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

 

Advertisements

I HAVE BEEN SHORTLISTED FOR AN AWARD!

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all well.

I am very excited about today’s post as I have an announcement! As you can tell from the title, I have been shortlisted for an award!!!

Last month, I was contacted by Health Unlocked who suggested that I should be nominated in the Health Blogger Awards. I had a look at the categories, and decided that the Health Blogger of the Year category suited me best. the Health Blogger of the Year category recognises the one blogger who stands out from the crowd, offering useful information and insight into health generally, or a particular disease or condition.

As I blog about all things disability and visual impairment, I thought that this category fitted the aims of my blog.

I asked you all on my social media if you would be kind enough to nominate me and I honestly did not think that I would get this far as there are some truly amazing bloggers out there! I would just like to thank those of you that nominated me for the Health Blogger of the Year Award as I am very pleased to tell you that I have been shortlisted for the award!!!!!

That’s right, little Holly from Life of a Blind Girl has been shortlisted for the Health Blogger of the Year Award!!!

It’s honestly such a surreal feeling, as when I started my blog, it never entered my head that I’d be shortlisted for an award! I never even thought that people would read my blog and that it would help so many of you. I always feel extremely grateful and humbled when I receive messages and emails from you telling me how my blog has educated or inspired you.

health blogger of the year - nominated

So…I need your help!

A public vote is now open, it would mean the world to me if you could vote for me as Health Blogger of the Year! I can’t explain how much it would mean to me if you gave me your vote. Voting closes on 29 September.

You can find out more about the awards and vote for me here. There are some fantastic bloggers shortlisted so don’t forget to vote in the other three categories as well.

You can find out more about Health Unlocked and the brilliant work that they do here.

I would just like to thank you all so much for your continued support, if it wasn’t for my amazing readers I wouldn’t have been shortlisted for this award. Your support means the world to me and I wish I could thank each and every one of you personally.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

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.

My Overall University Experience

I have now finished university and found out that I will be graduating with a 2:1. I can’t tell you how pleased I am with my result and how proud I am of myself as it’s not been easy, so I thought I’d write a post on my overall university experience as it’s the end of an era for me. I thought that it may help some of you, but it’s also something that I can look back on in the future.

I’ve split this post into each year of university so that I can discuss each one in more detail as they were all completely different.

I hope you enjoy this post! It’s a long one so grab a drink or a snack and enjoy!

 

Preparing for university

I first applied for university towards the end of 2013, I had previously attended several open days earlier in the year and contacted the universities and decided where to apply for and which courses I wanted to also apply for. I weighed up all the factors, and decided that York St John university was the university for me. The Head of Programme of the Children, Young People and Families course was really accommodating and seemed to understand my needs, she seemed approachable and willing to help me in every way possible. AT the time, I didn’t feel confident enough to live in halls of residence so I decided that I wanted to commute. I made sure that I did everything early such as applying for student Finance and DSA (Disabled Students Allowance), this meant that I received my DSA equipment early too which was a great advantage. For those of you that don’t know what DSA is, it is an allowance that disabled students can apply for, which means that they can have equipment to help them with their studies, support, mobility training and much more. During the summer of 2014, I received my A-level results meaning that I had got a place at my first choice university which was obviously York St John. I can’t tell you how happy I was, as I had basically convinced myself that I wasn’t going to get in. Everyone believed in me, but I didn’t believe in myself. I think this was a turning point for me though, as I realised that my hard work had paid off and that I could actually achieve something if I put my mind to it.

I also had a final meeting with the Head of Programme and Disability Support to double check that everything was in place, and how they could best support me. My Head of Programme also got my timetable early for me, so that I knew what days I had lectures, and so that I could learn the routes to the lecture and seminar rooms.

I had orientation and mobility training around campus a couple of weeks before my university journey started so that I knew the routes when I started lectures so that I had some idea of where I was going and also because the campus was quiet so it made it easier to carry out such training. I was extremely nervous about doing orientation and mobility training as I wasn’t the most confident cane user, and didn’t really like using one. You can read my story on embracing the cane here. I’m pleased to say that this was the first time that I really did enjoy using the cane and honestly did enjoy mobility training. After all this, I was just about ready to start my journey at York St John University.

