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.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Listening Ear

“Listen to what you hear, and you will understand what is near.” As expected, since I lost my eyesight, I definitely pay more attention to sound, as it helps paint a picture of my environment. Through sound, one can pinpoint a particular person, place, or thing. In addition, he/she can assume the size, depth, and location by the noise that is transmitted. A term coined for this phenomenon is echolocation. Whether sighted or blind, people who do not have hearing impairments, use sound in their everyday lives. With this said it is authors/practitioners like Tim Johnson who seek to help people, such as blind/visually impaired individuals maximize their sense of sound through echolocation. Mr. Johnson is the author of “BEGINNER’s GUIDE TO ECHOLOCATION FOR THE VISUALLY IMPAIRED: LEARNING TO SEE WITH YOUR EARS.” Through the history of echolocation to the offering of several helpful exercises, this book seeks to introduce a person to the capabilities that rest behind the ear. It is pointed out by Mr. Johnson that although the purpose of echolocation is to help blind/visually impaired individuals become more oriented with their surroundings, it can still be practiced by sighted people as well. In fact, as mentioned above, if able, sighted people use echolocation already. I really like how Mr. Johnson illustrates this point, because in my opinion, his statement creates unity rather than divisiveness. Echolocation is something that both blind/visually impaired and sighted individuals can partake in separately or together. Personally, as I was reading this book, I found myself following along with the exercises while also thinking about how I engaged in similar activities with my co-workers in the past. We were practicing echolocation without really knowing it. Reading further into the book, I became more intrigued and was eager to learn more. In my opinion, the whole idea of fine tuning our ability to use echolocation seemed overwhelming, but Mr. Johnson’s book lessened my anxiety because the given material gradually introduces harder exercises as the reader’s skill level increases. I felt at ease when Mr. Johnson reiterated that what may work for one person, may not be the same case for another, and to gear the material to what best suits you. In addition, he kept inspiring by saying that if one person can do it, then it is possible for anyone to do it. Having completed an independent study on sound, to say that I am intrigued with echolocation would be an understatement. This is why I was excited to read Mr. Johnson’s book, to which I found enlightening. If you want to purchase Mr. Johnson’s book, please click on the below links. Out of curiosity, please tell us your thoughts on echolocation. Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1478371080/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1478371080&linkCode=as2&tag=ti00-20 Accessible Version: http://www.humanecholocation.com/echolocation-guide-msword-format/ Audio Version (Currently available on Tim Johnson’s website, but will soon be available on Amazon and iTunes): http://www.HumanEcholocation.com/audiobook

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What I Hear, Is What You See…

Descriptive videos becoming more of a reality it seems to be, the services enhances curiosity and accessibility for many. I cannot say it enough, but I truly love watching movies. They are fun and evoke many emotions such as, laughter, sadness, fear, and anger, just to name a few. However, one main drawback for me, being a blind viewer, is the visual aspects. When watching a movie with someone, it is easy for me to fill in the gaps by having my friend or family describe to me what I am not able to see. But, what happens when I am watching a movie by myself? The answer is that I miss out on some crucial parts of the movie. With this said, it is with great appreciation to the companies, such as Hollywood Access Services, who make descriptive videos so that blind/visually impaired individuals can watch movies independently or alongside someone without having to rely on that person’s narration. Descriptive videos offer me a sense of imagination, allowing me to create visual images of what I hear. It is correct when people say that a thousand words can be painted into a picture. For example, like many movie theatre frequenters, I had great anticipation to see “The Hunger Games”. So, when one of my friends said she would attend the movie with me, I jumped at the chance to go with her. In my opinion, “The Hunger Games” is an action filled movie with several visual aspects, and for me, without my friend’s descriptions, I would have been lost. Most recently, I was given the opportunity to view the movie again, but with professional descriptive services from the company Hollywood Access Services. From the clear and precise descriptions of the characters to vivid illustrations of the scenery, the audio track broadened my movie viewing experience. I formulated images of what I thought appeared on the screen and I felt that the descriptions gave me a better understanding of the plot. The only thing is that throughout the viewing, sometimes the audio track and the movie fell out of sync with each other. Solo-DX is the name of their new descriptive product. Specifically, Solo-DX is a MP3 audio file that can be played along with a movie. So, you only need two things to enjoy the descriptive services; the Solo-DX audio track and your movie. In other words, “The Hunger Games” audio file can be played on an iPhone, etc., and the movie can be listened to on a separate device. All in all, I was pleased with the Solo-DX track and commend Hollywood Access Services on their efforts. The Solo-DX is at an affordable price; around two dollars per track. The Solo-DX files are available on iTunes, but “The Hunger Games” wont be available until later this month. Like most files on iTunes, the product can be previewed before purchasing. To learn more about Solo-DX, check out their website at http://www.solo-dx.com

