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Archive for the ‘Miscellany’ Category

So 2011 has come and gone (happy new year to all y’all who celebrated this turnover in the past couple of days). This was not a high water-mark in my blogging history, as revealed by the annual report that indicated I’d put up a lowly six entries in the past 12 months. I swear that’s not right! Right or wrong, though, I neglected this space to a shameful degree. Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw this tidbit in the 2011 compilation of vital stats:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,800 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Those are hilariously low numbers in the blogging universe — Potatoes so small they’re not even worth seasoning. Still, they surprised the hell out of me in the best possible way. Who knew that more than a handful of people were stopping by this little web knook of mine? It’s a hell of a better turnout than my pathetic efforts deserve, and I’m grateful to you all. For all of our sakes, I pledge to blog better in 2012.

If you want to shape your own reading experience by offering input into Eyeronic’s focus, layout or content, Drop a line in the Suggestion Box or take 10 seconds to fill out this brief feedback survey

Here’s wishing everyone a wonderful 2012!

Edited to add: I did a quick tally, and by my count the number of 2011 blog posts cracked double digits at 10. That’s still pretty damn lame, but someone’s gotta say it…SUCK IT, WordPress Agrigator! πŸ™‚

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First things first — thank you all so much for the incredibly kind responses to my guest post on Inside Out Style. The comments came from perfect strangers, long-time friends, role models like Angie> and bloggers I’ve long admired like Sal from Already Pretty. I value them all equally and can’t properly express how much it all means. For those who are new to my blog, I love fielding questions from my readers about pretty much anything blindness-related. If you’ve got some, please drop by the suggestion box and ask away!

Did you know that yesterday was special? I sure didn’t until I conducted my daily purge of the work inbox (Yeah, that’s how I roll on Saturdays πŸ™‚ ). I came across a handful of statements from various political entities all offering fulsome praise for something called International Day of Persons With Disabilities. That’s a special occasion alright — an occasion for me to vent my long-festering distaste for stuff just like this.

Hang on a sec. A blind woman who believes in equality and has devoted much of her efforts to achieving it for herself is foaming at the mouth because of an international initiative that aspires to give others the same shot? What’s going on? You may well ask, but the best you may get is a fumbling attempt to defend a position that could rightly be called selfish. In fact I have not the slightest issue with the UN’s stated aims in launching this so-called day. Raising awareness of the chronic underemployment and marginalization many disability groups face is about as praiseworthy goal as you can find, and the agency certainly grasps the severity of the problem. The vision, though vague, is above reproach:

Take Action: A major focus of the Day is practical action to mainstream disability in all aspects of development, as well as to further the participation
of persons with disabilities in social life and development on the basis of equality. Highlight progress and obstacles in implementing disability-sensitive
policies, as well as promote public awareness of barriers to the full inclusion of persons with disabilities in their societies.

It’s the way in which the vision is executed that draws forth my wrath. While the UN undoubtedly means for this day to kickstart a dialog that would last the year round, it’s lucky if it generates something resembling cocktail party chit-chat. More often than not, these 24-hour-long calls to action do nothing more than pay lip service to the concept, mirroring the treatment the target population receives during the other 364 days of the year. What good is a day of platitudes that simultaneously celebrates individual successes while stoking the fires of powerlessness with a litany of depressing facts and figures? There’s no fear-mongering, since the issues under discussion are very real and are likely under-reported, if anything. There’s just an ineffectual approach that leads to the sort of patronizing behaviour that characterizes so many dealings with the disabled, both individually and from the organizations that profess to help. The takeaway message from days like this is easily distilled from these mixed signals — “Oh dear, how horrible for them! They are so much less fortunate than most — let’s be extra nice and understanding.”

