Ever since I was a little girl I’ve loved technology. Tape recorders, watches and clocks that spoke the time aloud, Braille note-taking devices with Braille displays on them that pop the Braille dots out so that those Braille dots could be read by blind people, scanners that had speech output software so that a blind person could hear print items read aloud to him or her. You name the technology, I loved it! When my grandparents were alive they all said that they knew that when I grew up I’d do something in the technology field. Even in high school I had a teacher named Mr. P who believed in me the way that my grandparents believed in me. He handed me a Braille note-taking device called a BrailleNote which had speech output as well as a refreshable Braille display on it. When Mr. P handed me the BrailleNote he said “Now you tell me how to use this machine. I’ve never used it before and I know you can show me how to use it.” At the time I didn’t believe in myself at all. I tried to convince Mr. P that he was wrong to think that I could figure out a piece of technology that I’d never even used before. However he wasn’t having any of it. I ended up figuring out how to use the BrailleNote and teaching Mr. P how to use it, just as he’d knew I could. So it’s no surprise that my love of technology has lead me to participate in other neat activities throughout my life. In fact at the end of March 2017 I attended World Services for the Blind (WSB) so that I could learn how to use a Mac computer. I’d never used a Mac before and I knew that going to WSB would teach me something new that would help me continue making progress towards my dream of wanting to work for Apple. I attended WSB from March 27 2017 until June 9 2017. Since then I’ve been chasing my dream of wanting to work for Apple. While I was at WSB the first thing I learned about a Mac was the layout of the Mac’s keyboard. As I said above I’d never seen a Mac in my life. However learning about how to navigate documents on a Mac using VoiceOver (the Mac’s, iPhone’s, Apple Watch’s and iPod’s screen reader), how to navigate the internet using a Mac as well as how to use numerous other apps on the Mac was truly a blast! A month or so after I’d graduated WSB’s Apple VoiceOver at Work program I received someone’s contact information who I was told was passionate about Apple the way I was passionate about Apple. So I stayed in touch with this person and after some time had gone by he told me about a way that I could complete a training course called AppleCare Technician Training. According to him participating in this AppleCare Technician Training would allow me to become Apple certified if I pass the necessary exams once I’ve read through all of the training material. As I communicated with this guy I was also in the process of raising money so that I could purchase a MacBook Pro for myself. A few weeks into starting the MacBook Pro fundraiser I was able to purchase a MacBook Pro! Once I’d accomplished getting a MacBook Pro I looked into the AppleCare Technician Training that I’d been told about which would allow me to become Apple certified. Once I’d read up on the AppleCare Technician Training a bit I contacted the people from Apple who actually create the training because I wanted to ask them some questions about how the training would be laid out for a totally blind person. When the Apple training staff contacted me in response to the emails I’d sent them regarding the training program I wanted to take I felt comfortable enough to explore Apple’s training website and read up on the training program even more. Once i’d read up on the training program I used the left over money from my MacBook Pro fundraiser to purchase the AppleCare Technician Training. A week or so after I’d purchased the AppleCare Technician Training I received something in the mail from Apple that gave me directions on how to get myself set up for the AppleCare Technician Training. Since the directions I’d received were in print though I had a sighted friend message the directions to me so that VoiceOver speech output could read aloud the directions to me. However when it came to setting up which course I was going to take I ran into issues with VoiceOver. VoiceOver speech output correctly spoke aloud the different links that were on Apple’s training website but VoiceOver speech output would not allow me to actually move forward once i’d selected which course I wanted to take. So I ended up having a sighted friend set up the course for me that I wanted to take. Everything is done online so once the course that I wanted to take had been set up I was able to read the material that was on Apple’s training website. However after I’d played around with Apple’s training website for some time I discovered that VoiceOver made it difficult for me to navigate the different frames that I had to move through. So I contacted Apple’s training experts yesterday to ask them if there was any way that Apple could help me make this training experience easier than it’s been for me so far. I’m interested to see what Apple’s solution will be because after each chapter of the AppleCare Technician Training there’s a test to see how much of the information that you went through, that you remember. So I say I’m interested to see what resolutions Apple will present to me, given that there has to be a way for us to keep track of how far I’ve progressed with this training.