 

First year

Like every student, starting university is a nerve-racking and daunting time, and my experience as a visually impaired student was no different. Like I said, I did orientation and mobility training around the university campus so that I could attempt to navigate campus with my long cane. I was nervous about using my cane around university as I hadn’t had the best experience of doing so in school, but I thought that university might be different so wanted to try and give it a shot.

Freshers week (welcome week) arrived and I was feeling both excited and nervous; excited for a new chapter of my life to begin but also nervous, as I had no idea of what to expect, didn’t know anyone and didn’t have any clue of what university life would be like. For anyone that doesn’t know what fresher’s week is, it’s a way of getting new students settled in and familiarising them with university life by holding events and having introductory lectures. I didn’t get involved with the events because they weren’t very accessible for me as a blind person and also the fact that I didn’t know anyone and didn’t really want to go on my own. I was quite nervous for the few weeks ahead because I thought everyone on my course would have made friends already and I’d be on my own but later on I found out that that wasn’t actually the case.

Once freshers week was over, it was time to start the course and therefore, lectures commenced. The first lecture I had, the lecturer told me that he had no idea that I was going to be in his lectures and that he didn’t know he had a blind student. This wasn’t true at all, my Head of Programme had reassured me that all the lecturers did know that I was going to be there and what they had to do. So as a consequence of him apparently not knowing, I hadn’t been sent any materials for the lecture so my note taker had to read everything out to me. This made me feel like I was back in school, not at university at all. What a great start! Luckily this all got sorted and this didn’t happen again. This was an issue that did not repeat itself. A positive outcome of this particular experience, was that the staff involved truly wanted to resolve the situation, rather than feel like they had to. Staff at my university looked beyond my disability. Other than that, there weren’t any major hiccups in first year which I was extremely happy about.

In terms of support, in the first semester I received note-taking support and library support but nothing else. I thought that I could be independent and do the majority of things myself. I soon realised that there was no harm in using extra support and learnt that this was invaluable in the long run. I also had proofreading support from then on, and personally I think it helped to boost my grades. The disability support service was very proactive in sorting support which was fantastic. This did not mean that there weren’t any challenges because they really were, but they helped resolve them to the best of their ability. In terms of accessing materials, I used my DSA equipment (laptop with Jaws screen-reader, braille display and ClearReader+).

 

I got all of the lecture slides sent to me beforehand in an accessible format, some lectures even provided me with image descriptions which was brilliant. Accessing books was a bit harder especially if they weren’t available as eBooks. Publishers are restricted by copyright laws which means that they can’t just distribute electronic copies of books, this meant that I had to request books that I required much earlier than my peers, in order for the library to get me an accessible copy. The library did everything they could to ensure that I had the books in an accessible format as quickly as possible.

The social aspect of university was something that I thought I’d struggle with, due to my negative experiences in school. However, at university, this was completely different. People came up to me and spoke to me, which I didn’t expect which really helped. I didn’t join any societies in my first year of university but made some good friends on my course. It’s important to remember that everyone comes from a different walk of life at university and there are many students with disabilities so you’re not alone.

 

Second year

I remember going into my second year of university feeling excited for the year ahead; something that I had never really felt whilst being in education. I will admit, second year was such a huge jump academically from the first; I don’t think we were fully prepared for how hard it was going to be. There were a couple of minor glitches like lecturers not sending me work in advance but this was all resolved quickly. Nevertheless, I finished second year on track for a 2:1 overall if I kept that standard of work up throughout third year…no pressure then!

Support in second year ran smoothly – there were no major issues and I once again was grateful for the support that I received.

I think second year was by far my favourite year in terms of the social aspect of university. I had a good, solid friendship group and we all got on really well. I also joined the disabled society, “superhuman society” as it was called. I also made some friends through that and was also asked to be a committee member so that helped me broaden my circle of friends. Some of my favourite memories have to be our regular visits to Pizza Hut and our cocktail evenings.

I spent the summer planning my dissertation and doing some research so that I could try and at least do some preparation and be ahead of the game as I was expecting that third year was going to be the most challenging year yet. Over the summer I had developed some problems with my eyes, I had no idea that this would continue into my third year of university.

