Last weekend a visually impaired friend of mine went to Gold Reef City to ride the rollercoasters. Imagine her amazement when she was told that she could not ride because she as blind. When she posted about the experience on Facebook it turned out that this had happened to other visually impaired people over the past year or so – that it was policy.
I am very aware that I do not have all the facts beyond a very brief explanation given by my friend on Facebook, and that there are always two sides to a story, but still, I find myself in something of a quandary.
In principle, I agree wholeheartedly with the outraged comments from other visually impaired people at the apparent discrimination of this policy. But I want to know more details before I add my voice – I admit that I cannot think of a good reason why a visually impaired person should not be able to go on the rides, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. And if there is a valid reason for the policy, then our outrage might be inappropriate.
I think it is important to get all the facts… to see the whole picture… so that we can be sure we act on the correct conclusions. Responding when we have only part of the information can be inadvisable at best, and dangerous at worst.
As an addendum: my friend has just reported that Gold Reef City are willing to meet and discuss the policy, so perhaps this will have a happy ending after all.
It takes me a long time to start using a new application on my iPhone or computer. I had a Facebook profile for years with nothing on it, before I sat down and worked out how to find my way round the basic features. LinkedIn was no different –I had a very basic profile set up, but just never seemed to get round to learning how to use it.
My main reason for procrastinating about technology is that there is simply no way for me to quickly scan the application to figure out how it operates. I have no choice but to read every single word of every single line so I can see what options are available to me, and that takes time. As a result, often I just don’t bother.
In August 2015 I attended a workshop on LinkedIn for Speakers run by Charlotte Kemp and that gave me the skills… and the courage… to start working on my profile. And I (cautiously) started using LinkedIn.
About a month ago LinkedIn updated the iPhone application and suddenly it all became unfamiliar once more. I can honestly say that I no longer know where to find anything and that once more it is too much of a bother to try and figure it out… at least for now. I still haven’t gathered up the courage to open LinkedIn on my computer in case that has changed too.
I know I will get round to it at some stage soon, and I know that updates are necessary and are often beneficial… but unfortunately knowing that by no means diminishes the frustration I experience when having to start from scratch and relearn an application after an update.
When I started writing my book explaining how I accomplish everyday tasks, it seemed that the first step – the initial creation of the text – happened very quickly. From there everything seems to be taking a whole lot longer and there are times that I wonder if it is all worth it.
I know I suffer from chronic procrastination and that it has had an impact on my progress, but I also feel that the initial act of creation was fairly easy – all I had to do was sit down and write. Now, as I review and incorporate input from my first readers, add new chapters to fill gaps in my initial text, and move certain parts of the book around into additional chapters, I observe that it is taking me a lot of mental energy… and a whole lot of time. On the other hand, I know that my final book will be a lot better than it would have been had I simply taken the easy route and just published what I originally wrote.
So, I reassure myself with the knowledge that, though it may seem like I am not making progress, I am still moving forward… step by step. And I will get there eventually!
Sometimes we may feel like we are not making progress, or that a task is simply too much effort for us to continue. But I’m pretty sure that if you take a step back and look at that seemingly never-ending task, that you may not be able to see how much you have progressed, or how much what you are currently doing (no matter how slowly), is benefitting your project.
After all, don’t they say that slow and steady wins the race?
I’ve never been one for New Year Resolutions. For me, the term resolution infers a closing, an ending, – “We managed to resolve the problem!”. So I have never sat down at the start of the year and made copious lists of what I wish for the year.
Having said that, there are several things that I would like to accomplish in the coming year:
- to finish and publish my book on how I accomplish tasks without sight,
- to run a few professional workshops on both disability awareness and communication
- to continue developing my own skills as a speaker and facilitator
- To write more regular articles for this blog.
- To build on the foundations of some of the tasks I began last year – my website, my LinkedIn profile, my Facebook pages
I know that these are not SMART goals (specific, measurable, action-orientated, , realistic, time-based), but for me they are a guideline to help me prioritise my activities over the coming year. Maybe I should plan to revisit this post in January 2017…
A few days ago I had an unexpected epiphany about the book I’m writing and the consequences of going back into my memories of my personal journey.
It’s almost as if recalling some of the experiences I’ve had in the past has opened a floodgate of other memories. I will be busy with a task – sometimes writing, sometimes something totally unrelated to my book, like making a cup of tea – and suddenly I will start thinking about something that happened ages and ages ago… something I haven’t thought of in years, if not decades!
But here’s the truly unexpected part: all of these memories are of joyful times
It may be that I am focusing on the more humorous anecdotes from my life as a blind person, it may be that I have always more easily been able to recall the positives and forget the negatives – but whatever the reason, the result of this entire writing process and its unexpected consequences is that I find myself in a very light and positive state of mind these days.
And that is just awesome!
Following a presentation I gave on Monday, I received the following e-mail from one of the delegates.
What a pleasure it was to meet you last night. Your talk captivated everyone and you certainly had their undivided attention!
You are a natural speaker, enthusiastic, optimistic, passionate and thoroughly inspiring! You have, no doubt, given us a lot to think about. Your humour is one great asset and I truly admire you.
Thanks once again for your brilliant talk!
Lots of love
As a speaker, it is sometimes difficult to see the impact that one’s presentations have on people, and receiving an e-mail like this is both wonderful… and humbling – at least, it is for me.
PS The part of the mail I took out was about a shared love of Golden Retrievers… and the trials associated with trying to keep them from becoming overweight – I didn’t think everyone needed to read that bit!
