TN Voice Volume 3, Summer 2015

Table of contents

Notes from the President

 

Dr. James Battle Interview: A Look at Eye Stints for Treatment of Glaucoma

 

10 Mistakes That Hurt Blind People the Most

Audio Described Films from the Formerly Sighted Perspective – Inside Out

NFB of Clarksville to Host Community Day of Adaptive Sports

 

Tracy Bettencourt and Joe Shaw to Run in the New York Marathon November 1

Ball In, Play!

Game of Chicken Part II:  Where Low Vision and Blindness Meet Head On

Practice Compassion

Beautiful in Asher’s Eyes

 

 

Notes from the President

 

Dear Tennessee Voice  Subscribers:

 

It’s been a busy July for me and I can’t see it slowing down much.  From July 5-10 many of us were in Orlando for our 75th convention of the National Federation of the Blind.  We had a proud showing of almost 30 Tennesseans.  We broke a Guinness Book of World record by executing the world’s largest umbrella mosaic that would be seen from above as saying live the life you want.  It was a truly amazing experience.  Lynn Jackson has to eat the next time we go for a record though.  No more fainting for you Lynn!

Our affiliate was also heavily involved in the Music presentation during general session on July 10.  JP Williams, Steve Norman. And I all brilliantly played and sang NFB songs from the past and present.  JP, we couldn’t have wrote all those wonderful songs without you, and Steve, Without a doubt, you are  the most outstanding saxophone player I have ever heard.  The songs we performed should be out on iTunes soon, so stay tuned folks.

On July 18 I was fortunate enough to go and visit with the Memphis Federation of the Blind to talk to our fellow members about what it really means to live the lives we want, as well as observe all the great work they are doing in the areas of transportation and in meet the blind month activities.

On July 27, I went to Washington DC to talk to Senator Alexander’s office about our Accessible Technology bill in College and Higher Education.  Cross your fingers, we may have this bill passed soon and be able to move on to changing what it means to be blind in colleges around the country.

At the end of July, I traveled to Cleveland Tennessee with our First Vice President, Terry Smith, to start a new chapter with a bunch of new and exciting members.  Here’s to having them write an article in the next volume of Tennessee Voice!

Warmly,

 

James Brown, President

National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee

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Dr. James Battle Interview: A Look at Eye Stints for Treatment of Glaucoma

Editor’s Note:  Joyce Gouge interviews Ophthalmologist Dr. James Battle about eye stints for treatment of glaucoma.

The Voice editorial team would like to thank Joyce Gouge for doing a fantastic job of conducting this interview and asking excellent questions! Joyce, we appreciate you!

Also, we would like to thank April Meredith for arranging and organizing this interview. Thank you Dr. Battle for being so generous with your time, invaluable information, and expertise.

We are excited because this interview is recorded, and it is a small step toward our goal of having a podcast feature in the Voice. Enjoy

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10 Mistakes That Hurt Blind People the Most

Caitlin Hernandez Caitlin Hernandez May 15, 2015

 

This post first appeared on TheMighty.com, a website that finds strength, joy and beauty in disease and disability. You can also like The Mighty on Facebook.

 

There are many aspects of blindness that I wish were more universally understood: What we typically do and do not need help with, the fact that we’d much rather have people ask questions than say nothing at all and the reality that just because we do everyday things a bit differently, we aren’t performing magical, wondrous feats by any means.

 

But these problems can be solved fairly quickly once you become friends with a blind person, sit down to think seriously about them or do a Google search. So instead of sounding like every “How to Interact with a Blind Person” article ever, I’ve put together a list of the top 10 mistakes that even my friends and family sometimes make. Even though they don’t happen often, they are the kind of gaffes that tend to hurt or bother me the most when they do occur.

 

1. Don’t play games. Playing childhood games like “How many fingers am I holding up?” and “I’m going to pretend I’m not in the room with you” are not cute or funny.

 

2. No surprises. You may think it’s funny to run up behind your blind friend, playfully grab them and yell, “Boo!” But it will never, ever be funny to us. If you do this, you will probably either get punched or feel the pain of our cane introducing itself to your kneecaps.

