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Blind CrossFit Athlete Is Empowered & Unstoppable

Blind CrossFit Athlete Featured Image Description is in the body of the post.

Today’s Woman On The Move, Kimberley (Kym) Dekeyrel, was recently featured as a cover model on the March edition of CAPTIVATING! An edited version of the following article also appeared in the magazine however we have some exciting news to share! It’s amazing what this woman has achieved in two years after a major lifestyle change.

Blind CrossFit Athlete Is Empowered & Unstoppable

I want to show visually impaired people they can do anything. At the same time I’m showing my children there are no excuses not to be your best. At 37 I am the blindest I’ve ever been, yet I feel more unstoppable now than ever.

~Kym Dekeyrel, Woman On The Move
#1 - Kym, her husband and two sons photo description is in the body of the post.
#1 – Kym, her husband & 2 sons

My story of vision loss began before I can even remember. My parents received my diagnosis of retinitis pigmentosa (RP) when I was five years old. I can only imagine their devastation when they were told their bright blue-eyed daughter would most likely be totally blind by the age of 18.

Without hesitation, they began to prepare me for life and I started learning braille and taking mobility lessons weekly. I learned cane travel and carried around ridiculously large print books all throughout school. Yes, I was made fun of. No, it wasn’t easy being the kid with the weird orange glasses that couldn’t go out for P.E. But my parents placed me in dance lessons and it became everything to me. I was a natural performer and never felt like the blind kid when I was in the spotlight.

Even though I was the poster child for RP, I was an anomaly to doctors. My vision loss didn’t progress like typical retinitis pigmentosa. I lost my central vision first and was left with scattered islands of peripheral vision. Because of this, I honestly never felt like I was understood by other visually impaired people. I wasn’t in denial of being blind, but when you mourn the loss of your vision your entire life it simply becomes a part of your day-to-day challenges.

Life’s Detour After Devastating Diagnosis

#2 - Kym and her husband photo is described in the post.
#2 – Kym and her husband

So my life carried on. I went to college and earned my degree in dance and kinesiology. After graduation, I went to massage school then later met my husband at my first job at a doctor’s office. It was about this time that life punched me in the gut with a diagnosis of lupus symptomatic of rheumatoid arthritis. The agony I suffered for three years made being blind seem like a walk in the park.

By this time, I had one son named Cooper and knew I couldn’t live a life worth living if I could barely move. After doing research my husband put me on an extremely strict diet that saved my life. Within six months of changing my diet, I was back on a treadmill and ready to have our second son, Easton.

I never returned to dancing but two years ago my husband brought me into a CrossFit gym, I was terrified. How could I do anything if I could not see anything? But by the end of my first class, I knew I had found my new passion.

Now, I am trying to become an empowered representation of the visually impaired in the adaptive CrossFit world. I want to show visually impaired people they can do anything. At the same time I’m showing my children there are no excuses not to be your best. At 37 I am the blindest I’ve ever been, yet I feel more unstoppable now than ever in my life. Being blind is hard, but if you live by faith and not by sight anything is possible.

CrossFit Games

CrossFit photo of Kym is described in the body of the post.
Kym doing her thing

@KymPossibleXoXo as she’s known on Instagram, found out last week that she qualified for the adaptive CrossFit games in July. Her Instagram exploded when @CrossFitGames shared one of her competition videos and get this, it’s been seen over 350K times!

I can’t tell you how excited I was to receive a message from Kym with her news. She even said that while we “technically” haven’t met, she was so excited to share this with me. And of course, I was probably just as excited to hear it directly from her.

The adaptive CrossFit games are held north of Toronto and Canada during the country‘s largest Functional Fitness/CrossFit Festival of the year. Over 1,000 athletes of all levels will participate but Kym is the first blind athlete to be invited as a part of the adaptive athlete division.

As having a visually impaired athlete in the competition for the first time, Kym is nervous and excited to educate the adaptive CrossFit community on how to best adapt movements for blind athletes. We are excited to stand by her all the way! We encourage anybody who would like to support or sponsor Kym through her journey to contact her. You can reach Kym directly via email at kymdekeyrel@gmail.com.

Like her Instagram alias, Kym is showing us that anything is possible.

Blind CrossFit Athlete Featured Image Description:

In the featured photo, Kym is doing what she loves, working out in the gym. She is squatting while holding 90-pound barbells straight over her head. Her workout ensemble is a black tank top with gray and black leggings with geometric shapes and pink sneakers. Kym’s long blonde hair is in a ponytail.