This particular blog entry will be a follow-up to the blog entry that I wrote yesterday. When my friend and I went to the comedy club Monday evening we met some kind people there. My friend and I’d gotten out of the cab car then a guy came up to us and asked if we needed help. So we told him that we’d like to go to the front of the line, being that the line to get into the comedy club was so long. Before I go any further though I want to say that I was born with Cerebral Palsy (CP) in addition to being born legally blind. So given the fact that it’s quite burdensome for me to stand in long lines due to my CP I told my friend that we should try to get to the front of the line. The kind people we’d met at the comedy club were a husband and wife who I’ll call A and J. A and J met my friend and I right outside of the cab car. I asked them if they’d help my friend and I get to the front of the line and they did so no problem. Once we’d gotten to the front of the line my friend and I handed our tickets to the guy who was in charge of scanning people’s tickets. Once our tickets had been scanned the guy said that my friend and I could go on inside the building. The man was even nice enough to let A and J go into the building with us. Once we’d all gotten inside the building someone who worked at the comedy club showed my friend and I to a table. Shortly after my friend and I’d sat down at a table J came over to our table and told us that he and his wife were a couple tables down from us but that they’d be willing to help us with whatever we needed. A few minutes later though J came over to our table and said that him and his wife A would also be joining us at our table. Once A and J joined my friend and I at our table, my friend and I conversed with the two of them like they were old friends of ours. We talked about our lives, being fans of Gabriel Iglesias and how this was my first time ever being in this state. Not too long after we’d gotten comfortable talking to our new friends it was time for the comedy show to start so we had to stay quiet. After the comedy show was over though my friend asked J if the waitress had given us our check yet. J said that he and his wife A had paid for our food. My friend and I were surprised at their gesture but grateful just the same. After J had told my friend and I that he and A had paid for our meal my friend and I had to figure out how we were going to get back to his apartment. My friend checked the prices on both the Uber app as well as the Lift app and both cab service prices were more expensive than we’d hoped they’d be. So we ended up asking A and J if they’d give us a ride to a train station that was nearby, as them driving us would cut down on our cab cost quite a bit. J and A said they wouldn’t mind giving us a ride so they drove us to the nearest train station. Now I’m sure some of you who read this are thinking “Oh my gosh, these people accepted a ride from complete strangers!” However it wasn’t like that at all. My friend and I’d had time to interact with A and J and our guts told us that they were good people. All of us were at the same comedy club to see the same person (Gabriel Iglesias) and we were all social people. Now if someone on the street offered my friend and I a ride neither of us would accept such an offer because doing so could end very badly. That’s happened to me before though where I’ve been walking around cities and strangers have offered me rides. Every time strangers have offered me rides like that I’ve said “No.” I’ll continue to say “No” when complete strangers off the street offer me rides. Why, you ask? Because I’m a sensible person. The fact that I have no eyesight does not determine my sensibility, character, ETC. Because just as a sighted person would do, my friend and I both followed our guts about A and J. What I really want to talk about in this blog post though is the fact that kindness goes a long way. When J first came up to my friend and I he asked us how he could help us. To a blind person, being asked by someone how he or she could help us is the best thing to do…ALWAYS! Because when we’re asked how we need help, that allows us to think about the question you just asked us and give you an honest, well-thought out answer. Whereas if people don’t ask us how they can help us and they grab onto us tightly as the lady did that I wrote about in my last blog post, we are not given a chance to make a choice about what is done to our bodies or what is not done to our bodies. We are being told in no uncertain terms that we have no right to decide how we are treated by people. We are being told in no uncertain terms that even though people sometimes treat us like children, we should accept such treatment without question because at least people are interacting with us in the first place. That way of thinking is incorrect though: just because blind people can’t see, that doesn’t mean we should be treated like we’re incapable of thinking for ourselves or that we’re incapable of living lives without someone sighted being around us 24/7. If we need help from someone sighted, there are apps on our iPhones that we can use that allow sighted people to see whatever it is that we need help with through our iPhone’s back-facing camera. I feel very fortunate to have grown up in this time for that exact reason: there are so many technologies that are available to people who are blind, that allow us to live much fuller lives than blind people could live even 30 years ago! That is truly amazing to me. It’s one thing that’s inspired me to create this public blog: the fact that the world is more open to blind people than sighted people sometimes think is the case. I want to have my shot at shattering misconceptions that sighted people have about how blind people live, who blind people are and who blind people are not and the things that will make it easier for all of us to live in unity with one another.
