My interview with the Eyes On Success podcast!

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by Nancy and Peter Torpey from the Eyes On Success podcast. Eyes on Success interviews blind people from all over the world about their careers, passions, hobbies, and challenges. I had a blast doing my interview! I was excited to discuss teaching, writing, and publishing!

My interview was released in today’s episode. Listen here. You can also subscribe to Eyes on Success in iTunes.


Announcing Sacred Space, a new interview series at On the Blink!

I’m delighted to announce the launch of a new series of interviews here at On the Blink. The series is called Sacred Space, and it will feature short interviews with people about their spirituality.

I was inspired to create this series for several reasons, but I can trace bright lines of inspiration to two figures in particular: the former Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and the Jewish-Buddhist teacher Sylvia Boorstein.

In his On Being interview with Krista Tippett, Rabbi Sacks emphasized the need to honor difference across religious practices. Rather than insisting that everyone conform to our beliefs, Sacks suggested that we take the time to learn the beliefs, songs, and stories of other religions—even if we don’t choose to adopt them. He suggested that our God lives in these differences, in the rare and surprising moments of connection we establish through empathy and trust. So this series will strive to bring such differente voices forward.

Sylvia Boorstein’s wisdom also came through her On Being interview. Dr. Boorstein says that developing a spiritual practice doesn’t require time apart from our daily lives: “Spirituality doesn’t look like sitting down and meditating. Spirituality looks like folding the towels in a sweet way and talking kindly to the people in the family even though you’ve had a long day.” She emphasizes the need for a spirituality that is expressed through everything else in our lives, that hums along beside us in all we do.

My Sacred Space interviews will attempt to honor difference and bring spiritual practice to the center of conversation. Faith and spirituality are not all we will talk about on this blog, but they are moving toward the center—as all important commitments in our lives must.

If you would like to share the stories of your faith and spirituality with me, just send me a message through the contact form below. I am excited to begin this series with all of you!

October Interviews: Elaine from Pennsylvania

Our next interviewee is Elaine Mara, age 28. She lives in Pennsylvania and works with disabled individuals at the high school level, preparing them for the transition to college or work. She enjoys public speaking, disability awareness, guide dog lifestyle awareness,  creating and delivering dynamic presentations, and composing music for piano.

How would you describe your vision loss? Is it congenital or has it developed recently?

Without getting too technical, here’s the simplest way to understand it: I was born with
underdeveloped optic nerves and a host of other diagnoses. Growing up, my vision was pretty stable, though I needed large print to read and I tripped over my own two feet all the time. As an adult, I had noticed that my periphery on my right side was closing in and so began four long years of tests, two brain surgeries, and many follow-ups. Today, I have 20/50 vision in my left eye; 20/70 vision in my right eye; 20/50 vision with both eyes open (all on a good day) but I have a visual field of around 10 degrees in my right eye and somewhere around 20 degrees in my left eye. I have nystagmus, an eye movement disorder, that makes focusing very difficult but I’ve worked hard over the years to learn to live with all of this!

Do you use a cane, guide dog, or other mobility aid to get around? Why have you chosen this aid?

Most currently, I am using a cane to get around because my first guide dog, who I trained with back in 2014, decided to retire early. Before I got him, I was an avid cane traveler but I found my confidence dwindling as my eyesight was changing; that’s where Guiding Eyes for the Blind (GEB) came into my life and changed it drastically. I am currently waiting to go back into class at GEB to train with a successor dog, hopefully early next year. I much prefer the dog to the cane.

With the cane, I’m always bumping into things and running up the backs of people’s feet when I’m walking much faster than they are. With a dog, we avoid the obstacles and the travel is much more fluid and friendly, too. I have met so many wonderful and unique people just doing my day-to-day activities when I’m with my dog than when I’m with the cane. People, kids especially, have a great love for the fur at the end of the harness and they marvel at what he can do for someone like me, so they’re more apt to approach me and socialize with me than when I’m accompanied by a stick with no personality. Who want’s to cuddle a cane? Not I!

What is the most consistent challenge or frustration you experience with your low vision? How do you handle it?

For me, low vision means I’m constantly in limbo. Sometimes I can see and do a task flawlessly with the vision I have and other times, I’m lucky I don’t make a mess. Personally, I laugh it off and let it go because I know what’s really going on. Some days, my vision rocks and others, it decides it doesn’t want to get out of bed in the morning but that’s all internal; it’s not like everyone else can see it, so some days, it does get tiring having to explain the same concept to ten different people, though I know it’s usually because they’re curious.

What resources have helped you to handle your low vision best, either in everyday matters or in moments of crisis?

