Jessie J: First Night of Tour – Birmingham, 8th October 2017

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all well.

I love sharing my experiences with you all, and that’s exactly what today’s post is. Just a warning: it’s a long one!

If you’ve read my blog for a while or if you follow me on Twitter then you’ll know that I absolutely love Jessie J, she is by far my favourite singer and I have a lot to thank her for. I’ve previously wrote a post on why she means so much to me which you can read here. She’s also the reason for how I know one of my closest friends, Jess, so I’m extremely grateful.

Jessie has been out of the limelight for a couple of years due to various reasons but she’s back now, stronger than ever!

She released two songs over the last few weeks which are amazing,, they’re more of an RnB vibe which I love. She also announced a tour at the last minute. When me and Jess found out about the tour, we both obviously wanted to go! We discussed it and decided that we would go to the one at the O2 Institute in Birmingham on 8th October as we could both get to Birmingham easily. As I haven’t had much luck with passenger assistance on trains, it also meant that Jess could get on the same train as me during the journey so that made things a lot easier. I did book passenger assistance though just in case.

We decided that I would get disabled access tickets for the concert as I could get a free personal assistant ticket for Jess, and as the venue had unreserved standing/seating, it meant that we wouldn’t have to scramble to get a good spot.

I checked online before the tickets went on sale to see how to purchase disabled access tickets, but the information on the O2 Institute Birmingham website was very unclear and didn’t really answer any questions that I had. I sent them an email and received a quick response which I was really pleased with. They had allocated me tickets, all I needed to do was send proof of disability, fill in the form for the free personal assistant ticket and say whether we wanted stalls or balcony tickets. I emailed the required information and got a response asking whether I wanted to pay for the tickets over the phone, online via Ticketmaster or in person at the box office when they went on sale. I went for the callback option, when they went on sale the following Wednesday I received a call from someone from the venue and I paid for the tickets. They sent me a confirmation which I had to print out and take with me to the concert. This meant that we didn’t have actual tickets, which did worry me a bit but I was reassured that there would be no issues. The process was relatively easy and it also meant that we missed out on the stress of buying tickets online as they sold out in minutes! It was also a lot cheaper as we only had to pay for one disabled access ticket as we got the personal assistant ticket for free. Being blind does have its perks!

We also booked our hotel and sorted out our train tickets, we knew that it would come around quickly so wanted to be organised.

We thought we were all set, then something else was thrown into the mix…

A few days before tour, Jessie announced VIP packages were on sale where you had the chance to meet her, attend part of her soundcheck and some other cool stuff. For this, you needed to have a general admission ticket to have the VIP upgrade. We didn’t know if my disabled access ticket and free personal assistant ticket counted as general admission or not. We didn’t want to pay around £200 each if we were going to be faced with problems.

I contacted the venue who said that they weren’t selling the VIP packages so told me to contact Absolute Merch who were responsible for them to see what they could do.

I emailed Absolute Merch three times and messaged them on social media various times as well but had no response from them. The fact that I hadn’t gotten a response left me feeling like I was being ignored because of my disability, this may have not been the case but as a disabled person, we face so many barriers that it often becomes second nature to think like that. They finally responded two days later, after I had sent three emails. They informed me that my email had been shoved to the bottom of the inbox, they said that they would contact Jessie’s management to see if they could accommodate me, and said that they would let me know as soon as they had received a response from management. By this time, all the VIP packages had sold out, and we had missed the opportunity to meet Jessie. This left me feeling very upset, disappointed, and extremely frustrated. I’ve been a fan of Jessie from the beginning that I just wanted to meet her and thank her for everything that she’s done for me. I felt like my disability had got in the way of me being able to access something so simple as a VIP upgrade, I felt unequal to everyone else because I have a visual impairment and felt like it was a barrier. Absolute Merch were very apologetic and said that they wished that they could help me further.

I tried to use the power of social media to try and get the message out there and see if I could get some sort of response from management or even Jessie herself which I knew would be difficult. I would just like to thank everyone that shared my Facebook post, retweeted my tweets on Twitter or tweeted me messages of support and encouragement, it really meant the world to me. My good friend Sassy created a hashtag on twitter, #HelpHolly and posted in various visual impairment and disability groups on Facebook to try and help in any way that she could. The tweet had a huge number of retweets which was amazing! I can’t thank Sassy enough for all of her help, I am so so grateful.

By the time Sunday came, I had had no further response so me and Jess didn’t meet Jessie. I was obviously extremely excited to see her in concert after not seeing her for two years and to be reunited with my friend who I hadn’t seen in a long time but I couldn’t stop thinking about how disabled people do not have the same access as non-disabled people at concerts and we are constantly facing battles. Is the entertainment industry really geared up for disabled people? I don’t think it is, and disabled people don’t have equal access as those without a disability. If she does meet and greets again, I fear that I’ll be faced with the same barriers and may miss out. I’m trying to get in touch with management or any relevant parties to try and resolve this issue, not only for myself, but for other disabled fans as well.

