TABLE OF CONTENTS
Editorial: Learning to Get Up and Go ... It's Your Life to Lead
Taking Charge of a Crisis
Adjustment, Losses and Positive Attitude
Looking for Acceptance
Faking It No Longer
You Do Not Know Until You Try
Ball and Chain
Soaring Through Fear
Ten Ways to Stay Sane
Coping with Low Vision
A Sad Reality of the Aging Process
Blind Live Fuller Lives Using Braille
Glimpse of the Future
Blind Teens Building Careers
Insight Without Sight
Abuse of Disabled High
Will the Attitudes of Others Change if we have a Positive One?
Insight into Living Blind
Imagine a Disability You Can't See
From Dark to Light
A Dog Called Major
Emergency Preparedness for Blind Children
Workplace and Personal Preparedness
Who Cares for the War Victims with Disabilities?
Blind Models Strut Their Stuff
Physically Challenged Cops
Highlights of Recent AEBC Activities
2006 Scholarship Winners
Welcome to the AEBC's Year 2007 Scholarship Programme!
EDITORIAL: LEARNING TO GET UP AND GO ... IT'S YOUR LIFE TO LEAD
By: John Rae and Sara Bennett
Whenever I meet a blind person for the first time who has spunk, drive and
determination, I usually wonder what has happened in that person's life. Why does that
person have these traits--that "get up and go" approach to life--while so many others do
Most of the time, the individual cannot point to one single cause or defining moment in
their life that made it happen!
Of course, as individuals, we are as different from each other as the members of any
other group in our society, and this fact should come as no surprise to anyone.
Perhaps a "get up and face the world" approach stems from a supportive family, good
role models or mentors, an effective rehab program, or simply gaining opportunities and
positive experiences that others have never had.
Expectations from one's family or friends can play an important part. Too often we tend
to see ourselves as other see us. If others have higher expectations of us, and
assumptions of what we can become, these may help propel us to achieve.
While gaining the alternative skills of blindness, including good mobility skills, are
imperative for emotional stability, adjustment and independence, our society must
become more accessible and accepting if these newly acquired skills are to be used to
their maximum benefit.
For instance, it's important to learn braille, and this skill can be extremely helpful in
one's personal life such as in making grocery lists, labelling personal items and
recreational reading, but this skill cannot be of as much use to a blind person as it might
otherwise be if government reports, school textbooks and leisure reading are not readily
available in braille. Knowing how to use a white cane is crucial, but again, its use is
limited if the blind traveller meets with public transit drivers who will not call out stops or
encounters sidewalks or construction sites that are littered with so many obstacles as to
make independent travel with a cane difficult or even unsafe. Computer and adaptive
technology skills are only of maximum use, furthermore, if people can afford the
equipment, gain necessary training on the hardware/software, and have the opportunity
to utilize these skills in education or employment settings.
An individual can learn alternative skills, but unless the "system" or society allows for
the exercise of these skills to their maximum, the blind person's options, opportunities
and independence will still remain needlessly limited.
Which leads to another point--once you've acquired all the blindness skills you can
(assuming there's someone available to train you in a timely and cost-effective manner)
and you venture into the big, wide world, your confidence, energy and sense of
achievement can often be dashed by routinely encountering unaware employers;
inaccessible bank machines, public transit, newspapers and other published materials,
websites etc.; not to mention unfriendly, condescending, babying, or just plain rude or
And once you encounter these confidence-dashing obstacles time after time, it can be
exhausting filing informal or formal complaints, a process which itself can drain
confidence. It takes a certain determination and resilience to keep at it and maintain the
pressure until you get results, and even then the results may not be what you want, or
have the right to expect.
This is why organizations like the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians exist, and why
we work hard to effect positive changes in the areas of attitudes and public policy, to
achieve direct impact on areas that affect our everyday lives--advocating for increased
access to orientation and mobility training, convincing bus and streetcar drivers to call
out stops, lobbying for greater availability of printed materials in multiple formats and for
websites to be made truly usable, and seeking to change public attitudes--so all persons
who are blind, deaf-blind or partially sighted can feel accepted and comfortable
participating in regular community life. Through our efforts, and network of members
who have varying degrees of experience with vision loss, too, we hope that more
citizens who are blind, deaf-blind or partially sighted will have the opportunity to
develop, or discover, that spunk and determination that has propelled so many others
TAKING CHARGE OF A CRISIS
By: Irene Lambert
Editor's Note: Irene Lambert is Program Director and Past President of the Low Vision
Self-Help Association, as well as President of the Greater Montreal Chapter of the
Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC).
I am not sure if it was synchronicity or just dumb luck that the day before I was to deliver
a speech to the Low Vision Self-Help Association, I came across an article that I had
written over four years ago, in 2002, on the structure and goals of this very same
organization. The message I wanted to deliver was how important it is to be able to take
a calmer look at the crisis situation in which you may find yourself. No one goes through
life without experiencing various numbers of crises, and hopefully we learn some
lessons from them.
My speech to Low Vision members was about the wall one hits when the medical world
has done all it can to correct, or even arrest, the vision problems but is still forced to
inform you that your sight will no longer improve, and may even continue to deteriorate.
What do you do with the fear, worry and uncertainty about how you are going to live the
rest of your life with low vision, or even blindness? What has worked for me is as
Sit down in your most comfortable chair with no radio or TV on. Let the peace and quiet
soak in. Relax those shoulders and hands and enjoy the down time. You may find those
fears and worries spinning wildly into your consciousness, but that's ok--let them.
Whenever you feel ready, you can start unravelling those worrisome and scary
thoughts. Ask yourself what specific fears and anxieties you feel. Make note of each
thought as it becomes more specific. There is no telling how long or how many times
you will be able to enjoy the quiet times before you start on this journey, since you may
not find the answers to your questions the first time around.
When you think you have specific questions concerning your fears and worries, you can
start taking charge of finding the answers. As you begin taking responsibility for
yourself, some of the tools you will find at your disposal may be making changes in your
lifestyle, acquiring aids and devices, learning coping strategies, getting professional
rehabilitation services, joining a peer group, or searching for more knowledge about
Knowing your personal drives and tendencies can help you make the necessary
changes. During those quiet times, take a look to see if you are a "go with the flow"
person, a giver, a peacemaker who shies away from conflict, or some one who is not
used to making key decisions. Perhaps you are a "take charge" kind of person,
assertive, a problem solver, a "need to know all of the options" person, or just plain
opinionated or judgmental. It has long been my quest to understand why some people
seem to make a relatively smooth transition in dealing with sight loss, while others never
get beyond searching for a cure. My observation is that a great deal depends on your
The final message to the Low Vision group was that the very fact they were at the
meeting indicated they were "taking charge", that they knew they didn't have to face
things alone, and that they realized we are a community with knowledge, experience,
strengths and weaknesses, that is ready to share and give or take as the need arises.
The same qualities can be found in the AEBC community.
ADJUSTMENT, LOSSES AND POSITIVE ATTITUDE: DEALING WITH VISION
IMPAIRMENT AND BLINDNESS
By: Brendan Tedrick, MS, CVRT (Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist)
Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from the RT News, the quarterly
publication of the Rehabilitation Teaching Division of the Association for Education and
Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), December 2006.
"My diagnosis still hadn't sunk in...I didn't want to tell my mother that we'd learned I'd be
blind within a matter of years" (Ryan Knighton 2006).
Knighton, in Cockeyed (2006), like most individuals that are newly blind or those that
have a vision impairment, is showing some signs of denial to his vision loss. According
to the American Foundation for the Blind, "ten million people in the United States are
blind or visually impaired." The major eye conditions are Cataracts, Macular
Degeneration, Glaucoma and Diabetic Retinopathy. This article will discuss the
adjustment stages and how having a positive attitude will impact people that are blind or
The seven phases/stages of adjustment to blindness according to Tuttle and Tuttle
(1996) are: (1) Trauma, Physical or Social, (2) Shock and Denial, (3) Mourning and
Withdrawal, (4) Succumbing and Depression, (5) Reassessment and Reaffirmation, (6)
Coping and Mobilization, and (7) Self-Acceptance and Self-Esteem. As one goes
through each phase/stage, there is no set timeframe in terms of how long a
client/consumer will stay in one particular phase/stage. Also, one cannot over look the
importance of supportive family members and friends.
Now lets look at each of the seven phases/stages. In the trauma phase/stage, the client
may become overwhelmed on hearing the news for the first time that they are losing
sight or may become blind. Clients become disbelieving in the Shock and Denial
phase/stage; for example, a client may say, "I can see fine and I'm not going blind."
Tuttle and Tuttle (1996) stated, "three factors that...influence the intensity and severity
of the shock: 1) the significance of the loss to the individual, 2) the suddenness or
unexpectedness of the event, and 3) the degree of visual loss" (p. 144).
Self-pity is the main characteristic in the mourning and withdrawal phase/stage. Clients
might become very isolated during this phase/stage and stop doing activities that they
once loved to participate in.
Clients begin to think negative in the succumbing and depression phase/stage. Tuttle
and Tuttle (1996) stated Dobson's work on the "D's" of depression as despair,
discouragement, disinterest, distress, despondency and disenchantment. Vision
professionals have to be on the lookout for clients that show signs of major league
depression and be able to make a referral to a professional counsellor.
The next phase/stage in the adjustment process is reassessment and reaffirmation. In
this phase/stage the client self-examines their life and finds meaning (purpose for
In the next to the last phase/stage (coping and mobilization), the client will go out and
find information and or new skills so that they can move on with their life. As the client
moves from the coping/mobilization phase/stage to the final phase of self-acceptance,
the client will gain in self-confidence, self-worth and begin to have closure with his/her
Father Carroll's Losses
Carroll (1961) stated the following about adjustment: "Total adjustment might be defined
as the attitude which enables the blinded person...to face the fact of
his/her blindness, admitting its severity without minimizing or exaggerating
it...to return as a whole personality to the society from which he/she
came" (p. 232).
Here we see that clients have to face their vision loss, or becoming blind, but not spend
too much time on negative thoughts, so that the person can re-enter society and
become a productive member of the society.
Father Carroll also came up with twenty losses that a blind person goes through, and
organizes these twenty losses into six major areas of loss. The six major areas of loss
are: (1) Basic Losses to Psychological Security, (2) Losses in Basic Skills, (3) Losses in
Communication, (4) Losses in Appreciation, (5) Losses Concerning Occupational and
Financial Status, and (6) Resulting Losses to the Whole Personality.
Table 1.1 Carroll's Losses
Area 1: Basic Losses to Psychological Security
Area 4: Losses in Appreciation
Loss of Physical Integrity
Loss of the Visual Perception of the Pleasurable
Loss of Confidence in the Remaining Senses
Loss of the Visual Perception of the Beautiful
Loss of Reality Contact with Environment
Loss of Visual Background
Area 5: Losses Concerning Occupation & Financial Status
Loss of Light Security
Loss of Recreation
Loss of Career, Vocational Goal, Job Opportunity
Area 2: Losses in Basic Skills
Loss of Financial Security
Loss of Mobility
Loss of Techniques of Daily Living
Area 6: Resulting Losses to the Whole Personality
Loss of Personal Independence
Area 3: Losses in Communication
Loss of Social Adequacy
Loss of Ease of Written Communication
Loss of Obscurity
Loss of Ease of Spoken Communication
Loss of Self-Esteem
Loss of Information Progress
Loss of Total Personality Organization
In looking at the table above, a client could have two of the losses in one area and one
loss from another area or areas. It really depends on the client in terms of what losses
that they are going through and when they are going to experience that particular loss.
These losses are different from Tuttle and Tuttle's (1996) seven adjustment
Do you see the glass half empty or half full? Those that go through life with a negative
attitude will find it difficult to find happiness. On the other hand, those that have a
positive attitude will find some happiness in living every day. Losing vision or becoming
blind is a hard thing to go through but with the right attitude clients can go through this
challenge. According to Harrell (2003), "The next time you are faced with a difficult
challenge, focus on staying positive. Remember that you're setbacks can be setups for
even greater opportunities" (p. 9). Harrell is stating that having a positive attitude in a
time of need can lead to advancement. Remember it took Edison 3000 attempts before
he had the light bulb.
The million dollar question is how does one have or create a positive attitude. The
answer to this question is quite simple; Harrell suggests that people have to have a
positive inner dialogue. Harrell (2003) stated, "The key to ridding yourself of this attitude
of helplessness is to clear your mind of negative inner conversations and replace them
with more hopeful messages" (p. 42). When training clients to deal with their adjustment
to blindness, it is important that the clients realize that they are having a negative
thought/attitude and disregard the negative thought and come up with a positive
In terms of adjusting to blindness and vision impairment, the two major theories that
were discussed in this article were Tuttle and Tuttle's seven phases of adjustment and
Father Carroll's six areas of loss. When clients go through the seven adjustment phases
or any of the six areas of loss, it is very important that the client stays positive and not
negative. Realizing that negative thoughts/attitudes are coming on is important, so that
the client can get rid of the negative and create a positive inner dialogue.
Timing is also important. If clients spend too much time on negative thoughts of their
disability or not enough time grieving the loss of sight, then major problems can arise.
This author cannot instill the importance of positive thinking and the effects that it has
on the client and the vision professional.
"Strangely enough, losing my sight wasn't quite as bad as you'd think, because my
mom conditioned me for the day that I would be totally blind."--Ray Charles
American Psychological Association, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242,
Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind & Visually Impaired, 1702
North Beauregard Street, Suite 440, Alexandria, VA 22311, 1-877-492-2708,
Carroll Center for the Blind, 770 Center Street, Newton, MA 02458, 1-800-852-3131,
Hadley School for the Blind, 700 Elm Street, Winnetka, IL 60093-2554, 1-800-323-4238,
Mr. Harrell (Dr. Attitude), 8374 Market Street #504, Lakewood Ranch, FL 34202, 1-800-
Power Optimism, 2464 Lafayette Ave., Abington, PA 19001, (215) 855-2127,
American Foundation for the Blind. Statistics and Sources for Professionals. Retrieved
On July 7, 2006, From World Wide Web at
Carroll, T. (1961). Blindness: what it is, what it does and how to live with it. Boston, MA:
Little, Brown and Company.
Harrell, K. (2003). Attitude Is Everything. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.
Knighton, R. (2006). Cockeyed. New York, NY: Public Affairs.
Tuttle, D., and Tuttle, N. (1996). Self-esteem and Adjusting With Blindness; The
Process of Responding to Life's Demands. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.
LOOKING FOR ACCEPTANCE
By: Adele Dubrofsky
Editor's Note: Adele Dubrofsky is an active member of AEBC's Montreal Chapter and in
her local community. She co-runs a diabetic support group and also helps others cope
with vision loss.
My story is very typical of most families. I was born with a disability--my eyes were not
fully developed--and my mother could not accept the fact that she had a handicapped
child. Growing up, my mother always told me, "Act normal. Don't tell anyone you can't
In 2000, I developed cancer in the back of my eye. After the operation, my doctor told
me I would loose my vision totally in the next couple of years. My family never knew
about my condition and later they did not know that I could hardly see.
When it came time for me to use a white cane, my mother told me not to bring it to her
building, since she didn't want the neighbours to know I was handicapped. I tried to
please her and the rest of my family by acting like nothing was wrong. I walked very
slowly, and at family functions I always ate after everyone else so I wouldn't bump into
anything or spill anything on my sister's good tablecloth.
When I was hit by a car one year later, I had a lot of time in the ambulance to think
about what I was doing to myself and how depressed I was not having the support of
my family. My wonderful husband suggested I look into getting a guide dog. I took his
advice and got my beautiful Abba.
That week, we had an anniversary party. Imagine my families surprise when I walked in
with Abba and my husband! There was silence in the room. You could hear a pin drop.
My sister came running up to me and said, "You are not blind! What are you doing with
I told her that I had just come out of the closet and that I had been legally blind for the
last ten years. "If you are ashamed of me," I said, "that is your problem, not mine."
I have not been invited to any family functions for the past three years. The excuses my
sister gives are that there is no room at the table or that some family members of my
brother-in-law are afraid of dogs.
I love my family and I hope one day they will accept me for the wonderful person I am.
FAKING IT NO LONGER
By: Cheralyn (Braithwaith) Creer
Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from Future Reflections, Special Issue:
Low Vision and Blindness 2005: www.nfb.org
I was born to a family of ten children. When I was one-year-old, my mom noticed that I
held books close to my face and that I watched TV with my chin on the TV table--there
are still teeth marks on the edge of it to prove it. My dad and some of my brothers and
sisters dismissed it as a bad habit. None of them wanted me to visit an optometrist for
fear we'd find out I was going to be different, need glasses, and be made fun of. As well
intended as my family was, they were afraid of my vision or the lack of it.
I fell into that fear by pretending I was no different from anyone else. We found out that I
had "extreme myopia, a lazy eye, and astigmatism." I got glasses when I was almost
two and contact lenses at four. They helped, but just hid the problem. When asked if I
could see a deer at the side of the road, I pretended I could. I endured backyard vision
screenings, playing catch with a brother who was convinced that the harder he threw
the softball, the more likely I'd be to see it. When watching a movie or play, I laughed on
the cue of the rest of the audience, pretending I knew the punch line without admitting I
needed an explanation. It goes on and on.
My scheming worked for years--or so I thought. In school I pretended to read as all the
other students did in class. I pretended I could take the quiz written on the chalkboard or
overhead projector. Although I was a relatively hard-working student, I allowed my
grades to slide and allowed myself to accept being less than I was.
