Wednesday’s blind wisdoms – fearing the blind!

Good morning blind wisdom seekers.

Thank you for joining me for another glimpse into the world of the blind. In searching for inspiration for today’s entry I came across an article entitled Why we fear the blind written ByROSEMARY MAHONEY in which Rosemary explores her own emotions towards blindness as well as an experience that taught her much.

Here is that experience for you to read. I’ll join you back at the bottom of this excerpt.

A few years ago, I allowed myself to be blindfolded and led through the streets of Lhasa by two blind Tibetan teenage girls, students at Braille Without Borders. The girls had not grown up in the city, and yet they traversed it with ease, without stumbling or getting lost. They had a specific destination in mind, and each time they announced, "Now we turn left" or "Now we turn right," I was compelled to ask them how they knew this. Their answers startled me, chiefly because the clues they were following – the sound of many televisions in an electronics shop, the smell of leather in a shoe shop, the feel of cobblestones suddenly underfoot – though out in the open for anyone to perceive, were virtually hidden from me.

For the first time in my life, I realized how little notice I paid to sounds, to smells, indeed to the entire world that lay beyond my ability to see.

The French writer Jacques Lusseyran, who lost his sight at the age of 8, understood that those of us who have sight are, in some ways, deprived by it. "In return for all the benefits that sight brings we are forced to give up others whose existence we don’t even suspect."

Thanks for being so articulate about blindness Rosemary. As a blind woman I appreciate you sharing your insights as a sighted woman with the sighted world. Thank you also for understanding that the blind tap into a world that is very often unseen by the sighted.


You start noticing what you smell, hear, taste and touch!

“I may not see but I can smell

And taste And touch and listen

And when I do this every day

I find my optimism!”

That blind woman

Julie Woods!

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Wednesday’s blind wisdoms – Dear Spark!

Dear Spark

We moved house last December, and as a consequence, the free 018 directory assistance so kindly offered to me by your business on the grounds of being unable to read print was no longer available on my new land line. After making enquiries by phone informing me I would have to re-apply for the service, a print form was posted to me to be completed. Unfortunately I was unable to complete the form requesting exemption from paying for the service on the grounds I have a print disability, so asked my husband for help to complete this.

After we had done that, I ask my volunteer Margaret to drive me out to the Blind Foundation to have them verify my blindness as requested on the form. The staff at the Blind Foundation kindly obliged and also popped the letter in the post for me. Done!

After no further communication for a fortnight or so, I headed down to the Spark shop here in Dunedin as we had another issue regarding Call Minder. The wonderful assistant Jesse helped us with our Call Minder, and towards the end of the conversation I asked about the status of my free directory assistance.

“Can you tell me if they have received my form yet Jesse?”

“It doesn’t look like it Julie”

“OK, how will I know when they have received it Jesse?”

“They will send you a letter to inform you!”

Spark, can you please tell me which part of blind you don’t understand?

Thank you.

That blind woman

Julie Woods!

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Wednesday’s blind wisdoms – I want to read to my grandchildren!

I decided that since I couldn’t read books to my own children then I would make it my goal to be able to read to my future grandchildren. Although I didn’t go blind until my boys were three and one years old, I had partial sight that prevented me from reading aloud to them. When it did come time to go blind, there was so much to do to simply stay afloat, that reading was below cooking, cleaning and washing on the list of things to do!

It wasn’t until braille came into my life four years later in 2001 that reading books in the conventional way started to become possible again. But by this time I was a single blind parent and my boys were now 7 and 5. Too late for their mother’s slow reading fingers to read aloud to them, but none the less, I was gradually able to read again.

Years passed, I got work, I met Ron, the boys grew up, we travelled to Paris for Louis Braille’s 200th birthday, we began to travel even more, visiting the Seven Wonders of the World, eventually travelling to 50 countries by the time I was 50.


What did I still want to do?

I wanted to read aloud…….

If not to my own children, then to my own grandchildren and if not to them, to other grandchildren!

