“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

Top 10 Perks Of Not Driving Because You Are Blind

Hello everyone,

I can not tell you how many times someone has said to me “oh I couldn’t be blind and not drive”. Not being able to drive is a little bit of a pain in the rear but it definitely has its perks.

1. You never have to try and find your ride, or your car because they park in the same spot every time !

2. If your in a bad mood or just want to be left alone you can put in headphones and not hear “what is wrong with you?”, “why are you so grouchy today”, “what’s wrong?” On repeat like a broken record.

3. When people call you, they never want to talk long because of the background noise and all the people. Plus it is rude, so you can easily get out of talking to anyone!

4. You do not have to have road rage and you will get to your destination without almost needing bail money. I don’t know how you people do it to be honest, I swear like a trucker and I am not in traffic with people who have no idea how they even got there, let alone how they are supposed to get to where they are going!

5. If your bus gets a flat tire they come and pick you up with a different bus and you walk away from the broken one!

6. People make you feel like you are the most amazing thing every day simply because you got your blind behind to a bus stop and are on that thing alone! I mean you my friend deserve a Nobel prize!! And if you are not the biggest inspiration to someone, you may have someone pray over you or even get a marriage proposal because your guide dog will attract all the people you want to talk to.

7. It is the only place you can walk on and make someone move out of a seat simply because you want it and you are disabled so you can have it!

8. When your friends have to pay to fix their cars or put gas in them; you can justify as many pairs of shoes as you want! I mean you walk everywhere!!

9. When someone says to you “ma’am I need to see your drivers license.” And you say “I am blind”. The story and shovel they start digging the biggest hole with is quite comical!

10. If you are ever late for anything, all you have to say is “I had to take the bus” and no one will say anymore because they feel bad for you. If you drive they would say something like: ” well you should have left sooner I guess”.

There are many more perks I am sure I am missing, but I am sure you can now see why taking the bus isn’t the worst thing that could happen!

Until Next Time !

Ashley and Danson

Blindfold Challenge Not Reality

Hello Everyone,

There has been a campaign online that gets people to blindfold friends and family members and have them do something that they would do on a regular basis as a blind person. For example going to the gym, cooking a meal, walking down the street.

I think the intentions were good with this campaign however it missed the mark for me. Here is why, it never gives a positive view of the disability. If you were to put on a blind fold and walk around you are not going to get a realistic view of my life, you are however going to pity me at the end. Since you do not have any of the skills to be a successful blind person you are going to think that it is horrible and you would never be able to do it all day every day. How is this helping to make people understand that our lives are full and amazing even with the lack of sight ? It doesn’t it is that simple !

The last thing that I want is pity, I live a full and amazing life. I am successful and independent and would not change a thing about my life. Please don’t put on a blind fold and think that you have any idea what my life is like because you do not have a clue.

Do not pity me but see me for a person who has many things to offer the world around me. I am a very capable person and that is what I want people to see, not think that everyday tasks are hard because they are not. I do them without vision which is simply different you are a visual person and are trying to things visually with a blind fold on, that will never end well !

If you are not convinced that I live an amazing life please subscribe and let me show you.

Until Next Time !

Ashley and Rick

She’s Not Completely Blind !

Hello Everyone,

I hope you are all well, I wanted to share an experience that I had today.

I went for lunch just myself and my Guide Dog Rick, I needed to get out of the house and it was a beautiful day. We had a fabulous lunch at a local cafe. In this cafe they also have a boutique for women’s clothing and things. It is a great little place for our community and I love to go every now and then.

After we had lunch I thought I would take a look around at the clothes. Yes I like to “look” around at clothes and things. I usually just feel the fabrics and the cut of the clothing and if it feels like something I like I will ask what the pattern or colour is and for more detail. As I was feeling around the store at some of the clothing a lady approached me and said how beautiful Rick was. I said thank you and we had a good conversation about Rick and how amazing service dogs are. As she was going to leave she told the other lady with her to watch her step. She then turned to me and said watch your step to dear. The other lady then says “oh she isn’t completely blind.” I said well actually I am, but thank you. She then began to tell me that she watched me while I had lunch and I ate just fine and used my phone.