Such sentiments are well-meant, but unproductive. Kindness and understanding, while valuable, won’t be enough to bring about change — particularly if they only manifest themselves on arbitrary days of action and the weeks immediately proceeding them. In my view, those estimable personal qualities can only have some impact on the community if they are used in service of conversation. Not idol chatter, but genuine engagement that has the potential to peel back layers of preconception and even misunderstanding to reveal core issues. Those issue (more…)

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I’ve always been the first to poke fun at myself and my blindness, not always very tastefully (I know, big shock). πŸ™‚ As I sat here on this quiet Halloween night, trying to trick myself into not craving homemade apple caramel crisp and savouring the ultimate treat of having someone else do the dishes, I got to thinking of the various ways I’d have fun incorporating my blindness into a Halloween costume the next time I actually dress up. What better way to demystify the condition than by treating it as a subject you’re able to laugh about?
There are the obvious ones, of course, like donning a bat costume or putting together a getup to look like Daredevil, but my sense of humour tends more towards the irreverent. If you’re into the gorier aspects of the day, how much more fun would it be to go as a blind witch complete with broomstick mangled by the most recent crash? Or a blind zombie whose white cane becomes a distinctive and useful accessory in the rampage du jour? I could draw upon my seldom-used talent for looking dazed and confused/staring aimlessly in the wrong direction and play the role of zombie victim instead. Prosthetic eyes like mine could be used to great effect in any sort of haunted house-type setting or really take a corpse costume to the next level. πŸ™‚

Gruesome isn’t my personal watchword at any time, including Halloween, so I’d be more likely to explore other avenues with any costumes I put together. Why not make my guide dog part of the ensemble and go for a Little Orphan Annie vibe? I have some coworkers that argue that I have all the makings of an effective NHL referee getup already, since they miss what’s going on right before their eyes anyway. I could find some sort of visual rendering of a solar eclipse, carry it around and keep staring at it. For a touch of whimsy, I kinda dig the idea of decking myself out like a super-professional-looking photographer, complete with top-notch gear and badass lenses…that would be totally wasted in my sightless hands. You’d get the same effect by dressing up as a Formula 1 driver.
No doubt you could find some way to work the blindness motif into your political cause of choice, either through satirical depictions of notable people or imaginative costumes illustrating an issue of the day (global warming deniers, anyone)?
Or you could keep it simple, as I would likely do…Pick up a double-edged sword and a set of scales and go as Justice> πŸ™‚

See? “Disability” can be fun!

So? How would you incorporate a largely taboo subject into your Halloween ensemble? If you wore a more traditional guise this year, what was it? Sound off below!

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Some time ago I indulged in a little rant about things sighted people do that drive the average blind person mad. The post generated a lot of interesting discussion, for which I thank everyone. But despite the different perspectives introduced by my lovely readers, the conversation remained a bit one-sided and failed to explore the flipside, i.e. the things blind people do to contribute to prevailing social stigmas and irk their fellow blindguys in the process. My perspective may well wind up rousing the ire of some other blind readers, but bare in mind mine is just one opinion. I’m also speaking in fairly broad strokes aboutpeople who are only dealing with vision loss i.e. don’t have additional physical, neurological or psychological issues at play too. So here you have it, my personal take on the top five most detramental things blind people do to themselves:

1. Acting helpless
In disability discourse, blindness is frequently referred to as a handicap. While it undoubtedly places limits on certain activities, career options etc, some people have chosen to treat blindness as a barrier to doing much of anything. Some have had this attitude ingrained from childhood when concerned adults took responsibility for everything and expected nothing of the blind person. One anecdote concerned a young child whose parents did so much for him that it distorted his sense of reality. If he dropped something, he would immediately start to look for it on the table rather than the floor because his parents promptly picked it up for him. In his own words, “everything comes back to the table.” Such acquired helplessness is difficult to break through, but it can be done if the inclination is there. Worse, to me, are those who simply decide to use their blindness as a cop out. In my experience, these people refuse to learn independent travel skills, make no effort to maintain a decent living space, opt to rely on social assistance and simply choose to turn their lives over to others to manage. This drives me beyond crazy. Attitudes like these undermine the efforts of those blind people who wish to be more proactive and integrate into mainstream society. Many of those people find this to be a struggle, and lack of effort from some of their peers contributes to the troubles they face. Like it or not, visible minority groups are frequently stereotyped, and the actions of a few are often wrongly believed to represent the whole. People who are on social assistance because their job hunts have been unsuccessful should never be confused with those who remain on the dole just because it’s easier. Assuming blindness is the only issue you have to contend with, there’s no excuse for being helpless! You can still walk, talk and use your head. Kindly do so! πŸ™‚

