A GIFT FROM MY DISABILITY — THE SIXTH LOVE LANGUAGE

Christmas is now less than two weeks away, and I’m as excited as anyone. But as the chaos of the holiday descends, I’m struck by the odd sense that we are doing it wrong.

“All I Want for Christmas is You” is blaring on shopping mall speakers, advertisements for the latest gadgets are on screens everywhere we turn, and the world is inundated with unabashed consumerism. And with our collective obsession of finding the “perfect gift” for that special someone, have we ever stopped to ask what kind of gift they would appreciate most?

There are five primary love languages: quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch and receiving gifts. I am a words of affirmation gal myself, but I’ve come to recognize that my blindness has paved the way for a sixth–braille.

On my refrigerator, there is a photo that takes center stage. It’s of my best friend’s baby girl, taken in the NICU where they stayed for five months. On the bottom of the photo, there is an inscription that reads: “Hand made by God” with her name, weight and date of birth beneath. But what touches me most about this picture is that the inscription is written in braille. Now, when I trail my fingers across those words–the ones my best friend took the time to write in braille and by hand so that I could read it–I am overcome with gratitude.

My love affair with braille began when I became totally blind at the age of six, and it has only deepened. These six dots don’t merely represent a system through which I can communicate by touch. It’s a way of life, of thinking, learning and being.

I never realized how central braille is to my world until I began verbalizing my innermost thoughts to my husband. What I thought was “normal” and “commonplace,” he gravitates to with such fascination that it’s almost unnerving. When I describe the braille word games I play in my mind as I fall asleep, or how letters and numbers are associated with different colours, [called synesthesia], or that I design braille art which I hope to one day bring to life on the page, I’m reminded of how braille is not just a method of reading and writing. For me, it’s part of who I am. It’s my independence, my freedom, my creativity. And if you don’t think there’s creativity in six little dots, check out these instructions for making braille drawings and think again!

In the act of Christmas shopping and trying to find the perfect gift or the best deal, we’ve forgotten that there are other ways of giving and receiving love. And they may not be on the top five. I doubt that braille is on your list of love languages, but to me, it’s the one that touches my heart in a way none other can. Because through a braille greeting card or note, book or letter, I feel seen. I feel understood. Through taking the time to write in braille, you are telling me that I am worth it, that my disability is a valued part of who I am, and that you value all of me enough to show me love in the way that I will never forget.

This Christmas season, take a moment to ask your family and friends how they like to be shown love. You might be surprised by the answer! But what matters most is that you took the time to learn about the people you care about most. It’s time well-spent!

What’s your love language? Do you have one that isn’t one of the five? Let me know in the comments.

MY BLIND GIRL ESSENTIALS LIST

If writing is like my Daddy’s homemade pancakes for Sunday dinner, making lists are the maple syrup I drown them in.

I make lists for everything–to-do lists, grocery lists, clothing inventory lists, even lists to organize my lists. Yes, I am that person. My brain thrives on it to keep me organized, and… it’s fun!

So, I thought it might be fun to share a list with you of the six things that are essential for my life as a blind woman. This is of course, not a comprehensive list and not meant to speak for all blind and visually impaired people, but these are the things that make my life a little [or a lot] easier and I cannot live without. Here we go!

I. My Guide Dog

Arguably the most important thing on an essentials list for any blind or visually impaired individual is a mobility aid. For many, this is a white cane like this one that I own from The Braille Superstore. For others, a guide dog is their aid of choice. Some rely more heavily on the assistance of others through the use of sighted guide, a technique wherein the sighted person offers guidance by having the blind individual hold their elbow. And for others still, their remaining vision is enough to see them safely about—visual impairment is a spectrum and not every person with an impairment needs a mobility aid.

In becoming blind at six, I was taught to use a white cane. I learned various techniques for maneuvering through my environments, both at school, in my neighbourhood and in the broader community. The skills one learns with a white cane are invaluable, and are necessary if, like me, you wanted to transition to working with a guide dog.

Now, I work with a guide dog, and it is only thanks to the dedication of my orientation and mobility [O&M] instructors and my own perseverance that I’m here. For me, a guide dog is undoubtedly the best decision for my mobility needs, but it is not for everyone. However, having a reliable mobility aid is non-negotiable for the safety of a blind individual.