One experience I had during this period of pretending to be normal still haunts me. I had
just proved my ability to perform in an advanced English class in the seventh grade. The
transfer was made, and soon I was involved in a group presentation on The Red Badge
of Courage. My turn to present came. It was accompanied by an all-too-familiar anxiety
attack. I looked at my notes and then at my peers and decided it just wasn't worth the
humiliation of holding the paper at the necessary reading distance, the end of my nose.
Instead, I chose an alternate route to humiliation. I attempted to read my notes at the
normal distance. The student next to me (as well as the teacher and the rest of the
class, I'm sure) sensed my difficulty. This student began whispering my notes to me like
a parent to a timid child performing for an audience. I dismissed my frustration with a
laugh here and there between my disjointed prompts. Finally it ended.
I hoped I could now put the experience behind me. But that wasn't possible. The
adolescent devastation was there to stay. My teacher didn't let it go either. She called
my parents to find out if I was able to read. She thought I wasn't intelligent enough for
her class. Dad made the necessary excuses, and I was able to remain in the class.
Unfortunately the memory also remained. Trying to be normal wasn't worth the pain.
This faking continued until my vision decreased significantly in my eighth-grade year.
The issue could no longer be ignored. I saw a specialist and was finally given a label. "I
have cone dystrophy," and soon thereafter I was able to say, "I am visually impaired."
The second label came after being introduced to special education and a dear friend
named Carol. She helped me face my fears of admitting there was a problem and
helped me to make adaptations. This was a huge step in my life. I no longer allowed
anything to keep me from getting straight A's.
I still had a lot of learning to do by way of admitting to myself that I couldn't do things the
same way as others around me. I even got a driver's license. (I guess legally I could
drive, but realistically I was crazy to try--especially when I cheated on one of the vision
tests.) Driving lasted for only a few years until I'd put others and myself in danger too
many times. Giving it up, as much as I needed to, was devastating. I remember other
periods of devastation, sitting in classes and other situations with tearful eyes,
wondering why I was so stupid and why couldn't I do things the same way as the
students or friends around me could. All of this in an attempt to be normal. It too wasn't
worth the pain.
College wasn't a huge adjustment. I entered Brigham Young University as a special
education major with two scholarships and the same old insecurities. I learned quickly
that I couldn't depend on Support Services for Students with Disabilities. Classes
weren't easy, so I had to start developing my own adaptive techniques. With each
semester I learned techniques that would make the next one even easier. I got my own
readers; I learned to rely on descriptions while using binoculars to distinguish objects in
slides or on the board. I figured out that I could read print on certain colours more easily
than on others, so I began using coloured transparency sheets to lay over the page I
was reading. Through this I gained confidence, but I still avoided computers at all costs.
This confidence greatly increased when I came in contact with Norman Gardner, Ray
Martin, and their wives. They introduced me to the National Federation of the Blind just
over two years ago. They came at just the right time. Relationships, my choice of major,
and other serious decisions in my life left me doubting myself, as I never had before. I
was dragged to Anaheim, California, by Norm and Ray for the 1996 National
Convention of the National Federation of the Blind.
It really was quite an ordeal getting me there. I was very scared. I had never travelled
alone; I never did anything alone. (I went out of my way to plan for family members or
friends to be with me wherever I went. I couldn't even walk into church alone for fear I
wouldn't find the pew where my family sat.) Now this! Flying alone, navigating an airport
alone, claiming baggage alone, coping with possible transfers alone. My dad never
really liked the idea of my going places alone, and I knew I hated the idea myself. But I
finally consented because there would be other people whom I had met once before on
the same flight, and they were willing to help me.
Although overwhelmed, I soon came to know many people who have become some of
my best friends and role models: Kristen Cox, Ron Gardner, Robert Olsen, their
spouses, and Bruce Gardner. I began to learn that I had potential that I'd never given
myself credit for and never let others see. I knew I didn't have to be afraid anymore of
who I was. I knew I would be more honest with myself and be able to let others see the
real me. All of these feelings culminated at the banquet. I had heard all the incredible
plans of the scholarship winners, and I realized I didn't want to live any of the
misconceptions that President Maurer referred to. Most of all, I knew my life could never
be the same. The pretending and the fear had to end. I went from doubting my identity,
my career choice, and even my self-worth, to craving independence that I'd never
In fact, I was accepted to go on a study abroad program to London. This is where the
craving began. By the end of the program, I was navigating and using the Underground
or Tube (the subway system) independently. I loved the freedom of getting from place to
place, experiencing the culture, etc., with the group or on my own if I wanted to.
Just one year after Anaheim I had school schedule conflicts that caused me to have to
leave a few days late for last year's national convention in New Orleans. This meant
flying alone, transferring alone, claiming baggage alone, and getting to the hotel alone.
This time, however, I had a much different experience. I looked at it as an opportunity
and adventure to test some of my new travel skills and self-reliance. My friend Norm
described it as an example of personal triumph and independence. What a contrast to
the previous year. That convention only reinforced and intensified the feelings from the
Back to school now. As required at BYU, I had opportunities to volunteer and later to
teach in different classroom settings each semester in the special education program. I
encountered frightening, stressful, and even dangerous situations. But, as my mom
likes to remind me, a thought hit me one day near the end of my college career. I
realized that I was capable of handling any one of these classroom situations. My
travelling experience, as well as experiences in my education, soon helped me realize
that I didn't want to be the average blind person with the average job. (I think most of us
have heard the quotation). I wanted to be the best! Doing the best job! Before I found
this determination, I had been terrified. I was convinced that I was crazy to think I could
be a teacher. I dreaded applying for jobs because I just knew I would be a joke, walking
into any interview. I had begun to talk myself into settling for a teacher's assistant
position. That way I wouldn't have to be as responsible and could just follow in someone
But, as I said, my introduction to the NFB came at just the right time. I began using a
cane (after leaving my lasting impression in college when I missed the barricades and
stepped into fresh cement on campus), and I also began learning how to be up-front
about my blindness in professional situations. I absolutely hated the interviewing
process, but I kept at it. Suddenly the terror ended when I interviewed with some very
open-minded people. I was amazed to find that I wouldn't be turned down because of a
disability but instead that I was hired; not only because of my accomplishments, but also
because of the determination and sensitivity my blindness has given me. Soon I found
myself tearfully saying good-bye to my parents (both natural and in the Federation) to
accept a position an hour away in a junior high intellectually disabled unit. Here was the
independence I'd longed for.
I am fortunate enough to have a boss who is very sensitive to the needs of his teachers.
He knew there was a possibility that I'd need some adaptive technology. So for
Christmas he gave me a request form for the things I needed. Now I have a large
computer monitor (my jumbo tron), with speech and enlargement software on the way (I
can't survive without the one thing I hated and dreaded in school--I'd die without my
computer), and I also have a lighting system in my classroom that dims above my desk
to make my reading and paper work more bearable. I am also fortunate to work with
amazing teachers who are willing to support and help each other whenever needed.
They aren't condescending in their offers to help. But I think they are still learning about
me as an individual and about blindness in general. (I really confused them when I won
the turkey at the Thanksgiving faculty free throw contest.)
It's hard to believe I ever considered being merely a teacher's assistant. I now have two
full-time assistants and one part-time assistant working under me. I also supervise
several students who get credit for being peer tutors in my classroom. My assistants
understand my limitations (not seeing problem behaviours at the back of the room, etc.)
and are able to follow my cues to deal with such situations. They know that I'm in
charge, and I'm able to give them unique responsibilities that they might not have in a
sighted teacher's classroom. I find that this brings accountability and consistency to my
classroom. I can even recognize ways that my students benefit from my blindness. I'm
sensitive to their feelings of inadequacy. I'm able to come up with alternative ways of
learning the same thing. The concepts they learn are practiced and reinforced since I
have to ask them to read or tell me what they are working on or what their answer is. I'm
not afraid to admit, and even laugh, when I make a mistake.
I absolutely love my job! I never expected to enjoy being a professional so much. It
wasn't an easy road getting to this point, and I know the journey continues. I know I owe
much of this to my involvement in the National Federation of the Blind. It was this
organization that helped me gain confidence, self-respect, initiative and courage to do
the things I've mentioned. I was strengthened by the philosophy, the history I learned
from reading Walking Alone and Marching Together, the leadership, the political
influence I witnessed at Washington Seminar, etc. I will forever be grateful for what I
have gained and will continue to gain from the NFB and the people and philosophy that
make it what it is. I now hope to bring it to others so that it can dramatically change their
lives, too. Thank you.
YOU DO NOT KNOW UNTIL YOU TRY
By: Sidney Morris
Editor's Note: Sidney Morris is a member of AEBC's Montreal, Quebec, Chapter. He is
married and has four grandchildren, with a fifth on the way.
I stumbled on the fact that I had diabetic retinopathy in 1991. My wife was at her
ophthalmologist when I jokingly said, "Take a look into my eyes." He took one look and
told me I could not leave the hospital building. I was sent to a diabetic ophthalmologist
and started Laser Surgery.
I had been diagnosed with Type Two Diabetes at the age of 26; I am now 79 years old.
The diabetes was controlled with diet and then pills, and for the last 15 years with
insulin. I visited my endocrinologist regularly, as well as my ophthalmologist, as I had
been wearing glasses since I was in my early 20's. I was under his care until 1991 but
was never advised that I had--or was showing signs of--Diabetic Retinopathy.
As with most eye diseases, Retinopathy is progressive. While still legally able to drive, I
gave up night driving as I did not feel comfortable with my failing vision. I was afraid of
being the cause of an accident and harming someone, including myself. I was a
bookkeeper and, by the time I was 72, I had to retire due to my low vision. I also lost my
driver's license at the same time.
Now came the question: What do I do now? What does a partially sighted person do to
I was physically fit and raring to go, but with nothing to do. After much investigation, I
applied to The Montreal Association for the Blind (MAB) and was accepted. The MAB,
to me, is the finest organization of its kind, but that is only one day a week! Next, I
joined a gym (Nautilus Plus) and ended up going three days a week. That still left me
with one free day.
I then got into something I am really proud of--I enrolled in a stone sculpturing class. I
found it in the syllabus of "The Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors". This is a Golden
Age centre in Montreal where any one 50 years and older can join. They offer the
widest selection of courses, crafts, fine arts etc. imaginable.
Here I am 72 years old and starting something that I know nothing about! Never before
have I done any artwork or crafts.
I dubiously went to the first class and got a few stares, with others seeing me walk in
carrying a white cane. The instructor gave me a gray stone about 4" x 5", and lent me a
chisel and mallet. He also gave me a crayon to sketch something on the stone. All he
said to me by way of instruction was, "Give it a whirl. You won't know until you try."
Evidently, an aptitude for sculpturing does exist. Seven years and 15 pieces later, I am
How does a partially sighted individual go about stone sculpturing?
I use a clip-on swing lamp with 100W bulb about two to three feet above the stone that I
am working on. Next, I use a 10X magnifier (the type a jeweller wears around his head).
The glasses swing down over the eyes. This leaves both hands free to work. I started
with 2x lenses but had to progress to 10X over the years. A black marking crayon is
used to sketch the stone during the progressive stages of the work. Lastly, it is the
sense of touch that one uses to let you see what you are doing. Naturally, the instructor
also plays an important part in the whole thing. I have to discuss with him or her how to
go about a part of the sculpture that is difficult. It takes a professional's advice to help
The type of work I do has changed over the years. In the beginning, I created animals,
faces, torsos etc; however, I cannot see well enough now, so I limit my pieces of art to
abstract shapes that I design (or doodle) myself. This way, it does not matter if I make
an error. An abstract could be anything. The average weight of a finished sculpture is
about 25 pounds and it takes approximately five to six months to produce one.
Why am I writing this?
I want to emphasize that anyone, be they vision-impaired or physically impaired, can
find a pastime that could be physically and mentally rewarding. Where there is a will,
there is a way. You do not know until you try.
BALL AND CHAIN
By: Sara Bennett
No, this isn't a gothic tale of dungeons and torture, or even a treatise on the pitfalls of
marriage--at least, not literally. Rather, it's a few reflections on the hindrances of
orientation and mobility. Yes, that's right, hindrances.
Before I became blind as a child, I was used to bicycling, skipping, playing hopscotch
and walking to school, the mall or the park. Now, without sight, I was suddenly bound to
a white cane or a sighted guide, and I resented it. For me, having to wait for and depend
on a sighted guide, learn how to use a cane effectively, or wonder where to stash it,
say, in the park, were tantamount to torture, lacking in spontaneity, freedom and
excitement. Dragging around a mobility aid, I thought, was inconvenient and cramped
Without my knowing it, I was in shackles.
As a pre-teen and adolescent, I wanted to fit in with my friends and classmates, but
tapping down the school corridor with my white cane, often hitting and plowing through
truant hats, scarves, shoes and boots, was not my idea of fitting in, or of being graceful
for that matter. Nor was walking with a female sighted guide, trying to deflect sexual-
orientation comments from teenage males. Just at the age when I craved anonymity, it
seemed I was sticking out like a sore thumb.
Imperceptibly, my chains were getting tighter and heavier.
Over the years, I vacillated between anger and depression, envy and self-pity, fear and
nonchalance, and I found myself increasingly isolated, both physically and emotionally,
from others. Inertia was setting in.
But my love of learning and desperate need of mental stimulation propelled me into
post-secondary education, where I initially used sighted guides from my residence,
classes or the disability office. I always carried my white cane in case I needed it,
particularly if my guide was a novice. When I became more familiar with routes through
practice and asking pertinent questions, I began walking to class with just my white
cane. I still felt conspicuous and received occasional inappropriate comments, but these
decreased with time as I "put myself out there" more often, plus I was not as fazed now
as I once had been. Soon, I felt naked without my white cane.
Gradually, my bonds were loosening.
I was regaining control slowly, and recognizing I had choices. If the weather was bad or
health issues precluded cane travel, for example, I simply asked a classmate or passer-
by for assistance. If I didn't want any, or a certain, sighted guide, I used my cane or
asked someone else. In addition, I could ask for help if I needed it, or decline offers if I
didn't. Knowing I had these choices was empowering. Having the confidence to make
them was liberating.
The irons now were noticeably less constricting.
The freeing process accelerated when I got lost, once at home and once on campus,
but was able to re-orient myself via traffic volume, the sound of wind chimes and known
landmarks. In one instance, I was able to get myself to a location where I could ask for
directions. I discovered the same kind of self-reliance when I spent a year at college
living off-campus. What might otherwise have been disconcerting experiences were in
reality setting me free.
Over the years, I have come to realize that it isn't the white cane or sighted guide
themselves that weigh me down, but the marriage between these aids and certain
negative and/or erroneous attitudes. Far from being just a victim, I had unwittingly been
contributing to my own imprisonment. It took some time for me to understand that I
could set myself free with the key I had possessed, or had access to, all along--a "can
SOARING THROUGH FEAR
By: Merry-Noel Chamberlain
Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from the Braille Monitor, June 2006:
I stood in line next to my husband Marty at airport security check-in, and my stomach
felt as if the last hurricane that pounded Florida were roiling inside me. It was the first
time I was going to travel independently by plane since I had become blind. This day I
was on my way to Kalamazoo, Michigan, for weekend classes at Western Michigan
University. Having a father in the military allowed me to travel extensively between
Europe and the United States when I was growing up. But this was different. I thought
how lucky I was that Marty had been given a special pass to escort me to my departure
gate. Marty was very supportive, and I tried to appear confident as I clung to his sleeve.
My heart was pounding, and my head was full of questions such as how was I going to
be able to find my connecting flight? Where exactly should I stow my long white cane on
the plane? What did the Braille Monitor suggest? What should I do if the airline wanted
to take my cane away from me? Hadn't I read stories in the Monitor about such
situations? I was terrified at the possibility of having some sort of confrontation with the
airline. I concluded that perhaps I should have brushed up on plane orientation and
What had I just overheard? Was the flight cancelled? Would luck be with me and Marty
have to cancel his weekend plans in order to drive me to Michigan, which was what I
secretly hoped for? That would be fine with me, I told myself. I really didn't need to sit in
on that elective seminar, did I? If we left within the hour, I would be in Kalamazoo
tonight, just in time for class.
As we inched our way forward, the voices became louder and clearer. The hurricane in
Florida had grounded planes in Tennessee. Too bad, I happily smiled to myself. I didn't
have to face my fear today, and Marty was going to have to drive me after all. We
quickly exchanged my ticket, zoomed over to our house two miles away, packed an
overnight bag for Marty, and headed towards the sunrise, leaving Des Moines behind
What a loss, the great opportunity to learn; to explore new terrain; to discover--using the
discovery method--how to travel by plane. For several weeks afterwards, I regretted
having my secret wish come true. Also, I felt guilty for monopolizing Marty's time by
taking away his weekend and for being so selfish. If I could have done it over again, I
would have embraced the learning experience of making that flight independently.
The opportunity to fly again came sooner than I anticipated, and this time I was eager to
take the challenge. Western Michigan invited me to attend the 2005 Josephine L. Taylor
Leadership Institute in Boston, which meant I was going to fly even farther than I would
have the first time. Although I was nervous, I reminded myself how much I had regretted
missing that learning opportunity. I also told myself that, if I was going to expect my
students to face their fears, I needed to do the same thing. Besides, how could I face
my own fears if I couldn't even set foot on a plane? How could I show my face at a
leadership conference (of all places) if I couldn't be a leader?
The day soon arrived for me to jump and hold on tight to the bungee cord. I decided that
I would take this opportunity to immerse myself totally in the flying experience. Well--
except for the beginning when Marty would walk me to the gate to send me off. Perhaps
that was the romantic side of me or a tiny bit of residual fear. I'll never tell.