Sunday came and I woke up feeling very very excited! I got ready, packed my bag and got dropped off at the train station by my Mum and Dad. I got passenger assistance at the station, the lady assisted me on the train and guided me to my seat. The journey went well and all ran smoothly. My friend got on around a couple of hours later which was good. We arrived in Birmingham and as I previously said, I had booked passenger assistance but there was no one to meet me at Birmingham and assist me off the train. If you’ve read my previous posts or follow me on social media then you’ll know that I have never actually had any luck with passenger assistance, I am taking this up with a couple of train companies to try and resolve this issue, not only for myself, but for others as well. If Jess hadn’t have been with me, things could have been a complete disaster.

We made our way to the hotel which was only a short walk from the station, checked in and sorted our stuff out. We then went to get some food before getting ready to go to the concert.

On arrival at the venue, we went to the front of the queue as instructed as we had disabled access tickets, we chatted to a couple of other fans and just waited around until we could go in.

As we had disabled access tickets it meant that we could go in 10 minutes before everyone else which was really helpful as we could go and buy merchandise and go and get seated before everyone else entered the venue, this meant that we avoided all the large crowds. I think being able to enter the venue 10 minutes early is great for disabled fans as it makes things so much easier. I’ve never been able to do this before, I wish more venues had procedures like that in place. As we could enter early, we had a choice of where we wanted to sit so decided to sit right at the front of the balcony, this meant that Jess had a good view of the stage. Once we were seated, the excitement hit us even more that we were attending the first show of tour, Jessie’s first show in two years and we had no idea what was on the setlist. I’d never been to an opening show of a tour before so that was really special for me.

Jessie had two support acts, I have to admit, I liked the second one a lot more but that’s just my personal taste in music. They both were really good though!

Jessie came on stage at around 9pm and opened the set with Who You Are, which is my all-time favourite song, I can’t describe how much that song means to me. It was an amazing rendition of the song, it was really emotional. You can watch it here:

 

She performed a mixture of old and new songs, including  her latest two singles ‘Think About That’ and ‘Not My Ex’ which are from her upcoming album R.O.S.E. She changed up some of her old songs including Domino which was really good.

Part way through the set, she performed a cover of Michael Jackson’s Earth Song as a reflection of what’s happening in the world. That cover was beautiful and was filled with so much emotion. She did a little speech in the middle of the song which made me rather emotional. You can check out her cover of Earth Song here:

 

She was so genuine and honest, and the fact that she was being herself on stage really shone through.

Jessie J on stagePhoto credit: Jess. The concert was filled with her telling little anecdotes, interacting with fans, singing with fans, she even brought out Benjamin Madden from the band Good Charlotte who is also her music manager, and did some lovely speeches. She even admitted that she was nervous as this was her first proper show in two years. You could tell that she was so happy to be back on stage.

Towards the end of the show she asked us if we had any requests of songs we’d like her to sing, she sung an a cappella version of ‘Big White Room’ and let me tell you, it gave me Goosebumps. She also performed Mamma Knows Best which is off her first album, I’ve always wanted to hear that song live so that was such a brilliant moment. After singing Price Tag and Do It Like a Dude, she ended the show with part of Who You Are which was the song she opened with, it made it feel like you’d been on a journey with her.

Overall, I truly had the best night, I left the show feeling inspired and genuinely happy. I don’t think I’ve been to a gig where I’ve laughed and got emotional so much! Her vocals had definitely improved since I last saw her back in 2015, her vocal ability amazes me every single time! The show was all about the music, no visuals or anything which for me as a blind person, meant a lot. I feel extremely grateful that I went to the concert and was able to see her live again.

After the show, me and Jess made our way out of the venue and decided to go to the side of the venue to see if we could meet Jessie. We waited quite a while but she had already gone so we didn’t get to meet her unfortunately. It was a great experience though, something that I had never done before. Although we didn’t get to meet jessie, I still really enjoyed it. We decided to head back to our hotel and chilled out for a while before eventually going to bed a few hours later as we were still on such a high from the concert!

The next day, we got ready, checked out of the hotel and had a wander around Birmingham before we had to head to the station to get our train. When we arrived at the station, we went to the information desk to say that I had booked passenger assistance like I had the day before. We waited a little while before an assistant came and assisted me on the platform and to the seat. Jess got off the train a short while later so I spent the rest of the journey watching my videos from the night before and reading.

On arrival at my destination, I packed my things and waited for the assistant to come and assist me off the train. Usually I’d have to rely on help from someone else as they don’t turn up but for the first time ever…the assistant actually turned up, helped me off the train and guided me to where I was meeting my Mum. That was the first time ever that passenger assistance had actually worked for me at both my departure and arrival stations! It’s good to know that the system does actually work, I wish it was more often than not.

