Blind Reflections | Chrissy Terry

A family photo of the Terry family. Chrissy is the woman on the left, along with her husband and 3 kids.

Will Seeking Compassion And Providing Education About My Sight Loss Ever End? | A Blind Reflection By Chrissy Terry

“This is my long Facebook post from 2 years ago (2017). Every single word is still very true today. We are still seeking compassion and still trying to educate others. If you haven’t read it, please do. If you have, thank you! It is a great reminder about what my family goes through still.” ~ Chrissy Terry 

My Blind Girl Life | July 17, 2017

So, I share many moments from my life to try to give those around me a little perspective into the daily struggles and accomplishments of a blind person. Before I became blind, I knew one person that was blind, so I know most people don’t have a reference for this knowledge, nor do they understand there is a spectrum for sight loss. No matter where my family and I go, we can’t just shop, eat, or go to the beach without running into uneducated people. I say this not to be rude, but it takes a toll on you when people are constantly making comments to you or your family about your disability. For instance, the stereotype of if my eyes are not “weird”, I’m not wearing sunglasses (I do a lot, even inside when my eyes hurt, but not always), and if I’m using technology then I don’t “look” blind to them. So, what does blind look like? Helen Keller, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles? These are the references for most people. However, this is very, very inaccurate for 85% of the blind population.

Here is the definition of blindness from the American Foundation for the blind (AFB):
Blindness: A wide array of conditions ranging from a limited ability to see objects with special aids to the absence of light perception. Most people who are blind have some light perception.”

After just over 21 months of sight loss, I’m still getting used to it. When this type of loss occurs in your life, you don’t automatically know how to deal with it or know what is available to help you deal with it, if you have never experienced it before. However, you adjust what you can and use what you have. I’m still learning what is useful to me and what’s not.

In my family, we joke about my blindness because that’s how we get through it. I say we, because what people outside the four walls of my house don’t know is how it affects my family and the stresses we go through on a daily basis. We have faith, we are strong, we are optimistic, we overcome, but we are human.
No matter how strong we are, it often becomes difficult to hear people repeatedly say that they “forget I’m blind because I get around so well” or “I see you around, you must be better.” Well, thank you because I do try my best. However, we can’t forget, it’s a daily reminder for me and my family. No, I won’t get better, I choose daily to be the best I can each day. Every time someone screams at me because I have a dog and they’re afraid (you just scared me by screaming in my face and he’s in harness, he’s my guide dog, my eyes), every time someone tells me I shouldn’t take a dog into some place (kind of need him to get around and not trip or run into things), every time we go anywhere knowing we can never truly have a “normal” anything because things are different, it’s a reminder.

I don’t expect people to fully understand because most people have never been a young mother (yes, I consider myself young!) dealing with sight loss. For most, their dealings with sight loss occur in the older generation that have already raised children and grandchildren. Those people that have had the chance to see their children accomplish major life events, graduations, weddings, and such. As hard as it may be on those caregivers of the older, it is so much more difficult for a young child to understand why their parent can no longer see. Or for a mother to try to understand why her child can no longer see. Don’t get me wrong, sight loss at any age is a very life-changing, emotional loss that should never be downplayed by anyone.

My hope is that people will be compassionate, but many times that is just not the case. What people don’t see is that someone is usually with me giving me clues to what is going on and who is around me, or I’m using what I have (peripheral’s, hearing, smell, shadows, movement) to figure it out. I also use the assistive technology available to me to do things that supposedly “blind people can’t do” and I love the advances that are making things more accessible for me. There have been many caring people that have helped us and I am truly thankful for them, friends and total strangers.

I love the new relationships and deeper friendships that this loss has allowed. I love that I am able to share my faith with people daily because of my disability. I have always been independent and will continue to seek ways to do what I’ve always done and love doing, just in a different way. I love educating people about sight loss, guide dogs, accessibility, and overcoming, because that’s what I am, I am an educator and always will be!

