Growing up I was always keen on sports, whether that was running, football, rugby or pool. If it had a competitive edge I would give it a go. Always keen to compete I would happily get involved with whatever sport I could. I believe if you dedicate yourself to a particular sport then you can get better and better at it. The problem I faced was always which one to choose going forward.
Since I became single again for the 125th time in my life I have of course gone down the inevitable route of online dating. You may recall my earlier blog Blind Dating and Awkward Romance as being my take on the dating scene. Well tragically I am back out there again flaunting my wares like an eager fruit and veg man selling his bananas (no pun intended.
Ok maybe there was a little pun intended, so not only am I back on all of the usual rubbish dating apps getting morally beat down and made to feel like the world is against me ever finding a date again, I am also going out on weekends spreading my wings like a proud peacock trying to impress which ever flock of women might want to pay the slightest bit of attention. It’s tough.
So, we go out to the bar, me and my wingman are in place, pint in one hand, cane in the other. He identifies the target and we take aim. Well I say we do, I’m not really sure any more what we do. I have often felt the lead has gone from my pencil and I am instead scratching with a blunt instrument desperately trying to find someone to lend me a sharpener.
Eventually someone has enough curiosity to come over and say hi, normally to figure out why I am carrying a light sabre with me and what fancy dress party I had been too. After the explanation is given and they are now educated to my rather severe sight loss, normally they tend to disappear into the darkness as they probably know I won’t be able to spot them again. Perhaps if it were a light sabre they might stay a bit longer and I could use some Jedi mind tricks on them.
It is said that to catch a girl’s attention you need to catch their eyes. There are two things wrong with this and no, not the obvious glass eye joke, not even I would go that far.
1. How do you catch someone’s eyes when you can’t see them?
2. If you somehow manage to see someone you like, how do you avoid looking like a crazy stalker with your wonky eyes trying to figure out if she has paid any attention to your advances?
It’s an impossible job and regrettable one that I fear I may be stuck in for some time at the rate I’m going. I don’t envy the girls having to put up with my insanely bad dance moves; I must look like a right idiot. Given the only time I dance is when I have had far too many beers on board. I think I have been keeping Jack Daniels in business for quite a while now. But seriously, a blind, drunk and insanely bad dancer swinging his legs and arms around like a fish out of water must be quite the sight. Thankfully no one has filmed it yet, well to my knowledge at least. It’s no wonder this proud peacock gets reduced to a KFC eating monster wobbling home through the streets of Cheltenham at 3am.
There must be an easier way around this guy seeks girl rubbish that us single men go through. Why does it have to be the guy that makes the first move? I know it’s the old fashioned way and I understand that but surely every now and then one of you lovely lasses can turn around and say, ‘Cor blimey, nice cane, can I have a go?’ Again, no pun intended. Well maybe a little bit.
It may well be easier to join the monastery and become a monk; in fact, I think that’s what I will do. It would be a lot cheaper.
That’s it for now,
Until next time
Recently there has been a lot of people talking about the use of a white cane and it made me think about how I feel when using mine.
All of us in the Visually Impaired (VI) world know that just because someone is using a white cane or has a guide dog, it doesn’t mean they are totally blind. In fact it is quite the opposite. Research suggests that it is in fact only around 3% of the near two million people that live with some form of sight loss in the UK are actually totally blind. But society’s perceptions of people that have such instruments of mobility are totally wrong. It is a common understanding through most of the general public that anyone with said accessibility devices are totally blind. This is not true. Most of us have some form of what is known as ‘useful vision’. This vision that remains is what we use to do the things that others see as impossible for us to do as they believe we are totally blind.
I am a cane user, I have been now for just over 7 years. I have been VI now for over 11years and I have to say it really did change my life. You can check out my blog Moses of the High Street if you want to read my humorous take on life with a white cane. This blog however is focussing on the mental aspect of using a cane.