I won't detail each flight, just report the highlights. Each plane, I discovered, had its own
personality deriving from the cabin crew on duty. When I chose to enter the plane
before the other passengers, the crew made a point of describing the overhead air and
light functions to me. Later, when a passenger was seated beside me, one crew
member introduced me to her, informed her that I was blind, and asked if, in case of an
emergency, she would escort me to the nearest exit. Of course she said that she would,
but I doubted it. That would have been the last thing on her mind if the plane made an
Generally everyone was helpful. One time a passenger retrieved my cane from the
overhead compartment when I was experimenting with storage options. I tried putting it
there a couple of times but ended up feeling more comfortable with it stored between
the seat and the window. Not once did anyone try to take the cane away from me, which
As I say, I wanted the total experience and decided to pick my battles later when it
came to changing planes in Minneapolis, St. Paul. There I was stopped by a gate agent
as soon as I exited the plane and was escorted to a row of blue chairs that displayed
the handicapped icon on the back. I was instructed to wait there for the shuttle that was
on its way to transport me to the next gate. I said that I could walk, but he insisted that it
was quite a long way to my gate. So I sat and waited. Finally the electric cart arrived,
and we went for a long, long ride. I was happy for the ride but felt that the cart was
totally unnecessary. My layover was long enough for me to have walked, and I would
have loved the opportunity to explore some of the shops along the way.
As I was nearing Boston, I suddenly wondered how I was going to find the luggage
carousel once I had left the plane. I thought to myself, there are a lot of people on this
plane. I'll just ask someone with a sweet-sounding voice if he or she was going to
baggage claim. That's what I did. Together we walked to baggage claim, where I ran
into John McMahan, a college classmate whose plane had arrived just ahead of mine.
Radiating quiet confidence, I didn't want him to guess how much I was exploding with
triumph inside. I wanted to jump up and down for joy and give him a huge bear hug and
a high-five. I was ever so proud of myself! I had done it. But I wasn't brave enough to
share my accomplishment with John, who is also blind.
In orientation and mobility we often talk about travelling with confidence. This trip taught
me that travelling from home to the store really is no different from travelling by plane,
providing that you have confidence in your independent travel skills. The structured
discovery method of orientation and mobility allows individuals to develop such
confidence. What one learns in the mall when using the discovery method can be
transplanted to the airport terminal. For example, when you hear the footsteps of
several people walking in the same direction at the mall, you can conclude that the exit
is in that direction. Following the sound of footsteps in the airport concourse can often
lead to baggage claim or get you near enough to hear it. When you have confidence in
your mobility skills, orientation information will flow in when you are travelling over new
I am writing this on yet another plane as I head home from the Washington Seminar.
This is now the eleventh plane I've been on since that first ride to Boston, and I have
discovered that, if you appear to be a confident traveller, people will treat you like one. If
you appear to be an inexperienced traveller, more assistance will be offered. Today I
found my gate and entered the plane when my row was called. I counted the rows to
number eight and sat down in seat B. The crew member didn't make a point of
introducing me to the overhead buttons. In fact, I wasn't visited until drinks were served.
That was when she saw my BrailleNote and must have concluded that I was blind
because she carefully described where she had placed my soda on the tray and then
gently patted my hand.
We all face fears from time to time, and even those who have received training in
orientation and mobility or have years of experience travelling may encounter new
opportunities to learn. Just today, as I left the Holiday Inn Capitol, I embraced the
challenge of taking the Metro so I could experience and discover a new mode of
transportation. But I'll leave the description of that experience for another article
because I feel the plane starting to descend. The cabin crew member just stopped by to
see if I needed any assistance in Des Moines. "No," I proudly told her, "I'm home."
We are all fortunate to have the National Federation of the Blind to pave the way and
allow us to learn from one another so that we can fly both literally and figuratively. I can
hardly wait to soar through the sunny blue sky to the national convention in Dallas. Can
TEN STEPS TO STAY SANE WHILE LOSING SIGHT
By: Susan Pomerantz
As you know if you are blind or going blind, and could probably surmise if you are
neither, the loss of vision is a difficult process to endure without leaving behind at least
a few marbles. I have retinitis pigmentosa and I am considered blind though a speck of
retina in my left eye still works most of the time, offering just enough sight to drive me,
and everyone around me, bonkers.
If vision loss makes you, too, feel as if you're losing your mind, try these ten steps. They
won't improve your vision or bring you inner peace like, say, bionic retinas and mood
stabilizers might, but they may offer some symptomatic relief.
10. Have faith in something. Have faith in God; have faith in the law of gravity; have
faith in nasal spray to clear your sinus passages. Whether you worship idols or Dr.
Atkins for letting you smear butter on your T-bone, it can't hurt to have faith.
9. Stop cringing and squinting; tell people you're going blind. Some people just won't get
it. Like my neighbour who asked why I don't drive. When I told him I couldn't see, he
said, "So? Plenty of people drive who can't see." He was serious.
Still, it's better to be up front. Recently, I dropped a few quarters at the airport. I heard
them bounce on the carpet and quickly decided that not revealing my blindness by
kneeling down to feel around for them was worth considerably more than 75 cents. I
started to walk away.
"You dropped some change," a flight attendant said.
"That's okay," I answered with a wave.
"I think there might be some over there," she gestured to my right.
"Ah, no big deal," I said.
"It sounded like a lot fell," she persisted.
"Really, it's fine," I said, waving my hand again, this time with a tilt, a royal wave to
convey the utter insignificance of the money.
She shook her head and made a sound that implied a disgusted "whatever" as I walked
I would not admit that I couldn't see. Why? It's not like my retinas were revoked for
misconduct. If I had simply explained that I couldn't see the coins, she would have
picked them up for me. If nothing else, I'd be 75 cents richer today.
8. Chop up your driver's license and accept your pedestrian status. I refused to stop
driving until, after six accidents, my insurance company cancelled my coverage (go
figure). Still, I continued to renew my license, once even cheating on the vision test.
Eventually, I misplaced the license and sobbed pitifully over its loss because, even
unused, it represented my independence. But it's time to embrace the walk. Walking
burns calories, strengthens muscles and it gets you from here to there, gratis.
7. Give and take. Volunteer for a cause, any cause. Choose one out of self-interest like,
I don't know, the Foundation Fighting Blindness. Ask people to donate money. People
love when they're asked to unload cash. And when someone volunteers to offer you a
hand or an elbow or, in my daughter's case, a ponytail and, in my son's case, the back
of his t-shirt, take it. Don't say, "No thank you," and then walk into a pole. You'll feel like
an idiot; the person who offered assistance will feel guilty; and you may need stitches (I
6. Take the loose twist-ties and rubber bands out of the utensil drawer and get
organized. Being about as organized as a plate of spaghetti, I spend most of my time
looking for things and not finding them. It drives me crazy. If you, too, engage in
maddeningly futile searches for a range of items from the trivial to the essential, you
may benefit from some orderliness.
5. Be thankful for the little things. I am thankful when, for example, I can find the
newspaper on my front lawn block of grass roughly the size of an index card. I know it is
there, but I rarely see it. I have learned that a proven method for locating my newspaper
is giving up, heading back toward my house slumped and defeated, and tripping over it.
Ah, there it is, I say triumphantly as I fan the scrape on my knee. And I am thankful that
I don't need stitches, this time.
4. Adjust your dreams. If you've always dreamed of playing shortstop for the New York
Yankees and you're losing your vision, choose another sport (or at least another team,
please). Become an umpire. Professional umpires can't really see either; they just yell
out the calls with unswerving authority. Or you can play amateur ball and listen to
games. If you're a Red Sox fan, the Yankees have already driven you batty and your
failing vision may be a handy excuse to stop watching the Sox choke. If you're like me
and never dreamed of being Derek Jeter, just marry him, then you don't have to alter
your dream. Let's just call it a fantasy, shall we?
3. Consider the possibility that you're gifted. Some people are clearly gifted, but you
may have to find your gift. I never had even a token gift--you know, like a pleasant
singing voice or the ability to catch a fly ball, neither one of which would have been so
much a gift as a nice gesture on my Creator's part. My husband, in his enduring effort to
boost my ego (you can't even imagine how sarcastic that is), once mentioned that I
might have great hair. But even on its greatest day, hair is more of a nice accessory
than a talent. Yet, I know we all have our strengths and we must exploit them.
2. Try not to bite the heads off your parents, kids, siblings and friends; be grateful for the
big things. I know how those well-meaning loved ones can push you headlong over the
edge. Perhaps you have a father who gasps every time you take a step. Your heart
stops at the sound of his shrill gasp, but you soon realize he is holding his chest
because you just moved one foot forward and came within 25 yards of a lamppost. Or
your mother watches blankly as you collide with a lamppost and then, as you're
swearing like you've never sworn before under your breath of course because your
mother is present, she says, "Oh dear. I thought you saw that." They mean well, really.
1. Take a dose of life's happy drug (I mean laughter, not Prozac). When you found out
you were losing your vision, the last thing you wanted to do was laugh. But now, it's time
to laugh at yourself and, preferably, at others. Laugh uproariously when people show
you something that is, apparently, hilarious and expect you to have seen it. Laugh at
your doctor or therapist. If yours aren't funny, and most of them are not moonlighting on
Comedy Central, then laugh at mine. One therapist claimed to know how I feel, losing
my vision, because she suffers from, get this, back pain. Sometimes, comedy is the only
response to tragedy.
The above article was first published in DIALOGUE, Winter 2004. For a free sample
issue of DIALOGUE or information about other publications, contact Blindskills, Inc.,
P.O. Box 5181, Salem, OR 97304-0181; Phone: 800-860-4224; Email:
email@example.com; Website: www.blindskills.com
COPING WITH LOW VISION
By: Dr. Todd Wilbee
Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from the Windsor Star, March 16, 2006.
When it concerns your health, no one likes to be told "nothing more can be done."
When hearing these words, we are resigned to accept the present situation without any
chance for improvement. For the general population who suffer from low vision, there is
some hope with the techniques used in low-vision rehabilitation.
What is low vision? There are scientific definitions but, in general terms, low vision is
vision that is not satisfactory to the patient and cannot be sufficiently improved by
eyeglasses, contact lenses or medical/surgical therapy. There are many conditions that
cause low vision, with the more common being macular degeneration, retinitis
pigmentosa, diabetic retinopathy, retinal detachment, glaucoma or congenital
abnormalities. For low-vision patients, simple tasks such as reading the newspaper or
watching television can prove to be extremely challenging without the use of low-vision
To begin the process of low-vision rehabilitation, an optometrist or ophthalmologist must
determine a patient's remaining visual functions and skills. Once this is established,
training begins with the use of low- and high-tech devices or techniques to optimize
vision and improve daily living skills. Low-vision rehabilitation is performed by
optometrists, ophthalmologists, opticians, occupational therapists, vision instructors and
social workers. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) is a national
organization that also provides basic low-vision care.
Simple techniques can be done to improve the daily living practices of a low-vision
patient. Some examples include brightly coloured tape applied to the edges of steps.
This allows safer navigation going up and down stairs. At the dinner table, using a black
placemat with a white dinner plate can make it easier to see the meal. To read
newsprint, the most popular low-vision aids are magnifying lenses. They come in many
forms, such as spectacle frames, hand-held magnifiers, stand magnifiers and
There are many high-tech low vision aids as well. A closed-circuit television (CCTV) is a
very useful instrument where any type of print can be placed on a tray and enlarged to a
desired magnification onto a computer screen. Another high-tech device is the JORDY
2. This portable head-borne device allows the patient to see at far, intermediate and
near distances by altering the magnification of objects.
Coping with low vision is not an easy task. However, low-vision rehabilitation can
provide some hope. It will never completely restore vision but it can improve the
independence and quality of life for a person suffering from low vision.
I would like to thank Dr. Ana Juricic for contributing to this article.
Dr. Todd Wilbee has a doctor of optometry degree and practises family optometry in
Essex County. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His column runs the third
Thursday of every month.
POOR NIGHTTIME VISION A SAD REALITY OF THE AGING PROCESS
By: DR. W. Gifford-Jones
Editor's Note: This article is reprinted from the Guelph Mercury, July 8, 2006.
In 800 B.C. Homer wrote, "Now the night comes and it is wise to obey the night." In his
time there were frequent muggings at night and home robberies. Not much has
changed since then. But today we're even more vulnerable, by being involved in tragic
car accidents as the sun goes down. Our eyesight may be to blame.
So what happens to our sight as we age, and how can we decrease the risk of death on
A report from the Harvard Medical School states that "roadway crashes are the leading
cause of on-the-job fatalities among older workers in the United States and that poor
vision is partly to blame."
Macular degeneration is one of the causes of these accidents. And for those over the
age of 55 years it's also the main reason for being classified as "legally blind." The
macula is a pin-sized area in the retina at the back of the eye that transmits images to
the brain. Like a rifle bullet it can zero in on small, distant objects. And when the macula
develops degenerative changes, nighttime driving becomes hazardous.
Several other changes occur in the eye as we age. Like other parts of the body, the
eyelids begin to droop, providing less peripheral vision. The pigmented iris that makes
us brown- or blue-eyed isn't present just to make us pretty. It also begins to sag as tiny
muscles that control the size of the pupil weaken with age, making it more difficult to
keep the iris open. During our early years the size of the iris is about five millimetres.
But it shrinks to about three millimetres later in life. A smaller pupil allows less light to
strike the retina making nighttime vision less sharp. This loss of vision is not detectable
during the day. But driving a car with droopy eyelids and a narrowed pupil has the same
effect as wearing sunglasses while driving at night.
Older drivers are also unable to adapt as quickly to changes in intensity of light. On
occasion we've all complained, "Why didn't that idiot turn off his high beam?" An aging
iris contracts more slowly to the blazing light. But once the car has passed, it's also slow
in dilating to provide more light for the dark road ahead. And a light pigment called
rhodopsin that helps adjust to night vision decreases as we age. Today, most people
are aware of the risk of developing cataracts in the lens in later years. A less
transparent lens decreases the amount of light striking the retina and worsens night
driving. The final problem for the aging eye involves photoreceptors in the retina.
Photoreceptors transmit the image of an upcoming car to the brain. Older adults can
lose one-third of them.
So what can we do to decrease the hazards of driving at night? Mothers urged us to eat
our carrots to maintain good vision and they were partly right. Carrots are rich in vitamin
A needed to regenerate rhodopsin. But there's no sure way to prevent macular
degeneration. Some doctors advise patients to take a daily pill containing lutein, a
macular pigment. They believe that this antioxidant helps to slow down the disease.
Others say eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables makes more sense. The only way
to improve night vision is cataract surgery. But there are several studies going back
many years that rarely get much attention. They report that people who take vitamin C
show decreased risk of developing cataracts. This continues to make sense as, unlike
animals, humans do not manufacture this powerful antioxidant vitamin.
A sure way to survive night driving is to be realistic about your ability to see well in the
dark. And good sense dictates that as visual acuity decreases, it's prudent to stay away
from the steering wheel after sunset. Homer was right: obeying the night saves lives.
Gifford-Jones is the pen name of Toronto physician Ken Walker.
BLIND LIVE FULLER LIVES USING BRAILLE
By: Jen Waters
Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from THE WASHINGTON TIMES,
December 11, 2006.
Charles Hill had to take a break from the real estate business when he lost his sight two
years ago due to an infection in the brain and a stroke. Since August, he has been
learning braille at Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, a non-profit organization with
offices in Northwest and Riverdale. His goal is to re-enter the real estate market.
Discerning the feel of braille has been the hardest part, he says. Mr. Hill previously
worked as a carpenter and lacks sensitivity in his fingers.
"I need to get back out in society," says Mr. Hill, 46, of Southeast. "Braille is one part of
it. I will be able to go up and down elevators. If I want to write a letter, I'll be able to do it.
I'll use it on my computer, too. I need to put it on my stove, too, so I can see what the
degree is. I need to be able to read my bank statement."
Despite technological advances to assist visually impaired people, learning braille is still
essential, according to Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind. The code, first invented by
Louis Braille in 1829, helps the blind have a better quality of life.
There are about 10 million blind and visually impaired people in the United States,
according to the American Foundation for the Blind, a non-profit organization in New
One-on-one training is the best way to learn braille, says Maurice Boyd, braille instructor
at Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind. He is currently teaching six students in private
two-hour sessions once or twice a week. A session costs from $35 to $75 per hour.
"Braille is not obsolete," Mr. Boyd says. "The mistake some people make because of
assisted technology is to say that there is no longer the same demand and use for
braille. Even if you learn to use a computer, at some point, you will have to read
The braille cell is a six-dot rectangle on its end, with dots numbered one through six, he
says. Dots one, two and three are on the left, top to bottom. Dots four, five and six are
on the right, top to bottom. The capital sign, dot 6, placed before a letter makes a capital
letter. There are 63 possible combinations of the dots in the rectangular cell.
A muffin tin provides students with a representation of a braille cell, Mr. Boyd says. In
addition to the letters, there are 189 composition signs and contractions specific to
braille, which is like shorthand. Braille dots also can be used to communicate
mathematical and musical ideas. However, students should learn the basic alphabet
"I can probably teach you the first five to seven letters in 20 minutes," Mr. Boyd says.
"Reading it is a lot harder, to understand when one dot ends and another begins."
Braille books would go on forever if every word were spelled out a letter at a time, Mr.
Boyd says. Therefore, contractions or groups of letters are used in most books. For
instance, all the letters in the alphabet other than A, I and O stand for a word. B stands
for but, and C for can. While some people only want to learn enough braille for minimal
use, other people need it for professional purposes.
"I had a lady that got through all the contractions in 44 hours," Mr. Boyd says. "It
depends on the student's desire."
