There are so many things that have changed with the COVID and how we live our everyday lives. As people with disabilities we can sometimes be affected even more.
For myself as a blind person there is so many things that make me quite nervous about the province opening up. The biggest one for me is that I see my world through touch. I shop by touch, I interact with my world with everything like signs, finding door handles by touch.
I find that I have even more anxiety around being out and about or even the thought of going out now because of this. There are just so many logistical things that I feel like no one is talking about. Like are the sanitizing signs that have braille on them or am I just not supposed to know when I am going into the mens restroom. I mean I am ok with it, I can’t see anything anyway but the men inside may mind. Or even if I am at the right room for a meeting, should I just pop in “hey is there a Joe here for Ashley”? I mean that would totally be the professional option but I am hoping there are better ways.
It is always a challenge to have equal access to the world around me and now I feel like so much of my world is a NO TOUCH zone.
Having a guide dog does not make these things any easier at this time either. He has no idea that we should stay two meters away in fact he is not aware that it is rude to walk straight through a group of people talking, even if there is an opening. We have had many conversations about this but he is the decision maker in those instances so I just have learned to smile and say excuse my dog. There are also the instances of buses, where we live they are asking all passengers to utilize the back door to the bus, but if I teach my dog to go to the back door then he will be confused when it is time to use the front door and I want the consistency of knowing he will take me to the front door. So we have to utilize the front door it is the accessible and easiest entrance to navigate for us.
As we all learn to live in this new world we all have things that we never thought we would be thinking of, and I know in time it will feel like second nature to us all. In the meantime I hope that we all show everyone the kindness and empathy that they need.
The one time of the day I always seemed to dread was when I would get home from work, and it was time to decide what we were going to have for supper and the kids were all asking “what is for supper”? The reaction I would always get from the kids was “ughhhh” or some version of that.
It seemed like no matter what I made no one was happy and I truly dreaded always trying to decide what we were going to eat. I would just wish that someone would give me an idea of what they wanted to eat, rather than when I asked “what should we have for supper?” getting the response “I don’t care, whatever you make.” Really!!! I am asking because I don’t know what to make. So to say this was a horrible time of night was an understatement. I was really just done with it.
I decided to try meal planning for a week at a time, hoping that this may help. I can not tell you how amazing this was! It really turned things around for us. I started to not dislike coming home after work to figure out what was for supper. The question of “what are we having?’ was getting easier and easier to deal with.
I have now started doing two week meal plans, and it is great. It is a really simple process and if you have not tried this, you need to.
I go through my pantry and freezer and have an idea of what we have on hand. Then I sit down with my iPad and write out the days of the week. I then start to just put together meals for supper that we have things for. Then once I have used up most of what we have without duplicating meals, I will start to look up recipes or think of things we have not had in a while.
I also allow the kids to write down suggestions on the white board. I will try to incorporate these things in our meal plan, as long as they are not “McDonalds, or anything eating out.” they really love to write those on my suggestion board. I guess they can keep hoping ha ha.
As I am making my meal plan I will also be making my grocery list as I go using my Alexa. I will add to our shopping list the things we will need to make the dinners that we are planning. One of the unexpected things that has changed drastically by doing this meal planning is that we spend almost half of what we used to on groceries because we have a plan and we are not just walking around the grocery store buying things that we think we will use.
I only plan out lunches for the weekend days, and then we just keep some staples on hand for during the week for the kids for when they come home for lunch. Things like sandwich meat, pizza pops (don’t judge), and instant noodles.
For my husband and I for lunches during the week I try to make a little extra for supper and we will take left overs. On the days we don’t have leftovers we have sandwiches or salad, and we keep some frozen dinners on hand in the freezer for those days when the kids have eaten all the left overs.
There is no more coming home and trying to figure out what the heck we are going to have, and then realizing we can’t make the things we are thinking because we don’t have some of the things to make that meal. Now I come home go to the fridge and get out the ingredients to make what is on the list for that night. It is so easy and nice, when the kids come in and ask what we are having all I have to say is look at the list on the fridge. There is no arguments about what we are going to eat, and we are saving a ton of money on groceries. I mean this has been a huge WIN!
