Posted on

A Bridge to Independence & Opportunity

When we share our stories we go beyond giving hope—we offer confirmation and affirmation that life is not over because of sight loss. Shoulder to shoulder we stand, a network offering a human bridge to carry others through their sight loss. ~Sue Lichtenfels, President, PA Council of the Blind  

Bold Blind Beauty gift basket includes a "Relax It's Only A Cane" white tote bag, white coffee mug, BBB white ball cap, BBB blue tee shirt and 3 Abigale cookies in brand colors teal and white.
BBB Gift Basket for the PCB Auction

Thursday evening was the opening session of the 82nd Annual Conference of the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind (PCB). I was so excited for this year’s 4-day event because it was hosted in my hometown of Pittsburgh which meant I could easily travel to and from the hotel each day. Adding to my excitement was the anticipation of reconnecting with friends from across the state and meeting new people I’ve only before met in social media settings.

Sue Lichtenfels, President of PCB, opened the conference with a powerful and heartfelt message on transition. Our new tagline “PCB, A Peer Network for All Impacted by Vision Loss” extends beyond just those of us who are living with sight loss to include family, friends, caregivers, and professionals in the field.

As I listened to Sue speak I thought back to my personal transition from living with sight to learning how to live without it. Like the flame of hope shriveling up and dying, back then it seemed everything in my life was dependent upon my eyesight and I couldn’t see past the dark days that threatened to consume me.

Oval shaped Abigale cookies. Some are teal with a white Abigale and others are white with a teal Abigale.
Abigale Cookies

Crossing the bridge to grab hold of my new life without sight by becoming involved with PCB saved my life. I met and befriended so many positive, passionate people who were living their purpose and it’s because of them my view of the world has changed. Even when life doesn’t go as planned I’m more appreciative of the beauty surrounding me.

BBB sign with Abigale and 5 Coffee mugs each has a saying like, "Relax It's Only A Cane", "Blind Chicks With Attitude", "Handbag, Heels, White Cane, Ready to Conquer" and an image of Abigale. Mugs are available on the Shopping With Abby Link on the main menu.
Coffee mugs available on “Shopping With Abby

At this year’s conference I was excited to once again be a part of an organization working to improve the lives of those who live with blindness. Even though I got sick, lost my voice, and could only attend a portion of the event, I was able to represent Bold Blind Beauty in the exhibit hall. It was here where I spoke (or rather whispered) the importance of how we as blind people can live fulfilling and productive lives while eradicating misconceptions around blindness and sight loss.

Teal Bold Blind Beauty silicon bracelets with white text and braille.
BBB braille & text silicon bracelets

Like our stylish fashion icon Abigale, being confident and radiating a positive attitude of empowerment despite our blindness enables us to navigate the world with our white canes or guide dogs and our heads held high. Being Bold, Blind, and Beautiful is less about how we look and more about who we are. When we are beautiful on the inside it shines forth on the outside.

 

Posted on

From Passing To Passion—Finding Strength In The White Cane

Ambutech White Cane with a neon green grip and neon yellow section nearest the tip.
Ambutech White Cane

The thing that bothered me most about my sight loss was my fear of people knowing I couldn’t see. Everywhere I went I felt so vulnerable and isolated not to mention, my anxiety levels rocketed off into the stratosphere.

So what did I do as my sight deteriorated to the point where each step I took was a step closer to breaking my neck? I faked it.

Adjusting to sight loss is a process and everyone who goes through it does so in a different way. I was so used to putting on my professional mask to face each day, it was important to me that people saw what I wanted them to see—a composed person. Yet at the end of each day, and sometimes throughout the day while hidden in a restroom stall, I was a blubbering mess who felt my life was unraveling.

In addition to indicating that a person is blind or visually impaired, the long thin white cane is more than just a mobility tool for blind and vision impaired users. It is also a badge of strength and boldness. It provides the means for us to take back our lives, regardless of where we fall on the sight loss spectrum.”

