Many years ago I met an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his sight. His family were trying to find ways to help him begin picking up some of the things he’d loved doing before. Yet, each time I offered him an idea of some of the tools he might be able to use, his response was
“I won’t be able to use it because I’m blind.”
There’s an old saying that it’s a poor workman who blames their tools. And with the remarkable range of tools that are available to help us access information and navigate the world in which we live, I don’t believe we, as visually impaired people, can in all honesty claim that a lack of usable tools stops us from living independent lives.
Whether I’m using my guide dog Fiji to help me navigate from one place to another, a screen reader to help me access applications on my laptop or iPhone, using image conversion apps to access written information, or using a simple coffee mug to help me measure out rice for a risotto meal, tools are an essential part of my daily life – and they’re pretty much everywhere I look.
But being able to access a tool isn’t enough on its own. Even having the knowledge of how to use the tool isn’t sufficient. Because a tool is only as good as the person who’s using it. And it’s only when we use a tool to help us accomplish a task that it increases our independence.
I know for myself that I’ll only start using a new tool if I can see the value in doing so. If a tool will help me accomplish a task faster, or more efficiently, or if it’ll help me achieve a goal. In other words if it’s adds to my life.
I currently have a few apps on my iPhone that I’ve never used. I downloaded them because they sounded interesting. But I’ve never needed to use them so I haven’t even opened them. Eventually I guess I’ll either find a use for them… or I’ll simply delete them and move on.
Tools can be an important factor in helping a blind or visually impaired person to achieve greater levels of independence, but only if we are empowered with the knowledge of how to use them effectively and if we can see the value they’ll add to our lives. I am truly grateful for all the tools I have at my disposal – with them I can do almost anything I want or need to do.
PS: Fiji asked me to assure you that she‘s far more than just a tool – she’s a companion, a source of hours of enjoyment and entertainment and a great exercise partner for me as well.
The photo shows me and my favourite tool walking down a road.
Here’s another audio recording – this time of a presentation I gave at the Helen Keller Society residential home in March this year. In some ways March doesn’t’ seem that long ago, but in other ways well, let’s just say that it’s almost a lifetime!
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of talking to the residents and answering the diverse questions I was asked afterwards. I was even asked to sing and, of course, my mind went blank and I couldn’t think of a single song! At least I learned from that experience and now always have a song prepared… just in case.
What really startled me when I was editing the recording was that, despite the full recording being over an hour, my actual presentation was just over 16 minutes. It felt a lot longer when I was talking!
It’s also quite an early presentation on this topic, and perhaps a little more introspective than my current speeches about what helped me move forwards with my life following my blindness. It feels more like a conversation with friends than a formal presentation – but that may just be my impression. You’ll have to judge for yourself.
After this speech, the Helen Keller Society invited me to be the guest speaker at their AGM, which I did a few months later… but that’s an entirely different story…
A few days ago I woke up feeling dispirited, exhausted, and disinclined to get out of bed and face the world. Now, as an inspirational speaker who works in the field of helping others to overcome their challenges, I started beating myself up about my own inertia… telling myself this was hardly a great testament to my skills, and wasn’t I being a bit of a hypocrite??? (Don’t you hate those voices???)
So, there I was, with all these negative thoughts spinning around in my head – along with all the other stuff about feeling tired and unable to face the day. The negativity fed on itself and for a while it was all I could see.
Then suddenly everything shifted. I realized that some days are just like that – no-one can be expected to be strong and positive every second of every day. It’s okay to have the odd bad day.
As long as it doesn’t last too long.
Sometimes that “downtime” is simply our minds and bodies telling us to take it easy and gather our breath. It’s another way of topping up our positivity tanks. If we can accept that it’s okay to have the occasional bad day, and use the time to regather our strength and positivity. Tomorrow should be a better day!
Like mine was…