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On Being Legally Blind

A Q & A Interview with Stephanae McCoy

Stephanae McCoy kindly granted me this interview and spoke candidly about her journey on handling and dealing with the issues and problems that arose, prior to and following the diagnosis of being ‘legally blind.’     

Stephanae also manages a website to help others with advice to not only ‘celebrate beauty, fashion and style,’ but to also empower blind or visually impaired women to lead ‘fun, fulfilling and productive lives.’  See: Bold Blind Beauty                                                                                      


1. Can we go to the beginning when you were diagnosed as being ‘legally blind?’ How long ago was that?

I received my legally blind designation in the summer of 2009. This was the appointment where I was told there was nothing more medically that could be done to restore my eyesight.

2. Can you define what it means to be ‘legally blind?’ 

Sure, the term legally blind refers to the visual measurement one needs to meet the government’s criteria to receive government benefits. It does not define the level of functional vision a person may have.

3. How did you feel? Did you accept the diagnosis with equanimity; with rage; with resignation; with fear; or with acceptance?  

This isn’t an easy question to answer because, when you know there is a possibility things might take a negative turn, it’s different when faced with the actual facts. I didn’t feel anything for several days because I needed time to absorb what was said to me. After a period of time, I went through the stages of grief, sadness, anger, bargaining, etc. until I finally reached acceptance. It wasn’t a onetime type thing because my feelings evolved as I came to terms with my situation.

4. What symptoms did you have prior to diagnosis?

Unless there is an accident that causes immediate blindness, for most people being deemed legally blind isn’t typically a onetime appointment. There’s usually a process.

I began losing my sight four years prior to being told I was legally blind. The symptom began in my left eye and was only noticeable when my right eye was closed. It was a macular hole which meant I no longer had central vision in that eye until a surgical procedure later fixed the vision.

5. Have the symptoms worsened or been pretty steady in the years after?  

Cleveland Clinic, the folks I went to for second and third opinions, told me that because of my high myopia (severe near-sightedness), this was more than likely the reason why I developed macular holes. The nearsighted eye is long, thus the retina at the back of the eye becomes stretched, which can cause issues.

6. What steps or preparations did you take immediately after?

When the first macular hole appeared I didn’t think there was anything wrong with my eyesight, rather, I thought it was a side-effect of my new blood pressure medicine.

When I called my doctors the next morning, they advised me to contact an ophthalmologist immediately. I was given an emergency appointment. I felt a little bad for the eye doctor because he was so concerned about not being able to repair my eye. He told me there wasn’t anything that could be done to fix it. Apparently I still hadn’t understood the gravity of the situation but he referred me to a retina specialist (Specialist in Ophthalmology and one who also sub-specializes in surgery and diseases of the eye and retina).

As far as steps or preparations go, I only took things one step at a time. So when I went to the retina specialist and he explained he would do a vitrectomy (a surgical procedure where a gas bubble is injected into the eye, and then, the head has to be kept in a downward position for several days to weeks depending on the situation). Getting through each phase as it took place, was all I was concerned about. Getting ahead of myself by thinking I’d lose my sight wasn’t my focus, just being present while I had to go through each phase.

7. Please share the adjustments you had to make and feel free to recount as little or as much as you wish to share.

My main concern at the time of course, was my job and if I’d still be able to function at the high level I was accustomed to. Having to use a large monitor took some getting used to as was the ZoomText magnification software I used to enable me to continue using the computer. When you continue to increase the magnification the less desktop real estate you have to work with. It was frustrating not being able to see the entire picture and because I needed so much magnification, whenever I moved my mouse, the entire screen would move. Some of my co-workers were amazed I could use the computer without getting dizzy from all the movement.

Reading hard copy was another tough one, because, while the gas bubble was in my left eye and I was still able to use a contact in my right, it was real hard to focus on just about anything because I had this huge black blob moving around in my eye. When I began having issues with the other eye, I threw away all my books because I was so angry that I couldn’t read the text.

