Why Not?

Post by P. Nina Livingstone

Nina Livingstone

Nina Livingstone

Growing up, I always enjoyed my sighted life; I saw blue skies, the exquisite ocean and its waves embracing their shores, the colors of the seasons in New England and the colors of my socks, the expressions of others in all conversations… bliss! Now all the visuals, the beauty of nature, people, animals, the earth with its fields and farms, the flowing rivers and printed New York Times, magazines and books – everything remains dormant in my mind’s vault. Everything around me relies on memory, the reels of “film footage” from the past. I lost my sight completely in the year 2000 from a hereditary eye disease, retinitis pigmentosa (RP).

Adjusting to the world sight-lessly entails time and patience – both of which I find irritating, because time is precious and short, and patience – well, I have little patience. Perhaps I am infinitely in denial about my sight loss. My door remains open to the possibility of seeing again – why not? Continue reading

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For the Love of the Game

Post by Brandon Cole

Brandon posing in front of a Lego Batman booth at Ohio Comic Con 2014

Brandon posing in front of a Lego Batman booth at Ohio Comic Con 2014

My name is Brandon Cole, and I am a gamer. Some people are surprised when I tell them this. “But wait, how can this be? Are you not blind?”

Yes, I am indeed totally blind, and no, playing video games is not an easy undertaking, but it is possible.

When I was young, though, I dismissed video games as something that I simply couldn’t participate in. After all, the word “video” is in there, right? Well, one day my older brother played a trick on me. He handed me a Nintendo controller and invited me to play Super Mario Brothers.  The game began, and before I knew it, I was slaying monsters, collecting coins and extra lives, conquering castles, saving the Princess… except I wasn’t. He had been the one really playing the game, and the controller he handed me wasn’t actually controlling anything. I was crushed. The trick had an unforeseen consequence, though: I got the itch. I vowed to try more games on my own, when he wasn’t around, and I vowed I would win on my own.

And that’s exactly what I did. I went back to Mario Brothers, and through a bunch of trial and error and learning what my limits were, I eventually completed the first level. That’s as far as I got, but it was enough to prove to myself that I really could do this. I began playing more games, experiencing both success and failure in varying doses, but I was hooked. Continue reading

Doing Good: A Volunteer’s Story

Post by Ilana Bergelson

Ilana and Kate posing together at the gym

Ilana (right) and Kate (left) at the gym.

Having participated in a volunteer program called Service of Sight through Delta Gamma at the University of Chicago, I wanted to carry on the same type of community service following graduation. One moment when I knew I wanted to volunteer with the visually impaired was seeing the blind runners and their guides during the Boston Marathon. Their perseverance was amazing, and even though I was happy to volunteer in whatever way necessary, I secretly hoped I could be a running guide too. I heard about the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI) through the Delta Gamma alumni group, and with an upcoming training session and a location nearby, I knew I had to join. Continue reading

Natick Low Vision Peer Support Group serves up food, friendship, and fun

Post by Brian Klotz, Marketing Coordinator for the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI) and Natick High School Class of ’05

A stuffed snowman wearing a winter hat sits on a table at the Natick support group meetingOnce a month, they meet at the Natick Senior Center, in an often filled-to-capacity room right next to the gift shop. They come to share stories. They come to learn about helpful tips and resources. They come to bond over their shared disability: vision loss.

On this day in late December, however, they have come for the turkey.

A catered spread of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and other seasonally-appropriate food items (Let’s not forget the pie!) sits on a long table against the window as the members of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired’s (MABVI) Low Vision Peer Support Group gather for a holiday feast.

The luncheon, a break in routine from the usual guest speakers and group discussion, has become an annual December tradition for the group.

