disability

The Temple of Poseidon – A Pleasant Surprise!

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Despite the ominous storm clouds that had dogged our way from Athens, the sun was shining down benignly when we arrived at the ancient Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion. It may sound odd, but I believe the nearby storm clouds made our appreciation of the magnificent ruin perched precariously on the top of a cliff even more profound.

I Have no doubt the view from the ruins across the ocean must have been breathtaking, but it wasn’t the view that literally took my breath away – it was the sense of how exposed to the power of the elements we were and how totally insignificant I felt in comparison. And while my notoriously poor head for heights was happily absent for most of the trip to Greece, it struck back with a vengeance this once!

Hmm, I seem to have wandered from the point of this post – it’s not to focus on the weather or on my attack of height-head. I actually intended to write about how impressed I was that the site made a significant effort to be accessible to those travelling in a wheelchair.

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I’ve commented before on how difficult it must be to make a protected heritage site accessible to wheelchairs. With the exception of the ancient Roman site at Fishbourne Palace in Chichester, UK which is easy to navigate using the raised wooden walkways that give wonderful views of the beautiful mosaiced floors, there are few ancient sites that have managed to find ways to make accommodations for those whose mobility is impaired. ,

I know my insights into the realities of wheelchair travel are imperfect at best, but here’s my attempt to describe what I imagine the experience of visiting the Temple of Poseidon might be like for someone using a wheelchair. Access to the entrance of the site from the parking lot was easy with only a very gentle slope up from the parking area which is large and would allow for easy movement of a wheelchair in and out of a vehicle.

I’ve hauled myself up enough so-called wheelchair ramps that are in reality no more than badly converted flights of stairs to know that the gradient of the access ramp at the site was gentle enough to make it navigable. And, while I imagine that accessing the actual site of the ruins might pose some challenges, at least the site had a viewing platform from which the magnificent ruins and the surrounding ocean could easily be seen.

While I didn’t check if there was an accessible restroom at the site, the giftshop was accessible and had wide aisles for ease of navigation.

I’ve found myself wondering whether it’s better to be able to walk through the ancient ruins yet not be able to see them, or to be unable to get into the centre of the sites but still be able to view them and am not sure if there’s an easy answer – like most things in life, I guess each has advantages and disadvantages. And certainly complete access is the goal to strive for in any destination.
But it was good to see that the Temple of Poseidon and it’s curators at least had taken the needs of those with a mobility impairment into consideration and tried to accommodate their wish to see this beautiful site.

The SAFM Disability Report with Karen Key

Fiji and I had great fun going to the SABC in Cape Town to be interviewed for the Disability Report on SAFM. You can hear the interview with Karen Key here.

I was very impressed with how quietly Fiji sat while Karen and I were talking – I doubt you’ll hear even a clink of her doggy tags despite the fact we were in a soundproofed recording studio with ambient microphones.

Imagine how startled I was to discover that Karen’s mother had heard me speak and had bought a copy of my book, “A Different Way of Seeing mere weeks before the interview – it really is a very small world!

Hope you enjoy listening to the interview… I’ll share more audio and video recordings in a few weeks

What Do You Mean It’s a Two Hour Interview???

Cds b6e41c7b 3b79 4649 9ca8 9331b6dd54d5I’ll happily accept almost any opportunity to share my story and talk about my books, but I’ll admit I was somewhat daunted by the thought of being the only guest on a two-hour radio interview. Fellow speaker and friend, presenter Cindy Pivacic assured me the time would pass before I knew it, and she ought to know – she’s been presenting the Entrep-A-Who Show on Hashtag Radio for several months.

Regardless of my anxiety, Fiji and I arrived at the Hashtag Radio studios at the appointed time and were ushered into the studio. And Cindy was absolutely right – the two hours flew by and all too soon we were done.