 

3. Mess with my cane, and you shall regret it. Never take or move anyone’s mobility aid without asking. If you’d like to look at it, or even take it for a spin, by all means ask. I’ll most likely let you. But you’d better not run off with it or leave me stranded somewhere without it.

 

Also, if I don’t have my cane for whatever reason, it would be extra nice if you’d let me know you’re aware of this and are keeping an eye out.

 

 

 

 

4. I do not need an interior decorator. I know sometimes it’s an accident, but please don’t move my things without telling me. Especially if we’re at my house, and you move something then leave. Rearranging my stuff to fit Feng shui principles could cost me a few hours.

 

 

 

5. Sighted does not equal superior. Sometimes sighted people like tell me how to dress and present myself in a condescending tone. I can’t see what I look like, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have my own sense of self, identity and image. If I want your advice, I’ll ask for it. But generally, I prefer compassion, not a list of “you coulds” and “you shoulds.”

 

6. Quit comparing. Blindness is just one trait. It doesn’t have any bearing on anything else about blind people as individuals. We come in all different flavors — like ice cream. We don’t like being compared to other blind people. “He could do this independently, why can’t you?” “He liked audiobooks, why don’t you?” “He wasn’t awkward, why are you?”

 

Perhaps worse is being held up alongside famous blind people like Helen Keller and Stevie Wonder. We can’t all be blind freaking superheroes and, more to the point, most of us don’t want to be blind freaking superheroes. Most of us are just normal people who happen to be blind.

 

 

7. Be a sensitive sighted guide. Unlike many blind people, I’m not particularly fussy about how I walk with sighted guides. If we’re close, warm-and-fuzzy pals, I’ll most likely link arms or hold hands with you. If we’re more formal acquaintances, I’ll do the traditional hand-on-elbow sighted guide. But here’s the bottom line: Don’t ever clench my wrist or hand in a vise-like grip and yank me around like I’m a 2-year-old. Don’t push and pull me by the shoulders, shove me from point-to-point with your hand on my back or fling your hands all over me in an attempt to show me where to go. Not acceptable.

 

8. Either ignore the blind flails or help. If you happen to notice me fumbling around looking for my drink or my napkin, see my cane get stuck in a crack in the sidewalk and slam me in the chest or watch as I get spectacularly lost and wander around in circles trying to get my bearings, please don’t make a big scene about it.

 

My blindness-related shortcomings aren’t fair game for dinnertime story hour, unless I make it plain that a healthy dose of teasing commentary is OK and won’t upset me. I’ll love you forever if you ignore these blind flails, or if you laugh them off with me and keep them between us. I’ll love you even more if you can see a blind flail coming and can help me avoid it in a discreet manner (this, of course, takes some practice.)

 

9. Don’t be dismissive. If I confide in you that something’s tough or scary for me because blindness adds an extra layer, please don’t discount my feelings by saying, “Everyone feels like that sometimes.” I appreciate that you’re trying to make me feel better and less alone, but this type of response can come across as flippant. It’s as if you’re thinking, “Don’t think you’re such a tragic, special, uniquely broken little snowflake just because you’re blind.” Do we all struggle? Of course. But blindness can indisputably make our struggles different. If I’m revealing blindness vulnerability, which I rarely will unless I trust you quite a lot, it will mean the world to feel listened to, understood and validated.

 

 

10. I do not exist to make you look awesome. Don’t make a big, braggy show of helping me, so you’ll look like a hero in front of the guy you have a crush on. Don’t talk about me patronizingly as if I’m Baby Einstein: “Look what Caitlin can do all by herself! Isn’t she so smart?” And don’t treat me like a trained seal: “Caitlin, show everyone how you Braille, use the computer and walk a straight line!” If you just ask me nicely, “Caitlin, would you mind showing us how you text?” I’ll be happy to do a demo nine times out of 10.