I saw a video recently where someone was saying they felt fraudulent using a cane as they weren’t totally blind. With society’s perception of sight loss assuming this, it made them feel awkward when thanking someone if they stopped to let them past. So, instead of being polite and well-mannered, they ended up ignoring the people that let them past and walked on by. In the past I have done the same. Ignoring the world around me and walking around like a grumpy blind zombie. Now this of course is not true, I am just a grumpy old man, but what people don’t realise about the cane is that it is as much for my own safety as it is for others to be aware that I have sight loss.
It is not the fault of us as cane users that most of the general population don’t know about the varying degrees of sight loss. So therefore why should I feel bad that I am being independent and moving around with confidence because of my cane. If I didn’t have it, what would I do? Well I can tell you what I used to do. NOTHING! I literally would get picked up in a taxi, go do whatever I needed to do, get dropped off in a taxi back at home and then sit there trying to figure out what button turns the television on and which one didn’t mess up the frequency. It is far more awkward to walk around sight impaired without a cane and bumping into things, be that A boards, people or even lamp posts. The cane allows me to navigate these inanimate objects with ease and people are usually very good and move aside so to avoid tagging of their ankles.
My cane gave me a new lease of life, it gave me the ability to do and try things I never thought I would. I don’t feel vulnerable anymore using it. But I do see where people are coming from when they say you almost feel like you have to act more blind than you are. I have done it before. But what is the point? By doing that I am just feeding into the negative stereotypes that besiege us all.
I say let’s educate the population. If someone asks, tell them. If you notice someone looking at you funny, tell them. If a parent walks past with a kid that asks, ‘mummy what’s that man got that white stick for? Tell them. Parents are seemingly terrible at educating children on the importance of such matters, it’s as if they don’t want to feel embarrassed. I’m not embarrassed, why should they be. I would much rather the youth of today grow up to be disability aware and therefore have the knowledge that disability is not a thing you have to avoid and be ignorant about. We ebrace it, so should everyone else.
Only we as cane users and guide dog owners can make that difference. One day we will take over and the many people who are stuck at home like I was will pick up their very own white stick and we can have our very own ‘Cane Pride Day’.
Mine changed my life, what did yours do for you?
That’s it for now
Until next time
I wasn’t going to write about negative things on my blog but after a recent post I put on the VI Talk Facebook page I thought I would put my personal spin on what is a serious issue. So here goes.The post read – ‘’How many VI staff does the RNIB employ?’’ A simple enough question that merely was attempting to find out what proportion of RNIB staff are VI. But the reaction was quite different to what I expected. I don’t want to pay too much attention to the disappointing figures but what I do want to do is to champion the cause for the abilities of those of us who are visually impaired.
Just because someone has sight loss it makes them no less able to do many jobs than our sighted counterparts. I know VI people that are computer programmers, office managers, chefs, care workers, cleaners and work in many other fields. I know of visually impaired pool players who are better players than most sighted opposition. I know of lecturers who have lived in the real world with sight loss and can teach people with sight loss because they have experienced it.
The abilities that many disabled people have are extremely underrated. It is not a case that just because someone is perceived to be less able that they are. In actual fact, give the person a chance and you will probably be surprised.
I don’t think I am too far wrong by saying that if you employ some who is VI that you will find they work harder to overcome their difficulties and will take nothing for granted. You will find that they are loyal because jobs are hard to find . but most of all, you will find that people who have the get up and go, and the drive to not sit on their backside living off the state will be more dedicated to working hard than most of the sighted team you already employ.
It is a simple fact that people are often scared to employ those of us with disabilities for many reasons. It is my view that this has to change. The potential for all of these people is huge and the adjustments needed are minimal. If someone has the will to get up and wants to work, they will be more than capable of explaining what support they need. Then you have access to work which is there to support people with disabilities not only get into work but to retain jobs as well.
Adjustments for sight loss are not major overhauls, it is not as if the whole of your building and staff will need to cater to a disabled person. We know how to live, what you think we do the rest of the time. We don’t just sit in the corner bobbing our heads up and down to the beat of a talking book. Many of us play sports, many of us have sighted friends that we go and see and I am sure many of us consume the odd drop of alcohol. Dare I say it, most of us are just like you. We don’t want and in most cases do not need special treatment. We just want the chance to prove ourselves and not be left to feel unemployable and useless in the job market.
