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

Guest Post – DoubleVisionBlog

“I don’t understand why I didn’t get the job,”

I said to my supervising teacher, “You gave me such stellar reviews from e and goals really well in my interview. I have a 4.0 GPA, and the students loved me! Did the principal say anything to you about why he didn’t hire me?”

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Photo Credit: Morry Angell, Guide Dogs for the Blind
My supervising teacher hesitated.

“Well, um, he did mention that you didn’t maintain strong eye contact throughout the entire interview. He said your eyes didn’t always follow where he was pointing when he was explaining the school set up. He said your eyes kind of trailed off, and it made him skeptical about you.”

Her words came as a swift, unexpected punch in the gut.

That was 13 years ago, and I cringe thinking about the conversation, but not because I am embarrassed about my eyes, like I was then. I cringe now because I remember how much time and energy I wasted trying to hide my vision loss.

The principal had no idea that I literally couldn’t see his finger when he moved it even a half inch to either side, much less follow the sweeping motion of his hands. My supervising teacher knew about my loss of peripheral vision and even that I was legally blind, but I had asked her not to say anything because I didn’t want it to keep me from getting hired. I didn’t use a cane in my interviews, or really much at all at that point in my life because I didn’t want to look “blind”.

Fortunately, my supervising teacher did not listen to me when I went to my next interview, choosing instead to mention my vision loss as one of my strengths, stating how hard I worked and how well I communicated with the students to compensate for my vision loss.

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Photo Credit: Morry Angell, Guide Dogs for the Blind
That principal hired me.

I held my own as a middle school English teacher for several years, but I continued to struggle much more than I needed to because I still spent a great deal of time and energy trying to do everything the “sighted” way. I still felt very ashamed of my vision loss, and I think that came across to my students and colleagues. I always felt that I was just one incident away from disaster. I had several incidents where parents thought I had purposely ignored them in passing, and one even complained to the school dean about it. These incidents unnerved me and made me feel like people were getting closer and closer to finding out the truth about me. The truth that, because of my eyesight, I was incompetent.

When a 7th grader with special needs fell asleep while I was reading a book to the class, and I failed to notice him sleeping outside of my line of vision, the special education teacher’s aide reported this to her, and she stormed into my classroom and demanded an explanation. I spoke with her privately about my vision, and she was irate and said that she couldn’t trust her students with special needs in my classroom. I became terrified that she would “tell on” me to administration, and since the principal who hired me was no longer there, I wasn’t quite sure if the new principal even knew that I was visually impaired and how he would feel about it. Since I was still one year away from earning tenure, I knew that the school could legally lay met off at any time, without giving any reason, so I would never even have a case if anyone discriminated.

So, despite my outstanding observation reviews and the fact that I was a creative, organized teacher and had spent 2 years and a small fortune getting my master’s degree, I chose to resign from my job. My reasons for leaving were numerous, and as a new mom who wanted to spend more time with my baby girl, my reasons made sense to all those around me. It’s just that no one, aside from my husband a couple close friends, knew that fear and shame were among the top reasons I chose to resign. I figured that if I were the one who quit, there would be no chance of me ever being fired.

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Photo Credit: Morry Angell, Guide Dogs for the Blind

I was consumed with blending in and not appearing weak, which took away all of my strength.

Thankfully, I’ve come a long way over the past 9 years since I left my teaching job. I now get around very well with the help of a guide dog. I have also gone through training in technology and other life skills to make everyday living more accessible.

Ironically, now when I use my guide dog, people continue to make comments about my eye contact, except the exact opposite opinion from that first principal. “But you don’t LOOK blind. You’re looking right at me and making eye contact!”

That’s the tricky thing about degenerative eye conditions like Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). Whether you’re using a mobility tool or not, people are constantly asserting that you have “not enough” or “too much” vision. It’s akin to visual purgatory.

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When you linger between the worlds of sight and complete darkness long enough, a few things become apparent.

There are certain tools available, such as canes and dogs and magnifiers and smartphones, that can be helpful and do not have to define you.
The general public has a very black and white view of blindness, and when we’re out in the world, living our lives with whatever tools help us, we are often educating people about the wide spectrum of sight loss.
Sharing stories of vision loss helps connect us and changes stigmas about blindness
I’d like to say that shame over vision loss is something that I just woke up having conquered one day, but the truth is that it has been a lengthy process. And on certain days, it still takes a lot of awareness, reflection and self-compassion.