These types of comments come often and they used to really make me mad. It is like they are saying that I am faking it. However, anger gets me no where. These kinds of comments now just fuel my fire and passion to make the world understand blindness more.

I am able to eat and not make a huge mess because I am an adult I am aware of how a fork and knife work and I am also aware of where my mouth is. Had she been watching carefully she would have seen me ask the waitress where things were on the table and also she would have seen me using my knife almost like a cane around my plate. She may have also noticed that after I tried to pick up my sandwich stuff fell out and I did not want to wear it so I cut it up with my fork and knife. Had she been listening closely she would have heard that my phone was talking to me.

These comments are so unnecessary, I wish people would realize that the way they perceive blind people they have learned through the media and they are not accurate depictions.

Even though these comments get under my skin, I know that the only way to change the way society sees me and other people who are blind is to live my life to it’s fullest. One day if I keep working at it people will understand blindness and the misperceptions will be gone. A pipe dream I am sure but I am also very stubborn and determined.

Have a great day !

Until Next Time !

Ashley and Rick

2 Year Guide Dog Anniversary

Hello Everyone, I hope you are all well.

September is International Guide Dog month, there is so many ways that Guide Dogs impact the lives of blind and partially sighted people all over the world.

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2 years ago today I was so grateful to be walking across the stage to graduate with my first guide dog. It was an emotional day I was so happy to have received him and what he was going to do for my life. But I was also sad, I was sad for Rick’s puppy raisers they loved him just as much as I did and they had to say good bye. I was very happy that they had made the trip to Portland, OR to meet me and be a part of Rick’s graduation. Rick’s puppy raiser gave me the best gift besides my children I will ever receive. Being able to raise a dog for a year and pour so much of your heart and soul into training and socializing the dogs and then have to say good bye. This has to be a very hard thing to do and I am beyond grateful for their huge hearts and incredible gift.

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Now that Rick and I have been a team for 2 years now we are a pretty well oiled machine. We have an amazing relationship and I could not ask for a better guide. He knows me very well and can usually predict where I am wanting to go, also his coffee finding skills are out of the park. He is happy to traipse all over the country side going to events and shopping and sitting through many hours of meetings and he is happy to cuddle and keep me company when I work from home.

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There are so many ways that Rick has changed my life he has helped me to embrace my disability and live my life my way. He has helped me to find my confidence that I have always wanted to have. Rick has also made the work of advocating and educating the public a little easier because people want to talk to you when you have an adorable yellow lab wagging his tail sitting next to you. It is like he makes people more comfortable to approach us and talk.

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So many of the things I have mentioned are not even guiding tasks, and that is what I want people to know, a Guide Dog does more than just show us the curbs and take us around obstacles. They enhance our lives so much.

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Thank you to everyone who makes it possible for people who are blind or partially sighted to have Guide Dogs in their lives you are amazing !

Until Next Time !

Ashley and Rick

Blind Yoga

Hello Everyone,

I hope you are all well. I have really been trying to work on me and take care of myself and making that a priority. I also love to try new things so today I am going to tell you about my experience trying yoga for the first time and how it is going.

I am someone who always likes to try new things, I have been wanting to try yoga for a while but I was unsure how it would work with me not being able to see what the instructor was doing. After thinking about it for way to long, I took the plunge and booked 5 private sessions. This gave me the opportunity to learn the moves and have one on one instruction before I went into a class. This was probably the best thing I could have done.

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Rick trying to join me for yoga this morning. Picture of my feet on the green yoga mat and Rick laying with his front paws right in front of my feet. 

I was not sure if yoga would be for me, I mean I am a pretty high strung person. I need to be busy all the time and my mind is going a million miles an hour always. So to say I was nervous for my first session was an understatement.

I made it to my first session and was really surprised at how comfortable the instructor made me feel. We went through what I wanted to get out of my yoga practice and also why I wanted to try yoga. We devised a plan from our discussion about what I wanted to get out of these 5 sessions.

