Thips for Halloween

There’s nothing I love more around this time of year than Halloween. It’s my favorite! The pumpkins, the decorations, and the costumes

Speaking of costumes here is a list of tips from braille works so you (if you’re an older kid who is blind) can stay safe while trick or treating. I always used to love that part and reading this brought back so many memories from when I was growing up. halloween safety tips for kids who are blind
Thanks for reading!

Be My Eyes for Android is now abailable.

This wasn’t the blog I intended to write today, but when I saw this I just had to share. If you’re familiar with be my eyes on IOS you’ll be happy to know that they released their Android version. If you’re not well… stop reading this post. :p

“What is be my eyes?” Be my eyes is an app that you can download from either the app store (IOS) or Google Play (Android) that basically helps blind people like myself see.

How does it work? Well… let’s say that I’m having a problem with my computer screen and I can’t read it because none of my screen reader software is working. I can open the app and make a video call which will then be picked up by a sighted person. (I’ll go through the whole process including how to sign up in a later podcast) The sighted person can then tell me what the computer screen says. Pretty cool, huh? Oh and here’s the best part. Even if you’re sighted you can download this app and help out people like me.

Here is the link where you can download either the IOS or the Android version of the app. As far as I know it is free. Use it wisely and have fun! Find both download links here Thanks for reading!

Hands Off: Defining Consent as a person with a Disability

Dear readers,
I want to address all of you today on an issue that has received considerable media attention in recent weeks in the wake of the Stanford rape case but that has largely (if unintentionally) excluded people with disabilities from the conversation. I want to talk to you about consent—more specifically, the questions and challenges that arise around the ways that people with disabilities negotiate consent.

In conversations about rape culture, we often discuss the all-too familiar problem of victim-blaming. Victims dress a certain way, speak a certain way, exhibit specific body language, consume too much alcohol, or otherwise “invite” acts of sexual violence. We also address the argument of self-defense; people question (and victims often question themselves) how they might have defended themselves against unwanted advances, which still places blame on the victim. If the victim had screamed, called for help, or physically retaliated, the attack wouldn’t have occurred. Yet any of you reading this who has found yourself receiving unwanted sexual advances can affirm that such claims fail to take into account how fear and shock can be immobilizing sensations, particularly if you’ve been physically restrained or overpowered by your attacker.

This question of self-defense holds particular relevance within the disabled community, for however independently we function, we can’t deny that our various disabilities can sometimes impact our physical mobility, including the ability to anticipate or react to threatening situations. I can only speak for myself and others in the blind and visually impaired community, and we face specific concerns regarding consent that the sighted community takes largely for granted. Anyone who has ever been physically intimate with someone, or even exchanged casual flirtation, knows that the rhythms of physical intimacy and communication rely as much on visual cues and the ability to read body language as on tactile cues. People show interest in one another, for instance, by smiling or making eye contact. The blind or visually impaired, on the other hand, can’t rely on such signals. In a relaxed social or professional environment where we feel comfortable, we often appreciate it, for example, when someone touches our shoulder or arm in a loud room if we can’t hear that person calling us by name. Yet many of us can also agree that we don’t appreciate being touched without warning, particularly by someone we don’t know well—even someone we do.

We all have varying levels of comfort with personal space. If I know you well, I will probably hug you; if I’ve never met you, I will more likely shake your hand and keep my distance. I don’t exhibit this body language out of rudeness, but more out of the desire to maintain the degree of personal space that meets my comfort level.

Physical and sexual intimacy have their own set of personal space ground rules. If you can’t see another person, you can’t see that person reaching to drape an arm over your shoulders, or to take your hand, or to lean in for a kiss. As such, that gesture might catch you off guard if the person you’re with doesn’t announce his or her intention. Recently I found myself in this precise situation. I was spending time with someone I trusted; he wanted to be physically intimate. While I gave my initial consent (initial being the operative word) to be touched, I decided not to move any further when he became rough and I felt uncomfortable. I attempted to stop him; he continued despite my protests. He insisted that he thought I was enjoying it; he insisted that I had given him mixed signals; he insisted that “nothing” had happened because he didn’t remove his clothes, so apparently, lying on top of me and pulling my hair constitutes “nothing.” His argument bore all the hallmarks of classic apologism—making excuses for his behavior that shifted the blame off of himself and onto me.

In the aftermath of the situation, I wondered what more I might have done to protect myself. Why didn’t I scream? Why didn’t I hit him? Why didn’t I fight harder to extricate myself from him? These responses, responses in which we blame ourselves for the actions of others, are symptomatic of rape culture. Rape culture indoctrinates us with the belief that victims somehow bring sexual violence on themselves through the way they dress, speak, how much alcohol they drink, ETC., ETC., ETC.