2. Being sloppy
I’ve sounded off at length about why I feel it’s important for blind people to dress well. I don’t even necessarily mean adopting the latest fashion trends — in this context, a neat, presentable appearance is enough for me. I have encountered a number of blind people who actively dismiss all aesthetic questions simply because they don’t understand the issues or don’t care about them. In my estimation, doing so is a mistake. People who look unkempt, either through clothing or grooming choices, reinforce the stereotype that blind people are incapable of looking after themselves. This is not an image I appreciate having to fight against, and I suspect others share my sentiments.

3. Giving attitude to would-be helpers
A few years ago my fully-sighted brother was walking down the street and spotted a gentleman standing at an intersection looking confused. My bro stopped to see if the guy could get his bearings, and after watching him turn this way and that in a vain attempt to get oriented, thought he’d offer some help. Having spent his life guiding his sister and listening to her pet rant about people who make assumptions about the kind of assistance someone might be looking for, my brother walked up to the man and simply asked, “excuse me sir, do you need me to give you a hand?”
“NO!! Fuck off! I can do this myself,” came the irate reply.
That kind of reaction raises my blood pressure. It’s rude, disrespectful and just plain uncalled for. There’s self-advocacy, and then there’s shooting yourself in the foot. Like the boy who cried wolf, people like this may find that help won’t be forthcoming when it’s finally wanted. Sighted readers, if you’ve had similar encounters, please don’t tar us all with the same brush; most of us will appreciate your offers of help, even if we don’t take you up on them!

4. Overcompensating for your blindness
People who try this tack are at the absolute opposite end of the spectrum from those I described in my first point. These are people who take an almost ostrich-like approach to their blindness and do their damndest to pretend it doesn’t exist. White canes or other symbols that would brand them as blind are summarily dismissed and never used. They’ll plunge into any activity on the grounds that they can do absolutely anything they want and refuse to be held back by people or circumstances. They may even shun other blind people for fear of being lumped in with them. This kind of approach has definite merits, but can easily be taken too far. People who subscribe to it are potentially putting themselves in danger by disregarding basic safety precautions or engaging in activities that just aren’t a good idea. Being adventuresome and taking up something like skiing (with sighted guidance) is great, but pretending you’re perfectly able to drive a car crosses the line. It’s also naive and interestingly enough doesn’t always garner the respect of the sighted community. I had an eluminating experience while working as a counsellor at a camp for blind adults and children. My primarily sighted coworkers didn’t really accept me on the team until I laid down limits on the things I felt comfortable doing. The day I declined to take a totally blind guest out for a canoe paddle and instead recruited some sighted help for the job, a colleague told me they felt better about having me on board because I had proven I was “in touch with reality.” People who refuse to accept facts are treading dangerous ground. Polyanna-esque approaches seldom work, and their naivetΓ© may land them or someone else in trouble.

5. Assuming sighted people don’t understand or don’t care
Note to people who fall into this camp: You know how you hate it when you’re stereotyped or marginalized? You’re not alone. No one digs that, including sighted people (emphasis on people). Making assumptions about their attitudes towards you and your blindness is hypocritical in the extreme. Some people with vision may not be tuned into the issues you deal with, but many others are empathetic, broad-minded, thoughtful and even inspirational if you free them from the constraints of labels. Creating an “us vs. them” dynamic serves no purpose. It alienates you from potential friends and resources, belittles people who have done you no wrong and reinforces the stereotype of the embittered, cynical blind person who’s angry at the world and everyone in it. Do unto others, please and thank you!

