Thank for being You

Thank you everyone for being yourself. There is no better feeling than knowing the impact each of you have on the lives of your family, friends, and everyone else you encounter. We can only change the world if we focus on the positive aspects of each of us. So

I request each of you take time today and express gratitude to another. For extra karma points, express sincere gratitude to another person that is of a different or opposing ethnicity, race, religious affiliation, political viewpoint, or other perspective.

Help me support the “Love After War” documentary and raise awareness about Intimacy barriers for disabled Veterans returning home

You will never hear about the most problematic plight transitioning disabled Veterans face from Veteran Organizations, elected officials, the VA, or anyone else. It has nothing to do with efforts to thank and recognize Veterans. It has nothing to do with VA services and benefits. It would not even be evaluated as part of establishing goals for educational opportunities and employment. The most significant barriers facing my fellow disabled Veterans and I involve reestablishing trust, intimacy, and relationships with our loved ones.

Ensuring all Veterans are able to feel loved, Dr. Mark Schoen and Dr. Mitch Tepper established the ground braking documentary, “Love After War.” Dr. Schoen is the critically acclaimed director and producer of several documentaries on sexuality and relationships. Dr. Mitch Tepper is a world renown researcher, advocate, and sexologist. Dr. Tepper devotes his life to assisting individuals with disabilities achieve independence within their relationships.

Spend a moment reflecting upon the last time you heard anything discussing services or information on intimacy related to Veterans. Most of us, even members of Veteran communities and mental health professions, never even received an email or glanced across a Facebook post discussing intimacy. Yet a contributing factor in the elevated rates of Veteran depression, anxieties, and even suicide involves missed opportunities to reestablish bonds of friendship, trust, and intimacy within our own families..

Watch the trailer for “Love After War” to understand the importance of rebuilding intimacy between disabled Veterans returning home and their loved ones.” This issue impacts all types of service related disabilities from combat injuries to military sexual trauma. It does not matter if the individual lost their limb(s), lives with Post-Traumatic Stress or Traumatic Brain Injuries, loss the ability to see and/or hear their partners, or sustained injuries to reproductive organs, the pain associated with the loss of love, trust, and intimacy is very real to us.

The “Love After War” documentary will resolve the gap in available information related to the loss of intimacy for our disabled Veterans. It will feature the first-hand accounts of Veterans and their families describing the struggles they faced upon returning home. And these stories will move you to tears.

In my own experiences, the roughest part of going blind from combat injuries has nothing to do with blindness. Rather the toughest part revolves around a horrific four year period when I failed to connect in a meaningful fashion with my wife. The primary barrier was the inability to express what was going on inside my head, while she did not know how to rebuild our relationship. While I did trust her, I opted to withdraw and lock myself away. Not until we managed to reevaluate our marriage, associated roles, and redefine intimacy did we find a more meaningful method to connect.

I need your assistance in ensuring that the stories of my fellow disabled Veterans, our families, and myself cease to happen. The “Love After War” documentary is only the first step along this path, and we need you to finish the project.

An anonymous donor presented the documentary team with a matching grant challenge.. We strive to raise at least $50,000 this week. This would allow the “Love After War” team to finish production and release the film. This goal is only feasible through your tax-deductible donations to the cause.
matching challenge.
, we have this week to raise $50,000

For more information or to stay up to date on “Love After War” visit us on Facebook, Twitter, and visit the campaign.

Forget Resilience, but show me how you transcend adversity and become a Transilient Veteran

Being a Veteran means that at some point in our lives we consented or were drafted to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. Some of us faced our adversaries abroad, while others received debilitating injuries from their fellow Service Members. Some of us have the scars, badges, and medals denoting bravery, while other bravely served but did not face combat. Regardless of how one served in the military, we all served.

A major piece of military service comes from the numerous transitions we each experience. Entering the military, Drill Sergeants or Instructors strip us down to our core and reforge us into the values of our respective service component. During our military service, we travel throughout the country and world, leaving behind old battle buddies and finding new comrades to watch our backs. Eventually, we each leave who military and transition back into civilian life. Each of these movements requires us to evaluate ourselves and our identities.

The term resilience commonly appears in news and research articles to describe a key strength of military personnel and Veterans. This is very true, we are able to bounce back during each of the transitions we face during our military service and beyond, but I feel this term is very limited when thinking about a Veteran’s greatest strength and goal for each of the transitions we process through.

Transilience, however, offers us Veterans a much better gauge to measure our accomplishments by. While this term only appears in the literature of the social sciences in a study from a nurse in the mid 1990’s about the strengths displayed by the children of alcoholics and the writings of my mentor, Ed Canda PhD, transilience offers us a critical concept to strive for. In its most literal definition, transilience is the developmental leap of transcendence. This means the biological, social, cognitive, and spiritual growth we do not just aim for, but exceed.

I break down transilience a little differently. To me, transilience is our ability to transcend resiliency and create a new life and identity for ourselves following a transition in our lives. After going blind, I tried to be resilient and return to the person, husband, and Army officer I was before being injured. This did not work. Not until I assessed and altered who I truly was deep inside and discarded the old me to become the new me, was I able to find peace and belonging in my life.

This is what I hope all Veterans aim to become, more than who you were, but evolve into who you are now but do not stop there. Keep evolving who you are with each new experience. Do not feel afraid to venture into the unknown, but boldly advance into the unknown and learn.

Families, friends, and support services do play a significant role in this process. We need you all to allow us the chance to grow and be there for when we fall. We need you to support us transcend from how you used to know us, and grow with us into our new lives together. This is not easy, but no path ever is easy. If the journey of life offered us no challenges, then we would not be having this conversation, rather we would all be the same.

On this Veterans Day, I implore each of you look at yourselves and figure out a solution to become more than who you think you are, but display just how Transilient you are.

harms way, while others served honorably without stepping into a combat zone.

Help Arizona State develop devices and methods for blind travelers to navigate and orientate themselves to their environments through this study

The Arizona State University’s Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing requires the feedback from blinded individuals related to traveling preferences. The study aims to learn more about how we navigate and orientate ourselves while using canes, guide dogs, and sighted guides. The goal of the center’s studies involves developing next generation devices and methods for us blind travelers to successfully navigate our environments.

I request that if you are a visually impaired individual over the age of 18 and utilize a cane, guide dog, or sighted guide to navigate, click here to participate in the study.

Note, the link for the survey has been updated and works now.

Spend Today Recognizing Life with Blindness or a Visual Impairment Through Our Goals and Not Our Sight

Throughout the United States, October 15th celebrates White Cane Day. Dating back to President Johnson’s 1964 Presidential Proclamation, today allow us with a visual impairment to demonstrate possibilities. Whether you think of today as White Cane Day, White Cane Safety Day, or Blind Americans Equality Day, I request you set aside any preconceived notions you may possess about blindness and learn how we each view today.

To me, blindness is only a term describing my inability to utilize my optical system fully established by evolution. Yes, blindness is not a term that describes the inability for an individual to receive any light, rather blindness refers to a range of conditions impacting one’s ability to do things like read normal print, use peripheral or central fields of view, recognize colors, or a host of other barriers to pursue a specific goal..

Therefore, calling today Blind Americans Equality Day makes more sense. Not all the conditions encompassing blindness or visual impairments requires a white cane. Even those who may benefit from a white cane may not rely or even use a white cane to achieve personal independence. Rather, we each employ different tactics and tools to achieve our personal goals. So today is about treating us with a visual impairment equally.

Yes, this counters efforts to recognize the white cane as the symbol of blindness. Not everyone who is blind looks at the cane as a piece of their identity. Likewise, not everyone who is possesses a visual impairment even acknowledges themselves as blind. Therefore, we need to approach those who are blind or visually impaired just like you would anyone else. We are no different than anyone else.

To assist a blind individual, achieve independence, I request the observance of a few guidelines:

  • Do not assume we are all totally blind, rather 85% of those with a visual impairment possess residual sight
  • We hear you just fine, so do not shout
  • Do not take our arms or grab our hands if we look lost, rather ask how you may assist
  • We are fully capable of making decisions, so do not turn towards our companions to ask what it is we would like
  • Guide dogs guide us, so just completely ignore them
  • Introduce yourself when speaking to us, since many of us do not possess the magical ability to recognize you by your voice
  • Focus on our goals

Join the House of Representatives Through the Wounded Warrior Fellowship Program

Are you a injured or disabled Service Member or Veteran interested in working in the House of Representatives? Do you want to directly assist your fellow Veterans achieve various legislative advocacy efforts? The House of Representatives offers paid fellowships for either a one or two year opportunity through the Wounded Warrior Fellowship Program. Currently fellowships are available at:

  • Brea, CA
  • Santa Clarita, CA
  • Washington, DC
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • More cities will be added in the next couple of months

Please see below for additional information. If someone meets the qualifications and would like to apply, they should provide the information requested below along with their city of interest. To the point of contact.
Job Summary: This position if limited to veterans with service connected disabilities desiring to serve a two-year paid Congressional Fellowship as part of the House of Representatives Wounded Warrior Program. Selected Fellows will work directly for a Member of Congress as part of their office staff. Fellowships are located in either a Congressional District office or in Washington, D.C.

Job Duties: Duties will vary depending upon the specific requirements of each Member office. Said duties may include, but are not limited to: working as a constituent services representative helping local constituents resolve issues with federal agencies; serving as a liaison to local Veterans Service Organizations (VSO); attending local events and meetings on behalf of your Member of Congress; and performing legislative work. Specific duties for each Member office will be discussed during the interview process.

Compensation: $35,000 – $50,000 a year.

Requirements: Fellowships are limited to veterans who served on active duty since September 11, 2001; have a minimum 30% disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs; and cannot be the recipient of a 20 military retirement. Veterans must meet all three requirements and have an Honorable Discharge to be eligible for consideration.