Friends, I want to make this point crystal clear: you are never responsible for the actions another person makes toward you without your consent. Never trivialize or allow anyone else to trivialize actions that make you feel uncomfortable or threatened. If you don’t consent when someone wants to hold your hand, and that person insists that “it’s just holding hands,” that argument fails to take your comfort level into account. If the person grabs your hand anyway, you’re being touched without your consent. Trivializing any action that makes you uncomfortable sets up a highly dangerous slippery slope; it’s the reason why Brock Turner only received a 6-month prison sentence for “twenty minutes of action”—a phrase that disgustingly trivialized the rape he committed.

To return to the concern I raised earlier in this post that not having the benefit of reading nonverbal body language can complicate a blind or visually impaired person’s ability to anticipate behavior, people with disabilities are uniquely situated to invite conversation about consent. While sharing my experience with a few close friends, we discussed the fact that at the heart of rape culture lies the problem that we teach the importance of self-defense without teaching consent. A clear understanding of consent would help to mitigate, if not entirely alleviate the need to practice the constant vigilance we’re taught to practice. Because the challenges of reading body language create a greater need to communicate the importance of consent, having a frank conversation with others about your comfort level with physical intimacy can be a productive starting point. I, for instance, generally like to stipulate that someone ask before touching me for the first time. Relationship experience has taught me that, like anything else, once I become intimate with someone and he learns how to communicate physical affection in ways that I’m comfortable with, asking or alerting me to the fact that he’s going to touch me becomes unnecessary. Such conversations serve the dual purpose of educating others about best practices when interacting with a blind or visually impaired person and defining the perimeters of consent. If you lay down such perimeters, anyone who disregards them is acting without your consent. End of story. Anyone who genuinely wants to spend time in your company will respect your wishes.

On a side note, I want to add that we tend to discuss sexual violence along gendered lines of male aggressors and female victims; this wrongly implies that men aren’t victims of sexual violence. As a woman with a disability, my understanding of and response to this issue is naturally informed by my experiences as a woman; however, the rules of consent apply to both genders, and the concerns surrounding consent that I’ve raised here are by no means specific to women. Men with disabilities can and do share these concerns.

Question

How can people with disabilities find voice in the conversation about rape culture and sexual violence? Share your thoughts!

10 Things Only Blind People Will Appreciate

I recently had the opportunity to visit an education class focusing on teaching students with disabilities and special needs; the professor, who teaches class around the same time that I do and has noticed me on campus, asked if I’d mind speaking to the class about my experiences. Sure, why not? They’re covering the chapter on blindness, and it would help them to contextualize the content if they have a real live blind person in the class, in the same way that it probably helps students to contextualize learning the anatomy of a frog in Biology class if they have one to dissect.

I say this with tongue firmly in cheek, of course, because taking advantage of such opportunities raises awareness about the ways that people with disabilities function and the challenges we face on a daily basis. The latter, I think, tends to generate more questions; for the non-disabled, living with a disability can seem like an endless, exhausting trek up a hill that you’ll never reach the crest of.

To that end, one student asked, “What’s the hardest thing, do you think, about being blind?”
“Everything,” I quipped, only half-joking. Rehabilitation and technology have helped many of us to develop sufficient coping mechanisms, and over time, certain tasks become easier than others, but on some days, we have to measure out our energy in exact quantities. Learning to accept the good days with the bad has taught me how to survive. Whether you’ve lived with blindness or visual impairment for your entire life, have recently lost your sight, or know someone who has, here are 10 things only people who are visually impaired or blind can fully appreciate.

1. You occasionally have days when you wear a black bra with a white blouse

And people will probably give you strange looks. Fortunately, you probably won’t be able to see them, and if you can, I promise, the sun will rise tomorrow.

2. Eyeliner is not your friend

Yes, plenty of women have offered excellent tutorials on applying make-up without sight. Most of them work. I’ve found this one the most useful. But applying eye make-up without reasonably good vision almost requires a degree in art and design, not to mention, if your eyes water as much as mine do, the result looks less like glam and more like…glob. Mascara I can handle as long as I’m not dancing in front of the mirror to the soundtrack from “Mama Mia!” with the wand in my hand, but I’ve given up on eyeliner unless I apply make-up with the express intent to traumatize small children.

3. People think everything you do is amazing

From cutting your meat to cooking dinner for a group of friends, the scope of your survival skills will never cease to amaze the world. No amount of eye-rolling on your part is going to change this.

