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Turning Fear Into Motivation For Change

Turning Fear Into Motivation For Change Featured Image description is in the body of the post.

Turning Fear Into Motivation For Change

Visual impairment and blindness is a deeply personal and individual experience. Some people are highly motivated to set goals and regain their independence immediately, while others take it one day at a time. 
Never forget, whatever stage you are in your journey, a compassionate team of vision professionals, O&Ms, and resources are always there to support and help VI people along the way.

~Amy Castleberry

Moving Forward In Spite Of Fear

#1 Amy Castleberry image description is in the body of the post.
#1 Amy Castleberry

You might think my classmates and professor were playing a vicious trick on me the day I was blindfolded. They led me around the winding corridors of my college campus until I was completely disoriented. Then they left me alone to my own devices.  In reality, it was the first lesson in my master’s degree training program as an orientation and mobility (O&M) graduate student. The first day of the rest of my life.

“I have no idea where I am,” I laughed nervously.

“You will,” my professor replied in a comforting and encouraging tone. “You have all of the tools you need. Just, use your cane.”

Did I mention two of my biggest fears are “the dark” and “getting lost”?

Fear is a funny thing we all confront at some moment in our lives. The nagging tic in the back of our brains, or the aching pit at the bottom of our stomachs. Fear can overwhelm in a flash of frustration and panic. Or, in a moment of enlightened courage, motivate us to actively change our circumstances and rise to the occasion.

#2 Salus University O&M cohort image description is in the body of the post.
#2 Salus University O&M cohort

So, what was I to do? I could stay stuck, remain literally in a corner, and give in to my fearful thoughts. Or, I could choose to move forward and continue moving until I eventually worked my way to my destination.

As I stood against the wall wracking my brain for my next move, I heard my professor’s voice: “You’ve got this. Take a deep breath, make a plan, be systematic.”

Easier said than done.

From Trainee To Trainer

About 30 minutes later I used my long white cane and worked myself out of the corner. I located the stairwell, walked up two flights of stairs, only to take a wrong turn, on the wrong floor. Trapped again, in another corner nowhere near my final destination.

“Not bad for your first time,” the professor said as I pushed away my blindfold. “We’ll have you crossing streets in downtown Philadelphia in no time.”

By the end of that month, my professor was right. I had all the tools I needed and I crossed my first street independently while blindfolded, then another, and then a whole intersection. Eventually, I worked my way through many other environments after that first intersection.

From parks with uneven terrain and dirt trails to riding public transportation in a congested center city. To taking escalators, exploring different departments in shopping malls, and my favorite lesson of all, training with guide dogs! When I wasn’t practicing cane navigation, I was learning to instruct my classmates. Lessons involved traveling systematically, safely, and independently while building their confidence and helping them achieve their goals.

Now, months later, I’m nearing the end of my fieldwork and I’ve worked with visually impaired (VI) children and adult clients. Next, I’ll be moving across the country to train at a Veteran’s Hospital with visually impaired members from our nation’s military.

Reflecting On The O&M Journey

Along the way, I’ve met incredibly diverse and unique people across the spectrum of blindness and VI. People who have welcomed me with patience, kindness, open hearts, and minds.

Thanks to Stephanae, I’ve enjoyed this opportunity to reflect on my experiences and training as an O&M graduate student, and my hope for the future.

Though I’ll never know what it’s like to live on a daily basis with a VI, I’ve learned some important things from my students and the generous VI community:

  1. VI and blindness is a deeply personal and individual experience.
  2. Some people are highly motivated to set goals and regain their independence immediately, while others take it one day at a time.
  3. The return to independence from VI is grueling, hard work. But the journey is supported by a relentless and compassionate team of: 
    • fellow VI community members,
    • vision professionals,
    • teachers,
    • technology professionals,
    • advocates, and
    • compassionate, creative, problem-solvers who are as deeply invested in helping our clients identify resources, overcome barriers to accessibility, and achieve their goals.

Life may never be the same, but quality of life can be enhanced through adaptation, creativity, and the emergence of innovative technologies.