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Audio Described Films from the Formerly Sighted Perspective – Inside Out

-April Meredith

 

First things first. For the record, I never will give a synopsis or detailed review of the films themselves because not much irritates me more than when someone spoils the content of a movie I have not watched yet. The readers who have not yet watched the featured movie can safely peruse my critiques and get an idea of whether or not the film would be worth their while. The readers who have already seen it will ideally gain a deeper understanding from or even associate with my double-sided perspective. What I do hope to give to everyone is some insight into the audio described movie quality based on the fact that I used to have sight but now enjoy life on the other side of the proverbial fence as a blind individual. Sometimes I will address my different approach to watching movies now that I have seen before with vision and thus without audio description. However, for this issue I am discussing my viewing experience of a movie I had never seen before – Inside Out.

 

Let me get right down to business. Inside Out is the best animated flick that I have seen in quite some time, since perhaps Disney’s 2012 success Wreck-It Ralph. From the surprising simple yet touching animated short prior to the feature film to the satisfactory ending, the audio description gave me a nearly perfect viewing experience. Each emotion in the movie has a corresponding color, enabling the sighted individual an instant visual cue each time these emotion characters are on screen. However, the voice actors also gave outstanding performances, depicting each personified emotion in a way that the blind person such as myself was not at all at a disadvantage in knowing which one was speaking. I only had trouble picturing one small aspect of a rather elaborate action sequence; but, this did not hinder my comprehension of this series of actions nor my overall cinematic pleasure. What it did do is get my own creative juices flowing and spark interesting conversations between my children and I. In fact, I recently read that this film is even being suggested as a tool to help families with adopted children to adjust to their new living environment. I would add that this could help provide emotional insight to anyone, especially adults dealing with children, going through any kind of life changes. Inside Out is filled with original thought and realistic perspectives. Furthermore, the audio description allows the vision-impaired viewer to be fully immersed into the main character’s world. Whether a parent, guardian, grandparent, aunt, or uncle of an adolescent, or just a child at heart yourself, I strongly recommend you give this inventive and powerfully moving film a watch. I think you will find, just as I did, that you will not only watch the child and her emotions have an adventure, but you will go on an emotional journey yourself.

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NFB of Clarksville to Host Community Day of Adaptive Sports

Ricky Jones

Editor’s Note: As the Executive Director of the Tennessee Association of Blind Athletes, Ricky Jones contacted The Voice editorial team about including a sports section in The Voice. He has written three articles for this issue and jump-started the sports section very well. He is our star contributor for the Summer. You can now look to The Voice for all of your sports information. Also, you can contribute any sports articles or sports information you would like published.

The NFB of Clarksville is proud to announce that in partnership with the Tennessee Association of Blind Athletes, and the Clarksville Parks & Recreation, they will host an Adaptive Sports Community Day to educate the public and all blind and visually impaired children and adults in the Clarksville area of recreational and sports opportunities that are available to people living with vision loss, and give valuable insight as to what it means to be blind. The event will take place on Saturday September 26th from 10 am – 2pm at Kenwood Middle School in Clarksville. The event will feature several exciting adaptive recreational activities and sports such as; Beep Kickball, Tandem Cycling, Run/Walk with a Guide, Beeper Baseball, Archery, Disc Golf, and many others. The chapter will provide Hot Dogs and chips, and door prizes will be given out throughout the event.

NFB of Clarksville chapter President Mary New says that “This event is extremely important to give blind people a reason to get off the porch and be active, social, and productive members of society. Most importantly it is crucial to show our blind children that YOU CAN DO IT! They have to know that there is so much to life. Rather than sitting on the sideline listening to their sighted friends have fun with sports, get out there join them. Heck, even beat them at their own game. If we want them to be productive adults, we must show them as youth that the, CAN DO, attitude is the only way to true happiness, independence, and ultimately true success.”

The goal is to use this exciting day full of fun for the entire family, as a kickoff event to gage interest and make connections with like-minded individuals to start a local TNABA sports club with multiple weekly programs being offered in the Clarksville area. “I was very active in sports at TSB, and I am excited to get active once again, while providing others the opportunity to enjoy sports.” Johnny Collier said, a long time Clarksville NFB member, during a planning meeting for this event.