As a speaker, it has not been a surprise to me to discover that I love talking to adults about the capabilities of those who are differently abled, but I will admit I was surprised to discover how much I enjoy talking to youngsters on the same subject.
I had the opportunity to speak to the girls from the First fish Hoek Brownies this afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
The first time I spoke to a group of youngsters I was completely intimidated… Okay, maybe intimidated isn’t really the word – I was terrified! It’s one thing talking to a group of adults and sharing stories of some of the funny things that have happened to me since losing my sight, but talking to children is a completely different thing… especially as I do not have children myself.
An industry network is a powerful thing, and the speaking business is no exception. I asked one of my speaking colleagues, American professional speaker, Mark Brown, for advice and gained huge value from his experience of working with youngsters for many years. His basic advice? Involve the children as much as possible, as they become bored if you simply speak at them. So I try to follow this great advice whenever I speak to children.
When preparing to meet with First fish Hoek Brownies, I decided to let the girls take the conversation where they wanted, inviting them to ask whatever questions they had. The tricky bit was working out the logistics of the group interaction, and thankfully I had the help of a sighted adult to ensure that everyone got a chance to speak, and that no one dominated the conversation.
I was impressed by the diversity of questions asked by the girls (aged 7 – 10 years): from how I do things, to what it is that I see, from whether or not I remember what I look like, to how I play a guitar. And, of course, the girls wanted to know all about Eccles, my retired guidedog who accompanied me to the visit.
One of the first rules of speaking I learned was to know your audience, and my assessment that I had made the right decision in letting the girls ask questions was Bourne out by their supervisor, who told me that she had never seen the girls so attentive, and so well behaved. I just thought they were amazing, for the variety and maturity of their questions, and their openness to the concept that, despite my lack of sight, that I am just a normal person who does things a little differently.
This afternoon I gave my presentation “Strength, Passion, Success” at the signal Hill rotary Club. As with the other Rotary clubs at which I’ve spoken recently, I was not paid for this presentation, though both I and Dawn Corin, who assisted me with transport and support, did receive a meal at the meeting. Many of my pro speaker friends have asked me what value I get out of speaking for no fee and I’ve given this question a great deal of thought over the past few weeks.
I want to make it quite clear that I do not intend speaking for free forever, that I will gladly accept paying gigs that come my way that suit my preferences. For now, however, I am gaining value from speaking at organisations like rotary and, linked to my illustrated children’s books the Adventures of Missy Mouse, schools and youth organisations like Brownies, for which I do not receive a fee. “Why?” you may ask…
There are several reasons:
- By simply speaking, I am raising my profile as a speaker, which will result in future paying gigs
- I am getting a chance to perfect my speech in front of an audience, so am improving my skills
- I am using the opportunity to change people’s perspective of what a person living with a disability can achieve
- I am building goodwill for organisations that are close to my heart, like casual Day and Toastmasters International.
Of these, the third is the one that gives my soul the greatest level of joy – each time I speak, I have the ability to raise people’s awareness of how those of us who are differently abled accomplish tasks, and give my audiences permission to ask questions that they might not usually do, for fear of offending those of us who are differently abled. It gives me a real sense of accomplishment each time someone comes over after I have spoken and shares with me how my presentation has inspired them and shifted their thinking about disability And that is just awesome!
Earlier today I submitted an article for the coming book about the recent Tributes Excellence Awards in Mangaung, South Africa at which I received the award for the category of literature and education And I’ve just got a great response from Musa E Zulu, who is putting the book together – mail extracted below:
“Wow! Man, this is packed with emotion and the choice of words employed is the true mirror image of an author extraordinary!”
I’ll let everyone know when the book comes out…
Wow! What a day!
Having the opportunity to appear on television as a Casual Day Goodwill Ambassador was a chance not to be missed – yes, it meant waking up at the crack of dawn to be at the studio by 06h00 in the morning, but its seriously not every day that you are given a chance to appear live on TV, is it?
I found the whole experience quite surreal. There is a lot of sitting around and waiting while things happen around you, and then several flurries of activity to get everyone ready to go on air (umm, or should it be screen for TV?) – sitting around feeling spare while people rush backwards and forwards around you, only to be hurried into make-up at some unknown sign (and my word, are those make-up ladies professional!). Then more waiting around, this time “in the wings” between the sets as other segments of the show are shot. Next comes the flurry of activity as everyone is mic-ed up correctly and the engineers check that the microphones are working, and there is a (super quick) run through of what the presenter is going to ask each person. The anticipation builds as the segment just before yours goes ahead on the other set. Then suddenly you are being hustled towards the set, told where to sit and everyone holds their breath as the final countdown begins.
And, just as suddenly it is all over – a 5 minute segment on what Casual Day is all about with each of us 3 Ambassadors being asked a single question… though I’m still not sure what I would have done if they had actually asked me the question meant for Simone of what it meant to me to be a role model as a hearing impaired ballet dancer!
I left the set with the strange awareness of how unreal the TV world must b – when you are on set and on camera everything appears and sounds so calm and relaxed… but behind the scenes you are very aware that there is organised chaos as the various role-players shuffle guests from one place to another so everything appears slick and professional to the viewers at home. The crazy thing is that it works, as was clear when I watched the recording of the segment that Jabulile, Simone and I took part in.
All things considered I found it a singularly strange experience.
But, would I do it all again if offered the opportunity? Hell yes! I haven’t had that much fun in ages!
If you want to watch the video, here it is…