We covered a broad range of subjects in the interview – my speaking, my writing with special reference to my latest book, “A Different Way of Seeing”, the technology I use to help me accomplish everyday tasks and a little about the realities of living without sight. I even got to demonstrate (umm, audiostrate?) The voice over app that I use to access my iPhone. We also spoke about the difference Fiji has made in my life… all while she lay blissfully slumbering at my feet.

The photo shows Cindy, myself and Fiji standing beside the Hashtag Radio sign.

Listen to Hashtag Radio here: www.hashtagradio.co.za

I’d definitely recommend tuning in to one of Cindy’s Entrep-A-Who Shows each Wednesday from 12:00 – 14:00 – she always has fascinating guests!

Oh, What a Night! – the SA Guide-Dogs Association World Sight Day Dinner

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What do you get if you put close to 200 dog lovers and approximately 20 cute, beautiful, adorable dogs (can you tell I’m one of those dog lovers?) into the ballroom of Kelvin Grove, in Cape Town?

You get an amazing evening of fun and inspiration that results in sufficient donations to train 8 more guide dogs in the Cape Town area. Sure, you get a little chaos with that number of dogs, but they’re all under the watchful eyes of their humans and the trainers so it’s fairly constrained.

The SA Guide-Dogs Association receives no government funding, nor is it able to benefit from the lottery since… apparently… it is considered an animal charity rather than a human charity. So this kind of fund-raising event is key to the continuing good work being done by Guide-Dogs.

I was privileged to be asked to be the guest speaker at the dinner and loved every second of the event. It’s certainly the first time I’ve ever been heckled by a dog while speaking. But that added to the fun!

Fiji really enjoyed socializing with the many other guide dogs and guide dogs-in-training that attended – from Andy, an adorable 12-week old Labrador who managed to fall asleep while he was making his stage debut, to the more refined gentleman, O’Reilly who is a lot older but still a fine working dog and is a dedicated member of the Guide-Dogs PR team, as is his human Pieter.
and, of course, Fiji loved being able to greet all the young, boisterous and energetic guide dogs of around her own age.

I want to commend SA Guide-Dogs Association in Cape Town for this marvelous event. I was truly proud to be a part of it and of the guide dogs community.

With thanks to Margaret Hirsch for the photograph of me speaking!

PS: There are rumours of an audio recording of my speech… but Fiji and I will need to investigate so don’t tell anyone yet

What Did You Do with Your iPhone Today?

I guess I’m so used to using assistive technology to make my life easier that I often forget how remarkable it can appear to others. It’s something that always seems to fascinate my audiences when I speak, so I try to include a little about how my iPhone and my computer help me do things.

Anyhow, the below link is to a playlist of videos created by Apple to show how their standard devices are making a difference in the lives of people living full and productive lives with disabilities. Why not take a look and see what you think. And, if you’re really feeling adventurous, try the second half of the playlist where the videos include audio descriptions for people who can’t see what’s happening on the screen… and do so with your eyes closed!

Wagging All the Way Down

People are often nervous about using an escalator when they’re with me in case something happens. I thought it might be useful to create a video showing how Fiji and I navigate an escalator so you can see how easy it actually is.

Here’s what you’re seeing: Fiji and I approach the escalator and Fiji stops with her head facing the pole that prevents people taking trolleys onto the escalator. I reach forward and touch the left-hand handrail of the escalator. Incidentally, usually I would find the pole by feeling where Fiji’s head was – I just happened to find the handrail first so I chose to navigate from there instead… after all, they say a change is as good as a holiday!

From there it’s simply a case of finding the right-hand arm rail, checking that Fiji’s leash is clear of the pole and stepping onto the top step, simultaneously giving Fiji the instruction to go forward. As the steps drop away I check we are positioned safely and then simply ride down the escalator. Fiji stands and waits patiently for me to give her the instruction to jump off. My first guide dog, Leila, used to sit down with her rear end on one step and her front paws on the step below and sit like that the whole way down, which caused much amusement amongst people who saw her!