The Tennessee Association of Blind Athletes (TNABA), is a statewide non-profit that provides sports and recreational activities to blind and visually impaired men, women, children, and veterans of all ages. TNABA has two existing sports clubs in Nashville and Memphis Tn. The Clarksville club is one of three areas TNABA is looking to develop programming in in 2015, Knoxville and Murfreesboro are the other two communities. In all three venturesTNABA is partnering with the local NFB chapters to help engage and reach the blind community. “Since I re-established TNABA in 2009, reaching out and partnering with the NFB of Tennessee seemed like a sound decision and one that would prove to be beneficial to both groups.” TNABA Executive Director Ricky Jones says.

In addition to community day events like the one in Clarksville, TNABA also travels to public schools and businesses around the state to do demonstrations and presentations about adaptive sports for the blind, with the focus being on what it is like to live with a visual impairment throughout every aspect of life. Athletes with different vision levels and community roles make up the presenters panel at each outreach event. . “At all of our outreach events we pass out materials like brochures about the NFB and TAGDU to all of the participants.” Jones said. Additionally, TNABA host an annual Adaptive Sports Conference that highlights all kinds of adaptive sports and recreational activities, health and fitness sessions, and special Paralympic speakers. All sessions are hands on and all participants to the daylong conference can experience the different activities offered. Uniquely participants are blindfolded if they are sighted to enhance the discovery learning experience. Sessions like; Judo, Kayaking, bowling, Self Defense, Nutrition, soccer, and many others have been offered in years past. The conference is free to anyone with a vision loss and only cost $25 for everyone else. The event is held in October of each year at the TN school for the blind and this year will be held on October 23 and 24th. The school provides overnight accommodations for those traveling from out of town Friday night and meals are provided. Ricky says “this is a wonderful time for socialization and education to take front stage during Meet the Blind month.” You can find out more about TNABA and all that they have to offer by visiting their website at www.tnaba.org or you can also find a link to it on the NFB of TN website as well. Be sure and Come out and join your Clarksville chapter on September 26th, and help us change what it means to be blind in our community.

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Tracy Bettencourt and Joe Shaw to Run in the New York Marathon November 1

Ricky Jones

How many of you Shriek at the thought of running just one mile? How many of you have run or walked a 5k to help raise money for your local NFB chapter or another cause you are passionate about? Or, how many of you have stood on the side of a street to cheer on runners in a half or full marathon, secretly wondering could I do something like that? For at least two Tennesseans the accomplishment of pushing their bodies to the ultimate limit to complete 26.2 miles, a full marathon is no more a question in their minds, rather a goal for which they are striving to achieve. Long time NFB enthusiast, Joe Shaw and 2015 collegian scholarship winner from the NFB of TN affiliate, Tracey Bettencourt, are both athletes currently training for the New York   Marathon on November 1st. The marathon winds through 5burros of New York including; Stanton Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Harlem, and Manhattan, ending in the historical Central Park. A grueling 26.2 miles with thousands of people lining the streets cheering on over 50,000 runners.

            Joe Shaw, a 39 year old father of 6 and a successful TBE Vender, started running a little over 2 years ago, going from sedentary to activity literally overnight. “When I began running with Achilles almost two years ago, my weight was at the highest in history. My triglycerides, fat content in my blood, and cholesterol were through the roof. In this time, I have lost twenty five pounds and my health readings are all now normal or better.

” Shaw says sharing his story.

Achilles Nashville is the local chapter of the world renowned Achilles International headquartered in New York. The Nashville non-profit is the only one of its kind in the state and has grown in 3 years to become the largest Achilles club in the country. Achilles pairs abled body athlete runners with disabled athletes including; amputees, blind, and wheelchair athletes. Every Wednesday evening guides and runners are paired together to run the beautiful 2.9 mile greenway that surrounds the McCabe golf course.

