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Embracing Disability Through Self-Expression

CANE ENABLED

Editor’s Note:

The following article, originally published on  is a work of fiction and is being republished from our Cane EnAbled series. Since we are reintroducing Abby to our audience we will share recycled as well as new content about her. We hope you enjoy!!

Going forward, 4 of our main series (Men In Motion, Women On The Move, B3 Magazine (formerly Blind Beauty), and Cane EnAbled) will be published monthly on Mondays). For example, Men In Motion will be published on the 1st Monday of each month, Women On The Move the 2nd Monday, B3 Magazine the 3rd Monday, and finally Cane EnAbled will be published on the 4th Monday. The balance of our content will be a mix of reviews, Q&As, and more.

Embracing Disability Through Self-Expression

I’ve always loved fashion and style. So when it came to my white cane I thought why not use it beyond its intended role? Why can’t it help express my inner sense of being, much like my hair, makeup, clothes, shoes, and jewelry?

~Abby
Abby & Gold Cane
Abby & Teal Dress

Hi Everyone, Abby here! It’s been a while since I’ve last spoken with you. The boss lady (Steph) has me going hither and yon all while working behind the scenes. Today though, I want to talk about a topic near and dear to my heart―embracing disability through self-expression.

During my business trip to the UK, I met up with my friend Vicky (Victoria Claire) to accompany her to Dublin. As an Ambassador for Retina UK, Vicky serves to help people living with sight loss understand life is not over. She shares her message of hope through the 3 A’s―acceptance, adaptability, and accessibility.

Depending on the severity, acquiring a disability at any time during our lives can be a soul-crushing experience. There are a plethora of articles about the fear of blindness and how people feel it would end their life. It’s no wonder when we find ourselves in this very situation we balk and some of us give up. Granted, working through sight loss is a deeply personal ordeal and getting through it can be an ongoing process.

When we lose our eyesight it can feel like a small part of us is dying. Our whole world shifts and like a baby learning how to walk and talk, we have to learn to adapt. Sustaining a part of ourselves that’s familiar yet tweaked to our new life circumstance becomes a lifesaver.

Customized Colored Canes At Home & Across The Pond

For me, I’ve always loved fashion and style. So when it came to my white cane I thought why not use it beyond its intended role? Why can’t it help express my inner sense of being, much like my hair, makeup, clothes, shoes, and jewelry?

While there is some debate on using customized or more specifically colored canes, my canes are an extension of me. I believe what makes blind and visually impaired people stand apart from other cane users is our technique. Our canes are used to help us navigate by probing to let us know if there is an obstacle in our path. 

So it was fabulous meeting up with Vicky, both of us with canes in hand (hers black and mine gold). Both of us noticed a significant difference in how we were received by those around in our respective countries and Dublin. 

Here in the U.S., with the explosion of mobile devices, it seems like people aren’t really attentive to their surroundings in general. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Research Note “2016 pedestrian fatality count (5,987) is the highest number since 1990.”

In the UK when we were making our way through the airport people seemed to be oblivious to us using our canes. However, when we arrived at the Dublin airport the attitude was very different. It was immediately recognized that our mobility canes were for the blind.

Freedom To Express Ourselves

The hotel we stayed at was very lovely and had good lighting in the room, along with contrasting colors in the bathroom. We visited the Jameson Distillery which was really great and we also spent a lot of time walking. The River Liffey was well paved with decking and a nice and flat walk area for us.

When we went to the NewsTalk Radio Station Studio, they couldn’t have done enough for us. The conference, held in a large and well-lit conference room was very organized. Overall we had a great time in Dublin and I for one cannot wait to return one day soon. Vicky said it best:

The world can become a much more accessible place, somewhere we are all free to express ourselves and we are not stuck in a limiting space.

While I cannot speak for Vicky, I believe she would agree with me that those who choose to use the standard white cane rock as do we!

Image Descriptions:

  • Abby is sitting cross-legged in her PJs (gray bottoms & white top with a gray collar). Her laptop on her laps has a teal Abby logo on the cover. Atop her signature explosive hairstyle, she is wearing a headset with a microphone. Her white cane is propped up next to her.
  • Abby & Teal Dress: Abby is holding up a teal dress on a hanger in her right hand. She is wearing a stylish black off the shoulder dress, black heels with ankle straps and a white hat with a black band with a loose end waving. In her left hand is her white cane.


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July Men In Motion | Andrew Donald

Image is described in the body of the post.