Children are the easiest to teach, Mr. Boyd says. Unlike many adults, children haven't
spent their entire lives reading. People who are partially sighted are the hardest people
to teach because they try to read the dots with their eyes, he says.
"The biggest thing is their patience, and the patience of an instructor," Mr. Boyd says.
"Learning braille is like learning print. If you are blind and can't read braille, you are not
Depending on the person's literacy skills, a braille instructor might have to teach a
person grammar and braille, says Harold Snider, executive director of Services for the
Visually Impaired, a non-profit organization in Silver Spring. He has a doctorate in
history. Private lessons cost $39 per hour.
Braille is a modification of a system of raised dots developed for the French army, to
communicate silently at night. In contrast to sign language, a braille code for each
language exists. There are six different Chinese braille codes, he says. "Braille is a
code, not a language," says Mr. Snider, who has been blind since birth. He knows
English, French and Spanish codes. "The combination of dots means something
different in each language."
Not everyone is a good candidate to learn braille, such as those people who don't have
the tactility to identify the dots. For instance, guitar players or some diabetics are at a
Less than 10 percent of the legally blind population reads braille, according to the
American Foundation for the Blind.
Writing Braille is part of being literate in the code, says Patricia Droppers, an instructor
at Services for the Visually Impaired. She has been blind since birth.
A Perkins braille writer, similar to a typewriter, has six keys that represent the braille
cell. A slate and stylus is almost like using a pen and pencil to make braille notations. A
braille note taker is like a personal digital assistant.
Braille labellers are used for putting labels on small items like compact discs. Braille
embossers are attached to a computer to translate documents into the code. The
Duxbury Braille Translator is a popular system.
"People in their 80s can learn it," Ms. Droppers says. "You don't have to be 20. Older
adults can learn braille. It won't do much to help them read 'War and Peace,' but they
can label their medications and spices and write down recipes, whatever they want to
do to keep them living independently."
The best way to become proficient in braille is to use it, says Melanie Brunson,
executive director for the American Council of the Blind in Northwest. She says she was
blinded within 6 weeks of birth because of receiving too much oxygen in an incubator. "If
somebody wants to learn it, they should find materials and try to read it," Mrs. Brunson
says. "It will be slow at first, but the more you do it, the faster you can get."
Using braille is completely different from listening to something being read, says Judith
Dixon, a consumer relations officer at the National Library Service for the Blind and
Physically Handicapped, a government agency at the Library of Congress in Northwest.
Each year the organization produces 500 to 600 braille books. A correspondence
course also is offered to teach sighted people to learn braille. It trains transcribers and
proofreaders to produce braille materials from printed information. "If I read something
in braille, I actually remember it," says Ms. Dixon, who has a doctorate in clinical
psychology and has been blind since birth. "If I hear it, it doesn't have the same impact
on my brain. Braille is still very important in the education process. I use braille all day
long every day."
Copyright (c) 2006 The Washington Times LLC. This reprint does not constitute or imply
any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization. Visit
our website at: http://www.washingtontimes.com
GLIMPSE OF THE FUTURE
By: Eric Mortenson
Editor's Note: This article is reprinted from the Oregonian, July 29, 2004.
In some ways, it's a typical case of first-job jitters. Heather Wilson is 17 and a little
nervous, uncertain of what's expected and caught up in details such as catching the
right bus and having clean clothes to wear to work. At Providence Portland Medical
Center, where she works in the volunteer services department, she bounces between
bubbly and shy.
Beyond that is the usual teen stuff. With the money she's earning, she plans to storm
Clackamas Town Center to buy clothes, makeup and CDs. She enjoys "Buffy the
Vampire Slayer" and "Xena: Warrior Princess" on television, spends a lot of time on the
internet and is seldom detached from her MP3 player. Poetry, music, drama,
psychology and hanging with her friends at Sandy High School--she likes all those
things. Math and creepy people on TriMet, ugh.
Just another kid on the edge of adulthood, trying to find her way.
But hers is an adapted path. At her feet is a white cane, ready for use. The fingers of
her left hand explore the portable computer that dangles from a strap around her neck,
finding the specialized keys and lightly skimming the braille readouts. Her right arm,
which ends at the elbow, nudges and balances the device, and types on the keys.
She's been blind since birth, when she arrived three months early weighing 1 pound, 9
ounces. Her retinas were undeveloped and her right arm incomplete. She was a twin;
her sister did not survive. "Heather was the tough one," says her mother, Andrea
Heather's whole life has been about adaptation. She read braille at 3. She learned to
put on socks by first placing them on her "little arm," as the family calls it, and then
slipping her foot inside.
This job is another in a series of challenges. Figure it out, find out how, make do.
"It's a good first job--actually a really good job," Heather says. "So when I go to college
I'll be more confident, I'll be more prepared for what's going to come."
For seven weeks this summer, Heather is a receptionist in the volunteer services
department, taking calls from people who want to help out at the hospital and entering
the information on her computer with impressive speed. She also works in the gift shop
and does other jobs.
She's one of about 40 young people--between 16 and 21 and all visually impaired or
blind--taking part in the Oregon Commission for the Blind's Summer Work Experience
Program, or SWEP.
Four of the students, including Heather, are working at the hospital. Others are working
this summer at radio stations, athletic clubs, child-care facilities, parks and other places,
said Mike Ray, a vocational rehabilitation counsellor for the commission.
The intent is to give young people a first work experience about the same time their
sighted peers start working, Ray said. Students spend the first week in the program
learning job readiness skills such as how to dress and conduct themselves in a job
For Heather and others, though, there is an additional twist. Fifteen students in the
program are living this summer at Reed College. They've had to learn to ride the bus to
work, do laundry, shop for groceries and prepare basic meals for themselves. They
don't go home on weekends, but instead take part in a series of activities. They've
endured the confidence-building challenge course at Oregon Episcopal School, enjoyed
Fourth of July fireworks at Oaks Park and tried whitewater rafting.
The commission has run a summer program for nearly 25 years and finds it makes a
difference in young people's lives, Ray said.
"It's been dynamic," Ray said. "What we're finding is that folks who participated in
SWEP in high school have been much more successful in getting jobs as adults."
Heather, he said, is "just a sweetheart of a girl. She is great."
Her supervisor in volunteer services, Melissa Shaw, said working with Heather has
been more difficult than she expected. "But I feel like it's more my limitations than hers,
because I have to think about how to adapt my world to hers."
Shaw said she questions Heather periodically, to find which tasks Heather can do. She
recently realized Heather could take over her scheduling.
Heather's mother said the program has been good for her daughter. Heather will be a
senior at Sandy next fall and is eager to start college. The SWEP program identified
some of the bumps in that road this summer, including a time when Heather boarded
the wrong bus and got lost on her way to work.
"It's exactly what she needs," Wilson said. "She thought she could go away to college
and everything would be OK. I knew it would make her or break her."
Heather acknowledges she might need some help when she goes to college. But she
doesn't give ground easily. The hardest thing about the SWEP program, she says, has
been having to do her own laundry.
"I never know which ones are dark and which ones are light," she said with a smile.
She's looking forward to her senior year. She plans to try out for the high school
"I want kids to think I'm a normal person, because I am," she said.
BLIND TEENS BUILDING CAREERS
By: Emmet Kelly
Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from the Daytona Beach News Journal
(Florida), June 14, 2006: www.news-journalonline.com
For most teens, their lives are burdened with self-doubt, peer pressure, teen angst and
lifelong career goals.
Multiply these issues a hundred times and you will get a sense of what a blind teen
deals with when faced with that first step on a career path.
Besides problems encountered by a teen's own eye affliction, some employers are
reluctant to hire visually impaired teens. They fear the new-hire may not be able to
handle the job or may cause the business to incur larger insurance premiums for being
But, as the Center for the Visually Impaired (CVI) Transition Program has proven, these
concerns are totally unfounded.
"A lot of teens, ages 14 through 18, routinely get jobs at McDonald's, Publix, Burger
King, or K-Mart and so on, with little or no restriction," says Ronee Hudson, executive
director of CVI, one of Florida's leading agencies for the rehabilitation and
mainstreaming of the blind and sight-impaired.
"Early job experiences are an important factor in a teen's development, and in his or her
eventual career choice," Hudson continues. "But the visually-challenged teen lacks this
early exposure to the job market."
Learning day-to-day job skills "leads to a whole cluster of life-orientation skills, from
meal preparation to money management," she adds.
The Florida Division of Blind Services (DBS) stepped in to analyze this problem, and
developed a program, working with businesses and employers in the area, to furnish
blind teens jobs locally. The Transition Program finds CVI partnering with DBS to
establish necessary resources.
Transition training encompasses everything from mock job interviews, teaching how to
develop an effective resume, how to budget money, banking skills and public speaking,
as well as proper dress attire in the workplace. In addition, teens learn behavioural
skills, how to keep the job and maintain a successful and compatible relationship with
employers and peers.
"DBS funds the program, while CVI is the actual implementer," Hudson points out.
One important facet for the transition teen is to learn "job protocol"--not to walk off the
job without giving the employer advance notice and to avoid prolonged absenteeism
from one's job.
Some of the participants in last year's program found a rich mix of employers, including
WROD Radio, Goodwill Stores, WORE Inc., United Way of Volusia/Flagler Counties,
Gold's Gym and CVI itself.
Carolyn S. Leitch provides a teacher's point of view on the Transition Program, which
she serves as instructor-mentor.
"Mentoring the teen--providing a role model for the young person in the course of his or
her transitions--is just as important as it is to instruct them how to adapt to the work
world," Leitch says.
"It's a great tool for creating empathy with the youngsters and helping them attain the
confidence to take on job assignments."
At least one Transition alumnus, John Williams, has secured a permanent position as
board operator at WELE Radio. He reports he has advanced in his WELE duties "from
dubbing commercials to co-producing commercials while working the board" and is one
of Transition's big success stories.
Summing up the program, which is actually a summer session for teens on hiatus from
school, Hudson praised the program's benefits.
"Our Transition course helps melt down the barriers between the visually-handicapped
teen job hunter and the employer looking for bright, well-motivated high school teens,"
For more information about the CVI Transition Program--scheduled to begin July 19--
call (386) 253-8879 or email: email@example.com
Reprinted with permission of the Daytona Beach News-Journal. Copyright 2006.
INSIGHT WITHOUT SIGHT
By: Carmella Broome, Ed.S.
Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from Psychjourney, October 26, 2004.
During early college, I went for a consultation session with a local psychologist. When
he asked me what I was majoring in, I told him I was studying psychology and that I
wanted to be a counsellor. I thought he would be pleased that I planned to do what he
did, and was hoping to hear all the reasons why he loved his job.
"Well," he said hesitantly. "Non-verbals are pretty important, and you can't see those.
You could probably do okay, if you worked with a co-therapist."
His response surprised me. It had never occurred to me that my inability to see body
language would be so important that it could keep me from being an effective therapist.
I'd been legally blind since birth, and was used to relying on my sense of hearing to
gather necessary information in a variety of situations. Counselling was supposed to be
about listening and being compassionate, wasn't it?
Friends had always seemed especially comfortable sharing their difficulties with me. I
had never felt disadvantaged or unsure of my connection with them simply because I
couldn't see how they were sitting, what they were doing with their hands, etc. I could
hear the quiver in someone's voice if they were crying. I could tell if a friend was angry
or excited by how fast they were talking. Monotone speech alerted me to feelings of
depression or hopelessness. Besides, didn't the classic psychoanalysts sit behind the
client's couch so that client and counsellor could not see each other? I'd heard many
reasons why Freud's theory was no longer considered valid, but that one had never
I did not allow myself to become too discouraged by that psychologist's less than
enthusiastic response to the idea of one day having me as a colleague. None of my
psych professors, who were either Ph.D. psychologists or counsellors with masters
degrees, seemed worried about my choice of majors. One of them even told me about a
blind doctoral student he'd taught at another university, and how smart and capable that
student had been.
When I began researching graduate programs, a friend put me in contact with a blind
woman who was finishing her masters degree in counselling at a university I was
interested in. This was the first time I'd been able to talk personally with another blind
counsellor. I asked Lisa about things like taking notes, keeping track of time during
sessions, handling the lack of non-verbal behaviours, and client reactions to her
blindness and her guide dog. Her answers were encouraging. She assured me that
such concerns were easily dealt with using some creativity and adaptive technology.
She emphasized that what I had to offer was much greater than my visual limitations.
Though I did not attend the program Lisa was involved in, we have kept in touch over
the last few years. She went on to pursue a doctorate in counselling. I was accepted
into the only graduate program I applied to, and decided to specialize in marriage and
family therapy. I was impressed by the respect and acceptance I immediately received
from professors and classmates. The atmosphere was very collegial, and it seemed that
all of us valued one another for our unique strengths and life experiences. I thrived in
such an environment. Any adaptations or accommodations I needed were easily
arranged with professors. Friends within the program were always willing to provide
rides or help with more visual subjects, such as statistics. My guide dog helped me
travel independently around campus, and a laptop with screen reading software allowed
me to write papers, take notes in class, do internet research, participate in email
discussion groups, and download syllabi and course materials. Most of my books were
available on cassette from an organization that recorded textbooks for blind students.
This was another indication to me that there were plenty of blind people working as
counsellors. If there had not been a demand for such books, they would not have been
When I interviewed for my internship placement, my future supervisor asked me a lot of
the same questions I had asked Lisa. I confidently responded, explaining how I could
scan office paperwork into my computer so that I could fill it out, how I would set a clock
to beep quietly ten minutes before the end of a session, and how Maggie would stay
under my desk when clients were in the office. He offered me the position, and I readily
accepted. Afterwards, he sent out requests on an email discussion list that he wished to
contact other blind therapists working in college counselling centres. He spoke with
several, who confirmed what I'd said, that blindness was really not a big deal, that
adaptations were usually easily made, and that clients generally did not seem bothered
by their lack of sight. He passed the contact information for several of these people
along to me, and I had very helpful conversations with them myself. Once again, the
confidence that I could do my job was bolstered by reassuring conversations with other
blind counsellors who were successfully carrying out all the tasks I would be performing.
They were honest about their difficulties, too. Though I was excited and optimistic, I did
not forge ahead wearing rose coloured glasses, not that I could have seen the rosy
color very well, even if I had been.
As I'd expected, my blindness was not much of a problem during the ten months I spent
at the counselling center. I quickly learned my way to the office I used, the conference
room, lounge area, etc. I also had someone show me how to work the camera I would
use to videotape sessions for review in supervision. The office manager would spend
about five minutes reading me information about new intakes or transfer clients, when
necessary. Office staff would help my clients schedule appointments, and would read
me the list of clients I would be seeing that day, or the next day. Since I had to sign the
informed consent sheets that my clients signed, I simply signed one copy, which we
xeroxed. I kept a stack of these in my office.
When I went to the waiting area to greet a client, I would speak their name, and then
wait to hear the movement of them leaving their seat (putting down a magazine, picking
up their book bag, etc.). I would then look in that direction, and extend my hand in
greeting. This brief physical contact gave me a lot of useful information. A limp
handshake communicates a different message than does a firm grasp. This was usually
the only physical contact I would have with clients, except for a parting hug, if the client
initiated it, at the time of termination.
That psychologist who once told me I would need a co-therapist got his wish in a way.
My guide dog has proven to be an excellent co-therapist. She manifests the
genuineness, unconditional positive regard, and non-judgmental acceptance that all
counsellors strive to display. Many clients immediately zeroed in on Maggie. Their
reactions were either very positive or neutral. I never had a client express fear of her.
Some had left beloved pets behind when they came to the university, and told me how
much they missed these non-human friends. Maggie proved to be an area of common
ground to talk about while establishing initial rapport. If clients asked to interact with her,
I would take off her harness to let her say hello, explaining how important it was that she
know the difference between "work time" and "play time," and that she was not allowed
to be petted or played with while wearing her harness. Maggie proved to be a calming
presence for clients in crisis, as well, and interacting with her could almost be viewed as
a "reward" for doing some hard and painful work in counselling. Her presence was
appreciated by most colleagues, too, who often sought her out after difficult sessions, or
a long day.
Maggie was also my way of letting clients know, without having to make it a main topic
of conversation, that I was blind. The different appearance of my eyes, and my inability
to make true eye contact were further clues to my lack of sight. Most clients seemed to
quickly accept my blindness. They observed my professional appearance and
demeanour and saw that I was comfortable in my surroundings, and quickly realized
that I knew how to do my job. In fact, several commented that they felt more
comfortable knowing I could not see them. Other blind counsellors had told me this
often happened. I sensed that, for some, my lack of sight communicated that I knew
how it felt to be seen as "different." I think some clients believed I must know what it
was like to face challenges in life. Others were glad I couldn't see what they physically
looked like. This could be because of lo self-esteem, body image issues, or a simple
wish to remain as anonymous as possible. If I needed to know something about their
appearance, I simply asked.
I received a lot of auditory clues about clients' non-verbal behaviours. For example, I
could tell one client talked a lot with her hands because I could hear the clinking of
several bracelets. I could also pick up on the swishing of clothing in those who tended to
fidget a lot. One client spent an entire session fastening and unfastening a Velcro strap
on her backpack while she talked. Others often looked up, down, or around the office. I
could tell this by the sound of where their voice was coming from. Distracted clients
trailed off a lot while speaking. Depressed clients often spoke in monotones. Couples
would make comments to each other, such as "Move your chair closer," or "Your hands
Occasionally, I felt that I was missing something by not catching someone's body
language. Sometimes, while watching a taped session, a supervisor would comment on
something they'd noticed that I could not have known. Rarely was this information vital,
however. The few times colleagues commented to me about a client's appearance, it
was to relate something striking, such as multiple piercings or blue hair. On one
occasion, a member of our office staff came back to my office to tell me how handsome
my last client had been. I believe I would have found all of these things distracting, and
may have used the information, consciously or unconsciously, to make judgments about
these clients. I was once surprised when, upon reaching my office, the client introduced
me to his girlfriend. I had nearly closed the door on her, not realizing he had brought
someone with him. This was a pleasant surprise, however, as I'd been encouraging him
to do so.
