Posted on

Creating Change Through Creativity & Collaboration

2 Blind Chicks With Attitude mugs sitting on a desk. 1 shows the image & slogan and the other shows the tactile braille

Creating Change Through Creativity & Collaboration

Recently, someone asked me why I created Bold Blind Beauty; my answer was twofold—devastation and rebirth.

A Life In Ruins

StephanieMcCoy_BoldBlindBeauty

It was June 2009 and earlier in the year, I had my third and last vitrectomy to hopefully restore the sight in my good eye. I was excited because the successful outcome of this surgery could allow me to regain my driving privileges. Unfortunately, during the recovery phase, my retina specialist found bleeding at the back of the eye. The treatment plan called for Avastin an injection in the eye to stop the bleeding.

A couple of weeks later, my brother, son, and I went to Cleveland Clinic. The drive to Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute was about two hours but with renewed hope, worth the trip. Afterall, during my last visit two years earlier, they saved the sight in my bad eye by repairing my detached retina. The news I received during this trip wasn’t good.

When the doctors told me “we’re sorry there is no more we can do for you” I think I was in a semi-catatonic state. There was no reaction, no tears, no outburst—nothing. On the drive home, my mind could not grasp what I what the doctor’s told me.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I was as scared as I’ve ever been. I mean, I had big plans before all of this eye stuff happened. I received a promotion at work, bought a house, got married. My husband and I were refurbishing our home to sell it then build our own. Now I’m legally blind, do I even have a future?

Uncharted Territory

My problem-solving skills improved significantly during and after my new ‘legally blind status.’ There wasn’t a roadmap to follow for life after sight loss and I never felt more lonely. I had to make some tough decisions on how I was going to move forward the most significant was self-reliance. This meant a change in course by leaving my marriage, home, and beginning anew.

Even with so much support from my employer, co-workers and those closest to me, the strain of trying to find my groove got to me. Looking like I could see, yet couldn’t, was exhausting. While I may have looked like I was adapting I was struggling. Every time I used my white cane I felt like a beacon.

For a minute it seemed like my life was in ashes with the chaos that ensued. However, eventually, with the help of family and friends, I would connect with a low vision specialist and others who became my lifeline.

Newfound Strength With My Tribe

Have you ever felt like you don’t fit in? I sure have, most of my life actually. So it shouldn’t have been odd for me to be among the ‘too sighted to be blind but too blind to be sighted camp.’ Yet, my local blind community embraced me—I was home.

When I was asked to do a makeup presentation at our Pennsylvania Council of the Blind (PCB) annual convention I found my purpose. Beauty is not reserved for ONLY those who can SEE, beauty, REAL beauty knows no limits. Bold Blind Beauty—Real Beauty Transcends Barriers seeks to empower blind women while connecting sighted and non-sighted communities.

Collaborating with creatives like Jennifer Barrille, Laura Sottile, Jessica Marano, Kathy Keck and others is presenting a unique opportunity for Bold Blind Beauty. Our fashion icon Abby is stylish, she uses a white cane, and she’s changing the way we look at blindness. Working to make Abby and all of our offerings accessible is our goal.

Yesterday, I was able to upload our new one-of-a-kind embossed braille coffee mugs to our online store. The braille on each of these mugs is created by artist Kathy Keck of Loving Touch Connection

Currently, the design on the new mugs includes tactile slogans in braille on one side and Abby with text slogans on the other side of the handle. Literally, you can “Have Abigale at your fingertips to enjoy your favorite hot beverage; coffee, tea, or whatever it may be!”

Creating Change… Featured Image Description:

To the left of the mug’s handle is the phrase “Blind Chicks With ATTITUDE” in braille. The mug’s design includes fashion icon, Abby (in trio format) who are to the right of the handle. Directly under the trio is the slogan: “Blind Chicks With ATTITUDE.”

Abby is walking with her white cane in one hand and handbag in the other. The image is black with black heels and a stylish black dress made of panels resembling overlapping banana leaves. The dress panels gently curve from her nipped in waist to just above the knee. Her signature hairstyle is explosive.

 

Posted on

When We Connect We Are Stronger

When We Connect collage of FFB photos are in the body of the post

When We Connect We Are Stronger

Three of Diane Krek's landscape paintings are on easels behind a banquet table with Chinese Auction and Silent Auction items. In front of each auction item is a pink or blue foil gift bag for the raffle tickets.
Diane Krek’s Paintings, “BLT Art For A Cause”

This past weekend the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind (PCB) was an exhibitor at the Pittsburgh Vision Seminar. The seminar, hosted by the Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) reminded me once again of how lonely sight loss can be. When we connect we are stronger because losing one’s eyesight can be a lonely experience but it can be different.

