple could be problematic or energy consuming, when energy wasn’t a luxury, rather a commodity to be saved for ‘essentials’

For me, there are times when buying these ‘prepared’ easy options are the difference between me being able to eat fresh and healthy food, rather than relying on ‘ready meals’ or jars of sauces. (Not that there is anything wrong with either of these; but I prefer making my own dinner)

My freezer always includes a bag of chopped red onions, my fresh food shop also often includes pre-cut fresh pineapple or melon.

Because chopping these myself would actually mean I would just go without!

To blog, or not to blog……. It shouldn’t have ever been a question!

Thankfully I am the thick-skinned stubborn gal I am…. Although even I found myself getting upset by it all.

Those of you who have followed my blog, know that I can be strong and determined in print, where, spoken word may often fail me.


This blog isn’t to anger you, it isn’t to slate a company, thankfully it was all due to the opinion of a minority.  My reason for sharing is to give the FULL picture of the whole situation.

And hopefully, a small part of me hopes that this reaches someone who may not have a good understanding of ‘blindness’ – This may help to educate about how ‘off-hand comments’ may have a much greater effect.

How it all started…..    I had a rare Saturday to myself, no plans, no children and as the sun was shining, I was up early and feeling ready to make the most of the day.

So, off to Whiteley I went; it’s not the easiest of places to get to if you don’t drive, but with the sun shining I didn’t mind the 20 minute walk from the station, I also knew that Mizz Fizz would enjoy the long leg stretch.

Being just after 9am when we arrived it was lovely and quiet, perfect for me, it meant I could ‘mooch’ about, take my time and know that it wouldn’t be too busy.

When training with a guide dog, my GDMI explained that shops can be difficult for a guide dog to work, many factors add to this, the smaller spaces, the extra obstacles and mostly ME.  As everyone does, when I shop I am constantly starting and stopping…. That can be a real struggle for a guide dog, so it is advised that if I can (in that I feel safe doing so) I should drop harness and walk with Fizz on her lead.  This means she can relax, not become stressed by the situation and I can take my time.

I went to a shop I LOVE, there is stationary, gifts, nic-nacs and most of all; being a large chain, the layout is pretty much the same whether you’re in a London store or as I was, in Whiteley.

This ‘familiarity’ is a great help to me. So…. In we went and down went the harness.  I was able to use the quietness of the store to focus in on the colourful displays, a member of staff came over to ask if he could be of assistance. “Thanks for the offer, but I’m just having a look around.” Was my polite reply.  And off he went.

I moved around a display and that was when I caught his conversation with his colleague.

And I found myself almost frozen to the spot in shock.  I wanted to run out of the store, but curiosity also made me want to stay and hear it all.

“I have never seen a proper blind person with a guide dog, she can clearly see, she isn’t even using the dog, she’s picking up things and having a good look at them.”

“I think it’s all a con so people can just bring their pet dogs into the shops.”

His colleague was clearly trying to hush him, he was talking in a quieter whisper, but as my eyes fail me, my ears pick up the slack….. Hence how I was able to hear this.

I did move away, to pick up a gift for a friend, I then went up to the counter to pay for my purchases.  I was hoping I would be served by his colleague, but sadly it was not to be.

He made small talk while he served me, asking my plans for the day and such.  It took a lot for me to talk and smile as if I had not heard a thing, but I did.

managed to keep it together until reaching a coffee shop, where I found myself shaken and beginning to feel angry.  Not with his comments, but with my inability to say something, to stand up.

So instead I sat down with a coffee and put the words down in an email.

I was a wreck, so much so I will share with you how personal and detailed I found myself becoming in my email.


Please bear with me, it’s quite lengthy !!

Hello.  Allow me to introduce myself, I am a bit of a stationary addict who happens to be visually impaired and relies on my faithful guide dog Fizz to allow me to live my life to the fullest.  Today I visited your Whiteley store to have a good ‘look’ around and pick up some gift wrap.

I was approached by a member of staff and asked if I would like any assistance, I said thanks, but that I was ok for now. He left and returned to his colleague at the counter, I continued to look around he store, when I overheard his conversation.

This caused me great upset, but I am also stubborn and was not going to let it show that I had heard. I purchased some gift wrap and on my receipt the name of my server was *********

I have a visual impairment, but where my eyes fail me, my ears step up, this mixed with it being an incredibly quiet store I heard him speak (even though I think he thought it was a whisper)

He was talking to his colleague about how he felt it was all a con, he had never seen a real blind person in the store with a guide dog, she (me I assume) is looking at things, walking around, she isn’t blind, she just wants to bring her pet dog in.