Sunday, September 30, 2012

My Ten In Ten Part II

6. I went on my first roller coaster ride, but not by choice. Thanks Toni, NOT! Putting it mildly, I am afraid of heights, therefore I try to avoid rides that involve being feet in the air. However, while in Disneyland, I slipped up, and let my oh so loving sister trick me to going on Space Mountain. I still have to get her back for that one. LOL. 7. 1, 2, 3, I became a part of the texting community! I was thrilled when I was able to text for the first time, thanks to Mobile Speaks, which was downloaded on my cell phone. This was a joyous moment for me because I felt closer to mainstream. I would sit in my undergraduate and graduate classes listening to my peers text, before and after the lectures of course. LOL. But, listening to my peers engage in an activity that I could not do, caused me to feel left out. Yay for accessibility! 8. Bon Voyage, Jamaica here I come! Not only did I attain my first passport, but I was able to venture outside of the United States for the first time as well. Jamaica was a blast to visit, and I’m glad I was able to go on this trip. The culture, food, music, ocean, sand, etc. made my time in Jamaica enjoyable. Also, thanks to my niece being the charmer she is, I was able to sit in first class on the plane for the first time as well. 9. I was hired at my first internship. This is an experience that I will never forget, both good and bad because it prepared me on what to expect in my future places of employment. I was not only entering the work force as an intern, but one without eyesight. One main challenge that I faced was changing a fellow intern's negative notions regarding my blindness. I realized that you can't broaden someone's perspective if they are not open for change. 10. My first professional job. After leaving my first internship, I found another agency where I would be able to fulfill my remaining internship field credits. Choosing this agency was one of the best choices I made because I truly found out what it meant to work in a healthy, supportive environment. I felt needed and wanted by the staff; I was a valuable member of the team. Eventually, I interviewed for a contract position that open, and was hired. I learned many tools that have and will continue to help me thrive in my future endeavors, such as the importance of teamwork.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Guest Blogger: Accepting My Blindness By Jeff Thompson, Blind Abilities

As I pass through so many worlds, so many lives each day, I wish my Scarlet Letter was not my defining impression. My blindness does not define me. And to those who don’t understand I begin to write… If I never accepted my blindness I would join you in a notion of pity and share a tear of sadness with you. And, yet, there would come a day when we would cry no more, no more tears, no more sadness because we would grow to an acceptance of our fate. Yours to mine and mine to yours. Let that day be today where we accept and turn our attention towards tomorrow and today. I am me and I am blind. You are you and together with acceptance we both can move on. I move on differently and today, to me, so do you. Tomorrow I’ll do as I do and you will as you do, too. My ways of my methods and my alternative techniques shine like oddities in this perfect world where we reside. Unto me I face the challenges of blending in and I am an autonomist going about my way, going about my day where some think I strayed. I belong on this broken trail of zig and zag, tappity tap tap, slaunching to the right and bumping to the left. My dance is quite chaotic to those unaware of my shoes. But to you, with acceptance, I’m right there where I intended, in this perfect world…equally with you. Do we accept people and their differences as much as we think we do? Does my presence create the “Where’s Waldo” effect as I criss cross through this perfect world? I accept all of this and that is why I am out there, being Waldo, being the glitch out of sync with perfection’s tolerances. I am OK, I accept it, and I’m not blind to me being blind. I see differently today but more clearly than ever before. And like Beautifully Blind states: I see through my heart. Thanks for the vision Robin and Thanks for the Beauty you and Toni bring to blindness.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My Ten In Ten

It literally feels as though time is flying by, and truer as the person ages. It’s hard for me to believe that it has been ten years since my loss of sight. Through these years, I have experienced a great deal of things; many for the first time. All of my experiences enabled me to have a broader outlook on life and treasure what life has to offer. To give you a better glimpse into my life, I have compiled a list of ten things that I have experienced for the first time within this past decade. So, here it goes: 1. I became an aunt for the first time. Ok, although, my niece was born a month before my loss of sight, I would be remiss if I didn’t include her on my list. 2. I bought my first white cane. To me, the white cane is not only a traveling tool for blind individuals, but it is also a symbolic representation of how one has left the sighted world. I didn’t have any reservation about carrying my cane because I felt awkward without it. Before I had my cane, many people thought I was being rude if I was standing in their way, failing to realize that I could not see them. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have grown to rely on my cane, and it is my trusty friend! 3. I made my first television appearance on KMGH – Channel 7 10:15 Difference. I am very thankful to former Executive Producer of Channel 7 News, Jeff Harris, for providing me with the opportunity to share my story with individuals across the state of Colorado. I was able to communicate my thoughts/feelings regarding everything I went through with my medical condition and loss of sight. 4. I became a first time voter. No matter what political affiliation a person is, if any at all, I truly believe it is important for everyone to take part in the legislative process. As we all know, one vote counts and can make a difference. This was a long waited, momentous time in my life. 5. I attended my first hydrocephalus conference. For of those of you who do not know, hydrocephalus is a medical condition that I have, and is the cause behind my loss of sight. Attending the conferences allows my family and I to learn about recent research updates, attend various informational workshops, share perspectives, meet new people, and visit with old friends. To be continued next time…

