Category Archives: myths of blindness

Opal Goes to CBC Radio Studio

When mum woke me up at 4:30 (!) this morning, I thought that we might be going to the airport again. That wasn’t it. Instead we got up and ate breakfast, got ready then got into a cab and drove around. We ended up downtown. Mum tried to get  us into the public gardens so that I could pee, but it was way too early and the gates were closed. We walked a bit and then went into to a building nearby. A guy in a uniform (Jeff, the commissionaire/security) put an ID  sticker on mum.  He unlocked the inside door (great security building) and took us to the lift.  Jeff is afraid of lifts, so he ran up the stairs instead and met us on the 3rd floor. (Poor guy got stuck in a lift once). We went through more locked doors (they must have some very expensive radios in here, ’cause mum said this is a radio station).  A nice lady came over and told mum that she could have coffee while we waited…and she asked if she could pat me.  Mum said no, but thanks for asking.   We sat and listened to the radio. I don’t get it. Why couldn’t we just listen at home? Why did  we have to go to a special place to listen to the radio? They play the same program on CBC radio 1 at home… you know, Information Morning with Don Connolly and Elizabeth Logan?  Don is the guy with a dog named, Oreo.  The lady came back and mum asked me to follow her. We went through more doors. Finally, we found a big room with a table. A lady and a man were sitting and talking to a microphone, like mum has at home for her computer, except these ones were bigger.   I noticed that the man smelled very nice….like a dog.  I’m positive he is Oreo’s dad…so that means he IS Don Connolly. Mum and Don talked and talked into the microphones..blah, blah, blah. I fell  asleep. Sheesh, can you blame me? Up so early, no nap and boring talk. Then mum was whispering very loud for me to wake up. Don and Elizabeth were talking to their microphones again, but not to mum. We snuck out with the lady who had helped us in earlier. When we got back down to the desk at the front, Jeff (who listened to the same radio…they’re everywhere in this place!) told mum that she had done a good job. I thought I was the one with a job! We left, walked a lot, got on a bus and then rode over to the grocery store.  Mum tried to explain that SHE was talking on the radio today. If her friends missed it ’cause it was on so early or they live outside of Nova Scotia, they will be able to hear the interview on the Net. Mum will put a link up when she figures it out. We are both going to rest now.

Sing a Blind Song

Sometimes I get a little bored, so I ‘Google’ stuff. Today, I checked out songs about blindness sung by blind people. It seems there aren’t that many…Phew!!! Thank god we’re not ALL maudlin. I found a few though, mostly from old black Southern men (Sonny Terry, Sleepy John Estes, Blind Gary Davis and Blind Roger Hayes). Frankly, I’d be mortified if I had  to live with a handle like Blind Helen. It’s bad enough that people refer to me as “Helen With the Dog”. Turns out that blind musicians have better stuff to sing about than their angst about being blind…. love,  bad relationships, the world (Mr. Ray Charles does a great job of ‘What a Wonderful World’)  and the city (Little Stevie Wonder’s ‘Living for the City’). As for all the SONGS with LYRICS which include the word ‘blind’ or blindness’….sheesh! That’s a whole different kettle of fish. Just as our everyday expressions use the words blind to mean that one is unaware, purposefully oblivious, uncaring etc. (“blind as a bat”, “turn a blind eye”, “love is blind”, “blind rage”, “blind leading the blind”…) song lyrics use them similarly and just as regularly.  I’m not claiming that it’s not PC and we should immediately run around tweaking and rewriting  all these songs. It might be an idea to think about language and how we use words. As a word nerd, I love to learn about the origin and history of words. I wonder how it came to be that a physical condition morphed into use as a negative adjective and verb.

Hey! Taxi Drivers

Listen up cabbies! I’m going to say this once. Here is the not-so-definitive list of things you need to know when you pick up a customer who is blind or partially-sighted.