II. My iPhone

My iPhone is an invaluable part of my life, and not merely for entertainment purposes. Sure, I play my fair share of Battleship on Blindfold Sea Battle, but it is a vital tool for my independence, safety and wellbeing.

There are several apps that I use on a daily basis to be more independent and self-sufficient and help my life to run a bit smoother on the whole. These range from apps that offer sighted assistance for varying tasks, to navigation, and apps with AI [artificial intelligence].

Here are three apps that I use daily and would be lost without:

  • Seeing AI — This app has so many features that I love. Being fully blind with no light perception, I make regular use of the Light channel which outputs a tone which increases in pitch when pointed in the direction of more light and decreases when it becomes darker. This is awesome for knowing if I’ve left my lights on by accident! This app is also how I take my own photos, as after I snap a picture, Seeing Ai describes the photo for me–for example, when taking a photo of my dog on his bed, the app has said, “A dog lying on a rug.” Seeing AI has the capability of reading product labels and pages of text, making it handy for distinguishing between food cans, boxes and packages or incoming mail. For all these features and lots more, it is on the homescreen of my phone for quick access.
  • Moovit — This is a navigation app that helps me to feel confident in planning travel on public transit independently. Enter your starting location and a destination, and the app maps out the route, including all stops and arrival/departure times. While on the bus, you can monitor which stops you are passing, making it easy and efficient to get off at the correct stop. It’s fully accessible for blind users and is my main navigation tool when out and about.
  • Microsoft SoundScape — Another navigation app, SoundScape assists me while out on a walk by calling out the names of the streets I pass and the intersections I’m approaching. It can mark locations that you travel to regularly, and will describe your immediate surrounding and any landmarks in the vicinity such as parks, schools or community buildings. This app has saved me on more than one occasion when I’ve been out walking and gotten myself turned around; I use the app’s descriptions of my location to reorient to the correct direction and continue on safely. An absolute must-have!

III. A Perkins Braille Writer

Braille is an essential part of many blind individuals’ lives. However, it may surprise you to know, and saddens me to no end, that “fewer than 10 percent of the 1.3 million people who are legally blind in the United States are braille readers.” In my life, I’ve come to adore braille, finding it absolutely essential in becoming independent. It promotes literacy skills and gives me greater access to education.

Having a way to produce braille is a very important part of my life as a blind woman. While in school, I used a Perkins braille writer like this one but only recently received one of my own through CNIB [Canadian National Institute for the Blind]. Nothing makes me quite as happy as the satisfying sound of braille being impressed onto the paper by my own fingers and then being able to instantly read pages of handwritten braille… it gives me chills.

IV. My Braille Bible

Because of my love for braille, a hard-copy, braille Bible definitely has a place on my essentials list. My first Bible was this 37-volume item produced by Lutheran Braille Workers, but after years of wear and tear and flattened dots, I now read this beautiful, hard-cover Bible in New King James translation. It’s big, inconvenient to store and nearly impossible to take along outside the house, but I find it easier and more enjoyable to read in this fashion rather than simply listening on audio–it’s a more immersive experience and something I wouldn’t trade for the world.

V. Tactile Dots

While seemingly small, tactile dots play a significant role in my day to day life. These dots, varying in their size, texture and shape, are used in a multitude of ways. From marking the buttons on my microwave, to the temperature controls on my oven, to the cycles of my washer and dryer, these dots are invaluable. I’ve found them at stores dedicated to adaptive equipment for the blind, or simply at the local dollar store. They needn’t be anything fancy, but without them, I’d be lost and much more dependent than I like to be.

VI. Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain which helps to regulate the wake-and-sleep cycle. Because light intake is directly related to melatonin production, totally blind individuals like myself often struggle with keeping a steady circadian rhythm. Struggling with sleep as a preteen, my ophthalmologist recommended I take a melatonin supplement each night to help keep my sleep pattern on track, and I’ve taken it every night since.

