Language is powerful and the words we use make a difference. That’s why we need to be careful to examine the words we use when we talk about disability and people with disabilities:

I could write full posts on each of these points, and perhaps I will in the future. But for now, here are six terms that we need to delete from our vocabulary around disability and disabled people.

I. Inspirational

There is a reason that inspiration porn is a widespread concept among the disabled community, and it’s because disabled people are done with being labeled as inspirational for simply existing. The very [very] common mentality that disabled people are inspiring for living in a disabled body implies that living with disability is something that one shouldn’t be able to do, or that is so extraordinarily difficult and unimaginable. This has lead to viewing disabled people as inspiring for just being or doing the most commonplace of tasks, such as going to school, living independently, or not being constantly miserable because they are disabled. And if you think that’s an exaggeration, trust that it is not–many disabled people [and in my circle, many blind people] can tell you story upon story.

II. Special Needs

Far from being a term of endearment or a position of favour, special has become a derogatory term for the unique needs or accommodations of disabled people. “You’re special” often becomes an insult, meant to dehumanize and devalue the differences and unique ways in which every human being lives. The truth is that what many consider to be “special” needs are just adaptations, but the basics of what we all need are the same, which turns them from special needs into what they are: human needs.

III. Burden

Many disabled people will need extra help at different times, and this can often cause a feeling of being a burden or “too much.” Unfortunately, it isn’t only disabled people that feel like a burden–able-bodied people, both today and in the past–have used this term to describe their disabled equals. Saying that one is a burden only furthers the false belief that the needs and accommodations of a disabled person are more troublesome and harder to handle than the needs and accommodations of a non-disabled person.

IV. Caregiver

The term caregiver is not inherently ableist or negative, but I want to address the use of this term, and moreso, the notion that disabled people always have one. Among others, I have been out and about with friends or family and been confronted with a stranger who assumed that my companion is a caregiver or caretaker. The implication here is that disabled people require a caregiver, and therefore, are incapable [or at least, less capable than non-disabled people] of being independent and self-sufficient. Having a caregiver doesn’t negate one’s own abilities and there’s no shame in this dynamic or using this word if it is the person’s preference, but we need to drop the assumption that disabled people have caregivers and a generalization of disability as being less capable of independence than those without disabilities.

V. Sorry

When mentioning a disability, this five-letter word is too quick to appear in the conversation. It speaks more to the cultural norm of pity as the appropriate response to disability than the individual’s personal perspective [although they may be synonymous]. Either way, the pity that disabled people face on a daily basis communicates that the life they live, which is often fulfilling and vibrant, isn’t as worty or satisfactory as a non-disabled person’s life, and this only further marginalizes disabled people from their able-bodied equals.

VI. Handicapped

I left this one for last for the sole purpose of it being one of the most problematic terms that exist around disability. However, it’s also one of the most common, with it being used to describe the “handicapped” parking spot or the “handicapped” stall in the bathroom, it’s engrained into our language.

What handicapped focuses on is the person’s disadvantage, or inability to live up to preconceived, able-bodied standards. It draws the attention to what a person cannot do rather than what they can. It points out their unique needs, making them into more than simply their individual, human needs. It takes away the human and replaces it with the disability.

So why then, is disabled an acceptable term?

Because being disabled is acceptable. It’s okay. It’s wonderful. It’s God-given and beautiful. With disabilities, we can still love, worship, help, feel joy and live fulfilling lives. And it’s much easier to do those things when disability is a celebrated part of a person’s identity… the way it should be.

[dis]Honourable Mentions:

  • Differently-abled
  • Handicapable
  • Cripple
  • Invalid

What other words should be added to the list? Let me know in the comments.


Read Follow the Vision, Part One here.


Dusk curtains the monastery as Feidhelm traces a finger beneath Aibreann’s closed eyes, along her cheekbone and across the dimple of her chin. She is still warm, clinging to the last fragment of life that struggles within her. One more moment, one more breath. But no. Soon she will be cold and he will leave her, taking with him only the memory of a daughter that will fade too fast. She’ll become a phantom, a ghost—just like her mother did. A silent tear escapes his lashes and he follows its path down the crease of his nose to his chin and watches as it lands centered on the child’s forehead.

An icy breeze drifts in through the open window, bringing it with the last threads of daylight. Feidhelm shivers. A shadow falls on Aibreann’s face, highlighting her sunken cheeks in the dim light. He covers them with his hands; she is already feeling colder.

“Aibreann. How could they do this to you? Oh, my precious child.” A hand grazes Feidhelm’s shoulder and he lifts his head to see Dallán standing over him. The old man’s hands shake and he is unsteady on his feet, but the grief-stricken father minds this not, as he throws himself around his old master’s frail shell.

“She’s gone, Dallán. Gone.”

“I know.” Fragile as he is, Dallán holds the weeping father against him, whispering prayers of comfort against the backdrop of choked sobs. Gently, he leads Feidhelm to a seat across the room and helps him sink into the cushions. Feidhelm leans his head against the familiar cloaked shoulder.

“I lost someone very dear to me, Feidhelm. Twenty-five years ago, just a year before you became my scribe.” Feidhelm doesn’t move. Dallán continues, his voice low and smooth. “My sister was a beautiful woman, so gentle and kind. It was before her time but illness took her. So swiftly, nothing could be done.”