We have been working on breathing and relaxing and some stretching. Then this week we went through a full practice and some basic poses. I have a long way to go but I am really enjoying the challenge and to be honest learning to turn off my mind and focus on only what I am doing has been really nice.

I am enjoying learning to relax and the poses have been fun to do. I think that we all need to take time for ourselves, no matter what you do or who you are. Sometimes we are so busy taking care of others that we forget that we can not give what we do not have.

Being blind has not been a factor in me being able to do yoga in the slightest which is great. The instructor is very descriptive and hands on to help me to get into the pose properly. I think that if you are someone who has a disability and wants to try something new go for it. You are your biggest obstacle when we get out of our own heads and just go for it, we can be pleasantly surprised.

I am looking forward to getting the basics down and going to a group class ! I will let you know how that goes !

Until Next Time !

Ashley and Rick

You are so lucky !!

Hello Everyone,

Today I want to talk about a misperception of people who are blind or partially sighted and dating or being married or in a relationship of any kind.

There is this misperception that people with disabilities are not bringing anything to the relationship and that the person who is in a relationship with them is doing them a huge favour by being in a relationship with that person. This is insane ! People with disabilities can bring just as much to a relationship as someone without a disability.

My husband and I have been together for 13 years and married for 11. When we started dating he knew that I had a vision impairment, that never was a factor in our relationship though because I have a personality. I am not just a blind person that is not all I have to offer. We did not start dating because he felt bad for me.

When I lost the remainder of my vision 3 years ago I have had many people say to me and my husband, “you are so amazing for sticking around”. That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. I have also had people say “you are so lucky your husband stuck around”. Why is it people think that we could not have any sort of “normal” relationship because I have a disability. The comments like “oh, you are married, I never would have guessed” are sickening.

Ignorance fuels these types of comments and misperceptions, if they had taken the time to get to know me or anyone with a disability they would see that I have just as much to offer a relationship and the world as the next person.

I have asked my husband if he feels like I am a burden to him and like he wishes I wasn’t blind. His response is always “no, your blindness does not define our relationship and you are just as capable as anyone else. You are stubborn and drive me nuts sometimes but that is not because you are blind that is because you are Ashley.”

So the next time you think someone is lucky to have a partner just because they have a disability, try looking beyond the disability and to the fact that they are a person who has so much to offer.

Thanks for reading !
Until Next Time !
Ashley and Rick

Adaptive technology for the Blind

Hello Everyone,

This is part 2 of my last blog post on Apps for the blind and partially sighted. Today I am going to talk a little bit about the things that I use daily or almost daily. There are a lot of products out there that are designed for the blind or partially sighted. I have tried many things over the years and these are the ones that have lasted the test of time and I still use. There are times when the technology in theory is good but when the practical reality of life happens and it is not all that convenient to use it.

So the first thing that I use for more than most of my day is my iPhone. I told you about the apps I use in my last post so if you have not read that one check it out. There are more things that I use my phone for that I did not mention such as siri for the weather but I don’t find I am much different than most people now a days with their phones being attached to them.

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The next thing that I use quite a bit is my liquid level indicator, this is good for making tea or anything hot. When it is cold I just hook my finger over the top of the cup but when it is boiling water common sense kicks in and I use the liquid level indicator. If I do not have it with me I will use the echo from the liquid pouring into the cup the is usually successful but has it’s times when it is not.So how the liquid level indicator works is that it hangs over the side of the cup and it makes a high pitched very annoying sound so you stop pouring instantly and take it off your cup just to make the sound stop !

 

Braille is a big part of my life and I use it daily for reading, making lists, and also for labels around my house. I use braille for things like canisters of pasta or a bin of flour and sugar. I have a  braille labeller that makes strips of braille with whatever I need it to say. This is very handy as I don’t need to have anything else with me other than my hands to read what is in the container.