As a teenager, I came close to having Non-24-Hour Sleep Wake Disorder, a condition that “causes sleep and wake times to get pushed progressively earlier or later, usually by one or two hours at a time. Over days or weeks, the circadian rhythm becomes desynchronized from regular daylight hours.” It’s a very disruptive sleep disorder and taking melatonin nightly is how I’ve maintained a sleep schedule which keeps me functioning at my best. Though melatonin affects every person differently, I’ve found absolutely essential to my health and wellbeing, and I’m lost without it. I personally recommend Nature’s Harmony, though keep in mind that I speak only from personal experience and have no medical background. This is merely what works best for me.

There you have it, my blind girl essentials list! I hope you had fun reading, because believe me, I had more fun than you’d think writing this list for you!

So, what’s on your essentials list? Let me know in the comments.

BRAILLE IS NOT DEAD — IN FACT, IT’S MORE ALIVE NOW THAN EVER

January is World Braille Month, a time to celebrate the six dots that have opened up a world of freedom and independence to blind and visually impaired people, and the man who created them over 200 years ago.

But how much do we really know about Louis Braille, or how the Braille code came into being?

Who was Louis Braille?

Louis Braille was born in the French village of Coupvray on January 4, 1809. His father was a leatherworker and made harnesses, bridals, and other goods for the villagers. As a little boy, Louis loved to accompany his father to his workshop. When Louis was three years old, he took his father’s awl, a very sharp tool, and attempted to punch a hole in a piece of leather as he’d seen his father do. The awl slipped from Louis’ grasp and recoiled, injuring his left eye. Eventually, the infection spread to his right eye and Louis became totally blind.

He was a tenacious child. He attended school in the village, memorizing the teacher’s lessons, and at the age of 10, he was sent to the Institute for the Blind in Paris to study. It was there that he learned a system for reading by touch, invented by Captain Charles Barbier, called Night Writing, in which soldiers could read messages without the use of light or sound. Louis was intrigued by this system and worked to make it smaller and more efficient.

What came about was the system we know today as Braille. At the age of fifteen, Louis had invented a system which would make reading and writing for the blind possible.

He died of tuberculosis two days after his 43rd birthday in 1852. But he left a legacy that is beloved by thousands of braille readers throughout the world today.

What is braille?

Braille is a means of reading and writing for the blind through a system of raised dots. A braille cell is comprised of six dots–two across and three down–and various configurations of these dots represent the letters of the alphabet. Dot 1 occupies the upper most lefthand corner of the cell, dot 2 is beneath in the middle, and dot 3 is in the bottom lefthand corner. It’s identical on the right for dots 4-5-6. When these dots are organized into specific patterns, they represent letters. For example:

  • A = Dot 1
  • B = Dots 1-2
  • C = Dots 1-4

Braille is classified into grades–one and two. Grade one is called uncontracted braille, meaning that everything is spelled out, letter for letter. By comparison, grade two is known as contracted braille, where through a system of contractions, groups of letters are represented by one, single cell. For example, the word “and” is represented by dots 1-2-3-4-6, making it shorter and faster to write than uncontracted. There are several contractions, over 200 in fact!

In 2010, Canada became the fifth nation to adopt UEB, or Unified English braille. It was born out of a desire to standardize Braille so that resources could be shared more easily and without confusion. It is much the same as SEB [Standard English Braille which I described above], but with variations on which contractions are permitted, etc. To be frank, I do not like nor do I use UEB, so please see the list of resources at the end of this post for more info. But like it or not, it is a reality of braille use and I can read it well, though a bit begrudgingly.

Braille is used almost everywhere. Check your hotel or apartment elevator, and you’ll likely find Braille on the buttons. Check a public washroom and you may find Braille on the sign. Many restaurants have Braille menus, certain goods [shampoo bottles, chocolate boxes, etc] are affixed with braille labels, and there is a fabulously unique niche market for Braille jewelry and apparel within one click of a Google search. Many braille users choose to use a braille display or notetaker which connect to mobile phones or computers and allow one to read and write electronically in Braille. And Braille technology is expanding every day!

This system of six dots has infiltrated an entire demographic of people, and has given freedom and independence in a way I’m sure Louis Braille never dreamed about.

Why is Braille important?

But with the incredible technological advances since the invention of Braille in the nineteenth-century, there are those who have claimed that Braille’s time has piqued, or, in blunt terms, that “Braille is dead.” But friends, Braille is very much alive and thriving!

