Christmas is my absolute, hands down favorite time of year.
Has been ever since I was a little girl. I would wait for Santa and hope he heard my Christmas wish. Then, growing up Christmas traditions continued and my love for this holiday deepened further. And now as a 44-year-old, I’m a proud, but pitiful knock-off for Mrs. Clause.
Usually, by December 1st, our home is all decked out. I put up the outdoor lights, although I don’t use a staple gun anymore. I decorate our tree, walls and windows. Hang pictures and hang stockings. But, with this year being such a tumultuous one for many of us, I’m a little behind.
In fact, my Christmas Spirit itself missed the first train…maybe even the second.
But then I realized we NEED the joy. We need the love. WE NEED CHRISTMAS! So, that means I was not going to miss the next train!
Christmas time is so beautiful. With all the sparkling lights, shiny bows, gift wrap and exquisite Christmas trees. It’s hard not to be in awe of it all.
So, when I was asked the question “How does a blind person enjoy Christmas?”, it made me think for a moment.
Do you hear what I hear?
Close your eyes and imagine for a moment nothing but the distant ring of winter bells. Maybe in a song or in the streets. I hear Angels.
Truly listen when you hear a Christmas choir or when children sing. I hear happiness.
Or how about when a gift is given? A gift of a smile, a hug, something desired from Santa or a hot plate of food. I hear gratitude.
Do you see what I see?
With just 1.5% vision, I am able to see the flickering of Christmas lights up close. The darker the room and brighter the lights, the happier I feel.
I also see my friends, family and community coming together to celebrate the holidays and each other. To share memories and make new ones. To give and to love and to “be.”
But most of all, what I see and hear at Christmas is the most beautiful thing of all. Love. It’s kind, generous and all forgiving. It’s honest and compassionate. It knows no limits and knows no fears.
So, how does a blind person enjoy Christmas? I actually hear, see and feel a lot during this magical time of year.
And, I didn’t even mention the delicious and festive food that makes it’s way out and on to my hips 😉
I hope you will allow the love and the joy to carry you through your holidays this year and every year to come. If you do, I promise it will be a beautiful gift for you and the people that surround you this Christmas.
Feel the magic. See the miracles. Bring the joy.
Tamara Gaudet is a thought-provoking, motivational diversity speaker. Known for her authenticity, humor, moving storytelling, she delivers a unique perspective and a powerful message based on her own real-life experiences. Tamara’s mission is to create a space where all individuals feel accepted, respected, and valued.
Obstacles can seem insurmountable.
Two years ago, if you’d told me that I’d be making quilts on my sewing machine, I’d have thought you were crazy, as I had learned a month prior I was losing my sight – now I’m Blind Woman Sewing!
Two years ago, I thought my independence was gone and I would need help getting from A to B – now I’m Blind Woman Walking!
Two years ago, I thought I’d be a burden to my family but I still can babysit my grandson.
I thought my life would be sitting around waiting for people but I’m often out and about and even have started new interests including blind tennis – now I’m
Blind Woman Living Life To The Fullest!
Don’t let others limit you.
Don’t limit yourself.
There is always room to grow.
Photo description written by Lynne: A quilt in progress. There are hexagonal blocks made from equilateral triangles laid out on a bed to work out the final position on the quilt. Each hexagonal block is made from five triangles in a single autumnal print and one triangle made from plain navy fabric. There are a total of ten different autumnal prints in this embryo quilt.
Lynne Nicholson lives in the UK – in a place called Welwyn Garden City in the county of Hertfordshire. She was diagnosed with permanent sight loss at the age of 55, and was registered blind a year later.
I met Lynne thru my GGB Facebook page and she always has great things to contribute to GGB conversations, (like the above). She is fiercely independent and determined to live her life with passion, not pity.
I came across this little gem on Facebook with no author. I found out that it was originally published on Where’s Your Dog? |November 2015. It’s brilliant, sarcastic, and witty. I thought it deserved to be featured on my blog!
Now, who’s in the mood for a little sight loss satire and humor?
