Tag Archive for see my way

Waving Away!

I thought as it’s been a while; so I felt compelled to share my latest ‘blind fail’ with you all … It’s a good one!

Despite not having my guide dog I have pushed myself each day to enjoy at least one long walk. Some days this is in the countryside or along the beach, but more often than not it’s around my local area.

On this particular walk I was walking on a road I know very well. I was approaching the junction of a side road and preparing to cross.

As I approached the junction I heard a car engine to my left.

The sun was bright, but I could make out a bright blue car on the left directly opposite the junction, so assumed it was also the engine I could hear:

As a guide dog owner, old habits die hard and I waved the car on: this is partly because the sound of the engine could be masking the sound of other approaching traffic or even bicycles.

I waved the car on … Nothing.

I waved it on again … Still nothing.

At this point a man appeared to be speaking to me from the other side of the road.

“Wait there I am coming to you.”

He crossed over and stood beside me, he asked me what help I needed and I explained I was simply waiting for this car to move on and then I would cross:

It was at this point (with a smile on his voice) he explained that there was no car waiting to turn.

The blue car was actually parked and had nobody inside it.

The car engine I could hear was on a driveway, the car had its doors and bonnet open, so was not moving anytime soon.

So it was safe for me to cross.  And it had been for some time!

The kind man explained he was loading a van up the street and had seen me waving my arm; but he couldn’t get to me any sooner as his arms had been full.

I laughed when he explained it all, because it’s moments like this that if I didn’t laugh I could easily cry.

I made my apologies and rushed off as quickly as I could without breaking into an actual run!

When relaying this embarrassing story to a sighted friend they helpfully pointed out…

Rule 243 of the Highway Code states you must not park opposite or within 10 metres (32 feet) of a junction, except in an authorised parking space.”

This didn’t make me feel any less embarrassed,  however one bonus to tthis sight loss journey is that I would never recognise the kind man who came to my aid, if I saw him again. So that’s a small mercy, right?

Pain of a Cane

It’s been six months now since the whirlwind that was my second guide dog Fizz retired. She is living her best life, enjoying her retirement and even living with another black lab who is also retired; but much younger than her called Ashby. So you could even say she has found herself a toy boy!

I have been missing her terribly in all honesty.

Not just as my guide dog, but as my companion.

The house seems too quiet when the kids aren’t home.

However a friends suggestion of a weighted blanket on my bed has certainly helped. Especially because in the last few years I had allowed Fizz to slip into the habit of sleeping on my bed. The extra weight on the covers really does help.

I could have used the excuse of reverting back to ‘Candy’ (my cane has red stripes to symbolise that I am deaf blind, thus picking up the nick-name candy the cane) as a way to shut off the outside world and limit (or restrict) my independence. Especially over the winter months when the darkness was greater.

But I didn’t …

I set myself the challenge of walking each day, some days this has been the 4 mile round trip to grab a coffee from Nero. (Other coffee houses are available)

When I am on a route I know well and is fairly quiet; like the route to town. I can feel quite free, quite confident and faster in my walking pace.

However, as I approach the shops, the busier areas and the unpredictability of people I can feel quite weak. I liken it to feeling like a small child. And I get even smaller when I come across the unexpected; such as building works, market stalls or additional outside seating for cafes etc.

However, I am stubborn. I refuse to let this weaken me. I just wished that my cane had sort of robotic system in it that I could say “let’s go to the bank” and it would navigate me there avoiding all the obstacles?

Oh wait … That’s a guide dog!

What I really REALLY really need is for “That Call” to say a possible match has been found.

I am (one of) the highest priories on the Guide Dog waiting list. However, as I have explained before. They look to match the personality and lifestyle of the person to the personality and workability of the dog. Along with looking at other things such as walking speed, the persons height and workload for the dog. Which all means that there may still be some time to wait for a dog that matches my needs.

So, for now it’s back ti my love-hate relationship with Candy and asking friends for a little more support.

And trying not to cause any more bruises from the regular stomach jabs or arm jars in the process.

Part of life just got A LOT simpler !!!

The role of the designer is that of a good, thoughtful host anticipating the needs of his guests.

Charles Eames

I first read this while studying at university 21 years ago; in this previous life before my severely sight impaired diagnosis and even a half decent understand of how terrible my vision was, this quote spoke to me.

Along with a book called ‘The Design of Everyday Things’ by Don Norman that was yellow with a red coffee pot that had the handle and the spout on the same side have always stuck with me.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, just as I have previously written about how Steve Jobs had a vision for Apple that put accessibility at its very core, instead of an after thought. Being mindful at the design stage can change the experiences of the end user.