Tri collage of me posing in front of my counter with my white cane wearing a black off the shoulder choker top, white jeans, black suede chunky high heels and silver jewelry.When I met with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) to discuss the assistive technology I would need to keep my job, I was stunned when he mentioned the white cane. I expected to answer questions to determine my needs but it never crossed my mind that the white cane would be part of the discussion. I mean I couldn’t see but I wasn’t blind. I had a lot to learn.

“The only person you are fooling is yourself when you pretend you CAN see when you clearly CAN’T,” this comment from the VRC didn’t go over well with me. Even so, I grudgingly took Orientation and Mobility training to learn how to use the white cane and once my lessons were over the cane remained in my closet for quite some time.

My eventual acceptance of the white cane came about as I began to accept my sight loss. Meeting and befriending blind people who strongly advocate for the rights of blind persons led me to volunteer for several blind organizations. Becoming a part of the blind community and refocusing my efforts on helping others was the most important piece that ultimately gave me a sense of peace.

I still have days where I don’t feel as secure as I’d like, we all do, but when I come back to my why, I can recharge, readjust, and refocus to stoke the fire of my passion. Improving humanity by changing the way we perceive one another is my mission and to achieve it I must continue moving forward and doing so with my white cane. I’ve found that being Bold Blind and Beautiful comes about from living life to the best of my ability.

 

Posted on

Abby’s Reflections #36 | What’s In A Name?

Description is in the body of the post.

Insights on Sight Loss & Beauty

Abigale comes from Abilities + Nightingale (the small ordinary brown bird known for its extraordinary voice). Sometimes things aren’t as they might appear. ~Abigale

Changing perceptions is a massive undertaking but I believe anything is possible. If we could throw out everything we THINK we KNOW about a GROUP of people, allow ourselves to be accepting, and place our focus on INDIVIDUALS it brings us closer to inclusivity.

Description: A white, teal, and gray Bold Blind Beauty template utilizing the ‘Abby’s Corner’ image of Abby sitting cross-legged in her PJs (gray bottoms & white top with a gray collar) with a teal Abby logo laptop on her lap. Sporting her signature explosive hairstyle, she is wearing a headset with microphone and her white cane is propped up next to her.

Posted on

How Losing My Sight Transformed My Vision

Real Beauty Transcends Barriers

A little something I found in my archives but never posted. ~Steph

  • Abby is directly above the slogan “Relax! It’s Only A Cane.”Prior to losing my sight, I used to think blindness was an all-consuming, suffocating darkness.
  • Prior to losing my sight, I used to think blindness meant using a white cane.
  • Prior to losing my sight, I used to think blindness was the worst thing that could happen to a person.
  • Prior to losing my sight, I used to think blindness would prevent me from working or participating in community service.
  • Prior to losing my sight, I used to think blindness meant life as I knew it would cease to exist.
  • Prior to losing my sight, I used to think blindness meant I couldn’t enjoy entertainment like books, tv or movies.  
  • Prior to losing my sight, I used to think blindness would change how I interact with friends and family.
  • Prior to losing my sight, I used to think blindness meant living a solitary life.
  • Prior to losing my sight, I used to think blindness meant I wouldn’t be able to cook, clean or care for myself.
  • Prior to losing my sight, I used to think blindness would mean the end of laughter, beauty, and the things that bring me joy.

All the things I thought I knew about blindness were wrong.

Selfie of me wearing a black off the shoulder top/choker with a long silver necklace.Since the loss of my sight, I’ve learned so much about myself, others, and life in general. For several years I’ve maintained that I am the same person today as I was when I began my journey into blindness but this really isn’t true.

I have changed because to remain the same means I’ve not grown. Life is bigger than me and you, life is bigger than blindness. If I could extend my arms from one end of the galaxy to the other I still would not be able to contain life.

Life is beautiful. With each new day, we have an opportunity to live our life to the best of our ability. Beauty is all around us and we can experience it in a myriad of ways.

Blindness is not the barrier; there is always a way. The barriers each of us have to overcome are our biases; we all have them. Sometimes we have to go through some stuff in order to come face to face with our own biases.

If I had to choose one thing blindness has taught me it would be I have a greater appreciation for life. Life doesn’t change but it can change us if we let it.