Here are a few more things I've learned over the last eight years since I lost my sight:
I foundered for months until a cashier at our local Save-a-Lot mentioned the Bureau of Services for the Visually Impaired (BSVI.) Since my goal was to get back to work, they were willing to get me some "personal adjustment" and other training. To my knowledge, every state has an organization like the BSVI to serve the needs of the blind.
I know a lot of people are impressed with my abilities today, but it's been a long road. I think I could be doing better. If you're losing your sight and you know it, ask your ophthalmologist or regular doctor how you can get training. You can also call the national Information and Referral service at 2-1-1. If they don't have the right number, perhaps they'll be a first step toward getting the right one. You may also want to contact the National Federation of the Blind (NFB.) The national office is in Baltimore, MD. You can call 410-659-9314 with any questions. You can also email the national NFB President, Dr Marc Maurer at email@example.com. You'll be better off if you learn how to do things by non-visual means before you lose too much sight.
No one really taught me how to fold paper money so I could identify it without help. I use a system I devised. If it's different from someone else's, so what? It works for me. Money isn't the only thing I've had to figure out for myself these past eight years. For example, I brush and dress my hair and butter my toast by a combination of visual memory and touch.
Another example is the tactile marks on appliances and such. Since I learned certain tactile symbols, I tend to echo them when I have a helper mark other items. Perhaps my techniques parallel those already established in the blind community, perhaps not. I've never asked. If one option doesn't work, try another until you find what works for you.
I use mostly standard tools, sometimes with minor adaptations to make them more accessible to the blind. For example, I asked hubby today to mark his inaccessible cell phone so I'd at least know where to press to turn it off or answer a call.
When I began trying to do more things myself, I had to think what was most familiar. If you were a good cook, you might want to start in the kitchen. (Remember safety, though.) If you were a "super-geek" as I've been for 20+ years, start there. In short, find your strengths, develop (or redevelop) them and branch out from there.
It was really hard for me to be brave for the first several months after I lost my sight. It isn't easy to be brave when you can't see what's around you! As I've adjusted and learned new ways to "see" what's around me, that fear has faded. Ironically, the loss of my sight also cured me of my lifelong fear of the dark, lol!
I tried the couch-potato thing for a few months. I got bored with it pretty quickly. With some help and training, I soon discovered a variety of things I could do besides "veg" in front of the "boob tube." I won't name them here - the list would be too long!
I've been a Jeopardy addict for years. I still watch six nights a week if I can get it, and that includes Saturday reruns. The fast pace and difficult questions really get my brain moving! If Who Wants to be a Millionaire is your thing, go for it! You can also do any other game that sparks your fancy. Do anything to keep your mental faculties sharp, or sharpen them if they haven't been exercised much lately.
I've been a registered - and active - voter since I turned 18, about a zillion years ago, lol! I refuse to let a little inconvenience like blindness stop me from claiming my right to vote. Thanks to the NFB and the Help America Vote act, my precinct has an Automark electronic voting machine. Every voting precinct should have one. If yours doesn't, contact your local Board of Elections. The Automark scans my ballot, reads and marks it for me. Then I take it to the tabulating scanner just like everyone else. When representatives from our local Board of Elections brought an Automark to a recent NFB meeting, even I learned something new - now I know how to write in a candidate, if the need ever arises.
The information-gathering issue sort of goes hand-in-hand with the voting issue. I keep up with local events and educate myself on national issues and can be a more effective voter via a variety of avenues. I regularly watch both local and national news. I read my local paper thanks to my free subscription to the Ohio Telephone Reader, a division of the Radio Reading service. I'm on Facebook – although I've found the Mobile site works better with my screen-reader. Several of my Facebook friends post items of interest. If all else fails, I go to my favorite search engine, dogpile.com. I like it better than Google for three reasons: first, dogpile.com pulls together information from more than a dozen other search engines. Second, I remember the cute beagle mascot, lol! Last but not least, Dogpile.com is also much easier than Google for my screen-reader to translate. That's important to me.
This is actually a lesson I learned from my late mother years ago. An abrasive, demanding, argumentative personality just doesn't encourage people - whether friends, family or strangers - to help you when you're really in a pickle! "Please" and above all, "thank you," go much farther. Even when I was still in the nursing home and completely dependent, I used the manners Mom taught me. The aides and orderlies were surprised at first, but I know they appreciated it. I think I got better treatment as a consequence.
I hope these little peeks into "the blind side of life" are enjoyable and enlightening. I welcome all feedback and never mind questions!
Source: Personal experience, learning how to "be" blind in a sighted world.
By JustPlainJo from Springfield, OH
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Hi Jo,your "peeks"a s you call them are enjoyable and very enlightening to say the least.I especially like the couch potato one.I fell into that trap for a bit after I lost my leg but I realized how blessed I am to be able to do almost everything as before.We have choices in life and you should be proud in all you share with us. Your a positive person and I'm grateful for all you've shared.
Warm Hugs, Sandie
Jo, this is wonderful information, and very encouraging for any person who fears losing their eyesight to some disease or from an injury, and especially for the older people who are already living with limitations.
I have diabetes which so often causes Glaucoma if not treated properly, and sometimes even when we do. My hearing is growing worse at the same time, and that seems to be more easily dealt with than the gradual loss of good eyesight. I've always been a reader, and to give that up is disturbing. I'm hoping I can adapt to "talking books" one day, and that more books and magazines are published in large print.
Your earlier "Messages From the Blind Side" helped me so much in dealing with those who are already blind or visually challenged and gave us so much information on how to help, and when to step back and allow those people to do for themselves.
This "message" deals with what you are doing to help yourself, and how we might one day have to help ourselves.
Thank you for taking the time to share these with us. You do such a great job with writing, and are an amazing lady.
Julia / Pookarina
I am sighted but about six months ago I started having blinding moments due to seizures that would sometimes last up to 6 hours at a time. It gave me quite a scare. My mother-in-law has been blind since she was 3. Two years ago she taught me how to read and write braille so that I could write to her and her to me without anyone having to read her mail from me. I write to her every other day so that she knows we are thinking of her. I am teaching my husband to read and write braille so that he can send her braille too. She loves to get mail. I think it is the highlight of her day. Thank you for these tips. You just never know when you may need them.
With love and hope,
Hi Jo: I am overwhelmed when I read your "Peeks" into the blind side. You truly are an inspiration to everyone.
More hugs from Joan
Thanks for the wonderful feedback so far. Your kind words really lift my spirits on those rare days when I'm feeling down.
One regret I have is that I haven't ever been able to catch on to the Braille concept. I keep saying I need to try to learn, but I just seem to lack patience, not to mention the neuropathy in my right hand is a hindrance. Michelle, I'll be praying for you as you search for answers about those seizures!
Very informative and so well-written Jo. Thank you for taking time, and having the patience to educate others about something that really can
happen to each of us.
I have learned so much from these postings "From the Blind Side".
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