How to Apply: If you would like to be considered for a Fellowship, submit your resume, a copy of your last DD-214 (page 4 copy), and a VA letter indicating a 30% or more disability rating to housewoundedwarriors@mail.house.gov. Also include cities of interest. Do not send resumes directly Member offices.

For additional information, please visit the Wounded Warrior Program link at www.cao.house.gov/wounded-warrior.

The Wounded Warrior Program will be adding numerous fellowships across the country in the coming months. Search USAjobs.gov for current openings. Please note that this program is for the actual House of Representatives and is not associated with any Veterans Service Organizations with similar names. Also this information was a part of an email received by the program manager of this opportunity, requesting widest distribution. The poster edited parts of the original email to clarify a few points.

Blind Not Alone LLC Services

Blind Not Alone started life offering anyone resources and articles related to disabilities, Veterans issues, blindness, and technology. Overtime our network grew, along with what our consumers desired from us. Many organizations, like the Department of Veterans Affairs to the University of Kansas, requested more formal relationships with Blind Not Alone. The interest lead to the creation of Blind Not Alone, LLC.

Blind Not Alone, LLC, proudly offers organizations to individuals the following contractual to fee for service opportunities:

  • Training for visually impaired individuals on iPhones, iPads, MacOS based computers, and other assistive technologies for the blind
  • Assistive technology assessments for visually impaired individuals in school, employment, or home settings
  • Website and other information and communication technology accessibility and usability compliance testing for Section 508 and W3C Web Accessibility Initiative’s guidelines
  • Public or motivational speaking, guest lectures, and other public to private speaking engagements (see below for a list of past engagements)
  • Program management of projects to case management for individuals with disabilities
  • Drafting research articles to end user guides for various topics from resilience to assistive technology

All of our services are either executed or supervised by a Licensed Masters of Social Work or Certified Assistive Technology Instructional Specialist,. This ensures programs and services align with evidence based interventional strategies and knowledge bases.

Send us an email to learn more about how we may assist you and your organization achieve its goals.

Presentations and Public Speaking Engagements

Below is a list of the various presentations and public speaking engagements for Tim. He is available upon request to serve you and your organization as a motivational speaker, guest lecturer, keynote speaker, or other types of public to private events for your organization or class. Simply send us an email by clicking here for more information.

  • Social Work CEU Presenter, Topeka Veterans Affairs Medical Center, October 2017
    Informed Social Workers on the presentation of visual impairments amongst Veterans, common assistive or adaptive solutions, and interventional strategies
  • Keynote Speaker, St. Joseph’s Vet 2 Vet Armed Forces Day Celebration, May 2017
    Discussed the roles of community and military relationships in supporting Service Members, families, and Veterans integrate into civilian life
  • Poster Presentation, University of Kansas Medical Center Student Research Forum, April 2017
    Presented the findings from a literature review describing beneficial components of adaptive sporting and recreational programs for disabled Veterans
  • Guest Lecturer, Strengths-based Assessments with Consumers with Disabilities, University of Kansas Medical Center Masters of Occupational Therapy, March 2017
    Described how social workers might employ Empowerment Theory principals when serving persons with disabilities at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels
  • Guest Lecturer, Transpersonal Theory and Resilience Following a Disability, University of Kansas Masters of Social Work, Human Behavior and the Social Environment, November 2016
    Described the key components of transpersonal theory and how it relates to resiliency following a traumatic disability
  • Keynote Speaker, Burns and McDonald Veterans Day Remembrance, November 2015
    Discussed the role family, community, and personal resilience impacted my ability to recover from combat injuries, remain on Active Duty for seven years, and pursue graduate education to over 200 Burns and McDonald employees
  • Guest Presenter, Kansas Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired Annual Convention, November 2015
    Described the impacts and resources for low vision and blinded Veterans in Kansas
  • Guest Lecturer, History of Visual Impairments Amongst US Veterans, University of Kansas American Studies, Disabled Veterans in History, October 2015
    Discussed the evolution of services and programs impacted the lives of visually impaired Veterans from the Civil War to present day, citing previous class assignments and personal narratives
  • Guest Lecturer, Empowerment Theory for Persons with Disabilities, University of Kansas Masters of Social Work, Human Behavior and the Social Environment, September 2015
    Described how social workers might employ Empowerment Theory principals when serving persons with disabilities at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels
  • Panel Presenter, Celebrating 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Independence Incorporated, July 2015
    Informed on the impacts of the Americans with Disabilities Act on disabled Veterans and the blind
  • Panel Presentation Coordinator on Veteran Medical and Transitioning Services for Representatives from the Czech Republic, April 2015
    Devised, coordinated, and orchestrated a panel of service providers from the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and University of Kansas Graduate Military Programs presenting on Veteran services
  • Pledge of Allegiance Leader for President Obama’s visit to the University of Kansas,, January 2015
    Nominated and selected by the University of Kansas’ Chancellor’s Office
  • Panel Presenter, Effective Communications with People with Disabilities in the Healthcare Setting, University of Kansas Medical Center’s Student Life, October 2014
    Provided an overview of common barriers and stigma faced by blind consumers of medical services and within medical training
  • Session Presenter, BVA National Convention, August 2014
    Presentation on usage of a variety of applications and features within iOS devices for visually impaired Veterans
  • Public Speaker, Fort Leavenworth Rod and Gun Club, KAMO Adventures, DecemberJune 2014
    Conveyed how how higher education and outdoors sporting activities positively impacted my recovery following a traumatic injury
  • Panel Presenter, M-Enabling Summit Wounded Warrior Panel, TAVVI and BVA, June 2014
    Defined the impact mobile technologies possess on war blinded Veterans when integrating back ing civilian life
  • Panel Presenter, Road to Recovery, CSAH, December 2013
    Described personal experiences while recovering and transitioning into civilian life following a traumatic wartime injury, and answered an array of questions from the roughly 100 disabled Veterans and their support systems
  • Keynote Speaker, Heroes Amongst Us,Missouri Western University, November 2013
    Keynote speaker at awards ceremony for Veteran students and faculty, featuring the board of Governors, president, faculty, and students
  • Special Presenter, Blinded Veterans and Friends peer support group, November 2013
    Provided an overview of changes in iOS 7 as they relate to visually impaired users
  • Guest Presenter, Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired Kansas State Convention, November 2013
    Described the impacts and resources for low vision and blinded Veterans in Kansas
  • Break-Out Session Presenter, BVA National Convention, August 2013
    Presentation on successful implementation strategies of Apple iOS devices within the lives of visually impaired and blind individuals
  • Army Warrior Transition Unit Command brief, Fort Riley, July 2013
    Provided an overview of community resources and partners assisting Wounded Warriors with recovery and transitioning into civilian life
  • Presenter, Visual Impairment Services Team Peer Support Group at the Kansas City VA, June 2013
    Described and demonstrated a variety of entertainment tools, techniques, and resources for the visually impaired
  • Presenter, Leavenworth VA In-Service, December 2012
    Conducted an overview of the visual impairment services in the VA and struggles visually impaired Veterans encounter
  • Guest Lecturer, U.S. Military in Global Context, University of Kansas American Studies, November 2012
    Historical overview and present day impacts of the U.S. military in global context
  • Guest Lecturer, University of Kansas Bachelors of Social Work, Human Behavior and the Social Environment, November 2011 and 2012
    General overview of social work with Veterans and the importance of resiliency during recovery from traumatic experiences
  • Guest Speaker, Leavenworth Veterans Day Celebration, November 2012
    Expressed the importance of community support during transitioning from military to civilian life
  • Co-presenter, Social Work Days at Fort Leavenworth, April 2012
    Described concepts and case studies of resiliency and spirituality as an intervention method and program models to mental health professionals
  • Guest Lecturer, University of Kansas Masters of Social Work, Human Behavior in the Social Environment, December 2010)
    Addressed practice concerns when assisting disabled Veterans and Service Members
  • Co-presenter, University of Kansas School of Social Welfare Practicum Liaison’s In-Service, September 2011
    Co-presented with Dr. Ed Canda on the importance of resiliency after sustaining a severe disability
  • Keynote Speaker, Department of Defense Vision Center of Excellence convention, August 2010
    Provided the opening marks and keynote presentation on the stages of loss in an annual multi-disciplinary medical conference examining pathways for care

@USABA Announces the Competitive and Recreational Community Sports Integration Project for Visually Impaired Veterans, a @VAAdaptiveSports Grant Funded Program

Military service, regardless of the era, emphasizes physical fitness and exercise. Remember all of those long ruck marches, unit fun runs, and PT tests? Yes, like many of you I try not to as well, but one cannot argue against the amount of research and information about the benefits of exercise to combat adverse health and mental health conditions. More importantly, organizations like USABA; Team Red, White, and Blue; Achilles, and your local sporting groups built tremendous communities with a vested interest in our wellbeing. Participation only requires your interest in trying it out.

USABA just rolled out a new program aiming to encourage visually impaired Veterans’ participation in local adaptive sporting and athletic events. The Community Sports Integration Project funds visually impaired Veterans registration and travel, so that they have the opportunity to participate in competitive and recreational sports in their local and regional community. Through a VA adaptive sporting grant, USABA will provide Veterans reimbursements for entry fees for the following events:

  • 5k to marathons
  • Cycling events
  • Triathlons, (Sprint and Olympic distance only
  • Powerlifting meets
  • Rowing regattas
  • Challenge events like Tuff Mudders and Warrior Dashes
  • Swim meets
  • Other competitions and tournaments for golfing, bowling, sailing, and other sporting and athletic events

Please note, multi-day events, camps, and ‘tours’ will not be considered. Likewise, events utilizing funds from the VA Adaptive Sports Grant will not be covered due to VA policies. Veterans will be provided t-shirts and other apparel to wear while competing when sport applicable.

