The Uphill Struggle to get my Book Recorded for People Who Are Blind

Making a book accessible for people who are blind is not as easy as you might think. Just call your State Library for the Blind and ask them to record it. Were it that easy, my book, The Bumpy road to Assisted Living a Daughter’s Memoir” would have been available on talking books months ago when I started my campaign for the talking book library to accept it. The director of the Ohio branch enumerated some reasons why they rejected it, and each one was actually a good reason why they should record it and add it to their collection. Rather than write both the objections and my responses, I’ll just summarize my comments, which should reflect the objections. I said in my response, “Yes, my book has been published. Yes, it is self-published, but there are many books on the talking book list that are self-published. Print copies are available through Amazon, and I would be happy to send you one for review. However, the book is available in the Columbus public library system. Several very complimentary reviews have been published for this book, and I even received an email letter from a woman who said my book has changed her life. My book has relevance to over 73 million baby-boomers, in this country alone, who are dealing with elderly parents, experiencing dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. While there are several books available on a similar subject, none is exactly like mine. It is obviously written by a blind person, and I know that the Library for the Blind favors books written by people who are blind. It is important to learn how other blind people handle situations such as the ones I describe in my book.

Please note that having it recorded for the talking book library results in absolutely no profit for me. My well-meaning editor has remarked several times that I will make no money from making it available in the library system. I am well aware of that, but it is important to me that my blind friends and indeed blind people everywhere have an equal chance to read what I have been told is a very insightful, touching, humorous, and informative book.

Since the answer still seems to be no, a friend suggested that I try to find funding to have it recorded by Audible. The price for doing so is prohibitive for me, but perhaps enough people will understand the importance of having this kind of information available to everyone, sighted or blind, and would be willing to support a “gofundme” appeal on line.. I’d like to know your opinion before I proceed with researching the price and the process. If your response is a positive one, I’ll get busy and learn what the cost will be and how gofundme works. Thanks in advance for your comments.

Mary Hiland

www.seeingitmyway.com

Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”

Available at Amazon.com

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Sneak Peek

“You should write a book,” many of my friends have said. I did. It was published a year ago, and I called it “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living a Daughter’s Memoir,” (shameless plug) available on Amazon.com But ever since then, I’ve been itching to write a second book. Today, I’m sending you the first draft of the first chapter of “Insight Out, a Memoir.” Let me know what you think.

You may have heard some version of this quote, but I think this is a good place to put it in this book. Blindness “is only part of who I am, not the definition of my life.” Wow. How true this is for me.

I should use it as part of my signature on my email messages. I should get a T-shirt with those words written in puff paint. Blindness is only part of who I am, not the definition of my life. Now, if only the rest of the world would forget the stereotypical image of blindness and view those of us who have a vision impairment as people first. . As you might guess, I’m really big on “people first” language. You will never hear me refer to a group of people who are blind as “the blind,” just as I refuse to say “the elderly,” or “the homeless.” We are people who have personalities, regrets, knowledge, sorrows, happiness, jobs, families, problems, joys, disabilities, and a host of other attributes unique to each of us.

Some of what you read in this book may surprise you, especially if you have never met a person who is blind. Somehow, I seem to always be the first blind person most sighted people have ever met “up close and personal.” Am I the first for you? Well, welcome to my world. In this book, I will talk about many aspects of my life that have relevance to my blindness, but sometimes, what I have to share has nothing to do with being blind, just to illustrate that blindness is not the definition of my life.

This book is also for a person who is experiencing vision loss or who is close to someone who is. You can read all sorts of books about accepting blindness and the stages we go through as we lose vision, but in this book, you will peek inside the life of a person who has experienced the whole journey, from poor vision to total blindness. I will share with you the struggles of recognizing my limitations and the joys of overcoming them and everything in-between. I am 73 as I begin to write this book, but the story begins when I was in the second grade. Even a beginner in math skills can tell that I have had plenty of time to adjust to blindness and make my life as close as possible to what I want it to be.

When people meet me at first, especially those who have never met a blind person before, and they learn about my accomplishments, which are only everyday activities that most people, at least in the U.S. enjoy without a thought, they are impressed beyond belief. the first comment they make is, “You are so amazing,” or “awesome” or “inspirational.” Later in this book, you will learn why I think these reactions are ridiculous and unwarranted. Naturally, if I had become totally blind overnight and then proceeded with life as I have, I might have agreed, but as I said, my blindness sneaked up on me and gradually changed the path of my life. It didn’t ruin my life, just altered it to make me work a little harder to live it the way I wanted to.

I have been told that my sight has been replaced with insight. I’m not sure that’s true, but let’s go with it and see if it fits the title of this book.

Mary Hiland

www.seeingitmyway.com

Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”

Available at Amazon.com

Technology, My New Best Friend

The biggest and brightest star in the technology world for people who are blind or visually impaired are the “smart glasses,” brought to the accessibility scene by a company called AIRA. If you’re blind and you’ve ever wished you could have a sighted guide to crawl into a pair of glasses and lead you through unfamiliar territory, help you shop independently, read a menu, or a handwritten birthday card, AIRA has a solution for you.

Having just purchased my first month’s membership, I’m still learning which buttons to push and which tabs on my phone to tap for best results, but so far, it’s the most independent I’ve felt since getting my first dog guide.