MEN IN MOTION

Editor’s Note:

Bold Blind Beauty is an empowering online community that connects blind and sighted people while eradicating misconceptions about blindness and sight loss. We’ve found that when we are open to the idea of limitless possibilities our preconceived notions dissipate. The people we feature aren’t extraordinary because they are living with sight loss, however, they’ve worked hard to adapt to a new way of living. Today, from Down Under you’ll meet via video, our July Man In Motion, Andrew Donald, known as “Nocturnal Archer.” We’ve also provided a transcript of the video below. Enjoy!

Andrew Donald, Nocturnal Archer

Introduction

Image is described in the body of the post.
Andrew Donald #2

Good day. I’m Andrew Donald. I’m from Melbourne and I’ve been a professional musician and music teacher since I left school, and I’m currently studying my master’s of education at Victoria University. I’m 36 years old and I’m legally blind. I’ve been involved in martial arts and music since I was about five years old, and more recently I’ve taken up traditional archery. That’s what I’d like to talk to you today about, my journey into archery as a vision-impaired person, and really more broadly about how accessible archery is to really anyone.

Sight Loss & Archery

My vision impairment is called rod monochromatism. This means that I see only with my rod cells and have no cone cell function. This makes me extremely sensitive to light. I have quite low visual acuity and I’m totally colorblind. I do however see quite well in the dark and this has formed a major way that I’ve adapted archery to work for me. Archery is an incredibly diverse art form. There are many different styles from all around the world, and there are so many different ways to enjoy archery. It is primarily extremely fun. It is extremely challenging and very personally rewarding.

You can make a lot of cool stuff in archery. I make my own arrows. I fletch them and paint them. You can make your own bowstrings. You can even make your own bows, which is something that I’ve really been looking forward to getting into. But overall, archery is an extremely technical discipline and it requires a lot of practice, and that’s part of the appeal for me. It’s very similar to music in that way. I’ve found that archery has been a natural extension of my experience with martial arts, but it’s also surprisingly been an extension of my experience as a musician as well.

Instinctive Archery Shooting Style

Like I said, there are many different styles of archery. I practice traditional archery with traditional bows. So this is an example of a traditional longbow. It’s an example of a traditional hunting recurve bow. As you can see, there are no accessories on these bows. There are no bow sights or other attachments. As opposed to a bow like this, which is a vintage example of a bow you might see in the Olympic games. You can see, we have a few more attachments here, including a bow sight used to aim the bow.

The style of shooting that I practice is called instinctive shooting. This is a style that doesn’t use a bow sight or any other visual mechanism to aim the arrow. Rather, you look at what you want to hit and then you use your physical technique and your form to align your body properly so that you can send an arrow to that target. It’s very much like kicking a soccer ball. You can’t aim a soccer ball. You simply have to look where you want it to go and then put your body in the right position to send that ball where you wanted it to go.

It’s also strangely like singing and playing a musical instrument. If you can play the piano without looking at the keys, you’re instinctively aware of where each key is. In singing, even more so. You can’t see a note or a key you have to play in order to produce the note you want so you have to trust your instincts and your many hours of practice, that when you go to sing that note, it’s going to come out the way you want it.

Image described in the body of the post.
Andrew Donald #3

Navigation & Senses Working In Concert

Another way I’ve found instinctive archery is very linked to experiences as a vision-impaired person is navigating a familiar space as a vision-impaired person. If you navigate a familiar space without using your vision as a primary sense, then you are instinctively aware of your surroundings and where you are relative to those surroundings, and that’s really at the essence of instinctive archery.

Essentially, you’re using your sense of touch, your kinesthetic awareness to align your body relative to the target. I still need to see my target in order to hit it, but I don’t need to see it that clearly. In fact, I can shoot more accurately than I can see, if that makes sense. This is because archery is extremely technical and your form and technique play such a major part in making your arrow go where you want. That sight is really secondary to that, in my opinion, and especially shooting traditional archery from a bow hunting perspective, the distances that we’re shooting really is not that long. In bowhunting, you would never attempt a shot beyond 20 meters, in traditional bowhunting.

When we practice, it’s always fun to push the distance out to 30, 40, 50 meters, but it’s still very satisfying trying to shoot five, 10 meters, and this is still quite a challenge. So that’s another way that traditional archery and instinctive shooting have worked well for me as a vision-impaired person.

