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Gain Independence & Rock The Cane

Gain Independence Featured image description is in the body of the post.

It makes sense for advocates to be borne out of situations in which we find ourselves, like disabilities for example. However, let’s not forget those who dedicate their time, talents, and passion to improve our lives with the gift of independence.  

Bold Blind Beauty

The following article written by Jennifer Freeman Fullerton speaks to her role in helping people with sight loss regain their independence.

Gain Independence & Rock The Cane

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#1 – Jennifer Fullerton

I have been an Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Specialist in the San Diego County area for approximately twelve years. My experience encompasses working with children ranging in age from three through twenty-two. Many of the students I have worked with have multiple disabilities.

Passionate about what I teach, I focus on helping my students gain independence in all aspects of their lives. As a professional in the field, I’ve seen first-hand what a long cane does for a student with vision loss. The level of independence and confidence a cane provides, cannot be described in words. I often show up to school campuses and am told by staff that my students are running down the hallways. Of course, as their O&M Specialist, I don’t want to hear that but as their teacher, I smile because I know that I was a part of building that confidence.

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#2 – Jennifer & her daughter

Adding Technology To The Mix

Since technology is opening up so many doors for people with disabilities, I have pursued as many learning opportunities as possible.  Specifically, anything that can help people who have visual impairments. What I have observed across all educational platforms is that technology is underutilized, especially applications (apps). For that reason, I began writing blogs for Cane and Compass to share my ideas with an emphasis on how to incorporate technology into O&M instruction.

I recently started a Rock the Cane Facebook Page and Campaign about two months ago. Since entering my amazing profession, I have dreamed of starting the campaign, long before any type of smart device or social media platform was available to utilize. I consider Rock the Cane to be my hobby and passion project. My goal with the campaign is to change the world’s perception of vision loss. I believe that by invoking help from the community, social media, people in power and individuals who know what it’s like to live with vision loss, we can work together to globally change perception.

I am lucky and blessed to impact the lives of many in my community who have vision loss.

Gain Independence Featured Image Description:

Jennifer is wearing a Rock the Cane navy t-shirt with images of brunette cartoon characters wearing black sunglasses. The image on the left is a brunette male and the image on the right is a female. Both characters are rocking long red and white canes. Jennifer is standing in front of a window and wood bench.

Additional Images:

  1. In this photo, Jennifer is wearing a navy “Orientation & Mobility Specialist” sweatshirt. This shirt has a graphic of a female cartoon character rocking her long cane. 
  2. Jennifer and her young daughter are holding hands. Jennifer is wearing a Cane & Compass gray tee that says “It’s Just A Cane.”

Connecting With Jennifer On Social Media:

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Trading Car Keys For A White Cane

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Thought of you today when meeting with an independent living specialist. I told her of your post when you finally grabbed “the cane” 🙂 She gave me some raised dot stickers to put on the kitchen appliances so I know which button is which. As much as I hated to admit it, I needed some help. Please know you are so inspiring and your insights and humor are appreciated. 

~Melissa Welch

Trading Car Keys For A White Cane

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Stephanae’s Mirror Selfie

October marks 10 years since I gave up my driving privileges. My last day of driving began like most days as I went through the ritual of preparing for work.

With laptop, handbag, and car keys in hand, I headed out the door to my sexy silver Jeep. Not an impulsive person by nature, I bought this SUV when I began having vision problems with my good eye. The Jeep purchase was one of the best impulsive decisions I ever made with no regrets. Heck, I even had a silver trench coat to match―no one could tell me nothin’ when I was behind the wheel.

On that crisp fall morning, I got in the Jeep, put down my belongings, slipped on my shades, started it up, and with music blaring pulled off. I swung by to pick up my colleague, best friend and carpooling buddy. Midway to the office, I matter of factly said to her: “I can’t drive anymore.” There were no theatrics, tears, or tantrums, it was time.

The Numbers Were In My Favor

When I look back at how my blindness evolved I can honestly say I knew. Even when the doctors were so sure I’d never end up where I am today, I knew. I remember bluntly asking each of them if I would go blind the answer was always “no you won’t Ms. McCoy.” 

Nothing that happened to me was supposed to happen, or at least that’s what the doctors said. When my first macular hole was diagnosed I was told there was a 95 to 99 percent chance my sight would be restored. Odds of it happening in the other eye was also very low. 

What kills me to this day is up to the point of that first macular hole I had the best vision of my life. Sure, I was using readers but my distance vision was corrected to 20/15. When I wore contact lenses my sight was so good I felt like I could see through things. Maybe it was a sign of things to come? 

Fear Of Blindness Blocks Progress & Independence

During the height of my sight loss, I was seeing no less than two or three eye doctors monthly for several months. A snowball effect of related and unrelated issues began cropping up. Cataracts, a torn retina, glaucoma, uveitis, not to mention how bizarre my vision was. With blank spots in my vision, people’s faces were disfigured to me and everything was distorted. 

Still, my retina specialist maintained his stance that he could “fix” me. After four years of back and forth, I’d had enough and went back to Cleveland Clinic. It was at this last appointment I found out I was legally blind and no more could be done for me medically.

My acceptance of being a blind person didn’t happen overnight and on many days I was a miserable mess. I think my doctor’s fear of blindness hindered me from a smoother transition i.e. low vision rehabilitation. He was opposed to me learning how to use the white cane and I allowed him to project his fear onto me. 

Blindness Isn’t Always Obvious

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White Canes

When it comes to blindness we’ve been so conditioned to believe that people who are blind have no sight whatsoever. The societal expectation is that we all wear dark sunglasses and have vacant stares. For many of us who were born with sight, once we lose it some of us can still do things like making eye contact. It should be noted while we ‘appear’ to make eye contact, many of us can’t see faces or facial expressions.