I really had the best time at the concert so wanted to share my experience with you all. I hope my experience highlights the barriers that disabled people face, but that we can also live our lives just like everyone else.

Shoutout to Jess for the videos (I’ve had them on repeat), and for being such a fabulous friend!

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s post. Did you attend Jessie’s R.O.S.E tour? If so, let me know what you thought. Have you had similar issues as me when attending concerts? Let me know in the comments.

Holly x

 

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“You Don’t Look Blind”

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all well.

I’m sure some of you will be familiar with today’s topic but for those of you that are not, I hope it’ll be more of an educational post.

As a blind person myself, people often say to me ‘you don’t look blind’. This is something that many blind or visually impaired people are told and it can often leave you puzzled or wondering, “what does being blind actually look like?” Stop and think about that question for a minute, do you know the answer? Many people do not. For example, I am registered as severely sight impaired but have light perception so therefore I do not see total darkness.

There are many misrepresentations of sight loss and typical ideas of your average blind person, some of these stereotypes include:

  • Blind and visually impaired people constantly wear dark sunglasses.
  • The older generation are the ones who are affected by sight loss.
  • Blind or visually impaired people are incapable.
  • Blind or visually impaired people cannot be confident.
  • Blind or visually impaired people are often seen as being miserable.
  • People with a vision impairment cannot be fashionable, can’t apply makeup themselves, be beautiful or express who they truly are.

These depictions of blindness are rarely the case, they may have been true at some point but this is not the case in contemporary society. They have been interpreted by the media’s wrongly perceived ideas and people’s own opinions/views on this topic.

There are many reasons for why people may have these ideas; it may be because some people with sight loss act or present themselves in this way, their age – often a lot of eye conditions are linked to older people so they don’t expect to see a young person with a visual impairment, or that they do not portray characteristics such as being vulnerable or miserable and are in fact happy and outgoing.

Personally, I think it is a mixture of various factors that contribute to people’s perceptions. It can be how a person acts or how they present themselves, for example, wearing make-up. I also think that the way a person looks is very much a contributing factor; some people’s eye conditions affect their eyes, for example they may be sunken in or cloudy, but for others there may not be any visible signs when looking at their eyes and they just look like a sighted person’s. How a person walks is also something that people may assume if a person is blind or not, whether they walk confidently with a mobility aid or are being sighted guided, rather than looking down at their feet and being conscious whilst walking.

As I previously said, I think one of the main factors is how a blind person looks and dresses; there are many blind people, myself included who love fashion and like to be fashionable, wear make-up and keep up with the latest trends even though we are blind. Our disability doesn’t stop us from being fashionable!

There are many disabled people who don’t let their disability get in the way of them living life to the fullest, they are confident, smart, amazing in many ways, driven and open minded.

There are many ways of being able to do various tasks, we are lucky enough to have assistive technology, mobility aids, support groups, and people like myself who are trying to help others in the same or similar situations. These mean that we often do not fit the stereotypes of being blind as these gadgets or mobility aids enable us to be fully independent.

I want to address some questions which I often get asked about how I do certain things even though I have a visual impairment, therefore I don’t look blind.

How do you apply make-up?

I apply my make-up myself, I learnt to do this by practicing over and over again, being shown by my Mum, I was determined to be able to apply my make-up myself. It’s all about touch and memory.

How do you style your own hair?

I use tools such as straighteners and curlers but I did my research into ones that were the most accessible for a person with no useful vision, I also asked the blind community for their suggestions. My straighteners beep when they’re ready to use and my hair curler is extremely easy to use.

Picture of Holly with curly hairHow do you keep up with the latest fashion?

When shopping, I always go with someone that I trust, usually my Mum and they can tell me what looks nice and what doesn’t. I mainly use the internet to keep up-to-date with the latest fashion.

We can be interested in fashion because we can feel fabric, ask those closest to us how they think we look, use screen-readers or magnifiers to look at items on the internet and even get assistance in shops if we need to.

How are you confident despite your disability?

Confidence is something that I struggled with for many years, but this has improved a lot over the last few years and it has made such a difference in my life. I am confident because I have dealt with a lot, learnt to stand up for myself, overcome many challenges and my disability has made me a stronger person.

How are you so independent?

I am independent because I have always encouraged to be as independent as possible, especially by my Mum and Dad. I have always been a person that likes to do things for myself, and often find it easier to learn that way.  I have never been wrapped up in “cotton wool” so to speak. I use a cane, I have assistive technology and I have supportive friends and family around me. I want to travel like sighted people, I want the freedom just like everyone else and want to try new experiences.

