Blindness

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Interview on Eyes on Success Podcast

the image shows the covers of four children’s books, all with an illustrated mouse with a white cane

Here is another podcast interview I did recently, this time with the Eyes on Success podcast.
It’s not often that the interviews I give are based primarily on my illustrated children’s series, “The Adventures of Missy Mouse”. This was a refreshing topic for me to focus on, made even more fun by having the opportunity to answer a few questions put to me by two charming young boys, the grandsons of the podcast presenters.

You can hear the questions they asked, and my attempts to answer them in a way that would make sense to them, in the interview. You can also hear my thoughts on why it is important for persons with disabilities to be represented in literature of all kinds.

Listen to the interview: www.EyesOnSuccess.net/eos_2127_podcast.mp3

You can also find out more about The Missy Mouse books on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/author/loisstrachan

Paws for Thought about Brothers

The image shows a dark brown dog smiling at the camera

Two months ago my doggy sisters and I got a new brother. Like my sister Allie, he is a rescue dog and his name is Onyx.

Naturally it took him time to settle in and get used to all us girls. It’s really only in the last few weeks that he’s started playing with us. Even now he plays mostly with Allie, while Emily and I bark encouragement from the sidelines.

When Onyx first came to live with us I noticed something a little strange. He would walk into things a lot more often than anyone else in the family, except for mom, who also has a tendency to walk into things. But not even mom walks into things as often as Onyx.

I also noticed that Onyx had an odd way of walking, almost as if he was feeling what was before him with his front paws, rather than just putting them down.

Eventually I asked mom if she knew why he did that. Mom told me that Onyx is partially sighted and sometimes he’s not able to see things. And suddenly it made sense to me.

Mom also told me that the visual impairment was the reason it had taken Onyx five years to find a forever home. The nice lady from DARG (Domestic Animal Rescue Group) told her that several people had considered adopting him. But as soon as they heard he was partially sighted they decided to adopt a different dog instead. Which was why Onyx was there waiting for Dad and us to bring him home.

I’ve been giving my new brother’s sight impairment a lot of thought. I don’t know if he’d be able to get a guide dog to help him in the same way that I help mom. I’ve even wondered if he might find a white cane useful. Except I don’t know how Onyx would be able to hold it and swing it in front of him like mom does on the very rare occasions I let her use her white cane.

On reflection, I think I’m not giving Onyx enough credit. He’s learned to adapt incredibly well and is managing just fine without any assistance. He runs around the garden with us and almost never bumps into things at home. it’s really only when we go for a walk that he sometimes bumps things. And he certainly has no problems leaping onto the couch. Or knowing when one of us girls is sneaking up to try and steal his food – and he is quick to snap at us if we do.

So I don’t think mom needs to apply for him to get a guide dog of his own. Besides, that’s my job and I wouldn’t want any competition from another guide dog, even if it wasn’t there to help mom.
Anyway, all I really wanted to do was to introduce my new brother and welcome him to the family. I’m sure he is going to be very happy living here!

Seeing a Slice of Southern Africa My Way, by Tony Giles

Book Cover

I’ve recently discovered a love of reading travel memoirs. While it in no way replaces the experience of exploring different countries and cultures, it does at least give me a taste of the travel I used to be able to do, and will hopefully be able to return to in time to come.
A travel memoir I read recently was Seeing a Slice of Southern Africa My Way, by Tony Giles – aka Tony the Traveller. It is the story of a trip Tony took to several countries in Southern Africa in 2004 and 2005. During that time he visited South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
As a blind and hearing impaired traveller, Tony describes his travels through his other senses, much as I do when I travel. Having said that, Tony is far more adventurous than I am and is always ready to bungee jump, go white river rafting or seek out other adventure activities, which he also describes with his customary sense of humour

There were a couple of things I found fascinating about reading about Tony’s time in Southern Africa. First, unlike me, Tony is happy to head out and explore the world totally on his own, trusting he will be able to find assistance should he need it. And, from what I read in his book, mostly he manages to do so.
Secondly, I found it fascinating seeing cities and countries that I’ve visited through the eyes of a stranger, and a tourist. I often find that tourists see a different side to a city than we do as residents. I found this especially true while reading Tony’s book. I felt a similar thing when my brother and sister-in-law visited Cape Town a few years ago and Craig and I got to see Cape Town through their eyes.

