Bullying Awareness

It is national pink shirt day – this day brings awareness about bullying and the impact that it has on kids and teens today. As someone who was bullied throughout school, I know how many kids and teens feel when they are being bullied.

When I was in school, I was an easy target for many bullies. I had a disability and this made me different. I was born with a form of Albinism that left me legally blind. I also had a nystagmus which causes the involuntary movement of your eyes. The constant movement in my eyes made me turn my head to the side because this was the place that my eyes shook the least, which in turn make it a little easier to see.

Because of my low vision, I needed many adaptions in school, like larger text books and work sheets. I needed to sit at the front of the room to get extra help because I could not see. When I got to high school the adaptions I used got to be more prominent and made me stick out even more to my classmates. I had to have very large text books and use paper that had thick black lines on it. I also had to have teachers read what they were putting on the board. In grade ten when the work got harder and my vision got worse, I needed to have a teacher’s aid to help me blow things up or explain the things that I was missing. Again, this was hard for me because it made me stick out even more than before.

I had a hard time with friends and desperately wants to fit in with my classmates and just be accepted. Every day I dreaded going to school. At night, I would lay awake hoping that I would be sick or there would be any reason for me not to have to go to school. I ended up pretending to be sick quite a bit in school just to avoid having to go.

I went through many years of depression during this time. I finally tried to reach out to a teacher and tell them how I was feeling and that I was considering suicide, I never go the help I needed. Because of the bullying, I had no self-esteem or confidence and was very, very depressed.

These along with many more incidents stand out in my head. Even today, as a 31-year old, the memories make me cringe.

People always think that bullying like this happens more in High School, but the truth is, that it can start very early in elementary school. I can recall instances in grade one and two. For example, I had to have eye surgery when I was seven to try to tighten the muscles in my eyes to help my nystagmus. This was a difficult time for me, because after the surgery, I could not see anything for about four weeks. After returning to school, my eyes were very red and as a result I was not allowed to go outside for recess. When I would sit in the hall playing a game for recess many kids walked by me and would kick the game all over the place and laugh and call me names such as freak, crazy eyes, vampire (because my eyes were red) and albino. This was when I began to pretend to be sick so that I did not have to endure this every day.

Things like this happened many, many times throughout my time in school and only escalated as I got older. Many kids would make fun of me not being able to see and would ask me how many fingers they were holding up while moving them and then laugh. Other times I would be walking down the hallways and they would stick their foot out and trip me or move something on my desk so I could not find it. This kind of torture went on day in and day out. The sad thing is this continued for the next 10 years until I finally graduated from high school.

The bullying I experienced affected me even after I graduated from high school. I decided once Ii was done school that no one would ever know that I had a disability and I hid it from many people. I never told employers I rarely told new friends. I did whatever it took to hide the fact that I could not see. I even went as far as to memorize the eye chart so that my eye doctor would think that my vision had improved. It took losing the rest of my vision to see that I had value, and I was a great person. I realized not only was I living a lie but, I was the only one suffering. I was also sending the message to my kids that it was okay to pretend to be something you are not. I decided that I needed to prove to myself and my kids that I was a stronger person and I had many things to offer to this world.

Once I decided to take back control of my life I was able to get some help with the depression. Talking about the struggles with my blindness helped me to truly accept and love myself despite my past bullying experiences and my disability. As well, I began to accept my vision loss because it was worse than it had ever been. I had lost the rest of my vision and was only able to see small amounts of light. This was a huge adjustment and there was no more hiding my vision loss.

The saying that we tell kids: “stick and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.” This is the farthest from the truth. Words hurt. Words can kill. I want people to realize that words can push someone over the edge, that you are not any better than anyone else and you don’t know what anyone is going through at home so don’t judge or make fun of people.

Sometimes people bully others not realizing what they are doing or how they are making people feel. They do this by saying things like “you know the blind girl” or even “that cripple”, “the albino at the office”. These are all very hurtful things to say and it equivalent to racism. It should not be acceptable to talk about PEOPLE this way.

When anyone makes fun of someone, they are tearing that person down with every word. You could be the reason that they have no self-esteem or confidence. We as people need to learn from a very young age that building people up is what we should be doing, not tearing them down.

Treating everyone as an equal, with respect and compassion, will take us very far in our lives. If you bully someone for having a disability or being different, you are telling the world that it is not okay to be different. When in fact, if we were all the same it would be a very boring world. Our differences are what make us unique and amazing people.

If you are being bullied, I encourage you to reach out for the help you need and keep reaching out until someone will listen. You are worth it. You are an amazing person and you have so much to offer the world.

Whether you are a child or an adult, what you say and do is very important. We should each take a look at how we treat people on a daily basis and ensure that we think before we speak. Our words do “hurt” ! Treat other how you want to be treated.

