About Us

This blog is about how the world is viewed by the visual and the visually impaired. The intent of this blog is to bring the two worlds together. It is administered by two fabulous sisters, Toni, who is sighted and Robin, who became visually impaired in 2002 at the age of 18 due to misdiagnosis.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Niece's Love...

I love to watch the interaction between my daughter Imani and my sister...the love that Imani has for her aunt is so pure. Tee-Tee is what Imani calls her. Robin lost her sight around the time I had Imani, so she's never seen Imani. When she asked me what Imani looks like I just tell her to remember a picture of me when I was Imani's age and that will give her an idea of what she looks like. Imani knows that Robin cannot see and she takes pride in leading Robin and telling Robin when to "step" when she comes to a curb or stairs or telling her where something is. What really amazes me is the mind of the child, it is so non-discriminating and accepting of all people regardless of any differences; and then unfortunatley as a child grows up they become effected by all the pollution lingering out in the world. This past week I took Imani to an amusement center, and of course she wanted Tee-Tee to come because Tee-Tee's so much fun! She insisted that Robin go on the bumper cars with her and play ski ball to help her win tickets! I'm sure that was some ride for Robin...allowing a 6 year old to steer and not being able to see! She's a brave one! This is what I love so much about Imani's relationship with Robin, she knows that Robin is blind, but she does not treat her any different, all she knows and cares about is that this is her Tee-Tee and that's who she enjoys spending her time with. Imani was so proud of the prize she got because Tee-Tee won the tickets for her! Wouldn't it be nice if we all could go back to that way of thinking...to treat everyone the same regardless of any differences or disabilities? Imagine being able to look past all of the superficial things and look at what matters the most, a persons character and heart.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Blizzard '09...

There is a common saying, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow; however, I was saying let it stop! When I had my eyesight, I loved looking out of my window at the white snow flakes falling down, but being out in it was a different story. What may look beautiful to the human eye or imagination, can be very deceiving. Let’s just say, although I was not able to see the snow, I was able to use my other senses such as my hearing, touch, and smell.
I find it very interesting to listen to the various sounds within the world, especially the noises of nature. Riding home from my internship with my colleague, who is also my neighbor, I could hear the snow flakes falling briskly against the windshield, as the wipers swished back and forth to wipe them away. The sound of the wipers and the snow falling made a weird rhythmic movement as we drove along the streets. In addition, the sound of the tires trudging through the snow became apparent as we tried to maneuver our way through the blizzard. The hums of the wind, snow falling, windshield wipers swishing, and cars tracking in the snow, made the journey home intriguing. However, one sound that no one wants to hear, especially a visually impaired person, is the driver saying that they can’t see either! LOL! The windshield had fogged and the visibility was difficult because of all of the snow. After hearing my neighbor say this, I was thinking to myself, well that’s great, two people who can’t see the road in a blizzard! Whoa! My neighbor thought about what she said and mentioned that she probably should not have told me that…yeah, that’s the last thing a blind person wants to hear LOL! Luckily, the windshield cleared up and we slowly continued on our adventure.
Once we made it to our destination, I felt like jumping for joy that we made it safely and I thanked my neighbor. However, once I got out of the car, my thanks to my neighbor was cut short, as the snow flakes were hitting my face at what it felt like to be 100mph. I tried to pull my hood over my hair, but that did not help a whole lot I was drenched from the cold wet snow. As I walked, my boots started to fill with snow and my feet began to get that tingling feeling; which made me realize that I need to invest in some new boots. In addition, I find it hard to use my cane in the snow, especially when there is a lot of it because that darn thing kept getting stuck! With the snow hitting my face, filling my shoes, toes tingling, and the stiff brisk air which made it hard for me to actually breathe, my other senses definitely let me know I was in a blizzard!

We Appreciate Our Beautiful Readers....

