Speaking Up Is NOT Wrong

I posted a video to my Facebook page about being kicked out of a business in my area because I had a service dog and they have a No Pet policy. I tried to educate the manager of the store and let him know that this was against the human rights legislation in Canada and that we had every right to be there. When I realized that he was not going to let us in, (us being my 2 children, my husband and myself) I started the video taping because I wanted to be able to take it to human rights and show them exactly what happened.

At first the response was great people supported me in wanting to educate the public about this issue. I was not trying to vilify the company or the employee I wanted to take the opportunity to educate and show the public that things like this happen every day. Most people were amazing and it did help spread some awareness around the issue and start the conversation.

Others however took to turning what happened to me and my children into my fault because I did not take into account that this employee was just doing what he was told. I can agree with that to a certain extent; but if my boss told me to do something that I knew was morally wrong you better believe I would say no. At some point in our lives we have control over what we do and say, this employee was not a teenager he was the manager of the store that night. However I do not think that he is a horrible person, nor do I believe that he should be punished in any way. What I do think is that education is the KEY. We can not fix what we do not acknowledge. If it makes you uncomfortable to watch the interaction ask yourself why ? Why does it make you uncomfortable ? How would you feel if you were not allowed where you have the right to be simply because you have a disability ? How would you explain to your kids they can’t enjoy some fun time because their mom is not allowed in because she has a disability ?

What we need is for more people to be willing to make some noise stand up for what is right and what is wrong. When you are the one that uses your voice for change not everyone is going to like that; and that is ok, because if you say nothing because you fear what others will say or think, who will stand up for you and your rights? No one !

When you use your voice to help bring about change and break down the stereotypes and misperceptions, it doesn’t matter what the keyboard warriors write because they are not the ones who are fighting for equality every day of their lives. They are not the ones who are being kicked out of businesses for having a disability, they are not the ones who get asked inappropriate questions in public, they are not the ones that are being stared at and talked to like they are 2 because they have a disability. They are the ones who want to make you feel less than and no one can do that to you because your voice will always be louder than their typing.

Until Next Time

Ashley and Rick

Moving on up !!! Well moving !!! 

Hello Everyone ! 

It has been a while!! I hope you are all well. 

I have been very busy, we have decided to take a leap and move our family from rural Saskatchewan into the city. It has been a huge decision to make the move and one that we have not taken lightly. There was a lot that had to go into this move, is it the best for our kids, our family, me as someone with a disability? There was a lot of questions to be answered. The process of deciding to take this leap took us about a year. 

Me being blind and wanting to have the most independence that I could is one of the reasons for our move. There is also many other reasons for the move like both my husband and I work in the city so we have been spending a lot of time in the car commuting, and I want to return some of that time to my kids and family. Also I am not able to get to work and events in the evening without my husband waiting around in the city for me or having him drive me in on the weekends. I am someone who prides myself in being super independent and it is a huge priority for me to be as independent as possible. There are many many other reasons for our move but the thing I want to talk about today is the process of moving and buying a house when you are blind. 

The new house had to check many boxes for me and none of them were to do with paint colour or floooring. The house had to be in a neighborhood that had decent public transit. It had to be close to a  elementary school and have access to transit for a high school. There had to be a grocery store in the area that I could access without needing to take a bus ride or cab to get milk. It had to be walkable, it had to have sidewalks and be a really walking friendly neighborhood. The house had to make sense, I don’t like wide open space it complicates things for me. 

I also wanted a area that had some green space to take Rick my guide dog too and let him have some fun. And I wanted to feel safe, I wanted to feel safe letting my kids live life and play with their friends. 

Now that we have our move date, there is the other side of it which is now I need to learn the layout of the new house as well as all the routes to the schools, bus, mail box, grocery store, parks, and just learn the area in general. I find this stressful because I don’t like to rely on others. I have already started this process with an orientation and mobility specialist at CNIB. Then I will have to mark my appliances and learn the inside of the house. This is not a downside to moving it is simply my reality. There is more to me moving and it can be a little scary but it will be worth it for sure. 

The packing has begun and I am not a fan of packing but it needs to be done. And now that I am starting to change our address I realize how many places we have to change our address and holy cow. Moving when you are blind and have three kids 2 dogs, and way too much stuff is going to be an adventure. 

Until Next Time ! 

Ashley and Rick 

Pushing Stereotypes and Living Life 

Hello everyone, I hope you are all doing well and having a fabulous summer. 

We have been on holidays for the last couple of weeks and have really been relaxing and just spending lots of time with the kids. It has been a welcome break from the 4 a.m alarm. We didn’t go anywhere fancy this summer but enjoyed a staycation this year, it has been nice. 