Blind Makeup and Fashion

Who did your makeup ? Who picks out your clothes ? These are questions I get asked on a regular basis. I don’t mind that people ask them, it is the only way that we are going educate people about our abilities and over come these stigmas that we live with every day. Now to answer those questions for you.

I DO !! I love makeup this was not always the case, I was a major tom boy back in the day and would rather have been out playing with the boys getting dirty than wear makeup. This is still true to some extend these days, I love to strap on my snowboard and get outside and get dirty, but I also really enjoy some girly time as well.

Doing my makeup is something that I learned to do from my mom when I was about 13 or 14 years old. Like I said earlier I never wore makeup very often but I did when there was a nice occasion to go to. With the help from my mom I figured out what colours looked good on me and how to apply it so I did not look like a clown. Now that I am older and like to wear makeup more often I have really perfected the skill of putting it on, or atlas it is perfect for what I need. I do it the same way as any other person with sight would, except I can do it in the dark when my husband is sleeping and without a mirror so there is perks. I have some of my makeup labeled with my pen friend (a voice recording labelling device ) and I also have most of the products memorized as to what their packaging feels like etc. My makeup is also very organized into drawers. There is limits to what I can do when applying makeup such as I can not for the life of me get liquid eye liner to work however I am not sure this is because of my sight. I also have little tricks that I use such as putting my eye liner on before my eye shadow so that if the line is not strait or the same as the other eye my eye shadow will hide it a little bit.

When shopping for makeup I have to ask for help. I will ask very specific questions about the products such as it’s colour and try to gauge the shade of the colour and if that is what I am looking for. I also use my friend to help with this, I will call her and face time with her when I am in the store to make sure that it is a shade that I would wear. Everyone has a different opinion of colour and how they describe colour so having someone you trust is very important. I will also take my husband with me if it is something very specific I am looking for that I can explain very well because he does not know the difference between blush and lipstick. But he gets an A for effort.

When it comes to fashion, I don’t like to look like I don’t care or like just because I am blind it is ok to wear things that don’t match or look horrible on me. Just because I can not see does not mean that I am not aware that our appearance plays a large part in a first impression and weather or not someone is going to take you seriously. I also feel better when I think I look good everyone wants to look good. I also like to shop, I like to feel the fabrics in the store and look at all the new things that are out.

When I go shopping for clothes I will go alone or with my husband usually, I often again have to ask for help if I am looking for something specific. This again gets tricky with colour because everyone describes colour very differently so I will just ask questions like “is there any green to the blue or is it just blue ? ” “is this more of a coral pink or a bubble gum pink?” “can you describe the pattern and how large it is ?”. People are generally very helpful when it comes to going out shopping. I really enjoy shopping alone if I am not looking for anything specific I will walk around the store and feel all the clothes and if I find something I think I like how it feels and the shape of it I will ask someone in the store to describe it in more detail.

I am writing this today to help people to understand that being blind does not mean that I am going to never worry about how my hair, makeup and clothes look and that I will walk around in a cat sweat suit. (if cat sweat suits are your thing, all the power to you ! ) I want to be taken seriously and my vision does not affect my ability to do things like wear matching clothes and put makeup on. I love a shopping and getting my nails done like any other girl !!!!

Until Next Time !
Ashley and Rick

White Cane Week

White Cane week takes place from February 7-13th, this year. This week is to help bring awareness about what the white cane is used for and the abilities of the people behind the cane.

Despite ongoing education, I have found that there are still a large number of people who are not aware of what the white cane stands for; quite simply, it means that the person using it has some form of vision loss. It does not mean they are completely blind and see nothing as there is a very wide spectrum of vision loss. Many of the people that use a cane to navigate the world safely also use it to help the community know they have low vision.

The white cane allows people to navigate their world by alerting them to curbs, obstacles like fire hydrants or other things on the sidewalks. When using a cane, people who are blind or partially sighted are able to tell the differences in the ground under their feet. For example, whether there is asphalt or concrete, gravel or grass. The cane also gives an audio cue, as you are able to hear the echo off the buildings around you, or no echo may mean the lack of buildings in some cases.

It takes a lot of practice to learn to navigate independently with a cane but, it is essential in having the independence to go where you want.

There are many people who don’t like to use a cane because of what it stands for. They believe that people will treat them differently like they are incapable. However, knowing that the white cane is the symbol for blindness is one thing and treating people like they are incapable because of their disability is another thing. If more people know what the white cane stands for, then the more people will know that it does not mean that that person is incapable, or requires assistance to travel independently. People using a cane should be treated like everyone else.
If people reading this get one thing out of it, I hope that they take away that the white cane stands for independence, courage, persistence, capability, and equality.

Until Next Time !
Ashley and Rick