learning

Overlooking the Obvious

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Have you ever realized there’s a better way of doing something you’ve been doing routinely for years?

There’s one room in my home that I avoid. It’s a fairly large, open space and, although I’ve lived in the house for years, I’ve always shied away from crossing that room. At least there is an alternative, even if it means I have to walk around through the passageway.

You may be asking why I go to these extraordinary lengths to avoid walking across that large, open room. Partly it’s because there aren’t “landmarks” to help me navigate it. Mostly, it’s because I know there’s a coffee table lurking somewhere in that space and it’s just waiting to leap out and bite me on the kneecaps. For those of you who’ve read my book, A Different Way of Seeing – yes, it’s that room, and that coffee table!

When I had my first Orientation and Mobility lesson with Golden Dzapasi, the O&M Instructor from CTSB (Cape Town Society for the Blind), I happened to mention my unwillingness to navigate the room.

And that was where we started. Golden had me walk round the perimeter of the room identifying each item of furniture as I encountered it. And that was when I realized I’d been overlooking an obvious solution to the problem…

Why was I trying to walk through the middle of the room at all? When I could take one or two steps to either side of the door and use the perimeter furniture to help me navigate the room? Not to mention keeping out of the way of that pesky coffee table?

The realization was simultaneously liberating and embarrassing. I mean, it’s a technique I use to navigate round other places without even thinking about it. And yet, it had never occurred to me in this specific room. In the week since that lesson I’ve been able to move around the room with speed and confidence… and not a single knee-bite.

All I can say is, that if that was the result of my first lesson with Golden, I can’t wait to see what other mobility skills he can teach me. Which reminds me, I have my next lesson today, so I’d best get ready…

Book Launch feedback

Lois book launchHere’s a photo from my recent presentation and book launch in Cape Town, taken by speaking colleague Charlotte Kemp.

As often happens, there were some parts of the event that I was thrilled with and a few that perhaps didn’t go quite as planned. One of the things I’ve learned is that it is from the areas we want to do better that we learn the most. So, here is my brief overview of my favourite parts of the event and what I’ve learned to do better.

I would have loved for more people to have been there. Well, who doesn’t want more people to be at an event where they’re speaking? Of course, using a workday lunchtime event to launch my book was probably not the brightest move I could have made. So, I’ve decided I’d like to hold another book launch – this time in the evening so I can enable more people to attend.

Having said that, there were amazing people there and I loved the diversity and creativity of the questions I was asked after I spoke. I always love the Q&A time I try to build into every speaking event because that gives me the chance to find out what people want to know about living without sight. It’s one of my favourite ways of demystifying blindness to an ever increasing number of people.

I also really appreciated that the venue gave me not only the opportunity to create a video of my presentation, but also arranged a professional sound engineer to assist so the video would have a good quality sound track. That was an unexpected bonus!

You may be wondering what learnings I took away to help my growth as a speaker. First, I realized it was difficult for me to identify where the people asking questions were sitting. Because they were using a roving microphone it sounded to me like everyone was sitting right next to me at the front of the room – that’s where the sound was coming from. What I learned is that I need to develop a more effective way of identifying where people are during a Q&A so I can look directly at them rather than facing the speakers.

Another area I need to figure out better is how to make people more comfortable with my blindness, and especially my sense of humour when talking about my blindness. I share several funny personal stories about living without sight when I speak. I know and understand that people who don’t know me may feel uncomfortable about laughing at these stories in case they come across as insensitive or politically incorrect. So I need to find a way to minimize that discomfort as I strive to demystify blindness.

Every experience is an opportunity for me to learn new techniques to become a better speaker and writer. With that in mind, I can honestly say that the presentation and book launch were immensely valuable … even if I would have liked more people to have been there!

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