Get spiritually grounded together. It doesn't matter what denomination. Attending religious services is one of the best things to do with any companion. Special programs are so much more fun when a sighted companion is willing to describe the action! And if your blind companion has a service animal, the ADA says the animal is permitted entrance. They're allowed in restaurants. Church, temple, or mosque shouldn't be any more of a problem.
Make a joyful noise together. A few years back, my son and I were part of a community choir. I've also participated in a church choir, although not recently. Whether it's a denomination-based or community choir, a garage band, or symphony orchestra, who doesn't love making music? Can't carry a tune in a bucket with a lid and lock? No one will mind, if you're singing along with the radio or a CD in your own domain, lol! If you're vocally talented and brave, karaoke can be a blast - I got hooked last August when my uncle brought his karaoke machine to our family reunion. Of course, I did have the songs I performed memorized. :D
"Get jiggy" together. My dancing shoes are pretty dusty and my grace broke when my "hurry" did, lol! But I'm the exception. Your blind companion just might show you a new move! Loud clubs not your style? Check out your local dance school for ballroom or tap lessons, or check the phone book for jazz music clubs in your area. Too broke to paint the town red? Turn on your favorite radio station or CD at home and dance the night away!
Just talk. How many of us, in this day of constant internet, cell, and text interruptions, simply talk? Even more rare are people who listen instead of sitting poised to jump in with their next point. Just talking, and listening, to each other sounds refreshing, doesn't it? If you live far apart, the telephone can work as well as face-to-face. (I don't mean for text messages, either!)
Volunteer together. Non-profits are always in need of willing hands to share the load. I'd happily don a hairnet and peel veggies for a soup kitchen, or clean up after the meal - I'm a champion dishwasher. Others might prefer "policing" the city streets for litter. Perhaps you could see what help your local grade school needs or sort items for a homeless or woman's shelter. Use your imagination!
Get civic-minded together. Perhaps you could offer your blind friend a ride to the polls on voting day. Don't accept the excuse that he or she can't read the ballot - most precincts should have electronic voting machines. If your friend isn't registered, personnel at your county board of elections will be happy to help. Or, learn when the next open city council meeting is and attend, especially if the agenda includes disability or blindness issues. (This one will require just a little research.) I spoke last spring at a seminar hosted by our local Fair Housing Board. I believe my unique perspective helped enlighten at least a few attendees.
Be joiners together. The NFB (National Federation of the Blind) includes many sighted people. In fact, sighted people interested in blindness issues are encouraged to attend and join. But the NFB isn't the only group of which I'm thinking. A few years back, my children participated in a community theater group. Later, they joined their school's drama department. I helped with wardrobe, pointers, and moral support. Not comfortable in the limelight? Perhaps you could volunteer for the crew, makeup, props, or costume department.
"Take a Walk on the Blind Side." Once when I was working at Sinclair College, students explored the "disability experience" for a day. Feedback I overheard indicated it gave them better insight as to what folks like me go through on a daily basis. I was also pleased recently to show the cashier at Save-a-Lot that her card-swipe machine's number pad has a tactile bump on the number 5. It amused me to demonstrate something she'd never even noticed, lol!
Hang out and watch a movie together. I love movies in descriptive-narration format. There aren't many available, however, due to the expense of producing them in this specialized format. I miss the days when my big brother provided the dialog while we watched old Godzilla movies on late-night TV, lol! You can be your blind companion's narrator during any standard-format movie. This would probably work better at home rather than in the theater, unless you're really able to whisper clearly. Besides, microwave or home-popped popcorn tastes at least as good, at less than a fourth the price, as the movie theater!
Let your blind companion read to you. I'm a lifelong bookworm. I've never had someone ask to listen in on one of my books, but of course I wouldn't mind. A Braille-literate person could open the world of Braille books to you. And as Bill Cosby used to say in the opening of "Fat Albert," "You just might learn something before you're through." More Braille literacy - now, wouldn't that be cool!
By JustPlainJo from Springfield, OH
Editor's Note: Here is the first installment of this article.
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Just thought I'd post an FYI for BentCrazy: I submitted my first TF article, "The Ten Commandments of Dealing with the Blind" for possible publication in our NFB magazine yesterday. I'm just a little nervous that people who've always been blind might not enjoy my frankness as much as my sighted online companions! After all, I've only been blind 8 years. What do I really know?
Vaylmer, thanks for the tip. I need to ask if my small city's museum offers touch tours. I also need to find time to go enjoy one!
Bentcrazy, since I'm still such a newbie to the "blind side" of life, I'm a little shy about putting my work out for general criticism. Call me chicken! I serve and represent Jesus in my own quiet way. I'm doing the same as a representative of the blind to the sighted community, I guess. I'll submit something to our NFB mag, the Braille Monitor, eventually, if I can find the courage!
Jo you really should publish this in the Braile Monitor. One reason is it really would be published. Know Thriftyfun is good and all. You are a member of the best organization for blind and or visually impaired people out here. The National Federation of the Blind. I know you've created a monster. This one's only purpose is to spread 2 good news. One is the Gospel of Jesus. The other is the National Federation of the Blind and what we can do for the Blind and visually impaired communities.
Yay, I love feedback! Mulberry, I've been getting my Talking Books free from the Cleveland, Ohio, library for the blind. You're right, the players and books are 100% free. And I just signed up at the American Printing House for the Blind (www.aph.org) to download Reader's digest free for use in my digital player. Since I don't know anyone else with a casette talking Book player, that'll be one less tape in the landfill every month. I love that!
There's one thing I forgot to add: help write Christmas and other greeting cards. Since I hate asking more help than I have to, I found my own solution. That article should be coming soon, too. Scarlett! I have to heartily commend you for being such a great assistant for your blind neighbor. We blind folk love willing helpers like you! Big hugs!
I moved into an apartment complex where one lady in a wheelchair was legally blind; she got books sent to her but she didn't have control over which ones she got and was frustrated as they would send #3 in a series and not the 1st two! I told her the library had them, and could order them for her; went with her to the library; they set her up with a card; ordered the books for her she wanted (it was only 3 blocks away!)
I put a cloth bag over the back of the wheelchair; she would put the books in there; take them to the library; they would take them out; give her the new books she had ordered; she said "I feel like a queen!" as she used to love to read prior to losing most of her sight! We programmed in her phone the # to call for the state library; and she could speak with them and order the books on tape she wanted rather than just sending odd ones to her!
Went with her to the grocery store, and helped her get the groceries she wanted; got to ride with her on the bus to help her free. Went with her to the Walmart a little ways away; she threw her hands up when back at the complex and shouted " I did it!"
My husband is legally blind. All the suggestions are wonderful. One more that I might add is listening to talking books. These are available here in Mass. from Perkins School for the Blind, free & postage paid. The player was also loaned to us for free. It is nice on long drives to have a book to listen to.
Once again,thank you for more of your helpful information. Wishing you and your a very Merry Christmas.
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