I cannot pinpoint one breaking moment, or even one particular thing that helped me move forward. It was a series of breaking moments and a series of steps forward. Part of it was having my daughters and wanting them to grow up with a happy mommy; part of it was sharing stories with my twin on our blog; part of it was getting a guide dog.

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Photo Credit: Morry Angell, Guide Dogs for the Blind

It was only when I began to lean into that part of myself that I always thought of as flawed that it truly began to lose power over me.

I may not be teaching in a classroom right now, but I am now confident enough that I could go back at any point in the future, For now, I am homeschooling my 2 daughters, who are growing up with a mom who doesn’t let the stigma of blindness stand in her way.

And they don’t seem to care whether I make too much eye contact, or not enough. I hear them tell their friends their mom is “half blind”, and I suppose that is half true. I am not concerned with correcting them or having the most accurate label to describe me and my vision. My only concern now is living the most authentic life possible and spreading the message that we do not need to be ashamed of blindness.

Be sure to connect with Joy and her twin Jenelle on their social media accounts:

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Depression and Blindness

There are many people out there that once they find out I am blind assume that I am miserable and live a horrible life. I have really made it my mission to show people the positive side of blindness and that I don’t live a miserable life. I wake up every day and live my life the way I want, I do not sit in a rocking chair listening to the radio.

There is a side to my life that I am not always as willing to speak about and that is that I suffer from depression, my blindness and my depression however are not related. I am not depressed because I am blind, I am not depressed because I feel like I am missing out on life and my family. My depression is something that I have struggled with my whole life. Many times when I get depressed it is because I don’t feel like I am pushing myself hard enough or that I am not on the path in life that I feel like I should be on. I can be my worst critic and I am very hard on myself to succeed.

There are many people out there that suffer from depression even if they do not live with a disability. I believe that it is an important thing to talk about and to not hide because when we speak about it we break down the stigma behind mental illness. There is no shame in taking medication to help you deal with mental illness, it also does not make you less of a person.

We all have struggles that we need to work through and overcome, the way that we deal with those struggles will determine how you come out on the other end.

So many times with social media we look at Facebook or Twitter or even Instagram and think wow I wish my life was as good as theirs or I wish I had their life. The thing to remember is that we all can portray whatever we want on social media. Most people will not post the truth and the ugly that is in their life. I think it is very important to show people the good the bad and the ugly because that is reality. That reality will make us stronger it will make us better people.

There is a silver lining to the days that I am just really struggling to see the positive things around me, and that is that Rick (my Guide Dog) seems to know when I am feeling down and he gives extra cuddles and extra love and can usually help me see the positive things all around me. There are many different parts of my life that make me the person I am and I am proud of all of them.

I hope that if any of you are struggling in any way you are able to look at the positive things around you and take the time to be the best you.

Until Next Time
Ashley and Rick

One Step at a Time

There are days when you decide that you are not going to sit back and take life as it comes to you but rather take life and make it your own.

Lately I have been reminded that life is mine to take, it has not been easy and it has not been without many days of doubt and frustration. However it has been a great experience thus far.

When taking on a new challenge there are always going to be obstacles in the way. When you have a disability that requires you to make adaptions to every day life you will run into challenges. It is what you do with those challenges that will make all the difference. There is always a way to make it work. Now that may not always come easy, it may take many days of frustration, anger, tears and many more emotions but when you overcome that challenge and figure it out there is nothing that will compare.

There are still times when I fall into the trap of feeling like “if I could just see” and that is not a place that I like to be in. I try to do my absolute best to stay away from those words. I am human though and I will find myself thinking “this would be so much easier if I could just see”. When that happens it is time to remind myself that I can do so many things and have done so many things, this is just a set back and in time I will figure it out and I will be on my way to the next challenge very shortly. If it comes too easily we don’t appreciate it so the harder I have to work for it the better off I am.

So many people feel alone in their blindness and that people just don’t understand. They really don’t, and they never will. They can not fully feel how you feel as they don’t have the same experiences in life that you do, even if they put on a blind fold for a little while they still have only a small glimpse of your reality. Because at the end of the day they can take that blind fold off and see the world through their eyes. But remembering that sight does not mean that you are better or worse than someone else it is what you do with your experiences and your life that make you special.

I am hoping by me sharing my experiences with my own disability I can help even one person feel like they are not alone but part of an amazing adventure in life.

Until Next Time !

Ashley and Rick IMG_2977

Bullying Awareness

It is national pink shirt day – this day brings awareness about bullying and the impact that it has on kids and teens today. As someone who was bullied throughout school, I know how many kids and teens feel when they are being bullied.