About Chrissy
Chrissy Terry was clinically diagnosed with Lebers Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) by Dr. Nancy Newman, a leading expert on LHON, at Emory University. Chrissy lives in Hampton, South Carolina with her husband Brock, her two sons, and has a daughter away at college. On many days you can find Chrissy woodworking. Creating, cutting, and painting decorative art pieces has become a passion of hers. She is an avid runner with her guide dog by her side, and of course, she loves spending time with her family.

If you related to this, you cam also read Chrissy’s first Blind Reflection here – I Watched My Children’s Faces Fade As I Lost My Sight | A Blind Reflection by Chrissy Terry 

8 Reasons Why You Should Consider Attending A Conference In Person

There are so many ways to learn new skills, obtain knowledge, and network with others these days. For example, you can read blogs, listen to podcasts, watch videos, or hop on webinars or conference calls just to name a few. You never have to leave the comfort of your sofa, desk chair, or bar stool ( it’s ok, I won’t judge). So why would you bother with the time, travel, and logistics of going to a live event or conference in a land far far away? 

Hmmm. If that’s how you think, then you might be missing out on one of the best experiences of your life. Live events, conferences, or symposiums provide unique learning, networking, and community building opportunities that you just can’t find anywhere else. 

I have been to many conferences and huge events (pre and post vision loss), related to health and fitness, rare diseases, assistive technology, and LHON — and there are reasons why I make the effort to attend events in person. I just returned from my 6th LHON conference and let me tell you, I wouldn’t trade my involvement and experience with it for anything! Wait. Wait. I could sure use a personal chef and a chauffeur. Hmm. Nahh. Never mind. I’ve got some decent “wine in a box” and “ready to go” salads in the fridge and precious kids who drive. I’m good. I’ll keep the conference experiences! 

Here are 8 reasons why you should consider attending a conference/event in person.

1. Meet Experts And Mentors In Person

While not all conferences offer the opportunity to meet your idols, your chances are greatly improved when you’re sharing the same space. 

Sometimes it’s about taking a selfie with someone who’s influenced or mentored you, sharing an idea with someone you admire, or making a connection for your next collaboration.

I remember meeting several of my biggest fitness industry idols at a live event, and I thought I would die standing next to people like Charlene Johnson and Shaun T!! Just. effing. die! I obviously survived the thrill of it all, and the photos are somewhere on an old phone, on my computer, or in that Apple cloud place.

Those moments and photos could never have happened on an online fitness webinar. Nope. Never happen.

2. Sharpen Your Skills.

Sometimes you have to take a break from your dull job or routine to sharpen your skills. A dull axe won’t cut a tree nearly as effectively as a sharp one.

Whether it’s a fitness event or an LHON conference, I usually return with new skills and knowledge that make me more confident, current, and compelled to do more of what I’m passionate about.

3. Build Your Network.

Social media keeps me connected to my peers who are near and far. However, there’s no substitution for meeting someone in person.

Great conferences have opportunities for attendees to meet and mingle, form new relationships, and strengthen existing ones. By networking over coffee, lunch, or cocktails, you may make a connection with the perfect partner or prospect for your next idea or project. You may also find yourself sitting next to a new mentor or future BBFF (Blind Best Friend Forever).

If you don’t go, someone else will be sitting in your seat with who could have been your newest mentor or BBFF! Are you going to let that happen?

4. The Exhibit Hall Experience. 

Whether there’s an exhibit hall or just a few tables near the coffee and muffins, companies often have the latest and greatest whatever on display. At some of the assistive tech exhibits I have been to, walking around and checking out the hottest tools and tech is an all-day (or multi-day) affair. Learning about new devices, services, apps, and software that make daily life easier, improve accessibility, or give greater independence for blind people is not only educational, but fascinating too!

While undoubtedly these products can be found at their websites, it’s great to get a hands-on demonstration or be able to ask a company representative questions that are specific to your needs. Sometimes you can get special conference pricing on a product or service you have your eye on. No pun intended.