 

If you take anything from this post, I want you to remember that sight loss does not take over a person’s life and it does not define them as a person, Disabled people have dreams that they want to pursue, they have aspirations and they want to live life to the fullest, I know I do! Remember that a disabled person is so much more than their disability.

The next time you see a person with a visual impairment who doesn’t fit the typical notion of a blind or visually impaired person, think of the facts, not the misconceptions.  And have an open mind.

That concludes today’s post, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and that some of you may have learnt something from it.

As always, thank you for reading!

Holly x

 

10 Reasons Why I like Being Blind

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all well.

I thought I’d write a post on why I like being blind, as it’s not all negative.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t love everything about my visual impairment, but there are a few things which I do like, so I thought that I’d share them with you.

Without further ado, let’s get into today’s post!

 

  1. Learning skills such as braille and being able to use assistive technology.

These are unique skills that I think set you apart from others and are extremely useful. If I didn’t have a visual impairment, I wouldn’t be able to read braille or use assistive technology for that matter as I wouldn’t need to.

A quote in braille that says "believe in yourself"

 

2. Being part of the sight loss community

I love being part of the sight loss community as you can help others, ask for advice and so much more.

 

3. Having a mix of both visually impaired and sighted friends

I have a mix of both blind and sighted friends and I absolutely love that factor. If I didn’t have a visual impairment, I wouldn’t have crossed paths with the majority of my blind friends.

 

4. Having the opportunity to share my experiences

This may be through blogging, workshops, or being asked to help others, I feel that sharing my experiences of living with a visual impairment is so rewarding. If I wasn’t blind, I honestly don’t think I’d have started this little blog, my corner of the internet which I truly love. It’s made me have even more of a passion for writing.

Blog header that says 'Life of a Blind Girl'

 

5. Being able to help and support other blind and visually impaired people.

If I didn’t have a visual impairment, as I said previously, I wouldn’t have the skills in order to do so. It makes me happy knowing that I have provided some support to someone, and been able to possibly make their life that bit easier, or provide them with advice. I love helping blind and visually impaired people, and it’s something that I’d like to do as a career.

 

6. The various benefits you receive when you are registered as severely sight impaired/sight impaired.

It has many perks: discounted train travel, free companion ticket at some concert and theatre venues, discounted entry at various attractions, and many more! Who doesn’t love discounts and free stuff?

Shawn Mendes concert ticket

 

7. The opportunity to have a guide dog

I don’t have a guide dog yet, but I plan on getting one in the future and that fills me with so much excitement. If I was sighted, I’d obviously be able to have a pet dog but being able to have a working dog that’s also your companion, pet, and possibly your best friend is something to cherish.

 

8. Not judging people on their appearance

So many people are quick to judge others by their looks. As I am blind, I get to know a person for who they really are. As the saying goes: “don’t judge a book by its cover!”

 

9. Having a genuine interest and passion for helping others

I may have had this passion if I was fully sighted, who knows, but I do feel that it is stronger as I want to help others that are going through the same, or similar experiences that I have been through myself. I know how challenging but how rewarding having sight loss can be.

 

10. Keeping up to date with all the latest information on visual impairment and disability

This is so important and is very interesting. If I didn’t have a visual impairment, I wouldn’t have a reason to do this.

 

That concludes today’s post, I hope you enjoyed finding out why I like having a visual impairment. See, having a disability isn’t all doom and gloom!

If you have a disability, what do you like about it? Let me know in the comments!

Holly x

10 Tips on Making Concert Venues Accessible for Blind and Visually Impaired People

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all well.

I’m rather excited about today’s post, it is a collaboration with RightHear. RightHear is an accessibility solution for blind and visually impaired people, enabling them to be as independent as possible.

 

I am a huge concert lover (and a bit of a fangirl) so when Right Hear asked me to collaborate with them on a post on ways that concert venues can be made accessible for blind and visually impaired people I wanted to get involved straight away! Concert venues can often present accessibility issues and barriers for disabled people and I thought that listing some of the tips of how they can be made accessible may raise awareness of this.

So, without further ado, here are 10 tips on making concert venues accessible for blind and visually impaired people or those with other disabilities.

  1. Provide access information

Information on accessibility of the venue should be on your website, making it easy for disabled people to access should they wish. This should also be easy to navigate to and not buried somewhere deep within your website. Disabled people often have to plan their visit in advance, so this is vital. This information may include: how to book accessible tickets, where disabled seating is located in the venue, contact details for the designated disabled access officer (if appropriate), location of disabled parking and how to book this, location of disabled toilets, details of assistance for people with guide dogs, wheelchairs, or other mobility aids and any other necessary information.

One other idea is to have a specific contact number for disabled customers, making it easier for them to call should they need to. This is also extremely handy when booking accessible tickets.