I myself have a job, I have been employed for over 8years doing the same job. I am now also at university. People say I am lucky to be where I am, truth is, I am not lucky. I work extremely hard to do the things I do. I have spent years building my knowledge and reputation, but all it took was for me to be given one chance all those years ago and that gave me the ability to make a real impact. If you have read any of my blogs before, then take a look back and have a read over some of the things I have done.
I hope this message gets spread through as many outlets as possible, I wouldn’t normally ask you to share this but as this is not designed for laughter, I urge you all to spread the word as far and wide as you can.
That’s it for now.
Until next time
We have all been travelling in cars or buses when they have suddenly and without warning juddered up and down due to a pot hole in the road. The horrible sink holes that develop due to wear and tear that the councils never seem to get round to fixing. I am sure you can all name a few roads that, when you drive down, feel like you are on a small rollercoaster but without the same level of excitement.
I can think of one that, when my friend Dave and I were training for a tandem bike ride, felt like I was being attacked with a large metal pole in a place you don’t want that feeling ever. The bumps were at times so harsh you wonder why on earth you are making this journey and why on earth the tarmac Gods haven’t come along to save you from this incredible discomfort caused by the decaying roads. But at least drivers have the comfort of suspension and decent seating. The bike on the other hand was quite the opposite.
But it isn’t just roads that have this issue. Pavements are very much the same. As a visually impaired man that walks everywhere due to the lack of driverless cars, I notice this increasingly prevalent problem more and more often as I am meandering through the streets of Cheltenham. It could be a tree root, it could be just the fact the pavements have been poorly maintained. Whatever the reason, there is more often than not an evil little blocker that is just waiting for my cane to feed into its obstructive and sometimes destructive brickwork torture.
The problem is: I am a quick walker; not quite speed walking, but if you are in front of me and I don’t spot you then I may well bruise your ankle. Not on purpose, I might add, but sometimes these things just can’t be helped. When you walk quickly you have less time to react and your Moses stick is sweeping the ground in front of you at such a pace that when the dodgy terrain decides it wants to attack you, that’s it, you’re stuck. Your roller ball hits the obstruction, the pain goes shooting up your arm, your wrist is jarred and somehow you are a pace or two ahead of your cane. Your shuddering arm waves backwards trying to correct the error but for some reason your legs decide not to stop. Then with one swift wave of your magic wand of mobility, you straighten back up and boom, there’s another crack and the same predicament falls on you again.
The state of the pavements has caused me to bend and break more canes than I care to remember, and lord only knows how many times my balls have broken clean off mid walk. I wouldn’t mind, but I already carry enough things around and carrying a spare roller ball in my pocket may well look a bit odd given the size of them.
Wouldn’t it be great if everything was tarmacked? That lovely smooth run you get every now and then. It’s a bonus when you do come across the lovely, non-interrupted bliss that is a tarmacked pavement. Only to find it was merely a few feet of heaven before you’re back on the cobbles. Like giant braille dots slowly tearing the muscles in your wrists to pieces and bending the aluminium rod that is guiding you, into an un-collapsible and eventually un-useable pointless piece of metal.
The morale of the story is: it isn’t just roads that are in a poor condition and need sorting. Many pavements are as well, and we non-driving pavement dwellers would appreciate a bit of a fix up too.
That’s it for now,
Until next time
The internet is a vast and impressive beast, 27 years old recently. I was only 3 when it was born but now at the age of 30 I don’t go through one day without using at least one of its vast array of impressive features. Whether it be ordering shopping online, chatting with friends on Facebook, blogging my latest thoughts and silly jokes to you all or watching endless amounts of videos on YouTube. We all do it, if we had to live without it could we? My guess is we would struggle.
Have you ever found yourself out with a group of friends and you look around and there are 3 out of 5 people on their phones either swiping on Tinder or reading some pointless story about what other people are eating on Facebook. The art of conversation seems to have left the world. I fear one day there will only be conversation in acronyms. Lol dya know what I mean.
But when you look at the internet as a whole, it really has made life so much easier. You can instantly get access to so much information. Any time you are bored you can entertain yourself with hours upon hours of funny cat videos, and you can now control your house with your voice. That’s mad, I say this because slowly but surely we are slipping into a state of reliance on machines to do things for us.