Any visually impaired Veteran may apply, regardless of your age, whether you are recreationally participating or fighting to win, or location. Funding is available on a first come, first serve basis for any event starting July 1st until September 30th, 2017. If this interests you, here are the project’s guidelines:

  1. Contact the project coordinator with information about the event you wish to participate. The coordinator will provide initial approval, along with a packet containing USABA apparel to wear during the event.
  2. Participate in the event wearing the USABA apparel and share a photo of you on social media with the tags, @USABA and @VAAdaptiveSports/. If you do not have any social media accounts, send the project coordinator a photo of you so they might perform this step.
  3. Submit your official result to the project coordinator. This can be submitted as a link to race results or a printed result.
  4. Mileage stipends will be considered for events more than 50 miles away one way. Stipends will be capped at $75. Please seek approval before regional events from the project coordinator.
  5. Reimbursements must be submitted to the project coordinator by the 10th of each month to receive the same month. Reimbursements may cover the registration costs for both the Veteran and their sighted guide (if the activity requires one) and travel up to $75 (waivers are available).

If you have questions, please contact the project coordinator before your event. The project coordinators are:

Timothy Hornik
timothy.hornik@gmail.com
(785) 330-3503

Ryan Ortiz
Assistant Executive Director, USABA
rortiz@usaba.org
(719) 866-3025

Independence Through Dependence

Independence Day represents more than the United States’ declaration of independence, but its a day we all should reflect upon our freedoms and independence. A common misconception about independence and disabilities is the ability to be live independent while dependent upon others. What makes an independent lifestyle that requires assistance stems from the freedom to choose when, where, what, and how assistance is utilized.

For example, requesting sighted guidance to navigate an airport requires me to coordinate with the airport and accept assistance from the staff. My dependency upon the individual to go through the airport becomes a moment where I celebrate the ability to process through the ticketing counter, TSA, and then to the gate without incidence. If we happen to stop by a bar and grab a beer or snack, then the trip gained bonus freedom points. We see this notion of independence through dependency in many more aspects of our lives, like car pooling, using baby sitters, and just about any other part of our lives when we turn towards others for assistance.

Remember on this Independence Day that independence occurs from our ability to freely elect when to be independent or when to rely on others.

Mindfulness for the Blind? It is up to you

Anyone following the latest medical research for back pain to common interventional strategies for Post Traumatic Stress hears about mindfulness practices. Some may involve spending five minutes and focusing on your breath, through apps like 3 Minute Mindfulness, the VA’s PTSD Coach, or the Breathe function on an Apple Watch. More complex strategies integrate yoga practices, which are made accessible for the blind through Blind Alive’s Eyes Free Fitness programs. In its simplest form, mindfulness practice is nothing more than anything enabling you to ground yourself in the present moment. There is no right or wrong way to incorporate mindfulness into your life, just as there is no right or wrong practice methods.

On a personal level, I found it difficult to even contemplate a plan for a regular  mindfulness routine. The initial struggles stemmed largely from believing mindfulness is that thing zen masters do in the full lotus position while surrounded by a completely still environment where they reach into the inner depths of their being. Well, this mystical belief set me up for failure before even starting off. First off, I did not know what the full or even half lotus position looked like due to the lack of verbal descriptions in Youtube videos and books. Secondly, no part of my life or household remains silent or still for more than five minutes. Finally, what does it mean and how does one even reach deeply into their deepest aspects of their soul or consciousness.

After reviewing the below materials did I finally devise my own definition for mindfulness and how to achieve it. This should be everyone’s first goal, define mindfulness for your self, and what it will look like. Develop a place where you will practice and a regular time(s) during the day which you will attempt your version of mindfulness. Finally, accept that you may stumble at first or struggle to clear your mind, but this is perfectly normal and actually is part of the practice.

So what is mindfulness to me? Well its a period during the day when I attempt to be in the present and allow my mind to enjoy the moment. I sometimes do this under a window in my office on the bus or in the car, when waking up or trying to go to sleep, or while out for a walk or run. During this period, I generally focus on my breathing through a routine known as a square, where you breathe in for five seconds, hold the breath for five seconds, let the breath out for five seconds, and hold for five seconds. The time period is up to the individual, just as long as the ratio is even. While breathing I  focus on each breath and smile, allowing any thought to enter my mind and let it go. Imagery is not necessary, just the ability to focus on the simple act of breathing and your smile. Now there are other breathing patterns, but the ultimate thing to remember is focus on your breathing. Notice there is no mentioning of sitting position, since any comfortable position will work. Sitting upright in a chair, lying on your back, or even in the full lotus position, the key thing to remember is comfort. If you are not comfortable, then how can you turn your attention towards your breath?

When walking or running, breathing methods do not really work, so I focus on my stride, feeling the ground beneath my feet, sense what my guide dog is trying to tell me, and listen to the environment around me. Once again it is important to keep your mind on the present moment and what is around you. It can and will wander to something else, so let it go and then bring it back. Best part of practicing mindfulness while walking stems from all of our orientation and mobility training through blind rehab. Notice how the routine requires you to do nothing more than focus on your surroundings to ground yourself n the moment. We do this precise actions to orientate ourselves, so you already know one mindfulness method without a mystic guide.

Books

Mindfulness might be found throughout all bookstores and libraries, making it difficult to recommend a particular title. Since this is a blindness related review, I will focus on those items found in the National Library Service BARD program.

The miracle of mindfulness: a manual on meditation DB44957, by Thích Nhất Hạnh

Thich Nhat Hanh writes on meditation and mindfulness in one of the most straight forwards and realistic ways. His status as a venerated Buddhist monk provides a level of credibility unmatched by most of the other authors writing on the subject. He understands the everyday person may only possess a couple of moments to practice, so his insight targets how to introduce mindfulness into daily situations.

Wherever you go, there you are: mindfulness meditation in everyday life DB64586, by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Before stumbling upon Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon introduced me to the world of mindfulness in realistic ways. The title captures the fundamental purpose of mindfulness, focus on where you are now, not in the past or in the future, but in the present moment. 

Other Writings by Thich Nhat Hanh

  • How to relax DB84150,
  • Silence: the power of quiet in a world full of noise DB80777

Thich Nhat Hanh captures the wonderful essence of mindfulness in two quick reads. Like his other published works, he addresses how to incorporate mindfulness into daily life. There is no need for guided imagery audio or cliche meditation music here, since everything you need to practice mindfulness resides in you.

So you want to be a Jedi?: Star wars : the empire strikes back DB83214, by Adam Gidwitz

Surprisingly this remake of the Empires Strikes Back from Star Wars nicely portrays mindfulness in a simple easily understandable method. Each chapter starts with a brief method which Luke must practice to gain control over the force, and then uses it in the storyline.

iPhone or iPad Solutions

Just like Apple stated in their older iPhone ads, there is an app for that. With mindfulness, you definitely have a wide range to select from. Unfortunately its difficult to identify one that is fully accessible with Voice Over. In my searching, only two stand out from the pack.

3 Minute Mindfulness

This app targets breathing and developing a routine for mindfulness. It is completely accessible with Voice Over and utilizes both a real voice and chime to indicate what you should be doing. Though the title states 3 minutes, it can by customized for shorter or longer sessions.

Youtube

Youtube possesses many videos on mindfulness. I am including it here, since you can search and find the one that fits your style. Just make sue to favorite it or save it so you can jump back to it.

Apple Watch

Since Apple updated the Watch OS to 3.0, my favorite app is Breathe. Through the haptic feedback engine, the Apple Watch will tap you on your wrist to indicate time to breathe in or out. The downfall is you need to be rather still.

Final Thoughts

Take the time to personalize mindfulness to fit your life. We each venture down this path for our own reasons following our own paths. No Sage, Yogi, or Zen Master knows why or how mindfulness may be successful in your life. Only you can define the rationale and methods which mindfulness may benefit your life.

Trekking Through the Bataan Memorial Death March

The 26.2 mile Bataan Memorial Death March challenges your humility, endurance, and perseverance. The trial originates from the high desert trails consisting of sand, gravel, and paved roads admits the Organ Mountains on White Sands Missile Range. The 3,970ft average elevation of Las Cruces adds an extra bonus for those participating from lower altitudes.

The Bataan Memorial Death March commemorates the forced march of Filipino and American civilian and service members captured on April 9th, 1942. Approximately 10,000 individuals died along the roughly 62-mile route to the Japanese camps. The original participants consisted of the survivors from the battle for the Philippines, which started in December 1941. Reflecting upon the casualties from the original death march and what the survivors endured leaves me speechless. The stroll we do today keeps these brave souls alive. Listening to those around you and assisting your fellow marchers provides a glimpse into this tragic event.

Even more inspiring is the chance to meet and walk with the Veterans of the Bataan Death March. COL Ben Skardon was 24 years old when captured by the Japanese. This year marked the tenth time the 99-year-old walked 8.5 miles of the route, surrounded by family and friends. Along the route, I had the pleasure to meet a daughter of one of the Bataan survivors. Her story about her Dad carrying his brother, who later died on the route, left me absolutely speechless. When she thanked me for my service, tears came to my eyes as I attempted to convey my gratitude for the sacrifices made by her and her family.