Guides function as an athlete’s eyes, ears, guide, and motivator. For blind athletes a tether, a piece of string with loops knotted into each end, slides over both the athletes and guides fingers and is used to keep the team connected during their run or walk. Additionally and most importantly verbal directional cues are given by the guide such as; slight left, hard right, and slide left, or terrain changes like; slight incline, uneven road, and traffic on your right to indicate when a team is passing other runners. As the team bonds together their communication develops into their own, as they learn to trust each other. Sometimes for high partials simply having a guide beside you without a tether just to give verbal cues or a guide with a bright shirt in front of the runner giving a visual reference, is sufficient enough depending on the athletes comfort and vision level. Needless to say the extremely strong bond between guide and runner is truly inspiring because of the trust each member of the team puts in each other. Most volunteer guides say that they get just as much out of the runs with the athletes as the athletes get from them, because they learn how much determination is in the disabled runner to live life to its fullest, just like everyone else.

I used to question whether Achilles and Federation philosophy meshed with one another due to the blind runner and guide being tethered to each other. I do not anymore due to Dr. Jernigan’s fantastic speech The Nature of Independence where he tells us to do the thing that is most efficient as long as one is confident in his skills to do it alone. I have enjoyed meeting and becoming a part of the community that is Achilles Nashville.,” Shaw says.

Joe has completed several 5ks and several other half marathons, including the Music City Marathon this past spring.

            Another person that has completed the Music City Half Marathon is Tracey Bettencourt. Tracey is a 44 year old mother of two, and is currently attending the University of Vanderbilt pursuing a masters in Special Education. In her spare time she is a talented artist and writer, who just happens to be blind. Tracey joins Joe and the rest of the Achilles family every Wednesday. And like Joe July 1st started her 16 week long training for her very first New York Marathon. “Achilles has given me the independence and freedom of running that I have never had before. After running with my guides, Amy and Regina, for several months and doing my first half marathon with them I am looking forward to participating in the New York marathon with them. The diligence, compassion, and dedication of the Achilles guides shines through in every training session we have.” Says Tracey.

            Each athlete has a strict training regimen and Joe’s and Tracey’s are no different. Each week they have four training runs; Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and their longest runs each week falls on Saturday. The runs start simple enough with building a base of 3 to 5 miles, usually run on Monday and Friday, while miles on Wednesday are usually half of their long runs on Saturday. This is to slowly build stamina and distance. Throughout their training, they will both run, as their long runs, distances of 12 miles plus, for over 8 different training runs, with the longest run being 22 miles, before finally tapering off three weeks prior to the actual marathon. WOW! Tracey and Joe will join over 2,500 other Achilles athletes in New York from around the United States and the World. Achilles truly empowers people with disabilities to live their lives to the fullest. Both the local Achilles chapter and the National organization partner together to sponsor the athletes providing hotel, travel, and race registration for the athletes, leaving them the responsibility of enjoying their once in a lifetime experience and reap the benefits of their hard work to get there.

                        Achilles welcomes and encourages anyone with a disability or physical challenge to RUN! In Achilles parlance, running means many things. It means conventional running, of course. But it also refers to walking, wheeling, hopping, or swinging

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Ball In, Play!

Ricky Jones

 

Editor’s Note” We Appreciate Ricky Jones for his contributions to the Voice and the newly adapted Sports Section. In this article, he talks about goalball. Ricky, as the Executive Director of the Tennessee Association of Blind Athletes, organizes several goalball tournaments throughout the year. One such tournament is the Annual Star Spangled Goalball Tournament.

 

Ball In, Play, and with three blows of the referee’s whistle, the TNABA 2nd Annual Star Spangled Goalball tournament kicks off. This unique sporting event was held the last weekend of June at the TN school for the Blind, and featured athletes and teams from around the state and region. Men, women, and veterans of all ages descended upon Nashville for a weekend full of exciting competition in the premier team sport for the blind. Goalball is a three on three sport that is sometimes described as the opposite of dodge ball and similar to floor soccer, though you do not kick the ball. A team of three will attempt to defend a 30 foot wide goal, much like a squished down and stretched out soccer goal, while the other team of three tries to roll a 3 pound, hard rubber ball with bells inside past the defending team using a roll like one rolls a bowling ball, as hard and as fast as possible with the single purpose of getting it past the defending team and into the goal behind them. The defending team listens for the ball and lays out their bodies to make a wall between the ball and the goal. What makes this sport so unique is the fact that despite a player’s sight level, every player is blind folded before they enter the court. This means everyone is on a level playing field.