Additional Image Descriptions:

  1. Kym, her husband and two sons, Cooper and Easton, are posing together as a family. Mom, wearing a black dress, and dad, in a blue polo shirt, is standing behind the boys.
  2. Kym and her hubby are standing together looking sharp. Date night perhaps? Kym is wearing a sleeveless plum colored dress with taupe dress shoes and her husband is in a suit. He is holding his jacket over his right arm.
  3. In this photo, Kym is in mid-shot of tossing a big ball against the wall at the gym. She’s in the same outfit as in the featured image.
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#BlindMKLady Hashtag Evolution

I'm Blind Why Should I Wear Makeup image description is in the body of the post

#BlindMKLady Hashtag Evolution

“‘You are not less of a person for using a white cane.’ This takeaway was life-changing for me; the cane doesn’t define you, it’s just a tool. After hearing this I became a different person and people noticed.”

~Amy Wilson

Hello Bold Blind Beauty Readers, 

Some of you may know me and some of you may not. Before I explain what this post is about, I will give a short introduction to who I am. My name is Amy Wilson, a middle-aged thirty-something midwestern woman.

For over 25 years I’ve been defined as legally blind and never considered myself a special or unique flower. Although, I’ve accomplished many things in my life that some say are exceptional. In fact, in the last few weeks, close friends have told me I need to improve my self-promotion skills.

I’m so bad when it comes to talking about myself. My husband is the same way—humble is the name of our game. Not my son though, he is the show off of the family. Each person in my wonderful family has their own disability. I only say this to tell you there is a lot of stuff going on in our household. 

The #BlindMKLady Hashtag Breakdown…

1. Let’s begin with why I chose to include the word ‘blind’

First, saying visually impaired makes it too long, lol, just kidding. In the world we live in, you are ‘blind’ to the sighted community even if you have residual sight. On the other hand, to the blind community, you are ‘sighted’ if you have a little vision. How does that even make any sense? So am I blind or not?

For over twenty years I hated when people would call me blind, I would go on the defense right away. Do you know where that got me? Nowhere really.

Being called a blind person bothered me so much I wouldn’t even use a white cane. So if I have ever shoulder checked you I am sorry. According to my ex-husband, I did it a lot but in 2015 that changed for me. I can remember it very clearly as I met people who I now call family. And you would never guess who they were? Yes! Other blind people!!! 

I mean I had previously met blind people, but these people didn’t let their blindness define them. Adding to this, was my takeaway ‘you are not less of a person for using a white cane.’ This takeaway was life-changing for me; the cane doesn’t define you, it’s just a tool. After hearing this I became a different person and people noticed. I no longer had a problem walking around with my white cane. If anything I think I strutted a little more. 

2. Classification of Being ‘Blind’ 

Last year I heard a speech that changed my viewpoint on being classified as ‘blind.’ It talked about how people put you into categories and how as blind people we do it as well. The point made was, ‘why are we segregating ourselves within our own blind community?’ Whether you have no vision or just been declared legally blind, guess what? You’re blind! Now let that sink in.

I know from personal experience it’s hard to take on the blind label. It’s especially difficult when you are new to blindness. When I heard that speech I made the decision to stop saying “I’m visually impaired” and just say “blind.” By doing this, I’m letting society know that ‘blindness’ is not just the ‘totally blind’ but me too. 

I’m blind so what? I’m still a Rock Star! No way am I a rock star but I think you get my point. And maybe you just have to listen to the P!nk song—”So What.”

3. What’s A MKLady?

The other part of my hashtag speaks for itself as I am a Mary Kay Beauty Consultant. I love the company, Mary Kay. This is actually my second time being a Mary Kay Beauty Consultant. 

My first time, with Mary Kay I was not confident in my blindness at ALL. I let it get in the way of having my own Mary Kay business. This time is totally different. I got great advice right from the start. If they can’t handle the fact that I am blind then they are just ‘not my people.’ Simple right?

‘Not your people’ can be used in so many different areas of our lives, even with family. Be confident in who you are, no matter what!!! Do I have regrets in my life? You bet, but I don’t dwell on those things—you can’t change the past and the future is tomorrow’s problem. However, you can focus on now.

Knowing Who I Am

I view myself as the #BlindMKLady and wouldn’t have it any other way. And I am not the only #BlindMKLady out there either. I’ve met other MK ladies and am personally building my team of blind and sighted ladies. My goal is to be the first blind Mary Kay Sales Director. It doesn’t matter how long it takes me. My goal is huge even for a sighted consultant. If you want to assist in helping me achieve this goal let’s chat. 

