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Customer Service Is For Everyone

Customer Service featured image description is in the body of the post.

Customer Service Is For Everyone

“Assumptions are the termites of relationships.” ~Henry Winkler 

Instant Gratification Can Come At A Great Cost

Eight connected gears are in the background of the word "Service" in red letters.

If you visited Bold Blind Beauty over the past two days you probably found the site was down. So what happened and how was the issue resolved?

Since accessibility is of the utmost importance, I am working with someone to make BBB fully accessible. The process involved moving the site to a self-hosting platform. In preparation, my accessibility guy spoke with the host company as did I with a list of extensive questions. Everything was copacetic until it wasn’t.

The process began by live chat around 5:00 or so Wednesday evening. After speaking with a wonderful sales representative from the hosting platform, I felt confident about my decision. Once signed up with the new service the sales rep turned me over to a technical professional.

Typically, I don’t explain my sight impairment but in this situation, I wanted the hosting company to understand my needs. After fours years of hard work, I wasn’t in the mood to lose all of Bold Blind Beauty’s content. Each person I spoke to assured me everything was going to be “smooth and easy.” This should have been a red flag.

By Thursday, while I appeared cool and calm on social media, in reality, I was losing my mind. I was “live chatting” with the hosting company throughout the day while taking screenshots of our conversations. Since I couldn’t access my content all sorts of nightmare scenarios were floating through my head. Even though I had a backup of the site my nerves were on edge because of the downtime.

On Friday morning I awoke with new determination; I was going to go back to WordPress. The first thing I did was contact the hosting company and requested transcripts of all my chats. Then I contacted WordPress, explained what happened and was able to put a temporary solution in place. Once I had the transcripts, I canceled the transfer of the domain to the hosting company and requested a refund.

Customer Service In A Fast Paced Digital World 

We are living in a world full of 1-800 numbers, big box stores, and at least a bazillion online service organizations. Gone are the days of rabbit ears, phone booths, taxicabs, and ice boxes. In exchange for instant gratification, customer service can go by the wayside.

Today, if we make a call we may find ourselves in the ninth circle of voicemail hell. Don’t even get me started on interacting with internet service providers, cable, cell phone, and utility companies. Then we have scripted, off-shore call centers where cultural challenges can be barriers to a satisfactory experience.

Life is challenging for everyone. For people with disabilities (PWDs) working hard to find ways to adapt can be especially frustrating. While we still have a long way to go, we have made some strides:

  • Social changes in society have led to greater enlightenment. Remember the days when PWDs were institutionalized for their entire lives?
  • Legal protections are in place for protected groups. Acts of discrimination are against the law.
  • Rapid change in technology has allowed PWDs to connect with the world around us like never before.
  • PWDs work very hard to assimilate because this is the world in which we live.

Breaking down barriers is hard, never-ending, and necessary work. So when we deal with customer service representatives who can’t respond to our needs it compounds our challenges. Makes one wonder where the care is in customer care.

Even with the barriers and other challenges presented to us, there is an opportunity for positive change. Here at Bold Blind Beauty, we are empowering blind women to transcend barriers and live productive and fulfilling lives.

My SITE may have gone down but my SIGHT is focused on moving forward.

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Failure, The Beginning Of Success?

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Failure, The Beginning Of Success?

“Failure is an event. It’s not a person. Yesterday really did end last night and you don’t fail by losing; you fail by quitting.” ~Zig Ziglar

Misplaced Emphasis On Failure

The other day I was down in the dumps because I felt like a massive failure. This, as I was eating one of my favorite snacks and I initially told myself I’d stop at one. Well after a few minutes and an empty box later I thought we need to think differently about failure. I failed forward or upward depending on how you look at it.

As a matter of fact, thinking I failed magnificently dampened the guilt of my infraction. When I turned my thinking around I didn’t feel as bad and was able to laugh about my greediness. Now I’m not advocating gluttony or unhealthy habits because I believe balance is important.

The point I’m trying to make here is a failure is disappointing but I believe it’s part of a greater process towards reaching our goals. As bad as it is to feel the blow of defeat, experience has shown me we can rise after a loss.

Your Definition Of Success May Look Different

Success is not the same for everyone. Don’t fall into the trap of believing success is only about money, goals, and notoriety.

If I believed all the people who trampled on my dreams throughout my life I would have curled up in a ball and died. Thankfully, stubbornness and a need to prove to myself that I can do more and be more than the naysayers said kept me going.

