Tag Archives: visual impairment

Can I ask you a daft question?

Being a guide dog owner brings with it many advantages, (the companionship of a wonderful brindle Labrador/retriever and a highly effective mobility tool being 2 of the most obvious).

During my social and working life I am asked many questions regarding how guide dogs work, most of which are perfectly reasonable. I always answer such queries as its important that people understand the vital role played by guide dogs in enhancing the independence of visually impaired people. I am however sometimes flabbergasted by the daft questions put to me.

I have lost count of the number of occasions when a question along the following lines has been asked, “so does your dog go to work with you?”

I recently came across a variant on the above query. An acquaintance, being aware that I was traveling to Liverpool to visit my mum asked, “so does Trigger (my guide dog) go to Liverpool with you?”

I am known for my dry (some would say sarcastic) sense of humour. Consequently I am highly tempted to reply along the following lines, “no, he will stay in London for the 7 days I shall be in Liverpool. Don’t worry I shall leave him enough food and water to cover my absence. I am, however a little concerned that my home might be rather messy on my return …!”.

I do, however bite my sharp tongue and respond that the whole purpose of a guide dog is to act as a mobility tool. Consequently Trigger goes everywhere with me (the UK Equalities Act makes it an offence for a provider of goods or services to discriminate against a person for a reason related to their disability.

As a guide (or other assistance animal) is necessary to the independence of many disabled people, the Act makes it an offence for restaurants and other establishments to refuse to admit a disabled person when accompanied by their working assistance animal).

I shall continue to smile and patiently explain about the role of guide dogs when confronted by silly questions while, all the time furiously biting my sarcastic tongue …


“My Old Clock I Wind and Other Poems” is available, in braille from RNIB

I have today received notification that my collection of poetry, “My Old Clock I Wind and Other Poems” has been added to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (rnib’s) catalogue.

The book is available (for sale or loan).

To order please email library@rnib.org.uk, or call RNIB on 0303 123 9999 (quoting order number 25870603.

Alternatively please visit the library’s catalogue, and enter the search term, “my old clock I wind and other poems”, hit search and my book should be displayed.

The Cane Explained

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has produced a short film, explaining how sight impaired people navigate using the white cane.

Prior to getting my first guide dog, Nixon (no jokes about Watergate please), I used a white cane to navigate. I well remember people not paying attention to what was going on around them and tripping over my cane.

Admittedly, when I was in the process of learning to navigate using a cane, some of the tripping stemmed from my imperfect utilisation of it. However, as my technique improved, the tripping incidents which did happen flowed from the lack of attention demonstrated by sighted people (I apologised none the less)!

I am now working with my fourth guide dog, Trigger so my use of the cane is extremely rare.

However, back in 2016 Trigger had several lumps removed (fortunately all where found to be benign). While he recovered (a period of some 2 weeks), I used my cane.

Having fallen out of practice I had several bumps and scrapes as a consequence of my imperfect technique. I was, however soon back in the saddle and my acquaintance with telegraph poles and other obstacles became a distant memory.

For RNIB’s film on the cane please visit http://rnib.org.uk/cane-explained.

My collection of poetry, “Lost in the Labyrinth of My Mind” is available, as a braille book from RNIB https://newauthoronline.com/2017/07/21/lost-in-the-labyrinth-of-my-mind-is-available-to-purchase-in-braille-from-rnib/. “Lost” can also be obtained, in print and ebook formats from Moyhill http://moyhill.com/lost/.

I am working with RNIB to make my recently published collection of poetry, “My Old Clock I Wind” available in braille. Once “My Old Clock” has been added to RNIB’s shelves, an announcement will appear here.

In the meantime “My Old Clock” can be purchased, in ebook and paperback formats from Moyhill http://moyhill.com/clock/.

Variety is the spice of life

One of the advantages of being blind, is that it enables me to live in a world composed of many and varied surprises. To take one example, when opening a can I am never quite sure whether it’s contents will delight my taste buds with Baxters vegetable soup (please note that other brands are available)! Or custard …! It is, I often think fortunate that my guide dog, Trigger eats a complete dried food, otherwise who knows what I might be enjoying the next time that can opener goes to work …
Today I popped into my local supermarket and purchased (amongst other items) 2 boxes of microwavable porridge and 1 box of Earl Grey tea bags (again other varieties of tea are, of course available)! On reaching home I found that I had 3 cardboard boxes and was faced with trying to ascertain what each contained. By placing the boxes together I discovered 2 where of the exact same size while the third was of different dimmentions. Given that I had bought 2 packs of porridge I therefore correctly concluded that the odd one out in my interesting collection of boxes must, of necessity be the tea. Had I purchased a greater variety of packages I would, almost certainly have required sighted assistance to determine what each contained.
Things are easier for visually impaired people than was previously the case. For example all medication now comes with braille labelling, which as a user of this medium is extremely helpful to me. Again most bleach now comes with a braille label clearly identifying it as such, although many other poisonous products, for example toilet cleaner do not.
There are solutions to enable visually impaired people to label products, for example a hand held device allows those with sight difficulties to record a short note on a plastic card identifying products which can then be affixed via an elastic band or string. However this solution relies on sighted assistance to identify the item in the first instance thereby enabling the VI individual to label it.
A hand held scanner has been developed allowing blind people to identify products and I am considering purchasing one. In the meantime I remain thankful that my guide dog eats dry rather than tinned food …!


Being blind
Sometimes I find
Myself wondering, as heels pass
“Who is that lass?
Is she young or old?
Or shy
And what colour are her eyes?”

On occasions perfume, as of a flower
Does overpower
My senses, and I construct castles in the air
Wherein I while away many an hour
Thinking on the tender flower
Where other bees than me
Make free.

How the senses can deceive.
The girl I perceive
As being in the flush of youth
Is, in truth
(I blush) To admit it, sometimes a lady of mature years
Who has, perchance shed many tears
Over lovers past
And, by heavens no young lass!

A mind
As frail
And lustful, as any sighted male

Of Tap Dancers and Mail Clients

I was bitterly disappointed yesterday (Monday 29 August) not to meet the gentleman (or lady for I know not their gender) who entertained me with such gusto. I think they are a professional tap dancer as the loud noise reverberating throughout my flat demonstrated considerable skill in the art of tap dancing. As a poet/author, I’m always keen to make the acquaintence of fellow artists, hence I was bitterly disappointed that my neighbour failed to drop in. However I suspect that if he (or she) continues to show such verve when tap dancing or cabinet making it wont be long before they drop in literally (through the floor)!

Turning to more mundane matters. As a blind computer user who is unable to see a screen, I rely on Jaws software which converts text into speech and braille enabling me to have the contents of documents, the internet relaid to me.
For many years Gmail (my mail client of choice) has, very helpfully offered a “basic HTML” option which allows visually impaired users of access software to utilise Gmail with the minimum of clutter. Unlike “standard view”, “basic HTML” lacks bells and whistles such as “Google Hangouts” meaning that it is, as I said above, less cluttered and easier to use.
“Basic HTML” remains less cluttered than it’s all singing, all dancing cousin. However it has now been denuded with the ability to click to go to “older” and “newer” messages having been removed. The emails are still there but I and other visually impaired users of Google services are now having one heck of a job to get beyond the first 50 (or 100 depending on one’s settings) messages.
I have tried contacting Google via their contact form but the darned thing wont submit! Until matters are resolved I am going to have to struggle with “standard view” which is, for me much slower and more cumbersome than “basic HTML”. Thank you Google for checking that any changes you made to Gmail are compatible with screen reading software …