No matter what your goal is in life don’t let something like being blind hold you back. Blindness does not define you. You define you. Put your big girl panties on and make stuff happen. If you want someone to cheer you on, contact me, I will be your cheerleader. 

Be Bold, Be Beautiful and most of all be true to YOU!!!

Yours Truly, 

Amy Wilson, #BlindMKLady

You can find me on Facebook as Amy Wilson or my Facebook group called Wilson’s Wildflowers

#BlindMKLady Featured Image Description:

Closeup photo of Amy looking fabulous with her wavy brunette hair framing her face and sunnies on top of her head. She is wearing a blue/black floral dress with a v-neckline.

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5 Confessions Of A Blind Content Creator

5 Confessions Of A Blind Content Creator featured image description is in the body of the post.

5 Confessions Of A Blind Content Creator

Okay, so I have some confessions and now’s as good a time as any to come clean. As some of you may know, I joined forces with an amazing image consultant, Chelsea Nguyen, and together we’ve launched a digital magazine. We ultimately envision developing an accessible online platform where people across the disability spectrum can collaborate, create, and publish professional publications. 

Since CAPTIVATING! is where the power and possibilities of inclusion are limitless it’s a chip off Bold Blind Beauty’s block. As a matter of fact our missions are very closely aligned; CAPTIVATING! is about living and thriving with a disability. It is for all—everyone. Inclusion is the key word for both Bold Blind Beauty and CAPTIVATING!

Now that my workload has practically doubled I’ve been asked what it’s like and how I do it. I thought the best way to proceed forward would be to go through my workflow and share some helpful tips. I’ll wrap up today’s post with some exciting news to share with you! But first, confessions:

Confession #1

This blogging business is hard! Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not whining, although if I do say so myself I’m pretty gosh darn good at. When I say “good at it” I mean whining not blogging. Not that I’m bad at blogging but I’m better at whining when I put my mind to it. However, whining is not the purpose of this post.

When I first began blogging the major concerns from my point of view were content creation and time. If I thought developing fresh content was stressful I didn’t take into consideration:

  • managing the website
  • research
  • writing
  • editing
  • picture taking
  • video making
  • connecting and engaging with fellow bloggers
  • and social media, just to name a few tasks.

Confession #2

It was so exciting watching Bold Blind Beauty grow. With growth came greater responsibility:

  • not nearly enough time to visit my favorite blogs (because there are many and yes, I have a list)
  • curating relevant content to share on social media is ongoing
  • connecting with, scheduling and following up with featured guests is also ongoing
  • sometimes no matter how well I plan things go awry
  • additional features on the back end of the website make managing it a little more challenging
  • as the blog grew so did I as in age, as a result, the way I work has changed
  • growth on social media channels means more connecting and engaging with more people

Confession #3

Upgrading to WordPress Business Plan provides greater flexibility ie plugins, e-commerce solution, access to instant help, and more. On the other side of the upside:

  • it’s more costly
  • even more, time to update and sustain the site
  • learning to use new plugins to make life a little easier
  • because of confessions 1, 2, and 2, there’s even less time to engage with my blogging buddies

Confession #4

Since so much of what we develop as content creators are visual, this can make things a bit challenging. Limited eyesight compounds the issue yet there are many adaptations and workarounds we can use. But what about design elements? More importantly, how do you keep it all organized then post to multiple social media channels?

  • Canva, a web-based design platform is so easy to use a person without any design experience can create nearly anything.
  • Sendible is a social media management tool that lets you schedule and post to multiple social media platforms. Yes, even Instagram so no more emailing images to upload to Insta on your cell phone.
  • G-Suite like the name implies is a suite of Google products (docs, sheets, calendar, contacts, Gmail, etc.) With G-Suite you can create set up email based on your domain, i.e. smccoy@boldblindbeauty vs. smccoy@gmail.com. All of my images are grouped into general subdirectories like events, logos, products, quotes, and selfies. These directories are further broken down by more specific topics. For example in my boatload of quotes folder, there are advocacy, authenticity, empowerment, fashion, funny, etc. related quotes.
  • Trello is a project management tool consisting of boards, lists, and cards that I use to keep myself organized.
  • Sales Navigator Lite for Gmail extension allows me to see what contacts are on LinkedIn. This enables me to send them a connection request directly from Gmail.

Confession #5

I draw the line at SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

  • At my age, I choose what’s beneficial for me. Since my eyes glaze over whenever I hear the word “SEO,” Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress has been a lifesaver.