So there you have my two cents worth on this admittedly touchy subject. Got comments? I’d love to hear them. And if you want to hear more on this or any other topic, feel free to drop me a line in the suggestion box.

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A few recent amusing/infuiriating street encounters have forcibly reminded me that some people really don’t have a clue how to interact with blind people. They seem to think they either have to apply a whole different set of social norms or discard common courtesy/sense completely when talking to someone who isn’t looking them straight in the eye. I’m here to tell y’all, it don’t work like that. πŸ™‚ For your edification and amusement, I bring you the top five things most blind people are secretly begging you not to do.

1. Interfering with a guide dog while it’s working
The unbeatable guide dog school where I acquired my darling Reva put it best — addressing or touching a guide dog while it’s in harness is tantamount to grabbing the stearing wheel of a moving car. Please, don’t do it! If a service animal is in harness, it means it’s on duty and is not to be disturbed in any way. And unfortunately for all dog-lovers, that includes talking to them (especially in patented dog voices that we all use when confronted with unparalleled cuteness). I’m sure Reva and her ilk hate the rule as much as you do, but it’s there for a reason

2. Assuming someone needs help and immediately acting on that assumption
Note to well-meaning people everywhere: if a blind person is standing around looking confused, s/he may well need help. Grabbing that person’s arm and arbitrarily dragging them off in the direction *you* think they want to go is not the answer. Such interferance is also frowned upon if the blind person is walking down the street. Both these things happen, and they’re just flat out not cool! I for one appreciate what you’re trying to do, but would be eternally grateful if you asked me whether or not I need help before busting in and trying to take over. If I’m standing still near a corner, I’m probably just waiting for a friend outside the nearby coffee shop. If I need your help, I’ll be the first to thank you for your timely offer of assistance!

3. Describing something as “over there”
The following is a real-life exchange from the streets of my city:
Me: Excuse me, sir, I’m looking for the Indigo store. Have I passed the entrance?
Random dude: No, it’s right over there.

That, my friends, doesn’t help. Nor would saying “just across the street,” “just down here” or “yes/no.” This request calls for a little proactive help. Had he told me the store was three doors back, or if he’d opted to walk me to the entrance himself as so many lovely people do, he would have saved me time and blog space. πŸ™‚ This is a case where I know I for one would welcome more direct involvement! The same goes in indoor settings, whether someone is trying to find the bathroom or reaching for their cup of coffee.

4. Speaking extra loud/slow
The annals of history are littered with phenomena that science has been unable to explain. To me, one of the most enduring is the mysterious force that makes people speak louder and talk more slowly when interacting with a blind person. It’s entirely possible that the disease that took someone’s sight has also compromised his/her hearing or cognitive abilities, but to make that assumption is to administer a social slap in the face. Blondes, would you like it if people started dumbing down their language the moment they took note of your hair colour? Sadly, this happens to blind people all the time, and it drives me batty.

5. Using politically correct language for daily activities
I cannot tell you the number of people who have asked me whether I saw something on tv only to backtrack, feel bad and ask instead if I “heard” it. Dude, I watched tv the same as you, and yes I thought Jack Donaghy was hilarious in the last 30 Rock. Dr. Funke’s 100% Natural Good-times Family Band Solution also did a bang-up job in that Arrested Development rerun I SAW last night. One could argue that tpolitical correctness has a time and place, but I contend that it doesn’t belong in descriptions of every-day activities. Exchanges like the one I describe leave all parties feeling awkward and reinforce the notion that blind people are shut out from common sighted activities. Political correctness also robs people everywhere of language, which pushes a whole other set of buttons for me.. Put it this way: I see movies, look at my options and watch my mouth at work (most of the time). Feel free to speak to me and blind people everywhere as you would to anyone else.