As I am blind myself, accessibility information is something that I will always look for on the website, even before booking tickets. I will often contact the venue beforehand to check the best way to book accessible tickets if it is not stated on the website, and see if they are willing to accommodate..

2. Have various ways of booking accessible tickets

Often, the only way of booking accessible tickets is over the phone. This may not be possible for some people, so have other ways of them being able to book them such as online or in person. Make sure that these ways are accessible, for example, having the booking office in an accessible place.

3. Train your staff

One of the most important aspects of making concert venues accessible is to train your staff; this may be in sighted guiding, communication strategies, disability, or visual awareness training, but it is important for them to have adequate training. It is very noticeable and easy, for disabled people to tell which staff have, and which staff have not had visual awareness training. Friendly, patient, understanding and helpful staff make the experience much more positive. It’s also important to allocate staff on events to assist disabled people to their seats, answer any questions and provide support if needed.

4. Ensure that staff are knowledgeable about the venue and the local area

Staff should be able to help disabled people with any queries that they may have about the venue, and also being able to answer any questions that they may have on the local area, such as getting to places, finding the train station, or ordering a taxi.

5. Consider orientation and mobility needs

Navigating an unknown venue can be extremely difficult for blind and visually impaired people. Offering assistance for visitors with a visual impairment is invaluable.

Also have braille and large print signs or maps, making it accessible for blind and visually impaired people to read and access. It is also important that this is in plain text (with no arrows or graphics), as it is easier for blind and visually impaired people to read. They should also be in the same places on doors, then they are easy to find, especially for people relying on braille. After all, independence is key.

6. Have space for disabled seating

This may seem obvious, but many venues do not cater for disabled people and do not have enough seating or wheelchair space. It’s important to have as less of obstruction as possible in venues, making it easier for disabled people to navigate, especially those in a wheelchair or blind and visually impaired people using a cane or guide dog. It is also important to have specific seating reserved for disabled people and their companion in a good viewing location. If it is an outdoor venue, then a viewing platform may be a good idea.

7. Have adequate lighting

This might not be possible during the concert, where flashing lights and contrast are more up to the artist than the venue, it certainly can be considered outside of where the actual music or performance is taking place. When planning lighting in your hallways or in the actual auditorium, consider keeping things on the brighter side so that visitors can navigate around the venue when they’re not at their seats. In addition to accessible lighting, it is also important to have coloured contrast railings, tactile markings on floors leading to stairs and also easy lift access for those with less vision or other mobility needs.

8. Provide large print, high-contrast, braille, electronic or audio formats of materials when possible

This includes menus, event programs, or any other literature you may have. Although putting literature into such formats may seem expensive, it doesn’t have to be. Even if it is, providing these materials is a long-term investment that will not only support customers who are blind or visually impaired, but may also be useful for customers with other disabilities or those that are elderly. Accessibility means equal opportunities for all, and almost always has benefits to your business.

9. Have specific, accessible features such as audio description or touch tours

Audio description is a narration/description of exactly what is going on. Audio description allows blind and visually impaired people to listen to a description through a set of headphones while still being engaged in the show or performance. This promotes accessibility, equality and independence as blind and visually impaired people know what is happening themselves, rather than relying on their companion to tell them. This may not be possible for all shows such as concerts, but it can be implemented for events such as theatre shows/performances or sporting events.

Touch tours are when a blind or visually impaired person gets to go onto the stage before a performance to get a feel for the environment and touch the props, costumes, set, and more. This really sets the scene for blind or visually impaired people and can give them a better understanding of the show. Like audio description, this may not be possible for all events, but where possible, this is a worthwhile consideration that also promotes equality and accessibility.

10. Speak to disabled visitors about their experience

Liaising with disabled people about their experience gives you detailed information on what you need to improve on, what works well and what doesn’t and gives you an insight into their experience. You can use this feedback for future improvements or developments. By gathering feedback from disabled visitors shows that you have a keen interest in making your venue accessible and it also shows you are willing to support disabled visitors to the best of your ability. You could do this by having a review section on your website, using social media or even a short, simple questionnaire.

 

Useful links

There are some very useful links that may be of interest: Attitude is Everything – improves Deaf and disabled people’s access to live music by working in partnership with audiences, artists, and the music industry. Festival Spirit – a charity which provides a safe and fun way of disabled people being able to access festivals. They provide “buddies” who are non-disabled volunteers who accompany disabled people at festivals. They also provide accessible accommodation. Euan’s Guide – disabled access reviews, by disabled people, for disabled people.

 

That concludes today’s post, those are just some of the tips that can be used in order to make concert venues accessible for blind and visually impaired people, or those with other disabilities.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and that it is of use to some of you! Feel free to share it with people that you think it may be of use to.

As always, thank you for reading.

Holly x

 

Disclaimer: although this post is a collaboration, all views are my own. I only work with brands and organisations that support my message and the aims of my blog.