“It’s fantastic,” says group member and co-coordinator Marge Burrows. “It gets better every year.” Continue reading

Going Through Changes

Post by Meaghan Roper, a 19-year-old Wheelock College Freshman

Meaghan and her brother hiking in the Garden of the Gods in Colorado this past summer

Meaghan and her brother hiking in the Garden of the Gods in Colorado this past summer

Middle school and high school years are a big time for change. You try new things, you join different sports and clubs, you make new friends (and lose old ones), and you start thinking about what you will do after you graduate, whether it be going to college or joining the work force. It’s a challenging time when many people require lots of support from friends, family, and peers. One thing that I know from experience doesn’t make those difficult times any easier? Losing your vision. Continue reading

Gingham Style and Other Calico Dreams

Post by David McCord

David McCord in Arizona, as part of the year he ran in all 50 states

David McCord in Arizona, as part of the year he ran in all 50 states

Occasionally I have a thought. Usually when I announce this, my friends all scream and run for cover. My having a thought is like announcing the end of the Mayan Calendar; nothing good can come of it.

But in 2013, I ran my very first marathon: Boston. Boy, did I pick a year to run Boston! After the bombing occurred, I was stuck eight blocks from the finish line, my brain in a fog, hurting, unclear as to what was happening, trying to stand up for over an hour until we were told by the police, “Go home.”

I went home through back alleyways, since so many streets were closed due to the bombing. No finish. No medal. And it didn’t occur to me until the next day that maybe I could have opened my home to other runners who were visiting Boston, staying in hotels that they could not return to because their hotel was now a part of a crime scene.

A few months later, I had my “big thought”: When I return to the Boston Marathon next year, why not open my home to a visiting visually impaired runner? Continue reading

Kane and Able

Post by Sinead Kane – an Irish Solicitor (Lawyer), PhD Researcher, Motivational Speaker, Marathon Runner, Writer for the Irish Criminal Law Journal, and Advocate for the Visually Impaired

Sinead Kane wearing a floral dress, posing for a photoMost successful people only achieve their goals through encountering obstacles, having doors closed in their faces, and having dreams derailed by mistakes. The difference between those who have won and those who have thrown up their hands in defeat is often the level of persistence and determination the person possesses in tough times. Staying upright in a world full of chaos is hard, but we can still win out if we believe we can.

From a very early age I have learnt what it means to be resilient in life, as my parents taught me the importance of integrity, honesty, and being an advocate. I grew up in a family where we were all visually impaired. My mum is totally blind. My dad, my sister, and I are all registered as blind but we each have a small bit of vision. At four years old I discovered that I was different. I couldn’t see the TV and so went very close to it and hit my nose against the screen. The static from the TV gave me a shock and I got upset. My parents sat me and my sister down and told us that we had very bad sight and that we would be like this for our whole life. They told us we would be different from other kids and that we would need to see things up close. What I learnt from my parents was that it is okay to be different, and to just be true to myself and be the best version of me that I could be. Continue reading

Visually Impaired? There’s an App for that.

Want to know how much money you’re holding? How about the color of your shirt? Or maybe you just want to curl up with a book? If you’re one of the over 20 million adults in America alone who suffer from vision loss, these everyday actions can be cumbersome and difficult. What can you do to help with these daily tasks while retaining your independence?

Reach for your iPad, of course.

As technology becomes increasingly intuitive and user-friendly, more and more visually impaired people are embracing high-tech solutions for their everyday needs. And while of the 20,000 apps developed each month, many are, shall we say, less than useful (for only $1.99, “Melon Meter” uses the iPhone’s microphone to measure the ripeness of watermelons!), several developers are using the capabilities of modern technology to aid visually impaired individuals in innovative ways. We’ve taken a look at just a handful of such apps now available for iOS (most of which you can get for the low, low price of FREE!): Continue reading

Why You Should Always Wear Clean Underwear

Post by Benjamin “Tracy” Minish

Benjamin “Tracy” Minish holding a NASA sign in front of an artificial space backdrop.

Benjamin “Tracy” Minish

I have been married for over thirty-six years and have three wonderful sons. My wife is totally wonderful too – let’s just say I married above my pay grade!  I’ve worked for NASA for over thirty years and plan to keep on this amazing rocket ride for at least five more. I have a BS in Computer Science from the University of Georgia (go Dawgs!) and I currently serve as the Chief of NASA’s Mission System Operations branch.  Ouch, I had to pinch myself to see if it was true, and dang if it’s not.  I am uno lucky man and I fall asleep each night counting my blessings.