His colleague did try to quiet him, without luck. And I moved away so that I could hide my upset at his accusations.

I am sat with a coffee and voiceover on my phone typing this email. And still feeling sick, I am not one for confrontation, so am writing this email instead.

I am visually impaired, I am registered as disabled and the class of my registration is ‘severely sight impaired’ I have a condition that I have less than 6% of my vision left, which means I have pretty much no peripheral sight. Today I was wearing glasses, these are just to help reduce the glare from the bright sunny day. The sight I do have left does not enable me to read the top line on the eye chart at the hospital, where I go annually to have my degenerate condition monitored.

I should not need to be explaining any of this to you, yet I am.

In a shop environment I focus in on colour and in a store such as ********** I find the layout with the big tables and shelving units very easy to negotiate, it can be hard in any shop to work a guide dog (this is where I am holding both the lead and the harness) this is as it is usually a narrower space and one that she would struggle with. So I take it slowly and just hold her lead.

I did appreciate the initial offer of help, and many times when help is offered I will accept it, but on a day when it is quiet and I am able to ‘mooch about’ like others I do.

I will not be returning to your Whiteley store. I find it hard that at a time when access for working dogs is not just legislation, but actually forms part of the 2010 law on disability discrimination that someone would feel the need to even question my need for such a mobility aid, all be it a four pawed breathing, thinking mobility aid.

Very few of the 50,000 guide dog owners in the uk have no usable vision, as a person who will one day most likely lose even the little bit I have, I want to be able to keep my independence and freedom. I enjoy shopping and today I have been deeply upset and angered by the conversation and judgemental attitude of your staff.

I would like for a senior member of staff to speak him and make him aware of the impact on his comments. I will be sending a copy of this email to my local guide dog mobility team.

It was very difficult for me to make small talk when he served me, he has completely ruined my experience and made me feel like I don’t have the right to be independent.

I shall now be going home instead of continuing with my day, I will also be reflecting on this incident and when I am not as emotional shall write about it in my blog (address below)

Thank you for taking the time to read my email, I would appreciate hearing an explanation of the situation.

I have removed details of the store and servers name….. The reason for this is because of the response I have had from my email.

The Customer service team promptly replied informing me that my email had been passed to senior staff and that a full investigation would soon be started.  The customer service team reassured me that they were horrified on my behalf for the situation I experienced and wished to ensure that this didn’t happen again to me or any other customer.

I received several emails updating me and then came the one where they asked for my telephone number.  This was so that a company director could call me to ensure that I was ok.

It made me nervous and anxious, but I gave my number and awaited the call.  I have never had this response to a customer complaint before and didn’t know what to expect.

The following day the director called, he was a very kind and friendly gentleman, he apologised profusely on behalf of the company, he explained that is was not the ‘company opinion’ and I did say I was aware that by the tone aid the store staff member that this was clearly HIS opinion.  The director asked me if I would give the combat a second chance? Would I shop in a different one of their stores, he fully understood that I wasn’t happy to return to the store in Whiteley.  He said that he had not as yet spoke  to the staff member, he was awaiting a report by the area manager who would be conducting the investigation personally.

The director didn’t quiz me (which was what I expected) He just kept apologising for the way in which I had been treated.

He thanked me for taking his call and said that I would be updated as and when the investigation was concluded.

His call was followed up by an email for customer service asking for my address, so that a ‘good will’ gift could be sent to me.  I had explained o  the phone, that I didn’t do any of this to get something in return, which the director said he understood, but he appreciated me sharing my experience with him and the company.  Several weeks later an email arrived, (without going into details) stating that following a full and thorough investigation, the appropriate actions had been taken.


I wanted to share my experience so that others were aware, how an ‘of Han:’ .omment can caus3 great upset to others.


Feeling lazy as I can’t cross the road.

I am not a car driver (for obvious reasons) nor have I ever been a driver, so please bere with me here.

I have recently found myself taking a bus for a short route I was happy to walk in the past.  Literally for just 2 stops.

Why? I hear you ask.

Simply because of ‘Kind’ drivers.

I attend a meeting every Thursday at a church hall, the road by the church is quite a major route, but a relitively easy road to cross, or rather it was until recently.

The place I cross is a good distance from the junction, the reason for this is so that I can hear the traffic on my road clearer without confusion from the road beside it.

Mizz Fizz takes me to the same spot on the curb and sits awaiting my instruction to go on.