After completing my degree, I decided it was once again time to seek out colleagues
who were blind and working as therapists. I had some job-hunting questions that I
wanted to talk about. In addition to the contacts I'd made previously, I found out about a
mentoring project available through a national organization that provided a variety of
services to blind people. Using this system, searches could be performed to find
contacts in certain professions. I spent a great deal of time emailing those I located
through this service. The American Psychological Association also had a mentoring
network for psychologists with disabilities, which I contacted. I also did web searches for
news articles about other blind counsellors, thinking I might share these with potential
employers at the time of the interview to support some of the things I said about how I
would perform job tasks.
At some point during this quest, I finally decided to start an email discussion list for
those who were blind and involved in the helping professions. I had benefited from
being involved in a number of such lists with other counsellors. Usually, list members
had no idea I was blind, as it was not relevant to discussions and I felt no need to
announce it for its own sake. I had also often received support and information from
being involved in discussion lists for blind students and guide dog users. I felt a need to
combine the benefits of both, however. Finding other blind therapists always seemed to
involve a lot of research, and I wanted to bring as many as possible together in a central
virtual location. For this reason, I created firstname.lastname@example.org. I spent a lot of
time publicizing it to psychology, counselling, and social work related lists, and to
magazines of interest to blind people. The list grew to over forty members in the first
month of its existence. As I'd hoped, the membership was diverse, as was the dialogue.
Shortly after creating the list, I was contacted by a writer from Counselling Today. She
wanted to do an article about me, and the list I'd created, for an upcoming issue. I
couldn't believe so much interest was being generated.
The list is quite diverse. Educational backgrounds range from current undergraduates to
PhDs. There are blind people on the list who work in all sorts of counselling settings,
from crisis centres to elementary schools. Some work with other people who are blind or
disabled in another way, while others do not. Some lead groups. Others work with
families, teenagers or the elderly. There are list members who supervise interns, teach
classes as adjunct faculty, and lead workshops and seminars. Some counsellors on the
list go to clients' homes while others have private practices. Members work in hospitals,
mental health centres, schools, urban areas and rural communities. Some take notes
and keep track of time using braille and braille watches. Others have offices full of the
most up-to-date technology. Some of us use guide dogs, while others prefer canes.
Some have had great experiences with graduate school professors, employers and
supervisors. Unfortunately, many can tell horror stories about the misconceptions they
have faced from within the helping professions. I am not the only one who has been
discouraged from entering the field. Some list members have difficulties because they
are required to use computer programs that are not very accessible.
What unites us is that all of us are legally blind, and all of us are involved in the helping
professions. List members are able to network, ask questions of one another, share
information, and find support. We can do all this without having to arrange for
transportation, scan printed materials, or have the help of a sighted reader. Using
adaptive technology, list members can easily read and respond to messages. I wish
such a list had been around when I was an undergraduate student with questions and
concerns. I am always thrilled when students join the list. Through this email list, I can,
both directly and indirectly, provide them with the support and encouragement they will
need to be successful in the counselling profession.
Carmella Broome is a graduate of the Counsellor Education program at the University of
South Carolina. Her area of specialization is marriage and family counselling/therapy.
Carmella obtained initial licensure as a Professional Counsellor and Marriage and
Family Therapist in 2005 and now works with adolescents, individual adults, couples
and families at a private counselling agency in South Carolina. She can be reached at:
ABUSE OF DISABLED HIGH
By: Janet French
Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from the Starphoenix (Saskatoon),
December 28, 2005.
The Saskatchewan Voice of People with Disabilities is gearing up to appeal to provincial
politicians to better help women with disabilities escape abuse.
The move comes after the organization did a study on abuse that found 83 percent of
women with disabilities in the province are being abused.
"I knew that it was going to be high, but I didn't think it was going to be that high,"
Voice's executive director Bev Duncan said.
The abuse is physical, verbal, sexual and emotional, and often comes from the woman's
primary caregiver or spouse, Duncan said.
Women with a disability are also less likely to report an abusive spouse than women
without a disability, she said.
What's keeping many women silent is isolation and fear, Duncan said.
"It's the whole idea of retaliation," she said. "It still happens. A family (member) could be
a caregiver for an individual and if they don't do as they're told, maybe they won't get
them out of bed. They might not provide them with things that are required for them,
say, catheterizing someone, as they should be.
"This then leads to a criminal act, because that's a life-threatening thing. Yet, it's still not
being dealt with. And people are afraid to say something because it's their family."
There's also the challenge of logistics. If a physically challenged woman wants to leave
her home, she's got to find reliable transportation to a safe place.
That safe place may also require wheelchair ramps, elevators or low counters. Since 74
percent of Canadian women with disabilities are unemployed, many have no source of
income to live independently.
"And then, of course, the person is thinking, 'Well I deserve this, because I'm disabled,
and with my disability, this person is being such a great guy by being with me,' " Duncan
Women who live in remote areas have even fewer choices. The only police in town may
be related to the abuser, Duncan said.
She relayed one anecdote where a woman who uses a wheelchair decided to leave her
home and was wheeling down the road when her husband caught wind of the plan. He
tried to run her off the road with his truck.
For people with an intellectual disability, often if they are in an institution or receiving
care from a home-care worker, the victim can't communicate what has happened, and if
she does report it, the authorities may not believe her, Duncan said.
The study found that when women with disabilities do look for help, they embark on a
bureaucratic journey of referrals. The information they need isn't often in accessible
forms like large print, audio and braille, and few shelters are able to house or care for
Joanne Crofford, the minister responsible for disability issues and the minister of
community resources and employment, said services are there to help women with
disabilities. What needs work, she said, is how the government gets the information to
"I was wondering myself when I reviewed this (file) whether there's enough direct
communication with persons with disabilities," Crofford said. "I don't know . . . how easy
it is to identify those with disabilities in our caseload, but that's certainly something we
could look at doing, making sure they receive some information directly."
Only 11 percent of people with disabilities are using the government services available
to them, Crofford said.
Government-funded institutions and group homes must also have strict policies on
abuse, she said, including staff training and a formal reporting process. The government
also relies on staff to report abuse of people who have multiple disabilities that impede
their ability to communicate, she said. This policy is currently under review, she added.
"A person's in a pretty vulnerable situation," Crofford said. "So, even though they can
disclose it, they could not be aware that they can, and also, they could be worried about
repercussions if they report it."
Any person who suffers abuse and needs shelter, but is getting shunted around, should
call her office directly, Crofford said.
Two Saskatoon women's shelters say although they never turn anyone away, their
facilities are not designed to house women with disabilities for the long term.
Barb Macpherson, executive director of the YWCA, said although the shelter is fully
wheelchair accessible, it's designed for women who can live independently.
"When someone phones and they're in crisis, our first goal is to get her into safety,"
Macpherson said. "It may not be somewhere she can stay for any length of time, but to
get her out of the sense of emergency and into a safe place and then work with the rest
Possible places the women can go include social housing or a health region facility, she
Although Interval House is not wheelchair accessible, the shelter doesn't turn people
with disabilities away, executive director Sharon Cunningham said. The shelter staff will
phone around to find the right place for that person to live and receive care if necessary,
Cunningham said home-care workers can come to care for clients at Interval House,
and in longer-term shelter Adele House, just as they would in a person's home.
Cunningham said Interval House is planning to open a newer, wheelchair-accessible
shelter in the future. What she wants most of all is more public awareness about the
"It's hard for the general public to understand how anybody could rape a woman in a
wheelchair," she said. "How anybody could rape and rob a blind woman. How anybody
could steal from a deaf, 83-year-old lady. That's all happened here in my tenure. The
public doesn't understand, because most of them are good people."
The Saskatchewan Voice for People with Disabilities is currently choosing three or four
priority recommendations from their report to present to the government in hopes of
preventing further abuse.
Meeting the Needs of Siblings of Kids with Disabilities
By: Ruth Zive
Editor's Note: This article is reprinted from Abilities Magazine, Winter 2005:
Like most parents, Lisa Bernstein of Thornhill, Ontario, juggles many demands. The
difference is that much of her family's routine revolves around one member: three-year-
old Tamara, who has Down syndrome. "Between speech therapy, occupational therapy,
early intervention and doctors' appointments, there is not really much 'down' time," says
Bernstein, "and because I spend so much time with Tamara, I have to work doubly hard
to make sure that Rayna, my six-year-old, gets the same support and attention."
Bernstein is not alone. Parents of kids with disabilities devote immeasurable resources--
energy, time and often money--attending to their children's needs. Their children are
labelled "special," and with that in mind, parents struggle to level the playing field and
access the services and supports that are required to ensure a good quality of life. In
doing so, they may inadvertently sideline the needs of their other kids. In many cases,
these needs are related to children's impressions of their sibling, and the way that the
sibling and all the effort exerted on his or her behalf shapes the family dynamic.
Research into the impact of having a sibling with a disability is ongoing. Common issues
include feelings of loss and isolation when a parent's time and attention is devoted to a
sibling's disability or illness. Kids may feel confused when parents and service
providers, in an effort to shield them from possible stress, do not share information
about their brother or sister's challenges. They may feel further shut out if they don't
have the chance to talk with peers in a similar situation.
Siblings may also over-identify with the challenge at hand, fearing that they will "catch"
a disability or illness. Or, they may feel pressured to achieve in academics or sports to
"make up" for their sibling's limitations. Sometimes, kids may feel guilty because they
think they caused the disability or, conversely, because they were spared the challenge.
These concerns can often persist into the teen years and adulthood.
Children who are asked to help care for a sibling with a disability or take on more
household responsibilities than their peers may feel overwhelmed or compelled to grow
up too fast. This is particularly true of older sisters, according to the Arch National
Resource Center of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which reports
that while both brothers and sisters help to care for children with developmental
disabilities, studies have shown that older sisters, especially, have increased care-
giving responsibilities. They tend to participate less in their own activities outside the
home and have more conflict with the child who has the disability.
How can parents ensure that all of their children feel special when some of them have
been labelled special? The answer often relates to how the child with a disability is
regarded and treated within the family. If the disability is characterized negatively, or
treated with kid gloves, the other children in the household are likely to react with a
sense of hostility, fear and even disdain. According to Debby Shimmerman of Toronto,
Ontario, teacher and founder of Educare, a program for children with learning
challenges, all children have strengths and struggles. "It is important for parents to
normalize their child's challenges by presenting them in this context." For instance, a
child with a disability may struggle with fine motor skills, but may have a wonderful
sense of humour. And while a typically developing child may not have any obvious
challenges, things like shyness, impatience, and even something as mundane as
struggling to tie one's shoes can help to characterize all challenges, frustrations and
delays as normal and acceptable. If every child in the family has an opportunity to
address their challenges with support and attention from their parents, there will likely
be less antipathy toward their sibling with a disability.
Similarly, it is important for parents to create a forum for all of their kids' strengths and
talents to be highlighted in the family. Bernstein says, "Sometimes, without noticing,
Tamara's accomplishments attract more attention and accolades because she has
worked so hard to reach each milestone. However, with our other daughter, we take for
granted that she's going to read, write, run, jump and progress at school. Sometimes,
she doesn't receive the same positive reinforcement." Feedback helps to build a sense
of pride and confidence. Although it may seem that typically developing kids learn skills
and master tasks easily, they actually exert a great deal of energy to do so.
Sometimes, kids measure their own uniqueness against their sibling's, and often, these
observations are derived from their parents' comments and judgments. "It was not until
my second child was born and started cruising through the developmental milestones
that I really understood the impact of my firstborn's delays," says Pearl Braddock of
Toronto, Ontario, a mom of three. Her son has cerebral palsy. Often, parents of children
with disabilities refer to their normally developing children as a barometer for progress.
This can generate feelings of ambivalence in siblings of kids with disabilities. "I was
delighted that my daughter was learning with such ease, but in some ways, her
evolution highlighted her brother's limitations," explains Braddock. This tendency to
compare leaves children with the impression that their growth and development is
connected to that of their sibling with a disability, and it can arouse feelings of guilt.
"Parents should guard against comparisons," advises Shimmerman. "It is essential that
each child's development be treated as precious and unique and normal, even if, by
comparison, it is not."
Especially because children with a disability can require more time and attention,
parents should set aside time each week for each child. "Even five minutes each day of
'alone time' will help a typically developing child feel as though their interests and needs
are just as important as their brother or sister's," says Shimmerman. Take the time to
ask what they are learning in school, what they did at recess, or what they like about
their favourite cartoon.
Finally, it is important to acknowledge and embrace the gifts and opportunities that
children with a disability can bring to their siblings' lives. According to the Arch National
Resource Center, these include a heightened awareness and insight about the human
condition; a sense of maturity and responsibility from successfully coping with a sibling's
needs; pride in their sibling's learning and achievement; loyalty toward siblings and
families; and appreciation for their own good health and welfare. These positive lessons
can go a long way in helping a child to embrace all their sibling has to offer, rather than
seeing only challenges.
"My brother taught me the meaning of unconditional love," says Naomi Ben-Aroya,
MSW, who now, as an adult, can reflect on her relationship with her brother David, who
had developmental delays. "So much of who I am today can be attributed to my
relationship with him." She credits their parents for normalizing David's involvement in
their lives. "My parents made my siblings and I all feel 'special' and they did not focus on
the fact that my brother was different. We were all treated as individuals with our own
specific needs." Ben-Aroya feels that having David in her life influenced her professional
choice to help others, and also that of her older sister, who became a doctor.
Every child wants to feel valued. A formal diagnosis in one child need not diminish the
exceptionality of another. With this insight, parents can ensure that all of their kids gain
a sense of confidence and pride in their achievements. "I've realized that my younger
daughter's very typical, two-year-old delight at her messy finger painting is no less
remarkable or worthy of praise than when her older brother masters a skill with which he
has been struggling for months," says Braddock. "I've learned to truly appreciate my
daughter's milestones even though I can essentially take for granted that she will reach
Tips for Parents
* Expose your children to differences so that they realize they are more common than
rare. Socialize with families who have children with disabilities; find relevant play
groups, get-togethers and programs (for example, if your child has autism, contact
autism groups in your city).
* Help siblings understand your child's disability within the context of difference in
general. For instance, if your daughter asks, "Why can't Andrew talk even though he is
five?", compare Andrew's speech delay to something your daughter struggles with. You
might say, "Well, you know how it's hard for you to do math? Everyone struggles with
something, and Andy struggles with speaking." You might use yourself as an example
by offering, "I can't follow a map well. That's why I'm always getting lost; that's my
* Create opportunities for your child with special needs to support siblings in their
interests and activities. Ask your child with a disability to make a banner to cheer on her
brother at a soccer game, or help her bake a cake for her sister's birthday.
* Find activities that all of your children can enjoy, such as hikes, picnics, board games
* Make sure that your entire family is supportive. Relatives should embrace each child's
gifts, talents and qualities.
* Read books with your kids that highlight characters with a disability, such as We'll
Paint the Octopus Red by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen and Pam DeVito (Monarch Books);
Are You Alone on Purpose? by Nancy Werlin (Thomas Allen); Our Brother Has Down's
Syndrome by Shelley Cairo, et al (Annick Press) and Special Brothers and Sisters,
edited by Annette Hames and Monica McCaffrey (Jessica Kingsley).
Ruth Zive is a writer and non-profit consultant who lives in Toronto, Ontario, with her
husband and five children. Her eight-year-old daughter, Julia, has Down syndrome. Zive
has written for Flare, EPregnancy and Dance Teacher. She also operates an online
speechwriting business, SpeechWhiz (www.speechwhiz.com).
WILL THE ATTITUDES OF OTHERS CHANGE IF WE HAVE A POSITIVE ONE?
By: Penny Leclair
Editor's Note: Penny Leclair is a community advocate who is deaf-blind and lives in
Ottawa, Ontario. She formerly served on AEBC's Board of Directors as 1st Vice
A positive attitude can make a big difference in the likelihood a person can achieve
happiness, but I don't think it necessarily changes the attitudes of others. That
expectation is unrealistic, partly because for every positive-thinking person, there are
others who are not! Be positive yourself, but don't expect others to change their attitude
about you or the world around them.
I wouldn't say I am the best at positive thinking, but I certainly make an effort to always
look to the positive in a situation. It is the person, and not the disability or difficulties,
that make up who you are. Yet so many people keep asking me, "Penny, why are you
always smiling?"! As if I were acting out--how can a deaf-blind person always smile at
life, day in, day out?
So I warn you that a positive attitude will help you, but not necessarily help change the
attitudes of others. It won't hurt, but don't expect this to significantly change others.
Often we believe our thoughts. We think something, and then treat the thought as if it
were the true reality when, in fact, the thought can't be proven, or might be just a
misinterpretation of another person's ways. Question your thoughts before you start to
believe them! Questioning my thoughts is a small trick to how I continue to be a more
If you think more positively, you will treat others in a more positive manner.
By: Chris Stark
Editor's Note: Chris Stark is a Canadian taxpayer. He submitted this piece to the End
Exclusion project: www.endexclusion.ca
On Canada Day, it is appropriate to reflect on life in this country as a citizen who is
blind. Much has changed in my lifetime. Much has not. The opportunities, experiences
and exclusions are descriptive of the diverse nature of Canadian society.