  • If you drive a radio cab, or if you get your calls through a computerized dispatch system, chances are that the customer will have specified that they are blind (they should ’cause they can’t expect you to guess). So, when you get to the pick-up location, do not sit in your car and expect the blind person to know that you have arrived.  We are not physic.  It is impossible to know if the nearby idling vehicle I hear is ‘my cab’ or just some other vehicle at this busy location (like a pimpmobile or a  Fed Ex courier or a cab from the wrong company). You must get out of the car and identify yourself as the driver from XYZ cab company. If there is something wrong with your legs, attempt to crank open the window and announce yourself from the comfort of your car.
  • Notice the guide dog with the person? They will have specified this too upon telephoning. Unless you have a medical certificate which exempts you from having a dog in your car (you would croak from the allergic reaction), then  YOU MUST, BY LAW, ACCEPT THE DOG IN YOUR VEHICLE!!! THERE ARE REPERCUSSIONS FOR PEOPLE WHO REFUSE ACCESS TO GUIDE DOGS…AND FINES.
  • Do not charge an ‘extra passenger’ or ‘baggage’ fee for transporting a guide dog (I have experience d this before). If you do so in Halifax, you could lose your taxi permit.
  • If the person with the guide dog wants to sit in the front with their dog, do not freak out. It is my practice to do so, as recommended by the school where I received my dog. I know that other schools have differing philosophies, but this is what I choose. Notice (as you always do) when we get in, that there is actually much more room for the dog in the front between my legs…yes, even (especially) in those monster luxury cars… than in the back behind the seat.  The big hump in the middle of the floor in the back is very constricting. Back seat? No way. If we crash, she will not go flying off a back seat, or be hurled to one side of the cab. It is more comfortable and safer for us both to sit in the front. this works for all cars, even the smallest. She is always well-behaved and will not touch you. (she may sneeze, though, ’cause your car is dusty)
  • Do not think that because your passenger is blind, that you can travel the most indirect route to get to the destination (boosting the fare), ’cause most of us will notice that you have taken a side trip to Ecum Secum on the way to the corner of Barrington and Duke.
  • I miss the old days. Taxi meters ticked back in the day. Now, there is no possible way to determine if the requested fare is what actually appears on the meter…however, do not get the idea that charging $17.50  for a one mile ride is something you can get away with.
  • If your client has a charge slip, or you have a charge slip for them, and you want a signature, then think about how tricky that might be to sign. Me? I won’t sign one. “You sign it”, I say… (you  could be asking me to sign up for donating a kidney for all I know)
  • When you  get to wherever the passenger wants to go, ask if they need assistance to get to the entrance of the building, or at the very least, give precise directions…”the is 5 meters straight ahead”. As I suggest to everyone, saying “over there”  while pointing is useless (and a bit brainless and thoughtless)
  • Alert your passenger if you are dropping them off in a puddle or ice patch. (I once stepped out of a cab, slipped on an icy patch, did a pirouette, landing on my knees, resulting in a bruise and torn jeans)

CNIB AGM and ‘Community Meetings’…be there and be heard

The CNIB is having their Annual General Meeting in Toronto on September 27 th, at least that’s what I was told. I could not confirm this on their website…guess they don’t want anyone to know.  The local Nova Scotia/PEI Division is having its ACM (“Annual Community Meeting”) on Wednesday, September 24th. A community meeting is the spin that the local deadheads have put on an AGM which does not present an annual financial report. I can’t seem to get any accurate accounting for what this organization does with its money…er, that would be the money they suck out of innocent people who donate to their financial campaigns…like the horribly tasteless and demeaning e-mail campaign which caused such an uproar recently. No matter.  I have resigned myself to the fact that accountability, consultation  and transparency are not words in the CNIB vocabulary or philosophy. Imagine my delight when the local whiz kid who just won the NDP nomination in Halifax (Megan Leslie) invited me to attend this community meeting with her. I guess she needs an entourage in the guise of a friendly blind friend who can create a potentially good reason to leave (“Opal has a play date in Chicago! Let’s go, Megan!”).  It will be fun, I’m sure to go to this thing and have a sensible ally. The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians was calling for a cross-Canada series of protests at the CNIB offices on the day that CNIB has their AGM (September 27th, I think). Why? Let me count the ways CNIB merits a slap on the wrists;

1- They must be publicly accountable for the tasteless and demeaning e-mail campaign which was the icing on the nutty CNIB cupcake for many blind people this year.

2- The CNIB plans to change their constitution to allow for a sighted CEO/president. I guess little Jim Sanders is going to be going quietly into that good night. I think there must be a stipulation about employing a percentage of staff within CNIB who are blind.

3- The CNIB services across the country have taken a gigantic nosedive.

4- The current philosophy  of this merry band is a little skewed for many of us (not client centered, not service centered, not democratic), and

5- The monopolistic status of this organization that purports to speak on behalf of the blind.

So, if you are remotely interested in the rights of the blind, the nasty decline of services that the CNIB has taken, or the REALLY BAD IDEA of having a non-client as president of the CNIB (or at least a quota that ensures blind staff, and if you are tired about the dismal road that CNIB is travelling,  then get to a CNIB near you and voice your thoughts on it. Call the media! Call you friends and family and ask for their support in protesting on September 27th in Toronto, or at the numerous protests across Canada at CNIB offices planned that day…or you might go to a fake AGM, like the one here in Halifax which they are calling an Annual Community Meeting.

