Please pardon our dust…

Please pardon our dust...

First off, my apologies for neglecting this blog for so long. Having a baby will do that. Anyway, this site is really in need of some love and updating. I’ll blame part of it on inaccessibility of the word press site (which gladly is getting better) and a huge blogging learning curve, but mostly, it’s just because I’ve been busy being a mom of two small, completely adorable children. Anyway, please bear with me as I continue to work on this blog and make some exciting changes…I hope. One thing I’d like to tel you about is that I’m going to make this blog more professional and hopefully a better resource for parents and teachers. I will admit, it’s a little scary putting that out there because now I’m committing myself.
Don’t worry if you only like to read this blog to keep up with our family life. I’ve been working for a few months now to create a family site where I plan to archive the adventures of being blind parents and the highlights of our family. You can find it at http://www.HomeisWheretheHartleis.com. I hope you’ll stop by and check it out. Thanks for sticking with me.

Please pardon our dust…

First off, my apologies for neglecting this blog for so long. Having a baby will do that. Anyway, this site is really in need of some love and updating. I’ll blame part of it on inaccessibility of the word press site (which gladly is getting better) and a huge blogging learning curve, but mostly, it’s just because I’ve been busy being a mom of two small, completely adorable children. Anyway, please bear with me as I continue to work on this blog and make some exciting changes…I hope. One thing I’d like to tel you about is that I’m going to make this blog more professional and hopefully a better resource for parents and teachers. I will admit, it’s a little scary putting that out there because now I’m committing myself.

Don’t worry if you only like to read this blog to keep up with our family life.   I’ve been working for a few months now to create a family site where I plan to archive the adventures of being blind parents and the highlights of our family. You can find it at http://www.HomeisWheretheHartleis.com. I hope you’ll stop by and check it out. it’s still a bit under construction, but you can take a peek at it.  Thanks for sticking with me.

Let’s Kick off “Meet the Blind Month” 2013

Well, as some of you may already know, October is “Meet the Blind month.   The purpose of this month is to help educate the public and create greater awareness of the capabilities of people who are blind.  Additionally, October 15th is “White Cane Safety Day” which recognizes the use of white canes by blind individuals.   

Across the country, groups of blind and low vision individuals and their friends and family observe this month through various outreach activities such as participating in public events, speaking in public venues like schools, civic clubs, church groups, and so forth, passing out literature, hosting meet and greets, and volunteering service in their communities .   So, I’d like to invite you to join with me and others in helping to provide public awareness this October.  There are lots of simple, easy things you can do in your own area too.  Here are a few easy ideas we as blind individuals or friends or family of blind people can do to help spread awareness to the public about the capabilities of the blind.  So, get a group together and get going!  I’d love to hear what you do to observe this month. 

*Create a bulletin board with a blindness theme to display in your school.  You should also consider making this an accessible and “blind-friendly “ bulletin board,a.k.a. tactually appealing and dual media with print and Braille.  (for ideas, visit the education page at the NFB Jernigan Institute at www.nfb.org)