Friday, May 11, 2012

Behind The White Cane

Why do you feel the need to categorize me? Placing me in a group filled with stereotypes and misconceptions, slowly, but surely, erases my individuality. I’m a person, who happens to be blind, but that does not mean I have the inability to see; for I see with my heart, so please, have some empathy. When you talk about people, who are blind, you say that they’re unapproachable, or could it be that your perception may not be plausible? If you viewed me as my friends do, you’d realize I’m a separate entity. Selfless, caring, gifted, determined; my friends describe me to be. On the contrary of unapproachable, with sheer honesty, one friend described me to be personable. Take the time to listen; I’m not asking for sympathy, but instead, a chance to be accepted for being me.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

To Have Eyesight Or Not To Have Eyesight Part II

If a knock came at the door, amidst the opportunity to have you once more, I would probably say yes with thoughts of adding another chapter to my core. For me, sight restoration is not a matter of being maladapted or unhappy, but instead it is answering the what if. Naturally, if something is taken away from you, an initial thought may be geared around the possibility of its return. As one of Beautifully Blind, Inc.’s friends in twitter eloquently put it, having sight again would be an adventure for him. To say the least, I agree; it would be an adventure that could cause feelings of excitement, yet, also uncertainty.
I miss physically seeing the changes of seasons, stars in the night sky, but most importantly, my family’s beautiful faces. I had the opportunity to see my niece when she was a baby, for about a little over a month. Ten years later, I want to see what she looks like as she grows into the maturing young lady that she is becoming. On the flip side, I wonder what it would feel like to see my friends to whom I have met after my sight loss. I believe initially, it would be strange to actually see their face, rather than just a voice.
Also, similar to the reader in my previous post, “To Have Eyesight Or Not To Have Eyesight”, I wonder what it would feel like not having to use my trusty talking technology. In addition, I also wonder what it would feel like not being a blind person, and entering into the sighted world again. Would I feel uncomfortable? Or how would I be received by the blind community? I am not sure how to answer these questions, in fact, there are a lot of I don’t knows that I have.
But what I do know is that I should not have to think about how I would be treated by the blind and sighted community if I ever got my sight restored, because we are all human beings and need to live in a united society. There must be an end to the gap between the blind and sighted communities. All in all, whatever the case may be, sight restoration would be something that I would consider doing if deemed fit and safe. Like me, all of the respondents to my question about sight restoration, had eyesight at one point in their lives. The majority of the people responded that they would want to have their eyesight back, if given the opportunity. What are your thoughts?

Monday, February 27, 2012

To Have Eyesight Or Not To Have Eyesight

To have eyesight or not to have eyesight, is something that I have been pondering for a while, especially lately. As technology and science research advances more and more each day, eyesight restoration becomes more of a reality for people inflicted with blinding eye conditions. In fact, if you have not heard, last month two women, who have different forms of retina pigmantosa, received stem cell injections in their eyes. The stem cell injections proved to be successful by restoring some vision to the patients.
After tweeting this news on twitter, I posed a question to our blind/visually impaired followers regarding whether or not they would want to have eyesight, if given the opportunity. To many, this topic might be a no brainer; of course people who are blind want to see. But despite the contrary belief, many blind people do not want to have eyesight. I was talking to my ophthalmologist about this, and he was saying, one deciding factor for a person may be based on the amount of time they have been blind. He went on to discuss how when compared to someone who has lost their eyesight, If you are born blind, having vision would probably be scary because of the unknown. So, taking the research into consideration, as a person who has been blind for ten years this year, would I want to see again? What were the responses to this subject matter on twitter? Stay tuned for “To Have Sight Or Not To Have Sight Part II.”

Monday, January 30, 2012

An Okie At Heart

The sound of the whistling winds, brisk breeze hitting you so hard that it almost knocks you over, lets a person know that they have arrived in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. It is the land of the ice storms, tornados, and oddly enough, lately earthquakes. For those of you who may not know this, I had the opportunity to attend my freshman year of college in this inimitable city. I always enjoy visiting Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City reminds me of many pleasant moments revolving around some of my family and friends; moments that always bring a smile to my face. With this said, my good friends, Jenny and Curtis, always go out of their way to make my trip extra special. I met them over ten years ago, before the loss of my sight, and they have continued to stick by my side. Upon my arrival to Oklahoma City, Jenny and Curtis prepared one of my favorite meals, took me to visit my favorite ice cream place, then I had a trip down memory lane, while visiting my former school. Jenny and Curtis’ overall amazing descriptive skills, and awareness for the need to verbalize descriptions, resulted in nothing but smiles for all of us.
In addition to the visiting with my family and friends, a highlight of my trip was discovering Oklahoma City’s talking crosswalks, in the downtown area. Talking crosswalks are automated street crossing signals that allow a blind/visually impaired person to know when it is safe to cross. When I pressed the crosswalk button on the pole, if it was safe to cross, the voice would announce the following: name of the street, walk to cross, and then the remaining seconds left to arrive to the other side of the street. When crossing the street, there is another system still counting down the time, allowing a person to know how much time they have left to travel and what direction to go towards. However, if it was not safe to cross, the automated voice would repeatedly announce wait. I was so excited after my experience with the talking crosswalks, that I became giddy, to say the least. LOL. I wish Denver would install this type of system. I believe it would make traveling safer compared to the beeping signals. Well, I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I did embarking on the trip.