‘Makeup’ was challenging because I just couldn’t get close enough to the mirror to use some of the products I used for most of my life. Liquid eyeliner was quickly discarded as was some of my foundations because I couldn’t tell if I was blending appropriately.

Reading the label on new over-the-counter medications was a challenge, because now I had to rely on magnifiers but because some of the text is so small and the magnifiers I had at the time either weren’t strong enough or they made the text blurry.

Even things as simple as taking a shower suddenly became a challenge because I had to be careful watching my step.

Giving up driving was one of the most difficult things I had to do during this entire process. I was so used to calling my own shots, going where I wanted, when I wanted and most of all not depending on anyone. I still don’t like asking for help but it’s a learning process.

8. The learning curve must have been quite steep. Can you describe the hardest problem you have had to face?  

Except for work, the learning curve wasn’t too bad because my sight loss was a gradual process. Technology has always appealed to me so it was just a matter of transferring what I already knew into using different methods to complete tasks. I was more frustrated with not being able to see the faces of my co-workers, family, and even myself, it was scary just being unsure of my surroundings and learning to trust only what was immediately in front of me.

The hardest thing for me was admitting I needed to use the white cane. Not being able to see well was hard enough, but then to have to become so conspicuous was painful.

9. No doubt, you had to practice patience with yourself and with others. Do you have any sage advice in this regard?

I wish I did, but unfortunately patience is not my strong suit and that hasn’t changed. I get irritated but I keep on pushing until I get it so I guess that’s my advice, ‘to not give up.’

10. How did your children and other members of your family feel?

I felt bad for them because I think at first, we all thought this thing would just go away and I would be fully restored, but of course that didn’t happen. It sort of reminded me of the first ophthalmologist because it was out of their hands. There wasn’t anything anyone could do for me. But today they, as well as close friends of mine forget I can’t see well, mainly because I’m the same person. It does aggravate my sons when I get nervous as a passenger in the car, because my depth perception is non-existent but I can see brake lights when they come on and will be jumpy because to me it looks like we’re about to crash.

11. Have they been a help or a hindrance to you?

They forget I can’t see, so it can be a hindrance, especially, since I don’t like to ask for help. So when I do ask, it’s because it’s a last resort and sometimes, patience is stretched on both sides.

12. Can you share your difficulties in regard to your kitchen, food, layout and preparation? Are you able to cook?    

I don’t really have any difficulties in this area because I’m not a fan and never have been of the kitchen. I much prefer being on my computer, but I do use these fluorescent bump-dots on my stove and Keurig (coffee) machine. These are tactile adhesive bumps that I can put on dials and the off positions to ensure I don’t burn down the house.

Most of my difficulties happen when other people are at my place and they move things or use clear glass which I’ve since gotten rid of. For example if someone were to put a glass in the sink, I could break it not knowing it’s there because there isn’t contrast. Which brings me to the point that today, there are so many devices to assist blind people or visually-impaired people who love to cook. Like, I have a cutting board that is solid white on one side and black on the other, so it provides contrast to lessen the chance of me cutting myself. There are also cutting guides to protect fingers, oven rack guards to prevent burns to the arms when reaching in to remove hot dishes. Then there are brightly colored, large print/braille measuring cups, spoons and talking cooking-thermometers, timers, etc.

There are residential, personal-adjustment to blindness programs that take people through all aspects of daily living, from self-care, house cleaning, laundry, cooking, etc.

13. If so, do you cook ‘tried and true’ meals or are you adventurous in trying out new recipes? 

I’m definitely not adventurous and if I could afford it, would probably order in every day. Cooking has never been my thing, it was one of the things I told my ex-husband that I wouldn’t do and that was before I lost my vision. It worked out well though because he liked to cook.

14. How do you handle house-cleaning?

I suspect I’m not as OCD over housecleaning like I used to be, because I’ve decided to let some stuff go. Pre sight-loss, I was a germophobe and extremely fanatical about keeping my place spotless. While it might not be as spotless as I would prefer, I don’t worry about it, because my focus is on my advocacy and I realize at long last that I cannot be an expert at everything and I no longer want to be.