I am going to share my meal plan for the upcoming two weeks. Please know that I am not a chef, we just cook what we like and try to eat a balanced diet. I am huge on sitting down as a family for supper every single night and this is what helps to make this more enjoyable.
Day of the week
Grandmas BBQ chicken, rice, salad
Cream of potato soup, toast
Homemade pizza, salad
Butter chicken, rice, Naan
Pork souvlaki, noodles, salad
Chicken lasagna, cesar salad, garlic toast
Chicken burgers, fries
Sausage, noodles, peas and carrots
Ground chicken tacos
Greek chicken, rice, greek salad
Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, corn
Creamy garlic chicken, rice, peas
If you give this a try let me know, I think as parents we all struggle with dinner time. Life is busy and by that time of day you sometimes are running on fumes so if we can make it easier, by all means lets do it. I use my iPad to plan the meals and then have my husband write them on a white board, you do what works for you. If you are not blind this can easily just be done on a piece of paper or in a planner.
I am thinking of making an accessible PDF for my blind and partially sighted friends, (sighted people can use it too) would you guys like to see that?
It is hard to believe that it is 2020. I have some pretty good blind jokes about this 2020 business but I will save you from my horrible humour.
I have been reflecting on the last year and in turn the last decade. So much has happened in that time. As so many of us it has been an up and down journey to get to where we are today.
When I look bak on the last 10 years I am grateful for where I am now and I am also proud of where I am today. It was a rough 10 years. I lost my dad, and many other very important people to me. I also lost all of my vision. I lost friends and a lot of the life that I had. It is so easy to recall all of the tough times. But when I sit down and really think about what I have all accomplished this last 10 years I am really taken back, and so proud of myself.
I have learned to live a life that I never thought possible. I am a stronger woman than I ever thought possible. I was nominated for the YWCA Women of Distinction awards, I ran in a provincial election, I was named one of CBC Saskatchewans 40 under 40. I had a piece I wrote published in a magazine. I have spoken to thousands of people educating them about blindness and sharing my story. I have had success professionally. I have three kids that have grown into teenagers and pretty amazing people over the last 10 years. I have been blessed with 2 amazing guide dogs who showed me so much and continue to teach me more than i could ever teach them.
I have also learned so much over the last decade. The lessons I learned shaped where I am at today and they taught me how to love more, embrace my emotions no matter what they are, to walk with confidence and not hide, to embrace fear and use it to take on the world. The lessons that we learn are so important, they come from failing , succeeding, saying yes and being scared.
There were times in the last decade that really stand out as hard. When I say hard I mean in the moment and for some time after I thought there is no way I can do this; I am never going to come out on the other end. Some of those times for me were definitely the loss of my dad, the loss of my vision, the early retirement of my first guide dog. Looking back on these times, I am still surprised to be walking on the other side. But they also remind me that life is not going to be easy, it is going to be hard, it is going to be messy, it is going to suck; but coming out on the other side happens even when we can’t imagine how.
I have had the opportunity to speak to so many people that have reached out after reading my blog, and have said how I have helped them, or showed them what is possible, and that I have inspired them. This is something that I am so grateful for. When I was walking in those dark places and trying to come out on the other side of vision loss I wanted someone to tell me it would be ok. Someone who was walking the same journey and who could show me what was possible. So thank you to all of my readers, with the help of you we have given that space to so many.
Now for the first time in my life with 2020 clarity (ha ha I could not help myself) we can make the next 10 years even better!
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.
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.
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…..
I know all of us moms are in the same boat…it is busy! I have 3 kids ages 12, 13, and 16. Three teenagers is hard, and working full time and having to do all of the mom things is hard. Many people think that being blind added to that list would make things harder and to be honest. It is my normal so it really doesn’t affect our life too much. I do things differently and need to be more organized maybe and sometimes things take longer but at the end of the day I am just mom.
One of the times of the day that is the hardest is the witching hour, that is the time between when I get home and when we eat supper. I don’t mind cooking, in fact we eat at home almost every single night. It is not very often that we go out to eat or order food in. The one thing I dislike though is deciding what to cook. I am sure I am not alone in this one.