School was in a residential institution. Sent from home at age five for ten months of
each year in order to learn was my childhood reality. It was an artificial world inside a
fence to keep the world out. I remember the taunts of kids going to the public school
down the road. Other vivid memories were having to pay older boys a penny in order to
be allowed to go to the bathroom, sitting on a knotty wooden floor for ten hours as
punishment for not conforming/obeying, and labelled "the village idiot" by the teaching
However, I was fortunate, as school was a crucible of independence and self-reliance. I
learned to think for myself, judge what was good for me and fight viciously for
opportunity. Career counselling consisted of demanding I decide between working in a
canteen or receiving a pension for the blind.
Surviving school gave me the drive to go to university, when all said I could not do it,
and graduate with high honours. I found my first job at age 16 moving wet soggy pea
vines around, because no one else wanted a job for seventy cents an hour that covered
you with green vegetable dye after each 12 hour night shift. I graduated to sorting soiled
laundry in a hospital, and eventually became a manager in a big office serving the
Even before I finished school, I started paying taxes and have done so each year since.
I have raised a family, and now our two children are living independently, paying taxes
and making their own contributions to Canada.
These accomplishments represent lots of fence jumping. Fighting for a sidewalk in order
to be able to bring our children to dance lessons safely, arguing for the opportunity to
vote secretly in municipal elections, and ability to obtain money from an accessible
automated banking machine that verbalizes the prompts, are representative of the
thorny barriers to full participation surmounted.
It is tempting to lie back and stay safely behind the fences of exclusion. New technology
has resulted in the physical fences being surpassed by higher virtual barriers that are
just as virulent in their denial of opportunity and enhanced quality of life. Today we seek
appliances with controls that can be operated with touch and with audible cues, cell
phones that have audio output of screen prompts, on-screen information for television
that is verbalized by digital set top boxes that are accessible and usable by blind
people, as well as manuals and assembly instructions for new equipment and public
health information that can be read without sight.
Yes, I have run out of many fenced-in constraints, but each escape seems to lead to a
new stockade. When will Canada embrace all, including persons who are blind, in the
marketplace of life's opportunities. Quality of benefit is still the dream.
As the senior years approach, it is painfully evident that the disability supports are few
and far between. Participation is resisted, such as when we were told not to join a
walking group in our community because it was unsafe. Health information and
prescription directions are not offered in usable formats. Information on home
modifications for people who are blind is practically non-existent from CMHC (Canada
Mortgage and Housing Corporation).
Fence busting can make a big difference. As a taxpayer, I look to public bodies to
create the positive environment that leads to smoothing out the steeplechase of life. As
a Canadian who is blind, it is discouraging to be repeatedly told that the only option to
denial of service is to file a complaint.
By: Marcia Cummings
Editor's Note: Marcia Cummings is National Secretary of the Alliance for Equality of
Blind Canadians and lives in Toronto, Ontario. This piece is her submission to the End
Exclusion project: www.endexclusion.ca
My pet peeve, as I travel this city, is not one of the many physical obstacles that I may
encounter along the way, such as signs, posts, trees, etc. It is, instead, the attitude
shared by many inhabitants that makes them see a white cane and immediately
assume the person holding it has no brains, no ability, and no individual human rights.
This attitude, instead of diminishing over the years, seems to be more and more
prevalent, and my patience seems, conversely, to be growing less and less present as I
grow older. This makes for a volatile situation, as you can well imagine!
The first thing many people assume, when they see a white cane in my hand, is that I
have no brains. This means, of course, that I can't possibly know where I'm going, how
to get there, or even how to use devices such as stairs, escalators, doors, etc. They ask
questions like "Are you okay?", "Do you need help?", "Do you want the escalator?" (this
last as I'm heading straight for it!), or they proceed to point out things like the stairs,
escalators, etc., as if there is no possible way I'd know they existed without their
And that's just the problem--by questioning my ability, they are insinuating I have none.
I'd like to say this has no effect on me, but I'd be lying. If it happened only once in a wile,
I could ignore it. However, it is a daily occurrence, and it has a cumulative effect on my
self-esteem. Add to this the groping and grabbing that usually precedes any of these
questions, and you may be able to understand my need to vent!
And venting I did, in the form of the following poem:
Please, give me back the second!
The second it takes to hear the traffic move at the beginning of a cycle--why should I
trust you more than traffic patterns?
The second it takes to hear where the nearest subway door is--yes, I can hear them
open and would rather make my own choice!
The second it takes to verify the direction of an escalator--there is a convenient way to
do this--it's not rocket science!
The second it takes to find the beginning of a staircase--that's what my white cane is for!
The second it takes to turn around after passing that landmark--then again, maybe I
was enjoying the walk!
The second it takes to find the door--it's often easier if I open my own doors--then I
know where the door actually is!
The second it takes to avoid your groping hands--I often wish I could return the favour
and grope you, too!
The second it takes to avoid the probing questions--just why do you need to know
where I am going?
The second it takes to be independent--unless that's too much to ask?
TEN THINGS YOU SHOULDN'T ASK A BLIND PERSON
10. Are your eyes real or plastic?
9. Did you get past first grade?
8. Do you want me to cut your meat? I mean, can you tell your silverware apart?
7. Who helped you with your clothes? They match so beautifully.
6. Is it really true blind people have families?
5. Goodness, you're amazing. Did you actually pour your milk?
4. When you walk, do you put one foot in front of the other?
3. Should I help you in the bathroom stall?
2. Were you born that way? You know, blind?
1. Are you really blind? You sure can't tell it. I mean, you sure know your way around
INSIGHT INTO LIVING BLIND
By: Daniel Taverne
Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from the American Chronicle, December
December 15, 2005--I'm legally blind, so when I began this article, I wasn't sure what I
wanted to say about blindness since conveying a true sense of the condition to the
seeing is virtually impossible. I then began to think of ways to describe what legally blind
people see, and what totally blind people do not. Even with good illustrations though, it
would be difficult for seeing people to understand the permanence and unyielding
challenges conquered by people like me on a regular basis. That being said, I
concluded that I can only hope to spread understanding to the seeing by documenting
experiences which are all too familiar to people such as I. Maybe after reading this,
you'll feel a little more respect, and a little more patient, when encountering us out in the
First of all, I'm not totally blind. I say this because I know I have some advantages that
totally blind people do not. For instance, even though I can't see the characters faces on
the TV, I can watch programs if I sit very close to the screen. Totally blind people,
however, can't see it at all. My being able to watch TV this way does present its own
unique set of challenges though, one of which is not being able to find the remote
One afternoon a few weeks ago, I decided to sit down and watch TV, so I began looking
for the remote. I began by looking on the breakfast bar; didn't see it. Then I looked on
the kitchen counters, then the couch and love seat. Unfortunately, ten minutes later, I
was still looking when my teenaged daughter entered the room. Unbelievably, she
walked directly to the breakfast bar, and retrieved the remote which was sitting there in
plain sight. This whole frustrating scenario was topped off when she turned on the TV,
and started watching Sponge Bob!
Another issue is that I have two cats I can't see very well living in my home who are
always on high alert as to where I am walking. I can't tell you how many times I've
flattened fluffy, or side swiped Snow Flake, while rushing to the bathroom, or while
sneaking to the fridge for a midnight snack. It's no wonder that after watching their nine
lives dwindle down to two or three, they make a wide arc around me when I'm up and
Interesting observations can be made if you watch a visually impaired person trying to
find a particular food item in a large grocery store. Let me tell you, after asking a person
for help one day, I've learned there are allot of helpful people out there for us to contend
with. You see, after explaining to a fellow shopper that I am legally blind, I asked her if
she could tell me where the clam sauce was located. Well, I didn't notice that there was
someone else nearby who heard everything I said so you can understand why I was
completely surprised when another shopper quickly grabbed me by the arm saying,
"Don't worry baby, I'll show you." Guess what happened next. The lady I actually asked
suddenly became disgruntled, and grabbed my other arm saying through clenched
teeth, "He asked me first!" Painfully, for about two minutes the two women yanked me
this way and that, until the manager observed me being nearly pulled limb from limb,
and saved my life.
The next challenge people like me have that seeing people should know about is the
difficulty we have buying gifts for our spouses without them finding out what they are.
The main reason for this is that it's usually because it's our spouses who have to take
us to the store. Today, I went to a large department store with my wife. I told her to "Go
away!" So I could shop for her gift. After asking at least a dozen strangers throughout
my ordeal what various price tags read, and what kinds of things were in various bath
sets, I finally found her something. What I found her though, is so big, I was worried
she'd see it as I was carrying it to the register, or out the door. Once outside, it took 25
minutes of walking up and down rows of parked cars to find our own. After depositing
the gift in the trunk, I returned to the store because I wanted to get her a Christmas
Let me tell you, if you are visually impaired and looking for a card for your husband or
wife, you better get someone to read them to you before you choose the one you want.
Last June, I was too self-conscious to ask somebody to read the cards I was looking
through for my wife's 35th birthday. So I was looking at the pictures as best I could, and
thought I bought a card that said, "I love you, and always will." But, in all actuality, what
the card really said was "I love you even though you're over the hill." Needless to say,
she wasn't pleased when she finally got around to reading it.
Another problem, or challenge, comes from having adaptive devices that talk, but do not
have volume controls. In other words, everyone in the house now knows when I am
"seeing" what time it is, and when I am weighing myself. Why does this bother me?
Well, think about it. If you are a married man and your wife is taking forever getting
ready to go out to dinner, each time you glance down at the time on your watch, it loudly
blurts out what time it is. If you do this, it won't take long for you to find out how wives
react to feeling rushed. It's too bad I can't turn down the clock's volume. If I could, I'd be
more like seeing husbands who quietly and discretely check the time without reproach.
The other device I'd like a volume control on is my talking scale. As it stands right now,
it is both a marvel of modern technology and a thorn in my side. The problem I have
with it is every time I stand on it I hear my wife yell from the kitchen, "You ain't losing
any weight yet." Annoyed, I respond with "Thanks for the info, honey, but I'm blind, not
To sum this all up, the visually impaired have many challenges they face on a regular
basis. From awkward and benign situations at home to more serious predicaments like
having to cross busy streets or navigate large hospitals, most visually impaired people
handle them with grit and determination. That being said, you may come across a
visually impaired person one day who is in your way, or causes you grief in some other
way. If you do, remember this article and remember how pervasive the effect of vision
loss is in the life of the impaired, and maybe you will indeed feel a little more
understanding, patients and respect.
Daniel Taverne is a legally blind, disabled veteran living in Louisiana. After his service,
he began college in the hopes of becoming a COTA (certified occupational therapy
assistant). However, he became ill with an unknown condition with less than 1 semester
of schooling left, forcing him to drop out while seeking treatment. Daniel has a
Discussion board called Forward Observer. Please visit it in addition to his home page
as linked below.
Address is: http://dan38.proboards41.com/
IMAGINE A DISABILITY YOU CAN'T SEE
By: Helena Katz
Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from CBC News, Disability Matters, April
11, 2005: www.cbc.ca
What do you think of when someone says the word "disabled"? Most people picture
someone in a wheelchair trying to squeeze themselves through a narrow doorway.
Many people, like me, have a disability you can't see. I have a visual impairment and
can't see clearly for more than a few feet in front of me. That's why you wouldn't want
me behind the wheel of a car. Driving is one of the few things I simply can't do. I still get
up in the morning, work as a journalist, buy groceries and line up at the bank. But
throughout my day I'm constantly adapting to a world created for people who see better
than I do.
Take getting off elevators on the right floor, for example. Most elevators have tiny
numbers stretched along the top of the door that light up as the car reaches each floor. I
count the floors going by as each number lights up above the door and hope I make it to
my destination. But it isn't foolproof. That's where I get a little impromptu exercise
running up back stairs.
Nonetheless, most people don't think of me as having a disability. The advantage in that
is no one makes assumptions about what I can or can't do. To them, I'm a person first
and my disability is a minor detail.
Problem is, people don't tend to realize just how much energy I expend adapting to a
world that wasn't designed for me. While I'm able to adapt to most situations, there are
times when I can't. Then the responsibility shifts to those around me.
Most people wouldn't question the wisdom of widening doorways and installing ramps
for people with mobility impairments. So why not extend the adaptations to people with
other types of disabilities? This means trying to adapt activities to include them when
their disability might prevent them from joining in.
While travelling in Ireland when I was 24, I set out on a 35-mile cycling trip with six
people I had just met at a youth hostel. Although they barely knew me, they were aware
that I had a visual impairment.
It soon became obvious to all of us that cycling was not only difficult for me, but also
dangerous. My eyes were busy looking for bumps and holes in the road, bushes to the
side, and the pack of cyclists ahead. When we found ourselves sharing a narrow stretch
of road with cars, that's when the limitations of my disability hit me squarely in the face.
I could manage if cars passed at long intervals, because it meant I only had to
concentrate intensely for a moment. But when a stream of cars passed me, the effort
was simply too much and I had to get off my bike and walk.
With no discussion, our group split into two packs. Four people sped ahead while two
others stayed back and cycled slowly with me. When we stopped for lunch, I told Marie,
one of the two who had stayed behind, how badly I felt that I was keeping her from
cycling with the others.
Her response was simple and touched me deeply: "My sister has diabetes and is losing
her sight. I think it's our responsibility to make sure that she is included in everything we
For her, adapting to someone else's disability was second nature. The rest of the group
evidently agreed with her, though nothing was said. They knew how exhausted I was
from the physical exertion of cycling and the mental gymnastics required to keep me
Over lunch they consulted a map, trying to find a shorter route to make the trip easier
for me. When Patricia, another member of the group, said she wanted to ride back to
the hostel instead of completing the trip, I realized I had another option. Rather than
having the decision made for me, I was given a choice. I thought for a moment while six
faces looked at me expectantly. I decided to ride back.
To this day, I'm still touched by their kindness and the way they tried to accommodate
me without fanfare, as though it was a perfectly common occurrence. Yet, as someone
once commented to me, "We do tend to think that if the person in a wheelchair can fit
through the door, that's all we need to worry about."
I wish non-disabled people would remember that we're adapting to their world--one that
wasn't made with our needs in mind. For me, adapting is an exercise in creativity that
often leads to simple solutions and encourages me to be a creative thinker in all aspects
of my life.
Although I've tried dogsledding, ice canoeing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, sea
kayaking, hot air ballooning and I love to hike and paddle, I still haven't figured out how
to drive a car. The added freedom and independence to get me to new places would be
nice. In the meantime, I dream of meeting James--my imaginary driver.
Helena Katz is an award-winning journalist based in Montreal. Her work has appeared
in a variety of magazines and newspapers, including Canadian Geographic, Explore,
the Globe& Mail, Homemaker's and the Montreal Gazette. She is the author of The Mad
Trapper: The Incredible Tale of a Famous Canadian Manhunt.
FROM DARK TO LIGHT
By: Sue Neveu-Bhatti
Editor's Note: Sue Neveu-Bhatti lives in Windsor, Ontario, with her husband and two
daughters. Here, she reflects on how much her previous guide dog meant to her.
For years I walked in darkness
with a cane as my guide;
Today I walk in sunlight
with Cindy at my side.
I used to walk in semi-darkness,
each step I took with fear;
Today I walk in semi-light
now that I have Cindy near.
For years I walked alone,
I thought it would never end;
Now I have Cindy--
Thank god she is my friend.
A DOG CALLED MAJOR
By: Kathy Nessner-Filion
Editor's Note: Kathy Nessner-Filion works for Statistics Canada and lives in Aylmer,
I have been totally blind since I was three years old, and this article is about a very
special companion I had throughout my childhood.
When I was five years old, our family was given a German Shepherd/collie cross puppy
whom we named Major. Maybe because I was five and six years younger than my older
sister and brother, he became my playmate, and I guess you could say we grew up
Major accompanied me and my friends everywhere: to the park during the summer
months, and to the outdoor skating rink and toboggan hills during the winter.
Sometimes, while we skated, Major would find a discarded hockey stick lying on the
snowbank surrounding the rink and would carry it, crosswise in his mouth, out to us. He
was a big and powerful dog, so the stick was at about waist-level for all of us. It seemed
natural for us to take hold of each end of the hockey stick. With as many as three kids
on either side of him, he would prance around the rink, pushing us along with him until
he had tired of the game. To finish, he would simply dump us into a snowbank, drop the
stick and rest in the snow, until he felt like playing the game again.
When we went tobogganing, he would tirelessly accompany us up and down the hill.
During one outing, the toboggan slipped and I accidentally went down the hill alone. To
stop myself, I put my feet out and bent one of my legs backwards to the point where it
really hurt. At least it helped to get me off the toboggan, but I lay on my back in the
snow for a few minutes crying from fear and pain. My friend and Major came running
down the hill to see if I was all right and while I was still lying there, I felt what I thought
was my friend's hand laid gently on my chest to comfort me. When I raised my own
hand to touch hers, I found it was Major's paw! Even as a child, I remember recognizing
how incredibly moving that gesture was!
Somewhere around the summer I was eight years old I think, I began holding Major's
collar and he would guide me around the neighbourhood. Although he had received no
training, he certainly kept me on the sidewalks. One of our neighbours even told my
mother that once, when there was a child's tricycle in our way, she saw him lean into me
to push me to one side so that he could guide me around it. I also used to burn off my
excess energy by running with him. The feelings of freedom and exhilaration I
experienced when we were able to do this together were wonderful, and something I will
As the years went by, Major would accompany me during my summer holidays on my
grandparents' farm, where, holding his collar, we walked (and ran) the country roads
together and went on picnics with the friends I had made there.