You spoke and we listened! We'd like to thank one of our readers who suggested that we look into changing the colors of the website for those who have low vision. The site does look better and is easier to read! A white and baby blue background with black, navy and dark purple text for a contrast has replaced the black background with white text. Thank you for the positive feedback! We love suggestions like this because we want our site to be accessible to all and it helps to educate us on the different types of vision loss! Let's continue to educate each other!

Many Thanks!
Beautifully Blind

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Reveal of the Poll...

Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn't mean he lacks vision ~ Stevie Wonder

Today is the reveal of the poll! What do you think is the most misconception of the visually impaired? As we know these are all misconceptions, however the most believed misconception is that the other senses of the visually impaired are heightened. The fact is people with normal sight ignore their other senses because we have sight to compensate. But blind individuals depend more on their other senses because they need to use them in order to compensate for their blindness. Now, to dispel the other misconceptions! Coming in second on our poll is the visually impaired do not care about style or fashion. I don’t know about anyone else but my sister cares about what she has on and is picky about what she wears! I’m quite sure other visually impaired people do to…although they can not see the items can be described to them. Robin has her own individual style, quite different from mine. She’s into more of the laid back and casual style while I’m into the grown and sexy style (smile)! My sister subscribes to all types of fashion magazines which she gets on tape or reads using her scanner/screen reader. She also knows what’s in style or what the new trend is from the internet or television, yes she watches tv...well listens to it! She even goes to the movies…we’ll talk about that in another blog (I have a funny story about the movies…imagine trying to describe a no words Samantha scene from Sex and the City to your younger sister WOO!). Coming in third there’s a tie between they are mentally challenged and they cannot be independent. Well, to dispel these misconceptions my sister Robin is graduating in June with her Master’s Degree in Social Work. She goes to school and is involved in an internship. There are many centers for the blind that teach them the tools to live and travel independently. Individuals that are blind or visually impaired can lead as full a life as anyone else as long at they are allotted proper training and equally opportunities. Many view their blindness as a physical nuisance and not a disability. In fourth place is that the visually impaired is hard of hearing. Obviously sight has nothing to do with hearing…Robin’s always wondering why people talk extra loud! Robin can’t see but she can definitely hear; she’s always eavesdropping on my conversations LOL! And the only time she’s hard of hearing is when it’s selective and she doesn’t want to do something you’ve asked her LOL! Lastly, is that they have to wear those ugly black sunblockers. The need for any type of sunglasses depends on the individual’s situation and preferences. Robin occasionally wears a pair of black Jackie O style sunglasses, not because she needs to, but because she thinks she’s cute! Hope this poll helped answer some questions, dispel some misconceptions and bridge the gap between the sighted and the beautifully blind!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Difference...

“We differ, blind and seeing, one from another, not in our senses, but in the use we make of them, in the imagination and courage with which we seek wisdom beyond all senses” ~ Helen Keller. Close your eyes and imagine living in a world with no sight, not being able to see what is going on around you. Everything in life is perceived through hearing different sounds, active listening, smell, touch, and sensations of different temperatures. Your interactions with other people are not guided by physical non-verbals such as gestures, but instead the unseen, people’s tone and volume of voice. Now open your eyes. This example was supposed to serve as a tool to illustrate that not being able to see can be hard, and to some who have their vision, the thought of losing their eyesight is unthinkable. In fact, the world places a huge emphasis on the visual sense, rather than other senses. It is not until one sense is taken away, such as vision, that a person realizes the true value and importance of their other senses.
As a sighted person, I took for granted the fact that I was able to look outside my window at the trees, cars passing by, and birds flying above. It’s a true reality, you never know what you have, until it’s gone. Although I do not have my eyesight, I am grateful for the fact that I can walk, talk, hear; some advantages that some people do not have. All in all, I challenge you to take a step back, and ask yourself, what would it be like to navigate in the world without…

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mainstream Making Products Accessible...