When I was in school, I was an easy target for many bullies. I had a disability and this made me different. I was born with a form of Albinism that left me legally blind. I also had a nystagmus which causes the involuntary movement of your eyes. The constant movement in my eyes made me turn my head to the side because this was the place that my eyes shook the least, which in turn make it a little easier to see.

Because of my low vision, I needed many adaptions in school, like larger text books and work sheets. I needed to sit at the front of the room to get extra help because I could not see. When I got to high school the adaptions I used got to be more prominent and made me stick out even more to my classmates. I had to have very large text books and use paper that had thick black lines on it. I also had to have teachers read what they were putting on the board. In grade ten when the work got harder and my vision got worse, I needed to have a teacher’s aid to help me blow things up or explain the things that I was missing. Again, this was hard for me because it made me stick out even more than before.

I had a hard time with friends and desperately wants to fit in with my classmates and just be accepted. Every day I dreaded going to school. At night, I would lay awake hoping that I would be sick or there would be any reason for me not to have to go to school. I ended up pretending to be sick quite a bit in school just to avoid having to go.

I went through many years of depression during this time. I finally tried to reach out to a teacher and tell them how I was feeling and that I was considering suicide, I never go the help I needed. Because of the bullying, I had no self-esteem or confidence and was very, very depressed.

These along with many more incidents stand out in my head. Even today, as a 31-year old, the memories make me cringe.

People always think that bullying like this happens more in High School, but the truth is, that it can start very early in elementary school. I can recall instances in grade one and two. For example, I had to have eye surgery when I was seven to try to tighten the muscles in my eyes to help my nystagmus. This was a difficult time for me, because after the surgery, I could not see anything for about four weeks. After returning to school, my eyes were very red and as a result I was not allowed to go outside for recess. When I would sit in the hall playing a game for recess many kids walked by me and would kick the game all over the place and laugh and call me names such as freak, crazy eyes, vampire (because my eyes were red) and albino. This was when I began to pretend to be sick so that I did not have to endure this every day.

Things like this happened many, many times throughout my time in school and only escalated as I got older. Many kids would make fun of me not being able to see and would ask me how many fingers they were holding up while moving them and then laugh. Other times I would be walking down the hallways and they would stick their foot out and trip me or move something on my desk so I could not find it. This kind of torture went on day in and day out. The sad thing is this continued for the next 10 years until I finally graduated from high school.

The bullying I experienced affected me even after I graduated from high school. I decided once Ii was done school that no one would ever know that I had a disability and I hid it from many people. I never told employers I rarely told new friends. I did whatever it took to hide the fact that I could not see. I even went as far as to memorize the eye chart so that my eye doctor would think that my vision had improved. It took losing the rest of my vision to see that I had value, and I was a great person. I realized not only was I living a lie but, I was the only one suffering. I was also sending the message to my kids that it was okay to pretend to be something you are not. I decided that I needed to prove to myself and my kids that I was a stronger person and I had many things to offer to this world.

Once I decided to take back control of my life I was able to get some help with the depression. Talking about the struggles with my blindness helped me to truly accept and love myself despite my past bullying experiences and my disability. As well, I began to accept my vision loss because it was worse than it had ever been. I had lost the rest of my vision and was only able to see small amounts of light. This was a huge adjustment and there was no more hiding my vision loss.

The saying that we tell kids: “stick and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.” This is the farthest from the truth. Words hurt. Words can kill. I want people to realize that words can push someone over the edge, that you are not any better than anyone else and you don’t know what anyone is going through at home so don’t judge or make fun of people.

Sometimes people bully others not realizing what they are doing or how they are making people feel. They do this by saying things like “you know the blind girl” or even “that cripple”, “the albino at the office”. These are all very hurtful things to say and it equivalent to racism. It should not be acceptable to talk about PEOPLE this way.

When anyone makes fun of someone, they are tearing that person down with every word. You could be the reason that they have no self-esteem or confidence. We as people need to learn from a very young age that building people up is what we should be doing, not tearing them down.

Treating everyone as an equal, with respect and compassion, will take us very far in our lives. If you bully someone for having a disability or being different, you are telling the world that it is not okay to be different. When in fact, if we were all the same it would be a very boring world. Our differences are what make us unique and amazing people.

If you are being bullied, I encourage you to reach out for the help you need and keep reaching out until someone will listen. You are worth it. You are an amazing person and you have so much to offer the world.

Whether you are a child or an adult, what you say and do is very important. We should each take a look at how we treat people on a daily basis and ensure that we think before we speak. Our words do “hurt” ! Treat other how you want to be treated.