5. Step Out Of  Your Comfort Zone.

I suspect you won’t have a panic attack while reading a blog post in the comfort of your own home or office. You probably won’t break into a sweat listening to a podcast (unless you’re on a run), and more than likely, you don’t have to make small talk while that YouTube video loads on your laptop. Why? Because inside your comfort zone, there is no anxiety or angst. There is also no personal growth or magical unicorns handing out chocolate. 

While there are those of us who are born extroverts, for many others, live events can be a challenge. But stepping out of our comfort zone is just the type of action we need to take to change old ways of thinking. This type of thinking that has, at times, put us in a funk and feel like a failure and no one needs that. 

You can always invite a friend or two to go with you so you are not completely on your own. Did I hear someone say, “Road trip Bitches!”???

6. The Tales And Tidbits.

The thing about the internet is we believe that everything is at our fingertips. And maybe it is. But it’s an overwhelming amount of information that can be spread across many websites and may be difficult to navigate and comprehend.

I recall listening to several world renown Neuro-Ophthalmologist presenting a session called “LHON 101”  in a simple easy to understand format. What a delight! I’m sure lots of that information was already on the internet, but a good presentation will help cut through the minutia to deliver the best content and tidbits for the attendees to take with them. No internet needed.

Oh, and, there are always, I mean always, one, or two, or ten, hilarious tales to tell upon your return home! Trust me on that one!

7. The Energy In The Room.

There’s nothing like being in a room full of like-minded people. Other people who are willing and able to take time away from work and home to build relationships and learn new things.

When you sit in a conference room, you discover that you’re not alone. You’re not alone in wanting to pick up every nugget of knowledge and good vibe you can. You are there for it. They are there for it. That energy is lacking if you are sitting at home alone, with your pet iguana “Mr. Iggy” in your lap, listening and learning online. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just not the same energy and vibe. 

And, last but not least…

8. The Fun Factor!

If you’re not having fun, why do it? Right? Conferences are fun! Live events are fun! Maybe it’s what you make of it with like-minded people in attendance. (The introverts reading this may be rolling their eyes or going to their happy places right now.)

I’m not a networking pro. I struggle with finding the right way to break into a conversation with people I don’t know (and can’t see). But I’ve gotten better. I’ve gotten better by attending conferences and involving myself in the fun, fellowship, and frivolity. By sitting at a lunch or dinner table with people I don’t (yet) know, I’ve made some amazing connections. I’ve made even more amazing friendships just from chatting during breaks throughout the day. That only happens when you are there – live and in person! 

Some thoughts to wrap this up…

Traveling to conferences is not for everyone. Physical or mental limitations may not allow travel and attendance. I totally understand that. But, if you get the right opportunity, and you can figure a way to travel safely to the destination, you should consider attending one.

Conferences can be expensive and time-consuming. From the cost of the conference registration and plane flights to the meals and unexpected bar tabs you may or may not remember signing for – it can all add up. And that doesn’t even include the time away from work, home, and family. However, conferences and events combine a unique blend of networking, learning, and fun, creating a golden opportunity to invest in yourself.  Start saying yes to the opportunities and no to the regrets. We can go find those chocolate wielding magical unicorns later. x

*These are just a handful of reasons based on my experience only.

When Your Son Goes Blind | Camille Dolan

Featured image is a photo of Tanner Dolan enjoying Bahia Honda in the Florida Keys.

Every day, he continued to say it wasn’t a big deal that he had lost his sight, because “a lot of people have it worse than I do.”

There is nothing in the parenting manual that tells you what to do, well, ever. For me, each day was trial and error, hoping to figure it out as I went along (sorry about that, kids!).

Somehow, all three of mine survived their childhood, I survived their awkward adolescent years and I thought all the scary things had passed.

Of course, I was wrong.