He also knew the meaning of "home" and anywhere we were staying became "home" to
him. While at my grandparents' farm, for example, or staying at various cottages in the
summertime, I only needed to hold his collar and ask him to "take me Home", and he
always did. One winter weekend, a girlfriend and I decided we would meet each other
halfway between our houses, which were several streets apart. This was during a really
bad snowstorm, but I thought I would be okay. By the time I was a number of streets
and turns away from home, the snow got so deep I couldn't feel the sidewalk anymore
under my feet, and all I could hear was the wind blowing the snow all around me.
Suddenly, I felt completely lost. Major was with me of course and, when I began to
panic and started to cry, I asked him to take me home. He spun around immediately
and took me back to our front door.
Major was also there to help me through those awkward years of the early teens when it
wasn't hip to hang onto your girlfriend's arm anymore. I could walk independently with
him among a group of other kids and could choose to go home from where ever we
were whenever I wanted.
When I left the School for the Blind at the age of sixteen to attend the high school near
our home, I used to have Major guide me down the street and around the corner to my
girlfriend's house, where he would "drop me off" to continue on my way to school with
her. On my way home again in the afternoons, he would come running down the street
as soon as he saw me, and my friend and I would go our separate ways, with Major
guiding me the rest of the way home.
Although it was because of Major that my desire to have a trained guide dog was born, I
am sure I allowed my relationship with him to have a negative impact on a number of
my guide dog relationships when I was old enough to be trained with them. For years,
unfortunately, I wanted to work only with a German shepherd, and that has not always
Major never received any formal training, but somehow, he seemed to know I needed
him. Not only was he a wonderful companion, he also helped me gain some freedom
and independence that, as a totally blind child, I would perhaps not have experienced.
I will always remember and miss him.
EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS FOR BLIND CHILDREN
By: Maria T. Garcia
Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from Future Reflections, Convention
Report 2005: www.nfb.org
Through the generosity of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, the
POBC/NY was afforded the opportunity to premiere its new seminar "Emergency
Preparedness for Blind Children" at the NFB convention in Louisville, Kentucky, this
summer. Thanks to Dave Gill, Paramedic Instructor at the New York City Fire
Department, Emergency Medical Services (FDNY-EMS) Academy and special
consultant to our parents group, we were able to create a unique collaboration with the
Louisville Metro Emergency Medical Service. The objective of the seminar was to
provide the children with the basic knowledge and skill to recognize a medical
emergency and to act appropriately in the face of an emergency.
The seminar was presented in two parts, the first for younger children ranging in ages
from four to eight years old, and the second for children from age eight to adolescents.
We began each seminar with audio recordings of heart and lung sounds. The children
then practiced listening to their own and each other's heart and lung sounds through the
use of stethoscopes. This was followed by an explanation of the correlation between
heart sounds and pulse beats and instruction in finding and taking a pulse.
Next the children were taught how to assess an unconscious patient and determine if
breathing and a heart rate were present. We then focused on accessing help. We talked
about the emergency response system, including mock 911 calls. The next segment of
the seminar incorporated basic first aid. We presented a demonstration of wound care,
bleeding control, and bandaging. The children then practiced the techniques they had
learned on each other.
The seminar for the older children also included an overview of basic Cardio Pulmonary
Resuscitation (CPR). In addition, the children had an opportunity to explore a cardiac
defibrillator (with the batteries removed of course) as well as other life-saving
We were truly fortunate to have skilled personnel on hand to assist the children
throughout the seminars. Louisville Metro EMS provided two emergency medical
technicians (EMTs), Karen Evans and Cory Bowman, and one paramedic, Chris Seeley.
As a senior paramedic for the FDNY-EMS I was able to participate, too, along with my
colleague, Dave Gill. We were also fortunate to have the assistance of Heather Fritz,
EMT and professional educator, and our newest NOPBC Board Member, Kevin Harris,
a fire fighter/paramedic student from Maryland.
There were many memorable moments for the children, their parents, and the
professionals throughout the evening. One example was a mother who seemed
tentative and unsure of her daughter's ability to fully participate in the seminar at the
onset. Later the daughter bandaged her mother's arm and performed a fluid
assessment of a mock unconscious patient. Both seemed genuinely affected by the
child's growing sense of self-assurance in her own accomplishment. Many of the
children expressed a feeling of confidence in the knowledge they gained from the
In a culture that treats children and the blind as if they were invisible it was a rare
privilege to have the opportunity to present a seminar that empowered and affirmed
blind children. I am grateful to everyone who participated.
WORKPLACE PREPAREDNESS OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES DOWN--
PERSONAL PREPAREDNESS ON THE RISE
National Organization on Disability Releases Latest Statistics from Harris Poll
Editor's Note: This item is taken from the National Organization on Disability's website
www.nod.org and is dated December 29, 2005.
Washington, DC--Four months after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita ravaged the Gulf Coast
and almost five years after September 11th, emergency preparedness in the workplace
is on the decline, but personal preparedness for people with disabilities is on the rise,
according to a recently released Harris Interactive survey commissioned by the National
Organization on Disability's (N.O.D.) Emergency Preparedness Initiative (EPI).
Furthermore, the disabled community has yet to experience the comparable decrease in
their anxiety levels about their own personal safety that the population without
disabilities has experienced, this population reporting a 12% decrease since 2001.
This new survey goes on to report a marked decrease in workplace preparedness for
people with disabilities. Survey results reveal that 57% of people with disabilities
indicate that they have a workplace plan, a figure that is down from 68% in 2003. "This
may not be as bad as it appears," stated Hilary Styron, Director of N.O.D.'s EPI.
"Immediately after 9/11 there was a major focus on development of workplace
emergency plans for all employees. The decrease we see now may be attributed to
fewer training opportunities provided in the workplace, limited-focus planning or lack of
communication among emergency planners or task forces within a facility. Workplace
emergency planning, just like community emergency planning, is an ongoing process
that must include the active participation of people with disabilities."
The new survey found that personal preparedness of people with disabilities is on the
rise. Nearly 54% of people with disabilities know whom to contact about emergency
plans in their community, up from 44% in 2003. Additionally, 47% of people with
disabilities have made plans to safely evacuate their homes, a significant increase from
the 2003 survey results of 39%. Many jurisdictions across the country have been
concentrating their efforts on training and educating the community in personal
preparedness, and working diligently to address the preparedness needs of people with
disabilities. There has even been an increase in preparedness of persons without
disabilities, with the number at 51% up from 38% in 2003. Styron said, "the increase in
personal preparedness is a key factor to reducing the loss of life during a disaster. We
are hopeful that these numbers will continue to increase."
Heightened anxiety over personal safety is also on the rise, with 40% of people with
disabilities reporting some level of anxiety over recently occurring natural disasters.
Michael Deland, President of the National Organization on Disability, believes that the
increase in anxiety correlates to the increase of personal preparedness in the disability
community. "Results of this new survey show that 59% of people with disabilities rank
non-profit organizations as doing an excellent or pretty good job in preparing them for
disasters and other emergencies. N.O.D. programs, like EPI and our Community
Partnership Program, reach out to the community to help officials and other
stakeholders educate people with disabilities on personal preparedness."
Areas of concern for N.O.D. include the statistics surrounding the effort of federal, state
and local government, as well as corporations, to prepare people with disabilities for
emergencies. Sixty-three percent of people with disabilities believe that the federal
government is doing a fair or poor job at preparing them for disasters, while 61% for
state government and 59% for local government are both doing fair or poor jobs to
prepare people with disabilities. Corporations and business were not immune to strong
scrutiny. Sixty-one percent of people with disabilities felt corporations were doing a fair
or poor job of preparing the disabled population for disaster response.
Planning Remains Key
The Emergency Preparedness Initiative, organized immediately after the 9/11 terrorist
attacks, is designed to help communities, emergency planners and responders and
people with disabilities properly prepare for all man-made and natural disasters. EPI is
working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, FEMA (Federal Emergency
Management Agency), other government agencies, emergency planners and
responders, and the disability community to ensure that adequate plans are in place to
accommodate the needs of people with disabilities during future crises.
"It is critical that all plans, response actions and recovery efforts include the unique and
varied emergency-specific needs of people with disabilities, the very people who must
be involved in the planning process at all levels," said Deland. To become informed and
involved, visit www.nod.org/emergency, where EPI maintains a continuously updated
repository of information, publications, links, guides, standards, plans, video clips, and
updated research and studies.
This telephone survey was conducted by Harris Interactive among a national cross-
section of 1,001 adults aged 18 or over between December 15 and 18, 2005. The
sample size for adults with disabilities is 161 and for adults without disabilities is 829.
WHO CARES FOR THE WAR VICTIMS WITH DISABILITIES?
By: John M. Williams
Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from the National Organization on
Disability's website www.nod.org and is dated July 10, 2002.
Tragically, wars are happening on nearly every continent in the world. According to a
United Nations spokesman, "Every hour people are being killed, or being maimed and
becoming permanently disabled in the world." So many horrors are occurring that it is
impossible to provide an exact number. Is any consideration given by the perpetrators
as to who will care for the people who become either temporarily or permanently
A June 20 Washington Post editorial, for example, points out that in "20 months at least
71 suicide bombings have killed 247 civilians and wounded thousands more in the
When I inquired with the United Nations, Israeli Embassy and a Palestinian organization
in the United States about the number of either temporary or permanently disabled
people resulting from retaliatory raids, I received these numbing answers: "We can't
tell," or "We don't know."
The world's efforts to deal with the challenges facing people with disabilities are
abysmal. The fundamental rights of disabled persons--including the rights to education,
parenthood, property, participation in elections, and access to courts of law--are
consistently violated around the world, the United Nations Commission for Social
Development was told earlier this year.
Millions of disabled persons worldwide live in misery and exclusion, the Commission's
Special Rapporteur on Disability, Bengt Lindqvist, says. People with disabilities are left
behind in emergency situations in armed conflict, and disabled children are often hidden
by their families or shut up in inhumane institutions.
An American doctor who served with the organization Doctors Without Borders told me,
"I have been in Somalia, the Middle East and the Sudan, and in all of these countries I
have seen tens of thousands of people lose eyes, hands, feet or arms as a result of war
and other random acts of violence. The governments and families lack the fundamental
infrastructure to care for the people--the men, women and children who become
He added, "The human carnage haunts me. And it should certainly haunt the
Sally Kellerman, a former Red Cross volunteer nurse, has travelled the world working in
war zones. She says, "I have seen civilian war amputees who were once professionals,
begging for food and living in the most squalid conditions in Asia. Their governments
and communities lack both the resources and fundamental commitment to care for
There are also the hundreds of thousands of innocent victims who become disabled as
a result of lack of food and access to medical care.
"Food and medical supplies become weapons of war when people needing them are
denied access," Kellerman says. She recalls seeing women, children and the elderly,
their bones visible and their vision nearly gone, crawling on the ground for help.
When people acquire disabilities, hordes of challenges abruptly spring up. Ben Ali
Hassen Mohamad, a former programmer from New Delhi, told me, "After I lost my left
arm and part of my left leg because of an exploding mine, questions began haunting
me. They were: Who am I now? What can I do now? What future do I now have
professionally? If single, can I now plan for a family? If married, can I now be an
effective parent? Can I now be a wage earner? Can I now be a lover? Can I now be
independent? Am I now viewed the same by my family and friends? The 'now I's
multiplied with each personal, intellectual, economic, social and physical challenge."
Mohamad was not aware until recently of the variety of assistive technology products
which could help him, and is now working to buy text-to-speech programs and a
There is the problem of social acceptance from peers. In cultures worldwide, including
ours, people with disabilities are often treated as less than totally human. Jobs and
education are denied to them. Physical access to buildings and transportation is limited.
This lack of accessibility can mean the person with a disability is unemployable. Charity
and invisibility are more the norm once a disability is acquired.
"When the rebels blinded me, I became a charity case," Raphael Martino Mendoza of
Colombia said. He lost his job and self-esteem. In 2000, he left Colombia and is now
living in Montreal, Canada, with family. Recently, he discovered the benefits of a talking
watch, clock and computer programs.
In some cultures, people with disabilities become beggars and are starving. In too many
cultures, there are no rehabilitation programs to train them to develop their skills. In fact,
most of the world's countries lack the resources to provide people with disabilities the
simplest adaptive eating utensils or wheelchairs.
"A simple spoon designed to assist people with eating can do much to raise a person
with a disability's self-esteem," Mendoza said.
Even in the richest cultures, there are the economic strain and physical drain on family
members caring for people with disabilities. "My family could not afford to care for me in
Colombia, which is why I came to Canada," said Mendoza.
Before the next terrorist act occurs, before someone orders a person's limbs to be
chopped off, before the next war commences, perpetrators should consider the tragic
consequences for the victims who will live either temporarily or permanently disabled.
The perpetrators don't want to be disabled, so why do they want to disable others? Why
do they want to bring social hardship and economic ruin to people who may be their
If the people planning wars, planting mines and ordering bombings had disabilities
themselves, they might not perpetrate such violence. The United Nations can't care for
the half-billion people with disabilities worldwide as it is; the world does not need wars to
add to the number of people with disabilities.
Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from BBC Radio 4, In Touch, October 17,
Blind and partially sighted people will be able to feel their way around some of London's
busiest Underground stations for the first time thanks to a new initiative launched today
by London Underground (LU), the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) and
Blind passengers will be able to receive free books of tactile maps, made up of raised
lines, which are read by touch instead of sight, to help them find their way around Old
Street, Westminster and Earl's Court Underground stations.
The maps, which are also available in large print for partially sighted people, were
commissioned by LU from RNIB as part of a pilot project to provide information to
passengers with sight problems.
The tactile and large print station maps were developed by RNIB with the help of 15
blind and partially sighted underground users who took part in research to specify their
travel needs and review samples of the maps to evaluate their effectiveness. Station
layout, including the location of the ticket office, manual gate, platforms, stairs,
escalators, lifts and exits are all detailed in the plans.
Books of tactile and large print station maps can be borrowed from: RNIB, Tel. 0845
702 3153; and National Library for the Blind, Tel. 0161 406 2525; or from braille
libraries. They can also be viewed at the station or obtained free of charge from: London
Underground's Customer Service Centre, Tel. 0845 330 9880. They have been
designed to complement detailed online station descriptions at:
Passengers are likely to get most benefit from these if studied before they travel.
INDIA: BLIND MODELS STRUT THEIR STUFF IN FASHION SHOW
Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from Reuters, November 27, 2006.
Ahmedabad, India--A group of blind models paraded down the catwalk on Sunday in
what organizers said was the first fashion show of its kind in India staged to try to
combat stereotypes of disabled people.
Dressed in glittering Indian attire, over 30 blind women strode down the ramp without
assistance in a show on the outskirts of Ahmedabad.
"I cannot see how I am looking in the new clothes but I am having a good time," said 23-
year-old participant, Ekta.
"I would hear about fashion shows and designer clothes on the television, but never
dreamt of walking like models do," she said, as she draped a sequined, green sari over
The organizers said the fashion show, which had attracted around 200 people, was the
first of its kind in India--a country where many of its 22 million disabled people face
discrimination and are not awarded equal rights.
"Blind people are not considered as a part of society. They are given boring and menial
jobs to isolate them from the glamourous and exciting world," said Mukta Dagli from
Pragya Chakshu Sanstha, a local charity for the visually impaired.
"We want to bring the blind out of a dull, dark life. Now let the world see them."
The young women--who applied their own makeup and dressed themselves--were
given a week-long training course on how to walk down the catwalk by choreographers
and on self-grooming.
"We are young, beautiful and hope to do more shows to gain confidence to fight the
darkness of our lives," said 25-year-old Shweta Kothari.
PHYSICALLY CHALLENGED COPS RETURN TO ACTIVE DUTY
By: Gareth Davis, Gleaner Writer
Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from the Jamaica Gleaner, August 4,
Port Antonio, Portland: Visually-impaired Detective Constable Rohan Brown was
officially welcomed back to active police duty during a ceremony held in Portland this
Chairman of the Police Federation, Corporal Raymond Wilson, said the reinstatement of
the detective constable was one way of proving that the federation has the highest
regard for officers who are injured and have become disabled in the line of duty.
He said the federation believes that disabled officers still have a part to play as law
"It is a special day for us as members of the Police Federation," he said. "It is the first
time that a blind officer is being reinstated to active duty in Jamaica. We have to thank
Police Commissioner Lucius Thomas, who played an integral part in his reinstatement,
based on the recommendation made by him to the Services Commission."
Constable Brown was injured in a road accident in 1995 while travelling in a police
service vehicle on the Mandela Highway. The injury left him partially blind and, although
undergoing treatment in Cuba, the constable lost his sight in 1997. He will be assigned
to the Port Antonio Police Station, Criminal Investigative Branch (CIB), to a desk job
with his personal computer.
Shot While on Duty
Corporal Wilson also welcomed back Constable Calvin Cargill, who is physically
challenged, to active duty. The constable was shot while on duty in Clarendon in 2003
and was left paralyzed. He, however, regained movement in the upper body after
undergoing surgery. He, too, will be stationed in Port Antonio.
In the meantime, both officers expressed gratitude to the Police Federation and the
Police Commissioner for resurrecting their careers. Despite their disabilities, both
officers have pledged to carry out quality work which will enhance the performance and
capability of the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
HIGHLIGHTS OF RECENT AEBC ACTIVITIES
* AEBC Selects First National Equality Director
Albert Ruel of Victoria, British Columbia, has been hired as AEBC's first National
Albert was born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, in 1956, and he began work with the
MacMillan & Bloedel Plywood Plant in June 1973, following high school, moving to the
Paper Mill in November 1974. In May 1977, he began losing his sight from Retinal
Vasculitis, and became totally blind in March 1990 from glaucoma.