Hey! Wise Advice For My Goofy ‘Neighbours’

Now I’ve had it with you boorish bunch of anal retentive rejects.  What’s wrong with you people?!!!  The next time one of you ‘neighbours’ in this multi-unit building cannot be decent enough to emit a sound when you are ‘in my space’ as I greet you, I will not be held responsible for what may come out of my mouth. Sheesh! How rude can  you be?  Please tell me if you have some good reason (besides being assholes) for standing by the elevator, or at the laundry machines, or in the hallway, or at the mailboxes and totally ignoring my greeting?  I didn’t think so. You’re as stunned as a sac of hammers! You seem to find your voice when other residents are around and they greet you. You there, big guy with work boot footsteps and smelly clothes…yeah you…do you know how creepy and scary it was to feel the presence of a huge man nearby, and not know that you were NOT an ax murderer or something because you couldn’t even seem to muster a grunt or fart to acknowledge my cautious  “hi” when we met in the hall at 5am as I was going to relieve my dog?  You know I’m blind, you ditz!   And the fat lady with chunky heels who smells like a floral arrangement at a funeral home?  What’s up with you?   I was coming up the stairs to the lobby to get my mail when you were parked/docked/berthed by the elevator door and blocking my path. Do ya think you could move your sweet smelling butt over a bit or say something when you see a lady with a white cane (Opal was on a break) coming straight at you? Nah. You didn’t even say “hey, don’t whack me with that cane” when I ran into you. You stood there like a lummox after I muttered, “excuse me and hello”.  I had just stepped  out of the shower, so I know it wasn’t  my body odour. Then there are the old biddies (yeah, the ones who “don’t like the disgusting sight of that dog on the lawn”) who seem to think that I have no ability to HEAR anything. Hey! It’s really not polite to dish someone WHEN THEY’RE STANDING  FIVE FEET AWAY! …”She’s got a lot of laundry again. Bet there’s dog hair in it” .  Sheesh! You geeks really need to get yourselves a crash course in social interaction 101, or read a Helen Keller bio or something! Anything would help your ability to interact  with blind people at this point.

Little Jim Sanders Apologises (again)

CNIB President and CEO, Jim Sanders cranked out another e-mail message to me today. Damage Control Central seems to have found  the following words to put into his mouth: ” Dear Helen….the message was not appropriate (What would you sell to save your sight?) …fund-raising campaign discontinued… as signatory of the letter, I take full responsibility and extend my personal apology for any discomfort or offense that this message may have caused you”… signed Jim Sanders

This e-mail had no lovely GUIDE DOGS in the images ( CNIB does NOT train or financially support Guide dog training in any way) ….it had instead, the boring and newish CNIB logo and bush (maybe it’s the tree of Vision Hope? ) …a ‘brand’ they spent an obscene amount of money developing. It seems the braniacs at CNIB  didn’t like the sound of “Canadian National Institute for the Blind” any more. Nah, that’s too, um…’blind’ sounding. So they changed it to CNIB (like RBC or BMO banks) and now they never use the word blind in their name.  Some marketing geeks decided to go with “Vision Hope, Vision Health” as the buzzwords du jour. That was some big  pile of letterhead, pamphlets and building signs to change, guys!  What’d that cost you?…or rather how much of the money that you solicited  from unsuspecting donors (the ones who still  think that you actually “help the blind” in every way and at every turn) did you waste? That dough could have actually gone to client services…gee, why didn’t you just just ask your clients what they thought about the new brand….oops, I forgot.   the CNIB is not into consultation, transparency or accountability.

CNIB Eats Crow

An interesting e-mail arrived in my box today: Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians President, Robin East wrote a searing letter to Jim Sanders (big CNIB cheese) regarding the same distasteful fund raising e-mail that CNIB sent to Canadians, some of them CNIB clients.  It was a paltry plea resplendent with Guide dogs (GUIDE DOG TRAINING IS NOT PART OF THE CNIB “SERVICES”), and an offensive query ,asking people like me and Robin East, what we would sell to save our sight. (see earlier blog I wrote entitled: Why CNIB Leaves Me Flat).  In Robin East’s letter to Jim Sanders, he asked for an apology and that CNIB withdraw this campaign immediately.  Robin forwarded the whole thing to me, therefore, I am delighted to post it here.  Here is Jim Sander’s response to Robin East:

“Dear Robin, I wish to acknowledge receipt of your letter and confirm that the e-mail campaign has been discontinued. I can assure you that the content do not reflect the philosophy and service practice of CNIB. I have released the following statement and would welcome any additional comments which you or your members may have.

I do sincerely apologize for the content and also for any negative impact that this letter has had on individuals. Your letter will be brought to the attention of the Board.

Here is the statement:    On behalf of CNIB, I wish to let you know that the fundraising campaign to which you refer has been discontinued. The message it portrayed was inappropriate.

We are reviewing CNIB’s marketing operations and associated creative materials to ensure that future marketing and fundraising efforts better reflect the CNIB philosophy, service, model and the views and experiences of people who are blind and living with vision loss.

Since I am the signatory to the letter, I do take full responsibility and extend my personal apology.

sincerely,

Jim Sanders”

Hmm. Sounds to me that Jim’s eating crow. Did someone say Damage Control? Do I see Jim’s litttle blind butt roasting at the CNIB Board Bar B Q? Do ya think they’ll drop some people (like Robin and me) from the mailing list in the future?

THIS JUST IN!!! Jim Sanders appologizes to angry chief executives of Canadian Guide Dog schools…