  • Pass      out “Braille Party Mix” and a Braille alphabet card to your neighbors,      friends, colleagues, classmates, co-workers, etc.  Braille party mix consists of the      following:
    • 6       pieces of round candy like “Dots”, M and M’s, or Reeses’Pieces=the six       dots in a Braille cell.
    • Pretzel       sticks= the stylus
    • Cheese       nibs crackers or other similar looking crackers with holes and ridges =       the Braille cell or a slate
    • Alphabet       Cereal= print letters being translated into Braille
    •  Fruit roll-ups= piece of paper
  • Spotlight      a blind student or adult in your school/community at a public event such      as a church or civic club meeting, school assembly, class, etc.  This can also be a Q and A session with      a blind person about how he or she does various tasks with non-visual      techniques. 
  • Pass      out Braille alphabet cards along with your Halloween candy.  These can be obtained from blindness      organizations like the American Printing House, the National Federation of      the Blind, or the National Braille Press for free or for a small nominal      fee. 
  • set up      a volunteer experience at a public service venue such as a food pantry,      nursing home, hospital, etc.  This      will be a great way for us as blind individuals to “give back” and can also      provide a unique opportunity for the public to see the capabilities of those      with vision impairments. 
  • Set up      a table and time to Braille names on index cards in a public place such as      school lunchroom, outside a store, public library, flea market, fair,      farmer’s market, etc.  People are      fascinated by Braille and will love getting a copy of their name in      Braille.  You can also hand out      Braille alphabet cards at the same time.      
  • Pass      out literature about blindness in your neighborhood, school, business,      etc.  This could include things like      Braille alphabet cards, or general blindness facts or FAQ’s about      Blindness (you can generally get this kind of literature from a blindness      related organization). 
  • Participate      in a tailgating event at a school football game.  You can pass out Braille literature,      Braille people’s names, and have blind people serving the food. 
  • Participate      in a local Halloween  “’Trunk or      Treat” event wherein you set up lawn chairs in a parking stall instead of      a car and pass out candy and Braille alphabet cards.  Decorate your canes or guide dog and      yourself instead of your vehicle in Halloween décor.
  • Volunteer      to be on a speaker’s list at your local library or to read stories in Braille      at a children’s story hour. 
  • Give a      presentation to your school class about an influential blind individual such      as Helen Keller, Louis Braille, or Dr. Abraham Nemoth.  You could even come dressed like this person      and pretend to be him/her telling his/her story.
  • Make a      sign to display in a window of your home or vehicle that recognizes “Meet the      Blind Month or the capabilities of the blind.  For example, it could say, “I’m the proud      parent of a blind child”.  Or “Sight      is not a requirement for Success.”
  • Make a      t-shirt with a positive message about blindness written on it which will promote      discussion by those who see it when you wear it.  For example, it could say something like,      “I’m blind and I am a _____ (fill in with something which is stereotypically      unlikely to be done by a blind person like “a dancer, skier, black belt,” etc.)       

 

I hope these ideas have inspired you to get out and help spread the word about “Meet the Blind “month.  I’d love to hear other ideas from you and/or the things you are doing to observe this month.  Happy “Meet the Blind Month!”

 

Blowing the Whistle: “Want a Ride?”

Most of us know what it was like to be on the playground when the playground monitor blew her whistle. This usually meant one of two things: either someone’s actions were in need of correcting, or recess was over. Sometimes I wish I could “blow the whistle” on the actions of others with respect to blindness, or just bring an end to some of society’s misconceptions and poor attitudes. If nothing else, at least being able to “blow the whistle” could get someone to stop and think about what he or she is doing.

Yesterday, I was walking with my daughter in her stroller down a busy street near our home. We were headed to catch the light rail via a quick stop at the bank located on the way. This is about a fifteen minute walk from our home or a little under a mile and a walk I make often. When I got to the first intersection, this man walked up to me and asked if he could help give me and my daughter a ride any where we’d needed to go. ON the surface, this was a very nice gesture, and I’m sure the man had good intentions—he wanted to help this blind woman with her young child to safely get to our destination, and before the impending rain came. But this little alarm went off in my head. Maybe it’s because I’m a product of the 80’s when we were bombarded repeatedly on the importance of “Stranger Danger” from school assemblies, Safety Kids publications, and Saturday morning cartoon PSA’s, but my instincts kicked in and reminded me that “we don’t take rides from strangers.” I’ve been offered rides countless times by strangers as I’ve been walking down the street. I sincerely appreciate people’s kindness and will admit, there have been a couple of occasions where I and my husband have taken people up on their offer because of the circumstances of the time. But generally, we don’t make a practice of taking rides with random strangers. I politely thanked the man and said that we were fine and actually only going across the street to the bank on the other side of the block (why did I feel like I had to justify my actions by telling him we weren’t going far? My saying “No thanks” should have been sufficient.) . He then offered to help me cross the street, even though I said I was fine and could cross the street myself. I figured after I crossed the street, he’d go back to wherever he’d come from and we’d be on our way, But instead, he continued to walk with me down to the bank. At this point, my guard went up even more as I really didn’t need or want this complete stranger following me. Again, I understand he was just trying to be helpful, but I wish sometimes I could blow a whistle and call a timeout on the social playground. Here is what I’d point out to him if I could talk frankly to him about the circumstances. First, we have a lone male, a complete stranger no less, offering a ride to a woman and her young child. As a woman, of course I’d be guarded about putting myself in a vulnerable situation, especially with my child present. I’m not going to put myself in a risky situation even if his intentions truly are harmless. Secondly, he could be putting himself at risk. Offering to give me a ride “anywhere I needed to go” (he really did say “Anywhere at all”) could set him up for an awkward situation. What if I’d taken advantage of him and asked him to drive me all the way downtown to where I was actually heading after the bank? It’s a 40 min. drive and would burn up a lot of his gas and time. WAS he really thinking through what he was offering? Then there is the second piece of this story—the fact that he followed me. In most situations, if someone was following you, one would be justified in feeling uncomfortable, threatened, or even calling the police. But, because he was just trying to help me because I’m blind, his following me was now supposedly acceptable.