15. You take pride in maintaining your sense of clothing style. Has it been difficult for you? 

Because I’ve always taken pride in my appearance, this hasn’t changed. The only difficulty I have is in determining shades of color, but thankfully the color-identifiers are getting better and better every day. I don’t rely on them now because I try to keep my color palette rather neutral.

16. You have been so successful that you are generously helping others with advice on mixing and matching items in their wardrobe (@ Bold Blind Beauty ). Can you expand on that? 

After I lost my sight, then later had to rely on the white cane to get around, one of the things I noticed immediately is how people treated me differently when they saw the white cane. Many couldn’t understand why a person who appears to see would use a white cane. All they saw was an attractive, well dressed woman and the white cane just didn’t make sense. This is a problem! I realized I had a hidden disability that people couldn’t comprehend because to them I looked “normal.” My passion then set me on a path to change this thinking. We cannot simply look at a person and think we know their story. We are complex creatures and there is so much more to us than mere appearance. I’m saying all this to say, that helping others by sharing what I know from personal experience, in respect to style, is driven by the desire to change perceptions.

17. You are sharing your wisdom via the ‘world wide web,’ and are utilising electronic tools that many have not heard of. Can you provide some details such as: description of tools and their purpose; how much they cost approximately; where they can be purchased and your opinion on the tools?

If ever there were a time to be blind or sight impaired, today is it! With technology ever-evolving, there are so many tools at our disposal that we can do most anything that people with sight can do. I cannot get into all the specifics here, because that would be an entire post in itself. The tools I use don’t cost me anything outside of the original hardware purchase.

I use Windows built-in accessibility which consist of a narration and magnification software. My Galaxy Note 4, I’ve set up to use the largest font and it does have speech software built-in but I’ve not quite got the hang of it yet. With so many apps to choose from today I no longer needed my video magnifier because my smartphone can do everything a handheld magnifier can do. ZoomText by AiSquared is the magnification/narration program I used previously and it ranges from $400-$1,200 depending on the version.

CCTVs are monitors with cameras that magnify hard copy text.

Video magnifiers are handheld magnifiers that offer several levels of magnification, contrast and can even take photos for closer examination. The model I had was kind of clunky but the newer models are more-streamlined.

Scanners and text-to-speech, reader software such as Kurzweil allow the user to scan hard copy to the computer, to be read. This comes in handy for reading mail, articles, etc.

18. No doubt you need help to get to appointments, social functions and gatherings, shopping et al. Do you have designated drivers? How do you feel in losing your independence and having to depend on others?   

It was difficult giving up driving, but it was something I decided to do when I felt unsafe behind the wheel. Also, I wanted the decision to be mine and not a doctor’s, so I have no regrets in giving it up when I did. Sometimes, I still miss driving from time to time but it’s more of a fleeting thought, and I move on.

I do the vast majority of my shopping online because it’s so much easier and convenient. When I go grocery shopping, typically, one of my sons takes me and as long as I know the layout of the store, I’m usually fine on my own. There’s always those instances where I need something and I’m not sure where it is, but when I was fully sighted, I experienced this as well.

When I have to go to meetings or appointments, I typically use paratransit (special transportation service that can be used by people with disabilities) as I do not have a designated driver, although I’ve thought of going this route only because it would provide greater flexibility but on the other hand would be more costly. As far as losing my independence, I had to refocus my thinking to what I am able to do vs. what I could do prior to my sight loss. For me this boils down to choice and I choose not to view myself as dependent. Everyone is skilled or deficient in some manner and I choose to promote my strengths.

19. How do you shop for outfits?  

I never liked shopping at the mall or trying on clothes, so buying clothing online has been a godsend to me. For some items, I’ll buy the same thing in two different sizes, knowing that I’ll return one and keep the other. My only regret is that this option wasn’t available years ago. Shopping from the comfort of my home is the BEST!

20. What do you miss most in ‘not seeing fully?’ 

Initially it was frustrating because I missed seeing everything. But as time went on and I was able to adapt, I really don’t think about what I miss because I’m so grateful for what I have.

21. Akin to the adage of ‘it’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all’; do you feel it is better that you’ve seen the beauty of scenes and life prior to losing part of your sight?  

I was always grateful for the eyesight I had prior to losing it, and when I put everything in perspective, my sight was always very poor. I was just fortunate enough that it was able to be corrected for many years. Each year that I received a new prescription, I would take a moment to soak up everything my eyes could clearly see and just marvel at the beauty all around me. I don’t know that I would say I feel better for having seen prior to sight loss, but I am grateful.

22. Are you still able to watch and follow a story on television or at the cinemas?

I can watch my TV if I pull a chair up next to it but even then I have difficulty so I prefer to watch TV programs or Netflix via my tablet, because I can view it closer than the television. It’s very seldom that I go to the theater but when I do, most of the time, I use the *Audio Description headsets which describes the action during the film. This device is not widely known and people may have to ask for them when they go to the theatre.

*For Australian patrons: Fortunately these devices are complimentary and also available in most Australian cinemas.

23. Are those who are ‘legally blind’ able to hold a job, and if so, what fields would you advise them to enter?  

This is a question I’m deeply passionate about, because not only can people who are identified as legally blind or partially-sighted hold a job, this includes people who are totally blind. The myth that people who are partially sighted or totally blind cannot hold a job is a total untruth. In answer to what fields, I don’t feel qualified to give advice in this area except to say, ‘find your passion and pursue it’. No one is an expert at everything! With the exception of being a driver or pilot, sight or lack of sight has nothing to do with being able to hold a job.

24. Are you fearful of the future or feel prepared to face it?  

No more than I was prior to my sight loss. I didn’t know what the future held then and thankfully I don’t know what’s in store, but I’m eager to continue living and doing what makes my soul shine.

25. Do you have any advice for anyone facing a ‘legally blind’ future?

Focus on the here and now! No one knows what the future brings. There is a time to mourn loss but there’s also a time to live and that time is now.

© Wendy Robinson  All Rights Reserved
February 26, 2018

My sincere thanks go to Stephanae McCoy of Bold Blind Beauty for accepting my request to interview her and for giving this insight (excuse the pun) into the challenges of dealing with the onset and aftermath of being legally blind.

We are all faced with challenges at some point in our life. Challenges that happened beyond our control. The difference is how we respond to these challenges. You can adopt the attitude there is nothing you can do, or you can see the challenge as your call to action. ~ Catherine Pulsifer



The Drover And His Dog

This is a poem I had written sometime back and it is about the daily, working, life of a drover/shepherd and his dog. I am sure there are times when the simple routine would be more appealing than the frenetic life many of us lead.

Noun – A drover is someone whose job or occupation is to make sheep or cattle move from one place to another in groups.


He sits before the flickering fire

The drover with his trusty dog

Under the endless, starlit night

Stealing warmth from blackened logs


His work-worn hardened hands

Labour tirelessly from dawn to dusk

Herding his flock over rocks and land

To earn his meagre, daily crust


The sheep, they know his unspoken commands

And his faithful companion’s bark

Their aimless, bodies huddle or move

And graze from morn till dark


Day is done when he settles down

Neath the stars and the hound who parks

His weary body upon the ground

And beside the wind swept sparks


Gazing up at the velvet expanse

This man of simple needs

Savours silence over the darkened land

With blessed contentment indeed


(C) Wendy Robinson September 2015 All Rights Reserved

Disclaimer: My thanks go to the various photographers for these shots of the drover and the working dogs.

If you have any comment, I would love to hear it.

Day 13 & 14: The Vet/The Rainbow

Monday 3rd April: We almost lost our family pet around six months ago. Our Staffy dreads going to the Vet as I’m sure it conjures up nightmarish recall of the needles she has to endure and that day was no exception.

I knew how grave her condition was when I had to carry her up the steps into the waiting room and she was too weak to protest. The readings for her liver were off the scale and she was jaundiced.

Fortunately, an initial needle of antibiotic followed by antibiotic tablets and a-wait-and-see worrisome period of ten days, did the trick and she recovered.

Two weeks ago, she became quite ill again. She managed to crawl up the stairs and only gave a token resistance into entering the ‘house of horrors.’ Fortunately, our vet is gentle and caring and our pet is in his good hands. The vet was concerned that her liver was compromised again and gave her another antibiotic needle and another round of tablets. This time however, she perked up after only a day.

Her annual check-up and heart-worm injection had been postponed to Monday, two weeks after the second treatment. The vet checked her out thoroughly and gave her the tick for strong teeth, clear eyes and ears, solid heartbeat and overall health. I stood before him and a wave of gratitude and relief washed over me.

It was only after that ordeal that I thought about my ‘gratitude’ post and gave myself a virtual ‘high-five,’ as it clearly became my big ‘thank you’ point for Monday.

Challenges are what makes life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful. ~Joshua E. Marine


Tuesday 4th April: Soccer training was on, despite a brief shower and the overcast condition. A soggy, squelchy walk onto the field did not help matters but the little ‘wanna-be soccer star’ joined in the training session with enthusiasm.

The dark clouds gathered ominously overhead and the air grew even chillier. I raced to my car and grabbed the large umbrella and walked back across the field. Quite a few of the adults did not bother getting their umbrellas.

I looked up and spotted the beginnings of a rainbow and couldn’t help feeling cheered by it. I just managed to get a quick shot of it when I remembered I had to return a relative’s phone call.

I was on the phone when the rest of the rainbow streaked across the sky. I couldn’t get a photo of it while on the phone and hoped it would remain until the conversation was over. The colour spectrum was quite vivid against the dark clouds and I watched it in a mesmerised state.

The rainbow disappeared however, when more dark clouds rolled in and I quickly ended my phone call. Almost on cue, the rain pelted down and I hastily put my umbrella up.

The coaches continued the training session and the little players bravely played in the drenching rain. I couldn’t help marvelling at the scene and likewise, ignored my soaked leather boots and thoroughly wet jeans.

After ten more minutes of further play, the coaches cancelled the training. The hour was almost up anyway. My little charge and I walked across the field, huddled while laughing under the umbrella, as we squelched through it.

When I checked my phone that night, I saw my shot of the little crest of rainbow and couldn’t help smiling at the beauty of it. Needless to say, that rainbow has my gratitude for appearing in an almost cheerful manner in a darkly laden sky.

(C) Wendy Robinson All rights reserved

Enjoy the little things in life, because one day you will look back and realise they were the big things. ~Kurt Vonnegut

Oh la la: All the above photos are my own so I don’t need to use the ‘disclaimer’ in this post.

Day’s 11 & 12 – Kindness & Sunshine

One of my mottoes is to always remember the kindness of others and I have often spoken about it to my family.

Saturday: I had to post a large envelope with a statutory declaration in it, and decided to drop into our local post office. The postmistress often has a quick chat and is a lovely lady. Saturday morning was no exception!

She mentioned seeing me dropping off a young relative to school in the mornings and said that her son had been his buddy and mentor when he first started kindergarten. It was wonderful learning that we had this connection.

She asked me if I dropped him every day. I then told her that I did as his mother was quite ill and couldn’t do it and had not been able to do it for over a year. On learning about the illness, she offered to make a meal or two for their family. I was so touched and grateful at this unexpected offer.

Imagine this folks, I only know this lady when I visit the post office and here she was, offering to make a meal for my relatives. This generous gesture just made my day and moved me so much. I will always remember her kindness.


Sunday: It was a busy day but just on midday, I received an unexpected phone call from a family member who lived an hour and a half away from us. She is an absolute delight and rang to say she wanted to drop in with her baby son and toddler. It can usually be months before we see each other so this was a wonderful surprise.

This family member is a ray of sunshine, is bubbly and has an infectious laugh. Needless to say, the two hour visit went much too quickly.

We have to give thanks for the people who bring much joy into our lives.

© Wendy Robinson All rights reserved

How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it. ~ George Elliston

Disclaimer: My thanks go to the various photographers for the above image and photos.

Have you received or done a kindness recently? Please share your experience in the comments.

Diabetes & Blindness: Nicole’s Story

This is my first time at re-blogging and I am doing so as I feel Nicole’s story is worthy of re-posting. Nicole’s story is a must-read for those with a family history of diabetes or for anyone associated with the disease. Nicole is candid about her experience and has bravely shared it on this post. Please leave your comments for her.

Bold Blind Beauty

What It Means To Be Insulin Dependent

Each year the fourth Tuesday in March is the National American Diabetes Association Alert Day (follow the link to take the risk test) to bring awareness to the issue of Type 2 Diabetes. The story you are about to read is one young woman’s Type 1 Diabetes and subsequent sight loss journey as a result of the disease. I’ve been following Nicole on Instagram for a few months and was so touched by her openness to share aspects of the disease we seldom talk about. Without further ado, I present to you, Nicole:

Close up selfie of Nicole and her mom Nicole and her mom

It’s hard for me to describe all the feelings I had when Stephanae asked me if I would write my story to be featured in the month of March on prevention, diabetes, and vision loss on her blog. At first, I felt so honored and so excited!


View original post 4,412 more words

Phoenix Arise

This is dedicated to two of my friends who are going through tough times and also for all those who need encouragement. For JC and JF: Please remember: Your heart is big and your spirit is even bigger.

When the chips are down and you’re feeling low

When the tide turns and you’re being towed

When the world is against you and your spirit burns

When you hit rock bottom and there’s nowhere to turn

Look deep within you to draw from your soul

Seek strength and solace and make it your goal

To rise above the hurt, pain and tears

And face the world despite your fears

This is the step and the leap you will take

To heal your broken spirit and the heart break

Remember, the rainbow in its glorious hues

Only after rain and storm, appears on cue

To renew your spirit and grace the skies

While you, like the mythical Phoenix, will rise


© Wendy Robinson All rights reserved

Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think. ~Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh (by A.A. Milne)

Disclaimer: My thanks go to the artist of the above image.

I would love to hear your comment. Please feel free to do so.


Review of the last 10 gratitude posts

I had no idea what I had started when I airily made a promise to do 100 ‘gratitude’ posts. I hasten to say that I fully intend to keep my promise but I will stretch them out and do ten at a time, with a break of a week in-between. I’m still sticking to my undertaking and I will complete 100 gratitude posts and that ‘your honour’ will hopefully be accepted in any court of law.

On reflection, I have thoroughly enjoyed recording the day’s gratitude and each day held a totally unexpected surprise to be thankful for. The beauty of the daily ‘gratitude post’ is that you never know what the day will hold until it is over and you review the day to pinpoint the part that you give thanks for.

Doing an exercise such as this, has put me in the mindset of keeping my finger on the pulse of looking for and being aware of the blessings that most of us take for granted.

I can therefore say, I will no doubt continue to look for the proverbial ‘silver lining in the cloud’ or the rainbow after the rain,’ thereby, continuing to be grateful on my week’s break.

I have several projects in mind and will work on those projects on my break and will hopefully have other subjects other than the gratitude reports to post.

Thank you to all those who have been reading my daily posts and I hope you will drop by and read some of my other writings in the weeks in between the ‘gratitude posts.’

© Wendy Robinson All rights reserved

Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader – not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon. ~ E. L. Doctorow

Disclaimer: Both quote images have been gleaned from the internet and my thanks go to the respective authors/creators.

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