One of the things that has been working for us for some time now is meal planning. I have been sitting down on the weekend and going through what is in my freezer and pantry and deciding what we will be eating for the next seven or so days. I always ask for suggestions from the peanut gallery so that when they say “this sucks, I don’t like x, y, or z” I can happily say, “well when I am asking for suggestions you can tell me what you would like”. They never do!
Once I have the meal plan all made out, I then go to the store with my husband in tow. Well maybe he has me in tow. Armed with a list, thanks to Alexa. And we get the things that we need for those meals for the week. This way we have saved a ton on groceries, and are definitely not wasting as much food. I take that list and I have and put on a white board on the fridge, so everyone knows what is for supper. It has really helped my sanity because before that; I would be cooking and every kid would come down to the kitchen and ask “what is for dinner?” And when I answered inevitability they would say “uggggghhhhhh I don’t want that” now there is no surprise. Check the board, that is what we are having like it or not. If you don’t like it, give a suggestion.
During the week I take out 2-3 days worth of meat and put it in the fridge. This helps because when I come home there is no need for me to wonder what is for dinner, I already know and I can just go to the fridge and get it started. I am a much happier mom and human being when there is less complaining, and I am not always trying to decide what is for dinner when I am tired and sometimes just ready for the day to be over.
With this method like I said earlier, we have saved a ton on groceries. But there is also less waste and things are always getting used up because we don’t just walk around the store and buy random things. Feel and shop is what my husband calls it. This is when you take your blind wife to the store and she touches everything and says “what is this”. Feel and shop ends with lots of things in the cart, that sounded good to said blind wife. It also has helped us to eat healthier, because if I am deciding at 5pm what we are having for dinner, it is going to be something quick and probably convenience type things. But with this method we are eating more balanced meals because it is planned and prepped and ready to just be cooked.
Hope this helps some of the other moms out there, and if you have not tried this, you should! Let me know how you keep the sanity around meal time and what works for your family.
For my work I tend to travel fairly often. I don’t mind travelling, my husband hates to travel so this is a way that I can do that and not have to worry that he hates travelling.
I also do some travel where I am alone and there is no one else with me. I do not travel with a sighted guide. I have had a lot of questions about how I am able to do this. I am going to tell you how I am able to travel alone as a blind woman and be successful.
I want to start this by saying that it is not easy. There are many times when things do not go great, I get lost, I feel insecure, I have anxiety all of the things. But, I work through those things because working through those feelings and moving forward to accomplish what I want makes me stronger. It is what helps me to grow as a person and what has helped me to be as confident in myself as I am. When you are able to work through the tough stuff it builds your confidence faster than anything else.
Some of the ways that I am able to travel alone is that I plan, plan, plan. I make sure that when I am picking flights, I choose the ones that make the most sense if at all possible. For example I try not to choose flights that have a layover more than 2 hours. This is because air ports can be hard to navigate, they are busy and food and washrooms are not always close to the gate you end up at. Also because I have a guide dog I want to be sure that I don’t have to go through security to take him to go to the bathroom and then go back through security to the gate, it is just a lot of extra stress that I don’t need.
I use a combination of apps that allow me to be as independent as possible, some of my favourites are Blind Square, Seeing AI, Aira, Be My Eyes. I also use a Victor Trek to be able to have many options for GPS and other tools to help me navigate. I like the Victor Trek because it does not rely on data. I use a lot of data when travelling. The other thing I do is call a friend or my husband using face time if I am needing to confirm something. For example I found my way to a mall but wasn’t quite sure if I was right because I had to reroute due to a lack of side walks in some places so I wanted to confirm I was at the right place, so I face timed a good friend and she was able to look around and tell me yes I had in fact made it to the mall.
Another thing that I have to do to travel alone successfully is be ok asking for help and asking questions. I have to stop random people on sidewalks, in air ports, in hotels, and ask for directions or help finding the places that I am looking to go. This was something that I struggled with when I was younger, I felt like if I asked for help, I was admitting that I couldn’t do it on my own. But I soon figured out that if I wanted to live the life that I wanted to I would have to ask for help to be as independent as possible.
