JaniceHeck

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Archive for the tag “#wana711”

B: Big Brother’s Bits about Being Blind

My big brother, Adam, is blind. He has a major disability, but he is not handicapped.

As a child, his vision was poor, and he had to wear coke-bottle lenses in his glasses, making him the brunt of many jokes and taunts. But he adapted, graduated with the rest of his high school class and went on to be a successful adult. As he got older, his eyesight deteriorated even further. Because his work involved driving, his employer willingly modified his work assignments to eliminate driving and kept him employed with other activities at the company’s home base.

Later, in his mid-50s, additional problems with his eyes (uncorrectable retina detachments) reduced his vision to just light, color, and shadow and forced him to take early retirement. The range of this partial vision was only a few feet, but lately this range has further decreased.  Nine years ago, he started to use a cane to help with mobility. Until recently, he walked around the neighborhood and even downtown, keeping his diabetes under control with his exercise. A recent fall and a fractured elbow have restricted his neighborhood walking at this point.

Despite the disruption to his life-style that visual impairment has caused, Adam remains a very positive person, frequently joking about wanting to take his turn driving when we are out and about. He teases me about the weeds that he “sees” growing in my yard or about the snow that needs shoveling. He calls my house or my sister’s house to “bust on” our husbands. Of course,  he gets no mercy from my husband, Ken, or from my brother-in-law, Rich. Adam gets what he gives!

At 70 years-old, Adam went cross-country skiing at Alyeska in Alaska with Ski for Light (http://www.sfl.org/) an organization that provides one-to-one assistance to cross-country skiers. In his words, it was a blast! This organization, and others similar to it, do much to enhance the lives of both visually impaired and physically impaired by providing opportunities that develop skill and self-confidence.001

At 71, Adam went mountain climbing in Colorado with another branch of Ski for Light. For a week, he and ten or so other visually impaired persons, along with one-to-one guides as partners, climbed to 10,000 feet. They camped out, carrying their own supplies and preparing their own food as they went along. Being blind did not stop them from hiking, cooking, or just smelling the pine-scented air and the campfire.  He loved being out in the middle of nowhere. And he loved the fact that he made all of his own arrangments and then flew to Colorado by himself to meet the rest of the hikers. The airlines support staff were especially helpful.

Now at 78 years-old, Adam still lives independently in his own condominium. My sister, Bev, and I take turns taking him grocery shopping, though he is quite capable of getting his own groceries at the Acme close to his home. He just follows the perimeter of the store and gets what he needs: yogurt, soy milk, deli turkey, bread, vegetables, fruit. When he holds the soy milk container close to his eyes to check the flavor, someone invariably offers to help. People are good that way.

Bev and I often take him prepared meals, but he can cook for himself as well. His favorite dish to make is vegetable stew. Recipe: cut up whatever vegetables you have in the house and throw them in the crockpot, add a can of tomatoes and a can of beans, add some good hot salsa, cook for three or four hours. Simple.

Adam has a keen sense of orientation. Often when we drive him home from a family outing, we will ask him, “Where are we?” And he will announce, “We just passed the light at Oak and Main.” And he is right. At times, we ask him for directions on how to get to such and such a place, and he tells us. His memory of the area from when he was sighted is incredible.

Tonight, Adam attended a meeting of the Cumberland County (NJ) Disabilities Awareness Group. At this meeting, the participants talk about all kinds of issues related to blindness, physical disabilities, as well as other disabilities. He meets with this group once each month and assists with special awareness events they organize. Someone attending the meeting usually drops him off at his home afterwards, but he is quite capable of getting home by bus.

Tomorrow, Adam will go to the Margaret Winchester Enrichment Center for the Blind in Bridgeton, N.J. A special bus will pick him up at his door and return him there in the afternoon. At the Center, he will participate in various activities with other visually impaired friends (exercise, woodworking, adaptive computers, arts and crafts, dominoes, puzzles). On occasion, the whole group will go bowling. Of course, going out to eat is one of the favorite activities at the Center.

Bits about Being Blind

Occasionally, though, Adam expresses frustration with how people relate to him, and he wishes people in general knew a bit more about relating to visually impaired persons.

Here are some bits my family has learned on how to help him without embarrassing, belittling, or discouraging him.

1. Speak directly to the visually impaired person (VIP) when you approach, giving your name. Do not assume the VIP will recognize your voice. When you do not do this, he feels he is not included in the conversation. Do not ask another person near him about him. He is not deaf. Ask him directly. When you leave, say goodbye.

“Why don’t they just say, ‘Hello, Adam. It’s Sam here.’ Then I know who is there. Otherwise I have to rack my brain to recall whose voice it is.”

2. Provide only as much assistance as needed. VIPs have developed strategies for handling many of their basic needs. Ask if the VIP needs help, then wait for acknowledgement before you provide any help. Do not do anything for them that they can do themselves. They can

  • manage their money by folding it in certain ways and by putting it in certain sections of their wallets
  • distinguish coins by their shape, size, and feel
  • use adaptive equipment to help them: talking watches, talking meters (diabetes)
  • listen to recordings for the blind provided by the state Commission for the Blind (one in every state)
  • use adaptive computers that magnify writing
  • write checks and pay bills using the adaptive computer
  • uses buses and other local transportation to get to appointments
  • make telephone calls

2. When you go out to eat, have the person sitting next to VIP read the menu to him. This avoids confusion and prevents the VIP from being overwhelmed with everyone talking at once.  Learn his favorites and his dislikes. This will narrow down what you have to read, and what he has to remember.

3. In dark restaurants or other places, ask the VIP if he wants to take your elbow. Walk at a reasonable pace, watching for obstacles (carts in aisles, chairs out of place). Tell him when something might block his path.

