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

Independence Can Be Scary

Hello Everyone,

I am a pretty confident blind person when it comes to getting around and traveling. There are so many times that people say to me, you are just so brave and are not scared I just can’t seem to get there. And they feel like they are failing, that they will never be independent because of it. So today let’s be real for a minute.

I am scared, I am terrified, I am anxious as all heck, I doubt myself, I doubt my abilities. These are all very real things in my world. It can be scary to stand at an intersection with all of the noises around you and trust that you are going to get yourself to the other side safely. There are many times where I doubt myself and stand there for two cycles of the light so that I can work up the courage to go.

When I go somewhere new for the first time in the same city, or a whole new city. I feel anxious and my brain gets pretty creative with what may happen on that journey. I plan it out, I  talk my self through the process.

Fear is real and fear is ok. It is how we push ourselves to do the things that we feel like we can’t do. I feel like there is no one sighted or not who doesn’t have some sort of fear, anxiety, and self-doubt at some point or heck many points along the way.

Fear is what can drive us to work through it and prove to no one but ourselves that we can do it. You are not alone in fear and you are not alone in doubting that you will get to where you want to go, but you are supported to get there and you will get there. Believing that you will get there and telling your fear to “watch me” will get you to where you want to go. Whether that is crossing that busy intersection, riding the bus, moving out on your own, going for that new job or promotion, or just living the life you want to live; use all those feelings to propel you to where you want to be.

YouTube video of me crossing a street and having a little chat with you and my dog Rick .

Until Next Time

Ashley and Rick

Three Rules To Remember About Service Dogs…

img_3909

Rule One : IGNORE

So many times people will approach a service dog team and want to say hello to the dog. Or interact with the dog by talking to them and saying things about how good they are or how cute. The problem with this is that you are getting the dogs attention and when you have the dog’s attention they are not paying attention to the handler thus putting the handler in a dangerous situation. Simply ignore the dog if you think the dog is cute or doing a good job, by all means, make that comment to the handler. We love to get compliments about our dogs they are like our children we are proud mamas and papas.

img_4254

Rule Two: IGNORE

Petting a service animal is not ok ever. Even if my guide dog is laying under a table, if we are in public he is working. Never come up and just start petting them. Also saying things like, “I know I shouldn’t pet them, but he is just too darn cute.” does not make it okay, in fact, that is worse. If you absolutely can not walk by and feel the desire to pet them ask the handler first. Remembering that there is a person on the other end of the leash is key. Treat the person on the other end of the leash with the respect you would want to be treated with when you are in public.

Put yourself in my shoes for a moment; It is the end of a busy day and I need to grab a couple of things from the store, I run into the store and get stopped at least five times. People are stopping me because they are curious about my dog or they want to tell me about the lab they used to have as a kid, or even about a blind person they knew back in the day. I am glad that we can connect however I am in a rush to get home to my kids and make supper, I am exhausted and before coming into the store I have been stopped by prob 10 people before you today. It is exhausting sometimes we just want to run into the store and get some milk and leave, just like you. Could you imagine if you were stopped 10-15 times a day just for someone to make a random comment (not always nice) on the way you are traveling or about how cute your shoes are and could they touch them.

IMG_3521

Rule Three: IGNORE

Making comments or suggesting that we are treating our dogs poorly because we are out in the winter, or rain, or just working a dog, in general, is not ok. guide dogs and other service dogs are treated better than you could ever imagine. They are spoiled rotten, given more love, attention, and affection than you could ever imagine. They love to work and love being with their handler.

If you ever come across a guide dog or service dog know that they are treated like a king or queen and that we are more than grateful for what they do for us. Living with a disability is a challenge but being able to have the assistance of a dog makes all the difference in independence and freedom for those that choose to have a service dog.

Life with a service dog can be complicated when people do not ignore the dogs. When you see me and my Guide Dog act as if I am using a white cane. You would never pet, make kissy noises, stop me to talk about my white cane so if you act as if I was using a white cane, service dog handlers will be forever grateful.

I hope that these 3 simple rules make it easy for people to remember to respect and interact appropriately with service dogs of all types.

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?”

thomas03142016-31
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.

joy-thomas-7
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.

joy-thomas-5
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.

joy-thomas-4

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.

joy-thomas-3

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:

Double Vision Blog
Twitter
Facebook

Blind Travel

IMG_3547

I have heard so many times that people who are blind or partially sighted can not travel alone or go sight seeing because they would be missing out on so much around them. I am all about proving people wrong so today I am going to give you a little insight into the trip I am currently on.

I left for the air port at 3:00 am on Wednesday June 1st 2016 and had my husband drop me off at the counter. After asking for some help from the air line I was at my gate and ready to go ! Rick and I got a coffee (which was a priority that early ) and waited for our plane. In Canada we are given a second seat so that your service animal has more room at your feet which is much appreciated by both Rick and I as he takes up a lot of room and does not fit under the seat in front of us. Rick travels really well and curls up at my feet and has a nap. This trip we had seats in the last row of the plane and there is no seat right beside the window which gave Rick much more room which was nice and he also enjoyed looking out the window !

Photo description – First photo is of Rick yellow lab laying on the floor waiting at the gate at the airport, photo two is of Rick curled up on the floor at my feet on the airplane and photo three is Rick sitting looking out the window of the plane.

I love to travel and I love to travel alone. I think there are stressful parts of travelling but that is the case even when you can see. The thing I love about it is that it is my choice, I can decide to go or not to go. Being able to live my life my way is very important to me. I want to go to new places and meet new people and visit friends and family and show people everywhere what I am capable of and the more I travel the more I will be able to do that.

I also quite enjoy sight seeing this may seem a little weird to some because I can’t see, but when people describe things to me I enjoy it, but I also experience the places a little differently. Like today my mom and I were able to go to Parliament Hill in Ottawa Ontario and tour the buildings and sit in on Question Period. I don’t feel like I missed anything! I enjoyed the sounds around me the smell of the library (which was heaven, I love books), the sound of the people around us the the feel of the brick on the walls and the texture of the statues. The energy during question period was great just listening in was a huge highlight for me. As the person giving us a tour was describing the things around me I was able to take it all in. My experience was no less exciting just because I could not see what was around me. I think that people forget that we have more than one sense.

Photo description – photo one is of Rick and I standing at the gate to parliament hill, photo two is Rick and I standing on the stairs under the peace tower, photo three is of Rick and I standing at the John A McDonald statue, photo four is of my mom, Rick and I standing in the beautiful library in the parliament building.

Walking down the streets of a new city is a great experience, hearing the sounds of the crowded streets, music and the smell of the restaurants and coffee shops. I can sniff out a good coffee shop like no ones business ! Going into new shops and browsing, even without sight I throughly enjoy shopping.

Our trip has just begun and we are going to be taking it all in and enjoying every moment !

Until Next Time !
Ashley and Rick