Yesterday a friend and I went to a comedy club to see Gabriel Iglesias (a comedian we both enjoy). Since my friend and I are both blind though we had to plan out our day to a T. The day before yesterday my friend checked the train schedules online so that we’d be able to figure out when we’d need to leave. So as it turned out my friend and I left the apartment close to 2:00 in the afternoon. We took Uber to the train station. Once we’d arrived at the train station we knew there wasn’t much time before the train we needed to take left the train station. Someone came up to me and asked where we were trying to get to so I told the guy where we needed to go. Fortunately the guy gave my friend and I good directions and we successfully found the correct train. As my friend and I walked around the train station though he showed me how there were placards on the walls that had Braille on them to indicate to a blind person which trains were nearby. I’d never seen that kind of accessibility before and even though it’s a small thing to have available for blind people, knowing that someone had thought of blind people rather than blind people being an afterthought really spoke volumes to me. Once my friend and I’d finally gotten on the train, it took us a couple hours to get to the next train station where we’d catch another train to continue our journey. Once we’d arrived to the second train station we didn’t have long before the train we needed to catch left the station. Once we’d made it to the train though a lady who was nearby assumed I needed help getting onto the train. However I was doing just fine on my own. I’d walked with my friend up to the train and I’d found a handle that I could use to help me get onto the train independently. As I was in the process of lifting one foot up onto the first step though this lady I mentioned above, grabbed onto my waist tightly. I continued to get onto the train. However upon realizing that this lady had no intention of letting me go I made up my mind to keep moving. So I firmly said “Let me go.” She continued to hold onto me with a tight grip. I very firmly said again “Let me go.” Again she kept a tight hold on me. So I continued to move. By the time I’d firmly told the lady to let me go a second time I was already completely on the train, making my way around the train to find a seat. Once my friend and I’d finally found somewhere to sit the lady let go of me. As I said in my first blog post I don’t mind letting people do their good deed. However just as sighted people sometimes don’t want to be bothered by others, the same is true for me. Especially in a situation like yesterday, where I had somewhere to be and not a lot of time to educate that lady why what she was doing was unhelpful to me. Sometimes it really gets tiring to explain things to people about how we as blind people are not much different from sighted people. Sometimes, like yesterday, I wanted nothing more than to enjoy the day with my friend. I didn’t want to have to think about how some sighted people think it’s so amazing that blind people actually want to see the world. Here is a secret: eyesight is not the only thing that makes life meaningful. By the same token a lack of eyesight does not automatically mean that the blind person you see is helpless. Some people (whether sighted people or blind people) are helpless. Other people (whether sighted people or blind people) are not helpless. Those people actually enjoy their independence. Those same people enjoy connecting with others, traveling alone or with other people (whether those people are blind or sighted). Mostly though those people, like many sighted people, just want to live their lives quietly and as stress-free as possible. So I write this blog entry to try and convey the fact that blind people are human too. We get lost, we fall down, we sometimes fuck up in our daily interactions with people…but we put on our pants just like sighted people put on their pants. If you’re someone who doesn’t know what blind people are capable of, give us a chance to show you. Give us a chance to fall down, to fuck up, to succeed at life’s curveballs and blessings. Because in allowing us to experience those things just like you experience those things, you would in turn be showing us that you trust us as the grown adults that we are, to be human. That is all we as blind people want from anyone: to be treated and loved as an equal, not looked at as an alien. Please give us this gift, you may be surprised at how that kindness will help us go through life together in love and peace rather than going through life together in annoyance and frustration.