Apple isn’t the only company or product to do this. My Breville ‘One Cup‘ is another example as are the scales I received today.

As an independent Herbalife Distributor who allowed lockdown to take control, I gained far too much weight, teamed with not climbing or swimming and well you can imagine where I found myself at the beginning of the year?

I have for the past 5 years started my day with a Herbalife Nutrition shake along with a whizzy, fat burning tea. However throughout lockdown my healthy, good nutrition would start and end with breakfast!

The products are good, however they are not magical.

So, fast forward (or is it rewind?) to January this year; January when I turned 40! When a friend shared a photo of me sat at their dining-room table and I realised how much I had let myself go. Yes I could feel my clothes were tight, uncomfortable and I was certainly not happy, however as someone who can’t see the reflection in the mirror; I was in denial.

I looked at that photo over and over again. I felt embarrassed, mortified and realised that I needed to make some changes.

I had all the tools I needed, the products in my kitchen cupboards and a wealth of knowledge. I had to start treating myself like I was a client, a client in Herbalife was something I hadn’t had in a while; (after all who is going to take weight loss advice from a fat person?)

So I (Re-) started my journey, went back to basics, a simple 1, 2, 3 approach and along with a new model; I found my focus.

There was just one part of the process that was VERY difficult.

Each morning, after I woke and popped to the bathroom I would stand on my bathroom scales.

My scales are a little more detailed than your average scales, they were in-fact Tanita Scanners. In addition to my weight I would get a whole host of other information, most importantly my body hydration and body fat percentages.

These scanners are programmable, with memory. All I had to do was switch them on, wait for them to beep and stand on. They would record all the measurements and then beep several times to say I could step off.

All my measurements were saved so I could grab my phone and take a photo of each measurement to zoom in on and record in a little challenge group I am in.

These scanners were a game changer for me as long gone were the days when I could when see my feet when stood upright, let alone the neon green scales beneath them, all before even trying to make out that in the middle was a digital display.

However, in the last 3 or 4 weeks my sight has changed (there’s another blog coming about that) it was taking more concentration to read from the photos.

I needed another solution.

I didn’t even look at talking bathroom scales. I didn’t research ANY accessible, visually impaired products. Instead I focussed my research on scanners like those I had that I could use with an app.

My reasoning for this?

If the scanners relayed all the data into an app, I could use zoom on my phone to read that data.

Today my Kamtron scanners arrived. I chose these based on the ‘Fitdays’ app which looked the simplest on the App Store. They were also significantly cheaper than the Bluetooth enabled Tanitas that appeared (on paper) to do the same thing.

They connect via Bluetooth to the app. All I have to do is touch the button on the back of the scanners, wait for the beep and step on, a little sound emanates from my phone when the data is recorded and off I step.

Then by using the ‘read screen’ toggle on my iPhone all the details are read out to me, no taking photos, no screenshots to then have to zoom in on. And more importantly no masses of screenshot photos taking up space on my phone or iCloud!

So simple…

Good products designed well can easily help and support those who may have additional or altered needs.

It may just be a ‘happy coincidence’ that this product is so accessible? It may have been part of the design brief? Sadly I will never know which, I will simply refer back to my original quote.

The role of the designer is that of a good, thoughtful host anticipating the needs of his guests.

Charles Eames

FOOTNOTE: In writing this post I am simply sharing a product I found that works for me, I am not in anyway endorsing Kamtron Scales or The Fitdays app. Just as I have previously spoken about other products and apps.

Loosing Control or rather Rethinking that Control

Loosing control is just two words, saying them is the easy part; actually allowing myself to do them is a whole other story.

Control can mean many things to many people; for me control it is organising, planning and reducing the opportunity for me to feel ‘out of control’ in a situation, because when it comes to my sight and hearing loss I don’t have any control.

It is why I have been known to walk a virtual route of a new area with the help of Google Maps and Google Streetview. It is also how I can appear confident and independent; When actually most of the time I am neither, I am just simply prepared.

And for the most part, this tactic works.

Then……. Then I do something I never expected to feel out of control with and so ensued a moment of vulnerability. (Or rather a good 10 minutes) and I find myself overrun by emotion.

What was I doing? I hear you ask.

I was out for a bike ride on my tandem, something I have done many times before, in an area that I know incredibly well. Which maybe is why it hit me so hard.

We were on a cycle path, not the main road, yet as we approached a set of traffic lights the turn felt wrong, so I tried to stop it, which anyone who has ever been on the back of a tandem will tell you is damn near impossible!