Steve, Marshall, Nate, and Kevin talking during breakfast the day before the Bataan Memorial Death March.
My participation stems from efforts by Operation Peer Support of the BVA and Blind Endeavors. Nate Gorham, Steve Baskis, Lonnie Bedwell, Dan Standage, and I comprised of the first five man blinded Veteran Team. Nancy Fairbanks, Kevin Baskis, and Victor Henderson served as our guides and supports along the route. Terry and Maryellen Kebbel, hosted our group with the assistance from their friends Jim and Nina Schaeffer, Marie and Al Hughey, and Eileen and Harry Monahan. We also had the distinct pleasure to meet fellow blinded Veterans and hero, Marshall Lynch, who charged across an island with 75 Marines during island hopping operations but only 18 survived.
Jim and Tim discussing plans for the Bataan Death March the day prior over breakfast.
If you are wondering how five blinded Veterans navigate a 26.2-mile trek through the desert, let us say it required some trial and error. First, we used a combination of trekking poles, white canes, iTunes Music, and other vocal commands. Our formation possessed a center point consisting of Kevin and Steve Baskis walking in single file connected with a cane. Steve carried a Bluetooth speaker which pumped out a series of playlists from iTunes Music from his iPhone 7 throughout the entire time. The music allowed everyone else to orientate off the audio cues. Lonnie with his tremendous hearing followed behind Steve with a trekking pole and white cane. I floated either behind Lonnie or to Kevin’s front guided by Victor. I relied on either two trekking poles or a trekking pole with a white cane. Nate and Dan relied on their residual sight and canes with guided assistance as needed. Nancy, a VA bind rehab center instructor, ensured we stayed on point and not go wondering off through the desert. Amazingly many of our fellow participants did not fully realize we were blind, especially when Lonnie starts dancing mid trail.
Nate, Steve, Terry, Tim, and Guide Dog Black Jack sharing stories about being a blind Veteran over the generations.

Both the two trekking poles methods and a trekking pole and a white cane permitted me to independently navigate. The two trekking poles method requires each pole is extended so your hands and arms rest comfortably about chest level. Each time you swing your arm, place the tip of the pole in front and outside your foot by a foot. This aids in your balance and awareness of the trail. The trekking pole with a white cane preforms a bit differently. The pole reinforces balance with limited trail feedback, while using the white cane as normal. A pencil, ball, or hook tip will work, but keep a loose grip.

The The various types of sand, gravel, and roads presented different challenges. Two to three foot sand berms acted like bumpers but the loose sand and gravel made walking straight very difficult. The paved road was easy to navigate with the white cane, but very difficult with the two trekking poles. Finally the course contained many congestion points forcing us to rely on walking in tandem. . So just as we developed a groove, environmental factors prevented complacency. If anything, the variations frustrated my sense of independence by forcing reliance on guides.

The Bataan Memorial Death March is a huge highlight in my life for two reasons. The adventure permitted me to complete my first marathon, accompanied by my friends and fellow Veterans. Hopefully this will not be my last time storming through the White Sands Missile Range, learning about the sacrifices of so many and connecting with nature.

The Dog Days of Summer: Safely Working a Service Dog in Summer

A Black Lab guide dog lies on a sidewalk. He wears a Ruffwear Cooling Vest under his leather harness.Unlike the fear inducing Game of Thrones statement. “winter Is coming,” Service Dogs handlers equally dread summer. Well, summer is upon us, which means we must take appropriate precautions to protect our dogs. This articles outlines 13 tips and tricks every service dog handler and even pet dog owners should consider when stepping outside in the summer. This is broken down into environmental considerations, caring for your service dog, and products for your kitbag.

Jenine from America’s Vet Dogs contributed information and the fact checking of this post.

Environmental Considerations

Venturing outside requires one to analyze a multitude of variables impacting the behavior of the service dog. Most notably, the air temperature, ground temperature, existence of shade along routes, and navigating through sprinklers impose unique situations to evaluate.

Hot is hot

There is a time and place when to use your service dog and when to resort to your cane. If it’s extremely hot outside, like the National Weather Service issues a heat advisory or warning, it might be time to leave your service dog at home and practice your cane skills. Consider working your service dog indoors at a mall, shopping center, or other temperature controlled environment. For exercise a treadmill goes a long way in keeping you are your dog in shape.

Paw safety

When you let your service dog relieve themselves before heading out, feel the pavement with your hands or walk outside bare footed. If you think this is crazy, your service dog probably is thinking the same thing. Consider walking your dog in the grass or in the shade to let them cool their paws. Avoid or minimize blacktop surfaces, and be aware of surface temperatures.

Walking in the Shade

Your service dog may choose during really hot weather to walk in the shade of trees, bushes or buildings. This may increase the chances of bumping into objects, like branches, doors or things sticking out from buildings. In urban environments, people may also stick closer to the shady building lines, both walking and… resting. If you find yourself running into overhangs or bumping things more often, think about where that shady area is and use the methods taught during your training to encourage your dog back to the center line or proper position. Be careful with heavy corrections since this negative corrective action forces the service dog into an equally negative situation, walking on super-hot pavement under the scorching sun.

Dancing through sprinklers

Yes, they are everywhere and in the summer heat you may find even more of them…sprinklers! Your dog’s face is right in the path of that spraying water and let’s face it, no one likes to get a face full or have to walk straight into a spray. Your dog may treat sprinklers as off curb obstacles. As long as the roadway is safe enough, navigate onto the street until you pass by. Try to keep interactions with the sprinklers positive, not overly correcting or dragging your dog through them. If you are having difficulty getting your dog to walk through an area with sprinklers, contact your school for help. Also let your neighbors know about how the sprinklers impact your service dog and request the sprinkling cycle concludes before the sun crests the horizon.

Your Service Dog’s Reactions to the Heat

Dogs are amazing animals for more than their intelligence to become service dogs. They possess physical capabilities to withstand the heat and different methods they indicate overheating. This section provides some tips for grooming to symptoms your service dog might be overheating.

Shaving is not for the dogs

Dog’s fur and hair serve as natural sun block. Yes, the coat insulates during the winter, but it keeps the skin from drying out. Therefore, do not cut your service dog’s hair or fur, rather stick with the basics of daily brushing. A shiny healthy coat creates more benefits then a high and tight.

Pad Safety

A dog’s paws and the pads are both natural shoes and a major component in cooling through perspiration. Hot pavement’s dangers go beyond burning paws, but may dry out pads leading to splitting, blistering, and other injuries. Check each pad before and after your walks for any signs of damage. If you have a dog with longer fur on the tops and bottoms of the paws, and you have the fur trimmed to prevent the ratty old house slippers look, remember that the fur can be insulating for the pads so leave it long on the bottom and nice and neat on top, but never shaved.

Wet noses are good, but dry noses spells trouble

Dog lovers often remark on the lovable wet nose kisses we receive alongside licks. Should the nose no longer feel wet, your service dog may be experiencing dehydration. While you are walking, take the time periodically to feel the nose and make sure it remains lovably wet.

Panting is natural, but a raspy or coughing panting indicates distress

Dogs lack sweaty armpits, rather they cool themselves through panting. While panting, the tongue drupes out of their mouth and actually becomes thinner and wider to increase the surface size of the tongue so more capillaries may deliver blood to be cooled. When the natural panting begins to sound labored or gagging, it’s time to stop, find shade or a cool spot, and let the dog rest. As your service dog ages, the likelihood of this will increase as heat tolerance decreases.

Ice Water is a no go

Did you know drinking room temperature water instead of ice water is better for you and your dog? Drinking icy water in the heat stresses your body and does not cool it. In dogs, ice water may increase cramps. When allowing your service dog to hydrate, opt for room temperature water and let the body cool itself naturally. Now ice, by itself, is ok to give your dog as a treat, since chewing allows the ice to melt and warm up. without the negatives of ice water.

Product Recommendations

Have you walked through the pet aisle at a store and felt overwhelmed by the available options? Don’t be fooled by marketing gimmicks and purchase worthless products. Below is a list of items recommended by service dogs users and touted as safe and effective items to protect and prolong working capabilities in the summer.

Famous Paw-Wear and Musher’s Secret

Dogs’ sweat through their paws much like we sweat through most pores throughout our bodies, thus the paw protection paradox. Well, here is a little secret, Musher’s Secret. This all natural paw wax protects those paws the same in winter and summer. Protection stems from keeping paws moist and supple, reducing pad splitting from drying out. If you are able to use dog boots, and not all dogs will let you, make sure the paws are able to breath. This reduces chances of your service dog from overheating.

Beat the heat, drink water

Plenty of foldable bowls to all in one water bottles and bowl combinations exist, so no excuse for not owning one or several. When you leave, the hydration kit is equally important as the harness.

Ruffwear cooling vest

Many cooling vest and collars line your pet store’s shelves, but none compare to the Ruffwear Cooling Vest. The vest cools your service dog the same way a swamp cooler works, while blocking the sun. Above is a picture of BlackJack wearing his Ruffwear vest in harness, and while it looks like a heavy blanket, it enables us to work or play longer. The vest requires you to soak it in water before heading out, and while out dumping more water prolongs effectiveness. For example, we walked a 5-mile route in 90 degrees with direct sun. At the end of the walk, his body felt cool under the vest and his nose and panting remained normal.
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Frozen Treats

A frozen Kong filled with treats will aid cooling while nourishing your service dog. Simply take a handful of food and let it soak in some water. Then fill a Kong up with the wet food, without mushing it, and freeze it. This becomes a frozen chewy treat

Conclusion

The best way to assist your service dog is to adjust your schedule. Exercise, play, or do your errands early in the morning or after the sun goes down. In nature, most animals rest during the middle of the day due to the sun and heat, proving animal instincts are smarter than humans. Remember your service dog serves you so long as you serve them.

Define Your Own Independence

Independence Day marks more than the date our country’s founders declared their desire for a free and sovrin nation. Independence Day represents all of the freedoms citizenship offers. We have the freedom to speak our minds, and we have the freedom to choose who to listen to. We have the freedom to responsibly and irresponsibly possess firearms. We have the freedom to practice any religion or develop our own definitions of spirituality. We possess the freedom to elect our political leaders to choose the regulations and laws at all levels of government. We may gather together to demonstrate injustices and political movements. We theoretically possess the right to a fair trial, though I prefer the restorative justice movement. As citizens, our freedoms are both boundless and bounded to numerous variables from our ethnicity to socio-economic-status to gender and many more.