Competitive Archery Tournaments & Low Vision

There’s just so many ways to participate in the art of archery. There’s a strong competitive side to archery, with many different styles of tournaments, and there are often categories for blind and vision-impaired people in these tournaments. Blind and vision-impaired people compete in archery tournaments through the use of a tactile sight, which is a sight that rests on the hand and on the feet and helps the archer align themselves properly to the target, through their sense of touch and with the help of a spotter. This is just another way that blind and vision-impaired people can compete in archery.

There are indoor tournaments and outdoor tournaments. There are 3D tournaments that mimic bow hunting, and there’s of course bow hunting, which is an incredible way to get in touch with nature, and being in a natural environment with my bow and arrow is one of my all-time favorite pastimes. Perhaps the most common reason people get into archery is that it’s incredibly fun. It’s super addictive and it’s a great way to meet new people. It can be a very social activity, but it can also be a tremendous solitary, meditative pursuit as well, and I love that side of archery.

Archery is also incredibly safe. By far, the most dangerous part of archery is the removing of the arrow from the target as opposed to shooting the bow. Yeah, archery is a very safe sport and as a vision-impaired person practicing archery, this is of course very important to me. If you haven’t thought about taking up archery as a blind or vision impaired person, I’d seriously consider it because it’s far more accessible than you might think. There are so many different ways to involve yourself in archery and it can be an incredibly rewarding thing to practice.

Global Archery Community

So I’d love to see more blind and vision-impaired people practicing archery. If you are interested in archery and my story more, you can find me on Instagram under Nocturnal Archer. Instagram has been a tremendous platform to connect with other traditional archers from all around the world and I’d have to recommend it. It’s been a very positive community. If you’re interested, there are lots of experienced archers out there to help you get into the art of archery. So, yes, thank you so much for listening and I hope this might have inspired you to look into archery. Take care.

Image Descriptions:

  • Featured image is the Beyond Sight Magazine cover. Andrew, dressed in a red flannel shirt, knit cap, and shades, is aiming his bow and arrow and it appears as if he’s in 3-D. The masthead is teal with “Beyond Sight Magazine” in black text. The dot on the ‘i’ in ‘sight’ is the eye used for our 2020 Year of Vision Campaign (described HERE). There are 4 lines of black text that say “Andrew Donald The Nocturnal Archer.” In the bottom left corner is a teal circle with an illustration of a blind man in motion with his white cane and “Men In Motion” is in yellow text under the circle.
  • Photo #2- A dramatic long exposure photo of Andrew dressed in black against a black background and highlights around his bow and arrow.
  • Photo #3 – A long exposure photo of Andrew using an arrow with a light up nock.
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Words: Balancing Realism, Compassion & Hope

Balancing Words Featured Image Description is in the body of the post

Words: Balancing Realism, Compassion & Hope

“Long after your final patient has gone home, somewhere somebody’s life may be falling apart due to the conversation you had with them earlier that day.” ~Fern Lulham

Editor’s Note: The following article was written by an amazing motivational speaker I recently met. When Fern Lulham was born her parents were given devastating news about their precious newborn. 

Dear Doctor Choose Your Words

Image 1 Fern Lulham description is in the body of the post.
Image 1 Fern Lulham

What is the scariest thing about an operation? Is it the pain you might experience? Is it that the procedure might go wrong?  For many people, it is the idea of putting their life into the hands of a doctor. Of course, not all operations are life-threatening.

Not all operations carry with them the risk of death. However, every single operation will involve a threat to their patient’s well-being. And this threat does not just apply to operations.

In what other contexts do you have contact with your patients? Every consultation brings this same hazard. Every appointment presents this same danger. And every single conversation you have with a patient puts their life firmly in your hands.

When we go through a medical process, doctors are legally obliged to inform us of the potential risks. And yet there is one very important risk which is not considered; something which can be just as lethal as the surgeon’s knife. It is our doctor’s choice of words.

Words, when placed into the hands of doctors can be deadly. To patients, their words equal truth, their opinions are facts. Their diagnosis is final and our future is whatever they say it will be. I want each and every one of you to know that you are incredibly powerful people. You might not always feel like it, but for most of us patients, you and your words are everything. Always remember this. You and your words are powerful.

And with that power comes great responsibility. When you are talking to a patient, what are you thinking? Are your thoughts with that one patient in that one moment? Do the words you choose tell that patient that they are not just one more name on your seemingly endless list?

Words & Trading Places 

I would like you to think for a moment. I want you to remember a time when somebody has said something which has really stayed with you. A small collection of words which days, months, even years down the line, you can still hear ringing in your ears. How do those words make you feel?