 

Third year

Third year was very hard, extremely stressful and presented me with various personal challenges but I learnt a lot from those. I had problems with my eyes, resulting in me having to have an operation in January, right in the middle of my third and final year. I actually did some dissertation work whilst waiting to be called for my operation…dedication or what? I didn’t let that stop me though, I just got on with it and I feel like those challenges gave me the motivation to carry on and get through it. I was surrounded by incredibly supportive people and I couldn’t have done it without them. The university were really accommodating as well, providing me with extensions for my assignments and also any other support that I required.

The main piece of work was a 10,000 word dissertation. Before writing it, I didn’t think I even knew 10,000 words! It was by far the hardest piece of work that I’ve ever had to do but I am pleased to say that I achieved a 2:1. I’m so proud of it and all the effort that I put in towards getting the grade that I so wanted. As well as my dissertation, I also had several 5000 word essays to complete. I completed all of my work on my laptop, and also used my braille display and my OrCam for reading materials. I couldn’t have done my degree without this equipment, especially my laptop with Jaws screen-reader.

 

There were no major academic issues in my third year, all of the lecturers that I had had previously taught me so I definitely think that this was a bonus.

The support that I received in third year was invaluable, it made my final year a lot easier. Having support meant that I didn’t struggle on my own, it made tasks such as finding books and journals and proofreading so much easier. I felt very lucky with the support that I received throughout my time in higher education, especially third year, as it really helped with my studies. The only difficult part was not just being able to get books for my dissertation when and when I needed them, but the library did their best to accommodate and they did a great job of doing so. I think the support in third year was a step up from previous years, as I really got on with the people supporting me, they really understood my needs and went above and beyond to support me.

The social aspect of third year was interesting, as I really found out who my true friends were. The stress of third year tested friendships, but we all got through it which I’m extremely happy about. I’m so proud of all of my friends as they all achieved the grades that they wanted which they thoroughly deserve.

 

Overall thoughts

I am extremely pleased to say that I will be graduating with a 2:1 BA (Hons) in Children, Young People and Families! A 2:1 was the grade that I was hoping for. The stress really started to take its toll on me towards the end but I’m so glad it was worth it. If there’s one thing that I’ve learnt from my university experience is that hard work most certainly does pay off and determination is key.

So as you can tell, my overall experience of university has mainly been a positive one. There has been challenges along the way and it hasn’t all been plain sailing, but that’s to be expected. I know that everyone’s university experience is different, and I feel very lucky for the experience that I have had.

I’ve learned a lot whilst being at university, I ppreviously wrote a post about things that university has taught me which you can read here. My confidence has grown so much over the last three years, I also feel like I’ve really found my true self. I’ve also become so much more independent and I feel so much more comfortable in using a cane.

I could go into a lot more detail, but this is just a snapshot into my experience in higher education over the last three years.

I feel like I’ve wrote a book but before I finish this post, I’d like to thank a few people as I know some of them will be reading this post.

Firstly, I would like to thank my family, especially my Mum and Dad as they’ve always been there for me, supported me in everything that I’ve embarked on and made sure that I had the provisions and support in place in order to succeed. They really have been my rock.

I’d also like to thank my friends, they’ve always been there for me, and have given me some wonderful memories.

I’d like to thank everyone that’s ever supported me in education – you helped me get to where I am today through your hard work and dedication and I will forever be grateful. It’s given me some special people in my life. Many of you went above and beyond to ensure that I could succeed, and you looked beyond my disability and were willing to adapt and learn about my visual impairment.

I’d finally like to thank my readers; your support has really helped me and motivated me over the last couple of years. You’ve taken a keen interest in my blog, which then inspires me to write content for you all.

I could go on and on but this post is long enough already!

It’s the end of an era for me, I’m feeling both excited and nervous about the future. I’d like to work within the field of visual impairment, supporting people like myself so we will see where life takes me.

That concludes today’s post everyone, thank you so much for reading! If you got to the end then well done!

Are you a disabled student? What are your experiences of university? Let me know in the comments.

I hope this post has helped some of you.

I’ll be back soon with another post.

Holly x

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