COVID is Not an Excuse for Lack of Accessibility

COVID has had an impact on all of us in one way or another, in fact probably more than one way for all of us. From family, work, routine, children, and so much more. Now for some of us it has also made a world that was pretty inaccessible even more so.

We are all trying our best to keep ourselves and others safe in our personal lives and in our professional ones. In turn that has become an excuse to not be accessible to those who require it.

When I go out in public my hands are my eyes, there is no way for me to change that. It is my reality. I cannot see the lines or arrows or any of the signage that people feel the need to point out incessantly. People right now I am sure are stressed but it does not give you the right to call someone out for touching things, or not following arrows. It might be hard to believe but the stress we feel is high, the anxiety we fell is up there, do we want to touch things nope! But unfortunately for you that is my reality.

I have had many instances when I have gone into a store to try and find something and stood near where I could hear people and waited to see if someone would offer to help. I am trying my best to stay away from people. But in one instance I stood and waited for 20 minutes, then when I overheard two possible employees saying “how do we help that one?” then giggling and the young man saying I have just been watcher her, but she has touched so many f**** things”. Needless to say I left.

I get it people don’t want to be close to people, but I require the assistance of others when I am out and about. I am conscious of people’s discomfort so I make a point to wear a mask, constantly hand sanitize, but people just do not want to help. Unfortunately that is one way that I was able to be as independent as I wanted and needed to be.

There have been instances where people have been needing to purchase a new cell phone or a new computer and have been told they are not allowed to touch the demos. Which for the bulk of the population that is fine, for someone who is blind, it doesn’t work. Would you buy something without seeing it at all or being able to test it? Probably not but that is what we are being made to do. When there are safe ways to be able to allow people who are blind or partially sighted to have the same access.

Being told that your guide dog is not welcome and using COVID as a reason is also happening, letting someone not have a sighted guide, so many things have been made inaccessible. In no way is COVID an excuse to not allow people to have equal access to the world around them. We should be moving forward in disability and accessibility not backwards, and in so many senses that is what COVID has felt like.

If everyone just remembers that we all just want to be able to live a safe, happy, healthy life and if we work together we can. It would be a much better place to be. If you see someone who looks like they need help, please for the love of god ask.

Photo of Ashley Nemeth

Until Next Time

Ashley and Danson

Differently Abled?…….NO!

“People who are differently abled….” This is something that I have heard more and more. All I have to say is NO! How is this something that is ok to call people who have disabilities. Some might be comfortable with this label but please never call me differently abled.

The only reason I would be differently abled from you is if it is not accessible and then that is not my fault. i am more than able to do what you do. I work full time, I have three children, I snowboard, I golf, I hike, I cry, I laugh, I live my life, I have opinions that are unpopular, I get sad, I get angry. Tell me how that is any different than anyone else.

Ashley and her 1st guide dog yellow lab Rick standing at the lodge at a ski hill while Ashley holds her snowboard.

I may be blind but that is like you having brown hair and me having blond. It is a trait but it certainly does not affect my ability to do things. I am capable and do live a very full life. When the world around me is set up so that it is not EQUAL TO ALL that creates barriers but my abilities DO NOT create barriers.

Ashley with the contestants of the Miss Canada Pagent.

When society thinks that I am not as capable that creates barriers but my actual skills and abilities far outstretch what society says I am capable of. I am not one to stand and shout out my accomplishments but if we look at the last 5 years I have done some pretty amazing things.

I have been named one of the future 40 under 40 in Saskatchewan, I have completed my Certified Management Degree, I have reached more than 1 million people through this blog, I have had hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube, I have spoken at many different events, I was named as a Women of Change in Saskatchewan on International Women’s Day. I was a judge in a beauty pagent, I ran in a provincial election, I was nominated as a YWCA Woman of Distinction. I am raising three amazing children!

Ashley and her current guide dog black lab golden cross Danson sitting looking at each other during training.

These are just a few of the things I have accomplished because I am a smart, strong, independent woman. I have the ability to achieve whatever I set out to achieve, without the limits of what a label like “Differently Abled” place on those with disabilities. A barrier that society has placed on me not a barrier that is actually there.