So, if you’re interested in discovering how a blind and hearing impaired man travels through several Southern African countries on his own, and experience the wonderous world of travel through senses other than sight, or if you simply want to get a taste of travel while we are still not really free to explore new destinations due to the global pandemic, I’d highly recommend reading Seeing a Slice of Southern Africa My Way by Tony Giles. And, if you enjoy it, you can try the other two books in the series so far: Seeing the World My Way and Seeing the Americas My way. I know I’ll be reading them in the near future when I have the urge to travel again, at least by book.

Speaking at the HerStory Women’s Global Empowerment Conference

HerStory ONLINE SUMMIT Tag  Lois Strachan May 2021

Last month I was honoured to be a speaker at the HerStory Women’s Global Empowerment Conference. The conference and the HerStory platform are the brainchild of Zimbabwean-born Getrude Matshe, who has been building the concept for the past few years, first as in-person conferences and currently as online summits.

My 15-minute presentation was on the topic of independence and it’s meaning for me as a blind person, touching on the need for greater inclusion of persons with disabilities into society and the workplace.
You can watch the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqLQvX5vnMs

My Thoughts on Why You Might Want to Listen to My Accessible Travel Podcast

Alt text: The image shows a styalised image of the African continent that resembles a bare foot

I’ve been hosting a podcast on accessible travel for 2 ½ years and have recently been thinking about why someone with no connection to disability might gain value from listening to it.
I believe one of the biggest barriers to the inclusion of persons with disabilities into society and the workplace is a lack of understanding of how we (persons with disabilities) live our lives. Because people don’t understand how we do things, they usually default to imagining that those tasks are not possible for us.

I understand why that barrier exists. On a fundamental level, why should someone with no link to disability know how we operate? It’s rather like expecting everyone in the world to know how a nuclear power station operates, how an orthopedic surgeon does their work, or knowing the intricacies of a retail store stock management system. For the most part we do not need to know and, unless nuclear power stations, retail store stock management or orthopedic surgery impacts directly on our lives, we simply accept that it does what it needs to do. Without needing us to know anything more than that.
Sadly, since many people have no direct contact with a person with a disability, the same appears to hold true. Except that statistics tell us that around 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability. Which means that for every eight people we encounter, one will have a disability, whether visible or not.

In the past few years we have seen a growing awareness of the need to understand the realities of those whose experiences have been different from our own, to be more open to diversity of race, culture, gender, age. Yet somehow the question of ability seldom gets mentioned when the question of diversity is raised. I believe it should be part of that conversation as well.

Which brings us back to why someone with no contact with disability might gain value from listening to my podcast about accessible travel.

  • To learn a little about the barriers the world sets up for persons with disabilities,
  • To learn about the tools and techniques we have at our disposal that allow us to overcome the obstacles we face,
  • To see the strength, resilience, skills and talents that help us achieve what we are passionate about,
  • To understand that we are just the same as persons without disabilities in terms of what we love to do,
  • how we want to live our lives, and experience the world – it is just the way we may do it that may differ

I love having the opportunity of chatting to people about their travel experiences. I learn new things in every single episode. However, I believe the greatest take-away I have gained while interviewing people is the knowledge that, though we may do things in a different way, our experiences and our love for travel are exactly the same.

If you are someone who loves to travel to new places and experience different things, you may discover that the guests on my podcast have much in common with you as well.
Why not dip into the library of episodes of A Different Way of Travelling and see if I’m correct… You can find them at https://iono.fm/rss/chan/3715

Or on your usual podcast player.

Go on, give it a try!