The first person I met was so upset over her sister’s sight loss to diabetic retinopathy I thought she might break down. When I asked her if her sister was given a referral to low vision rehabilitation I wasn’t surprised when she told me no. This conversation set the tone as we spoke with many people and family members of those new to sight loss.

It’s Helpful to Know You Aren’t Alone

While those attending these events are looking for a cure to their inherited retinal disease I think it’s equally important to adapt. For this reason, I am so glad several of the exhibitors were blind or visually impaired. This was an opportunity for a vital connection between sighted and non-sighted communities. My friend Diane Krek, who was recently featured in one of our local newspapers, was there with her beautiful paintings. Then there was my friend Christine and I who represented PCB.

When I lost my sight it was my friends at PCB and our local chapter who helped me get through it. So Saturday was my chance to give back by letting people see us in action. It’s so gratifying being in a position of helping people understand they are not alone in their sight loss journey and assure them that life goes on.

Giving people a few simple tools like 20/20 pens and check writing guides along with other resources enlightened them. Advising others of our local PCB affiliate in Pittsburgh gave them the opportunity to join our peer network.

Gene Therapy & Latest News

While I couldn’t stay for the entire seminar, the speakers I heard were awesome. Dr. Leah Byrne, Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Pittsburgh and Ben Shaberman, Senior Director of Communications, FFB shed light on the latest research. Another interesting tidbit of information was the My Retina Tracker Registry. The voluntary registry is designed to help accelerate the discovery of treatments and cures for those with inherited retinal diseases.

When We connect Featured Image Description:

A photo collage of images from the event. Left to right, the first photo is a blue and white FFB vertical banner. The only text I can read is Foundation Fighting Blindness and their website address. The second photo (top right) is the jam-packed hotel meeting room filled with people sitting at round tables. There is a big screen at the far right of the room where they shared a PowerPoint presentation. The third photo is the FFB registration table just outside if the meeting room.

Posted on

A Bridge to Independence & Opportunity

A Bridge to Independence & Opportunity image description is in the body of the post.

When we share our stories we go beyond giving hope—we offer confirmation and affirmation that life is not over because of sight loss. Shoulder to shoulder we stand, a network offering a human bridge to carry others through their sight loss.   

Sue Lichtenfels, President, PA Council of the Blind

A Bridge to Independence & Opportunity

Thursday evening was the opening session of the 82nd Annual Conference of the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind (PCB). I was so excited for this year’s 4-day event because it was hosted in my hometown of Pittsburgh. What this meant was I could easily travel to and from the hotel each day. Adding to my excitement was the anticipation of reconnecting with friends from across the state and meeting new people.

Sue Lichtenfels, President of PCB, opened the conference with a powerful and heartfelt message on transition. Our new tagline “PCB, A Peer Network for All Impacted by Vision Loss” extends beyond the organization. The new message is an outreach to include family, friends, caregivers, and professionals in the field.

Hope Lost Then Restored

As I listened to Sue speak I thought of my transition from living with sight to learning how to live without it. Like a flame of hope shriveling and dying, back then it seemed everything in my life relied on my eyesight. I couldn’t see past the dark days that threatened to consume me.

Crossing the bridge to grab hold of my new life without sight by becoming involved with PCB saved my life. I met and befriended so many positive, passionate people who were living their purpose and it’s because of them my view of the world has changed. Even when life doesn’t go as planned I’m more appreciative of the beauty surrounding me.

This year, I was excited to once again be a part of an organization working to improve the lives of those who live with blindness. Even though I got sick, and could only attend a portion of the event, I represented Bold Blind Beauty. It was here where I shared the importance of how we as blind people can live fulfilling and productive lives while eradicating misconceptions around blindness and sight loss.

Like our stylish fashion icon Abby, being confident and radiating a positive attitude of empowerment despite our blindness enables us to navigate the world with our white canes or guide dogs and our heads held high. Being Bold, Blind, and Beautiful is less about how we look and more about who we are. When we are beautiful on the inside it shines forth on the outside.

Featured Image Description:

A wooden bridge from the perspective of someone walking on it. At the end of the bridge is Autumn foliage. The sky appears to be clearing as the sun peeps between a mixture of dark and white clouds.

Additional Images:

  • BBB Gift Basket – contained donated BBB Abby branded items. Ball cap, tee-shirt, coffee mug, Abby cookies, and tote bag.
  • Abby Cookies – Oval shaped cookies with the Abby icon stamped in the center. The icing is BBB’s brand colors white and teal.
  • BBB Coffee Mugs & Tabletop Sign – Assorted Abby branded coffee mugs and a sign with Abby on it.
  • BBB Wristbands – Teal and white braille and text BBB wristbands.