Summary of Confessions:

While the work I do can be incredibly complicated and time-consuming it is by far the most rewarding I’ve had the pleasure of performing. The amazing feedback I get from people all over the world is more than enough compensation. An additional bonus is meeting all of you and featuring some of you here on Bold Blind Beauty.

CAPTIVATING! Celebrates Women’s History Month

You may have been wondering how today’s featured image relates to this post. Well, since my friend and colleague created the image I wanted to brag on her. This amazing CAPTIVATING! magazine cover was created by Deloitte colleague Kelly Stephens. She took existing photographs from 5 beautiful women from all around the world and made it look like they are in the same room. 

In honor of Women’s History Month, @CaptivatingMagazine‘s editing team selected these women to be featured on the cover. The March edition was recently published and it features content about empowering women, Cerebral Palsy Awareness, a lovely children’s book review and more. The edition can be accessed here: March 2019. When you have a moment check it out.

5 Confessions Of A Blind Content Creator Featured Image Description:

Clockwise from the bottom left is:

  • Grace Nzomo is wearing a red scoop-neck sweater and her long wavy red hair is swept over her left shoulder.
  • Krystle Allen who has dark shoulder length hair is behind L.A. wearing a white blouse with a silver and gold medallion statement necklace.
  • L.A. is in the center. She has dark curly hair and she’s wearing a black dressy top and bright red skirt.
  • Kym Dekeyrel has long blonde hair parted in the center and while it can’t be seen in this photo she’s wearing a red and black floral dress with spaghetti straps.
  • Shaini Saravanamuthu is in the lower right corner dressed in a black cold shoulder gown. Her long gold statement earrings are a nice contrast against her jumpsuit and black wavy hair swept to the left.

Do you have any tips or tricks to share that make your life easier? Please do tell. ~Steph

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‘Blind’ How Embracing This Word Led To Empowerment

'Blind' How Embracing This Word Led To Empowerment featured image description is in the body of the post.

‘Blind’ How Embracing This Word Led To Empowerment

I found I was living life feeling like a ‘broken sighted person’ when I could choose to live as a ‘whole blind person.’

~Liz Wisecarver, Woman On The Move
1 VW Bug
#1 VW Bug

I was born with cone-rod dystrophy, but growing up, I didn’t know I was “blind.” Professionals said I had too much vision to be blind, I was “low vision.” That meant I didn’t have to learn braille or use a cane.

My parents asked about braille lessons when I was about five, but professionals advised against it. They said I would try to look at the dots instead of feeling them. I remember thinking that sounded crazy since I couldn’t even see the dots on the page. But again, we were not the experts, so large print was the medium of choice.

I didn’t have a teacher of blind students or an IEP (Individualized Education Program); terms I didn’t learn until I was an adult. Ocassionally, I received orientation and mobility lessons (O&M) with a heavy marshmallow tip folding cane that came up to my armpit. But why would I need to use that in my tiny K-12 school a place I knew inside out? So the cane stayed folded up and out of sight.

The large print books were huge and heavy. Plus straining to read all day caused terrible headaches, so by high school, I almost completely stopped reading. Despite this, I graduated high school with OK grades and had a fairly normal adolescence.

2 Cannon
#2 Cannon

Finding Change In Between Two Worlds

In college, I felt something needed to change if I wanted to live an independent, fulfilling life. The problem was I wasn’t sure how to accomplish this change. My Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) helped me get a CCTV (closed circuit TV) to read with on my desktop. And even though I didn’t use it, I at least carried my folding cane.

Since I couldn’t see in the dark I missed out on a lot of social activities. My fear was compounded because I was scared to travel to unfamiliar places by myself. I remember one evening in particular where I unexpectedly needed to stay on campus later than usual. This resulted in me not getting on the bus until twilight. When I arrived at my large apartment complex, I had trouble seeing the contrast of the buildings against the waning light. With only a  bit of light left in the sky I had to count the rooflines to find my building. There were several stressful incidences like that, and looking back, I’m surprised I didn’t get hurt.

But I wasn’t ‘blind,’ after all, I was ‘low vision.’ I felt like I was the only person in the world stuck somewhere between blind and sighted.

Thankfully, I eventually found out how to make a change. After graduating from college, I got a new VRC, Matt Lyles, who was blind himself. He said if I really wanted a challenge, I should check out the Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB). He described it as boot camp for the blind, and he would know since he went there himself. Matt told me the most important thing he learned at LCB was that our limitations have more to do with our own personalities than blindness.