The silence rings in Feidhelm’s ears, Dallán’s words knocking fiercely to be let into his heart. “How did you go on without her?”

“It was God, my son. He took me by my hand and lead me forward, one step at a time. It was tortuous and beyond any pain I had experienced. But do you know what happens, Feidhelm, when you allow him to guide you in your grief?”

The last strands of light disappear from the window, replaced by a sheer layer of iced air that stings his skin. “No.”


One word. Its echo bounces off the walls of the room and ricochets against Feidhelm’s heart—but it cannot enter. It will not.

“I will not have peace. That is too much to expect.” Feidhelm pushes himself up by his hands and straightens his spine. Taking a hand, he wipes his tears from his eyes and dries his damp fingers on his tunic. He stands, suddenly shaky on his feet.

“Don’t expect it, Feidhelm. Just let it come. Let Christ be your guide, your vision.” He pauses, and Feidhelm turns to look at his face. Tears gather in the corners of Dallán’s eyes. Feidhelm moves to touch his hand to the man’s shoulder.

“Do you remember Druim Cett, Feidhelm?”

The question is so unexpected that Feidhelm cannot answer. He traces through his memories, searching for familiarity, and then, it comes. “Yes. I was injured then, during our fight to keep the filid from being exiled.”

“That’s right.” Dallán’s voice becomes even softer, and Feidhelm leans forward to hear. “Columba had a vision to preserve the bards and our art—the very heart of Ireland. His vision saved us, Feidhelm. And just as it was for Columba and the filid, so it will be with God. His vision will save you and guide you to freedom. Rest, Feidhelm, and allow him to lead you there.”


They come, as they stand, heads bowed, by the freshly dug grave. Feidhelm watches through his shower of tears as Adhamh and Harkin lower the coffin that contains his daughter’s remains into the earth. Dallán, standing at the head of the grave, speaks a eulogy, but Feidhelm cannot hear his words. His grief is too strong.

“And Lord, we submit Aibreann into your love now. She is safe with you now, Father; no more pain, no more tears. But as she is now without pain, we pray that you would come and be comfort to Feidhelm in his; be his strength in this time of grief. Help those who love him to comfort him as he needs, but knowing that the ultimate source of comfort is you. Lead us to yourself, Lord. Amen.” Feidhelm murmurs his amen with the gathered mourners, but the reverence of the moment is sliced by a scream.

Like owls with softened wings in pursuit of their midnight prey, they surround them; their swords glint in the soft light of the setting sun. Their beards are unshaven but cut short, and their dark-hued garb resembles the night in which they travel and pillage.


One pirate, a hefty man with hair layering his skin like a cloak, leads the charge, his sword protruding from his hand like a kitchen knife. Feidhelm is frozen where he stands, the utter disbelief of the scene before him rendering him motionless. It unfolds in rapid succession, body after body falling in murdered obedience, but to Feidhelm, each strike of the sword comes slowly. Such precision, such violence.

And he cannot move. Until that is, he sees the hairy pirate charge toward Dallán. Feidhelm’s heart gives a great jerk within his chest and his feet respond. Without a second’s delay, Feidhelm bursts from his stance, which until this moment has gone unnoticed by the raiders, and charges forward to his master’s side.

But it is too late. Dallán, gasping for breath and clutching his bloodied flank, collapses to the dirt. He does not rise. Feidhelm, forgetting his own danger, kneels down and presses his hands to his master’s temples. “No, Dallán. No. Stay with me. You must stay!”

It is in vain. As his friend’s breathing stills and his writhing body becomes motionless, Feidhelm collapses once more into tears. How could God allow such a thing to happen? First Aibreann, now Dallán.

A scream rouses Feidhelm from his renewed grief. He looks frantically about him, and sees just as Cathal, on the opposite side of the cemetery, is made to obey. Feidhelm turns back and comes face to face with the hairy one. In his desperation, Feidhelm wonders if it would be better to simply hand himself over to the inevitable. This way, he would be with Aibreann. And Dallán.

He does not have time to make a decision. It is made for him. He slumps to meet the earth and his maker, and as the world begins to dim into blackness.

Better to end with pain, than to live with unending sorrow.


“Come in, my son. Be welcomed in my name.” Light greets his eyes, a bright, inviting light that seems to emanate from every thread of air and strand of grass, even himself. He looks up, trying to find the source of the light, but is surprised to see a child, dressed in a white robe with a golden crown on her head, standing before him. Behind her, is a man, donning the same robe and crown. Their entire beings seem to sparkle.

“Welcome, friend.” The child’s voice is light and kind. Her smile is bright, and he returns it. Glancing about, he takes in his new surroundings—emerald fields meet turquoise seas, and the light, which first baffled him, now seems as though it has always been so.

He motions to the field, where at its end, is the sea’s beginning. “Does it go on forever?”

The child smiles, but it is the man who speaks. “It does, Feidhelm. It is the essence of the Lord’s vision, from creation to creation.” To his surprise, the robed man begins to sing, and as he does, it feels as though the world stops to listen.

“High King of Heaven, my victory won
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.”

The child smiles and reaches out her hand to take his. “Isn’t it glorious?” Spreading her hands far and wide, she continues. “It does go on forever. As do you. And I. Here, together, we shall go on forever. Guided and protected by the vision of He who was and always will be.”