Maybe you’re wondering how I know when we’re getting near to the end of the escalator? It’s quite simple – both the steps and the handrails begin to flatten out and it’s simply a case of putting one foot forward and waiting to feel the ridge where the floor starts. As soon as I feel that I tell Fiji to move forward and step off myself… and off we go.

And that’s what you’re seeing on the video…

PS Did you see how Fiji wagged her tail the whole way down the escalator? My dog truly loves to work!

You’re Invited – Launch of My Book on 20 April

I’m thrilled to announce the details of the launch for my new book,
“A Different Way of Seeing – A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an ‘Ordinary’ Life in an Extraordinary Way”

The launch will take place at lunchtime on 20 April 2017 at Kelvin Grove.

More details about the event and how to book are in the below poster. Please feel free to share this event with whomever you feel would be interested – it would be wonderful to have a room filled with friends and family!

KG

A Different Way of seeing – How to get it!

Lois Cover frontLooking back over my recent posts I realized I’ve neglected to let you know that my book, “A Different Way of Seeing – A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an ‘Ordinary’ Life in an Extraordinary Way” is now available. But here’s the catch – you can only get it direct from me… or through Amazon.com.

Here’s the link to order the book:
https://www.loisstrachan.com/a-different-way-of-seeing-order-form/

Here are a few comments from readers:
“Thoroughly enjoyed it. The easy to read, conversational style of your writing was a big plus.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed Lois’ book. It was fun, informative & entertaining.”
“An easy read and great insight into the world of a blind person. Honest and with much humour, Lois answers many of the questions you might have and have never been brave enough to ask.”

Click on the link and order your copy today… I look forward to hearing what you thought!

Finally, the Journey Draws to an End

Lois Cover frontI know I’ve been quiet for a while. But I Promise you I’ve had a really good reason for it– I’ve been finishing off my book, A Different Way of Seeing: A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an “Ordinary” Life in an Extraordinary Way.

After what feels like a long journey spanning 15 months, the book is finally with the printer, which means I will be opening pre-orders any day now…

I still have a few observations from my recent trip to Poland to share with you, but somehow this feels like it deserves to be shared first, so I’ll go back to those articles soon.

Just know that I’m busy setting up the processes so you can order the book as soon as possible… just in time for you to read it over the holidays!

Watch this space for more updates on how to get your own copy of the book…

Oh Look! A Polish Guide Dog!

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It was our first afternoon in Warsaw, and we were on our way to Łazienki Park, or Royal Baths Park. Every Sunday in summer free piano recitals of Chopin’s compositions are performed at the base of the giant bronze statue of Chopin in the park and we were lucky enough to arrive in Warsaw on a Sunday.

We were surprized when a chocolate brown Labrador guide dog and her owner climbed onto the crowded bus two stops after we did. What an amazing coincidence to see a guide dog on our very first bus trip in the city! The chocolate brown Lab settled down on the floor of the bus and went to sleep as Labradors are wont to do.

We watched as the partners climbed off the bus at the same stop as us, walked across the road and disappeared into the crowds streaming into Łazienki Park. I think I felt something like the awe that my sighted friends say they feel when watching Fiji and I at work – it was wonderful to see that team working together so confidently!

Something unusual happened when it was my turn to climb off the bus. A lady who was waiting to board the bus stretched out a hand and assisted me from the bus onto the pavement. I’d never experienced that before – anywhere in the world. It was a thoughtful and generous gesture for her to have made.

Then it happened on the way home. And on the next bus trip. And the one after that. In fact I can’t recall a single bus, tram or metro journey in Warsaw that a well-meaning member of the public didn’t offer me help when I stepped off. Maybe it’s just part of the friendliness of the Polish people, or their overall awareness of those around them.

Or maybe I just looked like I desperately needed the support… but I don’t think so.

(photo by Craig Strachan)

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