True Accessibility and Inclusion……. A GREAT EXAMPLE

I travel often and there are always things that come up just like when everyone travels. Usually for me those things are probably a little different and revolve around accessibility issues, access issues, things that have to do with me being blind or having a guide dog.

Sometimes almost never, you are shocked by the true accessibility and inclusion that a company offers; my latest trip to Ottawa, Ontario was one of those times.

Let me walk you through why I say this.

I get off the plane and get help to the line of cabs, no issue (yay we are off to a good start() when we get to The Holiday Inn and Suites in Kanata, I am greeted by an amazing staff member who checks me in and hands me a key card that made my heart sing. Why? Well because without me asking or saying anything she put a bump dot on top and handed it to me and says the bump dot is on the top for when you put it in the slot to open the door. This truly made my day. I never had to ask, I never had to even say anything about being blind; it was just done as if I was considered just like everyone else.

I was hungry and the restaurant was going to close soon, so I headed over to the restaurant and was taken to a seat. The great waitress asked if I would like any help with the menu rather than handing me a print menu and walking away. She quickly helped me pick out a delicious Buffalo Chicken wrap. When she brought me back my drink she set it down and as she set it down she said “you drink is at 12 o’clock with a straw in it”. Again I never had to ask, or say anything about my my disability. When my lunch was ready she brought it over and announced herself, and said “your wrap is at 9 and your fries are at 3, there are toothpicks in the wrap, Enjoy!”

These things seem so small, yet they make people like myself feel like we are on the same playing field as the rest of the customers. So many times, when you go to a restaurant or a hotel you have to explain that you are blind and that you will need x, y, and z. It is absolutely refreshing to have people act as if your blindness is just a normal thing. (It is normal). And they give you the small things that make such a huge difference yet seem so small.

The reason these things seem so small to so many is because they really are. It does not take much to have true accessibility and inclusion. A bump dot on a key card, a description of where your drink is at the table, braille on the signs, and directions like 10 paces to the left and down the hall. These are all things that make my life so much easier and also make it that I am able to have the same experience of others.

Thank you to The Holiday Inn and Suites in Kanata,

Until Next Time,

Ashley and Danson

“I would rather die than be blind” – Why?

Being blind is something that so many people will say ” I would rather die”, ” I don’t know how you do it, I could never do that”. But why is that. Why is blindness such a feared disability. Whenever I hear someone say those things to me I think; if only they could see the possibilities.

There is not much in life that I cannot do. I mean I can’t legally drive a car or fly a plane, and you probably don’t want me to be your surgeon, although I could be a good find the bullet helper because I can do it by feel. But to be honest, even if I wasn’t blind I have no desire to fly a plane or be a surgeon. Drive, well I grew up in rural Saskatchewan do you really think that I have never driven? The truth is being blind has helped me to find my passion in life, and to live an amazing life.

When I was younger and was just visually impaired or legally blind, I had such a hard time fitting in. I didn’t fit into the “blind” world (or so I thought) and I didn’t fit into the sighted world. But I wanted so badly to fit into the sighted world. I spent so many days just wishing that things were different, going to extreme lengths to prove that I could see (notice how I am not an actor; it is for good reason). Because I thought, that was the only way that I was going to be able to be happy and to live an amazing life.

And then it all started to disappear. The world as I saw it was gone. At this time, I thought this is not supposed to happen. But it was the best thing that has ever happened to me. I never thought, I would rather die, then be blind at that point. It was as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. There was no more faking it, I didn’t have to explain to people that I couldn’t see really well and no it wasn’t like when you take off your glasses. I didn’t have to come up with some reason why I tripped over things or bumped into the person I was walking with constantly, or order whatever the person I was with ordered. I could truly live life. It was a simple explanation, I am blind. And it felt so freeing to finally just be able to say to people “could you tell me what you have on the menu for chicken, I am blind”.

Sure people treat me like I am 5 sometimes and there are many things that are frustrating but my life does not suck. I experience the world in a different way than a sighted person for sure. But I am able to do the things that I love, I am able to laugh, cry, have successes and failures just like everyone else.

Through this journey I have been able to help and educate so many people. It has been a whirlwind and I never thought I would be where I am today. There isn’t a greater feeling then when someone reaches out and says “thank you, you have helped me to see that my disability is not going to hold me back anymore”. If I only help one person to see that they can live the life that they want, disability or not, then it will all be worth it.

Until Next Time

Ashley and Danson

OH The Stories We Tell Ourselves….

Hello Everyone,

As women…. well as people really, we tell ourselves so many stories about what people think of us, what is that guy looking at me for, what do people say when I leave. The dialogue that goes on in our minds is crazy.

I know for me that is so true. I will be the first one to stand up and say I don’t give two craps about what people think about me. But reality is, I think I do. I always wonder what people are thinking when they see me walking down the street, or speaking at an event. I am always worried about being pasted as the weird blind girl. I try hard to keep up with the trends and things. And as annoying as it is when someone comes to me and says “you don’t look blind” in my mind I am giving my self the biggest high five.

I recently went to an event (more on that to come!) and it was around networking. Let me preface this by, I really don’t like networking. It is exhausting, I suck at small talk, I worry about what they will think when they walk away, I am worried I will leave someone hanging when they go to shake my hand, or that it will look like I am looking at their boobs or over their shoulder. I have to work very hard at looking at where the sound of their voice is coming from, there is just so much to that goes on because I am blind, but also because I am a little conscious.

But at this event with a room full of women of all ages and backgrounds, I heard them all saying the same things. Which has gotten my wheels turning. We all feel uncomfortable in some way shape or form. And to be honest, I am sure the person I am talking to at these networking things is feeling the same way that I am. Relief washed over me like no ones business.

One of the reasons that I love to write and blog is because I can be me, the unabridged, honest version of me. Why because I can’t see your judgement and I get to filter the comments. I sit at home in my safe space and I can write what I am truly feeling and if you don’t like it you can click away.

I really try to treat life in the same way, but my brain gets in the way a lot of times. When I really sit and think about it though, there is no reason for it. Not everyone will like me, or what I am wearing, what I am doing, who I am, what I stand for. And that is ok, I am me. I am who I am, and I want to live life to the fullest and stop worrying about what people are thinking or if they will like me.

It can be hard to find new friends and groups to be a part of, but do I want to conform to their standards to be a part of their group, or be invited to coffee, ummmm nope!

I am a strong, passionate, opinionated, outgoing, woman. I want to surround myself with amazing women who have the same goals, passions, and outlooks on life that I do. Networking can be a way for me to shine, and show people who I am without shame. Allowing those who will end up to be in my circle the chance to see what I am about.

When we support one another and build each other up amazing things can happen…..

Until Next Time,

Ashley and Danson