Since my remaining sight is next to none, I need to use a white cane to navigate the world safely. I read books by listening to them, magnification and screen readers allow me to use my cell phone and computer. Thanks to technological advances there are always workarounds and adaptations to allow us to sustain our independence.

When I began Bold Blind Beauty it was to bring awareness to blindness in the hopes of changing perceptions. So many people who cannot see won’t disclose it because of shame or fear and this needs to change. Eyesight without a doubt is so precious, yet it shouldn’t be the determining factor in who we are as people. Blindness is another way of seeing.

The opening quote to this post was written by one of my followers and it is a reminder of why I do what I do. Some may think trading car keys for a white cane isn’t a fair trade but when independence is on the line I beg to differ. 

The turning point for me was understanding I had a choice in how to move forward in life. I could give up or give in and embrace my blindness. Today, I accept being a blind person, and wouldn’t want to trade places with the person I was for anything.

Trading Car Keys Featured Image Description:

Photo is an image of a black key fob with a car keys and two other keys.

Stephanae’s Mirror Selfie

In this photo, I’m wearing a black “Ready To Conquer” Tee-shirt. Fashion icon Abby is to the left of a checklist “Handbag, Heels, White Cane.” Directly under her and the checklist is the slogan: “Ready to Conquer”

White Canes

This photo is part of my collection of white canes. These three are different colors/types: slimline black, slimline gold, green, gold & white cane with a rolling marshmallow tip.

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Poppi & Liz Wheeler | Blind Beauty 52

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Poppi & Liz Wheeler | Blind Beauty 52

“A guide dog has given me confidence to get out and about. When I’m feeling scared or overwhelmed Poppi is there to make me laugh or sometimes just sit with me and put her head in my lap. She is more than my eyes. She is my guardian angel and my very best friend. I’m so grateful to have her by my side.” 

~Liz Wheeler
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All I could muster on visiting Poppi’s Instagram account was a long, drawn-out awe. Poppi is a yellow labrador who has the sweetest facial expressions. Knowing she’s given her mum the gift of independence is especially heartwarming.

Poppi’s account is pawsitively positive. She looks out for her mum, Liz, and ensures her safety whenever they are out and about. In addition to caring for her mum, Poppi tackles social issues in a solution-focused, educational and awareness-building way.

You see, Liz only has 5% of her remaining eyesight left which means her eyesight is severely impaired. As I’ve talked about many times, blindness is not a simple matter of seeing versus not seeing. Blindness is on a wide spectrum that takes into account many factors. The important thing to remember is that each of us is doing the best we can with what we have.

Poppi and Liz are advocates working to change perceptions on what it means to live with blindness. By doing so they are making this a smoother transition for those newly affected by sight loss.

Blind Beauty 52 Featured Image Description:

Featured image is a faux fashion magazine cover titled Blind Beauty. Poppi and Liz are on the cover laying in the grass with Liz’s right arm draped around Poppi. Liz is wearing a navy blue sweater with jeans and Poppi is in her harness looking very serious.

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

Image 1:

Liz is looking absolutely stunning while she poses with her bedazzled black “white cane.” She is wearing black heels, pants, leather jacket, and a white blouse accented with a long cream frilly scarf.

You can connect with Poppi on the following social media platforms:

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Happy White Cane Safety Day!

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White Cane Safety Day celebrates the achievements of blind and visually impaired (B&VI) people in the United States on October 15 every year. It also reminds people of how the white cane is an important tool in helping the B&VI live with greater independence.

This year Bold Blind Beauty participated in White Cane Safety Day festivities in Pittsburgh, PA, and Milwaukee, WI.

Market Square, Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh celebrated its White Cane Safety Day on Friday the 13th. The celebration kicked-off with Jimmy Sapienza’s Five Guys Named Moe, a fabulous jazz combo comprised partly of musicians who are blind.

We joined Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh, Golden Triangle Council of the Blind, and the Bureau of Blindness and Vision Services to debut our White Cane Rules of the Road initiative. I was so grateful to hear people’s stories of loved ones living with blindness or sight loss. An added bonus was their excitement of Bold Blind Beauty’s message of changing the way we perceive one another.

Steph McCoy stands with her with cane in front of Bold Blind Beauty's display at White Cane Safety Day celebration in Pittsburgh's Market Square.
Steph McCoy stands in front of Bold Blind Beauty’s display at White Cane Safety Day celebration in Pittsburgh’s Market Square.

A personal highlight of the event was when one of my good friends came by to help man our exhibit. She was ecstatic when she found out all of our materials were also in accessible formats. So ecstatic, she began reading her braille packet almost as soon as she sat down.

Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh table, banners and awareness materials.
Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh table, banners and awareness materials.

Milwaukee County Courthouse, Milwaukee, WI

In Milwaukee, on October 17, Bold Blind Beauty joined Industries for the Blind (IB) to celebrate White Cane Safety Day. At our exhibit table, we shared our materials with more than 80 blind young people and their parents. In addition to White Cane Rules of the Road WI, we shared information on empowerment for B&VI women.

2017 Milwaukee White Cane Day Celebration at Milwaukee County Courthouse
2017 Milwaukee White Cane Day Celebration at Milwaukee County Courthouse

Summary

As White Cane Safety Day recognizes the contributions of B&VI people within our society, Bold Blind Beauty will continue its mission of changing the way we perceive one another. Empowering B&VI women as well as connecting sighted and nonsighted communities to end misconceptions about blindness is the path to our mission. 

Description: www.boldblindbeauty.com template with Abigale (Abby) to the left of the quote. The Abby icon is shown walking with her white cane in one hand and handbag in the other. The image is black and white and she wears a stylish black dress and black heels. Her signature hairstyle is best described as explosive.