Post Title: Disability InSIGHTS: Seminar October 18th, Erie, Pennsylvania.
“I like your books, Amy, because they share what your life is like. Real sight challenges. Yet you don’t let them hold you back. And you still have a sense of humor.”
At 12, Max was assembling and dismantling rides on the midway with his traveling carnival family. By that time, he had also lost most of his vision due to a hereditary eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa. But that didn’t stop him from pitching in to help with the family business. He carried that mindset into his adult life—and it has been a roller coaster ride for him to get where he is today. He chugs up to the top, stopping occasionally to do some maintenance or reinforce the structure, then moves up. With a whoosh, he’s riding high and fast. He holds on for safety, turns a curve and slows down, then puffs up the next hill.
His ability to ride the curves is why so many say, “If Max can do it, what’s your excuse?” Max, aka ‘the blind blogger,’ maintains a blog, interviews guests on his own podcast, “What’s Your Excuse?” His podcasting contemporaries laud his “get-out-there-and-do-what-you-can-one-day-at-a-time” talks at podcasting forums across the United States. Others with vision loss look to him as an example and leader.
Captivating! is the online brainchild disability magazine of Stephanae McCoy (Bold Blind Beauty) and Chelsea Nguyen (CN Vision Image Consulting). Stephanae, a fashionista, has lost most of her vision but retained her love for style. Chelsea is an energetic, sighted stylist working with the blind. Together the duo highlights the abilities of various members of the disability community, celebrating their accomplishments and ideas with insightful quote of each member featured.
Having a dual disability has unique challenges as Emannuel Lee will attest to. Considered to be “deaf and dumb,” Lee grew up in an abusive home in Chicago. Bullies picked on him in his “special education” classes all through school. Later he studied at the Helen Keller School National Center for the Deaf Blind Youth & Adults. He wants to set the record straight about his abilities.
Aimee Gross struggled with a learning disability in math and reading as a child in school, which led to everyday shaming, bullying, mental illness and eventually, self-harming. She has written her memoir on how she coped with the challenges, by escaping into the family garage. She is now an advocate for mental illness and the head of an anti-bullying cyber committee. Gross is on a mission to enlighten the viewpoints of others on mental illness and bullying.
These people represent just a few reasons why there are months set aside for awareness—International Blindness Awareness Month and National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). It’s why I want to celebrate my colleagues’ accomplishments.
When I first lost so much vision, I balked at seeking training from the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services, a state agency in my area. Fears of who I would become if I acknowledged the extent of my loss plagued me. I had been gradually losing my vision for two decades, and I kept it a secret from almost everyone. Fear, embarrassment and the inability to accept my progressive disability kept me from sharing. I shunned myself.
Once I began my journey in gaining insights into a world of abilities, I took off my blinders, and started to see. Life, while scary sometimes, became a wonderful adventure in faith and opportunity.
Ten years down the line, I am part of an amazing network determined to show, globally, those with disabilities can and do accomplish much more than others give them credit for and live a fulfilling life. But much is needed.
The lack of work and misconceptions abound. I’ve seen it myself when I volunteer with other blind individuals from our local Lions Club in the community. Some understand better than others that we can serve as our sighted Lions can, but in different ways. I’ve found on such occasions, it’s up to us to educate others as to our abilities, desires, strengths and willingness to live our best life possible.
In a yearly, community-wide telethon raising money for a public broadcasting system in our area (WQLN TV), our King Lion volunteered the group to answer phones and take pledges. Our local club has three vision-impaired members—one who can see almost nothing. I hesitated to volunteer because of my hearing disability. I knew hearing was not my strength, so dreaded the idea of taking pledges over the phone where there would be reduced context. But our King Lion suggested my completely blind counterpart take the information over the phone. Since I see better, I could write the information on the pledge sheet. That’s what we did, worked to our strengths. Wonderful moments like this encourage me! I am continually educated by finding ways I can serve others and celebrate my skills at the same time.
That’s how Disability InSIGHTS came about. Seeking ideas, change and bringing people together from all walks and abilities to sift through the challenges, learn the truth about abilities, and dialogue to move ahead.
Our seminar will include speakers who discuss their journeys with vision loss, the dual-disability of deaf blindness, autism, mental illness and caregiving as well, since a great number of individuals have taken on that challenging role.