#4 Guide Dogs image description is in the body of the post
#4 Guide Dogs

I am grateful to my classmates, professors, mentors, clients, students, and the VI community at large, for their patience and encouragement along the way. Though I know I will encounter barriers and systems that present challenges to my students and clients, I will always be a seeker and student, an advocate for equality and inclusion, and a warrior against fear in favor of love and light.

What’s Next?

In the coming year, I hope to find my place and purpose in this amazing community, and work hard to make a difference through passionate action. I look forward to serving the community in every and any way I can.

Many thanks to Bold Blind Beauty for allowing me to share my thoughts and experiences. Please reach out to me at any time, so we can connect and continue to educate, overcome barriers, fight for accessibility and independence, and continue to grow and learn as a team.

Connecting With Amy:

  • Instagram: @o.m.amy
  • Email: acastleberry.o.m@gmail.com

Featured Image Description:

This photo is a group of nine O&M students (including Amy) posing with white canes. There’s a Salus University sign on the floor that reads “Celebrating 10 Years.” A couple of students are holding the school’s mascot (Sal the Salamander) and others are holding school pennants. 

Additional Images:

  1. A closeup of Amy with a big smile and wearing dark-rimmed eyeglasses. Her blond hair parted in the center and she has on a black cold-shoulder top.
  2. Amy and five other Salus University O&M students are posed standing with white canes.
  3. Gallery of six photos:
    1. As part of her O&M training, Amy is approaching a set of escalators with her white cane as several onlookers watch. 
    2. Amy is standing on the upper level of a mall next to the railing with her white cane.
    3. This image is a couple of students doing O&M travel on the street.
    4. A photo of three people demonstrating O&M on a wooded pathway.
    5. Amy is kneeling next to a lovely dog who appears to be smiling. 
    6. A picture of Amy and four other students wearing white polos at Seeing Eye Guide Dog Training.
  4. Eight students (including Amy) are posing with three guide dogs. The three guide dogs are sitting on the floor with two students kneeling next to them while the others stand.  
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Niki Bevins | Blind Beauty 62

Niki Bevins Blind Beauty 62 Featured image description is in the body of the post.

Niki Bevins | Blind Beauty 62

“Having been diagnosed at the age of 4 with Stargardt’s, I have known my whole life I was going to grow up to be “blind.” A lot of things have surprised me about vision loss along the way, but the thing that surprises me the most has nothing to do with vision at all. I have learned that I must speak up and advocate for myself. The most surprising thing along my vision loss Journey, has been how  it’s helped me find my voice!”

~Niki Bevins
#1 - Niki Bevins image description is in the body of the post.
#1 – Niki Bevins

Generally speaking, people seem to be fascinated by the capabilities of blind and visually impaired people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked who does my makeup or pulls together my outfits.

Sometimes I feel the questions are a test where my answer will prove or disprove my level of sight. As I’ve discussed many times on Bold Blind Beauty, blindness is a spectrum condition.

The number of people who are completely blind is roughly around 10 percent. What this means is the majority of blind people have some residual sight which varies greatly from person to person. Our remaining sight is severe enough to impact day-to-day living and requires adaptations.

Today’s Blind Beauty, Niki Bevins aka The Blind Avon Lady, is, well, an Avon Representative. Niki, who has Stargardt Disease, a form of Macular Degeneration, focuses on what she can do, not what she can’t. 

#2 Niki in a truck bed image description is in the body of the post.
#2 Niki in a truck bed

While Niki received her diagnosis at a very young age, she has to acclimate to declining levels of sight. Recently she decided to take Basic White Cane Training to maintain her independence and she shares her journey on Instagram.

Blind Beauty 62 Featured Image Description:

Featured image is a faux fashion magazine cover titled Blind Beauty. Niki is on the cover in black and white. She is sitting at the entryway to a barn on a wooden step. Beside her are decorative corn stalks with a couple of Halloween pumpkins. In the entrance behind her are stacked bales of hay. Niki’s outfit is described under additional images.  