So we wobbled, my feet came off of the pedals as did my pilots and although we didn’t come off the bike completely it could easily be classed as a ‘Near Miss’

Hence my upset and emotion.

Thankfully my pilot knows me well and in the middle of this simply said:

You’re in control of what you get to enjoy and feel relaxed about. You control the route we take, I’ll help with the rest.

We do all this as a team. I’ll brake, change gears and steer, I’ll keep us safe.

The worst part of it for me was that because I had panicked, because I had lost control, my pilot could have got hurt and when I said this mid snotty-sob he simply replied:

But I didn’t…. WE had it covered.

Which made me realise that as a team…. We did.

Because of my lack of sight and hearing, it only goes to follow that my balance and perspective is greatly altered. It was this that had sent me into my moment of panic. And from that point on, on the ride I simply listen to my pilot, pedalled harder on the up-hill and let the bike coast on the down-hill. All while trying to enjoy the view.

And now, back with both feet firmly on the ground I can reflect. And realise that this was an inevitable, because I needed to accept that being on a tandem IS a team effort, No matter how good my sight, even I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own. So rather than look at it as a ‘byproduct’ of my disability it is time for me to rethink cycling. Cycling is something I CAN do; I just CHOOSE to do it a part of a team.

After all, the benefit of being on a tandem is that you are only 50% responsible for getting up those steep hills!

Is Zoom the 2020 equivalent to Marmite?


Love it or hate it; one thing that we have all learnt during the pandemic is how to use the video conferencing app Zoom.

From conferences and Pub quizzes to Weddings, Zoom has enabled us to connect even when physically we can’t.

For me, with my visual impairment it was an incredibly steep learning curve to understand how to use it to its full potential.

I have hosted many a meeting with friends, colleagues and even the cub scouts who are all unable to meet face to face at this time.

When ‘Share screen’ goes on my own camera goes off. Then I can sit with my nose up close to actually see the content.

For conferences it has enabled me to join in when if I was at an event in person I may struggle due to the amount of people, the noise level and even at times the flashing lights. This all disappears on Zoom.

For other meetings it has enabled me to be in the comfort of my own home, rather than making a lengthy journey across the country, which in turn has enabled many more people to join the meeting who may have been restricted before due to location or time.

And as I said above, just Last weekend, I had the privilege of watching two wonderful friends celebrate and marrying each other; After the original ceremony was postponed at the very beginning of the pandemic.

Even though it was via zoom I dressed for the occasion, following the guidance that the couple had previously shared as their ceremony took place in a Mosque.

But why did I like this via zoom so much? I hear you ask.

The answers are very simple.

Because I was actually able to SEE my friends as they spoke. It was set up so that each of those within the Mosque that read out, sung or spoke were on a different camera to the couple.

Again it enabled me to momentarily turn off my own camera so that I could look closely at the happy couple and see the beautiful decorations that were set out before them and also the beautiful outfits they were wearing.

As this ceremony took place in a Mosque, had we been able to meet in person then this is where we would have continued the celebrations with food afterwards. Obviously there is no way to convey this via a video conferencing app, however it did mean that I was able to see up close as the happy couple cut into their amazing wedding cake.

Yes, I would have much rather have been able to be there with them in person to celebrate. To hug them both. However, for me because of my sight and hearing issues I feel that I was actually able to enjoy their special day more, because of the closeness of the camera to them, because of the way it was set up that when someone else spoke it flicked over to their camera. (Were I there in person I would have no way to see who was talking)

Via zoom for me, there is also no worry of the travel, the hotel arrangements, the concerns over coping without my guide dog, among other anxieties.

And more importantly it meant that two of my wonderful friends were able to join together and start this new chapter of their lives; as a partnership.

There will come a time when we can meet together, gather and celebrate. And that is most certainly a day I am looking forward to, sadly though I feel we are a long way off such at time at the moment.

I had used zoom prior to the pandemic, but only for meetings and the odd training.

Yet now, it is an integral part of my life and for me personally it helps me to overcome some of the issues that could hold me back because of my sight and hearing loss.

So, just as I love marmite I think I can honestly say, I am a big fan of Zoom. I know it isn’t for everyone, my own son for example absolutely hates it. But then he isn’t a fan or Marmite either !

What is this all leading to ?

Yellow medal staring 50 miles walked

Lockdown has not been easy for me from a mental health point of view. As someone who holds multiply volunteer roles I work better when my schedule is full.

They say

If you want something done, ask a busy person.

And for me that is most definitely the case. When I have all the time in the world to do something it never gets done. To the point that my diary schedule now also includes specific days and times for mundane housework.