Common Misconceptions on Blindness

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all well.

I thought I’d write a bit of an educational post on some of the common misconceptions on blindness/visual impairment and the correct ways to approach these. Just a note before I get into this post, I’m not speaking on behalf of all blind people, I’m talking from my own personal experiences. I hope you enjoy today’s post!

 

Being blind is a tragedy, therefore blind people are helpless.

This is far from the truth. I’m sure every blind person has their down days where they do feel helpless at times or feel like they’re fighting a constant battle but it does not mean that blind people cannot achieve the same goals as sighted people.

 

Glasses help blind people see.

No this is incorrect. Every blind or visually impaired person’s vision is different so for some, glasses do help but for others they do not. People may also wear glasses as a piece of assistive technology such as the OrCam in order to give them independence, not to improve their vision.

Photo shows an OrCam attached to a pair of glasses

 

Blind people have amazing hearing.

This is not true; we learn to use our ears and take note of sound effectively. We don’t have some sort of extremely powerful hearing. Just because we can’t see, it doesn’t make our other senses amazing.

 

If you are interacting with a blind person, you need to speak to them very loudly, then they’ll know that you are talking to them.

No, this is very rude and very very annoying. Speak to us like you would any sighted person.

 

People who are blind see total darkness.

This is not true as there are many variations and levels of blindness. Some people have tunnel vision, some can read large print, others have light perception and some have no sight at all. Personally, I have light perception which I find rather useful at times.

 

All blind people read braille.

As mentioned in the previous statement, many blind people have some useful vision so therefore do not need to read braille. Some people use other forms such as audio or assistive technology. We are very lucky in today’s society that we have such things. Personally, I do read braille myself and I think it’s a vital skill to have.

 

Blind people attend specialist schools and colleges.

This is one of the misconceptions that really does bug me. When I tell people that I went through mainstream school their shock and disbelief is evident in their voice. Educating blind people in mainstream schools has been in place for many years now, so specialist schools are not the only option. Specialist schools do exist and whether a blind person is educated in mainstream education or specialist school is entirely down to their needs and preference.

 

When interacting with a blind person, don’t say things such as “look” or “see”.

Never ever change your vocabulary when talking to a blind or visually impaired person. As a blind person myself, I use terms such as “I’m watching the tv” or “have you seen that?”

You won’t offend us by using them, you’ll more than likely offend us if you don’t use them.

 

Guide dogs know where to take a person and when to cross the road.

A guide dog isn’t a SatNav, it’s down to the person to know the route that they’re carrying out. A guide dog doesn’t know where to go, they only know where to go through training and commands from it’s handler. It’s the owner that decides when it’s safe to cross a road, and the guide dog will intervene if necessary.

 

All blind people have a guide dog

Whether a blind person has a guide dog or not is completely their own decision. Some feel that it gives them freedom and independence, whilst others prefer to use a cane. There are also many variations of canes – the standard white cane, red and white striped cane meaning deafblind and a range of coloured canes can also be purchased if you want a bit of glam or something a bit different.

Picture of a purple cane

 

Feeling someone’s face is a technique that blind people use to make out what someone looks like.

I don’t know one blind person that does this. Personally I think it’s just totally weird!

 

Blind people have limited job opportunities

Why do so many people think this? It drives me up the wall! With the correct technology, equipment, support and training blind people can get a job in whatever field or industry they wish. It may be harder for this to happen, but it does not mean that it can’t or won’t happen.

 

Blind people are unable to live independently

Being blind means that we may learn to do things differently or make adaptions, it does not mean that we are unable to care for ourselves or be independent.

There is specialist equipment and technology such as a cane, guide dog, screen-reading or magnification software or kitchen appliances in order for us to complete daily tasks and live independently.

 

Blind people can’t apply make-up.

People are often shocked when I say that I apply my own make-up. There is often this wrongly perceived idea that blind or visually impaired people can’t look glamorous, and therefore don’t apply make-up. Personally, I love being able to apply my own make-up!

 

Most blind people are looking for a cure

Many blind and visually impaired people are more or less happy with their disability and do not want a cure. Personally, it would be nice if I could see but I’m not looking for a cure and holding onto the tiny chance that this may happen. I’m happy with the person that I am and believe my blindness has shaped who I am today.

That concludes today’s post everyone. If you are a blind or visually impaired person yourself, what common misconceptions do you experience? Let me know in the comments!

I hope you enjoyed this post!

Holly x

Blogging And Sight Loss: How It Works

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all well.

Today I wanted to address a question which I get asked quite a lot, ‘how do you blog even though you’re blind?’

This is a very valid and interesting question, I get asked it by both sighted and visually impaired people. So today I wanted to tell you how I’m a blogger even though I am blind, give tips to aspiring bloggers out there and hopefully answer that question for you all.

