My Top Tool For Work As A Blind Employee

Hello Everyone,

I have many different things that I use to do my work, many of them are specific tools for people who are blind or partially sighted like a braille display for example. But there is one tool that I can not rave about enough. This tool has made a huge difference in how I am able to get my work done, keep on task, keep organized, be efficient and so much more.

The one thing I can not make it through a work day without is my iPad. My last iPad died a few months ago after 3 years because I used it to death literally. And in the short time that I was without my iPad for work I realized how much I rely on it for so many things during the day. It is my note pad, my post it notes, my calendar, my sanity when things get busy and there is too much to keep in my head.

Some of my favourite apps on my iPad that make it my favourite tool are many of the Office 365 Tools that we use at work; Outlook, One Note, Microsoft Teams, Word, Excel, One Drive and so on.

The one that I use the absolute most is by far One Note. I have always been someone who writes things down in some way as my vision has never been super the way I do that has changed. When I got my first iPad I was using Pages that came on the iPad and I still use it for some things but One Note has been a game changer for me.

I am able to make different NoteBooks for the different things that I am working on, and within those notes I am able to create different sections and different pages. So it is really like a binder but an accessible version. I have a To Do list that is great I create a new To Do list for each and every week and there I add in all of the things that I need to work on I also take notes for many of my meetings on that document to keep all my work for that week together. This has been really good with Voice Over because in Pages or Word you have to select the text to find out if it is highlighted or bolded or anything like that but with One Note I am able to highlight text with say pink and then when I arrow down through the bullets it will say “highlighted” . I can also create tick boxes but I really like to highlight what is done it just works best for me.

I use Voice Over on my iPad with a Logitech case that has a keyboard that is on it. This set up means that it is much more convenient to take it to meetings and when travelling for work and so much lighter than a laptop. Because so much of what we do now a days is cloud based that means that there is so much more that I can do on my iPad and not have to use a computer.

Beyond One Note and Office 365 on my iPad I use it for my calendar, email, reading books, keeping all my recipes for home, keeping track of my kids school things, editing videos, writing my blogs so many things. I am also able to hook my braille display up to it and read books via braille with I really love doing and it is much more convenient than a bulky braille book.

I feel like many people when they are in a work environment don’t realize that people who are sighted many of them carry a note book to meetings and take notes, and keep themselves organized that way. As a person who is blind you need to find what that equivalent is for you. Going into a meeting with nothing to write anything down is not going to help you be successful, no one can remember every little thing. Even though many of us have to remember so many different things every single day we need a tool that will put us on the same playing field as out co-workers.

For me, my iPad has been my most important tool in getting my work done. I think it is so important to find what works for you, it may not be an iPad but I am sure we all have a tool that will work for us and make us more efficient and organized whether we are sighted or blind.

Until Next Time,

Ashley and Danson

Self Care …. For Where You Are In Your Journey.

Hello Everyone,

As we move through our own journey in life no matter what that is, we can so easily get stuck comparing where we are at with those around us. Social media makes us compare our lives to what we see online. When the reality is that what we see online is not the reality.

I have had people come and tell me that they wish they were as confident and independent as I am in their blindness. The reality is that I have walked this journey in the good and the bad. I have those bad days, I have doubt, I have anxiety, I have break downs and there are sometimes tears and the feeling like I can’t keep going. We are all on our own journey and that journey will look very different for everyone.

The reality of those bad days are so important to share, and to be real about. Because those bad days make us so much more relatable and real. I never want anyone to think that it is sunshine and rainbows in my life. Because that is the farthest from the truth.

What I can tell you is how I am able to get through those hard days, the days that I just want things to be easier. I have days when I wish I could see and things would be easier. But then i take some time for me and I am reminded that my blindness makes me who I am good and bad.

My favourite things to do to bring me back to being in the moment and take the time to relax and just be are:

A hot bubble bath, I love having a good bubble bath. It is the time that I can just sit and relax and it is just for me and no one else. I even lock the bathroom door and turn on the fan to the highest setting so that I can’t hear what is going on outside the door and the kids can not come in and ask me if it is their turn on the xbox or tell me that someone touched them or who knows what other crisis will happen in that 30 minutes.