I didn’t have any grandchildren of my own yet but it was time to prepare.

Since the age of 18, when I became partially sighted, reading had been a struggle, Reading aloud an impossibility.

I knew from my training as a life coach, that my daily action must be aligned with my goals, no artist could create a painting without drawing a line a day, no author write a book without writing a page a day. Similarly no future blind Granny could read their grandchild a book without reading at least a page a day! So, starting last November, one page a day it was. I started with a promotional publication from the National Braille Press sent from America, page by page I read with my fingers. I started with just one page but as my confidence grew, so did the number of pages at one sitting. I moved onto bigger braille books but as my focus moved off the page and onto a whole book I lost focus. The braille books seemed overwhelming in contrast to the pamphlets I had been reading so I had an idea…..

I decided to stay focused on my goal of reading to my grandchildren and get some kids books to practise on. The Homai Library does a range of books in the Twin Vision series which are print children’s books with a braille overlay! I requested a few be sent to me for the Christmas period so on Sunday 27 December, when the house was finally quiet, I got stuck in to a book called “our Granny” by Margaret Wild! I read it word by word, from cover to cover, gliding my fingers over some words with ease, while stumbling over others. The best part was of course finishing it, although it could be said that the best part was that the title was something very close to my heart – the term Granny! That’s what the grand children call my Mum! “our Granny!”

I returned to the larger books again as I had read all my children’s titles, but again I lost focus with the bigger braille books.

Again I phoned the Homai Library the week before Easter to ask for some more children’s books. This time I asked about Hairy MacLary from Donaldson’s Dairy and other New Zealand favourites. I spoke with the librarian Katherine and explained my goal of reading to my future grandchildren. She said they had Hairy MacLary and would send it down plus any other Lynley Dodd titles they had.

This Easter, I went to go for my morning walk and as I opened the front door of our apartment building the courier arrived and said “Can you please place this inside?” “Who’s it for?” I enquired. “Julie” she replied. “Oh that’s me!” I squealed, handing me the bag to take. I instantly recognised it’s touch and knew what it was. My new braille books. I placed the bag inside the building and carried on with my morning walk. Upon my return, I picked the bag up from the foyer of our apartment building and came upstairs.

I joined Ron at the dining table, when he enquired “what’s that?” “Oh it’s my new braille books, I hope it’s Hairy MacLary” I smiled.

I pulled one of the books out and ran my fingers over the braille title. I couldn’t believe my fingers. “OMG” I cried out. “What’s the matter?” asked Ron.

“This book they sent me, it says Zachary quack!”

My elder son is called Zachary and his friends used to nick name him quack! Here I was, preparing myself to read to my future grandchildren and I’m sent a book with my son’s name in the title!

I think I might be on track!


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Wednesday’s blind wisdoms; Dear OPSM!

Dear OPSM,

Thank you for your text alerting me to my eye appointment tomorrow at 2 pm. As I indicated to your receptionist when she called twice using a wrong number on Friday, my need for your services is much reduced.

There was a time, a long time ago, when I would have been thrilled at the prospect of correcting my vision optically, but alas most visits to optometrists resulted not in corrective lenses, but in a referral to an eye specialist.

As I receive your text today my level of vision is now recorded as light perception in both eyes and my level of contentment is recorded as happy!

I know you are probably a fantastic optometrist, but do you really think you can help me?

Yours curiously

That blind woman

Julie Woods!

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Wednesday’s blind wisdoms – now is a great time to be blind!

I’m always telling people now is a great time to be blind but they don’t always believe me!

If you’re one of those……

Read on…..

Louis Braille in 1841 said “Access to information, is access to knowledge” which is why he had gone on to invent his literacy code for the blind.