I write this not as a negative critique of the freedoms one possesses as a citizen, but to showcase the differences in freedoms each person receives. As a disabled veteran, I enjoy the ability to exercise a significant number of freedoms due to benefits, social welfare systems, and entitlements either those who are not a Veteran or do not possess a disability may enjoy. Likewise, I am not able to fully exercise all of the inherent freedoms due to my disabilities, without the assistance of others or reliance on laws like the Americans with disabilities Act.

True freedom stems from your own internal definitions on what it means to be free and independent. No matter what our country’s doctrine stipulates, freedom comes first from within yourself. It is your ability to say I am free to choose how to feel about a situation, for or beliefs and emotions are all we truly control. As a blind individual I may not be able to assemble to protest violations to the ADA, but the internet allows me to feel involved in these activities. I may not be able to be a road warrior and celebrate the freedom to travel the country independently, but I find the ability to walk or run through town equally if not more enjoyable.

On this 240th celebration of our Independence Day, take some time to define and reflect on what you feel it means to be free. Do this without comparing yourself to another. Meditate on how to exercise your freedoms without judging how someone else portrays their freedoms.

Blind Dreams

Wondering what a blind person dreams? This article nicely summarizes some of what we see in blind dreams. Yes, I was surprised to read a Business Weekly article that made sense, but let us cover a few points.

Yes I dream with high definition video. Granted the people are generally wearing clothes and are portrayed by people from my past whom I have stored their likeness. Its great to ask my wife what someone looks like after dreaming about them and imposing theier voices upon a supermodel’s body or a bully’s face, but this based on who the person reminds me of. same goes with backgrounds, like one from last night that took place in a friend’s yard in Texas, despite the dream occurring in Florida. But whom am I to complain to if the wrong actor or backdropped is used.

So what about dreams featuring new situations? well, Van Gough and Salvador Dali comes to mind. The imagery ranges from non-descriptive images to abstract concepts based on feelings and relationships. These are actually interesting to reflect upon given the complex nature of the dreams.

If you place stock in dream analysis, Yes this is possible, too. this occurs a little differently. First off, I do not predict the future with dreams, rather I just reflect upon possible emotional reactions the dreams are in response towards. For example, my separation from the military was preceded with dreams filled with chaos and separation from my family should I elect to stay in. The dreams provided enough visualization to recognize these signs, but not precisely in a clear picture. In other dreams with little imagery like a few colors, My take aways stems from emotions. Most notably are repeating nightmares filled with raw emotions of fear and loneliness cast upon a pure black backdrop.

So us blind folks do dream with a degree of visual stimuli. This might be like a retro movie to an abstract painting. Yes we see in our dreams and yes we can sense our feelings in our dreams. What is different is the precise visualizations in our dreams.

Why Blind Americans Equality Day Makes More Sense Than White Cane Safety Day

On October 15, 2011, a chilling ripple spread throughout numerous blind organizations and individuals. Many awoke and finalized preparations for presentations, educational sessions, and other activities affirming their acceptance of blindness. Leading up to October 15th, 2011, many banners, local government proclamations, and flyers bore the title, White Cane Day. After all, October 15 received designation of White Cane Day in 1964, following a 1963 NFB resolution to raise awareness of blindness, and since then nothing interrupted White Cane Day celebrations.

However, President Obama’s October 15th, 2011 proclamation changed this day from White Cane Day to Blind Americans Equality Day. Five years later, some individuals in the blindness community and society at large still prefers to call October 15th, White Cane Day.

Reflecting on the title of White Cane Day, it pays tribute to the most recognizable symbol of blindness that is not Stevie wonder or a guy wearing sunglasses at night, the white cane, or depending on state ordinances the White Cane with a red reflective segment. To many blind individuals, the white cane is more than a symbol of blindness, but their access to independence and freedom.

The nostalgia for the white cane limits itself to people who embrace the white cane or view the white cane as a symbol of blindness. This leaves out a rather signifiant number of blind people with different views. For example, the white cane does not symbolize those individuals who conceal their blindness over fears and stigmatizing beliefs. The white cane does not represent a growing number of individuals with functional visual impairments and do not use the white cane. The white cane does not represent blind individuals who maneuver their worlds thanks to guide dogs, sighted guides, or alternative methods. So much like how legal blindness informs very little about the wide spectrum of blindness, the white cane tells a story, albeit historically compelling, about a portion of the blind.

Basically, the white cane might symbolize blindness, but not all blind individuals embrace the white cane. This rationale supports my personal beliefs about applauding President Obama’s foresight to call October 15th, Blind Americans equality Day. My intent on October 15th is not to promote the white cane, but to promote equality for us, the blind, regardless of our levels of sight loss, aides for traveling, and adjustments to accepting ones blindness.

Your iPhone as a Step Counter

Are you a step counter? Do you reach 10,000 steps each day? Are you looking for a way to gain insight on your physical activity?

Your iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, iPhone 6+, iPhone 6S, and iPhone 6S+ is one of your best tools to monitor your fitness? Since iOS 8 and the iPhone 5S, Apple included a sensor that talks with the Health app automatically about the number of steps you have taken, distance traveled, and even stairs climbed? This occurs securely, with the data only stored on the iPhone itself thanks to the chip inside the iPhone collecting and monitoring this information. This capability renders third party apps for step counting rather useless. Follow the steps below to set up your device to use these built in functions.

First, open up the Health app. You can do this by asking Siri to “open Health.” Similarly, Typing in Health in Spotlight will allow you to find where you might have hidden this app.

The first screen you interact with is the Dashboard. Swipe through this to learn what already exists here. Often times, Steps is already listed at the top of the screen, and all you need to do is check back here. If you cannot find Steps here, the next steps will help you place it on your Dashboard.

On the bottom of the screen, there are several tabs, Dashboard, Health Data, Sources, and Medical ID. For purposes of this guide, just tab on Health Data. A link appears at the bottom of this post to learn about Medical ID.

This screen lists all of the categories of health related items you can input or track on your iPhone. Please note that the iPhone is only able to monitor your steps and distances traveled. The rest of the items requires you to input the data manually or connect the iPhone to a third party app and device that is capable of gathering the metrics. For example, your weight would require a scale. Tapping on All on this list will show you the full capabilities of Health. Tapping on Fitness will be the fastest way to find the Steps, though. Which ever one you select, find and tap on Steps.

In the Steps screen, the majority of the upper half of the screen depicts historical data. Just swipe through this screen until you find the on/off toggle for, Show on Dashboard. Alternatively, place your finger roughly in the middle of the screen, and move it downwards, and you might be able to find it quicker.

If the on/off toggle is off, then the information will not be on your Dashboard. Tapping here will either add it to the Dashboard or remove it.

Now go back to the Dashboard by tapping on the Dashboard tab located in the bottom left corner of the screen. Steps should now be displayed on the Dashboard. The first part of this section tells you the number of steps you traveled today, along with an average. Below this is the number of steps you preformed over the last several days. Today’s steps will appear as no data,

I have found this feature to be as accurate as the third party devices one might wear to track this information. The only difference is that you have to carry the iPhone with you. Pairing an Apple Watch with your iPhone will increase the accuracy rate, but this is not a necessity, especially if your aims involves charting trends.

Examining two other fitness measures, flights climbed and distance traveled can also be compiled by your iPhone. Distances traveled is very accurate, since this data comes from cellular towers and GPS data. Differently, Flights climbed is very inaccurate, as I have tested this on numerous staircases ranging from single flights in a house to multiple story buildings with an iPhone 6 and an Apple Watch.

If you are wondering what Medical ID means, click here for a prior post about it.

Changing Voice Over’s Voice in iOS 9

In an effort to aid in exploring iOS 9, some of the upcoming posts here will explore some of the features and changes found in the update. In Voice Over, one might select from a variety of languages, but Apple only allows for a very limited number of dialects and options. However, the quality and responsiveness of each voice is worth the limited options. This guide will enable one to understand the different voice options and how to change them with Voice Over. Concluding this post there is a quick tutorial for sighted individuals that do not use Voice Over to listen to any documents through the same voices that makes Voice Over possible.

Opening Voice Over Settings

The first step is to open the Voice Over settings. Two methods exists to accomplish this.