1. When introducing yourself, use loud, exaggerated speech. Since we’re blind, it’s safe to assume we’re a little dim, too.
2. Don’t speak directly to us. It’s always best to talk over our heads like we’re not there at all, especially if you are offering a service. Example: “What would she like to order?” Be sure to ignore our attempts to answer for ourselves.
3. Grab or otherwise manipulate our bodies whenever and wherever you deem necessary. For example, if you intuitively perceive that we’re going the wrong way (even if you haven’t asked where that is) just snatch the nearest limb and lead on, Macduff!
4. If you aren’t in a position to grab us, you can always shout instructions in the hope that we’ll know what you’re talking about. If we look baffled, just keep repeating the instructions in an increasingly frantic tone. We’ll clue in eventually.
5. Remind us often how grateful we should be that people are willing to provide accommodations for us. While it’s unlikely that we will ever, ever forget this for more than five minutes at a time, it’s a good idea to slam the thought home when we’re not expecting it. It builds character.
6. Stage loud conversations about us while we’re in the room, because we won’t hear. If we hear, it’s okay, because we won’t understand. If we understand, it’s okay, because we won’t care.
7. Keep all conversation firmly focused on blindness. If we try to interject by discussing our education or interests, just redirect us. We get carried away trying to be all normal, so it’s helpful to keep us on track!
8. Be sure to describe all the other blind people you’ve ever met, in extravagant detail. We couldn’t be more fascinated by that blind guy who skied, and that other blind guy who went to school with you, and that blind girl you met on the train once—the one with the cute puppy…
9. Make a habit of asking us why we’re “here”. If we’re on the bus, ask us why we’re out alone. If we’re at work, ask us how we got the job. If we’re in class, ask us why we’re in university. If we seem offended, ignore us: deep down inside, we really enjoy presumptuous interrogation!
10. Dispense advice about how we should live our lives; the less you know us, the more valuable your feedback will be. If you need a good starting point, you can begin by analyzing our mobility tool of choice (cane or dog) and emphatically demanding that we switch. We love that.
11. Involve yourself in our love lives, specifying exactly the type of person we should date and why. If you think we should date a sighted person because they’ll be able to take care of us, we’ll want to hear all about it. If you think we should date a blind person because we should “stick to our own kind” we will be all ears!
12. Give us things—money, coupons, whatever—because you pity us and want to make our day better. Don’t be phased by any apparent expressions of confusion. (“Oh, that’s just my gratitude face!”)
13. Stop us on the street and thank whomever we’re with for helping/taking care of/being so kind to us. It’s not as though we have real friends who genuinely enjoy our company. No: if we’re out with a sighted person, they are fulfilling a purely charitable role. They will appreciate your praise, and we will feel extra extra grateful!
14. Place your hands on us in any public place and pray. If we gently explain that we don’t want to be prayed for, rest assured that it’s just the secular cynicism doing the talking. When our sight is miraculously restored, you’ll be the first to know.
15. Make as many potentially dangerous practical jokes as you can think of. A few good ideas include warning us of imaginary obstacles (“Watch out for that tree-just kidding!”), concealing our possessions, and encouraging us to “find” you while you run gleefully around us in circles. These were a staple of primary school, and I treasure many pleasant memories from that era. Do me a favor, and bring back the nostalgia!
16. Refer to us as “that blind person” even after you know our names. Blindness is so integral to our identities that our names are really just decorative, so there’s no need to remember or use them. If we fail to answer to “Hey, blind girl/guy!” just keep trying. We’ll learn to love it.
17. Assume that our default status is “Help!” If we reassure you that we’re okay, thanks, don’t fall for it. Insisting upon rescuing us every time we cross paths places us into a position of dependence, which is exactly where we belong.
After the great response to my last post “I’m Not A Fan Of Your Hands”, I wanted to feature this brilliant blog written by Dr. Amy Kavanagh to further educate others on the best kind of help for those with sight loss.
Many of you will be familiar with my #JustAskDontGrab campaign. I share my experiences of people who grab, push, pull and generally touch me without my consent under the promise of offering ‘help’. Check out my Just Ask Don’t Grab Campaign page for more information.
