Post Title: Inspiration for and Goals of Disability InSIGHTS.
In August 2017, I traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah and attended a retreat for women coping with various stages of sight loss. The size of the group was limited to 10 or 12, so that each woman would feel comfortable in sharing her experiences within the confines of a trusted circle of friends. The retreat was called “Dare to Tell Your Story.” Each day focused on enriching the mind, body and soul. We used content from the curriculum of Brené Brown, a researcher / storyteller in social work. She focuses on the power of vulnerability and authenticity.
We learned the following truth as presented by Ms. Brown.
“Those who embrace vulnerability feel the most worthy of love and belonging. Women who see vulnerability as a beautiful and necessary part of life do feel a deeper sense of belonging and connection.”
The Focus & Beginning to Grow.
One of the most universal feelings for those with sight loss to overcome is shame, fear that we are “not enough.” I find this to be especially true of those who must use a white cane because it is a very public admission of sight loss.
We watched short videos from Brené Brown, and then answered questions posed by the retreat team leaders asking us to share incidents of shame and courage. It was amazing how empowering it was to share our experiences!
Talks turned from our fears to “our brave” and our stories not only encouraged each of us but as a group, we supported each other. The women in my group did dig deeply into their feelings.
A lot of my fears had to do with facing my vision loss without my mother, who had passed away a few months earlier. I felt lost without her. She always seemed to know the right words to say when I struggled physically or emotionally.
Climbing to Ensign Peak, Utah.
Toward the end of the four-day retreat, we climbed a mountain. Every single one of us did, even those with little to no sight. The pace varied greatly—as each dealt with the challenge. One woman broke down and cried. The frustration was intense. Her fear of falling terrified her as she struggled on her own with her guide dog. When she did trip, a sighted guide arrived at her side and took her arm, giving her the support she needed to build her confidence. We had three sighted guides who assisted, and who went from one person to the next, lending an arm when needed, and letting go when not needed.
We all looked out for each other and each one of us reached the summit. It was a much-photographed moment. Accomplishing this feat transformed us individually and as a group.
I had enough sight to observe the give and take of the support chain. It taught me another life lesson, about the relationship between my mother and me. She often gave me strength, but at times she let me struggle to move on my own and she knew when to do each.
The day I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa and I finally told her in the car, she held the steering wheel with one hand, and my hand with her other. She said, “If I could give you my eyesight, I would.” She gave me her spiritual sight for so many years. I also stepped in and became her strength after the passing of my father. It was a good feeling to give back. Curious how I could suddenly see the tough terrain ahead and guided her when the steep terrain made it necessary to hold tight.
After we climbed Utah’s Ensign Peak, we chose a heart-shaped quartz gemstone from the leaders of the retreat to remember our accomplishment. I kept mine in a pouch. My “brave” was sharing my life lesson and dedicating the stone to my mother.
I left that retreat filled with awe of the strides we had made, the vulnerabilities we had shared that made us more beautiful to each other and the courage we had put on.
I took another step forward (or higher) in owning my blindness and accepting myself for who I was, becoming more aware of my talents and focusing on them instead of the shame that I was so imperfect due to my sight loss.
Paying It Forward.
This year I wanted to pay it forward. I reached out to some friends to create a series of talks for International Blindness Awareness Month. One of the women I reached out to had just returned from the very same retreat! I asked her to join a planning meeting.
What resulted that day was the beginning of a change of focus – a widening of scope to include others with disabilities.
That’s how Disability InSIGHTS came to be. We wanted to showcase the accomplishments of others with disabilities. Yes, the obstacles are there but so is the determination to overcome. Our speakers are familiar with the mountain, and can lend a hand to help others reach their personal mountain peak. This is an opportunity to experience new and different perspectives as we climb the mountain, giving support and listening to each other.
I can’t wait for Disability InSIGHTS! It’s been a learning process to prepare for it. For me, it’s a mountain peak—and I trust it will be that for our attendees as we dare to share our stories, and make a difference in each other’s lives.
There is still time to register for Disability InSIGHTS. Invest yourself, take an arm and start climbing with us. See you there!
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
–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.