So, without further ado let’s get into today’s post!

 

Find an accessible blogging platform

Once you decide on the main focus of your blog, it’s important to find a blogging platform that’s accessible and one that you like, and feel comfortable using. You may need to do some research beforehand on different blogging platforms, this will help you decide which one is right for you.

Personally, I use WordPress, as I find this to be the most accessible with my chosen screen-reader. It’s also got an app which I also use on my iPhone or iPad which I find very useful and it is also very accessible. I do know blind and visually impaired people that use Blogspot, so it’s all about personal preference and finding out which one works best for you.

When initially creating my account, and setting up my blog, I did need sighted assistance to originally find a blogging theme and to help me with my blog header and things like that.

Blog header that says 'Life of a Blind Girl'

However, the pages, menus and other aspects that are on my site I did myself.

 

Writing posts

Writing content is obviously the main aspect of blogging. Everyone has different ways of doing this, and there’s no reason why you should be limited to doing this because of a visual impairment. There’s so much technology out there that can enable you to do this such as screen-readers or magnification software.

To write my posts I use Jaws screen-reader on my laptop and sometimes tweak them using VoiceOver on my iPhone or iPad. In simple terms, a screen-reader reads out loud everything that is on the screen and also what you’re typing.

Before I even write my posts, I like to plan them and write down any ideas that I have for future blog posts. To do this, I usually use the notes app on my iPhone as it’s something that I can refer back to quickly and easily.

picture of an iPhone

In terms of writing posts, I will either write my posts on a word document or write them straight into WordPress and spell check them using the built-in editor.

 

Visual content

For fully sighted people, visual content is often as important as written content. It catches people’s attention, and can often draw them into reading your posts. Depending on how much vision you have, adding images in your posts may be something you need assistance in doing. When you insert images into your posts, it’s important to add Alt text (alternative text) or a photo description so people who are blind or visually impaired know what the photo shows. That goes for any sighted bloggers out there as well!

I’m going to be honest here, I don’t take blog photos myself as I don’t have any useful vision to be able to do this. My Mum or Dad take them for me, which I am extremely grateful for. I do insert them into the posts myself and write the descriptions to go with them. I will often get my Mum or Dad to check whether they look okay before I press publish.

 

Sharing posts on social media

It’s important to share your posts on social media in order to gain new readers, followers, and visitors to your blog. All social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are fully accessible for blind and visually impaired people so this shouldn’t be a problem. Sharing and promoting your posts is all part of blogging! Social media is also a great way of interacting with other bloggers and being part of the blogging community. It’s important to share the love!

 

Engaging with other bloggers

It’s important to engage with other bloggers – read their posts, leave them a nice comment and you may even find that you will make new blogging friends along the way. Depending what blogging platform they use, you may experience accessibility issues such as not being able to leave a comment but there are other ways in which you can do this such as contacting them on social media or sending them an email. It may also be good to let them know if their blogs are not accessible as they may want to try to change this.

I like to engage with other bloggers and have also found some of my closest friends through blogging. Engaging with other bloggers may lead to blogging opportunities such as being asked to write guest posts or being contacted by brands.

 

That concludes today’s post everyone, I hope some of you have found it useful or that it gave you an insight into how I blog as a blind person.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments, or do not hesitate to contact me. Are you a blogger with a visual impairment and have some other useful tips? Or are you a fully sighted blogger and have some general blogging tips? Then leave them in the comments below!

Holly x

Embracing The Cane

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all well.

I’m sorry for the lack of posts at the moment but third year of university is the reason for that!

Just a quick note, today’s post is very long so grab a drink and a snack, sit down and enjoy!

I know that not all of you will be able to relate to this post but I know many of you like to hear my experiences of living with sight loss and this post is one of those where I discuss my experiences and also give some advice.

I hope you enjoy today’s post!

Embracing the cane is something that many blind and visually impaired people struggle with, others not so much. I was one of those that struggled with it for a few years; but now I’m completely comfortable using one. Looking back, I’m glad I did have that doubt, apprehension and anxiety when using one because it’s contributed to my thoughts and feelings when using a cane today. I can also empathise with others that don’t feel so comfortable using a cane.

I’m at a point in my life where I’m comfortable using a cane and I can openly discuss this topic. Today I want to tell you my cane story and how I learned to embrace it, seeing it as something positive rather than something negative. Sometimes we need to give ourselves a reminder that the glass is half full, not half empty.