Thanks to technology too, we have the greatest access to a huge amount of information than we’ve ever had before! Just this week, I had an adaptive technology instructor come up from the Blind Foundation to show me how to use Skype on my iPhone. I went into the ap store on my home page of my iPhone, did a search for “Skype” and downloaded the one that read “Skype for iPhone”. I then had to remember my password of 7 years, that we used to set up the account in the first place. My first choice of three was correct and before I knew it I was swiping my way around the features on the Skype ap. “Swipe to the right several times to bring up the person you want to select”, “double tap to select them”, “swipe to the right again to choose call, video call” said my patient and talented instructor Rebecca South from the Blind Foundation.

Voice over is the name of the talks feature that makes it possible for blind people to use an iPhone. In the early days of cell phones, blind people had to purchase additional voice software and it had to be installed on the phone by someone who knew how! Nowadays you can rock into your electronic store and purchase a phone over the counter that is pretty much ready to use!

Later that night, I was able to Skype my nephew in Vietnam! It was like he was in the next room! I even carried my nephew through to our living room for my husband Ron to have a chat to him! It’s truly amazing!

And even later that night, because of the lesson earlier that day with Rebecca, I was able to send myself to sleep with the sound of Alice in Wonderland gently reading to me. Yes, from my very own bedroom I am now able to download audio books to my very own iPhone!

Who said now wasn’t a good time to be blind!

Viva all those who have gone before me!

And thank you for reading this week’s Blind Wisdom blog!

And to the Blind Foundation for believing in me!

And never giving up on me!

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Wednesday’s blind wisdoms – our blind ancestors!

Good morning blind wisdom seekers!

I’ve been thinking about our blind ancestors a lot lately. The history and contribution that has gone before us, to get us to this point today. We are here because of what people in the past have done, good or bad.

Preparing for advocacy training in Auckland the other day I was tasked with welcoming the group to the room. I was up after Rangi, who did a very beautiful traditional Maori mihi (greeting) and karakia (prayer). It’s not the first time that I’ve noticed Maoridom acknowledge their ancestors, in stark contrast to NZ European culture which tends not to.

In noticing this contrast I decided to welcome our blind ancestors into the room, firstly the man who was considered the father of the blind, Valentine Hauy who, in the late 18th century was sitting in a park in Paris having a coffee when he witnessed something that changed his life. He saw a group of busking blind people, wearing dunces caps and making dischordant music much to the delight of the passing crowd. Valintine Hauy was so disgusted by this he decided at that moment blind people needed formal education. So, Valentine Hauy established the first school for the blind in Paris at the end of the 18th century. Somewhere our very own Louis Braille would later attend.

With the benefit of heinsight it’s difficult not to see Valentine’s act as being somewhat part of the chain that is our blind history. Today will be history tomorrow, so what is it we could be doing today to become part of that chain ourselves!

I will go away and ponder!

I think I’ll let one of our other blind ancestors help me:

“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble”

Thanks Helen Keller! Look at what you did for the world!

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Wednesday’s blind wisdoms the sound of the crashing waves!

Greeting blind wisdom seekers!

At the weekend my husband Ron and I went for a Sunday drive. He suggested, after we left our apartment, taking a stroll along the beach. “In these shoes, with my back!” I exclaimed cheekily, so we made a compromise with a track that ran alongside the beach at St Clair.

Now I’ve been a citizen of Dunedin for 50 years and never had I walked along that path. The day was still and the weather mild for a Dunedin winter’s day but what overwhelmed me was the sound of the roaring waves as they crashed and smashed their way onto the rocks. What a powerful noise. I said to Ron “just let me stand here for a few moments and take it all in.” This worked because Ron loves taking photographs so as he ran off “looking” at stuff, I stood there quietly as I was mesmorised by the Pacific Ocean!

We think we are so significant but compared to Nature we are not! IT’s force is as mighty as it’s sound!

I cast my mind back to when I last felt the force of the waves and it was in 2010 when I said WHY NOT to doing the Polar Plunge! I remember that day being totally overcome by the cold and the power of the water.

On that day, and last Sunday too, I realised Mother Nature puts us in our place whether we can see or not!

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature….”

Helen Keller!

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