When my younger son was a sophomore in high school seven years ago, he was doing well. He had good grades and participated in football, wrestling, track and cross-country.

He also had perfect vision, which is why I instantly became alarmed when he came home after a day of cross-country practice and told me the vision was blurry in his right eye. Another runner had come up on his right side, and Tanner didn’t see him.

I don’t know if I didn’t believe him or if I was trying to figure out why his vision was blurry, but I looked in his eye, searching for the eyelash or twig that was causing his complaint.

  1. If your kid tells you there’s something wrong with his eye, believe him.

Something wasn’t right, but I guess I didn’t want to admit that yet. I told him to take a shower; maybe that would help. I didn’t really believe that, but I was stalling for time and trying to calm my nerves.

By the time he was out of the shower, I figured I better take him to the hospital. He wasn’t in pain and didn’t feel dizzy, and the shower had not helped his vision.

  1. Trust your gut. If you think you should take your child to the hospital, do it.

The days and months that followed were a jumble of tests, doctors’ offices and constant worry. I also brushed up on my ophthalmology “skills” and would randomly ask my son if he could see or read something. I would helpfully point in the direction of the thing I wanted him to see.

He told me to stop asking him.

  1. Any complicated diagnosis is not going to be solved by one doctor. You will have to wait, just like everybody else. The second part to this is stay away from Dr. Google. He will only provide you with more anxiety.

When I took my son to Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, we learned that he had Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON), a rare, non-life-threatening retinal degeneration that causes varying degrees of blindness. By this time, a few months after his cross-country practice, my son was legally blind.

LHON mostly affects males and there is no cure, but because of the various mutations of the disease, some people regain some eyesight.

Every day, I asked Tanner how he was doing. And every day, he continued to say it wasn’t a big deal that he had lost his sight, because “a lot of people have it worse than I do.” His main concern was if he would be able to participate in sports again. He just wanted to wrestle with his team.

  1. Take your cues from your child. If he doesn’t think his illness is a big deal, neither should you. But if you must cry, don’t cry in front of your child.

His coach told him he would need a doctor’s note to wrestle, which we understood. The doctor told us he would not sign a release, because he was concerned that my son would get hurt.

“Then let him,” I begged the doctor. The risk of my son getting hurt was less than his sadness at not being able to play his favorite sport. Unfortunately, the doctor wouldn’t budge. We found another doctor who agreed to sign a release to allow him to participate in sports again.

Through it all, my son kept his sense of humor: “Does this mean I can get a dog?”

My friends and co-workers were very supportive and concerned. As I walked down the halls at work, people would stop me to ask about my son. No, his eyesight hasn’t gotten better. No, there’s nothing we can do about it. Yes, he’s doing fine. We’re all doing fine. There were always tears. Usually mine. It started to weigh on me so I began to avoid interactions with people.

  1. If you know someone who is going through something like this, ask them if they want to talk about it. Don’t give them advice – unless they ask. But maybe you could offer to bring them some lasagna.

We don’t know how or why, but my son began regaining some vision. A person with LHON generally has some useful vision, but with certain mutations, the mitochondria in the optic nerve begin working, somehow bringing partial vision back again. He is now able to read things up close but his eyesight is not correctable by glasses because his optic nerve is affected.

I’m still not sure exactly what it looks like through my son’s eyes, but he said this to me: “I may have lost my sight, but I still have my vision.”

About The Author:

Camille Dolan ’98 is a UCF Forum columnist and the communications coordinator for the University of Central Florida’s College of Health Professions and Sciences.

This article with the featured image of Camille’s son, Tanner, was originally published on www.ucf.edu on February 13, 2019.

Seeing My Way Through Some Big Life Changes – And Vision Loss Ain’t One Of Them

An unexpected diagnosis. Irreconcilable differences. Relocating. A career move. Aging parents. A new home. You might consider these to be big life changes, right?  Oh honey, that would be a Yes! They happen to people every day in this thing we call life. Sometimes our lives have to be completely shaken up, poured out, changed and rearranged to direct us to unchartered waters. Waters we need to swim through – despite our reluctance, uncertainty, and fear. I’ve been way off the grid lately, due to a big change going on in my life. Going through a major life change is really no big deal, said no. one. ever. It’s a big damn deal.