And, oh yeah, I also only have about five degrees of my field of vision remaining, and those five degrees stink, but I believe my vision loss has made me stronger.

It does lead to some interesting situations, though. One day I told my division chief I was stinkin’ tired of running the ISS Recon branch and was in need of a change.  He came back a few days later and asked if I was interested in traveling the world as the ISS Ground Segment Control Board Chair.  He knew I was legally blind, but still provided me the opportunity.  I strongly believe this is the way the world should spin: give people with physical challenges the opportunity to make their own decisions.  I went home and prayed it over with my wife, and took him up on his offer.

No, no, that ain’t the story – that’s just the intro, so fasten yourself in for warp speed:  I arrive in Moscow after a very long trip – about 18 hours between stepping out of my house and arriving at our hotel.  The hotel is like a maze and has step-ups and step-downs in every room. A nightmare for the “walking dead” – and I’m dead tired!

I wake up several times, trying to adjust to “rocket lag,” and at one point I stumble to the bathroom, half asleep.  I see myself in the mirror and step closer.  Strangely, my image in the mirror turns and briskly walks away.  I do that pinch thing again, and nope, I am not sleeping.  I look around and notice my bathroom is incredibly large, so large it could be… A HALLWAY.  Yikes! Continue reading

Getting sound footing on National Falls Prevention Awareness Day

Fall is here – and September 23rd is the 7th annual National Falls Prevention Awareness Day. Falls are the leading cause of injury for people over 65. As age increases, this risk unfortunately rises as well. People who are 85 and above are four times more likely to fall than those under 65. Those likely of falling tend to have a history of recent falls, have medical problems, and vision and/or hearing problems. By controlling risk factors of leg weakness, poor balance and changes in the environment, it is possible to be safer and healthier in and out of your home.

See the Massachusetts Healthy Aging Collaborative to learn more and determine if you are at risk of falling. Follow these tips to prevent a fall!

To strengthen your legs and improve your balance, you can ask your health care provider to develop an exercise program for you to practice skills like coordination, flexibility and stability training. Some great leg strengthening exercises can be done just sitting in your chair! In addition to regular exercise, good nutrition is equally important. Low blood pressure can increase the likelihood of falls. For this, you should make sure you are drinking plenty of water and eating full, balanced meals.

The one environment you have full control over is your home. Do everything you can to make it as safe as possible for you to roam around worry-free. First and foremost, try to keep clutter out. Remove items that can cause you to trip like loose rugs, boxes and phone cords, Have your furniture arranged to make navigation through rooms as easy as possible, with a clear pathway. If you tend to have trouble with stairs, start by adding railings to both sides. If you still feel unsafe, it may be worth installing a stair lift. Lastly, try to keep all regularly used items like clothing, dishes and food within reach. If something by chance falls or spills, try to have someone clean it up immediately to keep it from causing more problems later.

Most falls occur in the bathroom. To prevent this, first remove all mats on the floor and in the bathtub, or replace with nonslip safety mats. Install a clear shower curtain to increase the amount of light in the shower, and choose dark-colored towels and mats to contrast with light-colored bathroom tiles to make it easier to see.

High contrast bathroom with dark tiles and light bathmat, dark towel on white tub.

High contrast bathroom.

An additional step you can take in decreasing the likelihood of falls is to invest in nonskid footwear. It’s also a good idea to keep a portable phone with you at all times in case of emergencies. If you do fall, stay calm. Relaxing your body will reduce the impact. Use your portable phone to call for help or 911.

In 2013, professionals, elderly folks and their family members came together in 46 states and Washington DC for National Falls Prevention Awareness Day to raise and spread awareness about preventing falls for themselves and loved ones. Follow these suggestions and make the changes necessary to stay out of harm’s way!