 

My story

I first had cane training (mobility training as it’s formally called) when I was at school. The training is done by a professional, called a rehabilitation worker. The rehabilitation worker taught me some cane techniques and in the following sessions we proceeded to do routes around my school, to my classrooms and such places. Let’s just say, I absolutely hated the training. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy learning to use the cane, because that’s not true, I love learning but there was something about it that filled me with dread and a hatred towards this white cane. I don’t know fully what it was but I think there were a couple of contributing factors: the fact that I was using it for the first time around my school, the place where I knew a lot of people and they’d see me with this thing and probably wonder what the hell I was doing? The second being the negative thoughts that I was having, what would people think of me using a cane, was I standing out even more so than before, what if I bumped into them? Having mobility training isn’t something your average teenager does, unless they have a visual impairment. When you’re in your teens, you want to fit in, make friends, socialise with others…you get my drift. How the hell was I going to do that when I was lumbered with this thing? I also didn’t find the lessons fun, I’m quite a motivated person so I’d have preferred to get out and about rather than being in the same environment. Obviously, I needed to learn the routes round my school, but I would have liked a variety of routes, have a change of scenery, rather than just the same building constantly. I got to grips with using the cane and things improved slowly.

Later on, I was then taught how to cross roads safely and independently. One of the major downfalls of this though was that I only learned the route between my home and my school so I didn’t really enjoy it. There wasn’t any option for me to learn other routes and do things that I wanted to do. I was proud of myself for achieving this goal and getting that far but I still wasn’t fully happy within myself using a cane. I didn’t use the cane around school and when I went out I didn’t use it as much as I should have, when you don’t like something it’s hard to motivate yourself to do it.

When I entered sixth form, I gradually became more confident and comfortable using a cane. I started to realise that it was my way of being independent; rather than relying on others. Granted, I wasn’t 100 % comfortable with the whole concept, but I was getting there.

When I entered my second and final year of sixth form I started applying for university, just like everyone else. When I was doing this, I knew that I wasn’t fully confident using a cane and knew that I needed to get myself into gear and needed to do something about it. I spoke to my parents about it, we spoke long and hard and did our research into different options and this is when I enquired about going to a specialist school for a short period of time. One of them got back to me and it was agreed that I would spend a week there in summer. During this week I had intense training on independent living skills and mobility training. Let me tell you, I learned more mobility skills during that week than I had ever done previously. I’m not saying that this is the right option for everyone because it was something that I enquired about myself rather than a professional advising me to do something like that, but it was definitely a great experience for me. It really gave me the confidence boost that I needed. After attending mainstream school all the way through education, spending a week at a specialist school was rather interesting for me. I feel like that really set me up for starting university that upcoming September.

A few weeks before I started university I had mobility training around campus so that I knew where everything was, in order for me to be able to navigate to my lecture rooms and for me to have a good idea of the campus. I think this was really the turning point for me in terms of my mobility; I was far more confident using a cane and I genuinely felt comfortable using one; I wasn’t as bothered what people thought as it was my mobility aid and my way of getting around. The rehabilitation worker was genuinely lovely and made it enjoyable which took away any anxiety that I had previously. I think it also helped being surrounded by people that weren’t that bothered about my disability, they cared but it didn’t faze them as it did others in school. There’s people from all walks of life at university and others that have the same or similar disabilities so you’re not usually the only one in your institution.

Looking back, I think university was definitely the turning point for me. I found independence and I think that’s one of the most important skills for blind and visually impaired people to have. Since becoming comfortable using a cane I’ve been on a plane on my own and continue to tackle the challenges of public transport. But without motivating myself to be independent I would not have got this far.

 

How I embraced the cane

So as you’ve probably gathered from my experiences above that embracing the cane didn’t come easy to me, my experiences are just one of many and every blind or visually impaired person has their own experiences. Some, like myself learn to have a love/hate relationship with a cane, but for others they may never have this.

I want to tell you how I learned to embrace the cane in the hope that it might help some of you out there.

Find a cane that’s right for you

You don’t have to just use the standard white cane, you can customise your cane. For example, you can purchase coloured canes or even get them customized with  gems or whatever you fancy. Your cane is your mobility aid at the end of the day so it’s up to you! There are various opinions around whether people should just have standard white canes or customize them, but personally I think it is all about personal preference.

 

Do not give up

You may want to give up at first, especially if you’re finding it challenging but not giving up is key. If you give up then you won’t achieve anything so why quit? No one said that it would be easy.

Believe in yourself

This is so important. Believing in yourself is one key to happiness and independence.

Stop caring what others think and focus on yourself

This applies to many aspects of life but things become so much easier when you stop caring what others may think of you and focus on yourself. So what if you’re walking down the street with a cane or guide dog? Your disability is a part of you. Feeling comfortable within yourself is so important.

Think of the positives

Embracing the cane will provide you with independence, lifelong skills and so much more so rather than thinking about the negative aspects, look at the positives. Remember what I said before, the glass is half full, not half empty.

Look towards the future

Just think what you can achieve if you can conquer something like this.

 

That concludes today’s post, I hope you enjoyed reading and possibly learnt something from it.

As always, thank you for reading.

Holly x