A good book, I love to read, this is a way that I can escape and take myself somewhere else. I am able to really just clear my head and enjoy the story unfolding. Depending on how I am feeling will depend on what I am reading, if I am trying to unwind and relax and just remove myself from my thoughts I will read something like fantasy, or contemporary. I also love to read non fiction but when I want to escape and take some time for myself I don’t like to read non fiction. That is saved for when I am in the mood to learn something new to conquer my goals.

A walk, a good walk can help to clear my head. I like to take my cane and take Danson just on leash. He loves getting out to just enjoy a non working walk. I try to go and walk on a path so that I don’t have to worry about traffic and other things.

A candle, I will lots of times light a candle and sit and just be in the quiet (this one has to wait until the house is empty). It can be nice to just be in the quiet and take the time to just slow down and be in the moment.

Taking the time to do things that make you feel better and help you to recharge can help you get through the rough times. Just talking about what you are experiencing and talk through the fears and frustrations with someone who can understand can be very helpful as well. I have a couple of friends who are walking through the journey of vision loss as well so they truly get it and there is nothing more comforting then to know you are not alone.

Do Employers Today Really Understand Diversity and Inclusion?

Hello Everyone,

We hear so often that employers are focused on diversity and inclusion when it comes to their hiring practices. Yet hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities around the world are unemployed or underemployed. Why is that?

Many times when businesses say they are a equitable business they are simply saying that because it is what they have to say. No business person would advertise that they only hire able bodied people. Everyone would be outraged. So to get around that they say they support including and diversity. These terms are just that terms action is what shows if you are truly a employer that believes in diversity and inclusion. No business person is going to say we will give them an interview but never actually hire them. They would be a safety risk, they would take more sick days, it costs too much to have them work in our office. When that is the reality, so many like myself who have faced that employer who is giving you a interview because you checked the box, that you are a person which a disability.

Many times when you do get an interview as someone with a disability you spend the time discussing how you got there, how would you be able to get around the office, would you be a safety risk for them, do you need to take more sick days than other employees. All of these things end up making you feel like you are the size of an ant. Not to mention the feeling you get when you walk in a room and everyone is uncomfortable just by your presence. If you have never experienced this I encourage you to reach out to me and lets go to a professional networking event or dinner. You would be horrified by the way business people you look up to treat people with disabilities.

There was skills and education that got you the interview; yet many times you do not get to talk about those skills or what you can bring to the company. The focus is all on the fact that you are disabled. When in reality you are highly educated, skilled, and bring a unique skill set to the table, a new perspective even. The world of business would be a better place all around with people with disabilities in equal representation across the board

Someone with a disability may need to do things differently but they are also a highly educated skilled untapped talent pool. As someone with a disability I have had to fight my way through many things, we will persevere because we face unimaginable challenges every single day of our lives, we are resourceful and creative; when faced with a challenge, we will overcome it and find a way to make it work.

Those with a disability who are looking for work and are feeling like this is never going to happen and no one will give you the time of day. Hold your head high, stand up straight, and own it. Your disability gives you a skill set that can’t be taught in schools. That company is missing out on you, you are not missing out on them. Your disability does not stop you from doing what you love, peoples perception of what you can do does. So take that leap and show the world that you are not going anywhere and you will make it no matter what they say.

You will be the one to sit across the table from those who said no, and be the one to tell them no. It takes time and hard work but you are the one who will come out on top,

There are many people who may be uncomfortable with this, and that is ok with me. You should be, but the truth is this is the reality for so many people who have a disability and for so many companies who just don’t walk the walk.

Until Next Time..

Ashley and Danson

The Hard Days Make Us A Better Team

Hello Everyone,

It has been 6 months since my guide dog Danson and I were matched and started learning to work together as a team. This has not always been a walk in the park and life has made this transition more difficult than I would have ever thought. With Danson being my second guide dog I thought it would be easier this time around and I will tell you that could not have been farther from the truth.

Danson is an amazing guide, he makes life so much easier and gives me confidence and freedom that I have never felt with a white cane. When you are learning to work with a new guide dog it is a long process of learning each other’s quirks and what makes the both of you tick and what you need to be at your best.