Blocks of text superimposed on Niki’s photo are: “Bold–She Keeps Pressing Onward, Blind–She Has Deeper Insight, Beautiful–She Sees To The Heart Of Others.” “Real Beauty Transcends Barriers.” “Makeup Trends for 2019–How To Maintain A Flawless Look”

Additional Images:

  1. In this color photo of Niki, she’s dressed for fall. She’s in a cream-colored jacket with tan pants and fashionable brown boots lace-up boots. Her look is completed with a burgundy/cream print scarf tied loosely around her neck.
  2. This photo of Niki in the same outfit described above is a closeup of her sitting in the back of a blue truck bed. Whisps of wheat/blond hair frames her pretty profile.

Connecting With Niki Bevins:

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Ginger Anderson| Blind Beauty 61

Blind Beauty 61 Featured Image description is in the body of the post.

Ginger Anderson| Blind Beauty 61

“So many times I want to quit!! But TODAY is the day to begin! This song has brought me through so much these last years. We all have it in us to succeed but often we have to dig deeper than we ever thought possible.”

~Ginger Anderson
Blind Beauty 61 Ginger Anderson image description is in the body of the post.
#1 Ginger Anderson

I cannot say enough good things about the pretty lady I’m going to introduce you to today! I’ve been following Ginger Anderson’s health journey on Instagram and she’s one of the reasons I chose a healthier lifestyle.

Ginger is a wife, mom, knitter, all around powerhouse, oh, and did I mention she’s also legally blind? Earlier this year Ginger began her journey to a healthier lifestyle with a simple decision to just do it. She knew she was in a bad place and also knew she needed accountability. So the next logical step was to find a program to suit her needs. The journey hasn’t been a walk in the park and what I like about Ginger is her transparency about her challenges.

In Ginger’s Own Words

Y’all I am in tears right now!! I am legally blind and I see through a tunnel that is about the size of a quarter and in that tunnel my vision is very distorted and cloudy. I told myself that I couldn’t do the #shiftshop Shop program or #provinggrounds because of my vision and the chronic state of vertigo-like symptoms but you know what??

#2 Ginger Anderson

When @happyhealthyhumble shared Saturday morning before her speech about mindset, that little voice inside me said Ginger you CAN do this!! And I DID it!! It was hard, lost my balance quite a bit, and modified as needed. Tears of joy right now!!! Thank you Amy!!! And thank you @thechrisdowning.

The following video “Today Is Your Day” by Shania Twain is the song Ginger refers to in her first quote:

Blind Beauty 61 Featured Image Description:

Featured image is a faux fashion magazine cover titled Blind Beauty. Ginger Anderson is on the cover in black and white. Her hair is styled in a fabulous asymmetrical pixie cut.

Blocks of text superimposed on Ginger’s photo are: “Bold–She Keeps Pressing Onward, Blind–She Has Deeper Insight, Beautiful–She Sees To The Heart Of Others.” “Real Beauty Transcends Barriers.” “Makeup Trends for 2019–How To Maintain A Flawless Look”

Additional Images:

  1. Selfie of Ginger with streaked brownish/blonde hair at a craft show. I neglected to mention that Ginger has one of the prettiest smiles and it can be seen in all of her photos. She’s wearing a black top and her makeup is flawless.
  2. Six-panel collage of Ginger in various stages of exercise. She’s decked out in black shorts, black sports bra and gray tank with a white headband.

Connecting With Ginger Anderson:

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Kel Smith | Blind Beauty 60

Blind Beauty 60 Featured image description is in the body of the post.

Kel Smith | Blind Beauty 60

“Losing your vision is like using the Yellow Pages, you just have to let your fingers do the walking”

~Kel Smith
Kel Smith image description is in the body of the post
#1

I once had 20/20 vision but began to lose it from too much pressure on my brain and optic nerves. The condition that occurred around 2007- 2008 was Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension which caused scarring on my optic nerves. During this time, I was working as a graphic designer and had no idea what to do.

A graphic designer’s main asset is vision and mine was failing. So, there were several years where I didn’t know how to cope with my newfound “disability.” It subsequently caused me to go into a great depression.

Eventually, I learned to use my hands and fingers to get by. I began to try crocheting and cooking again which I loved to do before my vision began to fail. What amazed me was how quickly my fingers knew what to do even though I had a hard time seeing the stitches.