This year’s tournament featured several NFB of Tennessee federationist including; Chris Pennington, Ricky Jones, and state affiliate President James Brown, all from Nashville. All three men, along with Xander Ayala, made up the TNABA Tornado a team and won the two day tournament. “Our team played phenomenally all tournament. I was so proud of our communication and teamwork. It was easy to see why we were undefeated and ultimately champs.” Said Chris Pennington. The Tornados played 8 games between Friday and Saturday, winning every single game during their undefeated streak. President James Brown remarked, “One of the best experiences in life is to be able to work with a team, and as blind people, Goalball gives us that experience. “ James’s power and speed at left wing made the Tornados a complete powerhouse offensively, along with Chris, with is tricky spin throw, on the right wing. Center Ricky Jones helped to plug up the middle of the court defensively, of course relying on his wings to back him up, against some other very talented teams. Xander Ayala helped to back up the team giving much needed relief when one of his teammates was winded.

“I am so excited to see the tournament grow even bigger this year.” Said Jones, who also serves as the TNABA Executive Director. This year’s event featured athletes from Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville Tennessee, as well as, athletes from Texas, Kentucky, Indiana, Philadelphia, and Michigan. “It was so great to see ladies competing in their own division this year.” Ricky went on to say, referring to the two women’s Goalball teams that competed. Team Livewire from Michigan and the Lady Tornados of Tennessee represented the Women’s division well and had a lot of great games throughout the weekend. Tennessee should be extremely proud of their Lady Tornados as many of the four ladies who took the court were either returning back to the game after not playing for at least 2 years, or in one young ladies case for the very first time.

For Elizabeth Hamilton the Star Spangled Goalball tournament was not only her very first experience in playing goalball, learning how to play the game only hours before the tournament started, but this was her very first time playing any sport at all. Like most public visually impaired children Elizabeth was not exposed to sports in school, instead encourage to pursue theater and the arts, which she enjoyed, though she was always curious about athletics. Elizabeth remarked during the tournament “Not only have I learned a new sport, I am competing with a team, and look I even have a jersey and everything.” Hamilton joined teammates Shannon Hansen, Lakenzie Crawford, and Ashley Thomason. “These girls were really something to watch, growing as individuals and as a unit throughout the tournament. They are talented and with practice and more game time they will develop as a team to be reckoned with,” Jones, who also acted as the girls coach during the tournament, said. Typically the women’s division is not as full in these types of tournaments because there is not a lot of women’s teams out there right now. In fact, TNABA Director of Sports Christy Ray says that “female athletics in general has a lot of room for growth, not only in the sport of Goalball, but many other adaptive sports statewide, nationally, or even internationally. We know there is plenty of blind ladies setting at home either not aware of the wonderful world of adaptive sports, or that do not have resources, equipment, or developed programs in their area. TNABA is committed to reaching every one of them despite their age or location.”

These remarkable stories are not the only ones that happened at the tournament, NFB Memphis member and blind veteran Calvin Pool led the TNABA Memphis Warriors in to battle this faithful weekend armed with only pads and hearts filled with determination. Calvin has played Goalball for two years now and has competed with the USABA National Veterans team. Last year he was named the team’s captain and brings his leadership and experience back home to Memphis to share with his teammates. As well as being an active member of the Memphis NFB, Calvin also serves as the President of TNABA Memphis Sports Club and the Vice President of the State Board of Directors of TNABA. He is also very active in his local Blind Veterans Association. Calvin has not allowed his diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis stop him from enjoying life. In fact, this 61 year old man uses these ever growing diseases and his desire to help his fellow man, to push harder every day to bring adaptive sports to every single blind person in Memphis, while at the same time educating the entire community on the abilities of those that are blind. “If I can do it at my age, anyone can do it. Believe in yourself and god, anything is possible,” Poole says. Since getting involved in Goalball and adaptive sports, Calvin has come off of medication for his high blood pressure, lost close to 40 lbs., and has reduced his blood sugar to manageable levels. Poole is always telling his story saying, “I love what Goalball offers, teaching many of life’s lessons, and most of all teaching every athlete that they can do anything they set their heart to do”.