When she sits, I take a step back with my right foot, which not only makes it easier for me to step forward when it is clear to do so, but also to enable road users to see Fizz.

As the traffic starts to slow for the junction I find that many drivers will stop early to allow me to cross.

I can hear that they have stopped.

I can’t see them waving at me, nor can I see it if they flash their headlights. 

I stay put.

Without being on a designated crossing Fizz will not cross and nor will I allow her to.

The car engine sitting so close can be of real danger, it can distract from a car coming in the opposite direction, from a cyclist coming up the inside of the car.  And even, as I have heard of, a car from overtaking those who were kind enough to stop.

If my hands are free I will wave my hand to move the car on, giving a thumbs up as they move.  If not I will jerk my head to indicate they should move on.  And mouth ‘Thank You’ as they go on their way.

Thank you to all the cars that stop,  for all the acts of kindness, but please do not feel I or any other person with a guide dog or a long cane are being rude.  We simply need to ensure we stay safe.

When I cross the road, it is for me to tell Fizz when it is safe to go, not for her to tell me.

So, why get the bus?

Because by getting the bus I can save myself over 15 minutes on average.  The bus saves me from having to cross the road, as not only is it one car stopping, but several.

And each time a car stops it slows the traffic flow, meaning that in turn there are less ‘natural breaks’ in the traffic that are safe enough for us to cross safely.

So, next time you see someone waiting to cross the road, don’t feel you are being rude by continuing to drive.  You are helping to keep both them and you safe.

Funny ….. Most Definately NOT !!

Me and Mizz Fizz have some amazing journeys together, she is my independance, she is my world, just as Vicky was before her.  And I will do all I can to protect her, as she protects me.

Several weeks ago on one of our walks we ‘only just’ missed the green man to cross the road.  Not an issue though, it just meant we both knew we were in for a bit of a long wait.  As the lights in question run in a sequence for the traffic as well as for pedestrians.

So, to save my arm and to help Fizz feel more comfortable I let her handled drop (not literally, a term to explain it sitting against her back).  Several people came and stood awaiting the lights to change.  A small group of college girls were amongst them.  They politely asked if they could stoke the dog, I said they could, until I took hold of the harness.

They only quickly stroked her and then crossed the road, they crossed when there was a gap in the traffic, rather than waiting for the green man.

As they crossed they were laughing with each other.  I thought nothing of it and less than a moment later, the lights changed and it was time for us to cross.

I picked up the harness and gave Fizz the command to go…… That’s when it happened.

Fizz took a step forward and I followed, but on the next step I lost the tension on the harness and found myself infront of Fizz while crossing the road.

I felt panicked, why wasn’t she walking?  I focused down and that was when I found out.

We had been the subject of the girls joke.  While stroking her, it appears that one of them had Unclipped her harness.

Which when I walked forward had moved off her.

Thankfully her lead was still attached and I still had control of her.  I quickly moved us off of the road.

Once on the safety of the path, I checked her harness, no break, no damage.  I clipped it back together and checked, it wasn’t loose, it didn’t even wiggle when I moved it.  It was clear that it had been Unclipped.

Mizz Fizz and myself were safe, Fizz was no worse for her ordeal, but I was still quite shaken.

I couldn’t believe that someone would think of doing something like that, let alone ACTUALLY do it as a joke.

Thankfully they didn’t undo her lead too.  I really don’t know or want to think about what could have happened.

Fizz has a lock button on her collar to stop it being Unclipped, since this incident I have made sure that not only is this locked, but that the catch on her collar sits on her neck underneath her mouth (so that it is harder to reach)

I find myself feeling nervous When groups are near us at crossings and will not allow anyone to stroke Fizz now.

I’ve been quite dizzy working with Fizz

Wow!!  That is about all I can say about my new partnership with Fizz.  It’s hard to believe that we have been qualified for almost 8 weeks already and I am still learning from her.

She is very different to Vicky (as any dog would be) it is difficult not to compare them at times.  With Vicky I had nothing to mark her against, with Fizz she has some rather big paws to fill !!

One thing that has been lovely about this time with Fizz is seeing Vicky happy.  She is bouncy, plahful and her walkig pace has picked up when she is out on her daily walks.  Work for her was clearly causing her stress and sigferubg, but now she is loving being able to stop and smell every lamp post and say hello to all the puppy friends we meet.

My fitness has improved with Fizz, I am walking into town on average twice a week and happily choosing to go further afield knowing that she !enjoys her work, she is a hard worker and eager to please.

We have our moments, but we are a good match

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