4. Pretend the dinner plate is a clock and politely tell the VIP that the potatoes are at high noon, the peas are at 3 o’clock, and the steak is at 6 o’clock. (Of course, there is that joke where the VIP tells the sighted person that he is used to digital time!)

5. Announce when the VIP is nearing a curb. If there are steps, announce how many steps are in each set.

One thing we notice a lot is that people are respectful about Adam’s disability. When we walk on the Ocean City, NJ boardwalk, for example, people see the cane and move aside, allowing Adam to walk without bumping into someone. That’s commendable. We appreciate that kindness.

VIPs can live active, independent, and productive lives with minimal assistance.  Adam would say, “Being handicapped is a state of mind. You can’t just sit still and mope. You just gotta get out there and keep moving.”

With a big brother like Adam, you just gotta keep going. No time for a self-pity party. Get out there and pull weeds or cut the grass or go for a walk or climb a mountain. Life is meant to be lived! Just do it!

And wouldn’t you know it, tonight Adam started talking about going on another mountain climbing expedition! I think you have to agree: this guy is not handicapped!

YOUR TURN

Do you know anyone who is visually or physically impaired? What lessons have you learned from them?

They Laughed When I Sat Down to Twitter

Years ago (1926), when novice advertiser John Caples (1900-1990) sat down to write ads, he wrote “They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano…But When I Started to Play!”–
In his ad, Caples described the local bar-crowd having fun at the expense of one attention-craving buffoon. But one day things changed.  After a dramatic entrance, this socially inept guy strode to a grand piano in the bar, shook out his silk hanky with a flourish, dramatically dusted the piano keys, then flawlessly played Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata–much to the amazement of those who had earlier egged him on.

In just a few minutes, the jokesters in the crowd went from mocking their favorite taunt-target to singing his praises.

Caples’ ad quickly became a model for highly successful direct-mail advertising campaigns.

Some of us, as Twitter newbies, can identify with Caples’ ad character.  As we started to tweet, we more or less bumbled along until we figured out what this form of social media was all about.

A few friends tried Twitter, too, but they just didn’t get it. After three or four tweets to a friend or two, they decided that telephoning and texting were far more efficient. And didn’t they laugh at us when we announced we were “tweeting”?

“What? You? Tweeting on Twitter? What on earth for?

Hold on. Consider these six reasons why we find value in posting mini-messages on Twitter.

1. We make lots of new friends. It’s slow at first, but then it becomes addictive. We connect with a few like-minded people, then snag some of their friends. Then we learn about #hashtags, those seemingly magnetized key words that connect people with common interests. And we join funny-numbered groups like #WANA112, #WANA711, and #WANA1011, led by social media guru Kristen Lamb. (See Kristen’s blog at www.warriorwriters.wordpress.com, read her book We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, and find her on Twitter @KristenLambTX.)

Kristen has a heart for newbie tweeters and bloggers. She puts us in a group and spoon feeds us info on how to be successful in our social media endeavors. She constantly reminds us that “We Are Not Alone” (WANA). And she teaches that encouraging others is more important than becoming important ourselves. What can be better than that?
 2. We become better writers. It’s tricky to write a 140 character message on Twitter—12 to 15 words, one or two sentences. How can you say something meaningful in that bit of space? Write more than that, and Twitter tweets back: “You have to be more clever.” And with a chuckle,  we reword the tweet; choose better, shorter words; abbreviate; or just delete irrelevant words. In short, we become tighty writees.
 3. We stretch our imaginations. Writer challenges flourish on Twitter as writers encourage each other. Can you write your bio in 140 characters? Can you write a story in exactly 100 words? Can you write a novel in six words or six sentences?  Can you write a novel in 30 days (NaNoWriMo)? Can you write a nonfiction book or article in 30 days (WNFIN-write nonfiction in November)? Poets join the fun in April (NaPoWriMo). These challenges not only provide mutual support, they test and develop our writing ability.
 4. We learn to proofread better. Snarky typos sneak into our writing without so much as polite notice or fake apology. We type, check, and check again. We post a tweet, and there, glaring in its naked arrogance, is a typo, an error in grammar, a misused word. We think faster than we type, and our eyes fail to catch the typos before we hit send. It only takes a few embarrassing errors to prod us into proofing better. Good lesson to learn before we finish that novel or nonfiction book!
 5. We make commitments to our new writer friends to take our writing more seriously. A number of brave writers join #ROW80 and commit writing goals not only to paper but to the others ROWers. With promises to report each week on progress, these writers keep on writing despite the many time-consuming obstacles that crop up in our lives and steal our writing time.

 6. We build our personal brand. Many newbie tweeters and bloggers join Kristin Lamb’s WANA tribe. Not only do we make instant friends, we can ask dumb questions without embarrassment. “Blogging babies” (as Kristen calls us) further along the blogging trail help us with their own new-found expertise. These friends become our first readers, our first commentators, our first subscribers. And they become plain good friends.

Jeff Bullas (www.JeffBullas.com) suggests other business-related reasons for tweeting in his blog post, “10 Reasons Why You Should be Using Twitter….” His reasons relate primarily to business and focus on Twitter as a major marketing tool. But we newbies are happy just to be writing, making new friends, and having fun in the process. Maybe later we’ll worry about making some money.

We mastered Twitter, and now we’re starting to blog. Don’t laugh. We can do this!

Here’s someone else who was teased by his friends. George Formby (1904-1961), British singer, songwriter, actor, comedian played his banjolele and sang “They Laughed When I Started to Play.” I thought you might get a chuckle out of this video clip.

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YOUR TURN: How did your friends and family react when you started to tweet and blog?

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