Have you ever seen the film iRobot? I fear that one day the scenes from this epic film may well come true. We may well have robots doing everything for us. Over reliance on machines is making humans lazy and this can’t be a good thing. In the film the robots turn on humanity and grow real feelings, the way science is progressing at such a rapid pace who knows if this could eventually become a reality. If indeed robots become part of the norm we had better hope they don’t turn evil on us. Will Smith is only an actor. I fear he can’t actually stop hordes of robots from destroying the planet.
But it’s the thought of storytellers from years gone by who wrote about flying cars, androids and all sorts of weird and wonderful Sci-Fi goodness that is actually now happening. I wonder if the people creating these human replacements read stories from years gone by and immediately set out to make it happen. Who knows, but what I do know is the internet is here to stay. I am not sure what any of us would do without it. I like the idea of spending a year on a desert island without it but I know it would get to boring and I am not a fan of fishing.
Take a minute to look at how much time you spend online a day and just think how much better it would be if you spent that time with an actual human having a chat about cheese or something similarly fascinating to you. Go and see your grandparents, mine are all gone now and only wish I had spent more time with them. As good as the internet and all its wonderful features, it isn’t a replacement for human interaction and should never be used as such.
We all take to much for granted and when it is gone you realise how much you miss. It is said that hindsight is a wonderful thing, and it is. But if you are thinking about going to see someone or do something, then don’t procrastinate. Go ahead and do it. Don’t give yourself the opportunity to feel regret about anything. Life is to short and there are far more important thing to worry about that someones latest Facebook update or their latest snapchat picture of a a perfectly attractive person looking rather stupid with a dog nose. These crazes have passed me by, I just don’t understand why people think it is funny. Maybe I am missing something. If you are able to explain then please leave a comment.
That’s it for now, until next time
Let’s start with one of the big boys, the Prodigi Connect 12. A recent addition to the VI product market and a very welcome one. Straddling the immense power of a Samsung Galaxy Tab 12 Pro the Prodigi Connect 12 is a very powerful android tablet that is packed full of features to help anyone with sight loss. The main aim of this super advanced computer is to allow users to read documents in either crystal clear print or have it read to you in one of two synthetic voices. Using the Galaxy’s camera you are able to take a picture of any printed text and within seconds you will have it on your screen, ready and raring for you to make sense of. The Prodigi’s powerful text to speech engine gives you word for word accuracy beaten by no other text to speech reader around.
The text is grabbed into a separate screen from the usual live view and is then presented to you almost as if you were a newsreader reading out the latest news about something we probably aren’t too concerned about. This feature is great as you do not have to move anything, the machine does it all for you. All you do is sit back, or in my case as close to the screen as possible and relax whilst you read. Brilliant work from Humanware.
If, like me, you suffer with fatigue and can’t actually read for too long before your eyes start to itch uncontrollably after seconds of opening them, or if after a few minutes of reading your documents you wonder why you even bothered to get out of bed that day, why not have the information read to you. A couple of button presses and you are away. If you have ever seen the comedian ‘Lost Voice Guy’ you can even have his voice read things to you. If you haven’t seen him, then go to YouTube and check him out, he is hilarious. Of course these synthetic voices aren’t perfect but they are starting to convey emotions. It’s actually quite scary.
Another reason to go out and buy yourself one of these great devices is the fact that you can pull text from the internet, save it to the Prodigi software and get Graham to read it back to you whenever you wish. I realise this is the first mention of Graham, don’t worry, Prodigi Connect doesn’t come with some crazy stalker, Graham is the synthetic voice that comes along with Prodigi, nice chap.
As well as having the ability to get any printed material read to you, Prodigi Connect 12 is essentially a 12inch android tablet. The Samsung Galaxy Pro which in itself is an impressive piece of kit, I will not go into details but to have the ability to use all of the android apps as well as the extremely powerful text to speech software makes the Prodigi Connect 12 a must have if you are a visually impaired tech geek just like me.
That’s it for now, until next time – take care