To enlighten us on the importance of Braille for the blind, I’d like to share with you other voices in the blind and visually impaired community. After all, we are a community, and it’s valuable to share our perspectives, ideas and resources. Let’s take a look at the insights from Sight Scotland on the importance of Braille [and check the list below for other resources].

• Braille for Literacy

“Braille allows blind and partially sighted people to learn spelling, grammar and punctuation and gain an understanding of how text is formatted on the page.

Individuals learn in different ways – some people may find it easier to take in information via audio while others prefer to read the written word in braille. But when it comes to really engaging with a text, particularly complicated printed material, the benefits of being able to read in braille outweigh audio formats as reading aids comprehension and retention of information. Braille use can allow someone to develop their skills for self-expression in written form.”

• Braille for independence

As I noted above, there are multiple ways that Braille is used in the community. Having the skills to both read and write Braille allow a greater level of independence and confidence to engage with the world and build meaningful connections with others. And, as Sight Scotland so adeptly puts it: “Public spaces that include braille signage, for example braille on lift key pads or on doors, can really help people who read braille to maintain their independence when out and about. Braille labels on everyday items can also help to quickly identify what something is. Medicines are usually braille labelled and in supermarkets an increasing range of packaged foods have braille notation.”

• Braille for Professional Goals

“Studies have shown people with a visual impairment who have braille skills are more likely to be in employment than those who don’t use it.

Electronic braille notetakers (a BrailleNote) can be used to take down notes – whether in a lecture at college or university or in a meeting in the workplace. Some people also find braille notes useful to refer to when when giving a presentation or speech.

An accessible workplace should provide the means and facilities for blind and partially sighted employees to utilise braille, audio and assistive technologies in the ways that suit them best.”

• Braille for Equality

“The ability to read and write braille provides the vital access to the written word that sighted people have. It can mean greater equality, enabling blind and partially sighted people to have the use, power, fluidity and enjoyment of the written word that sighted people have. Braille literacy promotes accessibility in society for people with a visual impairment.”

But more than a system of reading and writing for the blind, Braille represents a way of learning and understanding the world we live in. It’s a means of communication and connection, and a beautiful part of being a member of the blind and visually impaired community.

Thank you, Louis Braille.


To Learn More, Check Out These Links

You can learn more about Louis Braille and the Braille code at the following links:

Louis Braille:

Reading and Writing Braille:

Braille Displays and Notetakers:

The Importance of Braille:

Organizations Promoting Braille Literacy:

MY WRITING ESSENTIALS LIST

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily.” — Zig Ziglar

Like taking a bath, brushing our teeth and drinking water, adopting regular habits that promote a healthy lifestyle not only improves our health–physical, mental, emotional and spiritual–but can also help us maximize our productivity.

With that said, here is another list, and another happy Rhianna. [Okay, I’m always happy when I blog, but you know my thing for lists!] These are my six writing essentials, my must-haves that kick up my motivation, get my writing fingers in gear and make writing a little easier and a lot more caffeinated.

I. BrailleSense U2

My first foray into the world of braille notetakers for the blind was in the fourth grade when I received my first PacMate from Freedom Scientific. With a refreshable, 20-cell braille display, it became home to my earliest writings—stories about my crushes and my journal of the houseboating trip my family took two summers later. In middle school, I upgraded to the BrailleNote Apex from Humanware,similar in that it used a refreshable braille display and was a fully functional unit, but with more advanced features.

And since grade 11, I have used the BrailleSense U2 by Hims Inc., which I have lovingly nicknamed George.

Braille is not merely a method of reading and writing for me; it’s freedom, independence and a love I can’t quite articulate. Reading words with my fingertips shows me a world I can’t touch through audio; it’s tactile, real, and the words come alive for me in a way they can’t do any other way. Whether reading someone else’s words or writing my own, it needs to be in braille. I focus better, I edit better, and I believe that I write better when the words trying to escape my brain have a physical outlet beneath my fingers.