Who would have guest a tournament that normally would just have scores and highlights to report, would have so many stories of accomplishment and life lessons? Many people have never tried goalball whether they are sighted or not. Perhaps we can use these stories as examples of reasons to step outside of our comfort zone and give the excitement of adventure a try. On or off the court, there is so many things out there that can give us so much reward, if we only try!

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Game of Chicken Part II:  Where Low Vision and Blindness Meet Head On

James Brown

If you did not read part one of this article, I strongly suggest you go back and visit some of the ground previously covered in last quarter’s volume of the Tennessee Voice.  Now, let’s revisit my own personal example of what it meant for me to choose to be blind.  Twenty years ago, as a person who still had some residual vision, I made the choice to start using a cane.

 

I have to admit that the initial idea of carrying a cane around was embarrassing to say the least.  The cane sent a symbol to the entire world that I was blind, and while the cane was the source of my embarrassment and fear, it would also become my nexus to freedom.  Once I made the conscious decision to be blind, my life started to change for the better.

 

I was no longer masquerading around as a sighted person.  I was using what limited sight I had, but I was also using a cane to pick up the things that I could not always see.  In short, nobody thought I was the equivalent of the drunk fraternity guy described in part I of this article who started drinking way too early in the day.  I was now, instead, using the limited sight I had with the non-visual techniques I was developing, and because I was using my cane, people knew I was blind, and not some weird creepy guy walking around campus.

 

All the sudden I was getting involved in more things because I had the confidence to explore new places and experience exciting new things.  It was made possible by using all the tools in my mobility tool box, but as my vision decreased throughout the next few years, I had to rely on my cane more and more to maintain that same level of freedom.

 

However, everything started with an emotional acceptance of blindness.  While it is probably beyond the scope of this article to discuss all the components of what it means to emotionally accept a person’s blindness, it does deserve some consideration.  Psychological research has empirically shown that one’s ability to control emotional acceptance is a vital part of living a healthy and successful life.

 

The thing that prevents us from real emotional acceptance is a thing called emotional avoidance.  Imagine you go into a doctor’s office and he says I’m sorry to inform you but your blood sugar is very high and I think you may have Diabetes.  Consequently, I’d like to put you on a new medicine that I think will allow you to live a full and healthy life without any discomfort.  But regretfully, your mom passed away with complications of diabetes when you were just a child and thinking about being diabetic brings you a great deal of emotional pain.  This in turn causes you to emotionally avoid thinking about Diabetes completely, to not go get your medicine, and avoid going back to the doctor, all in an attempt to avoid the emotional pain revolving around your Diabetes.  The problem is that emotional avoidance relieves pain in the short term, but can cause a very serious long term issue.

 

So what is emotional acceptance?  It refers to a person’s capability to take in a negative emotion and experience, allowing people to deal with the truth of their situation and begin to cope with the problem.  Once you gain acceptance, you can also start to learn about it in different ways to manage the issue.

It’s comparable to a swimmer who gets trapped in an undertow and desperately tries to swim against the current and ends up drowning because of fatigue.  If they would only let go and let the current take them away, they would find out that in a hundred yards or so, the current would let go, and they could swim around and be safely back on dry land.

The moral of the story is, don’t push against the current.  If you have not yet accepted your blindness, whether it’s the functional blindness or the total blindness both talked about in part one of this article, we’re all primarily the same.  Now make the emotional and conscious choice to be blind.  It’s very likely that only then, in a place of emotional acceptance, that we will be able to manage blindness into a mere nuisance.  Don’t trick yourself out of believing the truth.  Blindness is a choice that can help you live the life you want!