  • Hold down the home button and ask Siri to open Voice Over’s Settings
  • Open the Settings app, double tap on General, then Accessibility, then Voice Over

Installing New Voices

In iOS 9, all of the voices may be changed in the Speech menu option. At the top of this page, Voice Over will state, “Default Dialect” and then the name of the voice. On my iPHOne, this is Siri Male, Enhanced. Below this, one encounters an option for adding languages and dialects to the rotor. This is explained further below. To change the default voice, do the following:

  • Double Tap on the default voice at the top of the screen
  • Swipe right through the list of Voices, first will be Samantha for us using US English
  • Double tap on the desired voice

Its recommended you are connected to wifi before downloading new voices due to their file size. Voices marked “Enhanced” require considerably more storage than default voices since the quality is vastly improved. Please note, even if you use any of the Siri dialects listed, you still have to download the voice for Voice Over and speech. Here is a list of the file sizes of the enhanced English voices:

  • Samantha Enhanced is 169MB
  • Siri Male Enhanced is 145MB
  • Siri Female Enhanced is 188MB
  • Alex is 869MB
  • Karen Enhanced is 120MB
  • Siri Male (Australian) is 174MB
  • Siri Female (Australian) Enhanced is 205MB
  • Daniel Enhanced is 156MB
  • Siri Male (UK) Enhanced is 154MB
  • Siri Female (UK) Enhanced is 182MB
  • Moira Enhanced is 120MB
  • Tessa Enhanced is 123MB

Deleting Voices

On the top right corner of the screen, there is a Edit button. This is how you can delete any downloaded voices you no longer desire. To accomplish this, do the following:

  • Double tap on the Edit button on the top right corner
  • Swipe right or find the voice you wish to delete, i.e.. Delete Samantha Enhanced
  • Double Tap on the screen
  • Next, Voice Over will simply announce Delete button, referring to its focus on the confirmation delete button
  • Double tap on the screen again
  • Click Done located in the top right corner when completed

Rotor Languages

The Voice Over rotor is a gesture one preforms to access many settings and options. The gesture requires you to place two fingers on the screen with a little bit of separation, and using one finger as a pivot point, pretend you are turning a dial. If successful, you will hear various Voice Over settings, so keep turning until you hear Languages. Swiping up and down now changes the voice. To add a rotor Language, do the following:

  • In the Speech menu, swipe until you reach, “Add New Language”
  • Double tap on this button
  • Swipe right until you find the desired language and dialect, then double tap
  • This returns you to the main speech screen, so swipe down to the language you added and either double tap on it or the more info button located next to it
  • Swipe through the screen to find the language’s voice you wish to use, and double tap on the desired Voice noting that you might need to download the voice
  • To set the preferred rate of speech for the voice, continue swiping to the bottom of the screen where a slide bar enables you to swipe up and down to change the rate
  • Find the Back button located on the top left corner of the screen to return to the Speech screen
  • Repeat this to add additional voices

If you ever wish to delete any of the Rotor Languages, you just need to be on the main Speech screen. Locate the language you wish to delete, and swipe up or down until you hear delete. If this does not work, preform the rotor gesture until you hear action, and try swiping up and down again, double tapping on the screen once you hear delete.

Turning Any Document or Page of Text into an Audio Book

Have you ever wanted a quick way to listen to an email, webpage, or blog post, without turning on Voice Over? For example, imagine you are driving and there is a document you need to read on the way to a meeting, your iPhone and iPad possesses the ability to read this item aloud. Enabling this feature requires you to navigate to the Accessibility menu located inside the Setting app under General. As a feature for visual accessibility options, select Speech. Now enable this feature, and follow some of the very same steps listed above to select your desired playback voice. Now whenever you encounter a wall of text like a blog post or document, preform a two finger swipe down and enjoy your self-made audio book. Please note that this feature will not work with Voice Over enabled, though Voice Over possesses similar capabilities.

Updating to iOS 9 as a Blind Voice Over User

By now, many of you learned that iOS 9, the latest update for your iPhone and iPad, is ready for your download. As all of these major updates go, Apple included some new features, modified existing ones, and even preformed some updates that you will not realize but improves the overall functioning of your device. This guide will focus on updates to Voice Over, new iOS features, known bugs, and conclude with thoughts on taking the plunge.

Before we delve into exploring iOS 9, many of you might be wondering two things, is my device supported and how much space will iOS 9 require. iOS 9 supports the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5C, iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, iPhone 6+, iPhone 6S, and iPhone 6S+, All iPads starting with the 2nd Generation through the current iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro will be able to run iOS 9. All iPad Mini’s also possess the ability to install iOS 9.

Next, some of you might be wondering how much space will iOS 9 consume. Generally, those with an 16GB device lack room, once you download some applications and take some photos, but you need not worry. iOS 9 received a significant amount of attention by Apple that not only decreased the amount of room you might need, but almost eliminated the need for this discussion. iOS 9 requires 1.3GV of free storage. If you do not need this amount, then your iPhone or iPad will temporarily upload your apps into the iCloud, install the iOS 9 update, and bring everything back.

Even better yet, iOS 9 includes a feature known as app thinning. Basically, your device will only download and install that parts of an app necessary to run on your device. For example, an iPhone 4s will only receive the parts of the app, like selected graphics and software components, necessary to run and not the components designed for an iPad. Over time, you might see a reduction in used space as developers implement this into their products.

Voice Over

Voice Over received a few changes in iOS 9. Most notably, Voice Over received the ability to use all of the Siri voices, the option to change the Voice Over (VO) keys from Control + Option to Caps lock, quicker ways to select and format text through the rotor, and more.

Siri Voices

Voice Over gained all of the Siri voices. This collection of male and female voices in many different languages provides a significant boost to the number of high quality voices available for Voice Over. As an additional bonus, each of these voices only requires 188MB or so of storage, a significant decrease when compared to Alex’s requiring 869MB. When comparing the quality of these new Siri voices to Alex, you definitely hear a difference in overall quality, with Alex possessing the advantage. However, these voices are on par if not a bit better than the standard enhanced versions of Samantha, Daniel, and other voices. You have two options to changing your Voice Over voice. This next statement is unconfirmed, but Voice Over seems to react a bit faster and more smoothly when using the voices requiring less storage space, like these new Siri voices, when compared to Alex. Older devices might notice an improvement in Voice Over responsiveness with these voices. To change to a Siri Voice for Voice Over, follow these steps:

Open the Voice Over settings by either asking Siri to “Open Voice Over Settings” or navigating to Settings, General, Accessibility, and then Voice Over.
Select Speech
Select the Default Dialect to view the list of voices for your default voice. If you use Rotor Languages as well, navigate to that section of the screen and select the voice you wish to change/add.
Select the desired voice from the next list of voices.
To delete a voice to free up storage space, simply swipe up/down while the rotor is in action mode to find the delete option.

If you use Zoom with the two finger swipe down/up to read the screen without Voice Over, you can also enjoy listening to the Siri Voice read text aloud by:
Navigate to Speech, located in the Accessibility settings
Select Voices from the next screen
Select the language/dialect for your voice
Select the voice you wish to use when implementing the speech function

Changing Modifier Keys from Command Plus Option to Caps Lock

One of the major grievances individuals familiar switching between JAWS, Window Eyes, NVDA, and other Windows-based screen readers is the lack of a single modifier key, like Insert and Caps lock. In the iOS 9 update, if you use a external keyboard to control Voice Over, you will be happy to learn that an option now allows you to select between the traditional Voice Over modifier keys (Control Option), Caps lock, or both to control Voice Over. this resolves the issue many dubbed Voice Over keyboard finger yoga. To change this setting, do the following:
Navigate to System, General, Accessibility, and Voice Over, or ask Siri to open Voice Over Settings.
Scroll down to Voice Over Modifier Keys and select your desired preference.

Double Tap Time Out

For those that struggled with preforming the double tap of the home button, you can slow down the rate by which to do this. Slowing this down will allow one to take a bit more time to preform the double tapping of the home button. This is located at the bottom of the Voice Over Settings.

Text Selection and Edit

In the rotor menu of Voice Over there is a new toggle for both Text selection and Edit. This greatly simplifies the process to select text, copy, paste, alter the formatting of text. When you are on some text, use the rotor to bring up Text Selection. When you swipe up and down, you have the option for character, word, line, page, or select all. You still have to use the pinch gesture to select text.

Once you select the desired text, once again turn the rotor to Edit and swipe up and down. Depending on the location of the text selected, you can copy, cut, paste, share, change formatting, and many other options. Once again, this depends on the location of text, so if you are viewing a webpage, your options will include copy and share. If you are composing an email or in another text editing situation, Edit will give you options for copy, cut, paste, bold, italicize, underline, and other choices. This removes the need to preform the double tap and hold gesture with Voice Over.

Voice Over Issues

At the end of this article one will find some of the known Voice Over bugs. It is recommended you view these and explore sites like AppleVis.com for more information on these items.

General Features and Updates

Back to Previous App

Have you ever encountered a situation where an app or email message link automatically launched and placed your focus in a new app? Well you now have some options that let you know when this happens and make switching back a breeze. Let’s same you are on Safari and a link wants to push you to the Linked In app or Facebook app. You will now receive a request to either allow or stop this from happening. This appears as a pop-up window, and you must select either Ok or Cancel. In the event you allow this to transpire, simply locate the Back to previous app button, that will now appear in the very top left of the screen in the menu bar.

Spotlight

Spotlight not only became easier to access, but also more useful . This stems from changes in how Spotlight works, where it behaves very much like Google Now. Spotlight incorporates Siri’s ability to explore not only the internet, but your list of contacts, Mail, Calendar, and numerous apps, just by preforming a search. To access Spotlight, do one of the following:
With Voice Over on, do a two finger swipe down in the middle of the screen. Zoom users just need to do a one finger swipe down in the middle of the screen
Voice Over Users can do a three finger swipe right from the main home screen to enter the full screen Spotlight mode. Zoom users just need to do a swipe to the right from the home screen to change to this page.

The new Spotlight possesses four main areas. These includes a search box at the top of the screen that searches all of your apps, the internet, and much more. Below this is a area called Siri Suggestions. The top part of this lists some of your recent contacts you can quickly call, send a message, or start a FaceTime call. Some of your recently used apps appears next. The last section contains useful information from latest news to information about your local area. While Siri might be known as the digital assistant, its integration into spotlight steadily resembles an actual assistant and not a voice on your device.

App Switcher

The App Switcher received two modifications, the removal of the contact list (which is now in Spotlight) and the order of active apps. Bring up the App Switcher still requires one to double tap the home button, though the speed necessary to do this might be found in Voice Over settings. The layout change places the home button on the right side of the screen and active apps to the left. This means you have to swipe right with Zoom or a two finger swipe right with Voice Over to find open apps. Navigating back tot the home screen can be accomplished by pressing the home button or swiping to the left.

Apple News

Through a partnership with a variety of media outlets and newspapers, accessing multiple news sources just became enjoyable. I will admit that it takes a few minutes to set up your preferences, news sources, and article genres, but upon completion you will be able to say goodbye to, or at least bury,apps like CNN, FOX, Huffington Post, NFB Newsline, and many others. Apple News will pull articles from your favorite sources based on identified interest areas, articles you liked, and ones you read.