Props go out to Apple for making products accessible to the visually impaired! There is the Mac OS X which comes with a built in screen reader, voice commands and a lot of other bells and whistles. There’s also the iPod nano with spoken menus and the new iPod shuffle that talks to you AND the iPhone has special features for the visually impaired (once someone hears about this I’m sure she will be trading in her Nokia N75). Also, big ups to Verizon for coming out with the Moto Q 9c with Talks…this phone is screen reader enabled. However, our fav is AT&T, when searching for an accessible phone they were the first that we know of to come out with a screen reader, Mobile Speaks, N75 was the compatible phone at the time but it looks like there’s more variety now. When Robin became blind finding items that would make her life a little bit easier was difficult. I had to search high and low. Unfortunately, things aren’t that accessible or don’t exist, and the ones that are available do not come cheap. There’s a device called a Note Reader, it tells you what type of currency you have for $300…crazy when all the government has to do is add an indicator on the bills, but I won’t even get into that…that’s a whole other blog! Robin is blessed that she is able to get the aides she needs to function independently. It would be nice if these items were available to all socioeconomic groups. Hmmm…gives me an idea, wonder if any of these companies would be willing to donate any aides to those in need, but cannot afford it. Stay posted! I’m all about helping the underprivileged! Where we live there is 1 store that sells the products/technology she needs...not the cell phones or Apple products, those are accessible, but the other everyday independent living aides, like color detector, level detectors etc. There’s a place in NY that I order her aides from as well and they are really good because if they don’t have something if you tell them about it they will get it for you. It was so difficult to find something as simple as a watch. The watches that are available for the blind…functional yes…cute, NO! And the alarms that are built into them OH MY!!! Robin left her watch at my house one time…not the cute pink one I got her…but the hideous black bulk of a watch…the alarm went off early in the morning…it scared me and my husband nearly to death!!!! It was a LOUD “COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO”!!!! We’re looking around wondering what is that!!!! It goes off again, we’re looking around, finally find it …it was Robin’s watch! She thought it was just so funny…I told her “don’t you ever leave that thing over here again!” Her payback is coming LOL! Hopefully more companies will follow Apple’s lead and keep the visually impaired in mind when developing their products…they knew that a 25 year old visually impaired woman would rather be walking around with a cute pink iPod shuffle that she could utilize just like everyone else in her age group instead of a big old school walkman! Apple has definitely raised the bar! Much love!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Thank Goodness for Technology...

Since I lost my eyesight, I am constantly thinking to myself that I am so glad it was during a time where there is a lot of technological advances. I am constantly asked by friends, peers, co-workers, and strangers, how am I able to accomplish various tasks, such as being on my computer? It is questions like this one and others that reveal an interest among people to learn more about the world of blind individuals; I welcome any questions! No question is off limits...well there may be a limit LOL!
Anyway, to shed some light into some of the technology that helps me, I’ll first talk about my computer. I have a basic laptop that I take with me to school and my internship. In order to enable me to use my computer, I bought and downloaded a text to speech program called Window Eyes. So, for sighted individuals, whatever you see on the screen, my computer announces it verbally. With my computer, I am able to write papers, read materials, surf the internet, and most importantly, interact with you all on this wonderful site.
My second gadget that I use is my talking watch. At the touch of a button, my watch verbally announces the time, has a stop watch, and has an alarm clock. However, when I use my talking watch, I must remember that along with myself, people around me can tell when I am checking the time, so in meetings, I would recommend a braille watch. When it comes to watches for the blind, there are limited choices and styles to choose from. With this said, many of the watches for the blind are big/bulky or they only come in black. Thanks to my sister’s investigating, she found me a stylish watch that came in my favorite color, pink.
The third gadget is my color decoder, which helps me recognize various colors of my clothes. This electronic is definitely important because I have to maintain my sense of style. Yes, I care about what I look like...I may be blind to sight but not to style! Matching clothes is very important to me. I would know if I wasn't looking oh so fab by the snickers of the sighted passing by! So, when I wake up in the morning, I pull out my color decoder, hold it up to the piece of clothing, and it verbally announces the color. Still, like all forms of technology, it malfunctions sometimes, so I always double check with my mom or whoever is around to make sure I have the right outfit. I also double check myself by feeling my clothes, however I have multiple shirts that are the same, but in different colors.
I could go on forever talking about the various gadgets that help me in my daily routine, which it probably seems as though I have already done so. But, instead of going into depth, I am just going to list the other gadgets that I use, which consist of my tape recorder, talking cell phone, personal organizer, cup sensor, and a motion sensor. All of the gadgets mentioned above have impacted my life and others by causing them to be startled when they hear all of the strange voices/noises that my nifty electronics bring with them! LOL! So if you hear a lot of strange sounds going off no need to be alarmed there's probably just a cane user in the room that's beautifully blind!