4. You learn to find stress-relief in staircase wit

Because I haven’t yet figured out how to channel Oscar Wilde, my arsenal of witty replies to “You’re so amazing” never seems to be at the ready until five minutes after the moment has passed. Several weeks ago, a woman on the bus observed, “Wow, you can dress yourself.” “Yes,” I wanted to reply. “But most blind people live in nudist colonies, for their own convenience.” If these verbal zingers never find their mark, they at least challenge me to find humor in the situation after the fact.

5. People will occasionally accuse you of “faking it”

AS ludicrous as this sounds, sometimes, the public have a hard time spotting blindness, which makes me wonder how many people in the world need to have their eyes examined. That said, while most of us don’t consider blindness an “invisible” disability, if we’re not wearing dark glasses or tripping over cracks in the sidewalk, we “don’t look blind.” Here’s the thing; blindness is a bit like a box of truffles. We come in all varieties. Some of us wear dark glasses; some don’t. Some of us use a white cane; some prefer guide dogs. Some need neither. Some of us can read large print or identify people’s faces; some of us read Braille or use text-to-speech programs on our computers to read. In short, even if someone is making eye contact with you, this doesn’t mean that they can see you clearly, or at all.

6. You will inevitably misplace something at least once a week

Most people regularly misplace everyday objects: keys, wallets, iPhones, or purses. But when was the last time you lost your vacuum cleaner…while cleaning? I once had to abandon vacuuming to take a phone call, and when I finished, I couldn’t remember where I’d left the vacuum. Eventually, I found it…or rather, my shin did. This wasn’t as funny as I’m making it sound now. When you don’t have the ability to scan your environment with a pair of working eyes, such domestic debacles are par for the course.

7. Sometimes you can “just tell” where you are

While many of us who are blind or visually impaired dismiss the myth that our other senses are stronger, in truth, they probably are, not innately, but because we’ve had to learn to develop them. Orientation to one’s environment involves much more than being able to “see” where you are; sounds, smells, tastes, and textures also offer valuable clues. You don’t have to have your eyes opened to know when you’ve walked passed the Auntie Anne’s pretzel stand at the shopping mall, for example.

8. People will occasionally forget that you can’t see

As flattering as this might seem, it’s also irritating to find yourself repeatedly reminding someone that you can’t read that street-sign or see the direction in which they’re pointing. Case-in-point: several years ago, a student emailed me in advance of class to let me know that she would be absent. To verify that she did, in fact, have a fever of 102, she attached a picture of her thermometer. If this were an isolated incident, I might have thanked her for the daily dose of ridiculous and moved on, but it happens so frequently with the same students that I want to tear my hair out and bang my head repeatedly against a brick wall to end the pain.

9. You will learn not to order messy food on a first date

Pro tip: this applies to anyone, even those with 20/20 vision. Please, learn from my mistake. Once, at Moe’s Southwest Grill, the contents of a burrito exploded all over my blue jeans as I sat across from the man whom I was convinced was destined to be the father of my babies. I’m still not sure how it happened. “Welcome to Moe’s. You’re never going to go on a date again. Ever.”

10. You can’t do anything in a rush

Running in heels? Don’t try it. Speedily applying mascara? Really, really bad idea. Chopping vegetables? Even worse idea. We all know that sometimes life doesn’t allow us enough time to accomplish the tasks we need or want to accomplish, but when you can’t see what you’re doing, fast and easy is a luxury you can’t really afford. (Of course, I don’t recommend running in heels to anyone. Fashion logic 101).

Question

What lessons have you learned about living with blindness? share your thoughts!

ADA and related things

I am writing this blog simply because I have seen one too many instances where blind people with service dogs are being asked to leave. While at the same time I’ve seen other stories about people who are denied jobs ETC. I am writing this because I can maybe educate those who work at or own a business. Pass it on.

The ADA (Americans with disabilities act) prevents discrimination of people of disabilities and whether blind people like being classified as such or not blindness is considered a disability. That means should someone come in with a service dog you can’t legally throw them out. You might be able to ask for proof that the dog is indeed a service dog, but you can’t throw them out if the dog really is a service dog. (Someone who has a service dog correct me if I’m wrong, and provide the relevant information please) Like wise you can’t legally refuse to hire someone, refuse to rent to someone, because of or other wise discriminate against someone with a disability

Here is the ADA’s webpage should you require more information. Note: right after I post this blog that page will be going up on the favorite blogs and sites page. So by the time you see this post it should be already added. Assuming that I don’t become majorly distracted or my tablet doesn’t crash. So should you need this link for any reason just click on the favorite blogs and sites page, find the heading that says “Education and help”, find the site you want, and click on it. It will always be there unless this site gets taken down for some unknown reason, or for some reason the ADA’s site gets taken down permanently. In the event that happens please bookmark, or favorite this link *found above*.

Thanks for reading!

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