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My Pen Friend is something that I use every day. I have talked about it in my blog before but since this is about the technology that I use I am including it. The Pen Friend is a device that looks like a large pen, it will read and record on the microchipped stickers. I use this for medications, canned goods, makeup, recipes the list of uses is endless. It is very convenient to use and is really one of my top products after my phone.

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I also use bump on dots around my home, these are not really technology but they are very helpful. They come in all different shapes, sizes and colours. I have bright orange ones because I used to be able to see the orange colour. They are helpful on things like microwaves and stoves for marking temperatures or certain buttons.

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GPS this is something I have said that I like to always have with me especially when I am travelling alone. I do use my phone with the apps like Blind Square and Google Maps, but I also use a device called the Trekker Breeze. This is a hand held device that does not rely on a cellular signal and data to use it, which is why I use a combination of the two. The Trekker is handy for marking out bus stops and putting in many different routes and adding in voice memos about your route like construction on the next block or keep left because of sidewalk signs. It will also tell you what type of intersection you are coming up on so four lanes two way traffic. It gives you lots of information which is especially helpful when you are travelling a new route. You are also able to put in a new route by putting in your starting point and end point, you are then able to go in a listen to the route turn by turn so you have an idea of where you are going.

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The last thing that I live on and use more than once a day is my Macbook Air. I am a mac user because it is accessible out of the box and I do not need to purchase expensive screen reading software to use it. I also find the screen reader Voice Over to be very easy to use and navigate the computer from everything like emails to editing my YouTube videos and writing my blog.

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In order to be successful in life as a person living with blindness I have had to make my world accessible. A lot of the time this just means thinking out of the box and using some creative methods. However with the advances in technology I feel like there is nothing in my way for living my life my way. Technology has come so far even from when I was in school back in (well lets not discuss how long ago that was ha ha). In fact had I had the technology there is now I would have been much more successful and on the same playing field as my peers in school.

Thanks for taking the time to read my post today and if you have any questions about how I use any of these and would like a video on it please let me know and I would be happy to do that. If you are curious where to get any of these products I can also provide that information.

Until Next Time !

Ashley and Rick

Apps for the Blind

Hello Everyone !

I hope you are all well, my family and I have been enjoying our holidays and are dreading going back to reality in a few days, but it was sure nice while it lasted !

There are so many products and apps out there geared towards people who are blind or partially sighted, so today I am going to tell you about some of my favourites. The ones that I use on a daily or almost daily basis are the ones that I am going to focus on.

These are the ones that work for me and that I like, they may not work for everyone. This will be a two part blog post to keep it from being too long. The second post will go up tomorrow. The second post will focus on the products and this post will focus on the apps.

The apps that I have on my iPhone 6 that I use daily or almost daily are:

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Be My Eyes – This is a great app that you are able to ask questions to a volunteer on the other end such as “what colour is this shirt”, “what temperature does this need to be cooked at ?” You are able to do this by the app accessing your camera on the back of your phone. This app works pretty well you are able to ask questions rather than just take a picture, however sometimes it can take quite a while to get someone to answer your call as it is all volunteers. The other downfall is that it is only available for iPhone right now. The app is free for those with an iPhone.

Crowd Viz – This is an app very similar to Be My Eyes and has the same concept, but you do need to pay to use the volunteers help, you get so many free calls when you download the app, then you will need to pay for the rest. Some people don’t like to have to pay for things like this, but the app does have a much quicker response time than Be My Eyes. I like to have options and never be stranded when I need to borrow someone’s eyes. So I am willing to pay for this service if necessary.

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Tap Tap See – This app takes pictures using your phones camera again. After it takes a picture of say a price tag it will tell you what it is in the picture. So it works well if you are looking for say a can of tomato soup and you have two options. This app can be useful but you do have to pay for the pictures after you use up the initial amount you get with the download of the app. This isn’t great because if you don’t have something facing the right way you can use up 3 or 4 pictures trying to get the information that you are looking for depending on what you are using it for. It does pretty well for colour recognition if you are using it to determine say your pink shirt from your black shirt. I have also used it to determine if the bathroom sign is the women or mens when there is no braille, it works really well for that.

