Tag Archives: tips

“Over There”!

Just one more time…if I hear the words, “Over There” when I ask someone for directions to a street, a building, a washroom or  an item in a store…I promise to do something totaly irrational. Perhaps I will break out into a lively song and dance routine with Opal. The song? “Over There” of course! Yes, the toe-tapping, Johny-go-get-them WW I song written in 1917 by George Cohan. Mr. Cohan wrote the song  shortly after the USA  declared war on Germany. Many versions were recorded, including those by Billy Murray, Nora Bayes and Enrico Caruso….”And We Won’t come Back ’till it’s over, Over There!”. Perhaps it should become the international theme song for the blind.

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A Sobering Reminder

Yesterday, my sweetie’s apartment building went up in flames. Luckily, no one was injured. However, 70 residents (mostly elderly) are without a home until further notice.  My Significant Other heard the fire alarm go off and went outdoors to investigate. This building is prone to false alarms.  In the minutes that L stepped out of the building people started to stream out. The fire department arrived simultaneously, The story is that  the apartment nearest the fire triggered the smoke detector. It was unoccupied at the time. However, a tenant heard the endless buzzing and summoned the super.  He entered the apartment and faced a blaze, and yelled for the tenant to pull the fire alarm and call the fire department. My sweetie called (from a stranger’s cell phone) to give me the news. Standing in shock, without a jacket, ID, keys, or Meerah the cat, L was not allowed to return into the building.  Most residents were housed by the Red Cross at a local arena.  Meerah? L was told that all cats would be collected by the SPCA’s staff, once the fire fighters declared it safe, with the most vulnerable (nearest the danger)  being rescued first.  Dazed and without a worldly possession,  L learned this morning  that little Meerah had been rescued last night,  then taken to the SPCA  Emergency shelter until morning, then transferred to a vet across town for examination. The cat was treated for dehydration and returned to the SPCA shelter where she remains with the other rescued cats until further notice.  A friend of ours who lives in the same building and who was also forced to leave her cat behind, learned, to her horror this morning that somehow her cat was not in the apartment when the SPCA rescue team went in to find her.

Last week, L checked my smoke detector when I complained that it should have gone off after I dropped food on the stove’s burner and did not.  L urged me to report it. I did so quickly (I am the ultra-prepared person when it comes to potential disaster). My big mistake, was not insisting that it be checked immediately by an electrician. So, today, after my seven thousand phone calls on L’s behalf (to the Insurance, the Red Cross, the SPCA, the EMO…) I picked up the receiver to make one more call; “come fix this thing today or I will call the fire Marshall”, I advised my landlord very forcefully. My defective smoke detector was taken away and a new one installed by an electrician within 1 hour.

There are some things too precious to conceive loosing,  including my animals’ lives and my own.  I urge you all to check your smoke alarms immediately. If you do not have a kit ready to take out your door when a fire alarm goes off, get one together. Include ID, medication, important numbers and papers…anything you would need to evacuate.  Have a plan to evacuate WITH your animals and be ready to do so any time the alarm goes. Know where the carrier is for your cat. Be ready to get it out quickly, loading it with the cat, gathering the bag and dog and getting  OUT.  Practice doing so until you can do it in your sleep.

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.

Yikes! It’s Hurricane Season

Opal and I live in Nova Scotia.  If there’s one thing Easterners really get into, it’s talking about , preparing for , and experiencing hurricane season. It must be that inbred Canadian love of imminent danger and disaster arising from weather conditions.  We are now in the midst of Hurricane season. Most hurricanes do not reach us, but we have had some over the years that did make landfall (Hurricane Juan, for example) and many tropical and sub tropical storms which can pack a mean punch. For people with disabilities, there are significant challenges involved in preparing for bad weather.  Just like the boy scouts, my motto is, ‘Be Prepared’. The Nova Scotia Disabled Persons Commission wrote a guide for PWD called “Are You Ready?”.  Voiceprint released a CD version of the guide.  It is full of helpful hints for PWD and seniors.   Other organizations in all jurisdictions have similar resources available. Consult the web sites or call the Red Cross, the Independent Living Resource Centre, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, National Organization on Disability,  Emergency Management Nova Scotia, VON (Vial of Life Program) or any EMO in your area.