It’s Market Day in Wells the day we arrive. Cramped and weary from our road trip across southern England, the rising cathedral spires elicit something of an excited yawn as I strain, stretch and stare out the window in waking anticipation from an uncomfortably long sleep. Being squished between the door and my overstuffed suitcase was hard enough, being made to stay there for the duration of the trip from Canterbury to Wells—a good four hour drive—was almost intolerable. But as Wells Cathedral becomes taller and more grand with every kilometer, so does my excitement.

It was my first visit to the UK and I had gone to attend Bible College for a year up north just outside Lancaster. But before my parents dropped me off at school, we spent ten days travelling, beginning in London and moving our way across and up. And now, six days into our journey, we were arriving at Wells.

I imagine Wells might be a quiet, cozy town with historic streets wrapping around the cathedral, a town where life is lived simply and without the clutter of unnecessary modern amenities. This will be perfect, I think contentedly, for a simple girl like me, born and raised in a small town on the Canadian west coast. My Daddy told me that the more I expected, the more I would be disappointed. So as my mother calls out directions from the map in her hands and the streets become windier and closer to the city center, it takes all of my strength to dissolve my expectations. But I can’t help dreaming: What if Wells truly is what I imagine? How delightful!

“Park here. The cathedral is just down the street.” I lean against the window and feel the vibrations lessen as Daddy pulls alongside the curb and parks. Click click click. Our seat belts are off, and I fling open my door excitedly. And instantly, my expectations are shattered.

There are cars as far as I can see, parked on both sides of the street, making a rather tight aisle to pass between them. On the far side of the street, clusters of people are gathered around tables set up beneath tents. I hear modern pop music blasting from an outdoor sound system. So much for a simple, historic existence. But my excitement does not wither.

“Looks like a market over there,” Daddy observes, glancing toward the crowd. “Let’s go check it out.” I grab his arm for guidance and with Mama on my other side, we set out toward the market.

We are now engulfed in the crowd and I cling tighter to Daddy’s arm; crowds make me nervous. Slowly, we move to a table and peruse its contents.This first table is filled with wooden trinkets and I hesitantly reach my hands out to touch.

“Can my daughter touch this? She’s blind and it would mean a lot to her if she could.” My mother’s familiar request, though at the cost of a bit of my pride, has enough innocence and truth to turn the vendor’s favour on us.

The vendor in question, is a short, pudgy woman with round rosy cheeks beneath cheerful aqua eyes. Taking my hand, she places it on the top of a small, smooth box.

“This is cedar wood,” she explains, as she runs my hand across the surface of the lid. “It’s strong and durable wood which is why I use it. Have you ever seen before, dear?” At my nod, she continues. “I didn’t paint this box because I love the natural look of the wood. It’s light and very pretty. And here”—she moves my fingers to the front of the box to the latch—”is the latch that locks the box, and there’s a place for a key at the top.”

Taking the box in my hands, I stroke the sleek wood admiringly. “This is beautiful,” I say. Her smile is almost audible above the crowd. Shyly, I gesture to the price tag and look to Daddy for an answer. “It’s twenty,” he says under his breath. Translating pounds to dollars in my head, I come out at about thirty-eight. I sigh regretfully.

Setting the box down on the table, I reach across to the cheerful woman and shake her hand. “I love your work, it’s very beautiful. But I’m afraid I’ll have to pass this time. Thank you so much for showing me.” She squeezes my hand. Although I don’t know this woman at all, I feel inclined to give her a hug, but I restrain. Her kind and fearless personality touches me in a way that not many people can claim; friends who accept me for my blindness and don’t define me by it are wonderful, but a stranger who does the same only raises my faith in humanity and makes life all the more worthwhile.

From table to table we move, examining various scarves, soaps, bowls and other hand-made trinkets. Once we exhaust the outdoor market, we shift indoors to a room filled with clothing and echoes. We are not there more than ten minutes when I hear a clanging bell from outside.

“I bet that’s the town crier,” I joke. They don’t exist anymore, I think wistfully, though I wish they did.

“Do you want to go see?” my mother asks. We are all growing weary of the amplified sounds in the indoor market, and I am beginning to sport a headache. I nod.

Back in the street market, we follow a crowd moving toward the town square, and to my utter ecstasy, the town crier is there, ringing his bell and attracting quite a crowd of onlookers. I drag my parents to the front of the crowd.

“Wells is a beautiful city,” the town crier begins in a loud, dramatic voice. “Take in the breathtaking scenery, the market, and Wells Cathedral, built in 1175. Why not take a tour there or explore its beauty and historic stain glass images at your leisure?” With unmitigated delight, I realize that he is not only the town crier but also a tour guide! I am eighteen, but my childish excitement cannot be contained as I clap my hands and let out a high-pitched squeal.

“There’s actually a town crier! They have a town crier!” My shock and delight are repetitive, for as my parents and I walk down the street toward the entrance of the cathedral, it is all I am capable of saying in my amazement. As we draw closer, my former shrieks of delight change into quieted awe. Nothing makes one feel so small and insignificant than when faced with such immense beauty. I look up and take in its outward grandeur and wonder what greater beauty may lie inside.

What first greets my eyes is not what I expect. In the front entrance perched on the receptionist’s desk is a bony, black and grey cat. An identification tag hangs around his neck, and he sits stalk still next to the computer keyboard. As I approach, he scowls at me and flattens his ears. Despite his threatening demeanor, I laugh.