I also need to find something to get me working out, gaining strength and becoming fitter; rather than just sitting in front of Netflix’s.

Along came a Facebook advert for a virtual challenge called ‘Race At Your Pace.’ Ever skeptical about just adverts I asked a few friends and they confirmed it was a genuine company and that actually many of them were doing a running challenge with them.

Social distancing for me with a visual impairment means that I am unable to run or cycle; given that I need either a guide runner to run with me or a pilot to ride my tandem.

Which left me with walking.

Not a problem, as I needed to exercise my guide dog Fizz, and this was a mix between ‘working walks’ for her in harness and ‘sniffy walks’ where she was on a longer lead and able to just be a dog, sniffing at each post to catch up on all the ‘Pee-Mails’

So, April’s challenge was set, I set myself the target of 50 miles of walking workouts. Which I new was a MASSIVE challenge for me, however with both indoor walks and outdoor walks counting I felt it was achievable.

Oh how wrong was I?

In April I did walk 50 miles, however it saw me going right up to the last minute with a 4 mile walk on the 30th April. Having always measured my distance in Kilometres, it was a bit of a shock to the system to measure in Miles.

However when this beauty arrived in the post I felt proud that I had achieved it.

And having gone right to the wire for April I knew I needed to work harder. So not only did I re-enter for May, but upped the distance…. This time 65miles.

A target that I not only reached on the 29th May with 2 days to spare but I discovered that I had smashed through it as only looking a ‘walking workouts’ on my Apple Watch did not include the 6+miles I had recorded as ‘Hikes’.

So yes, you have probably guessed by now, I am going again in June, I am again increasing my distance…. increasing to 75 miles.

But why?

I hear you ask, we’ll Lockdown has been a time of planning, and for now let’s just say when the world reopens I will be walking much much further than 50, or 65 , or even 75 miles……

Two months in ….. Covid-19 and me.

Uk gov poster reads, stay alert, control the virus, save lives

As I sit here on a Wednesday evening and type up this blog, I must begin with saying that I am well. I am not, nor have I been unwell with Covid-19 or had any symptoms. (Lets just hope that hasn’t put a ginx on it)

As all news channels are continually reminding us,

We are living in unprecedented times.

And that is putting it mildly. As I touched on in my previous blog post over eight weeks ago; when we hadn’t actually fully entered into enforced social distancing and restrictions on what we did and how we did it.

Social distancing and being aware of those around you are not so easy when you have sight or hearing issues. (I can only assume that people with other disabilities must also be finding this time hard)

The country as a whole has never seen anything like this in peacetime…..

Even the amazing Captain Tom Moore, who set out to raise £1,000 for NHS charities as he walked 100 laps of his garden in celebration of his impending 100th Birthday (who has actually raised over £33 million to date) says that this virus is nothing like any of the wars he was part of.

We have seen our country led by our amazing NHS workers, supermarket staff, delivery drivers, teachers, support staff among many many others and where The Daily Briefing has become part of a daily routine for so many, along with the weekly ‘Clap for Carers’ on Thursday evenings, I am struggling to find the words to write.

Yes, you did hear that right…

All of my volunteer roles are suspended.

Planning for my next big adventure is on hold.

My house has been rearranged multiple times.

I hold weekly meetings with my small group sisters from church.

Sunday morning worship is all online via a live church platform.

And in all honesty; I find using Zoom absolutely exhausting. However, at the same I time I am incredibly grateful for this way to be able to stay in contact with others.

Daily life and this ‘new normal’ isn’t easy on anyone. However, I made a conscious decision at the beginning of this to be more of a Positive Patsy that a Negative Nancy; don’t get me wrong, I have hosted a few pity parties for one. But actually the way you react to a situation is what strengthens you as a person.

For me, the biggest part of this is my independence, there are no other adults living in my home. My son has continued to live between me and his dad, while my daughter has been isolating with her dad and step mum for about 10 weeks and only seeing her on my phone has been heartbreaking, however she needs to protect her dads health and being 14 she is actually incredibly well adapted for not going out and only speaking to people via WhatsApp and Instagram.

Delivery slots for shopping are still few and far between, however one bit of good news is that Tesco have (off of their own backs) enabled those with visual impairments to register for their priority delivery. While sight loss charities Guide Dogs, RNIB and The Thomas Pilkington Trust have been working on a petition to make the government aware of the vulnerabilities of those with sight loss and the need for these to be included within the Governments scheme especially to enable access to home delivery from supermarkets.