  • They may be angry words of disappointment or disgust.
  • They may be the words of a bully at school.
  • They may be the encouraging words of a friend.
  • They may be the advice of a parent.

Such words can have a huge impact on our lives and on the way we feel about ourselves. And isn’t it surprising how we can still hear them as clear as day as if they have just been said to us just a moment ago?

Image 2 Fern description is in the body of the post.
Image 2 Fern

Have you ever left a voicemail message and felt self-conscious about the way you sound? Your sudden awareness of the structure of your sentences and things not sounding the way you intended. We do not think about this until we know what we have said can be replayed and listened back to again and again.

When I am speaking to an audience, I am very conscious of the words I use and what impact they are having. Why? Because I know that people are listening. What we don’t think about is that people are always listening. They are listening particularly carefully when it is their doctor who is speaking to them. And everyone carries around a means of recording that information and playing it back at will in their minds. Everything you say is being mentally recorded and, believe me, your patients are replaying it over and over and over again.

Rewind Replay

I know this because I do it myself – for hours! Entire evenings after the hospital visit before, have been dedicated to going through these conversations with a fine tooth-comb. Long after your final patient has gone home, somewhere somebody’s life may be falling apart due to the conversation you had with them earlier that day. For them, it does not end when they leave the hospital. Words which concern them, words which terrify them, words which they don’t even understand. Words which haunt them for who knows how long…

Image 3 Fern & Mr Hamada description is in the body of the post.
Image 3 Fern & Mr. Hamada

When I was only a few weeks old and first diagnosed with a visual impairment, my parents were told: “your daughter will never see.” Can you imagine how that would make you feel as a parent being told this by a doctor? Devastation. Hopelessness. Fortunately, he was wrong and I can see – not much albeit – but I can. Even if I couldn’t though, I’m sure you can think of words of hope and encouragement which may have helped my parents then and which may have helped me hearing my story years on.

These days, I go to the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead. My parents and I have left that hospital feeling just about every emotion known to man. We’ve had good news, bad news and every kind of news in between. The reason my parents come with me, even though I could easily tell them what happened when I got home, is to hear the exact words which are spoken. We have all come to trust that from my consultant, Mr. Samer Hamada, regardless of the stark medical facts, there will always be words of confidence, compassion, understanding and, most of all, of hope.

The Power Of Hope

Image 4 Fern and Nancy description is in the body of the post.
Image 4

This is the thing we crave whenever we are told of my progress. To know that even if things are not going to plan right now, it doesn’t mean they never will be. To be assured that even when there is not an immediate solution, the potential for a solution is always there.

Mr. Hamada speaks with such passion about his work and is so enthusiastic and excited about developments being made in medical science. This is hugely infectious and makes me strongly believe that he truly wants to make things better for me, as much as I would wish it for myself. It is inspiring and encouraging and gives me a reason to keep going, even when my world is uncontrollably getting darker all around me by the day.

So to all doctors, I say, please think about the words you choose and the way they are spoken because, to your patients, words can really be the best medicine.     

Balancing Words Featured Image Description:

A representation of the medical profession, this photo includes a stethoscope, pen, and open laptop on a white background.

Additional Images:

  1. Fern is a pretty brunette with bangs and hair length just beyond her shoulders. She is wearing a white tank top with a chunky silver statement necklace.
  2. In this photo, Fern is standing at a lectern at a speaking event. She is wearing a dark-colored cold shoulder dress with a silver necklace and ankle boots.
  3. Fern is posing in this photo wearing a sparkling lacy red dress with her consultant, Mr. Samer Hamada. 
  4. Nancy (Fern’s golden lab guide dog), is so adorable as both are seated on the floor. Nancy’s paws are on Fern’s shoulders as she gives her human an affectionate kiss. They are both wearing party hats (Nancy’s is pink and Fern’s is green).

Connecting With Fern On Social Media:

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A Dedication To Advocates A.K.A. Champions

Champion Featured Image description is in the body of the post.

A Dedication To Advocates A.K.A. Champions

Courage
Honor
Attitude
Motivation
Persevere
Integrity
Optimistic
Never giving up

One of the definitions for the word champion is “a person who fights for or defends any person or cause.” I can’t tell you how awesome it feels to work with so many champions (women & men, sighted & nonsighted of all abilities) featured here on Bold Blind Beauty.