“This is Louis,” the middle-aged receptionist explains in a welcoming tone. “He kind of just lives here in the cathedral. You can pet him, but please don’t pick him up. He might claw a bit.” Smiling wide, I reach down and stroke Louis’s back. Just by one touch, I can see that Louis is an old cat, his bones sticking out at awkward angles all over his frail figure. His fur is a bit matted, but nonetheless, I fall in love. So it’s not just old cathedrals that have beauty, I think, old cats do too.

“Someone loves you, hey Louis?” The voice of the speaker I discover, is an elderly man with a thick British accent and spectacles to match. I nod happily and he moves beside me to scratch Louis’s head.

“Come on Rhi, we better get a move on into the rest of the cathedral,” Daddy says, and I know that I cannot stall. As I move to join my parents, the old man follows and shakes hands with my Daddy. “My name is Neil. I would love to show you and your daughter around the cathedral if you would like.”

“Oh, that is very generous of you. That would be wonderful.” The four of us set off down the main hall, and it is not long before Neil stops at a statue of the Virgin Mary. Taking my hand, he gently shows me the features of her face, veil and body, explaining how it was constructed and its significance to the cathedral.

I don’t say much as Neil explains, but I listen intently. I find it all fascinating and quite beyond me: As he takes my hands and shows me ancient statues, stain glass images, trunks and other relics of the Catholic faith, I feel as though I have travelled beyond anything of my own world and am in contact with things I am unworthy to touch. They are sacred, and I am not, but yet, I am with them, touching them, and experiencing them. And the experience is something I can hardly describe nor understand.

A good hour passes before Neil returns to the front desk and my parents and I exit the cathedral. To my disappointment, Louis is not at his post on the reception desk, but I’m told he is wandering about the cathedral. “It’s completely normal,” she assures me brightly, “he’s a cathedral cat.” I’m not quite sure what she means by a “cathedral cat” but I smile and wave farewell to Neil and the kind receptionist and wonder if Louis might be perched upon the Virgin’s shoulder or a thirteenth-century trunk.

I walk out of Wells Cathedral, down the street where the market is now closing down, back to our car and climb in. I am overcome with a sense of wonder; the woman selling the cedar boxes and kind old Neil in the cathedral both greeted me with kind and fearless smiles and took me in in ways many people are afraid to. What may have seemed like a mere moment to them became timeless to me, offering me more than trinkets or historical facts and stories—they gave me acceptance.

And as I lay back in the car and close my eyes, I think of Louis and his perpetual scowl, and smile. The spires fade from view, the crowd noise disappear and I fall into dreaming with the feeling that I have left home washing over me. But I know I am not alone as the car takes me farther and farther away from this delightfully unexpected city. For the most unexpected thing of all is still with me out of the corners of my eyes and at my fingertips: Louis, the cat in the cathedral.



“King Hugh, listen to me, I beg of you. To abolish the fild will be to abolish the very foundation of Ireland. Our identity as a nation owes itself to this order; the filid are the keepers of our history, the ones who preserve our culture. If they are exiled, who will ensure that Ireland and her people are not forgotten? Please, listen to my words.” Columba’s defense rises on the shimmering breeze and floats across the field, weaving in and amongst the courtiers, bards and laymen that are gathered in apprehensive numbers. The king’s entourage stand at rigid attention, their mouths pursed in a solemn line, fingers encircling the hilt of their weapons. It is a stark contrast to the men gathered to Columba’s cause—their wind-mussed hair, unshaven beards and muddied garments only escalate what Feidhelm fears most.

“You speak well of the filid, Columba,” King Hugh allows, a hint of mischief rising beneath his diplomacy, “but will you forget their misdeeds only to praise their achievements? One must recognize the fault to appreciate the good. Do you not agree?” A titter ripples across the royal company, the premature celebration of their king’s championing. Feidhelm bites his bottom lip in disgust—even at his young age, his blood boils at their arrogance. A frustrated sigh escapes through his now bloody lip.

“Do you grow weary of the convention, my son?” Dallán reaches a hand to his left and finds the youth’s shoulder. He gives it a gentle squeeze, then resumes entangling and disentangling his fingers in agonizing anticipation. Feidhelm doesn’t bother to meet his master’s vacant gaze.

“How much longer will they go on like this? What good can come from their quarreling?” As he speaks, his eyes find the king, his knuckles whitening from their grip on his sword.

“Perhaps nothing,” Dallán concedes. “Perhaps exile is our fate. But I do not believe the Almighty, nor Columba, will fail us. We are Irish, my boy, and in Ireland we will remain.” Feidhelm nods, forgetting his master’s blindness and returns to chewing his lip.

To the adolescent, it seems that the tension between the bards and the crown has been going on since he was in the cradle. Demands for tax exemption, more freedom, less responsibility… it stews in Feidhelm’s mind until it spills over and creates a foaming, frothy confusion. And, being the scribe for the Ollamh is no cure. When Master Dallán is not dictating his latest eulogy or epic, his waking hours are filled with such apprehension for the future of the filid—his future—that Feidhelm cannot escape its clutches.

Now, it has come to this. A crisp, April morning at Druim Cett to celebrate the return to their rightful place in Irish society, or perhaps, be banished altogether. If only for the sake of his master, he hopes for the former.