The Bad news is that my guide dog Fizz doesn’t understand why when we do go into town that we are not going into Caffè Nero, Coffee 1 or Costa (being that they are all closed). She is however grateful that we can still shop in Wilko and Poundland, because actually for cleaning supplies, medications and toiletries I have found these stores much quieter than popping into a supermarket for anything I need between deliveries. (And the plus for Fizz is that both stores have pet aisles!). And for my own sanity, having the ability to pick up these little bits myself has helped me feel in control.

Guide dog Fizz sat with her red and white check harness infront of a wall painted with a giant rainbow to support the nhs

Social distancing has continued under the government guidance and I fully understand and support the need for this, to not just keep me safe; but to also keep others safe…. Especially key workers.

For me it is simply the struggle for me to do this…… Although Fizz has started to just stop and stand still when anyone comes near us, I have found different stores difficult for different reasons. Especially since the introduction of one-way routes. My local Coop store has been the best by far. Not only have they put arrows on the floor to point you in the right direction; they have also put big red ‘NO ENTRY’ markings on the floor for aisles you should not enter at that end. Simple, yet for me incredibly affective as I can see the red much clearer than the blue arrows.

As I said before, I have decided to be more of a Positive Patsy (and not as in continually drunk like the Patsy in Abs Fab) and in turn my anxiety has reduced as this ‘lockdown’ has continued. There have been occasions where I have missed the queue of people socially distancing to get into a store. It was not intentional that I queue jumped, it was rather that Fizz has set routes and entrances that she is use to using. I have tried my best to keep the distance between me and others, but I have also made mistakes. And when we have been out on our daily exercise Fizz has taken to just stopping, standing still and waiting for the other people on the path to move out of our way or cross the road. Which (at the moment) I can’t decide if this is a good or a bad thing.

So, for someone who couldn’t find the words to write this post, I have managed to take up quite a bit of your time. It’s turned into a long post; however that said, I hope that you have enjoyed it.

Please do Stay Safe, if you can Stay Home, Protect the NHS and above all please Take Care.

Meaningful Memories

Social media can be both a blessing and a curse. It has the power to make or break your day. For some it is part of their daily routine; flicking through friends posts and memes of cats over morning coffee.

I have always said that my Facebook wall is mine to graffiti how I see fit, it contains The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. However this may not be how others use it.

For me each day I look back on my memories. A chance to look back and see what I was doing on this day in any given year right back to 2008.

Memories of both my son and daughter growing up, my pregnancy with my son, family celebrations and days out. They also map out my journey with sight loss; because although I was born with my conditions, I slipped through the net until 2008, however I did keep my Facebook posts about this part of my life fairly vague, that is until I got the news that I had been accepted onto the waiting list for a guide dog in August 2009.

The other day a post popped up in my memories that holds even more truth now then it did in 2012, especially as way back then I wasn’t aware of how just two years later my life would be, or that I would later discover that I was loosing my hearing too.

The post read:

Some people go through life asking “why me?” Others say “God gave me this/these challenges to test me.” I say “if you can’t change a situation, change your attitude towards it.” My disability does not define me, nor does it rule my life. I define me, I rule my life… I am me, not my disability. My crappy eyes are only a small part of me, tiny in relation to other parts… My personality for example. Do not define me by my disability and i will not define you by your ignorance.

And this popping up in my memories was a timely reminder that I define me, not my disabilities, my differing abilities or other people. However as one friend pointed out;

I like your crappy eyes, if it weren’t for them, we would never have met.

Which is also true, through my love of helping others, numerous charities and even supporting children in cub scouts I have been able to cross paths with so many that had I not had any of this, I doubt we would.

So, the point of this blog?

My one piece of advice would be that it is okay to look back every now and again, but only so you can see how far you have actually come.

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.



Puzzling perceptions

Always one for challenging myself.

However, this challenge is on a totally different level than any other I have done before.

It’s not particularly physically challenging, rather mentally challenging and reliant heavily on a sensitive touch. (A skill I am working on improving)

What is this challeng? I hear you ask….

It’s a puzzle, not as in I am teasing you all; but rather an actual puzzle. A jigsaw puzzle that is.

With my lack of sight, the actual picture on the puzzle is redundant. So, for this reason I have chosen one made up of butterflies, in varying colours and shades, to give a finished puzzle that is almost a rainbow.

I will be honest, it’s been hard work. There has been tears and just to get to this stage has taken many a late night.

It all started with finding the edge pieces. Then out came my magnifier; so that I could separate the pieces by their main colour, which is easier said then done as several of the pieces morph into the next colour.

So, for now this is where I am.

Image of a white board with all the edges of the colourful jigsaw pieces on it.  Sat in the centre is a tray with the separated colours in.
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