I truly believe everything in this life takes a village. My biggest assets are the people I have on my team. My family has been my rock. The last four years have not been easy with my vision and neurological conditions and yet, they’re still by my side, taking me to appointments and holding my hand when the news comes down. We celebrate the good days and shake off the bad…together. I have two amazing eye care specialists and a neurosurgeon who are always available if and when I need them. I have rehabilitation professionals who have hearts of gold and care only about my success. I have the technology and skills, too, but nothing is more important than trusting, caring relationships when life hangs upside down.

What would you say is the most harmful or annoying belief that people have about vision loss? How do you cope with this belief?

I think the most harmful belief that people have is that vision loss is all or nothing: that we are either sighted or we’re blind. I don’t think people understand that, like anything, vision loss exists on a continuum and because it is not a static, unchanging characteristic, there are going to be days where a pot on the sidewalk will be seen and avoided without contact and there will be others where that same pot, on that same sidewalk will fall in an area of blindness and not avoided, tripped over and harm done. The truth of the matter is: vision is constantly changing. We live in a world where so much of life is consumed by the visual that those of us who use different senses have a unique way of looking at the world and it should be appreciated for what it is.

What’s your favorite way to celebrate autumn?

I love walking in the autumn weather. Hearing the leaves crunch under my feet. Smelling the burning firewood from nearby bonfires. Fall is such an aromatic season, built for the senses. When I have my guide dog, I love taking them out to play in the leaves and making huge piles for them to romp in.

What is a book that you could read over and over again? Why do you feel this way about it?

I could read Shel Silverstein’s poetry over and over again because there always seems
to be subtle nuances and imagery that come to mind when reading his work in all different moods.

What book, person, or perspective makes you feel most centered as a writer?

I feel like there is no one person or perspective that can center a writer. Yes, there is
subject matter that each of us excels in writing about but that subject has many perspectives, many details, many events that combine to make that person an expert. I enjoy reading blogs the most because they tell a different kind of story; I feel that they give meaning to a person’s life and provide their perspective on the world in which they live and their readers gain another insight into the world in which they live. Blogs can be so very inspiring and uplifting and if a reader is committed to a particular blog, that individual will get to know the writer or creator in a way that stories and articles can’t.

Blogs have added an entirely new dimension to the world of literature and how we experience the world. I believe in the power of words and using as many formats to put those words into action as possible.

What is one dream you hope to accomplish in the next 10 years?

In the next ten years, I would love to be a published author, traveling the world with my guide dog, telling my story and inspiring others to work through the difficult times in their lives because there is always something bigger on the other side of challenge. I want to make a difference in this world and I want my story to mean something to someone somewhere. I’d love to be married and, maybe have a family, but I want to know myself first!

October Interviews: Krista from FSCJ

Krista Waters, age 29, is a DeafBlind Human Services major at Florida State College at Jacksonville. She has found her passion working with other disabled people, and she currently holds two positions in disability services organizations. She enjoys discussing assistive technology, self-advocacy, and accommodations for disabled students and employees. She agreed to talk with me about her academic experiences.

Why did you choose to attend Florida State College at Jacksonville?

I chose this institution because the disability services are incredible. The staff really embraces the students they are in charge of educating.

What is the most significant access issue you’ve had in college? How was it resolved? Was this solution ideal?

I would say the most difficult access question has been access to materials in a timely manner. Because I am visually impaired as well as hearing impaired, things can take a while. I receive syllabi in advance, handouts in advance if available. However, computer software still leaves a lot to be desired. Its not always accessible for people who use screenreading programs like JAWS. I’m flexible though. I’ve realized when I’m fighting for accessibility for myself, it’s not always about me in the long run. It’s about my fellow students and peers as well.

If you could implement training for faculty or staff, what skills or concepts would you emphasize?

I would emphasize that all students are different. Just because you have had one blind student does not mean the second or third blind student will require the same things. Your student comes first, then the disability.

How do you judge whether a professor will be a good fit for you? What clues in the syllabus or in their personal communications let you know that they’re willing to collaborate with disabled students?

Whether a professor is a good match for working with our college’s disabled population is based on a number of well-defined factors. First of all, a lot is based on the student’s first meeting with the professor in question. Does the student email and ask for a meeting (something that is highly recommended)? Does the professor respond in a timely manner? Does the professor seem interested and open to your request for a meeting? Are you clear about your disabilities? Does the professor ask good questions related to you being in this class and how to make the environment as conducive as possible?

What’s the most satisfying project you’ve completed during college? Why do you feel this way about it?

The most satisfying project I’ve performed in college is my Cold War presentation in my American History class. I’m a quiet person by nature, especially in the classroom environment. I have difficulty speaking up in the classroom, and the professor in question took it upon himself to ensure I became comfortable. He did not ignore me; instead he engaged me. I did my presentation complete with PowerPoint.