Luckily this individual was not waiting for me when I left the bank. Had he been, I would have again politely, but assertively explained that his help was not necessary and probably have then told him that his actions were making me feel extremely uncomfortable.

So what is the take away from this story? Here is my advice to the sighted public:

  1. It is ALWAYS okay to offer help to blind individuals. Sometimes we really do need help. Keep in mind though to ask if we need help rather than just assume we do. If we say “NO”, accept this and go on your way.
  2. Remember that just because you as a sighted person may not know how to do something if you were blind, or think something cannot be done without sight doesn’t mean we don’t know either. Have a little faith in the abilities of blind and low vision people and take the situation as a learning experience for yourself.
  3. Do not be offended if and when a blind person rejects your offer of help.

Advice for Blind and Low vision individuals

  1. Always be polite when declining help and recognize that generally people mean well
  2. Remember that you may be the only blind person this individual may ever encounter; and like it or not, your actions may impact this person’s perspective about blind people. You don’t want to be rude and leave him/her with a bad taste in his/her mouth about helping blind people. You also can use this opportunity to educate this person on the abilities of a blind person.
  3. Because we as blind people are often dependent on others, we sometimes can become too dependent, or fall into a submissive role around sighted people. Please understand that we as blind or low vision individuals can be in control of our own actions and abilities. If you don’t need help, it’s okay to say so. It is also possible to take assistance but still be in control of our choices and circumstances. For example, if you are crossing a street, it’s okay to get help from a sighted person, but just because a person may come up and grab your arm to help you cross the street, doesn’t mean you have to let them. You can say no thank you”, or “please let go of me” if this is not comfortable for you. This especially applies to blind females. WE often are the ones who become more vulnerable and not as assertive when someone makes us feel uncomfortable. WE tend to be more wired to be nice or polite and not aggressive or confrontational. It is possible to be assertive and still be polite.
  4. Trust your gut. AS I mentioned, there have been times when I’ve taken strangers up on their offers for rides. But this is usually because of certain circumstances at the time, (which I’d be happy to explain) and I never do it if my gut or instincts tell me otherwise.

Well, that’s all for this whistle break. Please let me know what your thoughts are on the situation. I’d love to hear both sighted and blind perspectives on the matter. Maybe some of you reading have encountered similar situations. I’d love to hear how you handled them.

Positivity from the Playground

As I mentioned recently, we attended the NFB national convention a few weeks back.  I had a really positive experience when a former participant in one of the summer programs I ran a few years ago came up to me and told me how much she loved reading my blog posts.  She told me how she especially enjoyed and could relate to one of my last posts about shaving legs.  She said her mom had never been comfortable with her doing this and hadn’t taught her.  The girl now is in college and said she really learned a lot from reading my post.  Her mom was with her at this time, and the young woman leaned over and whispered to me while her mom was talking to someone else how her mom still is a little over protective of some things that this young woman wants to do like her peers, but that she’s getting better at letting go.  J  .  We also talked about other “girl related” things like putting on make-up non-visually (post to come) and other things that sometimes parents don’t know how to explain to their blind child.  It was just a little heart-warming moment for me to see how she was able to feel more empowered as a blind young woman from something that simple which I wrote.  That’s my whole goal in writing this blog—help empower parents of blind children and other blind individuals.  Thanks to that special young woman for sharing this with me.  And good luck to all the well-meaning parents out there who are trying to empower their children in the best way they know how. 

Pioneers on the Playground

As most of you know, I am a native Utahan. I love my home state and miss it often—especially at times like these. July 24 is known back home as “Pioneer Day” and is the anniversary of the day when the original Mormon pioneers first entered the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 after months of an arduous journey pulling handcarts and wagon teams across the frontier. I am an original descendent of Mormon Pioneers who left their homeland and migrated to unknown territory in the west in search of religious freedom and better opportunities. I cherish this heritage and am proud of my ancestors for their sacrifices and great examples.

Outside of Utah, members of the LDS church often commemorate this anniversary by celebrating the “pioneer spirit” exemplified in our members who have sacrificed or been modern day pioneers in other ways for their religious choices. As I have been reflecting this week on “pioneer spirit”, I had an idea to write a post to honor the lives of a couple pioneers in the field of blindness whose influence and hard work has made an impression on me and the lives of many blind and low vision individuals.