“Oh my King.” Columba spreads his hands in an arc before him, reaching, stretching, as though closing an invisible divide. “They do not hide their misdeeds from you. But exiling them will only wound our nation further. No. The answer is purification.” At this, Feidhelm raises his gaze to meet the man fighting for his people. Despite his best efforts to conceal it, he is curious.

His face is framed by flaming strands, which stands as the pinnacle of a mountainous build. Hands that have seen rougher days than Feidhelm’s reach out before him, palms to the heavens, the fate of the bardic order exposed for the taking. He waits, his expression one of fervent hope.

“By what means would you purify such a filthy body as the one you so admire?” A resounding cry of agreement fills Feidhelm’s ears. He clenches his jaw.

“Reform.” Silence falls like rain over the entirety of the convention’s attendants. All eyes, royal supporters and bards alike, turn inward to fix upon the peculiar diplomat. “Reform the filid as you see necessary and maintain their status as Ireland’s poets and minstrels. Allow them to carry on our traditions, but in a manner honouring to the crown. In this way, their demands will cease and they will once more be the treasured members of society as they once were. Is this agreeable to my lord the king?”

Dallán’s fingers dig into Feidhelm’s forearm, the force of his master’s nerves tangible in the air between them. “This is our moment, Feidhelm. Oh Lord God, may it be a favourable outcome.” Feidhelm wriggles himself out of the man’s grasp and takes a step forward. He sees what his master cannot, and at this moment, he is grateful for it.

King Hugh’s sword hangs in the air between himself and Columba, awaiting orders. The men at his back follow their commander and draw their weapons from their lairs. Columba is motionless, but his face betrays no anxiety. Feidhelm’s heart beats faster, anticipating, fearing for the next moment.

Dallán’s grip tightens around Feidhelm’s arm. “What is happening, Feidhelm? Tell me.” But he is silent, his eyes fixated on the impending battle. The sword inches nearer to Columba.

“Oh my master, I’m afraid it may be the—” Before Feidhelm can finish speaking, the field erupts into chaos. Shouts for “exile!” and “justice for Ireland!” fill the air, as King Hugh’s men surge forward into the defenseless filid.

Feidhelm rears back, stumbling against Dallán as the men in front of him retreat. Hooking his fingers around his master’s wrist, Feidhelm draws him back, slipping on the damp grass as they flee from their pursuers. Feidhelm chances a glance back; a mess of limbs lay entangled in the grass near to where they had stood moments before. Let it not be Columba, he prays silently. Scanning his surroundings, he searches for the diplomat, but his eyes find nothing.

Dallán tugs at him sharply. “Hurry, Feidhelm! Hurry! But be careful, the ground—” Dallan’s warning is interrupted as Feidhelm tumbles headfirst down the grassy slope and collides with the rock formation at its base.


The world goes black.


The fire dims and night grows ever nearer when Feidhelm begins to stir. Dallán leans over the youth, concern and relief wrapped up in his face.

“Feidhelm? Can you hear me?” He whispers the words at first, but when Feidhelm shows no response, he repeats himself, louder and louder until he is speaking at regular intervals.

Nothing. Feidhelm lays motionless before the blind poet, all metaphor and symbolism offering little comfort in the face of true peril. “Oh God,” he whispers, “revive him.”

Beneath his hand, Feidhelm shudders, a stronger movement than made thus far. Dallán squeezes his shoulder, his prayers ever more fervent for his healing.

“What, what has happened?”

Dallán resists the urge to fall on his friend with thankfulness. “Feidhelm, thank the Lord! Are you well?” Feidhelm shifts slightly, and moves to sit up. Weak, he falls back to the pillow.

“Stay still, my son. You were hurt in the battle.”

“What battle?”

Dallán’s memories of the day’s events are all too vivid, as he searches for the right words.

“Do you remember Columba?”

“Who is Columba?”

Dallán sighs, and tucks the blanket tighter around the patient. “Feidhelm, today you and I, and the other members of the filid gathered with King Hugh and his men to try and preserve our order. They sought to banish us from Ireland.”

“Banish? But why?” Again, Feidhelm attempts to sit up, but Dallán eases him back.

“You must rest, Feidhelm.” He does not argue.

“There was a battle, Feidhelm. And some of our members were killed.” He waits, but there is no response. Feidhelm’s eyes are open and attentive, so he continues. “We thought it was sure banishment. We were retreating, and that’s when you fell. You became unconscious from the fall, Feidhelm, and have been for several hours now. Cathal helped me bring you here. You’re in my home.”

“Thank you.”

“No need. You are like a son to me. It was all I could do.”

“So, are we banished then?” A slow smile creeps across Dallán’s face as he reaches out to set his other hand beside the first on Feidhelm’s shoulder. Seeing his smile, Feidhelm’s eyes light up, expectant.

“No. We are liberated, Feidhelm! God has seen us through this trial, and praise be to Him for his provision.”

Feidhelm’s face breaks out into a boyish grin. As if his strength comes back in the words of this revelation, Feidhelm sits up, removes Dallán’s hands from his shoulders and squeezes them tightly in his own. “Liberated! But how?”

“Columba! He was not among the dead, and Cathal told me later that upon seeing the spilled blood, went boldly up to the king and said: “My king, you are and always be my king. My heart’s desire is to honour you, and to have the filid honour you. Please, show us your mercy! Stop this bloodshed and allow us to repay you for our misdeeds, and to give you the honour you so deserve.” Dallan’s voice grows louder with excitement as he speaks; his words echo off the stone walls of the room.