The road has not been smooth sailing. I’ve taken so many detours and have frequently gotten lost, it’s amazing to me that I’m still here. My life has not been easy. From a dysfunctional childhood to chaotic young adulthood, single parenthood, dysfunctional relationships and even homelessness—I’m. Still. Here.

So when someone tells me I’m not succeeding, I listen to what they say and then I do what I do—survive then thrive.

You see, unless you’ve walked in my shoes you can’t possibly understand what keeps me going. When my kids and I were in a women’s shelter it didn’t hit me that I was homeless until I needed to seek assistance. Looking back it’s kind of funny because we lost everything and had to rely on the kindness of strangers. Out of clothing given to us, a black blazer became my superhero cape.

With that blazer and a few other essentials, I presented myself like the polished professional I’d become. So when I had to apply for benefits to keep my family afloat, and I had to give a home address this is when I knew I was homeless.

I May Not See But My Focus Has Not Changed

After everything, I experienced in my life when I began losing my sight, I surely thought this was the thing that would take me down. I was a blubbering mess in the early days and truth be told still have my days but they are more manageable.

Bold Blind Beauty was born out of the need for change. To improve humanity we must change the way we perceive one another was and is my focus. Empowering blind and visually impaired people while connecting sighted and non-sighted communities continue to drive me.

A couple of months ago I shared with you my excitement of entering a competition that could potentially help fund Bold Blind Beauty. What I didn’t share was immediately after submission I knew I made a huge mistake and I wanted so badly to pull out but I didn’t.

Last week I found out I wasn’t in the running. I was sad and as bad as I felt I’ve taken this as a learning experience that will help me to grow. In addition to receiving this news, I also was disappointed to learn I was rejected from another great opportunity.

Are these failures? Most definitely. Am I hurting? Sure. Will I keep going? Yes! I have to.

My life isn’t an accident and while I will continue to fail, I am not a failure. I’m a dreamer and a believer in things greater than me. Stay tuned, the best is yet to come and I’m so excited I could burst!! ~Steph

Featured Image Description:

As has become our custom every holiday, my brother and I spent Memorial Day 2018 visiting with our mother at the nursing home. This photo was taken by my brother outside of the facility.

I’m wearing white skinny jeans, gray tank and a gray hoodie with light mauve fringed slides. Of course, I’m holding my trusty and ever-present white cane in my right hand and straw handbag in my left.

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Vote Frances For Hero Dog Awards

Vote Frances featured image description is in the body of the post.

Vote Frances For Hero Dog Awards

Image 1 Frances & Holly description is in the body of the post.
Image 1

Who doesn’t love a hero? And who can deny there’s something extra special about the heroics of a furry companion?

A courageous cancer battle, then later sight loss from her treatments, threatened to turn Holly Bonner’s life upside down. As a mom with two small children regaining her independence came in the form of a canine hero.

From the moment Frances, or “Franny” as she’s affectionately known, met Holly life hasn’t been the same. So when I found out Franny was a semi-finalist in the National Hero Dog Award Contest I wanted to share her story. 

As a dog-lover myself I can appreciate the effect a dog has on the life of its owner. In Franny and Holly’s situation though I noticed a remarkable difference Franny made in Holly. Franny gave Holly a priceless gift—independence.

To be clear, Holly was independent before Franny. The noticeable difference was in Holly’s confidence. Never one to skip an advocacy opportunity Franny has become Holly’s four-legged partner.

Who Is Frances?

Franny and Holly came together in September 2016. A female, yellow Labrador retriever, Franny is a certified “guide dog,” trained by Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Her training specifically included intense socialization around children and she now works with Holly in a variety of educational settings. She possesses exemplary self-control and obedience skills. 

Franny’s primary role is to keep Holly safe when out in the world. She does this and so much more which is why she is also being recognized for:

  • her huge impact on Holly’s life and,
  • her partnership within a special program developed by Holly
Image 2 Holly & Franny illustration image description is in the body of the post.
Image 2

Franny’s partnership with The Visually Impaired Education Program (V.I.E.P.) is an original program Holly created to help educate the Staten Island Community. The V.I.E.P. provides an opportunity for kids (Pre-K to 8) to learn how to positively and respectfully interact with the blind and visually impaired community. Here is a link to learn more about V.I.E.P. 

Receiving this HERO DOG AWARD would shed a national light on how guide dogs help blind parents raise families. Additionally, Guiding Eyes for the Blind would receive a monetary prize, allowing other blind individuals to benefit from a guide dog.