While enjoying our staycation this summer it has reminded me of some of the things that I love to do that so many people think are not possible if you are blind or partially sighted. I never like to conform to stereotypes so I thought I would share them with you. I think when we hear blind or partially sighted we right away go to the fear of the unknown, and focus on the things that we assume one would not be able to do with vision loss. However with determination and creativity usually there is a way to do most things that one would want to do. 

One of the things that I really enjoy and it is my favourite relaxing activity is crocheting. I am not overly good at it and I do not make any fancy creations I stick to squares and rectangles. I love to make cozy blankets, scarfs and my specialty dish cloths. I will have dishcloths for the rest of eternity. I love to sit on the couch and watch TV or a good movie and give my hands something to do. That is the nice thing about being blind I don’t have to look at the TV to watch it and I don’t have to look at my hands to crochet. There truly are perks like reading in total darkness !! 

I have always liked baking and that is definitely still something that I love to do, it is something that brings me joy and makes me feel connected to my dad. But I also really enjoy canning and making pickles, or pickled beans and carrots. I enjoy my time in the kitchen preparing meals for my family, and friends.  There are many times when people ask if my husband does all the cooking and well that just would not work for me, I enjoy it too much. 

I really enjoy make up and fashion, a good day of shopping with my friends or my husband is always a good time for me. I like to try out new make up trends and see what I can make work. Just because I can’t see myself in the mirror does not mean that I don’t want to look nice or care about my appearance. I also have my husband paint my nails I feel much better when my nails and toes are painted and looking nice. Who am I kidding I love any kind of pampering. When I am shopping for clothes the only thing I need to take into consideration is dog hair,  man does Rick (my guide dog) shed. 

Social Media, I like to take part in Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, I enjoy social media and how it has made it possible to educate society on the abilities of those living with a disability from my living room. Advocating has taken a whole new role and I love being a part of it and using social media to propel change. From publishing my blog posts and posting super cute instagram photos, following the latest hashtags and showing the world my life, and what it truly is like to live life as a person who is blind. 

We have talked on my blog before about how I love to snowboard, and this is a given. I also enjoy other sports like swimming, I am very comfortable and in my element in the water. I like to hike and ride a bike, and a good game of golf is definitely right up my alley. I love so many things that one does not typically think that osmoenoe with vision loss likes to do. 

There are so many things a person who is blind or partially sighted likes to do, that we only briefly consider our vision loss before we dive in. We are all multi faceted people with varying interestes and skills. The more we push the stereotypes that are out there the more our abilities will shine through. 

Until Next Time, 

Ashley and Rick 

Audio Described Theatre Performances 

Hello Everyone, 

I am someone who has loved the theatre and going to the theatre for a long time. It is always a great experience but I have always wished that it was possible to have it audio described. As someone who is blind I love going to the theatre but there is always things that I miss with the performance. I have always had someone there to describe things to me but that takes away from them enjoying the performance. 

When I heard that the Globe Theatre in Regina was going to be doing a performance of the Little Mermaid that was completely accessible from audio description to ASL to less lighting changes for those with autism, to say I was ecstatic is an understatement. I was not able to attend the show due to a scheduling conflict however after speaking with my friends who are partially sighted who attended the show, they said it was amazing. The Globe Theatre did an amazing job of describing what was going on as well as describing the amazing costumes. 

Cast members in a variety of brightly coloured costumes depicting sea creatures dancing around Ariel, the mermaid.
With places like The Globe Theatre trying to make their shows more accessible it means that I am able to enjoy the theatre even more than I have in the past and I will be able to attend any show not just the ones that rely heavily on dialogue. 

In this day and age inclusion is key, if you are not making things inclusive you are excluding a huge audience that would love to come and support you and enjoy the show. There is a misperception that people who are blind or partially sighted do not enjoy things like the theatre and the arts and that is very far from the truth. I love to experience all things art galleries, museums, land marks, theatre, film and when I see people trying to make these things easier for me to experience it makes me feel just like anyone else. It is an amazing feeling to be included. 

I encourage you to check out The Globe Theatre and support what they are doing it is not an easy feat to take on but they did an amazing job. 

Ariel, the mermaid, admiring her         Ariel, the mermaid, dancing on the stage. The lights make it look like she is underwater and giant pieces of seaweed hang from the ceiling around her furthering the illusion.
Inclusion in all aspects of the arts can be done and will make a world of difference. 

Until Next Time, 

Ashley and Rick 

The Right to Read 

One of the things that I have always loved ever since I can remember is reading. It is amazing to sit down and just escape into a good book. There were always things that I missed on TV and in movies growing up due to my sight loss, but I never missed anything in the stories I read.

When I was younger, I was able to read large print, but so many of the popular books that my peers were reading I could not get in large print. There was not a lot of access to audio or eBooks then either. Due to this, I did not read as much as I would have liked because those options did not exist yet.