FaceTime or Facebook Video Messenger – These are great options when you are out and about and need to ask someone you trust a question about something. For example when I go makeup shopping I will usually ask the store clerk if something looks good and then I will FaceTime my friend and ask her opinion because she knows me and my style and I trust her more than a stranger. Also say you are at the store looking for tampons and don’t feel like using Be My Eyes and asking a complete stranger if the ones you are looking at are super or regular you can video chat with family or friend someone who will just laugh along with you. I also use this when I am clothes shopping if something fits and I think I like it I will call and ask my husband or friend if it looks good. I like that I can go out alone and live my life but have the option to get a little help with the visual things when I need to. I have also used this when I have gotten turned around and a little lost. I called a friend and asked her what was around me and where did I need to go. There are many many uses for these two options.

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Blind Square – This is a GPS app that is intended for people who are blind or partially sighted. It will give you turn by turn directions to a location you have put in, or it will help you to locate what is around you. For instance if you are travelling alone and want to find a coffee shop you can use this app to help you find what coffee shops are around you and then it will give you the turn by turn directions to get there. It is nice to have this right on your phone so that you do not need to carry around another device with you. You can put in your favourite and most used places as well. This app is great if you get turned around or are not sure where you are exactly as well. I think it is always important to have a GPS with you whether it be on your phone or a external GPS because when you can not see where you are going it is not hard to get a little mixed up and no one wants to feel the panic of “I don’t know where I am”. This app has been great and I really like using it.

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Direct To Player / Overdrive – These are apps that I can borrow audio books from the library and listen to them on my phone. This is great because I can still use the library services and read books for free rather than paying for them all. These apps are very easy to use and are geared towards people who have low vision and are using a screen reader.

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Audible – I am sure we all know what Audible is at this point, but for those who may not, it is a audio book app. You can purchase audio books and listen on the go. I may have a slight problem with reading books and needing to have many on the go at once. It is great to pass time and I love to read so this way I am never without a book !

These are the most used apps on my phone that make life easier and more accessible. If you have an app that you love please let me know, I am always on the look out for new apps that will make life more accessible.

Thanks for reading !
Until Next Time !
Ashley and Rick

My Life Matters

“ I would rather die than lose my sight.” “I don’t know how you do it, I couldn’t.” People’s biggest fear after dying is to lose their vision and go totally blind. I have pondered this for a while now, I hear it so often I think that people think it is a compliment when they say things like “you are amazing I could never do what you do”. I do not take this as a compliment.

The fact that people would rather die than live a life without sight says so much about how people who are blind or partially sighted are viewed in society.

Recently there was a mass killing of people with disabilities because someone thought that people with disabilities should be euthanized. Why ? I feel like there should be a more complex question that I am asking myself but I just keep coming up with why ? I have been utterly speechless for days now. It is just unbelievably horrific. I feel so much pain and sympathy for all of those that lost their lives and their families and loved ones.

I have faced some pretty harsh criticism over the last year because I am in the public eye, and because I have a disability and I am in the public eye people assume I have no feelings. People have sent me emails and messages on social media after running in our provincial election like “you didn’t really think they would elect a blind person.” or “you were simply a pawn for a sympathy vote.” or “you could never be in political office you are blind, you would never be able to serve the people of our province.” or the best one “ who are you kidding, what are they supposed to hire a interpreter just for you at every meeting ?”

I have not said anything about these comments because I feel like 1. they are all ignorant uneducated people who have bigger issues than me being blind and 2. I have pretty thick skin and I do not have time for people like this. However with the lack of media coverage of the incident in Japan where so many people lost their lives simply because they had a disability, I feel like I need to speak up and show people the way others view disability.

My life has no less value than yours or anyone else’s simply because I have a disability. It is not a death sentence, I am not miserable and living a horrible life. I am however; a mother, a sister, a wife, a friend, a volunteer, a writer, an advocate, successful, happy and excited about life. Now why is being blind so horrible ? I feel like the only thing that is that bad about being blind is other people attitude towards my disability.

Until Next Time
Ashley and Rick