“The king relented?”

“Yes. You see, it was his second-in-command, Dunstan, that provoked the battle. When the king heard Columba’s plea, he demanded Dunstan to cease the attack. I have heard since that Dunstan has been dismissed from the king’s service. But we are free, Feidhelm. Free! Columba has liberated us.”

They sit quiet for a moment, digesting the drastic turn of events. It is Dallán who breaks their silence.

“While you were, indisposed, I composed a poem I would like to dictate to you. When you are recovered, of course.”

“Another poem, master? What about?”

Dallán intertwines his fingers excitedly as he speaks. “About Columba, my boy. His valour and his courage. His vision to fight for the filid, against all potential dangers, is magnificent. We should seek to follow his footsteps. That vision shall be ours, Feidhelm, to hold, to preserve and to guide us. Columba is a treasure among men, loved by all and blessed by God. How can a man such as he live without a poem to honour him?”

The fire has ceased to glimmer and night has drawn its curtain across the sky. But the light burns bright in Dallán’s eyes, and Feidhelm’s strength begins to return.

Continue reading Follow the Vision, Part Two here.


Being thankful for the body that you live inside doesn’t always come easily. It’s a lot easier to wish it would look different, act different or be something else entirely than to be thankful for what it is and what it does to keep you alive. Thinking about your body can conjure up many emotions and these aren’t always positive–and that’s okay.

But I believe learning to practice gratitude in “all circumstances” [I Thessalonians 5:18] extends to our bodies, too. They are created by God and given by Him for a purpose even though we may not know what that is. With that in mind, I’d like to invite you along the journey that I’m taking in learning to be thankful for my body [and trust me, it’s not a comfortable one]. Take some time and reflect on these questions. Write in a journal, talk with a friend, or spend time in prayer with God. I believe it’ll be worth it.

• Have you ever said thank you to your body for everything it does for you?

• What does your body need from you that you may not be giving it right now?

• Is there a way you can show thankfulness for other peoples’ bodies, no matter what shape, size or ability they come in?

• How could you keep an attitude of gratitude in regards to your body and your health going forward?

I hope these few questions can be a springboard for more reflection and a beginning of an “attitude of gratitude” for your body. That’s certainly my hope and prayer.


Today, I’m so happy to welcome Beth to the blog to chat about her career as a Teacher of the Visually Impaired [TVI]. She had a prolific, 33-year career, but what I’m very excited and grateful for is that Beth wasn’t just a TVI… she was my TVI!

I began school in grade two after being diagnosed with cancer and becoming totally blind, and from grade two to grade twelve, Beth was my constant advocate, teacher, and champion. I’m excited to share her perspective today.

Rhianna: Before we chat about your work as a TVI, tell me a bit about you. What are your hobbies? How do you fill your time now that you’re retired?

Beth: I love reading, hiking, traveling, knitting, swimming, listening to live music and exploring birds and photography. I belong to a photography club and to MARS (a rehab centre for birds and animals) and the Rocky Point Bird Observatory. I have been taking zoom classes on birds and wild animals. I also do some artwork, including taking classes with Chinese artist, Richard Wong. I belong to the local Retired Teacher’s Association and meet with them once a month. My family is very important to me and I keep in close touch with my son and his girlfriend in Ottawa and my brothers and sisters and their growing families as well as my deceased partner’s daughter and son and their families. So I’m pretty busy and enjoying retirement!

Rhianna: Why did you decide to go into teaching, and in particular, teaching students with visual impairments?

Beth: When I first started university, I wanted to help people, especially children, so I got my degree in psychology with some education courses. I started out working as a Social Worker in Lillooet and Lytton. I took extra courses in counselling and I think I was good with people, but I felt there wasn’t a lot I could do because of government policy. It was quite sad and stressful at times dealing with abuse, alcoholism, mental illness and poverty. I liked going into the schools so I decided to try elementary school teaching and went back to university. I was hoping to be a counsellor in elementary school because again, I wanted to help individual kids rather than deal with a whole classroom, but the job I got was teaching kindergarten through grade three for emotionally disturbed children which also included family counselling for the Ministry of Health in Burnaby. That was even more stressful, so I looked at the special education programs at UBC [The University of British Columbia] and I felt a connection with the Vision Teacher program. My aunt’s uncle, Charles Crane, was deafblind, and had donated all his braille and audio books to UBC to set up a library for blind students. Also, one of my early babysitting jobs had been with a baby boy who was blind and an amputee and a great little guy. I loved the story of Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller. Anyway I talked to the instructor and she encouraged me to take the training and the rest is history!

I’ve worked in about a dozen communities in BC–Terrace, New Westminster, Prince George and Campbell River, and travelling to nearby small towns, as well as Los Angeles. I’ve never regretted that decision!

Rhianna: What was your favourite part of the job, and what aspects were more challenging?

Beth: My favourite part of the job was getting to follow individual students through the years. I loved getting to know them and have a small part in making their education and development go well. I wanted to try to make sure they had the best chance for success and happiness, and that they developed their full potential. I tried to help make sure they didn’t miss out because of their visual impairment. I also loved getting to know their families and developing a relationship with them. I also loved it when teachers and other school staff felt that they had good support from me and that included the educational assistants and braillists.