So, how can we best cope with big changes? Keep reading. I found an article with some good advice on that very question.

How To Cope With Major Life Changes | By Shana Aborn

When was the last time you had to deal with a big change? For many of us, disruption to familiar routine sparks anything from mild anxiety to extreme terror. Maybe something’s been pushed on us, like being fired or getting sick. Just as likely, we’ve made a risky but necessary choice, like relocating to a new town or getting a divorce.

Shift happens, like it or not—that’s part of the human experience. Then why do we resist so much? It’s partly a natural fear of the unfamiliar. “People think of change as something dangerous,” says Auriela McCarthy, author of “The Power of the Possible” (Beaufort Books). “But it helps to remember all the ways your life has been altered in the past and realize that not only did you not keel over and die, things often turned out for the better.”

Fighting what’s happening just leads to frustration and keeps you from growing to your full potential. “When you try to put your life in a box and keep it the same all the time, you’re making something dead out of it,” says Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., coauthor of Saying Yes to Change (Hay House). Welcoming new things can even be good for your health. “People who greet what life offers with curiosity have stronger immune systems and live longer,” Borysenko adds.

So how do you push past the reluctance and fear? The first step is realizing that even though you can’t control what pops up in your life, you can alter how you react. “When change happens, say ok. Learn and grow from it,” says Borysenko. Taking a live-in-the-moment attitude will help keep you from sinking into what-ifs and should-haves. Another attitude booster: Think about people you respect and love who have faced difficulties head-on and come out stronger for it. Reflecting on their success will open you to the idea that new possibilities lie ahead for you, too.

Ok. Let’s put this article on pause for a moment.

I’m going to butt in right here and spill the tea on why I’ve been a bit MIA on my social media pages and website over the last few weeks.

I’m going through a divorce.

Yes, a divorce. This is where my time and effort is going right now, as it should be. Which leaves me with little to no mental energy for posting on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or staying focused and engaged in the blogosphere. There is no way to balance it all at the moment. It’s a big life change and a difficult change at that. I do have faith that my family will navigate through these rough waters just as we did after my sudden vision loss 5 1/2 years ago. 

With that said, let’s get back to the article for what I thought was some good advice about this.

The most important thing to remember, though, is that you already have the inner resources to make the most out of anything that comes your way. Bring out your natural resiliency by taking a look at how you can deal with some of life’s major changes – including divorce.

Major Life Change: Getting A Divorce

Why it’s scary: Even if you initiated the split, or totally agreed to it, the reality can sometimes feel like you’ve lost a limb. Habits and daily routines once dictated or influenced by another adult are now up for grabs. “After my first marriage ended, I felt like I was suddenly living in a vacuum,” says McCarthy, who was inspired to write her book when she realized how much her resistance to new things had tainted not only her marriage but also other relationships.

How to deal: Refuse to let fear or anger dominate you. “If you’re caught up in being a victim, you can’t gain any kind of wisdom or take responsibility for creating your best life, because part of you is still locked in the past,” says Borysenko. “Once you realize you have no choice but to change, many interesting things can start to happen.” Now’s the right time to lean on your support group—even if you have to invent one first. “I made a list of all the people I could call and get together with,” says McCarthy. “I felt stronger and safer knowing I had lots of people I could turn to.

Instant sanity-saver: Exploit your new freedom. Try things you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t or didn’t get around to while you were married. Sign up for a painting class, join a hiking club, take up a sport, make plans to travel, or audition for a community theater production.

 Alright my lovelies, let’s stop reading the article. I’m going to wrap this blog up.