During the mid 1980s, Albert was a stay-at-home Dad and did all that is required of that
challenging work. He took a woodworking course through Alberni's Adult Education
program and built and restored several pieces of furniture. Of course, the 1958 Chevy
Impala in the garage was his pride and joy, and he devised ways to do much of the
work it required. He returned to his job at the Mill in 1985 and resigned in 1992 when he
went to work for CNIB in Prince George, BC.
Albert also joined and participated in many community activities, including the local Car
Club, and a disability support group that catered to the needs of people with many
"These past 14 years have been a wonderful experience of ongoing discovery for me,"
says Albert, "as teaching may be the best way to solidify one's own learning.
"For most people blindness generates a fear of extended movement, both within one's
home and community, but that doesn't have to be the case. Independence comes from
personal desire and increased skill. Remember, life is 10% what happens to you and
90% what you do about/with it."
Albert brings to the position his personal experience with losing vision as an adult, along
with 14 years' work in the field.
"I am looking forward to having someone on board who has this much experience,
whose job will partly be to bring new ideas, approaches and energy to the work of
AEBC," said AEBC President John Rae upon announcing Albert's hiring.
* 2007 Victoria Conference will Focus on Universal Design
AEBC's 2007 Conference and AGM will be held at the Harbour Towers Hotel, Victoria,
during the Victoria Day long weekend, Thursday-Sunday, May 17-20, 2007. The theme
of this year's Conference will be Universal Design, and an exciting program of
workshops and activities is being planned. Mark your calendars and plan to attend! For
more details, contact: email@example.com
* AEBC Returns to Winnipeg
AEBC is delighted to again have a chapter in Winnipeg. We welcome the new Chapter
executive: Ruth Hogue, Shannon Hannah, Janet Hunt and Christine Ross and look
forward to working with them over the months and years ahead.
* AEBC Publishes Advocacy Manual
"Stand Up! Speak Out! An Advocacy Guide for Blind, Deaf-Blind and Partially Sighted
Canadians" by Monika Penner, discusses various kinds of advocacy, provides
examples of some past advocacy efforts, and discusses strategies that will assist AEBC
to be more effective in our work.
To read the entire manual, visit:
* AEBC Calls for a National Economic Strategy
On October 27, 2006, the AEBC presented a Brief to The Standing Committee on
Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities,
which was holding hearings on employment across Canada. AEBC's Brief stated in part:
"Over the past two decades, a wide range of employment-related and other programs
for persons with disabilities has been carried on by various levels of government, private
philanthropic associations and consumer organizations. While some individuals have
benefited from these initiatives, taken together, statistics tell us the past efforts
represent a failure--the unemployment rate for persons with various disabilities remains
a national disgrace in a country as affluent as Canada.
"This stems in part from the nature of many of these initiatives, which have often
focused only on employment. To make employment programs more effective, the
Government of Canada must take the lead in forging a new National Economic
Strategy, based on a more holistic approach, and the tenets of full inclusion and
universal design. This Strategy must also address such areas as public transportation,
training, access to information, safe and affordable housing, mobility training, and most
importantly the historic levels of isolation, unemployment, under-employment, and
poverty which remain the reality for so many Canadians with disabilities."
To read the full Brief, visit:
* AEBC 2006 Scholarship Recipients
AEBC's Scholarship Program is an important part of our work. This year, the AEBC
would like to congratulate the following recipients of our 2006 Scholarship awards and
wish them every success in their futures: Laura Bulk, Victoria, BC; Jennifer Dillon,
Toronto, ON; Danielle Laplante-Ip, Montreal, QC; and Jacob Vaynshteyn, Edmonton,
* Ontario Citizens Assembly
Ontario has appointed a Citizens Assembly to discuss alternatives to the current
electoral process, and AEBC has submitted a Brief discussing a variety of access
To read this brief, visit: http://tinyurl.com/2fz3td
2006 SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS
The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) congratulates the following four
outstanding Canadians, the 2006 annual Scholarship Programme award winners, for
their academic achievements and ability to challenge hardship:
Laura Bulk, of Saanichton, British Columbia, is the winner of the AEBC National
Achievement Scholarship. She was born in 1988 in Victoria, British Columbia, and now
lives just outside the city with her family. She was born with a rare eye condition, known
as corneal anaesthesia. She is currently attending Camosun College, pursuing her
degree in dietetics. After working for a few years as a dietician, she hopes to volunteer
on the Mercy Ships, which travel to developing nations to offer medical aid, before
returning to school for her Masters in rehabilitation and mobility instruction for adults
with vision loss.
When she is not in school, she enjoys her job at a chocolate and dessert shop, where
she serves as a barista, chocolate-maker and waitress. During the spring, summer and
fall she works at her family's garden center. In addition, she enjoys volunteering at the
local hospital, baking, cooking, scrapbooking, and spending time with her large family.
Whatever the future holds, wherever she goes, Laura will continue to be an advocate for
the equality of persons who are blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted.
Jacob Vaynshteyn of Edmonton, Alberta, is the winner of the Business, Education and
Technology Scholarship. He is 25 years old and has been partially sighted since birth,
having been born without his right eye and only reduced vision in his left one. He is
currently in his final year at the University of Lethbridge, where he is studying
Management and majoring in Finance. His interests include hockey, curling, computers
and technology, and politics.
He has always persevered and never allowed his disability to stop him from doing
anything he set his mind to accomplish. He would like to thank his sister, Lalita, and his
parents, Zalman and Esfira, for their unconditional love and support.
Jennifer Dillon, of Toronto, Ontario, is the winner of the AEBC Toronto Chapter
Scholarship. She is in the final year of her Honours Bachelor in Environmental Studies
at York University. As an infant she was diagnosed with macular dystrophy, a
deteriorating eye condition. In her teens, she was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa,
which has left her with only some light perception. After completing high school, Jennifer
moved from a small town to Toronto where she obtained her diploma in social services
and worked for several years in the disability field. She realized she had a passion for
environmental issues and that her skills and talents would be well suited to the
environmental profession. She therefore decided to make a career change and return to
She utilizes technology to excel academically and professionally and she is known to
take out 20 books at a time from the library so that she can scan them at home and
further her research. She is also enthusiastic about pursuing her Masters; however, she
plans to first get established in her career. Jennifer hopes that her work in the field will
lead to policy changes that will make pollution prevention a greater priority.
Danielle Laplante-Ip, of St. Laurent, Quebec, is the winner of the Alan H. Neville
Memorial Scholarship. She would like to thank the scholarship committee, and the
members of AEBC throughout Canada, for this wonderful scholarship opportunity. She
is very proud to be a part of this groundbreaking organization since it gives a voice to
people, like herself, who are living everyday with the social challenges of being blind,
deaf-blind or partially sighted.
After the diagnosis that her eyesight was deteriorating from retinitis pigmentosa in the
fall of 1998, Danielle realized that she needed to re-evaluate her life goals. Having a
family history of vision impairment, she knew that she had to stay active. Consequently,
in her late forties, after having raised two children, she decided to pursue her
undergraduate studies in social work at McGill University, in Montreal.
This decision has brought about a lot of hard work with many rewards, as it reaffirmed a
career path that she wishes to pursue in the future, working with people with disabilities.
Hence, upon her graduation in the winter of 2007, she intends to pursue a Masters
degree in social work and community development. She truly has enjoyed her
experience as a student. Her studies in social work have provided her with the
knowledge base to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, as she hopes to
eventually facilitate their access to valued social resources.
Says Marcia Cummings, AEBC's Scholarship Committee Chair, "I am happy to say that,
each year, it is harder to choose only a few winners, as there are more and more bright
sparks out there working hard to obtain relevant and valuable education."
Each year, the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians provides a minimum of three
$1500 scholarships to assist outstanding Canadian students who are blind, deaf-blind or
partially sighted in continuing in their field of study. Winners must provide personal
letters describing how they have overcome barriers to education, and how they have
contributed to their community, as well as their academic achievements.
Recommendation letters for each winner cite their determination to succeed, and the
value they place on education.
The deadline for the 2007 awards is October 15, 2007, and the documentation and
application are already on our website, http://www.blindcanadians.ca. Alternatively, you
can request an electronic copy, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at
800-561-4774. All questions regarding the 2007 scholarships should be directed to the
Scholarship Committee via email at email@example.com or by leaving a
message at 800-561-4774.
WELCOME TO THE AEBC'S YEAR 2007 SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAMME!
PLEASE NOTE: APPLICATION DEADLINE IS OCTOBER 15, 2007!
The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) is an organization dedicated to
providing blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted individuals with the opportunities they
need to compete on an equal basis with other members of Canadian society. Through
public education and advocacy, our organization works to improve the lives of these
Canadians by providing a forum for mentorship, discussion and action on issues of
Each year, the AEBC offers a minimum of three $1500 scholarships to recognize
outstanding blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted Canadian scholars. This year there
will be three awards:
The Business, Education and Technology Scholarship
The Alan H. Neville Memorial Scholarship in memory of an AEBC Pioneer and valued
The AEBC National Achievement Scholarship
It is not necessary to submit separate applications, as applicants will be considered for
all scholarships for which they qualify.
All scholarships are awarded on the basis of:
1. Academic performance 40%;
2. Service to the community and extracurricular activities, especially service to other
groups and individuals with disadvantages including other persons with disabilities 30%;
3. Surmounting barriers in life (family, community, attitudinal, systemic, educational,
etc.) that have contributed to making the applicant the person he/she is today 30%.
All applicants must be:
- Blind, deaf-blind or partially sighted--Please note: Whatever an applicant's vision level,
he/she must meet the requirements for legal blindness, which is visual acuity of 20/200
or less in the better eye after correction, or a visual field of less than 20 degrees.
- Canadian citizens or landed immigrants
- Pursuing a post-secondary programme (college, university or vocational) in the 2007-
2008 academic year, with a full-time course load or at a 40% course load when
accompanied by an explanation. Students at undergraduate, graduate and doctoral
levels are encouraged to apply.
- Exchange students studying abroad under a legitimate exchange programme and
paying fees to a Canadian educational institution are also considered eligible, as are
students who may choose to study abroad for compelling reasons such as lack of a
similar programme in Canada, failure to be accepted into a programme in Canada, or
the clear superiority of a programme abroad.
The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians is an organization dedicated to creating
opportunity for all persons who are blind, deaf-blind or partially sighted. Scholarship
applicants and recipients need not be members of the Alliance for Equality of Blind
Canadians; however, while membership is not required in order for an applicant to be
considered for scholarships, involvement in the organization is strongly encouraged in
general, as we seek to gain a stronger voice in Canada and membership benefits those
who are blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted both collectively and individually.
Membership information can be found on our website at http://www.blindcanadians.ca/.
The Scholarship Committee reviews all applications and selects the scholarship
recipients. These recipients will be notified of their selection by December 15, 2007.
Scholarship monies will be sent to the recipients no later than December 31, 2007.
1. Application form including Average Academic Grade
Applicants are not required to submit a transcript of their marks. Instead, they are
required to obtain a current or most recent (if not in school currently) average academic
grade, calculated in percent (e.g. 85%), from their academic institution and note this
clearly on their application form. Please note: if this average academic grade is not in
percentage form, the application will not be considered.
2. Personal Letter
In addition to the application form, applicants are required to provide a letter describing
themselves, including such information as background on their visual condition, any
additional medical or disability information, onset of blindness or loss of vision.
Applicants should answer the question: "What barriers or obstacles have you faced and
conquered in your life, as a result of your disability?" Applicants should also discuss
their academic goals, interests, hobbies, school and community activities, work
experience, vocational goals and service to their community particularly as this pertains
to service to other persons with disabilities such as blindness, deaf-blindness or partial
sight. Please do not send a resume in addition to a personal letter.
3. Reference Letter
Applicants are also required to submit one current letter of reference (written in the last
twelve months) from an individual who can comment in some detail on their academic
progress, personal strengths, community involvement and any other aspects of their life
in support of their application. The individual can be, for example, an
employer/supervisor, clergy, Academic Advisor, Department Head, Academic Planner,
etc. This reference letter should be forwarded together with the application package.
Applicants are required to confirm, in a declaration at the end of the application form,
that the information they have provided is correct and true to the best of their
knowledge. If submitting this application electronically but not via the website, this
means that applicants must put their name and the date below the declaration
statement. Please note: anyone who sends their application by any means other than
the website must put his/her name and the date below the declaration statement in
order for the application to be considered.
HOW TO APPLY
The deadline for scholarship submissions is October 15, 2007. Please take advantage
of our online application form, which can be found at:
If not applying online, keep in mind that Scholarship Committee members may be blind,
deaf-blind or partially sighted. Please forward the attached application form, personal
letter and letter of reference in one of the following file formats: plain or rich text,
Microsoft Word, Word Perfect, or Excel, or in the body of an email, to
firstname.lastname@example.org. If submission of an application in an accessible
electronic format is not possible--inaccessible formats include PDF and jpg files--please
contact us either by email at the same address or by phone at (800) 561-4774 to
discuss alternatives. We would prefer to answer any questions regarding accessibility
before you send your application.
Please note that incomplete applications, as well as any applications (complete,
incomplete, or parts of applications) received after October 15 will not be considered for
Scholarship Recipients will be required to provide their Social Insurance Number when
they accept their award.
Previous applicants and recipients are eligible to reapply.
Text Box: Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians Scholarship Application Form
Please complete the application form online at:
Or email completed scholarship application forms and documentation to
email@example.com, unless otherwise discussed with the Scholarship
City: Province: Postal Code:
Name of School or Institution currently being attended:
City: Province: Postal Code:
Name of School or Institution You Plan to Begin Attending in the 2007-2008 Academic
Year (if different from your current School/Institution):
Your Vocational Goal:
Major (if applicable):
Average academic grade of Current Academic Year or Most Recent year of Attendance
at an Academic Institution as a percentage (required):
In order for applications to be considered complete, all of the documents/information
listed below must be included; incomplete applications will not be considered:
* Application Form (including Average Academic Grade in percentage form);
* Personal Letter outlining such information as vision and medical background, goals,
interests, barriers, community activities etc. (No resumes please!) See "Documentation
Required" for more details;
* Letter of Reference (from the last twelve months);
* Declaration Statement (name and date must be provided as acknowledgement and
The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) is committed to protecting the
privacy, confidentiality, accuracy, and security of any personal information that we
collect, use, retain, and disclose in the course of the programmes we offer. If you have
free to contact our Compliance Officer by calling: (1 800) 561-4774 or by email at:
I hereby certify that the information I have provided is correct and true to the best of my
Note: Applications must be received no later than October 15, 2007
"To the Left of Inspiration: Adventures in Living with Disabilities", written by Katherine
Schneider, a blind psychologist, highlights the warmth and humour in our struggles to
be humane with each other, whether we are temporarily able-bodied or disabled.
Available through online booksellers. In accessible format at: www.bookshare.org
Through the Looking Glass and its National Resource Center for Parents with
Disabilities have released "Hands-On Parenting: A Resource Guide for Parents who are
Blind or Partially Sighted", available in regular print, Large Print or CD-ROM for $40
(U.S.). Call 1-800-644-2666 or visit: www.lookingglass.org
The American Foundation for the Blind has launched a new, multimedia website that
offers instructional videos, tips and testimonials to help the growing population with low
vision maintain independence. "Given how much fear people have concerning the
impact of vision loss, AFB hopes our new website will enlighten Americans about ways
they or a loved one can adapt successfully to low vision or vision loss and maintain a
full, rewarding and independent life," said AFB President Carl R. Augusto. Visit AFB
Senior Site at: www.afb.org/seniorsite
The Hadley School for the Blind offers tuition-free distance education courses in
alternative formats for persons who are blind, their families, and blindness
professionals. Course titles include "Self-Esteem and Adjusting with Blindness,"
"Macular Degeneration," "Glaucoma," "Diabetes: Towards Self-Management," and
"Parenting Children with Multiple Disabilities." Course series include "Self-Help Groups"
and "Social Skills." Contact Student Services: phone: 1-800-526-9909; email:
firstname.lastname@example.org; website: www.hadley.edu
Seminars at Hadley is a new, interactive, live internet lecture series. To access
recordings of past lectures, such as on braille, cooking, shopping online and accessing
recreation, visit www.hadley.edu and select "Events" and then "Seminars at Hadley". To
receive notification of upcoming lectures, sign up for electronic news releases by
selecting "Lounge" from the home page and then "Mailing List".
Hadley also offers online forums related to braille, adaptive technology and general
interest. There is also a forum for family members and one for blindness professionals.
In addition, a feedback forum is available. Visit www.hadley.edu and select "forums".
Blind-singles is a new online group for blind singles over 18. The aim of the group is to
let singles meet other singles with the same disability so they can interact, exchange
ideas and form solid friendships. To subscribe, send a blank message to: blind-singles-
National Braille Press offers two inspirational braille books: The Power of
Acknowledgment, $19.95, and The Adversity Advantage: Turning Everyday Struggles
Into Everyday Greatness, $25.95; and print/braille quotable refrigerator magnets, $4.95
each: Eleanor Roosevelt: "Do one thing every day that scares you"; Ralph Waldo
Emerson: "What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to
what lies within us"; Helen Keller: "The best and most beautiful things in the world
cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart."
NBP has also released Blog On: Reading and Writing Blogs with a Screen Reader
(braille and PortaBook, $10), covering such topics as finding, reading and staying
current with blogs, and creating your own blog. Or reserve a copy of Harry Potter and
the Deathly Hallows and guarantee shipment in braille on July 21, $18.89! To order (all
prices are in U.S. dollars), send payment to: NBP, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, MA
02115-4302; phone: (800) 548-7323; website: