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Living independently as a blind person can be a challenging but fulfilling journey. It requires determination, courage, and a willingness to adapt to new ways of doing things. However, with the right tools, resources, and support, blind individuals can overcome obstacles and achieve a high level of independence.
In this presentation, we will explore the various aspects of living independently as a blind person, including mobility, communication, household tasks, employment, and social engagement. We will also discuss the resources and technologies that can assist blind individuals in their daily lives, and share inspiring stories of blind individuals who have achieved success and independence. Whether you are blind yourself, or interested in learning more about the blind community, this presentation will provide valuable insights and information.
what does it really mean to live independently as a blind person
Living independently as a blind person means being able to carry out day-to-day activities and pursue personal goals without relying on sighted assistance. This includes tasks such as cooking, cleaning, banking, shopping, and traveling, as well as engaging in social and recreational activities. It means having the skills and resources necessary to navigate the physical environment, communicate effectively, and access information in alternative formats such as braille or audio. It also means being able to advocate for oneself and make informed decisions about one’s own life. However, living independently as a blind person does not mean necessarily doing everything alone. It often involves building a strong support network and utilizing available resources to achieve one’s goals.
How do I attain independence as a blind person?
If you want to attain independence as a blind person, there are several steps that you can consider:
- Develop independent living skills: Independent living skills include skills such as mobility, organization, and self-care. You can work with an orientation and mobility specialist, rehabilitation counsellor, or other professionals to develop these skills.
- Learn to use assistive technologies: Assistive technologies such as screen readers, braille displays, and navigation apps can help you access information and navigate your environment. You can work with a technology trainer or disability organization to learn how to use these tools.
- Seek out education and training opportunities: Education and training can help you acquire new skills, gain certification or credentials, and improve your employability. You can consider enrolling in vocational training, college courses, or online learning programs.
- Build a support network: Building a support network of friends, family, and disability organizations can provide emotional support, practical advice, and opportunities for social engagement. You can connect with others who share similar experiences and challenges, and seek out mentors and advocates who can help you navigate the disability landscape.
- Advocate for accessibility and inclusion: Advocacy involves promoting accessibility and inclusion in all areas of life, including education, employment, and social engagement. You can educate others about your needs and preferences, advocate for accommodations and accessibility, and work to change societal attitudes and practices surrounding disability.
how do I prepare myself emotionally to become more independent as a blind person
Preparing yourself emotionally to become more independent as a blind person can be challenging, particularly if you have been used to being babied by your family. Here are some steps you can take to prepare yourself emotionally:
- Acknowledge your feelings: It is normal to feel anxious, scared, or overwhelmed when facing new challenges. Acknowledge your feelings and allow yourself time to process them.
- Set realistic goals: Setting realistic goals can help you build confidence and achieve success. Start with small goals and gradually work towards larger ones.
- Seek support: Seeking support from friends, family, or disability organizations can provide emotional support, practical advice, and opportunities for social engagement. Connect with others who share similar experiences and challenges, and seek out mentors and advocates who can help you navigate the disability landscape.
- Develop a positive mindset: Developing a positive mindset can help you overcome obstacles and setbacks. Focus on your strengths and abilities, and celebrate your successes along the way.
- Educate yourself: Educating yourself about blindness, disability rights, and accessible technologies can help you become more self-sufficient and knowledgeable. Attend workshops, read books, and connect with disability organizations to stay informed.
- Practice self-care: Taking care of your physical and emotional health can help you manage stress and build resilience. Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation or deep breathing, engage in physical exercise, and make time for hobbies and activities you enjoy.
Aspects of living independently as a blind person
Mobility is one of the key aspects of living independently as a blind person. Without sight, blind individuals rely on other senses such as hearing, touch, and smell to navigate the environment around them. Mobility skills, therefore, are critical for blind individuals to be able to move around safely and confidently.
There are various mobility skills that blind individuals can learn and develop to enhance their independence. One of the most fundamental skills is orientation and mobility (O&M) training. O&M training involves learning how to use a white cane or a guide dog to navigate the environment safely. O&M training can also include learning how to use public transportation, such as buses and trains, to travel independently.
In addition to O&M training, there are also assistive technologies that can aid blind individuals in mobility. One such technology is the GPS-based navigation system, which can provide turn-by-turn directions and real-time location updates to help blind individuals navigate unfamiliar environments. There are also apps and devices that can detect obstacles and hazards, such as curbs or overhead obstacles, and alert the user to their presence.
It should be kept in mind that mobility skills and assistive technologies are not enough on their own. Blind individuals also need a supportive environment that accommodates their needs and preferences. This includes physical accommodations such as braille signage, tactile markings, and accessible pathways, as well as social accommodations such as understanding and acceptance from the wider community.
Communication is a vital aspect of living independently as a blind person. Blind individuals need to be able to communicate effectively with others, both to meet their practical needs and to participate fully in social and professional activities.
There are various tools and techniques that blind individuals can use to communicate effectively. One of the most important is braille, a tactile writing system that allows blind individuals to read and write using their sense of touch. Braille is used extensively in education, employment, and daily life, and is considered an essential skill for blind individuals.
In addition to braille, there are also various technologies that can aid blind individuals in communication. One such technology is the screen reader, which reads aloud the text on a computer screen and allows blind individuals to use computers and access digital information. There are also speech-to-text and text-to-speech tools that can help blind individuals communicate with sighted individuals who do not know braille.
However, effective communication is not just about tools and technologies. Blind individuals also need to be able to communicate effectively in social and professional situations, and this requires skills such as active listening, assertiveness, and nonverbal communication. Blind individuals may also need to educate others about their needs and preferences, and advocate for accommodations and accessibility.
It is vital to remember that communication is a two-way process, and both sighted and blind individuals have a role to play in effective communication. Sighted individuals can learn to communicate effectively with blind individuals by using clear and descriptive language, giving verbal cues and descriptions, and being patient and respectful.
Household tasks are an essential part of daily life, and blind individuals need to be able to perform these tasks autonomously in order to live independently. However, without sight, blind individuals may face additional challenges in performing household tasks.
One of the most important skills for blind individuals in performing household tasks is organization. Blind individuals need to be able to organize their living spaces and keep track of where things are in order to find and use them independently. This may involve labelling items with braille or tactile markers, or using a system of verbal cues or memory aids.
Another key skill for blind individuals in performing household tasks is adaptation. Blind individuals may need to adapt common household appliances and tools, such as ovens, washing machines, and vacuum cleaners, to make them more accessible and easier to use. This may involve adding tactile markings, using voice-activated controls, or relying on other senses such as touch or smell to monitor progress.
In addition to organization and adaptation, blind individuals also need to develop specific skills for performing common household tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry. This may involve learning techniques such as knife skills, measuring ingredients by touch or using accessible measuring tools, using a talking kitchen scale, or making sure that you are familiar with your immediate environment to navigate around the kitchen confidently.
It is important to note that blind individuals may need additional support and assistance in performing household tasks, particularly if they have additional disabilities or health conditions. This may involve hiring a personal assistant, accessing home care services, or relying on family or friends for support.
Employment is a critical aspect of living independently as a blind person. Blind individuals have the right to work and contribute to society, just like sighted individuals, and employment can provide financial stability, social connections, and a sense of purpose and fulfilment.
However, blind individuals may face additional barriers and challenges in finding and maintaining employment. These may include discriminatory attitudes and practices, lack of accessible technologies and accommodations, an unwillingness to make reasonable accommodations, and limited access to education and training opportunities.
One of the key strategies for blind individuals in finding and maintaining employment is self-advocacy. Blind individuals need to be able to articulate their needs and preferences, educate employers about their abilities and potential, and advocate for accommodations and accessibility. This may involve working with disability organizations, seeking legal assistance, or connecting with other blind individuals who have successfully navigated the employment landscape.
Another key strategy for blind individuals in finding and maintaining employment is acquiring relevant skills and training. Blind individuals may need to acquire specialized skills and certifications, such as braille literacy, computer programming, or orientation and mobility training, in order to compete in the job market. Blind individuals may also need to seek out mentorship and coaching from other blind professionals in their field.
It is really important to remember that employment is not just about finding a job, but also about career development and advancement. Blind individuals need to be able to access training and promotion opportunities, and be evaluated on their skills and performance rather than on their disability.
what, exactly, is social engagement?
Social engagement refers to an individual’s participation in social and community activities, and their ability to build and maintain relationships with others.
It is clear from the above description that social engagement is a critical aspect of living independently as a blind person. Blind individuals need to be able to connect with others, build relationships, and participate in social and community activities in order to live a full and satisfying life.
However, blind individuals may face additional barriers and challenges in social engagement. These may include isolation, discrimination, and lack of accessibility in social and community settings.