Well, now that you and all the other fabulous GGB followers know what’s going on with yours truly, please bear with me as I map out these new waters. I suspect I will sink a little and swim to the edge along the way – yet always looking forward no matter what other people think or say. (Note to self: Bring floaties, fuck offs, and assorted fine wines). 

I promise to be back interacting on social media and my blog more regularly real soon! Will I write about this experience? Hmmm, we shall see. Yes, pun intended.

❤️ Hugs! ~ Maria (GGB)

*Parts of this blog is from the article, How to Cope with Major Life Changes by Shana Aborn which was originally published in the January 2009 issue of Family Circle magazine.

Using A White Cane Gives Me Confidence And Safety | Mary Hilard

“When you are not totally blind, and you are not fully sighted, you live in a world where sometimes you can see, if the lighting is right, and sometimes, not so much.” – Mary Hilard

The Diagnosis

“You are legally blind,” the doctor said to me, after making the diagnosis of retinitis pigmentosa, RP. “Your sight will never get better and probably will get worse.” I was 18 at the time. Being a blind person was not in my life plan, but over the next few years, huge changes in my life plan would take place.

What To Do Next

The Ohio Bureau of Services for the Visually Impaired, BSVI, sent a counselor to get me started in my new role as a legally blind person. He introduced me to the talking book program, which opened the world to me. He set up lessons in braille, which would prove to be an invaluable skill. He also arranged for me to have orientation and mobility training (O&M), with a white cane. But that’s where I dug in my heels. I went through the training, but I knew I was not going to use that thing. It was to me, the sign of defeat, the image of helplessness.

How Wrong I Was

As I look back with my 20/20 hind sight, I see how foolish I was in rejecting the white cane. Many times, I would have been saved from embarrassing stumbling and fumbling if I only had used the tool that would allow me to not only travel safely, but also identify myself as a person who doesn’t see well. You see, that’s exactly what I was trying to avoid, looking like someone who can’t see, while in truth, I would have given the impression of a self sufficient individual if I had used it.

Low Vision, High Confusion

When you are not totally blind, and you are not fully sighted, you live in a world where sometimes you can see, if the lighting is right, and sometimes, not so much. People in your world are just as confused as you are. They aren’t aware that you can’t see, and sometimes they make rude remarks like, “It’s right over there. What are you, blind?” The white cane makes a statement. It tells the people in your world that you don’t see as well as they do. Becoming comfortable with making that statement is the key to success in using a cane. For me, it took a very long time.

Choosing to Use a Dog

I understood the techniques of using a white cane, and eventually, I became more comfortable with it, especially when I was around a group of other people who were blind. As a life-long dog lover, however, I chose to train with my first dog guide at age 37. By this time, I had lost most of my vision. Four dog guides later, I’m still convinced that a dog is the best for me. I can walk faster and with much more confidence, and I love the companionship. However, there are times when I leave my dog at home and take the folding cane down from the closet. When I attend conventions or other functions where there are a lot of people and dogs, I prefer to give her the day off. When I go to a movie or concert, I know she’ll be much more comfortable at home than jammed under a seat on a slanted theater floor. Even when I use my dog on snow-filled streets, carrying the cane becomes a useful tool in probing the piles of snow on the corners, to determine how to get over them without falling on my head. When I go out for a special dinner with a friend, a folded white cane in my purse comes in handy when it’s time to use a public restroom. In other words, the dog is my preference most of the time, but not all of the time.

Choosing Your Cane

I prefer a thin white cane that I can keep folded up until I need it, but there are several varieties to choose from. You can buy one that telescopes or one that is a solid stick. Some people prefer this type, because they are sturdier. You can even buy them with extra support at the bottom. There are several organizations for the blind that sell a variety of white canes, but it is a must that you receive proper training in how to use a cane.

My Identity

I am a person who is blind, but my blindness is not always noticeable. Even when I am shopping with a sighted friend, and I don’t have my dog with me, I carry my white cane. That way, the sales associate will understand why I want to touch the product before I buy or why I ask what color it is.