“Belle et rebelle” (beautiful and rebellious)

I recently came upon the lovely term “Belle et rebelle” from a blog post. My friends at Green Global Trek recently used the phrase in Postcards from France ~ La Rochelle. When I saw the phrase I immediately thought of this community because we are shaking things up. The following song with the lyrics (below the video) is dedicated to you. Together we are breaking down barriers!

Here’s to all the Belle et rebelle:

Helen KellerAngela WinfieldSusan & Sherri RodgersEmpish ThomasAmy Hildebrand, Libby ThawKaren RowieJule Ann LiebermanEmily DavisonSuzanne GibsonFatmatta WurieStephanie Stephens VanSue Wiygul MartinJennifer RothschildLeigh Anne FocaretaKerry KijewskiJill KhouryChelsea StarkPaul MugambiMaribel SteelMary (Mel) ScottAmy BovairdCharlotte PoetschnerAudrey DemmittDonna HillSusan KennedyHolly BonnerKimberly WhiteTosha MichelleAshley NemethJenelle LandgrafJoy ThomasArie Farnam, BlindBeaderNicole Schultz-KassMara LaurenBecky AndrewsCarla Ernst, NicoleChristie SmithSilvia SeyringerJo Elizabeth PintoMaria JohnsonTaylor PapadopoulosVirginia MazeMegan DarcyRose-Ann LyonsLynne NicholsonCasandra XavierChristina HoltzclawEileen RobinsonDiane KrekMelody GoodspeedAngie RobertsLiz OleksaJill StephensShaini SaravanamuthuBeatriz García MartínNysha CharleneChrissy AntonopoulosBrittany WinnerEmily MetautenIvana TorbicaLizzie CapenerJayd Alex, Mja StæinarrJade RamosVictoria ClaireJennifer DutrowJ RenéeHawkeyeFaith & SavannahSuzanne ClarkeMarieke DavisNasreen BhuttaKathy Keck, Kirsty MajorLisa SalingerCaitlin HernandezAshley MorganLeslie ThompsonTori ClarkMichael RobertsonSherry IngramPortia MasonPenny ParkerPeggy FleisherMatt De GruchyJessica JannengaGlenda HarrisonJennifer Barrille, Laura Sottile, Jessica Marano, and let’s not forget you, our followers and supporters without whom none of this could be possible.

The Champion (Carrie Underwood)

I’ll be the last one standing
Two hands in the air, I’m a champion
You’ll be looking up at me when it’s over
I live for the battle, I’m a soldier, yeah

I’m a fighter like Rocky
Put you flat on your back like Ali
Yeah, I’m the greatest, I’m stronger
Paid my dues, can’t lose, Imma own ya, ay

I’ve been working my whole life
And now it’s do or die

I am invincible, unbreakable
Unstoppable, unshakeable
They knock me down, I get up again
I am the champion
You’re gonna know my name
You can’t hurt me now
I can’t feel the pain
I was made for this, yeah, I was born to win
I am the champion

When they write my story
They’re gonna say that I did it for the glory
But don’t think that I did it for the fame, yeah
I did it for the love of the game, yeah
And this is my chance I’m taking
All them old records I’m breaking
All you people watching on the TV
You go ahead and put your bets on me, ay

I’ve been waiting my whole life
To see my name in lights

I am invincible, unbreakable
Unstoppable, unshakeable
They knock me down, I get up again
I am the champion
You’re gonna know my name
You can’t hurt me now
I can’t feel the pain
I was made for this, yeah, I was born to win
I am the champion, oh

Born champion, Luda
The C is for the courage I possess through the drama
H is for the hurt but it’s all for the honor
A is for my attitude working through the patience
Money comes and goes so the M is for motivation
Gotta stay consistent, the P is to persevere
The I is for integrity, innovative career
The O is optimistic, open and never shut
And the N is necessary ’cause I’m never giving up
See they ask me how I did it, I just did it from the heart
Crushing the competition, been doing it from the start
They say that every champion is all about his principles
Carrie

I am invincible, unbreakable
Unstoppable, unshakeable
They knock me down, I get up again
I am the champion
You’re gonna know my name
You can’t hurt me now
I can’t feel the pain
I was made for this, yeah, I was born to win
I am the champion

I’m the champion, yeah
Surpassed all rivals
It’s all about who wants it the most (I am the champion)

Fight for what we believe in
That’s what champions are made of

I am the champion

Songwriters: Brett James / Chris De Stefano / Christopher Brian Bridges / Carrie Underwood
The Champion lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Champion Featured Image Description:

Two blue boxing gloves standing upright on a white background.