3 Tower
#3 Tower

Accepting A New Perspective About Blindness

Up until my conversation with Matt, that was the first time anyone talked to me about a residential blindness training program. I was ecstatic to start the nine-month training at LCB in 2010. The Center was different from the bit of blindness skills training I’d experienced before. Students with residual vision wear sleep shades during classes to focus on learning nonvisual skills like:

  • cane travel,
  • daily living,
  • braille,
  • technology,
  • and industrial arts.

Most instructors are blind themselves, and those who aren’t, often wear shades while teaching. Some of the most impactful moments for me were during trips:

  • white water rafting in Tennessee,
  • mountain climbing in Arkansas,
  • and in New Orleans at Mardi Gras.

LCB helped me develop a positive philosophy about blindness. Previously, I didn’t like to use the word ‘blind,’ I thought that was only for totally blind people or an insult. But I gradually learned I wasn’t fooling anyone by holding onto someone instead of using a cane. Or pretending to read along in print—I was blind, and that was ok. I found I was living life feeling like a ‘broken sighted person’ when I could choose to live as a ‘whole blind person.’

It was fascinating to me how many people experienced a similar lack of resources. After training, I earned my Master’s in O&M from Louisiana Tech University. I also hold a National Orientation and Mobility Certification
(https://www.nbpcb.org/nomc) to share the structured-discovery (http://www.pdrib.com/pages/canetravel.php) style of training with more blind people. Matt showed me the impact one blind person can make on another, and I hope to do likewise through my service.

4 Wedding
#4 Wedding

Paying Forward A Positive Philosophy

I’ve taught people of all ages cane travel and a positive philosophy about blindness through a variety of programs. Currently, I work for the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) of Texas as the NFB-NEWSLINE® Texas Coordinator. This position marries my undergraduate Journalism degree with my experience in the blindness field. NFB-NEWSLINE® is a free electronic newspaper and information service available to legally blind and print disabled subscribers. We also host training events for Texans of all ages across the state to teach people how to use NFB-NEWSLINE® and other blindness skills.

Outside of work, I am involved with the NFB of Texas CAREER Mentoring program for blind youth. My husband Trae and I live with two cats, and a weenie dog. I enjoy traveling, hanging out with friends, and shopping. Recently, I’ve gotten into paper crafting and became a Stampin’ Up! demonstrator. Art, like most anything, is something blind people can do with the right tools and techniques.

Not only would I have missed out on an amazing career and wonderful people without LCB, I would not have the tools and confidence I needed to be successful. I gained the skills to do small, everyday tasks like using a screen reader on a laptop and the confidence to understand that I am not inferior simply because of my blindness. I encourage everyone to find successful role models to serve as your mentors, and ask them what they did to develop the skills you appreciate in them. Blindness is not a tragedy, it’s just a characteristic.

5 Helen Keller
#5 Helen Keller

Connecting With Liz:

‘Blind’ How Embracing This Word Led To Empowerment Featured Image Description:

Liz smiles and is wearing a black scoop neck tee and sunglasses. Her shoulder-length chocolate brown hair is blowing in the wind, as she sails with the Sailing Angels Foundation based in Houston. The sky and sail are visible in the background.

Additional Image Descriptions:

  1. VW Bug: Liz poses with a brightly psychedelic floral-print painted Volkswagen Bug car inside her favorite boutique, Beehive Outlet in Ruston, Louisiana. She wears a mint green tunic top with white lace side panels and front pocket, white leggings, and a long gold and pink floral necklace.
  2. Cannon: Liz stands beside a Civil War cannon at the Tupelo National Battlefield wearing a salt-and-pepper wrap top over a black lace camisole, black skinny pants, and black flats. Her cane is decorated for Halloween with purple spiderweb Duct Tape.
  3. Tower: Liz stands atop the 85-foot-tall Wilder Brigade Monument tower at the Chickamauga Chattanooga National Military Park. She wears a short-sleeved teal floral-print kimono cardigan over a white t-shirt, the sky, and treetops visible in the background. Her cane is decorated with sparkling silver material and a blue satin bow tied beneath the handle.
  4. Wedding: Liz walks down the aisle at her friend’s outdoor wedding wearing a lavender V-neck ankle-length dress with lace accents, her brown hair styled in an up-doo with curls. Her long cane is decorated with the same lavender material as the dress.
  5. Helen Keller: Liz recreates the iconic well pump pose at the Helen Keller Birthplace & Home in Tuscumbia, Alabama. She stands smiling at the camera with one hand under the pump’s spout and the other pulling the lever. Liz wears a black sweater dress trimmed with blue and white stripes around the hem, black tights, and a long matching black and blue necklace.