Not Just a Sign

But I don’t use the white cane just to let people know I’m blind. When I don’t have my dog with me, or a sighted guide, it’s the only way I can get around independently. On a cruise ship, in a hotel, or in an unfamiliar setting, the cane is an extension of my hand. I can feel where my next step will take me. I have visited homes where a flight of steps going down is placed in the middle of the room, a dangerous situation for a visitor who is blind. Here’s where the white cane is a must for me. I never thought I’d say those words, “It’s a must for me,” considering that when I started my journey as a blind person, I wanted nothing to do with the white cane. Now, my appreciation for it is proof of my acceptance, finally, of my blindness.

This blog was originally posted on Vision Aware – October 15, 2014. 

To read more blogs written by this author, visit Vision Aware – Mary Hilard

Age Is Just A Number | Learning After Vision Loss

After becoming legally blind at the feisty and fabulous age of 50, I thought there was no way in hell that I would be able to learn how to use my phone and computer in a different way – nor did I want to.

I was an old, I mean, mature dog, and I did not want to learn any new technology tricks! Nope, Nope, Nope. The terms voiceover, gestures, zoom, screen curtain, three finger triple tap, double tap, speaking rate, reader, invert color, smiling face with wide eyes and sweat drop, and many more, were confusing and overwhelming. Through a lot of turmoil and tears, and picking up my new iPad 1000 different times to give voiceover another try, I realized I had two choices.

One, I could just get comfortable with the fact that I can’t use my computer, iPhone, or new iPad and possibly become so pissed off at that “Siri” woman, that I would eventually track that bish down and strangle her. Or two, I could get uncomfortable and fight through the frustration and fear of learning – so I could stay connected to the world I knew. Obviously, I chose to get uncomfortable and fight.

I am now comfortable and proficient, well, proficient enough to do almost anything via the accessibility features and apps on my iPhone and iPad. I use the zoom and text to speech features on my desktop computer. Sure, I still get frustrated, but I am grateful for all that is available to learn and use, at any age, at any stage of vision loss.

The article below was originally published on Ophthalmic Edge and it really hit home for me as someone who lost her vision at a later age. If you are having a hard time adjusting and learning new technology tricks, you are not alone. Just know that life will be more enjoyable if you have the desire to pull up your big kid panties and commit to learning.

Because age is just a number. This I know.

LEARNING AT ANY AGE WITH VISION LOSS by Dorrie Rush

The path of least resistance is rarely the best route anywhere. There are untold rewards awaiting right outside the comfort zone. This is true for everyone, particularly as we age, and especially as we adjust to a visual impairment or legal blindness.

There is ample proof that physical fitness rewards us with multiple long-term benefits. Learning new skills is in fact, critical exercise for the brain. Just like weight training or cardio workouts, you will love how good it makes you feel.

Learning something new is a process we each have many personal references for. It is similar to our earliest learning experiences: learning to ride a bicycle, to swim, to skate or to play an instrument. At first, the prospect seems daunting.  You are inexperienced, wobbly and unsure. But the more you do it, the better you get. At some point, after a fair amount of practice, it becomes ingrained in your muscle memory. You can now do it without really even thinking about it too much. It has become second nature.

The way you approach learning can be applied to learning anything. For the purpose of adjusting to vision loss, let’s look at it as it pertains to technology. There is no good reason to give up the use of a computer, smartphone, or tablet because of a visual impairment. It means it’s time to learn a new way to use it, employing their built-in accessibility features.

Many people succeed in learning new things, and many don’t. There are 5 necessary elements to getting the job done and they do not require an inherent skill or aptitude. That means, saying you are not good with technology, for example, is not a valid excuse.

Here are the 5 key elements that converge in successful learners:

1. DESIRE

They possess a strong personal desire to learn something specific. They are not doing it because someone else wants them to. Learning to use an iPad is very broad and feels overwhelming. Learning to use an iPad for email, to read a book or a newspaper, is specific and manageable. It’s fine to want to learn more than one specific skill or application, but it is best to learn one thing at a time.