But these devices are far from affordable. Often in the thousands, I find it tragically ironic that assistive technology is often too expensive for the very people its created to serve. That’s why I’ve held onto George for as long as I can, but his time is coming to an end. The BrailleSense U2 is no longer supported by the manufacturer, many of the functions I rely on stopped working a long time ago and mine has developed an eerie rattle. But I can’t buy a new one like I could a new notebook [something I’ve always longed to be able to write in].

This is why I have a GoFundMe campaign to raise financial support to purchase a new computer. You can read about my funraiser for a QBraille XL here and I’d appreciate any support so I don’t ever have to write without my beloved braille computer, George. Because yes, every braille computer has been and always will be called George!

II. My Couch/Bed

I’ve been told time and time again that my two favourite places to write are bad for my back—and it is, awful, in fact. But I can’t escape it. The familiarity, comfort and safety they bring allow my brain to relax and let my imagination and words flow.

My bed and my couch are my two havens of comfort and coziness. I find that I am most productive here, wrapped up in a blanket and surrounded by pillows. It’s the perfect recipe for a happy Rhianna.

I can write in coffee shops, on airplanes and wherever else I happen to be, but by far, these two spots are for me, my words, and of course, my dog [because he has to be comfy too, right?]

III. Music

Not a unique item for a list of writing essentials, but as I am rarely without music as it is, it is even moreso when I’m writing. Whether it’s blasting on my Amazon Echo Dot or in my headphones, there is always music around me.

I have written with almost everything from country tunes to acapella hymns on repeat in the background. One of the key words there is repeat; I do have to listen to songs on repeat or else my mind derails and I get distracted in the story, the rhyme, the instrumentation or whatever else my brain desires to use as an excuse for not writing. With songs on repeat, I don’t have to guess at what’s coming up, and if the song inspired my writing, it’ll continue to do so as long as I play it over and over and over again. Apologies to anyone in advance who ever wants to write with me!

IV. Coffee/Water

Before the last few weeks, this item would have only listed coffee. But I’ve been re-inspired to drink more water, so now coffee has to share the spotlight.

I recently bought this half-gallon water bottle with time markings and I carry it with me everywhere. I make it a habit to drink one bottleful before bedtime, and though I can’t see the time markings, which say things like “almost there” when the line reaches 7 PM, I find it motivating to push me on. Water helps keep me healthy and energized, and besides, I get the bonus of having a water bottle in my favourite colour—green [the pink was a somewhat unfortunate side effect].

But that can’t detract from my love of coffee. Hazelnut creamer is a staple in the fridge, and I know the way to the shops that serve hazelnut lattes like I know my own house. Yes, I love the taste, but coffee is also a comfort drink that brings me back to memories of people I love. And yes, I’m drinking a hazelnut latte as I write this. Would you expect anything else?

V. My Blog

In college, I heard a story about the lecturer’s two daughters; when they were small and on a family hike, the mother tried to motivate them to reach the top, but knew that each daughter was motivated by something different. For one, it was chocolate, and for the other, it was a few dollars. I don’t remember the point beyond the commentary that a person is either externally or internally motivated, but it stuck with me.

Like the two daughters, I am externally motivated. Money and chocolate both work, but another force I’ve found to be incredibly adept at motivating me is my blog.

Seeing my words, alive on the page and being read by others is magnetic, a strong, unrelenting pull that encourages me on when I get discouraged. Hitting “Publish” on a post gives me an adrenaline rush that I can’t quite describe, like the moment my feet lifted off the ground in my Hawaiian vacation paragliding expedition. That feeling alone is worth writing for.

VI. My Why

When I was a kid, I wrote because it was fun. I could make animals talk and do things that I couldn’t do. Later, I wrote because I was told that I had a talent for it, a skill that if I honed, could take me places. And in the awkward years between teenager and emerging adult, I wrote because of the question that niggled at the back of my mind, the one that whispered, “what if you can’t do anything else?” That’s not to say that I didn’t love writing, that I wasn’t head over heels for the craft or the way words on a page could say what I couldn’t out loud.

But it wasn’t until after I started blogging that I began to write for myself. I finally found my why, the “thing” that I wrote for, the pull, the draw, the passion that moved me to get up each and every day and write, even if no one would read it [or even if they might one day]. It’s what I lived for, what I longed to bring to life and what satisfied me in a way not much else has ever done.