I’m so very grateful for special months, like October, and the opportunity it gives to showcase our contributions and continually create positive change within ourselves and the world at large. We need bridges that demonstrate we all hold similar hopes, goals and dreams.
Like Max once did, each one of us with a disability takes our place on the Midway, assembling stronger structures that will create better rides and carry us into the future. We all pitch in because that’s what families do to make a living – we unpack, pack up, and do our thing all over again at the next place. It’s exciting to see all the volunteers asking us what kind of materials we need to build the most stable structures to create rides as unique as each one of us is.
That’s what October means to me when I observe International Blindness Awareness Month and National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Come to our Blindness InSIGHTS seminar. Celebrate our abilities, learn fact from myth, be part of the positive change and forge ahead on a more stable structure, side by side. Be excited! Pitch in to construct a better system. We’re all in this carnival together.
More information to come. Check back on my website, www.amybovaird.com, for details to come, around the third week of August.
Have you struggled with a known or even a hidden disability? Who have you known who has? What kind of frustrations have you experienced or witnessed?
You have just read, “Disability InSIGHTS: Seminar October 18, Erie, PA” by Amy L. Bovaird. © August 6, 2019. All Rights Reserved. Please comment and share.
5 Stars “…I’m not vision impaired. I don’t read non-fiction for enjoyment. I am not what some might consider the target market for this book, but I can tell you that I would recommend it to my own teenagers, my husband, my teenage students, and anyone else I know as a book of bravery, encouragement, motivation, testimony, and just as a pleasure read. Don’t pass it by: You will be blessed.”–An Amazon Reader
5 Stars “Living in the Power instead of the fear!”
Mobility Matters elegantly shares Amy Bovaird’s emotions and experience which anyone going through vision loss can identify with. The transformation as she overcomes her fear and the enemies voices that her loss of vision will now define who she is as a person and dictate the rest of her life, will inspire hope to each reader. Amy’s journey stepping out in faith and how the Lord’s Word gave her the strength to keep going, is a must read.
This book is not only for those going through the hallway of vision loss, but for each family member or any one who loves someone losing their vision would also benefit by reading.
Mobility Matters Stepping out in Faith has left me thinking I will now call canes power sticks!!!
Michael Benson, Founder
Visual Experience Foundation
4 Stars “…As a mobility specialist myself, I found this book of great interest to me for its subject matter. I was quite amazed that Amy could get around on her own with her genetic condition, particularly at night, since individuals with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) tend to lose their night vision and are using a cane at night much sooner than Amy was using any assistive device (even a bright light). Amy maintained her positive attitude, her faith and her sense of humour. If only we all could do that in times of crisis!” –Kathryn Svendsen, Mobility Specialist, Canada
5 Stars “Couldn’t stop reading until I finished. Very inspirational. Will definitely be looking for more by this author!” –Sharon Hannah
5 stars “…This book really inspired me. Amy’s outlook on life is what I would like to model in my own. Yes, going blind SUCKS but she took it to another level. She made it into an adventure and I needed to be reminded of that again. Her positive outlook on this all has really encouraged me in my current situation now. Taking the step of faith to move on forward and embrace life for what it is. I highly recommend purchasing this book! Be inspired, take a journey behind the life of someone with Usher, smile, laugh, and enjoy! –Andi Nicole
5 Stars “As a person who lives with chronic illness, I sometimes get bogged down with books on illness that feel really heavy. This one does not. Author Amy Bovaird, who is losing her sight, writes so well about her personal experiences, I feel like I’m walking alongside her as I read. I kept coming back to the story to see what happened–was she going to let fear stop her? Would she overcome?
The lessons Amy learns through her experiences apply to any of us who fear aging, illness, new symptoms, or really anyone who needs some inspiration, and that reminder that much can be accomplished if you step out and forward–even when you cannot see beyond that first step. I definitely enjoyed this book. –Kimberly Rae, Bestselling Author of the Stolen Series
Blog post review by Gillian Davis, RP Tunnel of Sight
One of the best books I have ever read about mobility and white cane use is called Mobility Matters: Stepping out in Faith by Amy Bovard. It is funny, poignant and packs a lot of tips and useful information. You can find it by following the link below to Amy’s web page and listen to a chapter before you buy, it is wonderful.