What was the most challenging college course you’ve ever taken? Why was it so challenging?

I think the most challenging class I’ve taken thus far is my Integrating Educational Technology class. This class was all lab-based and completely 100% visual. As a visually impaired person, I like to be as independent as I can, and this class challenged my sanity.

What advice would you give to disabled students entering college for the first time?

I would say talk to other college students who have disabilities. Know what your rights are and understand the terminology related to disability accommodations. Try first and if you do not get anywhere, then ask for help. Talk to your professors: open and honest communication.

Quick Q&A | Emily of On the Blink

Adventures in Low Vision is also celebrating Blindness Awareness Month with interviews! Here’s mine. Enjoy!

Adventures in Low Vision

The celebration of Blindness Awareness Month continues here on Adventures in Low Vision. Today I’m launching the Quick Q&A series. Check in over the next few days to hear from people who all have their own unique perspective on blindness. Don’t miss a post–subscribe on the right sidebar!

Today you’ll hear from Emily, the writer of the blog On the Blink. Enjoy.

Headshot of Emily

Q: Name/Region.

A: Emily K. Michael from Jacksonville, FL

Q: Describe your visual impairment in one sentence.

A: I have low vision and am extremely sensitive to light.

Q: How do you want others to refer to your vision loss?

A: I call myself a blind woman, so others can, too!

Q: Why did you start blogging?

A: I began my blog as a way to keep my prose in shape, to play and experiment with my writing. I never thought of it as an educational tool…

View original post 163 more words

October Interviews: Blindbeader from Life Unscripted

Blindbeader, age 31, is an office assistant and blogger from Northern Canada. She writes the blog Life Unscripted. She enjoys jewelry design, board and card games, running, cooking, goalball, and drinking too much coffee—which obviously pairs better with some hobbies than others.

Blindbeader was born with low vision and learned to read braille. She has no vision in her left eye, and her right eye can see “light, dark, and really really big things in my way. But everything looks two-dimensional, like a pancake.” She travels with a guide dog and loves the fluidity of their movement together. She agreed to join in the conversation about blindness and blogging.

What is the most consistent challenge or frustration you experience with your low vision? How do you handle it?

People’s perceptions of what my life is like. I get comments about how great it is that my husband takes care of me (which inspired a blog post), or how proud they are that I hold down a job (which is a pretty big deal given the unemployment rate of the visually impaired). But it’s often the little things people think of as being so hard… like doing laundry or cooking, or dressing myself… people’s ideas that a blind person couldn’t possibly do these things is probably the most demeaning.

But things that I, personally, struggle with, I would probably say it’s the not feeling like I really fit in anywhere. The blind community at large generally has certain social mores, hobbies, or interests that I don’t share, and I don’t really fit in with pop culture either, so much of what dominates contemporary sighted culture eludes me, too

What resources have helped you to handle your low vision best, either in everyday matters or in moments of crisis?

Friends! Oh, my friends! If it weren’t for friends, I doubt I’d be happy as a blind person at all. I have a couple of friends I reach out to when things are rough, and even when they’re not. They’re the friends who will laugh with me, cry with me, and tell me to snap out of it when I get obsessive and down on myself

What do you look for in a good blog, whether it’s writing your own posts or reading someone else’s?

I look for well-rounded writing. Everyone comes to the table with their own experiences, biases, and ideas. If a blogger can persuade me to their point of view, or at the very least make me re-evaluate mine and/or consider theirs in a different light, then they’ve done their job. I have NO use for blogs that are just mundane daily happenings (“I ate cereal for breakfast, I went to the store and they were out of milk”) or are so vitriolic and angry that they want to brow-beat the reader.

Is your blog your main writing outlet or do you write or publish elsewhere?

It’s my main one. I do write music, but it’s like reading my diary, so I keep it fairly close.

What would you say is the most harmful or annoying belief that people have about vision loss? How do you cope with this belief?

That we are not able to speak, think, or do for ourselves. I tend to be a little more abrasive than most, especially when someone asks anyone with me what “she” would like. I either answer for myself, which hopefully redirects the conversation back to me, or if that doesn’t work, I say something like “You CAN talk to me…”

What’s your favorite way to celebrate autumn?

Running. Autumn is one of my favorite times of year here, with cooler nights and warmer days, leaves crunching underfoot. I LOVE running through the leaves, and this year I’ve started taking my guide dog as my guide runner, which she adores!

What is one dream you hope to accomplish in the next 10 years?

To have children. I know that perceptions of blind parents really need to change, and I hope that I can be a small apart of that change when I become a parent one day.

*  *  *

Throughout October, I’ll be conducting more interviews about blogging, education, employment, and access. I’ll be asking the questions blind people always get asked—and the questions they’ve always wanted to answer. Stay in the loop!