The first pioneer I’d like to recognize is Louis Braille. Of course, this may seem like an obvious choice and he’s probably one of the first “pioneers” you’d think of with respect to blindness. I am very appreciative of his creative mind and diligence in creating what we know today as the Braille code. Louis Braille definitely faced his own share of nay Sayers and doubters. Braille (the medium) has opened up so many opportunities to me with respect to literacy. I drug my feet for a long time in learning it, and will admit I’m not the fastest or best Braille reader, but I’m grateful for this method which opened up the world of literacy to me again in new ways . Yes, I may be able to read very, very large print, use magnification, or even audio sources for reading, but there is truly a different part of your brain which is engaged when you are engaging in “active” reading and taking the words on the page and interpreting them yourself. I love the ability to be able to read aloud to my daughter from a Twin Vision book in Braille, or be able to write notes for a presentation. I also love that Braille allows my husband to read aloud to us when we read our scriptures as a family, or that I can go to a meeting and read an agenda along side my sighted peers. Thank you Louis Braille.

The second pioneer I’ve chosen is Jacobus tembroek. This is probably a lesser known individual to most, but I chose him for his work in orchestrating the first organized blind movement. Whether you’re a member of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), American Council of the Blind(ACB), any other blindness group, or none at all, your life as a blind or low vision person has been impacted in some way or another by advocacy work of blindness organizations. temBroek’s work as the founder of the NFB in 1940 blazed the trail for advocacy for and by the blind. We as blind people today enjoy many more rights and civil liberties as result of organized blindness groups. For example, the right to carry a cane, better employment opportunities through anti-discrimination laws, access to educational opportunities, and so much more.

Lastly, I’ve chosen Joann Wilson, the founder of the LouisianaCenter for the Blind. Her influence may not be as far reaching or broadly known as the former two individuals; nevertheless, it has had quite an impact on the lives of hundreds of blind individuals and innumerable ripple effects. Wilson founded the LCB in 1985 as a rehabilitation and training center for blind and low vision individuals. Her center was based on the model of training used by Kenneth Jernigan (another pioneer in the field of blindness in his own right) originally at the Iowa Commission for the Blind in the sixties and seventies. The style of training and methods implemented at the LCB was vastly different from conventional training methods used in traditional rehabilitation programs at that time. Because of its high expectations, structured discovery learning methods, and philosophy based on empowerment and independence, the LCB has flourished over the years to become one of the top , if not the top training and rehabilitation center in the country with alumni from across the country and other countries . Many state and private training agencies around the country model their training practices after the practices of the LCB, even sending instructors there for professional development and training. The LCB also established a partnership with Louisiana Tech University under Wilson’s guidance and now has several teacher training programs which help train orientation and mobility specialists and teachers of the blind in the philosophy modeled at the LCB. I too am a graduate of the LCB and of the teacher programs at LTU and have a strong testimony of the practices used there to teach blindness skills. This model truly surpasses conventional approaches to training in blindness skills. I could go on for hours pointing out the differences, and giving examples of individuals who initially received conventional training, but whose lives and abilities were changed by the training they received afterward from the LCB. I know personally the confidence and empowerment this model of training can have on the lives of someone who is blind or low vision. Mrs. Wilson’s work continues on through the actions and examples of all those who pass through the doors of this center. Thank you Joanne Wilson for your hard work and dedication in establishing this center.

I know there are dozens of other individuals about whom I could go on who have exemplified a unique “pioneer spirit” that has greatly impacted the lives of many blind and low vision individuals. I hope this pioneer day you will join me in honoring the pioneers in our lives who have blazed trails, overcome adversity, and who have made sacrifices to improve the quality of life for those with vision loss. Whether it be developing new technologies , breaking ground in new arenas where the blind have not been before, , or leading by example, I am grateful to these individuals for their time, talent, and confidence in the abilities of the blintwin vision books,teacher of blind students trainingd.

I’d love to hear whom you would recognize as an individual who demonstrates the “pioneer spirit.” Please leave a comment with your picks and reasons why.

Happy Pioneer Day!

Pages from the Hartle Playbook: Catching up this summer

Pages from the Hartle Playbook: Catching up

From time to time, I like to post “Pages from the Hartle Playbook.” These are personal posts which are more about me and my family and our goings-on. These posts are meant to give followers of this blog a little insight into our lives; and also as a way to share some of the situations we encounter as a family with two blind parents.