My name is Chelsea. For years I’ve been told that I should write a public blog. I haven’t wanted to take people up on their suggestion of writing a blog until now because I’ve finally found a thing or two that I’d find exciting to write about. So this blog will mainly be about how I interact with technology as well as helpful tips on how to help blind people navigate the world on terms that he or she actually finds helpful. The below article is something I wrote a couple years ago. However I think this article is a great place to start for my introductory post. The article reads as follows: A huge challenge that people who are blind face is going to the grocery store independently. There are things that make blind people’s shopping adventures more of an inconvenience than they would be for sighted people. There are also things that could make shopping experiences for people who are blind or visually impaired much more liberating. I used to consider going to the store with a sighted friend or family member the most beneficial way to handle things. He or she could see the items that were bought. Therefore all problems would surely be solved. A sighted person could drive to and from the store, allowing me to avoid lugging groceries around in a cab yet ensure the desired items were purchased. The hard work of creating a grocery list was quite an accomplishment in itself at that time. Here are a few observations about a blind person going to the grocery store with a sighted friend versus a blind person going to the grocery store independently. These thoughts are not meant to be critical of anyone in any way but simply to share the adventures that sometimes come with what can be a stressful part of a blind person’s day and to suggest solutions. Shopping with a Sighted Friend: The grocery list was up and ready to go on my iPhone so I asked a friend to get granola bars with peanuts, almonds and dark chocolate. He repeated what I’d said to him correctly but he grabbed the diet version of granola bars instead. He must have been hungry that day and that particular kind of granola bar might have been what he would’ve chosen for himself. Perhaps he wanted to test all of my senses to see if those granola bars tasted different to me than other kinds of granola bars. However I found out later that the granola bars my friend had gotten me tasted much like cardboard. That same friend and I went to dinner at a nice restaurant afterwards though so the trip was not a total loss. Similar to the above grocery store adventure, the list was ready on my phone. Everything was in the grocery cart. Things couldn’t have been going more smoothly. Upon arriving home my friend offered to put things away for me. I enjoy letting people do their good deed for the day so I let him help. Once he left, I wanted a peanut butter sandwich. However finding the bread was an unexpected bump in the road. When calling him to ask where it was he said, “Oh, I don’t remember.” I eventually found the loaf of bread in the chip bowl! Shopping with a Grocery Store Employee: When I’ve gone to the grocery store by myself I found the customer service desk. I requested a shopping assistant and normally someone would be at my side within minutes. Much like the experiences above I rattled off the few needed items. The shopping assistant understood things and even found everything on the list. All of these experiences surprised me because I used to have the misconception that friends would easily locate exactly what was on my list. Since my friends and I knew each other fairly well I thought my friends would understand what to do to help me. I also assumed that my friends knew I’d feel the sizes of the items before purchasing them. However the opposite is often true. Friends are not always the best people to go grocery shopping with you because they might get what they think you like or what they think you’re talking about without asking you for clarification or providing other options from which to choose. Your friends may be in a big hurry because a basketball game or the latest reality TV show will air soon so they’re ready to rush home to do what they want to do. Your friends will happily take you to the store at a time when it’s convenient for them. But they may not be available when you need to get groceries. However if you take a cab or paratransit (a shared-ride service that’s for the elderly and disabled) to the store on your own a shopping assistant who works at the store you go to will do their best to ensure that you follow your grocery list to a T and inform you of sales or coupons on items you’re buying. He or she will be available at your convenience. Enjoying the Freedom of Shopping By Myself: Using shopping assistants provides freedom that I never thought was attainable back when I felt it necessary to have friends or family members with me on every shopping trip. It’s a huge plus to know store workers eagerly want to give me some of their time to ensure what’s needed gets in the cart. It’s also incredibly liberating because if I’m by myself people have no choice but to speak directly to me, put the change in my hand at the cash register (including counting out my change so I know what people are handing me) and ask me any questions they may have. I also like to be told what each item is as the item is scanned. I’m not ignored or “talked over.” Rather I’m treated like a grown woman who is fully capable of providing for and speaking for herself.