My crocheting was BETTER than it was when I could see because my fingers were now able to keep perfect tension on the yarn! Now I create lovely crocheted blankets and beautiful fashion wraps with perfectly even stitching. Cooking was a bit more of a challenge but after burning myself a million times I got better. Now I move around my kitchen like I have perfect sight.

Collage of Kel Smith image description is in the body of the post
#2

Setbacks, Surgeries & Seeing A Way Forward

Kel Smith image description is in the body of the post
#3

In 2012 I had a series of failed surgeries that left me unable to do anything for the entire year. After 5 lumboperitoneal (LP) shunts that had to be revised or replaced I eventually got a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt. The VP shunt didn’t fail but I was still terribly depressed.

To handle my depression, I began making YouTube videos showing what it’s like to see through the eyes of someone with 20/400 vision. At the same time, I started taking online classes at Colorado Technical University. I did so well in school they wrote an article about me for their website to inspire others to get an education. Both outlets helped me deal with what was happening in my head. These activities, made me feel I wasn’t doomed to spend the rest of my life in the dark feeling bad for myself.

I eventually graduated with an Associate Degree in Business Administration and went back to earn a Bachelor’s in Digital Marketing. My education helped me to grow my Instagram account and I landed a job as an account manager in Denver, CO with a merchandising company. Working made my depression much better as I had previously felt I may never be able to work again. I excelled in this position and managed to juggle about 1000 accounts during my 2 years in this fast-paced position.

#4

Creativity Spawns A Positive Mindset

My YouTube channel is my source of fun because I love to be able to create and edit my own videos. The fact that I can edit my own videos despite my vision issues is a great source of personal pride. Not only does it make me feel better it helps to educate others on what it’s like to live seeing through my eyes. I haven’t been making as many videos as I’d like because life is so busy, but I have plans for my channel coming soon. You can check out my Through My Eyes series on my YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/ksmith228

I also began writing music again and have completed several albums. One of my songs, Evangeline, has earned an honorable mention and stellar review from Music City SongStar. Creating and learning are my main passions and I wouldn’t have made it through the dark days without them.

I am currently taking time to focus on my creative endeavors and am the brand ambassador for 2 separate eyewear companies. Protecting your eyes from the sun is imperative and I wanted to make sure I represented companies that are attainable for all.

I represent Nora NYC which is a higher end sunglass brand that has very fashion-forward styles. I also represent Piranha Eyewear which is an affordable sunglass brand that offers classic and fashion-forward styles to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. You can find out more on these brands from my Instagram account @kelsonearth.

Blind Beauty 60 Featured Image Description:

Featured image is a faux fashion magazine cover titled Blind Beauty. Kel Smith is on the cover in black and white. The word that comes to mind when one looks at the dark-haired beauty is sultry. In her photos, she always manages to pull off a glamorous vibe like Hedy Lamar or Marlene Dietrich.

Blocks of text superimposed on Kel’s photo are: “Bold–She Keeps Pressing Onward, Blind–She Has Deeper Insight, Beautiful–She Sees To The Heart Of Others.” “Real Beauty Transcends Barriers.” “Makeup Trends for 2019–How To Maintain A Flawless Look”

Additional Images:

  1. In this closeup of Kel’s face, her eyes are closed and her head is angled towards her shoulder. Her eyebrows are beautifully arched and she has flawless winged eyeliner paired with a light shade of lip color.
  2. A collage of four different poses in which Kel is wearing a black & white striped v-neck top. She’s paired the top with a black & white houndstooth tam. Dark red lip color looks great against her red fingernails.
  3. Kel looks so stylish as she stands in front of a red brick wall with one foot propped against it. She’s wearing a green fedora, chunky cream sweater, dark pants, and taupe suede boots. Aviator sunglasses complete her fabulous look.
  4. Kel’s face is slightly tilted to the right and her straight brown shoulder-length hair frames her face. Her arched eyebrows open up her face to show off her beautiful green eyes. She’s wearing a gray top with her left shoulder slightly exposed.

Connecting With Kel Smith: