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Jade Ramos | Blind Beauty Issue 35

Blind Beauty Issue 35 featured image description is in the body of the post.

Jade Ramos | Blind Beauty Issue 35

“Having a great self-confidence day so here’s my new profile pic” ~Jade Ramos

Image #1 Disability related motifs
Image #1 Disability related motifs

The above caption along with her powerful artwork is what captivated me about Jade Ramos. The beauty of her words spoke to the authenticity of her selfie, no air-brushing just a confident young woman.

Jade, who refers to herself as ‘a legally blind one-eyed artist,’ is also an extraordinary activist. I was so moved by several of Jade’s pieces I requested permission to share them here with you today.  Descriptions on each of these pieces are below.

When I asked Jade for a quote to go with this post she chose a favorite from Christopher Reeve. After becoming disabled later in life Christopher had this to say:

“I refuse to allow a disability to determine how I live my life. There is only one way to go in life and that is forward.” ~Christopher Reeve

Jade frequently thinks of this quote when things get tough or she gets bad news related to her eyesight. As a matter of fact, if you look closely at image #2 you’ll see this quote.

“Your words, attitudes, and actions impacts my life more than my disability does.

Image #2 Wheelchair icon description is in the body of the post.
Image #2

“Disability is just another way for a mind and/or body to be.”

Image #3 description is in the body of the post.
Image #3

“Make The American Dream Accessible”

Image #4 description is in the body of the post.
Image #4 Tactile Art

“The Disability Is Not The Problem The Lack of Accessibility Is”

Blind Beauty Issue 35 Featured Image Description:

Featured image is a mock magazine cover titled Blind Beauty. Jade’s cover photo is a black and white selfie of her proudly showing off her clear prosthetic right eye. She is wearing a black jacket over a black v-neck top with several stacked necklaces and has a thin lip ring in the center of her bottom lip.

Jade’s Art Image Descriptions:

  • Image #1 Disability related motifs – Assorted black disability icons on a white background. Explained by Jade: “People with disabilities are rarely seen in a positive light when it comes to representation in the media & in everyday life. So I made them have smiles. The original symbol only shows one type of white cane & one type of wheelchair user so I made new images depicting the actual reality.” While these particular images represent visual impairments, Jade will be including other disabilities as she expands.
  • Image #2 A big wheelchair icon is front and center along with quoted text including the Christopher Reeve quote. The text and several smaller icons are interspersed throughout the piece, some are black and some gray. The quotes are included in this post.
  • Image #3 This is a photo of several pieces including the disability icons and abstract art. What caught my attention are the number of statements (some quoted throughout this post).
  • Image #4 This tactile piece is the first time Jade has incorporated braille into her work. It reads “Disability! The one minority group everyone can join. Accessibility matters!”

You can connect with Jade on the following:

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Jayd Alex | Blind Beauty Issue 32

Jayd Alexz image description is in the body of the post.

Jayd Alex | Blind Beauty Issue 32

“A picture is worth a thousand words”

Image #1 by Jayd Alex | We See More, We Are More. Image description is in the body of the post.
Image #1 | We See More, We Are More.

Isn’t true if you can’t see it. Likewise, painting with words, the skill writers and creatives alike use, can fully engage our senses. There is power in both imagery and words. Marrying the two with image descriptions make stories come alive in the imaginations of people who are blind or visually impaired (VI).

Take for example the 3 images within this post created by Digital Artist, Jayd Alex. Each of her pieces challenges us to view blindness from a different perspective. These gorgeous drawings show the vast spectrum of blindness and how people who are blind might appear.

What I love about Jayd’s art is that it demystifies blindness by showing characters with strength, confidence, and their white canes. Ordinary people who cannot see yet are living their lives independently. Each of the images shows people who are well-groomed, poised, and fierce.

Following is what Jayd has to say about blindness:

“Visual impairments and blindness don’t just present difficulties, they present unique perspectives that deserve to be shared. I hope through my art I can help VI people become more confident in themselves and their abilities, and show our able-bodied society that we have so much to give.” ~Jayd Alex

Image #1 Description:

Black & white partial sketch of a woman holding an identification (ID) cane in both hands. A braid can be seen laying on her right shoulder and she is professionally dressed in a jacket with rolled up sleeves and white cami.

Image #2 by Jayd Alex. Description is in the body of the post.
Image #2

Image #2 Description:

Fashionably dressed brown-skinned woman with wavy burgundy colored hair. She has a blue floppy hat on her head with blue oversized shades, white cold shoulder top with lace details around the shoulders and blue jeans. She is holding her white mobility cane in her right hand and she could easily be a runway model.

Image #3 #SymbolCane by Jayd Alex. Description is in the body of the post.
Image #3 | #SymbolCane

Image #3 Description:

This image is part of a new iPad painting. The image is a stylish white complexioned young woman with pink hair in a ponytail and loose wisps of hair on both sides of her face. She is wearing a purple three-quarter sleeve length top and matching choker with a full black skirt belted at the waist. In both hands, she is holding a shorter identification cane used to indicate she has low vision.

Jayd Alex Featured Image Description:

Featured image is a mock magazine cover titled Blind Beauty. Jayd is looking quite lovely on the cover with her fair porcelain complexion wearing brown-framed eyeglasses. She has light blonde shoulder length hair, blue/grey eyes and is wearing a burgundy crew neck sweater.

Blocks of text superimposed on Jayd’s photo are: “Bold | She Keeps Pressing Onward,” “Blind | She Has Deeper Insight,” “Beautiful | She Sees To The Heart Of Others”

To learn more about Jayd you can connect with her on social media:

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WOTM 10 Featuring Suzanne Gibson

River’s Edge

Photo of Suzanne Gibson
Suzanne Gibson

Friday’s have always been my favorite day. When I was in the corporate world it was a welcome prelude to the respite of the weekend to come. Today, I become re-energized by featuring strong, independent, influential women who happen to share a common thread of blindness or low vision.

In preparing to write these pieces I always ask the person I’m writing about for permission and request that they send me a couple of paragraphs to work from. For those with websites and social media users I can glean interesting, informative, and inspirational data that makes for a good narrative.

My advice to every young person who crosses my path, everyone actually, is to keep pursuing what it is that you love. If you are creative, create. Do not be too busy; do not tell me about your limited budget. Find a way to do something. I did not always follow this advice. I became distracted many times with life.

Suzanne Gibson, a very talented local artist who owns River’s Edge studio in New Brighton, PA, is no exception to the unbelievable fortitude of people I hold in the highest regard. Prior to contacting her, I saw some articles written about her in a few of our local newspapers.

Suzanne Gibson Painting His Majesty (a very colorful majestic bird)
Suzanne Gibson
“His Majesty”

I knew Suzanne experienced vision loss and yet she was still passionate about her art. What I didn’t know were the other extraordinary circumstances she went through that were unrelated to her loss of vision.

The tumor was growing again, and I would need radiation. The daily radiation treatments lasted 6 weeks, but recovering took much longer. To add to this challenge, the week after I finished radiation, I received the news that my visual acuity was 20/200 and that I could no longer drive.

I think for most of us, to receive a simultaneous diagnosis of vision loss and a brain tumor, would be devastatingly frightening. Just when Suzanne was beginning life anew as a painter she had to endure this inconceivable news.

After her first brain surgery, Suzanne’s inspiration to keep moving forward was found in the works of blind artist John Bramblitt. She began painting canvasses and contemplating her second chance at life. While Suzanne was considering the direction her life would take next, life dealt her another blow.

The brain tumor was back. After another brain surgery and a 6 week course of daily radiation therapy, the recovery period this time around was considerably longer than the first time. With the added complication of worsening vision, Suzanne was introduced to adaptive devices to aid her in continuing to paint and live independently.

…without Lex Luther, there is no Superman and without this ‘disability’, I would not be painting the way that I do. This vision loss that could have struck me down has, instead, led me to explore myself and dig deep into my soul to paint expression and feeling.

During the experimental painting phase, while using the adaptive devices, there were some initial disappointments but then Suzanne created a piece aptly named Enjoy the Moment.” When I look at this painting I’m reminded of an indescribably beautiful summer day. The explosion of reds, yellows, oranges, greens, blues and purples along with the curves and angles of the two flowers tickle the senses. I can even imagine feeling the warmth of the day while hearing the birds sing as I inhale the sweet scent of the flowers. It’s a beautiful moment. The success Suzanne gained by this painting gave her the confidence she needed to continue her craft.

Suzanne Gibson Enjoy the Moment
Suzanne Gibson
“Enjoy the Moment”

Suzanne sent me 3 of her paintings which I’ve included in today’s post. I like and appreciate all 3 for different reasons but ‘My Nemesis was the one that really spoke to me. As soon as I saw it, without knowing what the cause of Suzanne’s loss of vision, I thought “this reminds me of my central vision loss.” So when I looked at an essay she wrote with the same name as the painting it clicked.

Suzanne Gibson Painting "my nemesis"
Suzanne Gibson
“My Nemesis”

Suzanne was diagnosed with Stargardt Disease an inherited vision disorder with macular degeneration that typically affects younger people. The macula, located in the center of the retina is responsible for detailed central vision needed to read, drive, recognize faces, etc.

Suzanne, you are an amazing example of what a person can achieve even when faced with adversity. Your strength, determination, and courage are admirable and you are a remarkable role model.

I’d like to encourage you to visit Suzanne’s website at www.riversedgestudio.com to see some of the offerings. In ending today’s post, because I like Suzanne’s philosophy on life, I’m using one of her quotes.

“My advice remains the same: enjoy the moment- do not wait for tomorrow. You do not know what that day will bring. However, when you do reach tomorrow and it is not what you thought it would be, REVISE!” ~Suzanne Gibson

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WOTM 6 Featuring Libby Thaw

WOTM Featuring Libby Thaw

Libby The Visionary

Collage of Libby Thaw (one picture of Libby performing at the microphone and two headshots of her)
Libby Thaw

In December, 2009 it had been 6 months since I was declared legally blind and it felt as if everything in my life was spiraling out of control. Since my vision loss is a hidden disability this was one of the most challenging aspects of the ordeal. It was right around this time that I met Libby Thaw who offered me a lifeline.

The feeling of isolation one can experience when they lose their vision can leave you with a paralyzing fear that you can never make it out of the dark abyss. Because I knew I wasn’t emotionally ready to use the white cane Libby’s Checkered Eye Project (CEP), an international low vision awareness effort, was the perfect solution for me.

“Everybody, including people with disabilities, makes assumptions. Problems arise when we are not open to learning our assumption was wrong.” ~Libby

Libby Thaw, a wife and stay at home mother who resides in Port Elgin, Ontario Canada founded the CEP in 2000. I remember during one of our many conversations Libby told me the CEP idea evolved out of a chat with a couple of like-minded individuals. The concept was simple and revolved around a discreet hands-free option for people with low vision to self-identify to let others know of their disability.

Libby, who also happens to be legally blind, understands the difficulties one encounters with loss of vision. On one hand, people with low-vision can be challenged with day-to-day tasks yet on the other hand, to the general public, their disability is not apparent. It’s because of this hidden disability that Libby designed an emblem representative of, and for those impacted with, significant vision loss.

The CE is a pin, patch, or button, which may be worn to subtly indicate its wearer has partial blindness, also known as low vision. In addition, the CE creates a unique opportunity for open dialogue to build awareness on low vision and what the symbol represents.

Personally, I can attest to the sense of empowerment I gained when using the CE. Since I had no control over the loss of my vision at least I could control who I chose to make aware of my situation. And even though I do need to use the white cane now I still wear my pin to increase its visibility.

Libby who has Stargardt disease, the most common form of inherited juvenile macular degeneration, is a motivational speaker, writer, and entertainer (you really should hear her sing). I had the chance to host Libby as my guest when she came to Pittsburgh to attend the Foundation Fighting Blindness’ Pittsburgh VisionWalk back in 2011.

Music gives me a great feeling of oneness. I like to take in the sense that we are all in it together; the musicians are obviously in on the cooperation, but the crowd has lots to do with it too. I’m so glad my eyesight doesn’t hinder that. In fact it probably augments it. Since I can’t see people’s facial expressions I project my own ideas of what their movements and body language are saying. ~Libby

Upon meeting her at the airport I was immediately struck by Libby’s energy and enthusiasm. The weekend was a flurry of activities that included a stop at Pittsburgh Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services for a tour of the low vision facility and an opportunity for Libby to talk about the CEP.

To each eating establishment we went during Libby’s 2-day stay she would ask the host/hostess if they had large print menus and this opened the door for further discussion about the CEP. It was refreshing to see someone actively self-advocating while at the same time bringing attention to an issue impacting many people across the U.S. and worldwide.

In October of 2013, Libby was invited by the California Council of the Blind (CCB) in San Diego, California to attend their annual state convention. Not one to pass up an opportunity to spread the word on the CEP Libby packed her bags and traveled to the CCB’s convention. She wrote a very insightful blog on the trip which you can peruse at your leisure by clicking HERE.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the CE is not a mobility or safety device, rather it is a tool for face-to-face interaction only and its use is a matter of personal choice which gives the wearer the option of determining with whom to share their vision loss. If you or someone you know would be interested in learning more about the CEP Libby can be contacted directly by email at info@checkeredeye.com or you can visit her website at www.checkeredeye.com.

If you have any questions or would like additional information from me please leave a comment below or email me at smccoy@boldblindbeauty.com.

I think the following quote accurately sums up today’s bold blind beauty. Libby, I want to thank you for being you and in so doing being a positive role model and a ray of hope for people impacted by vision loss.

“We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.” ~Frank Tibolt