October Interviews: Susan from Adventures in Low Vision

Here at On the Blink, I’m celebrating Blindness Awareness Month by interviewing my blind friends and colleagues. The first interview in this series is with Susan, the creator of Adventures in Low Vision.

Susan, age 33, is an administrative assistant in a law office. She enjoys reading voraciously, writing thoughtfully, and cooking with abandon. At Adventures in Low Vision, she writes about her experiences of vision loss in “Mayberry,” Maryland. She describes her low vision as “a tug-of-war of changes in the past decade or so.” When asked why she chooses a white cane, she says, “It empowers me to move freely and independently and signals to others that no, I’m not drunk or a snob, I have a visual impairment.”

What is the most consistent challenge or frustration you experience with your low vision? How do you handle it? 

Hmmm. Probably not recognizing people/faces like I used to before my vision loss. Friends who understand my disability will announce themselves or whatever, but for all those times I’m in a group or interacting with the general public, I can feel like I’m lost and struggling to understand what’s going on as silent communication like smiles, nods, gestures escape me. I focus on people nearby. When I don’t know what to do, I ask and if appropriate, let them know I have a visual impairment. Later on, when I’m just with him, I’ll ask my husband about things to catch up. Sometimes I’m frustrated, sometimes I can roll with it.

What would you say is the most harmful or annoying belief that people have about vision loss? 

How do you cope with this belief?  That people with vision loss are helpless. I cope with it by being myself and showing by example a disability means you learn new ways to do the things you want to do. I work and play and am a part of society and I happen to use a white cane and magnification to do so. (Has anyone seen my iPhone charger by the way?)

What resources have helped you to handle your low vision best, either in everyday matters or in moments of crisis? 

Wine. OK, seriously. My state’s rehabilitation services helped with services like OT, orientation and mobility therapy, job searching and assistive equipment for work. My iPhone in all kinds of ways. My husband and immediate family and friends, (my Stocktons if you read my blog!) provide incredible emotional support when needed, too.

How has blogging affected you as a writer?

The outlet allows me to experiment and get feedback from different styles.   It’s helped me to find my voice and connect with others.

What do you look for in a good blog, whether it’s writing your own posts or reading someone else’s?

Evidence of edited passion. I cast aside rants and long diaries of daily activity. When I find a piece that’s entertaining, interesting and thoughtful, I am drawn in and stick with it.

Is your blog your main writing outlet or do you write or publish elsewhere? 

My blog’s my first outlet, hopefully not the last. The Baltimore Sun published an essay I wrote. I’ve submitted other essays elsewhere and I’ve finished the draft of a manuscript, but I’m making major changes to it. We’ll see what the future holds.

What’s your favorite way to celebrate autumn? 

Sip mulled cider, perhaps spiked with a little bourbon, and sit by a crackling fire with my husband. Reading whilst wrapped in my Buffalo Bills snuggie with a terrier at my feet is a close second.

What is a book that you could read over and over again? Why do you feel this way about it? 

I don’t tend to re-read many books. I revisit my childhood favorite, Matilda, every few years. Oh, I do have a soft spot for the Harry Potter audiobooks narrated by Jim Dale, too. And, once I discover a writer I like, I will plow through most of their work. I’m more of a movie rewatcher.

What book, person, or perspective makes you feel most centered as a writer? 

The kind of mindset I hold after I’ve meditated or done yoga. Also, when I read something from a writer who conveys their thoughts honestly and efficiently with a dash of humor, that resonates with me and reminds me to hold true to that kind of writing.

What is one dream you hope to accomplish in the next 10 years? 

The welsh terrier farm is probably unreasonable. I want to publish a book or two.

*  *  *

Want to know more? Head over to Susan’s blog to read some “evidence of edited passion.”

Keep reading this month! More interviews are on the way. It’s exciting to have some new voices around here.

Interview: “Dialogue on Blindness and Writing”

With other disabled writers, I participated in an interview for the September issue of Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature:

“Jill Khoury, Emily Lund, Emily Michael and Kristen Witucki are four writers whose work in poetry and fiction has openly addressed issues of physical disability. Wordgathering invited them to take part in a discussion surrounding issues of craft and publication for writers with visual disabilities.”

Read the full interview here.

Interview: “Therapeutic music: Edith Moore-Hubert on the healing properties of classical music.”

Today Classical MPR published my interview of a Jacksonville musician:

“With a master’s degree in piano performance from Manhattan School of Music, Edith Moore-Hubert has performed in academic, liturgical, medical, and concert settings for almost 30 years. In 2010, she released a solo CD, Music to Calm Your Soul. She describes her music as therapeutic, and I asked her to share some insight into the healing potential of classical music. ”

Read the full article.