An Interview on the PublishHer Podcast

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Here is a recent interview I did on how I became a writer. If you are one of the people who would love to write a book but do not know where to start, the PublishHer Podcast might be a great starting point for you.

The PublishHer Podcast is the brainchild of Alexa Bigwarfe, who runs the Write_ Publish_ Sell and the Women in Publishing communities. I’ve learned so much about the publishing industry and marketing books from Alexa and her team and the resources they share. So I was excited when they offered me the opportunity to talk about my experiences as a writer.

Here’s my interview:
https://podcasts.bcast.fm/e/r87rzv6n

I hope you enjoy learning a little more about my writing and the publishing industry.

How I Read Books as a Blind Person

The image shows a stack of books placed one atop another

In the past month I’ve written quite a bit about the books I’ve been reading. Which has resulted in a few questions about how I actually engage with books.
When I first lost my sight I had no idea of how I might be able to read books. Reading had been a fundamental part of my life since I learned to make sense of the written word and I was seldom to be found without a book, or several books, within reach. So I was terrified I might never be able to read again now that I was blind.

Over time I learned how needless that fear was.

As a blind person I have several different options of how to read. I can listen to a book on audio, just as you might listen to a book from Audible. In fact, many visually-impaired people are avid Audible fans and enjoy listening to books being read by human narrators.
I can also listen to a book on my phone or laptop, using the electronic voice of my screen reader, the application that reads whatever appears on the screen of the device. While this may sound like the most foreign of my reading options to someone who is sighted, it is actually my first choice.

The digital screen reader voice is mostly neutral in tone. It adheres to some spoken norms– dropping the tone at the end of a sentence, or raising it to indicate a question.
To me, this gives the closest experience to reading by sight. All too often I find human narrators interpret the words they’re reading. Which means I am somewhat restricted by their interpretation. Reading with a digital voice gives me the freedom to interpret the text and the story using my own imagination, just as I used to do before I became blind.

I admit that I’m part of a very tiny minority of blind bookworms who choose to read this way. Most seem to prefer human narration. Or using braille.
Braille is also useful as a way to read books. Either a visually-impaired person can read a physical braille book, or they can read a book on a digital device using a braille display. While I’m not really a braille user, which means it would take me months to finish a book that would take me only a few hours on my phone or laptop, I’ll be the first to admit that braille is a great way to read a book without requiring the use of one’s ears. For many people, that can be an advantage. Or in some cases, especially for those who are deaf-blind, a necessity.

So there are several ways I could choose to read as a blind person. I want to stress that none of these choices are better or worse than the others. It is entirely a matter of personal preference.
Regardless of how I engage with books, the important thing is that I have several options as a reader who is blind. So I need never be without books, as I thought I would be when I first lost my sight, the memory of which still makes me shudder. And then reach for the comfort of my book reader to reassure myself that all is well with my book world.

My First Podcast Appearance for 2021 – the Phemale Phoenix Podcast

Phemale Phoenix logo

I am regularly startled by the mails that arrive in my in-box. Thankfully I’m not referring to adverts for things that I neither want nor need, though I do receive a few of those as well – but remarkably few thanks to my anti-spam software.

Rather I’m referring to a number of incredible opportunities that have come my way over the past few months – like an invitation to appear on national TV… but more about that as the details emerge. And opportunities like guesting on some wonderful podcasts. Like the Phemale Phoenix Podcast with Lauren Deal.

The Phemale Phoenix is a podcast about women who have overcome challenges and, to quote the podcast show notes, “turned their mess into a message”. It turns out that Lauren read one of my Beyond Sight blog posts and decided I would be a good fit for her audience.

It was wonderful to chat to Lauren earlier this month. Her podcasts are usually 15 minutes since she wants her audience to be able to slot the episodes into their busy lives without too much difficulty. And the topics she covers address a number of issues faced by women across the world.

Here’s the interview we did: https://thephemalephoenix.podbean.com/e/episode-20-lois-strachan-unseen-ambition-in-a-sighted-world/

If you have a story to share with Lauren’s audience, why not reach out to her and see what is possible.