Please vote for Frances EVERY DAY at herodogawards.org/dog/frances from now until July 11th, 2018

Vote Frances Featured Image Description:

Franny is sitting looking directly at the camera with her deep soulful eyes. She has the sweetest face and her eyes seem all-knowing. A pink decorative necklace with colorful pompoms is around her neck.

Other Image Descriptions:

  • Image 1: Holly sits with Frances at her feet, surrounded by Cub Scouts from Troop 6 in Staten Island.
  • Image 2: Teal circular logo, with the letters “V.I.E.P.” at the top. A caricature of Holly and Franny (sitting to the left of Holly). Franny is wearing a leather harness with “guiding eyes” on it. Holly smiles with a short bob haircut and dark glasses. She’s wearing a Cabernet colored shirt with a blue and gold-toned scarf. In her right hand, she is holding her white cane.

Please VOTE & SHARE: herodogawards.org/dog/frances

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Uncertainty, Imperfection & Sight Loss

Uncertainty Featured Image Description is in the body of the post.

Uncertainty, Imperfection & Sight Loss

“I think it’s important to remember things aren’t always as they seem but rather how we want them to appear.”

Have you ever felt like you don’t know what the heck you’re doing? Confession, most of my days are anxiety-ridden and quiet as it’s kept, a good portion of it centers around my lack of eyesight.

Sometimes I feel so out of my depth and overwhelmed I can hardly breathe. It begins deep in the pit of my stomach and rises to my chest. My neck and shoulders are tense and hurting. Thoughts are racing through my head and I can’t focus. Again, for the umpteenth time, I wonder am I losing my mind?

Feeling small, unimportant, unworthy, and afraid, I continue to push through because god forbid I don’t meet my unrealistic expectations. The negative self-talk is a never-ending loop that I try to combat with positive affirmations. Sometimes this technique works but when it doesn’t I end up drained, depressed, and defeated.

Limitations, Struggles & Competency

For most of my life confidence seemed elusive to me. As a shy introvert, insecurity and fear of not being accepted ruled the day. Being so socially awkward is one of the reasons why I worked so hard to achieve perfection even though I also believe perfection’s unattainable.

At the height of my career, working in a profession I loved, I finally achieved the confidence I sought. I enjoyed working (maybe a little too much) and loved challenging myself to improve. Constantly going beyond my comfort zone was scary yet welcome and helped me grow as a professional.

Then along the way, I lost my eyesight and uncertainty began to take center stage. No longer being able to trust anything I can see wreaks havoc on my life day-to-day. To compensate for my lack of eyesight I try to cover my fear by wearing a cloak of confidence.

What’s so frustrating to me is straddling the fine line between being competent while living with a disability. I find it ironic that while I had limitations before I lost my sight, they weren’t so much of an issue. However, if I admit certain aspects of life are harder because of my disability this isn’t understood. To some degree, I feel like I have to be superhuman when I didn’t feel this way before sight loss.

Silly as it may seem, one of my hardest struggles is asking for help. “Asking for help” is my kryptonite which plays right into the whole “superhuman” thing.

Throwing Change Into The Mix

Early in my sight loss journey, I was fond of saying I was the same person I was before. This isn’t totally true. Oh, sure I still share some commonalities as I did before losing my sight but I am different.

For one I’m considerably older and there are new obstacles in my path. My body and mind don’t work like they used to and I have to constantly improve my problem-solving skills.

Sight loss has forced me to let some things go. Perfection has truly left the building. No longer can I be overly concerned about those things I can’t see because frankly, it’s too tiring. Yet at the same time, it’s weird because I’ll swat at what looks like a bug, bird or some other flying unidentifiable object only to find it’s a floater in my eye.

Depth perception is an issue especially when I’m riding in the front seat of a car. Since I can’t judge distance but can see moving vehicles I’m a nervous wreck. Not to mention the driver is on edge while I shriek and jump at the thought of an impending accident.

The truth is no matter how hard I try not to focus on my sight loss there is nowhere I can hide from it. It is always there and with it is the constant uncertainty of what’s going on around me.

Frequently on Bold Blind Beauty, I talk about perceptions and how we look at others. I think it’s important to remember things aren’t always as they seem but rather how we want them to appear. Just because it looks like I have it all together doesn’t mean I do. Since losing my sight most everything I do takes considerable time, effort and it’s certainly not easy.

While the tone of this post isn’t my typically upbeat tone it is real. Transparency is and always has been very important to me and this also means being vulnerable.

Have a nice weekend everyone!!

Featured Image Description:

Mirror selfie, I’m wearing a pixie cut wig, black tank top, dangling earrings and nude lip color. Blond in the front, dark brown in the back.