There’s a flipside to all this, too — blind people sometimes do things that reinforce negative stereotypes and contribute to the sort of tensions I’ve noticed from time to time, but that’s something for another day. For now I’ll just say this — part of the reason I work so hard to dress well
is because the situations I’ve described above happen a lot less often whhen I’m fashionably turned out. Right or wrong, that’s been my experience.

How about you? Have you come across odd behaviours that people inexplicably apply to you? Have you ever seen the situations I’m talking about?

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I really owe the lovely Kristen from Low Fat Dressing
for bestowing the Sugar Doll award. Not only am I a sucker for a fun shout-out, but she gave me the perfect opportunity to mix it up a bit and take a break from fashion-related posts! The terms of the award stipulate that I list 10 little-known facts about myself and then ask 10 other people to follow suit…so here goes!

1. I’m fluently bilingual in English and French, thanks to my maternal family who are all French-Canadian. My conversational skills are rusty, though.

2. I have grade 10 piano from the Royal Conservatory of Music, sang in fabulous choirs that toured the world, am blessed/cursed with perfect pitch and can’t whistle a single note. What gives? Actually Reva (my guide dog) is probably mad relieved.

3. Before my life as a journalist, I used to work at one of Canada’s big banks as a recruiter. I now know there are few things more amusing than a really appalling resume/cover letter.

4. In what feels like a previous incarnation, I was once a completely over-the-top baseball fan. I could rhyme off every stat pertaining to my local major-league team, went to as many games as possible and even became one of those dorky people leading the seventh-inning stretch on the field. It paid and I was a teenager, so it seemed like a sweet deal at the time. The dealbreaker came a couple of years into it when Revlon became our sponsor and decided to plaster logos (including massive red lips) all over us. If you thought breasts were immune from such product placements, you thought wrong. Way to put the ass in class, Revlon!

5. I have a completely irrational phobia of…mosquitoes. You can stop laughing now. But they freak me right out! I literally can’t sleep when there’s one in the room, which makes me wonder how I survived (let alone adored) going to camp for eight years as a kid.

6. I lost my vision to the same form of retinal cancer that afflicted the late Jeff Healey Here’s hoping mine doesn’t recur as his did. In another tangential celebrity connection, Neil Young went to my high school for a bout a year where he apparently attended very few classes. πŸ™‚ Amanda Marshall was an actual grad, but I did say celebrities right? :p

7. The only thing worse than my sight is my athletic prowess, but I could swim and dance all day if given the opportunity. Put on Home for a Rest by Spirit of the West and my fabulous high school memories will energize me to go for a week. πŸ™‚

8. I met my current boyfriend at a rather unusual camp meant for both blind youth and adults. We were working as counsellors, and one of the coolest skills we acquired was a two-handed sign language code used to communicate with the deaf-blind. Note: He can see, but I’m faster than him with the two-hand code!

9. I’m an avid reader and have been ever since I memorized E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web at age three. My reading method of choice would drive most people batty, though; I convert the book to a text file and let my screen reader go to town on it. You know that voice Stephen Hawking uses? My software sounds only marginally better…and I’m totally ok with that.

10. I have never seen a single entry from the following film series: The Godfather, Back to the Future, Naked Gun, Star Wars. On the other hand, I have watched the following movies multiple times with more to come, no doubt: The Shawshank Redemption, L.A. Confidential, Gone with the Wind, the A&E version of Pride and Prejudice, Four Weddings and a Funeral. Must add All About Eve to the replay list, too.

Ok, time to share the love!! But I’m not tagging 10 people; my limited blogosphere contacts have already been thoroughly mined by Kristen.

Sarah of Let it Rain Again

Tam of Did I Ask for Fries
Jenny of Going Ungracefully (only when things settle down)!
Dusty of Dusty Atterberry
Theresa of Fitness, Clothes and Spending
Khris of Chewy Spaghetti

Knock yourselves out, Ladies!!

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