I have been thrown some unanticipated health things and that has made this transition a little harder. I have lost the remaining light perception that I had when we were first matched and I have been on a little bit of a roller coaster with my health. Danson has taken this in stride and been there by my side through it all.

As all these changes have gone on, I am learning to trust Danson and work my routes around my home and work with zero vision. Danson is really sensitive and picks up on my fears and anxieties, and this is amazing but when I am having a rough day we as a team are having a rough day. I have found that I have more fears when I am moving about my environment and those fears can manifest more when I am having a bad day. These fears and anxiety can take a tole on Danson so it is something that I am working through and I am doing this with the support of Danson and some amazing people.

It takes a year to become a solid working team. And that year has its ups and downs. That is normal and it takes a long time to get used to each other and learn everything about them.

I am so happy to have been matched with Danson, after the early retirement of my last guide I have become hyper aware of what can happen if Danson is put in a situation similar. There are many things that can happen when you are a guide dog handler that a dog would have to retire early and the fear of that happening to Danson has made this transition along with the other things a little tricky. Danson is the right Guide Dog for me and we are working through life as a team and i am so grateful for his support and love through it all.

With the support from so many amazing people in my life we will be a great team. Having a guide dog isn’t always rainbows and sunshine but it is definitely worth every minute.

I get so many people asking me if a Guide Dog is for them or if I get a Guide Dog what are some of the things you wished you knew before you got a guide dog. I always want people to take as much information about guide dogs and make the choice for themselves. The one thing that I don’t think that I can prepare them for is the emotional rollercoaster that occurs as a guide dog handler.

There are days when it is hard, at the end of the day they are dogs and have good and bad days just like humans. You don’t meet the dog for the first time and trust them with your life. They don’t come in your room and love you right off the bat either. They are looking for who ever they loved before you to come back. When you get home it is not going to be sunshine and rainbows. There will be things you need to work through, issues that arise you never thought of, quirks that drive you nuts. The constant advocacy will get old. At the end of the day no matter how hard it is being a Guide Dog handler is the best thing I could have ever done for myself. And I hope so many others find what makes them as confident and independent as possible.

Danson and I are still learning to fully trust each other and that is hard for me this time with what happened to Rick. I have panic attacks because I am so worried when I am out that something is going to happen to Danson and he will have to retire and I will be left shattered again. I avoid the Starbucks where the incident happened to this day. But I am so happy and grateful to have Danson by my side I wouldn’t change anything. Soon we will be like an extension of each other, we are like a newly married couple right now, still figuring it out.

Until Next Time !

Ashley and Danson

The Top Is In Sight

Hello Everyone,

As many of you know I lost the remaining vision that I had. This was really hard for me and I felt like I was climbing a mountain. The fear was real, there were days that I felt like I was drowning and didn’t know how I was going to make it to the top of that mountain.

I am definitely not at the top of that mountain, but I am well on my way. I feel like I am settling into this new normal. Finding out what works and what does not. I have had to really work to get to even this point, and I have a lot more work to do.

I have had to work with my orientation and mobility specialist to find new landmarks and make sure that I was comfortable with my routes. And to be honest going through those routes even the ones I know with my O&M helps to build my confidence. And that is the biggest thing that took a hit with my vision loss was my confidence.

I have began to build that confidence back up and feel like I am almost there. I have had amazing support from friends, family and co-workers.

Having Danson to help guide me through these tough times has been a huge help. He makes it so that even though I am not completely confident in myself, I can use his confidence to know that we will get through it. Having to get out and work him so that he gets what he needs was what kept me going, kept me pushing past the things that I was feeling.

Whatever it is that life gives us we have choices to make and I never want something I have no control over to determine how I live my life. No matter how hard it is I will be the one to determine how I live my life. I want my kids to know that they can do whatever they put their minds to and the best way to help them to know that is for  them to see me pushing through the hard times and coming out on top of that mountain.

The sun is shining and spring has finally arrived, and Danson and I have big plans.

Until Next Time!