One of the key strategies for blind individuals in social engagement is networking and building connections with other blind individuals and disability organizations. Blind individuals can connect with others who share similar experiences and challenges, and build supportive networks that can provide advice, encouragement, and friendship. Blind individuals can also connect with disability organizations and advocacy groups that work to promote accessibility and inclusion in social and community settings.
Another key strategy for blind individuals in social engagement is participation in accessible social and community activities. Blind individuals need to be able to access information about social and community events, navigate the physical environment safely, and participate fully in activities. This may involve seeking out accessible cultural events, sports and recreation programs, or volunteer opportunities.
Social engagement is not just about participating in social activities though, but also about building relationships and connections with others. Blind individuals need to be able to communicate effectively, make new friends, and maintain relationships over time. This may involve developing social skills such as active listening, empathy, and assertiveness.
Resources and technologies that can assist a blind person in attaining more independence
- Screen readers: These are software programs that read aloud the text on a computer screen, allowing blind individuals to use computers and access digital information. Examples of screen readers include JAWS, NVDA, and VoiceOver.
- Braille displays: These are devices that translate digital text into braille, allowing blind individuals to read and write using braille. Braille displays can be connected to computers or mobile devices, and can be used for reading emails, books, and other digital content.
- GPS-based navigation systems: These are apps and devices that use GPS technology to provide turn-by-turn directions and real-time location updates, helping blind individuals navigate unfamiliar environments safely and confidently. Examples of GPS-based navigation systems include BlindSquare and Nearby Explorer.
- Tactile markers and labels: These are physical markings that can be added to items such as clothing, appliances, and household objects, to help blind individuals identify and use them independently. Tactile markers and labels can be made of materials such as braille, raised dots, or textures.
- Talking devices: These are devices that use speech output to provide information and feedback, allowing blind individuals to use them independently. Examples of talking devices include talking scales, talking thermometers, and talking watches.
- Guide dogs: These are highly trained dogs that assist blind individuals in navigating the environment safely and independently. Guide dogs are trained to obey commands, navigate obstacles, and provide emotional support to their owners.
- Audio books and podcasts: These are digital formats of books and other content that are read aloud, allowing blind individuals to access a wide range of literature and other materials.
Famous blind individuals who made a success of their lives
Here is a list of some blind individuals who have achieved success and independence:
- Stevie Wonder – an American musician, singer, and songwriter who has won 25 Grammy Awards and sold over 100 million records worldwide.
- Steve Kekana – South African singer, songwriter, Advocate and a lecturer in Labour Law at the University of South Africa. He also Received more than 70 Golden Disc Awards.
- Wanga Best Pro Mukwevho – singer and well-known music producer from Makonde village
- Sandile Mabaso – Blind South African musician, songwriter, and producer who has released several successful albums and won multiple awards.
- Marla Runyan – an American runner who competed in the Paralympic Games and the Olympic Games, and holds multiple American records in distance running.
- Haben Girma – an American disability rights advocate and the first deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School, who advocates for accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities.
- Erik Weihenmayer – an American adventurer who became the first blind person to climb Mount Everest and complete the Seven Summits (the highest peak on each of the seven continents).
- Penny Melville-Brown – a British chef, author, and disability rights advocate, who founded the charity Baking Blind to promote accessible cooking for blind individuals.
- Joy Ross – an American blind golfer who has won multiple national championships and has been inducted into the Blind Golfers Association Hall of Fame.
- Georgina Kleege – Writer, disability studies professor, and advocate for accessible arts and culture
- Chris Downey – Architect, consultant, and advocate for accessible design
- Isaac Lidsky – Entrepreneur, author, and advocate for disability rights and inclusion
- Sabriye Tenberken – Founder of Braille Without Borders, an organization that provides education and training to blind individuals in developing countries.
These people are just a few examples of the many blind individuals who have achieved success and independence in their chosen fields, and who inspire others to overcome obstacles and pursue their dreams.
In conclusion, living independently as a blind person is not only possible but can be a fulfilling and empowering experience. While there are certainly challenges that come with blindness, there are also numerous resources and technologies available to help blind individuals navigate the world around them. By developing a strong support system, utilizing assistive technologies, and mastering essential skills such as orientation and mobility, individuals who are blind can enjoy full and satisfying lives. It is important to remember that blindness does not define a person, and with the right mindset and tools, anyone can achieve their goals and live independently with confidence.
I want to leave you with this quote from Gbenga Adebambo, some of you may have seen it on my e-mail signature: It says: “In life, being unconscious of your ability is the ultimate disability.”