My Life My Way

Hello Everyone,

I hope you are all doing well. Rick and I have been very busy over the last few weeks doing many different things. We have been doing some public speaking and running the peer support group for seniors, and a few other projects.

I have been taking some time to really focus and think about what I want in life, for quite a while I was measuring my success on weather I could convince an employer that I was still just as capable after the loss of the rest of my eye sight. I thought that since I could not find a job that I was doing nothing and wasting my life. I would cry and tell my husband that all I wanted was to be successful and do something with my life. Since I was standing on the inside I could not see what I was doing and the changes I was making.

After taking a long hard look at my life and where I was today and what I had accomplished I realized, I am doing what I wanted to do and I was successful. In fact I was more successful than I ever thought I would be. I know some of you might be saying “but how ?”. I have done so many things in such a short period of time and I am having a blast in this adventure. I am also living my life my way on my terms.

What is it that I do you might ask, well I will give you a little glimpse into how I have taken the challenge of not being able to find employment because of my disability and used it to my advantage, instead of my disadvantage.

With my Guide Dog Rick by my side I run a Peer Support Group for seniors new to vision loss, I have been doing the Eye Safety Presentations to High Schools across Saskatchewan with the CNIB and Work Safe Saskatchewan, I am a dinner coach at the Dine in the Dark events for CNIB, I am a champion for the CNIB working to get integrated vision rehabilitation, I am an advocate for the disabled community, Rick and I were both part of a Accessible Voting video for Elections Saskatchewan, I am the president of my Toastmasters Club, I am the Treasurer of the Alumni group for Guide Dogs for the Blind Mommies with Guides. I am telling my story when ever I can, I snowboard, I am raising three lids and best of all I am independent, and loving my life.

Yes it may seem as though I have become a professional volunteer but I am looking at it in a different way. I am looking at it like I have taken the skills employers were overlooking when they were not able to see past my vision loss and I am using them to live my life my way.

I will not let my vision loss dictate what I can do in my life, and I certainly will not sit back and let life pass me by, I want to show the world what I am capable of despite my disability.

Winter Travel

Hello Everyone !

I know we don’t want to hear it but the snow is coming. There are many things that people don’t like about winter and usually the snow and cold are the main factors in that. I have to agree, I can do without the -35c plus temperatures.

I have to say for me there is so many other things to take into consideration with weather when you are visually impaired or blind. I want to take a quick moment to tell you a little bit about them, and the struggles that many people have with getting out when it comes to vision loss. I want people to have the confidence to get out there and go where they want and to live their lives the way they want to.

So when it comes to travelling in different weather conditions there are many things that we have to take into consideration, especially in the fall and winter. When it is raining and you are walking down the street when you can’t see not only will you get a booty when you don’t see that puddle but the traffic sounds so very different when it is raining. The echo off the street from the traffic is different then when it is not raining and then you put in the rain and wind and it can be a little daunting travelling in the rain. Sometimes it can take a few minutes to get my bearings when it rains because it does not rain that much here so I have to adjust and listen very carefully. Not to mention the glare that can come off of the street and the car lights when it is raining. Some people who are blind or visually impaired are very sensitive to light. I am one of them even though all I can see is light my eyes are sensitive to it. When you have low vision and it is raining and there is glare coming from the streets, sidewalks and car headlights, it can make it even harder to see for them.

When it snows you can run into some of the same issues. The sound of traffic and the echo again is different even from when it is raining. The colder it gets the more the sound changes and then there is the wind again that can make things harder to hear when it comes to traffic. The snow makes everything disappear as well. The curbs are gone the sidewalks are gone the tactile changes in the sidewalks and streets are gone as well. The snowbanks that build up can be a little treacherous. When travelling with a cane it gets stuck in the snow a lot and it can be hard to navigate the huge amounts of snow that are on the ground covering the things that help you navigate safely. Here in Canada I have loathed winter for that reason with everything covered in a few feet of snow and the glare that comes off the snow it made it so hard to get out and do the things I wanted. Now that I have Rick it is much easier because he can find things for me and he keeps me on a safe path. However it is an adjustment for him as well because there are more things that he has to be aware of, like ice and snow banks that are not there in other times of the year.  As a guide dog handler it can be a little daunting at times when you have to go out in the cold because you need to make sure your dog is safe and dressed for the weather. So it means boots so his paws are safe from the salt and ice on the roads that build up and hurt his paws, as well as a coat. It can feel like you have an extra toddler when you go out but it is definitely worth it.

There is always an aspect of the weather that has to be taken into consideration when travelling when you are blind or low vision. There are definitely ways to get around these things and to get the confidence to travel no matter what the weather. I strongly believe that O&M (orientation and mobility) training is a necessity to be able to live your life the way you want to. There are so many times that your disability doesn’t stop you but you stop you !

Have a great week everyone !

Until Next Time !

Ashley and Rick