2. INSTRUCTION

They find tutorials or training. The options for instruction do not have to be structured or formal, they can be accessed by phone, online or in person.

3. COMMITMENT

They COMMIT to doing the work and get in for the longterm, determined to succeed.

4. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE

They are willing to PRACTICE every day for 1-hour, minimum. No excuses. Repetition is pivotal to the process.

5. RESULTS

They get RESULTS.  Successful results are the foundation for more of the same.That’s the simple but winning strategy. Do not forget you have an impressive portfolio of successful learning to draw from.

 

The article written by Dorrie Rush (and featured image) was originally published on April 12, 2018 on Ophthalmic Edge.

Tales From The Awkward Side | No. 1

Since losing my vision, I have said the phrase, “Well, THAT was awkward!” many, many times. Yep. There’s no escaping those cringy awkward moments. They’re a part of life – especially when you’re legally blind.

They happen all the time. And yet, the inevitability of a bit of awkwardness here and there, does nothing to offset the embarrassing feelings they can induce. 

A New Blog Series Is Here.

I’ve collected cringe-worthy tales from friends in the Lebers Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) FB community to kick off my new blog series, “Tales From The Awkward Side”.

We are not alone when it comes to awkward moments due to vision loss. A situation that may have seemed mortifyingly awkward at the time, often become a piece of comedy gold that you willingly share and laugh about. 

Join me in a collective “Oh no they didn’t!” as you read, relate, and recall your own awkward moments. Remember, if it didn’t kill you, it probably gave you a good tale to tell!!

Tales From The Awkward Side

“We went to a park at Christmas to see the lights with my family . There was a fountain and I thought my niece was next to me trying to look in, so I picked her up to look and the child said”mom“ in a somewhat scared voice. Realizing the child was not mine, I apologized to the mom and explained to her that I was blind and really was not trying to take her child! Thankfully the woman was laughing! My kids joke and say I probably gave the child nightmares. I felt so bad!” – Chrissy

My husband and father-in-law switched places and then I accidentally gave my father-in-law an affectionate side hug.” – Paige

I have had one of the best conversations of my life, with a really interesting person at a nightclub. It was a mirror.” – TJ Jack

One time, I was at Dollar General with my brother. He stayed in the car while I went in to buy something. I came outside, got in the car, and figured he had gone in because he wasn’t in the driver’s seat. Next thing I know, someone started honking, I look next to me, my brother was in his car screaming, “What are you doing?! Get out of that car!!!” I sat inside of some random person’s car, waiting on my little brother, who was in his own car. The cars looked alike (well, to me at least!).” – Alyssa

Once at church, I was walking around greeting people. I shook hands with a couple and began to introduce myself and have some small talk. They were laughing and saying their answers. I realized during the conversation that they were my neighbor’s from across the street whom I chat with constantly. They were just in a completely different situation so I didn’t even think about them. Luckily I played it off like I meant to introduce myself as a joke. I think they probably knew better!” – Derek

Ok you guys, those are just a few of the gems I’ve collected. There are plenty more tales of awesome awkwardness to share with you, so stay tuned! Meanwhile, I wrote about  a little awkward moment that happened to me – check out this blog from the archives, “Those Moments That Medicate Us”.

Do you have a Tale From The Awkward Side?

If you do, feel free to email your tale(s) to me at: GirlGoneBlind@gmail.com – and I’ll see if I can work it into the series!!

A few last words from GGB – because there is always that one person.

I am not publishing these tales to show that people who are blind live a life filled to the brim with embarrassment and bad luck. Because we don’t. Awkward moments happen to everyone, and if you can’t giggle and guffaw about some of them, well, you need to learn how to. When the awkward happens due to our blindness, I believe we need to hold on to our ability to laugh it off for our own sanity. xx