Ashley and Danson

A Mountain To Climb

Hello Everyone,

I have always prided myself on being real and honest with you, showing you what the reality of living with vision loss is like. I always want people to see what the possibilities are and that life is not over if you have vision loss. But I also want to be real with people when it comes to the struggles.

I have had a really rough couple of days. As many of you know I had some light perception left and that was all the vision I had. I have lost that light perception, and now have nothing left. It was hard to even talk about it, when it happened I was shocked.

I have been really struggling, I took comfort in that little bit of light that I saw, Once it was gone I realized how much I used that little bit of light perception. It is hard to explain but seeing that little bit of light for me was a huge comfort in my vision loss because it was something.

I have had a lot of emotions going on but the biggest thing for me was fear. I was terrified, I am terrified. I have had my anxiety go through the roof. It is just so overwhelming and hard to describe now that I am trying to put it into words. This morning when I got up, my alarm went off and I went to get ready for work and I just couldn’t do it. There was just too much fear and anxiety and it won. I took a personal day which was probably what I needed in the long run.

I kept telling myself all morning that I needed to get up get dressed and go out. Go get a coffee do something, I had to prove to myself I could still do it. I would like to say that that is what I did and it was easy but that is not the case. It took me from 7am to 3pm to be able to convince myself that I could do it and leave the house. There were tears in that route to get coffee and this is a route I have done hundreds of times and know like the back of my hand. But it felt like I was lost and doing it for the first time. My perspective on the world as I knew it has completely changed.

There has always been this fear ever since I was young of that day I went totally blind and saw nothing at all. It is a fear I hear so many of my friends talk about and I think we all in the back of our minds think it will never happen to us. And I was one of those, I never thought I would be here writing this.

I made it to the store and I got a coffee and it sucked, it was hard, it was emotional and I feel like I have a huge mountain in front of me to climb. It is going to be a rough climb but I will be on top of that mountain soon enough.

As you lose vision or your vision changes, each time this happens it can take you right back to day one of it happening. It can bring up all the emotions all over again and it is hard. You literally have to start climbing from the bottom all over again. It is a place that no matter how much support you have around you, that can feel very lonely and terrifying.

And this is mostly for me but you can do it. You are stronger than you know. This is just another challenge that you have to figure out and overcome. This challenge that has been put in your path can not defeat you or win. It won’t be easy but it will be worth it!

See you at the top!

Ashley and Danson

Band-It – Ways to help identify products

Hello Everyone,

I love a low tech product that really makes a difference. This product is one of those. Band It Identification Bands are so helpful around the house. I use many different ways to identify things when they look the same, like elastic bands, puff paint, placing them in a certain spot. These all work as well but they are not as easy as the Band It bands.

I have been trying these out for a few months now and have found them very helpful for not only myself but for my kids as well. It is nice to find a product that works great for me as someone who is blind but also can help my family members who are sighted.

Band It Identification Bands are tactile bands that help you to identify things. They each have a different tactile marker on them from diamonds, squares, circles, lines and flat circles. They are also brightly coloured for those that have low vision. They are very flexible and durable which is nice, I found when I was using elastic bands they would wear down and break where as these do not do that.

I have been using them in the kitchen, the phot is of two jars that are the same size and shape one is beef bouillon and the other is chicken bouillon I had always struggled to know which one was which quickly. I would have to get out my phone and use an app that would read them for me or ask my kids or husband. Which these I am able to tell the difference just by grabbing the jar which is great.

Another use that I have been really enjoying is in the shower with my shampoo and conditioner, with the Band It’s it is easily identified even when everything is wet.

One thing that so many have trouble with is cleaning products, I use Method cleaning products and love them but all the bottles are the same shape and size. Now with the bands I am able to put different ones on the cleaners that I want to identify quickly. Here I have it on the window cleaner.

I said early that my family is able to use them as well, especially my kids. They have water bottles that are the same and are always trying to remember which one is who’s. Then the fight starts about I put mine there no I put mine there so now we are able to use the Band It’s they can put them where ever they want, and not fight about whose is whose.

Technology is amazing but it is really nice to have a product that does not mean I have to have my phone in my hand at all times. These Band It Identification Bands are very helpful and I am happy to have had the opportunity to try these and want to Thank Band It for sending them to me.