Opal is a hurricane veteran. She was raised in North Carolina and was evacuated more than once, including during Katrina. Service animals, by the way ARE allowed into shelters (pets are not). I had no Guide dog at the time Hurricane Juan blew through Halifax some years ago.  I do recall my cat being terrified, especially when one of our windows blew in.  The power was out for five days. The streets were dangerous and impassible because of fallen trees and power lines. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to experience Juan with a guide dog.  In the last 12 months, Opal and I have dealt with bad weather, including tropical storms packing 120km hour winds and 150 ml of rain.   It’s important to listen to weather forecasts. It is helpful when planning your dog’s opportunities to relieve, because you can’t expect your 60 pound animal to be willing and able to squat in a gale (there’s always the bathtub…grin).

Plan your strategy for an upcoming storm. Obviously, you must have enough food and water on hand, for yourself and your animals. You should have a pre-determined   disaster plan for home, work or school. Create a communications and evacuation plan. and develop a support network of people. Your service animal’s kit must include food, dish, labeled medication, identification, papers, toy, bone, play collar, small blanket.  Fill your bathtub with water. Make sure you have the following on hand: non perishable food, water, batteries, portable or crank radio, medication supply, important papers including a list or audio tape of phone numbers and insurance information, first aid kit, warm clothing, sleeping bags, and items specific to your disability. Remember that phones and  power may go out (have mechanical can opener). There is often a lot of noise and confusion during building evacuation which makes it difficult for people who are blind who can no longer rely on familiar audio cues. Be familiar with your plan and practice regularly.

It’s not a good idea to use a land line when there is lightening ( My friend was knocked over while talking on the phone during a thunder storm as lightening hit the wires).  Unplug stuff, particularly computers.  Modems, monitors and so on, which can also become toast during a bad storm. On that cheery note, I am shutting down, unplugging and hunkering down as the weather begins to rage and we await the remnants of Hurricane Hannah.

Shoot The Dog!

Opal visited Dr. C. today at the Veterinary clinic.  It was time for her checkup, one of two exams which I am contractually obligated to provide for her every year. Verdict? She’s a healthy girl and a real charmer (kissed the vet into a giggling heap as she tried to listen to Opal’s heart).  Opal did not flinch when the doc gave her the mandatory shots, and squirmed around playfully on her back while Doc. C. felt her ‘girl bits’. The trip through the clinic to the weigh scale is always fun for her. She loves to sniff the mountain of cat and dog food bags as she passes by.  It’s a challenge to keep her still on the walk-on scale bed long enough to get an accurate weight reading. She tends to lean against the wall which skews the number.  Sometimes there’s a dog being bathed in the same room, so that sort of activity peaks her interest . I suspect  she’s thinking, “better you than me!”  The doc kindly filled out our Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind health book and faxed them the new entry. We payed our bill (less 40% Guide dog discount).  The discount for vet services to guide or service dog is offered by many practices. It’s worth calling around to the local vets to enquire. The most important thing is to find a vet that you have good confidence in. It’s a given that they love animals. I look for someone who is down to earth and not an excessive pill or procedure pusher. Our doc was an emergency veterinary hospital vet for many years.  I also had no qualms about ‘googling’ her to check out her credentials and history.  There seems to be a generally better-than average accommodation for clients who have service dogs among vets.  My experience has included getting appointments quickly, a longer than usual amount of time spent examining or treating an injury, patience in answering all of my questions,  willingness to fill out and fax forms as required, granting of credit when I could not afford to pay immediately, easy availability for phone conversation/questions and providing alternative or ‘jigged-up’ methods by which I can accurately dispense medication like ear drops.  A vet is more than someone who shoots your dog.