There are times when by the end of a day I am exhausted, it is a lot of work to travel alone, I can be mentally done some days when I get to the hotel. But in the end it is worth it all because that is the life that I want to live. And at the end of the day we all want to live a life that we choose, we don’t want to sit back and accept less because it is hard or because we feel like a disability doesn’t allow us too.
I have been a little more quiet than normal on social media these days and even here on my blog. It was intentional in some ways, it was also unintentional in others because life is busy as we all know.
After accidentally neglecting my blog and social media for a couple of weeks I started to feel bad and have this guilt for not sharing, not looking at the stats, not chasing the dream. But in reality what was I chasing? Who was making me do it? Why are those stats so important?
I started this blog out of my frustration with the lack of education people had around blindness and how I could function as a blind mom and woman. It turned out I really enjoyed writing my blog so I continued to do it. I have always loved writing and sharing my story with everyone has been fabulous. Somewhere along the way I got lost in the stats and striving to make my blog and other social media stuff more successful and sustainable. But in getting lost in that side of it, what I loved doing turned into feeling like something I had to do. I wasn’t enjoying it in the same way I was.
Now that I have stepped away from things for a little while I am feeling like, I can come back. I am coming back not with the goal of being a blogger or a YouTuber or some social media super star, that is way too much pressure and not what my end goal is. And plus people online are nasty, online platforms give people this thought that they can say whatever they want and treat people like garbage, and I just don’t have the patience or the need for that crap in my life.
So why am I telling you this, you may be asking. Fair question! I don’t know! I wanted to share that I am not gone I am going to continue to share my life and the challenges and triumphs that come along, because that is why I started this, to share my story and hope it helps even just one person.
I think so many of us can get lost in the social media suck hole, and it is really a ugly place to be. Thank you all for being such wonderful readers and not being those nasty people online that make you feel like garbage. You are all amazing human beings and I am so grateful for that.
It is that time of year again when the kids have headed back to school. Back to routines, homework and lunches; this is a time of year that I enjoy because fall is my favourite season of the year but also because I like the routine and normalcy that back to school brings with it.
When you have a child with a disability there is so much advocating that needs to happen in order to get them an equal education to their peers. To many peoples surprise as a parent with a disability I have to advocate just to participate in my children’s education.
Technology is great, gone are the days that I have to send a sandwich baggie with $5 for a field trip or hot dog sale. But the apps and websites that many schools use to give parents the information about their kids days, grades, and activities are not accessible to me.
Now when I want to know what is on the calendar for the upcoming month or know what the kids have going on in the classroom, check in on their marks, or pay for that hot dog sale I need to use different apps and websites and many of them I can not access. I have not been able to access a monthly calendar for the last 3 school years.
Every year I need to let the teachers and school know that I am blind and would really appreciate communication to come in email form. Would the teacher also send me the upcoming events and activities in an email. And because teachers are over worked, under paid, and so many more things; this is just not a priority for them.
This is not something that I expect to change with the teachers, these are the things that I need to advocate to the school boards and decision makers on what apps and websites that are going to be used. It should be a requirement for them to be accessible. Same goes for the websites of schools. Putting up a PDF calendar in a link that is buried 25 links deep in a web page is frustrating. Once you find that calendar and find out that you actually can’t access that calendar is even more frustrating.
As a parent I want to be a part of my child’s education, I want to be able to support the teacher and my child to have the best school year possible. If I am kept out of the circle of communication then that is just not as easy for me.
There are many parents who have disabilities and still want to be able to volunteer in their children’s classrooms and activities and they are more than capable of doing that as well, but unfortunately they are kept at an arms length because the school is not sure how they would be able to help or how they would be able to keep the children safe. These are outdated stigmas that we need to change and when we talk about education and what that looks like for our children we need to think about how parents with all abilities are able to participate in the same way as other parents. And that they have access to simple things like a school calendar.
I am hopeful that in the next 5 years before my youngest graduates my advocacy in this area will pay off and we will see a shift in how accessible it is to be a part of our children’s education.