I found my why, and without it, there’s no reason to write. That is an essential I never go into a project without, because it’s the only thing that makes the words live and breathe and make them worth writing.

What are your writing essentials? Are you externally or internally motivated to pursue your dreams? What keeps you going? Tell me in the comments.

SIX THINGS I LOVE ABOUT BEING A BLIND GIRL

Sometimes, it’s hard to be positive about having a disability. I’ve always called myself a pessimist and more often than not, I focus on the challenges and struggles that come with it. But, even I need a dose of disability positivity every now and then.

So here you go, a list of six things I love about being a blind girl.

I. Being A Braille Reader

A system of six raised dots arranged in various configurations to represent the letters of the alphabet, braille is a code developed to make reading accessible for the blind. It came out of the personal experiences of Louis Braille, born in France in 1809. After an accident in his father’s workshop at age three, little Louis was left totally blind and at the time, incapable of reading books independently. But determined to make a change, 15-year-old Louis Braille invented the system that is now universally accepted and loved.

And you’d be right to count me as part of braille’s fan club! My braille reading lessons started in earnest when I was in second grade and according to family, I soaked it up like a sponge. It’s true; I learned to read and write in braille with much enthusiasm and that enthusiasm has only grown with me as I’ve gotten older. I’m a sucker for braille apparel and accessories; I’ve had braille earrings, a braille necklace and the decorative quilt hanging on my wall has “love” and “friendship” knitted in braille on it. And from elevator buttons to washroom signs, to braille notetaking devices like this one that I use to a good, old-fashioned book read by the fire, I can’t imagine my life without it. It isn’t merely the way in which I read—it’s a way of life, a way that I learn and connect with my world. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to fully express my love for braille and what it has done in my life, but I’ll never stop trying.

II. Getting a Guide Dog

Although not every blind or visually impaired individual chooses to work with a guide dog as their primary mobility tool, I don’t think anyone, blind or sighted, could deny the perk.

From a young age, I knew I wanted to work with a guide dog. And while attending university, it was the end goal that propelled me to practice my independent living skills such as using public transit. By 22, I received my first sweet boy, Cricket. And now, I have Saint, who, by the way, 99% of the time, does live up to his name!

A guide dog has given me freedom and confidence beyond what I ever expected. Now, even though I do have to plan my routes in advance, I feel more equipped to walk out the door with the harness in hand and face whatever may come. Having a floppy-eared partner to journey with me and keep me safe along the way is a blessing I can’t imagine living without and I’m so thankful for.

III. Painting with Many Brushes

Let’s get this out in the open once and for all: Blind people do not have a heightened sense of hearing. We simply rely on our senses more and are more in tune with them as our primary means of gathering information—sight–is no longer available. After all, it’s estimated that 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual.”

But what is a reliance on sight when you have hearing, smell, taste and touch to paint a beautiful picture of the world. Think about it for a moment: If you could only look at a tree, you would miss out on the rustling of the leaves in the wind, the earthy aroma of the bark, running your hands over the rough knots of the wood, and… well I’ve never tasted a tree but you get my point.

Sure, sometimes I miss being able to see. But I’m just grateful I have other ways to enjoy this life and I’m completely content with that.

IV. Being the Innovator

By being disabled in a world that doesn’t always know how to accommodate it, it’s inevitable that a certain amount of creativity and innovation is required. Adapting to a disability can be challenging enough, but add to it the pace at which the world is evolving and it’s exhausting trying to keep up. Whether it’s a technical work-around or a tactile adaptation for an art project, simply looking about will give you enough fodder to be creative and find innovative solutions to a multitude of challenges.

At times, it’s been a negative, but I’m working on turning this into a positive. It stretches my imagination and expands my problem-solving skills which will help me in more ways than just my disability.

V. The Community

As a Christian, I often wonder who I’ll meet in Heaven. I dream about being reunited with my Grandma and Grandpa, and getting to have coffee with King David. Who knows if that will ever be part of a life in Heaven with Jesus, but why not dream, right?