The most challenging part was that I was pretty much on my own to figure out how to solve problems that came up, mostly from technology. I liked that though. Sometimes, I just needed to get the answers from SET-BC or from PRCVI [Provincial Resource Centre for the Visually Impaired] from technology staff at the school or district, from an internet search or from other specialists or the companies who sold the technology. And sometimes, I was happy that I figured things out myself. Another challenging aspect was that my bosses kept adding to my job because they figured that I had too few students, as they compared me to a teacher in a regular classroom or a psychologist who just tested students and then moved on to others. I had to travel a lot and in the last year, I was working only 3 days a week for two school districts, so I spent a lot of my own time doing the job. I don’t think there were many people who understood what I did until they had one of my students and gained a bit of an understanding and appreciation.

Rhianna: Why is teaching young students to read Braille important to set them up for success?

Beth: I always felt that it was so important that blind children who couldn’t read print learn to read and write in braille. Listening and speaking are important tools for understanding language but they can not completely replace the written (brailled) word. Spelling and grammar can not be learned auditorily. They can be enhanced but there is no replacement for physical contact with language. Personally, I can’t remember a new word until I see it in print a few times. The latest example for me is the word “cassoulet,” a delicious meal I had to look up in print before I could remember it!

Rhianna: But it’s not all about braille. Can you give us a snapshot of a day in the life of a TVI? Lots of the work is behind the scenes–what did you do?

Beth: There was a lot to learn in Braille to be able to keep a step ahead of my students. This involved learning how to teach Braille and coming up with my own ideas to make it fun, help with any problem areas and Learning formulas in Math, Science and Music as they came up. Later, I learned the changes to the Braille Code with Unified English Braille [UEB]. I learned the technology for producing and reading braille which involved not only producing it myself and helping the Braillist with their production but also learning the devices my students used and keeping up to date with new things. There was a lot of problem solving with the technology, either by myself or finding the right people to help.

But like you said, that was only part of the job. I spent a lot of time meeting with teachers, parents and/or other staff, individually and in teams, answering emails and phone calls. There was a lot of paperwork,–I wrote up assessments and educational plans for every student, interpreted eye reports from eye doctors, wrote up daily school visits, applied for fuel assistance and attended conferences. There was a lot of driving!

I had various roles in the BC Vision Teachers’ Association including being president for quite a few years and I was the Vision Teacher Rep on the PRCVI Advisory Committee for a long time. These all included more report writing! I was involved in organizing four provincial conferences for those in this field of teaching which involved lots of planning, writing funding applications, recruiting speakers and helpers etc. I was also the Set BC Coordinator in Campbell River for many years. I enjoyed doing extracurricular activities such as planning and attending social and recreational activities for my students–Christmas crafts, sports days, Orientation & Mobility with the instructors, going skiing and doing blind hockey and more. I signed on to work at CNIB summer camps and I took students to the National Braille Challenge and Space Camp for the Visually Impaired which were lots of fun. I took low vision students to eye exams and clinics and learned and provided them with technology and devices. I spent a lot of time getting and returning items to PRCVI, applying for special projects and for purchases.

Rhianna: What advice would you give to fellow or up-and-coming TVI’s?

Beth: The main thing is to enjoy the students and laugh with them! Look for their strengths and weaknesses and provide stimulating activities with positive reinforcement for both. Look for their interests but also try to expose them to lots of different things in and out of school. Visit lots so you can provide suggestions and/or advice and support as things come up. Do everything you can to support the Braillists and classroom teachers because they spend the most time with the students, even if that means putting your job on hold while you do the Braillist’s job so they can take a day off, helping in a class so they can produce braille, or going on field trips with a student’s class!

Rhianna: You were my TVI for 10 years. What is a special memory from our time together?

Beth: I have lots of great memories of time with you, Rhianna! You were so much fun to teach braille to. You had a great sense of humour and even laughed at my jokes! You were very athletic and I enjoyed taking you to ski with the Disabled Ski program – I made my colleagues jealous when I could sign in with “Gone Skiing!” instead of listing all the schools for the day. I remember the O and M trips around town, including going for ice crean cones. And I chuckle when I remember assisting you to play tag and you got angry with me whenever you got tagged! But then I helped you tag someone else. All the recreational activities were so much fun, including camps, crafts, a couple of trips to Vancouver for the symphony, workshops, art classes, etc. I remember Ripley, the guide dog in training I organised to visit you in elementary school; He looked so proud walking with you in the halls! And when you graduated from high school I felt so proud of you and I will never forget the lovely dinner, flowers and gift your wonderful family surprised me with!

Rhianna: Thank you for sharing! It’s been wonderful getting to hear about everything that went into being a TVI, and in particular, all the ways that I never knew you were advocating for me and setting me up for life after high school. I didn’t appreciate it then, but I do now, so thank you, thank you, thank you! Those memories bring back lots of fond ones for me as well. Thanks for doing everything you did for all those years, for me and your other students. The impact is tangible and so invaluable to helping me become who I am now.

I’m grateful to Beth for sharing her perspective and wisdom as a TVI with us. I hope you found it enlightening and encouraging. And I’m so grateful to her for being by my side all those years and pushing me to become the best person I could be [even though that “push” was uncomfortable at times!. Thanks, Beth!