When I advocate I am not advocating for special treatment or for more than what others get, I am advocating and demanding EQUAL ACCESS to the world we live in.

Ashley and Danson lay on the grass in the park smiling at the camera. Danson is wearing his guide dog harness. Ashley is wearing a blue blouse with a black blazer and sunglasses.

Never underestimate my abilities and call me differently abled!

Until Next Time,

Ashley and Danson

Fear in Disability is Powerful

Being a part of the blind community and even the disability community as a whole I hear people say all the time how they are scared, or they are anxious about so many aspects of life as a disabled person.

One of the things that I have learnt in my journey to loving my life as a blind woman is that that fear you feel can be one of the most powerful feelings you have ever had. It can really change the way you live your life and can be the driving force in you living the life that you want to live.

Doing what makes uncomfortable creates comfort in new situations. Here I am navigating a space that created panic but now makes me feel strong and empowered. Photo description Ashley walking with her black lab guide dog on a path with her phone in her hand for navigation wearing sunglasses, cropped ripped jeans and a navy blue t-shirt.

So many times we see fear as a bad thing, something that holds us back, prevents us from doing the things that we want to do. In many cases that is the truth, but what if we looked at it from a different angle. What if instead of fearing what we cannot control we embraced it and used it as the driving force in our life to expend our world and our capabilities.

I feel fear almost daily, going somewhere new, putting myself out there, parenting as a disabled woman, etc. There are so many times when I feel fear and rather than letting that fear control me, I sit with it and analyze what I am scared of and I make the conscious decision to move forward, face that fear and show myself and the fear that it will only be motivation for me to go outside of my comfort zone.

One step at a time can create the life you want to live! Photo description black lab’s feet with boots on in between Ashleys feet with wedged sandals that have two beige straps across the top. All you see in the photo is the guide dogs feet and Ashleys feet.

When we face our fears and succeed what that does for your confidence and life is something that no one else can provide for you. It is empowering beyond belief to know that in spite of your fear you did it anyway and succeeded.

Will there always be success in facing your fears? No you will fail but you will be failing forward when you are failing facing the things that you fear most. There is no failure only growth. I get it wrong all the tine but I also learn from that failure and when I face that fear again I do it with a new outlook.

What are the things that are holding you back? What are those fears that you feel? Do you wish you could learn to face your fears and take control of your life?

Until Next Time

Ashley and Danson

When Touching is a No Go!

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.

Until Next Time

Ashley and Danson

Quiet Time…..

As someone who for so many years needed to be busy, busy all the time I am finding that I am really enjoying the piece and quiet. I still keep busy I suppose I mean I work full time, have three kids and a husband (so almost 4 kids sometimes), I also go to school, and have a YouTube Channel and this blog. I mean I suppose when I write it all out it sounds busy. But I used to sit on a lot of boards and be a part of many different things and now I find myself doing more for me.

I know there are times that I feel a little selfish for prioritizing the things that I love like reading, blogging, YouTube, furthering my education. Those are all the things that I chose to take on, because they make me feel good. When we say that we prioritize ourself and the things that we want so many times people will make us feel bad for that.

The major difference that I have found over the last year or two is that when I prioritize myself and the things that I want to do, my mental health is what wins at the end of the day. I can be a very stressed person, I want things to go my way, I want to plan, I want to know exactly what is happening. But taking the tine to do things for me has really helped to curb that in my down time. Now at my 9-5 job….well…..we are all a work in progress………right……….?

a close up dark image of a Mac laptop keyboard.
my computer is my happy place

I have often talked about how I love to read and one of the other things that I have always loved to do and have been doing since I was a kid is writing. Hence the blog. I find that when I am in the mood I can sit down and write multiple blog posts, and articles in a matter of a couple of hours. Are my blogs perfect? Nope not at all, but they are a true image of me, imperfect but perfectly ok with that! I have always been that type of person that when I sit down to write it just flows. I have been really thinking about this and being mindful when I get in the head space for writing and it is my therapy in some ways. It is the only time that I am not thinking about anything else except what I am writing. It is the only time that I feel at complete peace, it is the time when I feel like I can express myself in the way that I want to.