This issue also affected me in school because the books that we read in school were never in large print or audio. As a result, I had to have a teacher or teachers aid read them too me which made me feel singled out. I could read and I wanted to read independently. I remember being in grade nine or ten and thinking this is ridiculous. Why do I not have the same access to literature that the rest of the world does?

I came across the issue of not having the same access to text books in university. Today this is still an issue as I want to take a course to gain some skills for my job but I can’t take the course because there is no accessible version of the text book. This makes me crazy that in this day and age we can make cars drive us around by a computer, but we can not provide everyone of every ability EQUAL ACCESS to print materials.

I read a lot. I use audio books, eBooks, electronic Braille and print Braille. On more occasions than I can count, when I want to read the latest hot book I can’t because it is not produced in a format that I can access.

There are more than three million Canadians across Canada that are living with a physical, visual or learning disability. The fact that only 2,000 of the 10,000 books being produced across Canada are in accessible formats is disappointing. I find it even more upsetting that many of those titles are being produced by a charity, CNIB. A charity should not be faced with producing accessible materials, it should be something that is required by law and funded by the government.

Access to literature is a basic human right, it is the only way that someone who is blind or partially sighted will have the same access to education and employment. If I told half of the people I knew that they could not read the things they needed to for work because the books were only produced in Braille and not in print that would never be accepted so why are we allowing it the other way around?

Don’t be ashamed…….

Hello Everyone, 

As I get ready to do some travelling for work, and go to some training I am reminded of my anxiety and worries as they sneak up on my again. I am a very independent person and I pride myself in being able to live a life that I want to live without letting my disability or people’s perception of capability dictate how I live my life. There are times though when we have to face anxiety, fear, worry and all the ugly. 

When I have to go somewhere new a lot of the ugly shows up for me. I am someone who needs to know all the details, everything from the set up of the venue, the layout of the course, if there is a buffet for meals. The more information I have the better I feel. Now that is not always possible and realistic. So that is when I find myself dealing with anxiety, I worry about all the logistical things like, is there going to be someone to assist me with orientation to the new space, will I have assistance with the buffet (buffets are a blind persons worst nightmare), will I seem like I am incapable if I need to ask for help, will I have access to all the materials being used. There are so many things that people who are not blind or partially sighted don’t think about that we have to and the biggest anxiety for me is making a good impression. What I mean by this is when you are at an event you want to meet new people and network, make a good impression. I find it really hard to network in a large group when I am alone because I can not tell where people are, it makes it hard to approach someone and strike up a conversation. I have been in situations where I am left standing there and probably looking a little pathetic because I can not figure out where people are and if they are alone or who they are or any of these things. Then there is the issue of people thinking I am being rude because I am not looking them in the eye when I am not I just can’t see. 

I have anxiety about these things but it does not stop me from doing the things I want to do. It makes me a stronger person on the other end, I used to be embarrassed to talk about it and I felt so alone when I had anxieties like this. Now I know that I am not alone and if I talk about it, it makes it better because I hear myself and can realize I am going to be fine. My friends are also a great support to reassure me that I will be fine it will all work out and that I am more than capable. 

We all doubt ourselves and have anxiety around different things. People who don’t have a disability struggle with anxiety and worry. It is not something to be embarrassed about it is something to own and know that the more you deal with it, the stronger it will make you. The only thing having the ugly show up every once in a while says, is that you are human.

Until Next Time, 

Ashley and Rick  

If you can I have no excuse……

Hello Everyone,

I hope you are all well. I have been trying to write this post for a while now, in fact, I have sat down to write it about 3 times. I have been struggling with a comment that I keep running into, and the only way to change things is to bring them up and have those tough conversations. Education is key to change, and that is what I work for.

The comment that I keep running into and have for a while is. “I really need to get out there and do x y z, if you can do it there really is no excuse why I can’t” I usually get these comments around things like snowboarding, golfing, making YouTube videos etc.. The thing that these things all have in common is that a lot of people do not think that it is possible for a blind person to do.

In most cases, I am sure that people do not even realize what they are saying. When you make that statement you are saying “well since you are less than me, I should be able to do it with no problem and no excuses”.

I want to inspire people to do things out of their comfort zone and push the barriers that we feel exist. However, I do not believe that I am less than anyone. I think that language is a very powerful thing and we need to be aware of what our words say in someone else’s head.

We hear this comment a lot even in media, like the commercial where they show a bunch of athletes with disabilities doing things and it says at the end “what is your excuse”, now I am not a rocket scientist but how is that ok. Really take a moment and think about what that statement says about people with disabilities. How would that make you feel if that was you, and someone looked you in the eye and said that statement?

It goes to the same thing when people say someone is inspirational for doing a mundane task like putting on makeup, getting dressed by themselves or taking the bus. These things are not inspirational at all. These are normal everyday tasks that we are more than capable of completing.

I think the one thing that I want people to understand is that people with disabilities are equal on every level and your language can be very powerful in both a positive and a negative way.