The app is played out with the top part containing the heading, your articles occupying the middle of the screen, and five tabs at the bottom. When you are navigating the list of articles, Voice Over users can preform a swipe up or down to Like, Save, Share Story, and activate/open the article. These same options appears at the bottom of the screen when you are reading the article.

Regarding those five tabs at the bottom of the page, they include:

For You, which is the default section opening the app brings you to listing the articles gathered based on your interests.
Favorites are the types of articles and sources you prefer, making it easy to find a particular subject or latests posts from a news source.
Explore provides some additional articles types and sources currently not located in your favorites to consider.
Search acts similar to Explore, but allows you to enter a search term for a particular subject or source.
Saved refers to those articles you saved from any of the other screens.

iCloud Drive App

If your iCloud Drive is the primary way you store files and view them across multiple devices, you will be happy to learn that you now may access these folders without entering apps like Pages, Keynote, or Numbers. On a minus, you will not be able to preview the documents stored here, as Apple has not implemented an accessible method with Voice Over to read the contents of the files. Each page appears as, Preview (page number).PDF.

Battery

For those concerned about battery usage of their iPhone and connected bluetooth devices, iOS 9 made it much easier to see and control the power drain. This occurs in two areas. In Notification’s Today view, one will now find the battery levels os their iPHOne and connected devices. This eliminates the need to find the indicator button on your bluetooth device to see the battery level when connected.

If you push your iPhone’s battery life to the limit each day, a new feature will let you switch to a power save mode when announcing that you have 20% and 10% battery life left. You can learn more about this option and control it by navigating to the Battery menu now located in the system Settings main screen. Power Save will remain on until you either turn if off, or your device reaches 80% capacity.

Known Issues with Voice Over

Incoming Voice or FaceTime Calls

When receiving a call, an intermittent issue has been noted where Voice Over might completely lock up and you receive no feedback. This might happen when,
Answer a call with a two finger double tap or by pressing the action button on your headset.
Attempt to silence an incoming call by pressing the power or volume buttons.

At this time, no universal solution is available since the bug is not universal itself. Some recommendations include:
Turn off Audio Ducking by turning it off from the Voice Over Rotor.
Selecting a particular device for incoming calls in the Accessibility, Audio Routing menu.
Restarting your device by pressing the power button six or more times.

Braille Onscreen Input and Messages

In the Messages app, an issue arises when using the Messages app and the Braille Onscreen Input. When using the rotor to switch to the Braille keyboard, one might hear the audio message or dictation alert, possess the inability to type any Braille characters, only possess the ability to insert one or two finger braille characters, or simply not have the ability to do anything. Its best that you just stick with the default Apple Keyboard when composing a text or MMS message in Messages.

Bluetooth Keyboards

For those familiar with an issue in iOS 8 whereby pressing a key on a keyboard with Voice Over on caused you to double type a character is still live and well. This does not seem to be present all of the time, but it still occurs. Some have even reported that this bug might have worsen to the point that typing becomes impossible.

Voice Over Returning to the Top of the Screen

If you are using an app with a long list of selectable items, like Twitterrific or the Apple News app, after you select an item, Voice over might not always return to the spot you left off at. This is more of an inconvenience, since you will have to scroll back to your prior location.

iCloud Drive

As noted above, the iCloud Drive app might be a wonderful way to examine the files located in your iCloud storage, it lacks the accessibility features for voice over users to fully harness its potential. When you open a document, instead of switching to preview and reading the document, Voice Over users only receive the list of pages, and not the text contained on these documents.

Apple Maps

Apple maps received the ability to provide transit information and directions. This is based on Apple’s purchasing of Hop Stop. Unfortunately, only 6 US cities are covered, making testing of this feature rather limited. Look for more information related to Apple Maps Transit to come in the future.

Final Thoughts

Having used the iOS Public Beta for nearly two months at the time of the iOS release on my primary iPhone 6, I am very comfortable recommending individuals update their iPhones and iPads to iOS 9. The known bugs might prove significant in some cases, overall these do not impact me on a regular basis. The Apple News app and additions to Siri, that is not covered here, makes iOS 9 very powerful. In Spotlight, I greatly enjoy the ability to quickly see some local news, quickly access my recent calls, and search for a file throughout my iOS device.

If you are hesitant at this time, by all means stick with iOS 8.4.1 or whatever version you currently use and wait for more information to arise. We place a lot of trust in our devices, and its based on this trust you should examine your beliefs about updating to iOS 9.

Thank a Social Worker

While most of the United States only knows March for things like March Madness, day light savings changes, or Apple’s announcement of the Apple Watch, this month actually is Social Work Month. To me, Social Work is more than a profession, but ethical principals one lives by. We value a code that all cultures, beliefs, and religions can agree upon. Below I list out the National Association of Social Worker’s Ethical Principals and my definition of each:

  • Service – While the Army calls this selfless service, our fundamental aims is to enhance ones life through our actions, interventions, and programs. Additionally, this should be accomplish freely and not for compensation, personal gain, or monetary benefit.
  • Social Justice – We seek those social constructs, regulatory barriers, and disparities that prevents one from achieving their goals. This ranges from educating the ignorant to advocating for legislative change.
  • Dignity and Worth of the Person – Hope and change comes from within each of us. So just as our perceptions differ, so does that which motivates and drive us. Therefore, we do not provide help, but rather assist one achieve their goals based on their views of success.
  • Importance of Human Relationships – We are social creatures, with many different social identities. When put altogether, its from our social relationships that we find what makes us unique, assistance to overcome an issue, hope for the future, and most importantly belonging.
  • Integrity – If you cannot trust the person next to you, what hope is there. To question my integrity is to discredit every part of me in one quick stroke.
  • Competence – I only practice within those realms I possess the personal, educational, and professional knowledge to be successful. I am able to admit if I do not know something, but I will seek information and experiences to fill this void. In the end, I only know what I know, but do not know what I do not know.

Social Work’s value to me goes beyond these principals, since becoming a Social Worker changed my life. After sustaining my injury, I fought against everyone around me and myself, because I lost my purpose. When the Army allowed me to pursue a Masters in Social Work at the University of Kansas, I learned that my inner being never healed from my wounds. Being able to learn from and share with the faculty, staff, and fellow students provided the precise experiential learning necessary to heal invisible wounds of the heart, mind, and spirit.

A stellar Social Work education yields not clinical social workers, rather it transforms one into a Social Worker equipped with a strength-based generalist perspective. Through this process, we conduct regular introspective investigations of ourselves to learn our own strengths, weaknesses, biases, preferences, and limitations.

My turning point occurred while learning about spiritually competent social work practice. I was pushing others away and harming myself because of me. I thought I was a normal Army Officer, when in reality that identity disappeared several years earlier. In actuality, I was a person afraid of their disability, based on a belief within the Army culture that an impaired person is broken.

From this point forward I turned my attention towards accepting myself as a blind bloke, forgiving myself, and moving forwards.

Thank you Social Workers and Social Work Educators for creating and maintaining a profession based on serving others reach their fullest potential through internal means, social networks, cultural changes, and political action.

One Year Later

Greetings Readers,

 

It is hard to believe that BlindNotAlone.com has been around for a little over a year. Over that time, your viewership encourage me to investigate different methods of presenting information, web design, and what to actually post. I hope each of you enjoyed this site as I experimented with all of these items.

 

 

For your information, BlindNotAlone.com serves as a medium for sharing information related to visual impairments, Veterans benefits, and assistive technologies. There actually is a small team of peers that discuss these very items, and help spread the word about our resources.

 

My goal for this next year is to continue to post articles and links related to visual impairments, Veterans, and assistive technologies. Through the Technology Association for Veterans with Visual Impairments, we aim to start a monthly iOS teleconference, that will provide individuals with a place to discuss questions and relevant information about how to successfully use iPhones and iPads. A side possibility is an online forum, but that will remain on the back burner during the school year. 

 

BlindNotAlone.com will never attempt to solicit any donations for its operations and management, as knowledge should never cost other people any resources outside of the time it takes to review the information. This is actually something I spent some considerable time deliberating, after examining other personal and group websites that aim to provide similar information as we do here. Besides, I always find those “Donate Here” links and buttons annoying.

 

If you have any special requests on content, feel free to post your ideas in the comment section below.

 

Thank you for your support,

Tim

BlindNotAlone.com

The True Heroes of Veterans Day, Our Families

This Veterans Day, many people forget to honor the true heroes, our spouses, children, parents, brothers, sisters, extended family, friends, and so many other blood and non-blood relations that help us through life. These are the individuals that demonstrate one of the most valiant of the military values, selfless sacrifice. To illustrate this point, look at all of the Parades and events occurring today, and find one that solely honors the family and support systems. Generally, the numerous Veterans Day activities mention the families and support systems in passing, but they deserve so much more.

If you do not know what the military and Veteran family sacrifices, here are a few examples:

It is our families and support systems that cried as we took our oaths as we entered the military.

It is our children, spouses, parents, friends, and so many others that had to sever their connections to their friends and support systems every time the orders came down to move.

It is our children that had to explain to their friends why their mother and father could not attend parents day at school or could not support them at the numerous sporting games and events.

It is our families and support systems that created the care package groups that provided home comforts throughout each deployment.

It is our families and support systems that fear every phone call or passing car while we are deployed, not knowing if or when the barer of bad news comes.

It is our families that receive the traumatic call that their loved one sustained an injury in combat and must quickly grieve and head off to the hospital as we lay there helpless to comfort them.

It is our families and support systems that stood vigilant at our bed sides and throughout rehabilitation after being injured.

It is our families and support systems that dropped everything and rushed to our aid whenever we needed help.