But even here on earth, it’s quite amazing to think of the people, past and present, that are part of the blind and visually impaired community. History is chalk full of blind and visually impaired people who have left a mark on the world, like Louis Braille, [inventor of braille, 1809-1852], Helen Keller [disability advocate, 1880-1968], and Fanny Crosby [Christian hymn writer, 1820-1915]. Of course, there are contemporary figures including Christian speaker and author Jennifer Rothschild, Youtuber Molly Burke, among many others.

And I’d be remiss not to mention the blind and visually impaired friends in my personal life that helped me grow, heal and become a fuller version of myself—the one that accepts who I am as a unique, God-designed creation.

I don’t know about anyone else, but it feels pretty amazing to be in the same community as these amazing men and women who, in one form or another, have touched my life in immeasurable ways.

VI. The Little Victories

And I can’t end this list without having some fun. All right, it might be a bit at the sighted folks’ expense, but give us just this one.

  • We get to be the heroes in power outages when you don’t know where to go, but we do.
  • We can read books in the dark [and sneak past Mom and Dad’s bedtime rules].
  • We have access to programs, technology and resources that are unique to the blind and visually impaired community.
  • No one can peer over our shoulders at our text messages since we can operate our cell phones with the screens turned off.
  • We can watch movies from a different room, and without worry about the video quality.

There you have it, my friends! Another list, and definitely not the last! For any of my blind readers, what’s on your list? Let me know in the comments.

THERE IS NO MEANING IN DISABILITY PRIDE WITHOUT GOD

My first braille Bible came a few volumes at a time. In the first box was the Gospel of Matthew and Acts of the Apostles, two books in the New Testament. I was ecstatic. And as they came box by box, my Bible filled up my bookshelf and at seven years old, I could read the Word of God for myself for the first time.

It was so exciting, being able to read the Bible like my family and friends at church. I took it to Sunday School with me and was able to participate in Sword drills and follow along with the passage during the sermon. I kept a volume next to my bed, and half the shelf in my bedroom was taken up with the 37-volume Bible from Lutheran Braille Workers.

In my early twenties, I decided it was time for a new Bible, one with crisp braille dots and edges that didn’t have permanent curves from leaning against the wall by my bed. I opted for a 20-volume, hardcover Bible in the New King James Version [NKJV]. It now sits on my bookshelf, taking four cubbies to hold it all. It’s made the trek with me from my home two cities and four houses ago. It still takes up most of the bookshelf, and I still keep a volume by my bed.

It’s been with me for as long as I can remember, and so has God.

But my relationship with my braille Bible is easier to define than my relationship with God. There was a beginning, a conscious decision to open the pages and glide my fingers over the sweet dots that spelled out the story of God’s love for me. But growing up in a Christian home meant that God was in my life while I was still in the womb, and before I could say the name of God, He was a significant part of my existence. There’s never been life for me without Him. No beginning, no divide between when I knew Him and when I didn’t. Along the way, there have been landmarks in our relationship, like my baptism at 14 and my decision to attend Bible college after high school.

Receiving my braille Bibles have been landmark moments in my faith journey, too, but it’s not only because of being given the ability to read God’s Word for myself. It’s because the Bible was in braille, and for the first time, my identities as a disabled woman and a Christian came together in a real, tangible way.

The immense pride I have in my identity as a disabled woman only has meaning when taken with my pride in being a follower of Jesus Christ. I never believed they could coexist before, but not only can they, it makes my life overflow with beauty and meaning in both.

My disability is beautiful because I know that God created me this way and takes joy in me.
My faith is bolstered because of what I have endured as a disabled woman and every trial I face points back to God.

As simplistic as it may sound, the Bible sitting on my bookshelf now and the one in my childhood bedroom is how I know this is true. In one book, my disability and my God come together. It’s the only way to have full and complete meaning in both my disabled identity and my Christian identity. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My disability brings me closer to God, and God brings me pride in my disability.

You all know that I’m very vocal about my disability pride and a bit less so about my Christian pride. My faith journey is a very private one, and I keep it behind a curtain for only me and God to see. But every time I write about disability equality, accessibility, rights and ways to become allies of the disabled community, it stems from my love for the God who made me disabled, and beautifully so. There’s no meaning in it if God isn’t the maker and the center, and I’m thankful that He is, and will always be, there.

How does your faith impact your relationship with your disability, and vice versa? Let me know in the comments.