What I’d Like You to Know about My Blindness07 – Sight-related Words

The image shows Lois speaking in front of an audience

A few days after I was declared blind, I chatted on the phone with my grandmother. During the conversation she asked me if I’d seen an article in the newspaper. Then her voice tailed off into silence. I waited for her next words, wondering why she had suddenly gone quiet.

When she next spoke it was to apologise profusely for her thoughtlessness in using the word “seen”.

This has happened to me regularly since losing my sight. when talking to me, people try desperately to avoid any word that is related to sight. Because they feel it might be insensitive for them to use those terms considering my blindness.

In some ways it’s sweet of them to try so hard. But it often makes a conversation a lot more stilted than it would otherwise be.

And, in truth, I have absolutely no problem with words relating to sight. Few of the blind and visually-impaired people I know do. We use them all the time. And most of us are totally okay with others doing the same.

Most recently a few people who have read my book have mentioned they initially felt a little uncomfortable with how often I use terms relating to sight. And people occasionally also mention it when they hear me speaking at conferences and events. But gradually, as they become more familiar with my style, they come to understand that my view of sight is simply a little different from what they are used to.

For me sight includes insights I gain from my remaining senses. Which is the reason my book is titled Ä Different Way of Seeing”

Because in a way I do still see… just a little differently from how I used to.

To get hold of a copy of my book, hop onto Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Different-Way-Seeing-second-Extraordinary-ebook/dp/B08L1VFYS9
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Curious about the iPhone Apps I Use?

an image of someone holding a phone with two icons of an eye with a no-entry sign over and another eye open in a circle icon

I’ve been asked to share a list of the apps I use on my iPhone. So here it is, divided into blindness-specific apps and those that you probably also use as a sighted person. I haven’t listed all the apps that come standard on an iPhone, only those that I’ve added to my phone.

But, be warned – it’s quite a long list!

Blindness-Specific Apps:

  • Aipoly Vision – though it has other functionality, I use this mostly for colour identification.
  • Be My Eyes – connects me to a sighted volunteer to interpret visual items.
  • Clew – indoor navigation app. 
  • iMove – GPS navigation app. Lazarillo – GPS navigation app. 
  • Seeing AI – image/text to speech converter; barcode reader, other functionality but these are the ones I use most. 
  • Voice Dream Reader – book and document reader of multiple formats. 
  • Voice Dream Scanner – image/text to voice converter 
  • Voice Dream Writer – document editor. Voice OCR – text to voice converter.

Other Apps:

  • Clever Clues – a word game. 
  • Currency – a currency converter. 
  • Downcast – my podcast player of choice. 
  • Dropbox Facebook 
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Internet Banking app. 
  • GoodReads 
  • Google Maps 
  • LinkedIn 
  • Load Shed CT – app to track scheduled power outages in Cape Town. 
  • Otter AI – a voice to text transcriber. 
  • SayHi – real-time language translator. 
  • Seven Little Words – a word game. 
  • Shazam Skype Speedtest – wi-fi speech checker. 
  • Spotify 
  • TripAdvisor 
  • Twitter 
  • Uber 
  • WhatsApp 
  • Woven Words – a word game. 
  • YouTube 
  • Yr – my weather app of choice. 
  • Zoom

Of course, I also use many of the in-built apps that come with an iPhone. Just because I haven’t listed them doesn’t mean they are not accessible for me to use – they are. At least, for the most part.

You may see that I often have more than one app that does the same or similar things. Mostly that is so I can double-check the information that is being generated by an app using AI. Because I prefer for different apps to give me the same information as a process of double verification. Just to be sure.

If you’d like to know more about how I use the various apps and how I’m able to access them on my iPhone, please drop me a mail or leave a comment

I also talk a lot about the way in which apps help me accomplish tasks in my book A Different Way of Seeing, which is being published on Amazon on 28 October.

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