dark living room close up of a corner with a lamp not lit and a candle lit sitting on an end table.
there is always a light at the end of the tunnel

I think we all need to have that thing that is our quite time. That thing that is simply for us, and brings us a great amount of joy that after we are finished doing it, you can think, wow I needed that. In this time of life and society with social media and the notion that we need to be as busy as we can possibly be or you are lazy, or unproductive, or you won’t amount to anything, is craziness. I think more than ever we need those times of quiet, those times of absolute selfishness where we prioritize ourselves and what we need as human beings.

What is your go to quiet time, what is that one thing that brings you the most joy just for you?

Until Next Time

Ashley and Danson

Supper Time Life Saver

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.

White board with silver frame, two weeks of meal plan written out with a line under it. Under that line it reads Suggestions.

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 Week 1 Week 2
Monday Grandmas BBQ chicken, rice, salad Cream of potato soup, toast
Tuesday Homemade pizza, salad Butter chicken, rice, Naan
WednesdayChicken fettuccineGoulash
Thursday Pork souvlaki, noodles, salad Chicken lasagna, cesar salad, garlic toast
Friday Chicken burgers, fries Sausage, noodles, peas and carrots
Saturday Ground chicken tacos Greek chicken, rice, greek salad
Sunday 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?

Until Next Time,

Ashley and Danson

Women Leading and Supporting Women

There is something about being in a room full of women that support women who are not judging you for where you are at or where you want to go. But truly supporting you as a human being.

I have been someone who feels like I have never really found my people. I have people in my life that I love and who I have connected with on a deep level, but since moving I have struggled to find a social group of people. This has always been something I have struggled with if I am being honest, I seem to be one of those people you love me or you hate me. I am ok with that, it just makes it hard to find your people.

I had an add come across my feed one day and upon clicking found a convention that was for women no matter where you were, they wanted to build you up and support you in where ever you were headed. I thought this has to be too good to be true, but I sent them a message after some social media stalking of course! And asked the question I always ask. “Hey I would love to attend your event, I am blind and have a guide dog. Do you think this is something we can make work?” And the answer I got back made my week! “Of course we would love to have you, we don’t have braille but would be happy to provide someone to help with anything you may need.” All I could think was are you kidding me, that is never the answer I get.

So many times when I ask about events I get answers like I you can’t bring your dog, or we are not set up to accommodate people with disabilities. The only reason I ask this question is to see if these are people I want to be around. Not because I need their permission.

I went to the event and fell in love with this group of women. The support and love that they all gave off was amazing. There are not very many times in my life that I have not felt a little like the odd duck out. (I mean I am a little odd and that is cool with me). This amazing girl gang of the best women you could ever ask for is RaiseHer Co. here in Regina Saskatchewan.

Skylar, Talitha, Gwen, and Marlene are a two daughters and their mothers who have founded this great organization. Both Talitha and Skylar were fortunate to have amazing mentors and leaders growing up in their mothers Gwen and Marlene. They wanted to share that experience with other women in the area. They found that there was not a circle or group that was geared to all women no matter what your career status, career goals, or where you were in your journey. They began RaiseHER Community to bring women together to help them to find their mentors and support each other.

The mission of RaiseHER Co is “to unleash the leadership potential of women through meaningful connections, professional growth, and inspiring experiences.” Along with their vision ” to build communities rich in female leadership that empower future generations to do the same.”

Their values speak to everything I am about and I can not be happier to have found this group of women. With their Lead Her Circles I have met some amazing women from all backgrounds and professions, the connections are real, authentic and meaningful.

Inclusion is top of mind for these women and in a society that many feel like they are always battling stigma to find a truly inclusive place is so meaningful.

If you would like more information or want to join this amazing girl gang check out their website at RaiseHerco.com

Until Next Time

Ashley and Danson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until Next Time

Ashley and Danson

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

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.