It is our spouses, children, parents, and others that will remain at our sides caring for us as we developed lifelong chronic disabilities.

It will always be our daughters, sons, spouses, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, friends, and so many more that will be there when we hang up our uniforms and leave the military.

It is our next of kin that receives knock at the door from a military Chaplain and the Casualty Assistance Officer dressed in their uniforms, where they do not need to speak a word to convey their message.

It is our loved ones that receive a folded flag as the only memento after we died. So today as you find yourself thanking every Veteran, look next to them and honor that family around them. Do not overlook the family or cast them aside, but hear their stories, triumphs, sacrifices, and courage beyond measure.

This is for my Wife, Cate, who took the call that dropped her to her knees, and who has spent much of the last 10 years ensuring all of my needs were taking care of, driving me to numerous events, and standing by as I had good days and really bad ones.

For my Parents, Linda and Tom, who dropped everything going on in their life to rush off to Walter Reid, and started pulling together the necessary resources and services that led to my full recovery, and who to this day continue this process.

For my Uncle David, who also dropped everything in his life to be at my side at Walter Reid while my wife and parents attempted to understand the situation.

For my brother and sister-in-law, LTC TJ and Gen, who helped my wife prepare our house upon my release from the hospital and consoling our parents.

For my Grandmother, who at 92 years old, makes me laugh.

For the numerous others who have spent so much of their own time to guide me through recovery.

Most importantly, for my daughter, Abby, who provides me with the ability to focus on the present moment while creating a future that is bright.

FamilyOfaVet.com

– See more at: http://www.familyofavet.com/#sthash.D29NGd9U.dpuf

Recounting 10 Years Since Being Shot and Blinded in Iraq

This Veterans Day, November 11th, marks a rather special anniversary for me. On this day ten years ago, life decided to emplace a situation impossible to truly plan for. The events of that Veterans Day and the ten subsequent ones enabled me to fully understand why we choose to honor those who protect our freedoms.

So what cataclysmic event interrupted my life on November 11, 2004? Simply stated, an injury that changed my perception of the world.

Around 1630, my unit started to prepare to end another day patrolling the streets between the Baghdad International Airport and the International Zone. We received an alert to provide security support to the Iraqi National Guard, as they infiltrate a mosque. This meant that our mission involved locking down the external perimeter.

As a mixed patrol of up armored HMMWV’s and Bradley’s, the unit deployed itself in a staggered pattern with enough separation to maintain visual contact around the rather large block.

Shortly after arriving and establishing the perimeter, a sniper shot a dismounted Soldier in the chest. That Bradley team jumped into action, saving his life and evacuating him to the Combat Support Hospital (CSH). This marked the second casualty on the day for us, having lost one Bradley earlier due to an IED. To cover down on the position, I elected to employ my Bradley into that position.

Within an hour, the sniper scored another hit. This time, the bullet penetrated my left temple and exited through the right eye. Though the Bradley’s commander sits in the turret, I opted to expose my head in an effort to locate the shooter through a pair of binoculars. The necessity stems from some troubles we experienced with the optical system due to the sand in the region.

A 7.62mm bullet packs a punch similar to a sledge hammer. Miraculously though, this bullet failed to kill me or knock me unconscious. To this day, I can easily recall that fraction of a second before losing my sight as my Wiley-X’s started to leave my head, and my gunner reporting that I was a heap on the floor.

Two notes might be made here about the importance of training and subconscious fears. The first involves how ingrain some training really is. Shortly after I realized the gravity of the situation slumped over at the bottom of the turret, I started to feel my head to triage the damage. The training to do this stems from both the military and a couple of years worth of nursing classes. The second note about fears stems from a question of mine upon reading the CSH. As the nurses prepared me for surgery, I asked why I felt really cold. To me, this question makes sense as the media generally portrays the recently injured dying person as saying they are cold. The medical staff simply replied that I was completely naked. This made sense, but what else is there to say to people beginning to wipe you down and insert IV’s all over the place.

Ten years later, I look back at this single moment and reflect how it dramatically changed my life. No one enters into the military or even life with plans to cope and overcome these situations. Rather, these are the moments that define us and forces one to reevaluate everything. Success in these situations can only be defined by the individual living it.

We, who experienced these events, are not victims of war or circumstances, but are individuals placed in extraordinary situations. Recovering requires healing physically, psychologically, socially, and most importantly spiritually. While a start time may exist, no end point, outside of death, exists.

Over the last several years, many individuals attempted to develop training, pre/post deployment assessments, and numerous other modules, seminars, and the like. Truthfully, no amount of counseling or resiliency training ever fully prepares everyone to rebound from such traumatic losses. Every person brings a different set of beliefs, supports, and capabilities that may contribute or setback recovery, yet many still ask for that silver bullet that miraculously creates a “cure.” If you are a service provider looking for information on these topics, ask us who live it.

Looking through the last decade, four situations created a very beneficial response in my recovery. These range from accepting assistance, failing to meet a goal, pursuing education, and surrounding myself with an effective support team.

The first incident stems from my wife and parents asking for resources. They immediately started searching the moment they reached Walter Reid, and never stopped. They discovered the VA’s blind rehab program, which is open to all military and Veterans with a severe visual impairments. This enabled me to do the one thing I needed to do, rest and heal. As I stabilized and started working again, their relentless efforts uncovered many other opportunities I did not see or would even dream of looking towards.

The second fulfilled a desire to return to my unit. After witnessing my capabilities with blindness, the Commander retained me on Active Duty around August 2005. Realizing I will not deploy again, I requested a transfer into Acquisitions, enabling me to help evaluate the equipment being sent down range. My motive to remain in the Army revolved around my identity to continue progressing up the Officer ranks. Accomplishing this required me to pass as a normal Soldier, binding my blindness from all. This resulted in many bouts with depression and anger at myself as I literally stumbled and ran into things, or feelings of jealousy with every friend or relative who received a promotion or deployed. During this time, my anxieties skyrocketed, marriage nearly collapsed, trouble with sleeping, and numerous other items mirroring PTSD. Truth of the situation is that by retaining the identity as an Army Officer, I neglected my new identity as a blinded individual who needed a new path in life.

In 2008, a third opportunity arose. The Army devised a program enabling injured Soldier to receive a Masters from the University of Kansas. I immediately jumped on this initiative, graduating in 2010 with a Masters in Social Work. The educational opportunities enabled me to examine myself truthfully without any judgement. Prior to this, I only seen myself as a broke Soldier with limited possibilities in the Army. With the new knowledge, I recognized this self defeating view, and started to see a much broader world.

The last and most impactful of the assistance received stems from increasing the size of my family. The birth of my daughter transformed my priorities from selfish professional pursuits to being there for her. Secondly, two of my mentors and professors would adopt us, dramatically shifting our perspectives. Each of these individuals fill a gap in my life I did not know of. My wife and family bent over backwards to ensure my chances to thrive, but through these new additions, all of our lives forever positively changed.

Today, I can tell you the following.

  • Blindness sucks, but I fully embrace it and love myself for living with it.
  • I miss driving classic Chevy muscle cars, but enjoy playing with my daughter in the backseat much more.
  • I miss playing paintball and numerous video games, but now utilize this time to read and expand my intellect.
  • I miss wearing the uniform and leading Soldiers in combat, but I enjoy serving my fellow Veterans through their transition processes.

10 Years of Blindness and 10 Things I Have Enjoyed

On November 11th, I celebrate 10 years living with a visual impairment. To honor this moment, I will post several entries over the next couple of days. To start this off, here are ten things that I have fully embraced thanks to going blind.

10. Meeting New People

Being blind has introduced an array of new people in my life. These range from long term friends to colleagues to all those who I am lucky to share a moment with.

9. The Accessible World

I really wished that Text to Speech entered into my life sooner, along with the iPhone and tablets. My productivity dramatically increased exponentially, while reading has never been more enjoyable.

8. Disability Rights and Independent Living

I never understood what these movements and lifestyles meant. Living as a disabled person enabled me to appreciate and enable others to overcome barriers associated with an un-inclusive society.

7. Public Speaking and Presenting

Like many, public speaking scared me. However, this changes when you actually have something meaningful to say. We have the right to the freedom of speech, but you must earn the right to be heard.

6. Charting a New Life

Path The military provides a fairly easy to negotiate career path thanks to regulations. Blindness provided a chance to see beyond this myopic view of life, and venture into the greater unknown.

5. Identity of Disability Pride

Accepting blindness as a part of me did not happen overnight, but rather over years. Once I realized that being blind or disabled is natural and should be displayed opened the door for me to truly recover from my injuries.

4. Learning to Request and Accept Assistance

Being an Army Officer to me meant that I had to figure things out on my own, while never showing weakness. Being blind automatically allows most of society to view me as being vulnerable. In the middle of these two extremes resides a happy medium where I can navigate between offers for guidance or storm my way through a situation. Understand that being able to choose when to accept aid is the best example of self-determination.

3. Intimacy

This definition has many aspects. In the simplest form, my ability to communicate in a manner that reaches beyond the surface and with ones internal energies is far easier. On the other hand, my wife and I have experienced our most stable and satisfying emotional and physical (aka sexual) life thus far. This all stems from learning how to effectively communicate needs, wants, and desires a nonjudgmental and open manner.

2. Growing the Family

This includes the birth of my daughter to my mentors. Through all of these individuals, I have learned so much more about how to live a richer and real life.

1. Living

This might seem cliche, but it is very true. To explain this the best, check out Tim McGraw’s, “Live Like You Were Dying.”

Greetings Viewers

Greetings Everyone,

Thank you for visiting us here. I hope to provide much information on blindness focusing on Veterans, but not limited to this population. Please keep checking back as I include more information on support groups, resources, assistive technologies, and even some disability related legislative actions.

Have a wonderful day,
Blind Not Alone