Did you learn something new from Beth? Let us know in the comments!


A month ago, my husband and I were told that the condo we rent was going to be sold. It was a “big picture” idea, yet, within the week, real estate photos were taken and it is now only a couple of days from being listed. Thus, we began looking for housing immediately.

We found it much faster than we anticipated, thank God! And… we move in one week! With the search came a reflection on what I look for in a potential home, particularly in regards to accessibility. I’m moved several times in the last few years so I have my checklist down to a tee, and that’s what I wanted to share with you today.

So, while I continue packing, enjoy this list of six things I look for in an accessible home.

I. Sidewalks

Sidewalks are essential for safe travel as a blind woman. While there are techniques for areas without sidewalks, it is much easier when they are available and in proper condition [which includes being adequately paved and cleared of obstructions]. Sidewalks give me a parameter of safety and a means to gauge my distance from the traffic. They keep me oriented to intersections, side roads, driveways and building entrances, and they provide a straight line for my guide dog to follow as he guides me along the street.

II. Audible Signals

Chirp chirp! Cuckoo, cuckoo!

It’s not impossible to cross streets without audible signals. But it makes it a heck of a lot easier to do so with them. Particularly in busy intersections or ones where a driver’s view of pedestrians may be inhibited, audible signals give me an extra level of comfort and assurance that I’m crossing when it’s safe to do so. Blind and visually impaired people learn to cross streets by listening to the direction of the flow of traffic [parallel to you or perpendicular] which indicates when it’s safe to cross. This is the foundation for safe travel. Audible signals are just a helpful addition.

III. Close Proximity to Transit Stops

In a larger city, this is a bit easier to manage, yet I have been in situations where transit stops are either too far away, in unsafe areas or don’t provide service very frequently. Since transit is a primary means of navigation for the blind, it’s often a necessity to find housing close to bus stops or exchanges. However, in lieu of nearby transit, I try to keep within walking distance of most amenities so that I can maintain my independence.

IV. Ensuite Laundry

In the home that I now refer to as the Spider House, I had to share the laundry room with my landlords. For me, this meant exiting my suite via the side door, following the wall halfway around the house, unlocking the door to the garage, turning right into the laundry room and finally, actually doing my laundry. With arms full of a laundry basket, fiddling with keys and doors and of course, not knowing if/when my landlords needed the machines, it was a stress I vowed to eliminate in all future residences.

But while this “necessity” which I learned from practical experience can be quite the challenge, it doesn’t always have to be as obvious a barrier, depending on the setup of the home and laundry area. In my husband’s and my new condo, laundry is shared; there are two laundry rooms on the first floor. While it is not my preference, it will be workable with a few accommodations. I plan to ask the building manager if I can mark the machines tactically to differentiate the buttons, and we are planning to purchase a hamper with a lid and wheels so that the chance of losing a sock in the hallway will be limited on transit to and from the laundry room.

V. Secure Windows

I have a phobia of bugs… and of course, a desire to feel safe. One aspect to a home I always ensure to examine carefully are the doors and windows, particularly the seals and the screens. Are they tight? Are there holes? Could bugs get in? It isn’t only a fear-based–it’s practical; as a blind woman, it’s a matter of ensuring my safety. As a vulnerable member of society on two counts, my home must be a place where I feel secure, and while locks and other security measures are certainly valid considerations, it’s a good idea to check other means of access to you and your personal space.

VI. Room for My Guide Dog

A guide dog’s job is primarily performed outside the home–guiding their handler along streets, across intersections, in buildings, etc-it’s essential that they have a home environment which makes them feel safe and comfortable. Dogs are adaptable creatures and don’t require much accommodation, but since becoming a guide dog handler, I’ve tried to ensure that there is enough space for a couple of beds and room for them to play and get a bit of exercise. If possible, it’s nice to have a fenced-in backyard or secure, outdoor play area where they can run to let off their zoomies, but I have found this difficult to come by as a renter. Therefore, I try to ensure with any potential living situation that there is adequate space for my dog to play and relax while at home.

What things do you look for when moving to a new place? Tell me your experiences in the comments.


If once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, and three times is a pattern, what do we say after the 15,000th time? It’s high time many airline companies answer that question, especially in regards to the countless wheelchairs and mobility scooters that have been broken, damaged, lost or stolen on their watch, and the disabled people that suffer the consequences.

Emily Ladau is a disability rights activist, author of Demystifying Disability, and a wheelchair user. On January 25, 2023, she shared a video entitled, “Flying Has Become Hell for Passengers with Wheelchairs” on her Facebook page, which documented how a typical flight plays out for her as a wheelchair user. As more than 15,000 wheelchairs have been broken, damaged or lost since reporting became mandatory in 2018, Emily knew it would inevitably happen to her.

It did. And now, more than a month after the airline damaged her wheelchair, it is still not fixed and is being held together by duct tape.

Wheelchairs are more than a mobility tool. They are freedom, independence, and as one woman so aptly put it: “It’s like breaking our legs” when they get damaged.

It’s time to stop the discrimination and the mistreatment of disabled people. It’s time we begin treating them and their freedom-giving equipment with the respect and care they deserve.

I encourage you to watch the video, share it with your family and friends, and join in the fight to end this abhorrent discrimination. It’s about time.

Don’t you agree?

You can buy Emily’s book, Demystifying Disability here.