Friday, March 20, 2009

My Sister, My Inspiration...

Usually it’s the younger sister looking up to the older sister and aspiring to be like her; but I totally look up to my little sister Robin. She has been a great inspiration to me. I always wonder if had the shoe been on the other foot and I lost my eyesight, would I have been able to accomplish the things she has. I don’t know if I would have been as strong. I asked her what gets her through, and she simply says “my faith in God”. So simple, but yet so powerful; that’s all we really need. I am so proud of her; she will be graduating in June with her Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she lost her eyesight she never gave up. Looking from the outside she adjusted seamlessly; it amazes me the things that she can do so effortlessly that myself as a sighted person has trouble with; she’s my go to person with technical things like downloading music to my ipod!
I would question why this had to happen to her and if I could I would trade places with her so she could experience life with sight. God has a plan and He will not put on us more than we can bear. Through Robin I have learned that anything is possible and anything you put hard work and your mind to can be achieved.

Entering into the Unknown...

Sadness, fear, and frustration were just a few of the feelings that I was experiencing during the time I lost my eyesight. Week after week I literally watched my eyesight deteriorate before my eyes, not knowing when or if it would ever stop. It was really hard for me to deal with my situation because one week I was able to see print, the next I was only able to see shapes and barely count fingers. Throughout this whole process, I was told that my eyesight would probably come back, and if it did it would be within six months to one year.
I built up a false sense of hope that I would be able to return to my old routine of living life. Well, when six months passed and then one year, I realized that my hope to see again was becoming less of a reality for me. I was losing a major sense that I was heavily dependent on to help me function and maneuver within society. I lost my ability to drive my car, watch the changing of seasons, view scenery, and simply just having the ability to physically look at others that stood before me. I could go on forever talking about the things I miss doing when I had my eyesight, but the point is that my life has changed for as long as I know, and I must make the best out of my situation. The white cane that I use to guide me is not only a tool to signify to society that I am blind, but it is also a representation to me of what I have gone through and will face in the future; a life with no sight.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Beginning of the Journey...

I was inspired by my sister Robin to start this blog and document our journey through life together as sighted and visually impaired individuals. We've also started Beautifully Blind Inc...stay tuned this will be something you won't want to miss.
Since Robin became blind 7 years ago it has brought great awareness of the misconceptions between the sighted and visually impaired world. Some encounters that we've had were hilarious; like when Robin let go of my arm in a crowd in New Orleans, grabbed hold of someone else's arm and I had to go get her! It's also funny when people think Robin's a snob when she doesn't move out of the way or speak; they have no clue that she can't see and has no idea that they are there! LOL! Then there's those instances that make me so mad; like when she asks someone a question and they respond to me...she's blind, not deaf or mentally challenged! The worst is when people clearly see her cane and will not move out of the way. I tell her all the time she has the green light to cut loose on some ankles LOL!!! If they don't want to move, tear those ankles up with that cane! LOL! The majority of the time I forget Robin's visually impaired. She does pretty much everything a sighted person does; except drive and arch her eyebrows! She tried and what a travesty that was; thank goodness they grow back quickly! My sister is beautifully blind!