Today I wanted to share the best practice, the helping heroes, the people who really did do a good thing and made a difference. Here are my top tips on how to offer help and some of my best examples! To find out Amy’s top tips, continue reading at Cane Adventures!
Many people who are legally blind, including myself, appreciate those who want to help us. It is not any blogger’s intention to discourage anyone from offering to help a person with a disability. Feel free to ask, not grab – we like our independence and personal space just as much as anyone else! xx
I’m becoming more and more aware of something some sighted people tend to do because I’m legally blind. I don’t think they even realize they do it. They probably don’t know just how annoying and uncomfortable it can be. It’s a “touchy” subject, but I suspect I’m not alone on this one.
I’ve noticed that Some people feel the need to “poke” or “draw” on my arm, hand, or leg with their finger to further describe something during a conversation.
Also, some people feel the need to grab and forcibly pull my hand (or hands) towards something so I will better understand where it is and/or what it feels like.
And then, there are some people feel the need to grab me by the shoulders with both hands and spin me around to point me in the direction I asked to go.
For. the. love.
It’s annoying and uncomfortable.
I have personal boundaries just like you.
Please use your words, not your hands.
Not to sound like a bitch or anything – but, didn’t your mother or kindergarten teacher tell you to “keep your grimy little hands to yourself”? It’s a simple concept and one that should be easy to understand. Especially as grown adults.
I’m pretty sure there are at least a billion or so words in the english language to choose from. All you have to do is string a few of them together to form a sentence that describes a person, place, or thing, and speak. Have you heard of “audio description”? The key word there is “audio”.
When I was a young girl, my friends and I used to play a game. We would take turns drawing simple images with our finger on the back of each other’s shirt. One kid would have to guess what the image was as it was being drawn on their back. Hey, we didn’t have cell phones back then – so, we had to make up our own entertainment. If you grew up in the 70s – you get it, right? Anyway… We had to use our imagination and visualize the image the other person was drawing on us. Yep. Oodles of fun as a kid. But now, as an adult, not. so. much. I would prefer that you speak to me, not draw on me.
Since losing my vision, I’m the first one to reach out to touch and feel something. I’m like a naughty little toddler that has to touch everything! Just ask my kids after a trip to Target – they would agree! I use my hands to gather the tactile information I can not see. I might feel an object or the surface of something for size, shape or texture info. I might feel around on top of a table or countertop to find something – like a glass, a bowl, my phone, or a cork to a bottle of a fine cabernet, etc. etc. And you guys, I might have, just maybe, mistakenly felt up a live human or two. I mean, is it a human or a mannequin? The struggle is so damn real!
I need you to understand that my hands serve as my eyes. Notice how I use the word “MY’? Yeah. MY hands, not yours. Grabbing and putting my hands to place them somewhere or on something is not ok with me. Me, myself, and I, will use my own hands as I SEE fit. (No pun intended!) I would prefer that you speak to me, not man-HAND-el me.
And lastly, if I ask which way something is located, I want directions. Please suppress the urge to grab and spin my whole body around until I am facing the direction I want to go. I’m all for fun and games, but most likely this is not the time!! I would prefer that you speak to me, not spin me. If I’m not understanding you, then for sh*t sake, offer up your elbow and guide me!
As always, I am so thankful that you all do what you feel you need to do to describe and show me the things I can not see. I really do. It is not my intention to discourage anyone from offering assistance to me, or to any other person with a disability. Nope. But. for. the. love… try to resist poking, drawing, grabbing, pulling, or spinning me for descriptive purposes. It’s usually not necessary, or appreciated without my consent. Please use your words. Lots of deliciously descriptive words. Because quite frankly my dear, I’m not a fan of your hands!
P.S. I don’t speak for every legally blind person here. So, if you don’t mind the whole touchy-feely-pokey-grabbing-spinning thing — well, to each his own! xx
Recently, my daughter asked me a question. She wanted to know what one thing bothers me the most since losing my vision. One thing? Is there just one thing? I thought about it and this is what we talked about.