It seems like this spring and summer have been flying by for us. I’ve neglected my blog a lot lately as result. One exciting piece of news which I haven’t yet shared yet is the expected arrival of our second child, a little boy due in September. WE are very excited, and maybe a little apprehensive about all the new changes to come for us. The pregnancy has been going well—despite a few months at first where I was sure this baby was going to make a vegetarian of me, and joked with my husband that we’d have to move as I couldn’t go up and down the stairs in our house without feeling completely and totally exhausted. We’ve also been struggling with several bouts of sinus colds—at least one of us has been sick with one off and on for about four months now and we just keep passing it around. I’m blaming it on our daughter being exposed to more “bugs” at church nursery and playgroups, and my immune system being a little susceptible from the pregnancy. In any case, it seems like the weeks between the colds have been spent catching up on all the day-to-day business. . But, overall, we are doing great and enjoying the warmer seasons.

The past few months have been full of fun projects for me—planting our first garden(and trying to keep it alive),working on some preschool things with my daughter, and taking on some part-time work contracting with the NFB Jernigan Institute. (I’m helping to manage some conference calls with the nine new states hosting Braille (BELL) summer programs this year.) I’ve also enjoyed going to playgroups with my daughter, attending mom circles and seminars, learning to grill on our new gas grill, and lots of water play on the hot days. I also got a little bit of a crash course in home maintenance a few weeks back when we re-stained our deck (thanks to my dad for being such a big help and basically doing all the work), and learned a bit about plumbing when our kitchen sink leaked and caused a leak through to our basement ceiling (thanks to our neighbor Donna for providing assistance with this repair.) My husband isn’t one of those “fix-it” types when it comes to home repairs, so I tend to wear the tool belt in our house, and rather enjoy this role. By the way, there is a post in the works hopefully about dealing with a plumber who tried to take advantage of my being unfamiliar with the trade and a blind woman. He seriously underestimated my intelligence and lost the bid. J

Our family also just returned from spending two weeks in Orlando, FL. Jesse has been counting down the days and hours for weeks now. WE attended the NFB convention there during the first week, and then headed over to Disney World for the second. I had the opportunity to present to a group of parents of blind children during the National Organization for Parents of Blind Children’s (NOPBC) pre-convention seminar. I especially enjoyed getting to meet a mom of a ten-month-old little boy who is blind. I love seeing parents get involved in providing their children with good skills and philosophy from the start. I truly think the thing I enjoy most about attending the convention is getting to catch up with friends and being able to share our experiences with one another. It’s nice sometimes to commiserate with, learn from, and brainstorm solutions with someone who “gets” what you deal with on a daily basis as a blind person. I also enjoyed getting to catch up with some of the youth with whom I have worked with over the years. They are all growing up so fast and make me feel so old! It’s crazy to realize that some of the youth I worked with as teens have already graduated from college and even grad school in some cases and are these up and coming professionals now.

Disney of course, was the highlight for us. We are big fans of Disney and enjoy going there every year. This was our first year as members of the Disney Vacation Club (yes, we’re just that nerdy) and so we were able to stay at a much nicer resort than usual. Sadly, we were a little disappointed with our room and the resort itself, but we still had a good time. It was fun for us to take our daughter too who is a big fan of Mickey and gang, and of many of the Disney Junior characters. She is still a bit too young for it all, and probably won’t remember most of the trip, but she did have a lot of fun being there and was sad when we said we had to leave. I hope to write a post in the next week or two about some of our experience this year (Some good, some bad) at Disney as we do manage to get a lot of stares, whispers, and questions about being blind. All in all though, it was a much more laid back trip than usual for us given that we had to work around a toddler schedule this time, and being seven months pregnant also brought some limitations . But, we really enjoyed the family time together, taking our daughter to our favorite spots, hitting some of our favorite rides and shows, and of course, eating some of our favorite treats! We also got pics with all of K’s favorite characters. It was so fun watching her be so excited to see them and then getting so star struck when it was actually her turn to meet them. She had two really fun experiences: first, she got to hold Mickey’s hand and lead a little parade at one of the character dining breakfasts we went to. Second, she got a special visit by Captain Hook (one of her faves from “Jake and the Neverland Pirates”) while watching an afternoon parade. He came up to her and gave her a big hug. Wish I would have got a pic of this as it was so adorable and she just beamed!

Well, I could go on for pages more with fun stories from our trip, but I’ll spare you. In any case, that’s the latest from us for now. Hope you enjoyed the little insights.