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Practice Compassion

April Meredith

 

The month-long period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is called the season of giving. During this time, many people exchange gifts with their loved ones, financially contribute to charities, and donate needed items to underprivileged individuals or to the organizations that serve them. These are all kind and generous gestures; but, for too many people, this seasonal spirit of giving is just that – seasonal. I understand why the holidays trigger such actions; I just wish this level of generosity were maintained throughout the entire year. What person would not love receiving a random present from a friend or family member on a day that was not your birthday or a special occasion? What non-profit business or charity organization could not benefit from regular monetary donations? What individual would not appreciate someone or group of people caring enough to build and nurturing a permanent relationship with them beyond the dire circumstances, loss, or tragedy that may have originally brought them together? Moreover, who would not gain a sense of happiness by being a more compassionate person year round? The Dali Lama said it best, “If you want to make others happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” I would like to challenge every member of our federation to always be caring and sensitive to each other, to constantly utilize your talents to enrich the lives of those around you, and to make diligent efforts to improve our community and society. This is how the Tennessee affiliate will become the strong, influential, and yes, compassionate branch of NFB that I believe we are capable of and working towards.

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Beautiful in Asher’s Eyes

April Meredith

 

This post first appeared on TheMighty.com, a website that finds strength, joy and beauty in disease and disability. You can also like The Mighty on Facebook.

 

 

Editor’s Note” Let’s affirm April’s contribution to The Mighty! This story allowed her to say that she is published.  

 

I’m a vampire. I can’t see my own reflection. In fact, I haven’t been able to see it since I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) in 2008. My son, Asher, has no memory of me with vision. He has always accepted me the way I am. But I haven’t.

 

One of the toughest things to come to terms with when dealing with RP is the gradual decline in your ability to clearly focus on and define objects. I have struggled with my sight loss, and oftentimes caught myself wishing I could just do some simple tasks again like quickly glancing into a mirror with my own eyes to confirm that my outfit, make-up and hair all appear the way I envision them.

 

I have learned many adaptive techniques to confidently make myself presentable every day without assistance. But the one thing that has nagged at me is wondering exactly how I look now. I can picture my fashion choices, but I have difficulty comprehending my actual facial structure and physique. Do I still look as becoming as I did the day I first got married or even the day my son was born? My appearance is out of my sight, but it’s most certainly not out of my mind.

 

Coping with this reality lead me to also doubt my beauty. So for the past year, I’ve made a conscious effort to do some deep soul searching. My search came to a pleasant yet unexpected end one evening during bath time.

 

While rinsing the suds off my sweet little boy, Asher simply said, “Mom, you should wear that pretty dress again.”

 

“Which one? I have several pretty dresses?” I asked curiously.

 

“The one in the picture when you and Daddy got married,” Asher explained.

 

Then it donned on me that my husband and I had recently gotten a special wedding photo framed, commemorating our 15th wedding anniversary. It was a new addition to our living room. Still, I didn’t realize that Asher had been taking much notice of it.

 

“What made you think of that?” I asked.

 

“Because, Mommy,” he replied with the upmost sincerity, “because you’re so beautiful.”

 

In that instant, my son demonstrated his whole-hearted acceptance for who and how I am.

 

Through his simple words, I understood that when he looks at me, he sees a loving, caring, giving and capable parent. In short, he sees his mom, not his blind mom. That’s true beauty!

 

Ever since that memorable conversation, I recognize that my child is a far more accurate reflection of my soul than any image in a mirror could have ever provided. Through the eyes of my child, I learned that it’s not my disability that defines me, nor is it a barrier to who I am as a person.

 

My limited sight is just one part of how I am, not who I am. It is the light that shines from within me and is reflected in my son’s perspective, which tells me, inside and out, that I’m beautiful!

 

As a vampire, I may not have the ability to view my own reflection in a mirror. But I’m blessed to have the immortal, unconditional acceptance from my son who sees me more perfectly than I ever did.

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