We talked about not being able to drive. Not being able to drive them, (my kids), to school, gymnastics, soccer, or whatever else strikes my fancy. I wish I could go to appointments or run my own errands based on MY schedule, instead of someone else’s day or the local bus schedule.
We talked about not being able to read things. Not just books, but recipes, price tags, sizes, labels in department and grocery stores, or OTC and prescription bottles. Reading is a part of so many tasks in everyday life.
We talked about how people don’t always trust me. Can I be trusted about what outfit looks great? Sometimes. Can I be trusted to follow a recipe? Sometimes. Can I be trusted to arrange things in my house? I say, Yes. Well, for the most part – I mean, it is MY house. And if I arrange things, I will know where the heck they are! I have so little control over my life. I want to control what I can.
We talked about what really bothers me beyond the driving, reading, and trust. It’s the “loss of control” I feel. I can’t control being a diabetic, but I can control (to varying degrees of success) my blood sugar level. But, Lebers Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) leaves me no control over what I see. Sure, I can magnify everything, but that’s not me. And as a result, I can’t drive, and I can’t read without magnification, voiceover, an assistive technology app or device. And don’t even get me started on my color perception issues. That also adds to the lack of control.
So, it’s really not just one thing. I think the loss of my independence as a fully sighted person would sum it up. As that is what most often comes to mind.
Dena is a wife and mother living in Jacksonville, North Carolina. She started losing her vision in August 2015, right about the time she was turning 40. After a very long medical mystery tour of doctors and specialists, she was finally diagnosed with LHON via a DNA blood test in April 2016.
Over the years, I have had to explain that I cannot see as well as other people. I use a variety of terms, such as blind, visually impaired, low vision and so forth. One that many people use is the phrase “legally blind.” People often seemed confused by this, so I thought I’d give an answer here today.
First of all, let me explain something: Most people assume that the word “blind” is very black and white. They think that you are either sighted, which means you see everything, or you are blind, which means you see black or nothing at all. This actually couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, most people who have vision issues, around 90%, have some usable vision remaining. Whether that is light perception, shadows or shapes, it is not simply “darkness.” So, to say I am blind does take a little more explanation.
Ok, so back to the “legally blind” thing. Here is the basic definition:
A person would be considered legally blind if their BEST EYE has an acuity of 20 over 200 or lower at its most correctable.
Ok, let’s break that down. Let’s say there is a person who has very poor vision in one eye but perfect vision in the other. Are they legally blind? No, since their best eye is better than 20 over 200 at its most correctable. Another example is a person who has poor vision normally, but with glasses or contacts, it can be corrected to 20 over 20. Are they considered legally blind? No, since the correction brings them above the 20 over 200 barrier.
So, who is legally blind? Well, basically, anyone who can’t correct their vision in either or both eyes above 20 over 200. Some people might have a lot of usable vision while others have hardly any at all. However, they would both be considered legally blind.
I have heard many people say something like, “I’m legally blind without my glasses.” To them I would say, “Well, then you are not legally blind.” The term “legally” here implies that you are now eligible for certain benefits because of your limited vision. (One other thing I say that doesn’t always come across so kind is, “Did you drive here? Yes? Then you aren’t legally blind.”)
Now, how do you get to be “legally blind” if there is a distinction? Well, that takes a doctor writing a letter and saying that your visual acuity is below the line and could be considered legally blind. Typically, you have to show this letter to governmental agencies, certain services like guide dog organizations and so forth.
I think that about explains the basics of it. If someone is calling themselves legally blind, chances are they have enough of a vision issue that it affects there everyday life. For example, they usually can’t drive, they might have assistive technology and they may or may not use a white cane.
Here’s the important part of all of this: no matter what you say about yourself, you know your vision the best. I often like to tell people that I have a “visual disturbance” as I am a Star Wars fan. But, most likely, if you are telling someone you are legally blind, you’ll have to go into a deeper explanation as most don’t have a clue what that means. That is, of course, unless they just read this blog post!
This blog post (and featured image) was originally published on Life After Sight Loss.