Oh please don’t ask me to explain how it works, because it’s absolute magic to me. But I can tell you what I do on my end to make it work. 3 pieces of technology need to be fully charged before I step out the door. One is about the size of a bar of soap that provides the wifi as you travel outside your home. The glasses, which look pretty much like a pair of sun glasses with a tiny camera on one ear piece, need to be charged as well. When you press a button on the glasses, it calls an AIRA agent, who answers almost immediately on my iphone. No appointments needed. He or she describes what they see through the glasses as if I were looking through them myself.

As users of the service, we are called “explorers.” For my first exploration, I asked my agent to go along with me as I walked along my street, which was in the process of being completely removed and replaced. Monster trucks with nerve wracking backup beepers and deafening noises made taking a walk in my neighborhood a scary venture. At the end of the block, they had totally ripped out the corner, so now the sidewalk was a challenge as well. Although I have the best dog guide in the world, I wanted to have someone along, just to affirm that she was taking me the right way around this dangerous obstacle. She did it like a champ, without a single word from me, and it was extra gratifying to hear my agent confirm that we were back on the right track. And here’s my second venture with AIRA. In recent years, I’ve become lazy about labling my clothes, noting colors, patterns, or messages on shirts. One night last week, I put on my AIRA glasses, pushed the little call button, and in a minute or so, my agent and I set to work, sorting my summer clothes. We’ve had a very long winter here in Ohio, so I hadn’t seen some of my dresses and tops for many months and couldn’t even remember buying some of them. That’s because the minute I got them home from the store last summer, winter set in. As I held up each garment, and my female agent described it, I’d put it in a pile of other clothes of a similar color. But I have so many summer clothes that soon, I ran out of spots on the bed for more piles. and then there was the challenge of some items that had several colors that went with several other items. when we ended the session, I realized that my room looked like a cyclone had hit, and I was more confused than ever. Was this a solid blue or a blue background with white flowers? the problem was that I simply had too many clothes.

Then old Technology Came to the Rescue, the facetime feature on my iphone. I called my daughter, who lives in another state, and problem solved. I could have contacted an AIRA agent again, but there’s nothing like a daughter’s honesty and keen eye for my particular style and color. At one point, I said, “Hold on a minute. I’m going to put this outfit in the other closet.” “What happened?” she asked in alarm. “It went black.” “Don’t worry,” I said. “I just put you in my pocket for a minute.” Only a daughter could find that funny. While the AIRA agents and the Be My Eyes volunteers are talented and efficient, it’s more fun to joke around with a daughter. But when a daughter is not around, the next best person is an AIRA agent, whether navigating a construction area or your summer clothes closet.

Mary Hiland

www.seeingitmyway.com

Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”

Available at Amazon.com

Book Review

It was Thursday night and almost time for our favorite TV show, MASH. Kids had to be put to bed, dinner dishes washed, and laundry done and folded. Then the theme song played, and we settled down for the most entertaining hour of the week. I loved all the characters, but it was Hawkeye who completely stole my heart. I loved his playful, sometimes biting, sarcasm mixed with compassion for his patients. No wonder the nurses swooned whenever he walked across the compound. But did they know that Alan Alda, the man who played that iconic character, was not only a talented actor but also an author, playwright,, director, and philosopher? I certainly didn’t, that is, until I read “Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself.” Throughout this fascinating autobiographical work, I learned how Alan Alda became who he is. His stories of growing up in show business, essays about life’s lessons, and speeches he has delivered to high school and college graduates are a treat to read, especially for those of us who use talking books or Commercial Audio, because the narrator was none other than Alda himself. His sincere delivery and witty commentary made me wish that I could be in his circle of friends. Laughter is vitally important too him, so I’m guessing he’s fun to be around. In one of the chapters about his experience with MASH, he reminisces about the hours his cast members spent waiting for their turn for the cameras. Instead of sitting in their dressing rooms alone, studying their scripts, they sat on chairs in a circle, not just rehearsing, but telling jokes and laughing at each other’s stories. Their sense of family was carried right along with them as they stepped into their parts in the scene. Also important to him is love, as he talks a lot about his devotion to his wife Arlene, who is a well-known author as well.

I had the privilege of being in the audience when they both were on the Chautauqua stage, two years ago, when the theme for that week was writing. I chose that week to attend The Chautauqua Institution in New York, because at that time, I had been working on my own book, a memoir about moving my reluctant mother into assisted living. I wanted to learn from the experts. . Imagine my delight when I knew I was in the presence of this prolific artist. He sat in a rocking chair on stage, along with his wife, and their host Roger Rosenblatt, and we, the audience, had the pure delight of eves-dropping on their witty and pithy conversation. At the time, I knew Alan Alda only as Hawkeye, but since I’ve read three of his books, I know now that he is so much more.

The other two books I thoroughly enjoyed were “Never Have Your Dog Stuffed” and “If I Understood what You Said, Would I Have This Confused Look On My Face?” The titles alone make you think of Hawkeye, don’t they? “Never Have Your Dog Stuffed is not narrated by Alda, but it’s well worth reading anyway. The other two give you the bonus of hearing the voice of Hawkeye. Even if you are too young to have seen Alda in action on stage, in movies, or on a TV screen, you will find all his works entertaining and inspiring.

If you are a talking book subscriber, you can find all three of these books on BARD. Here is the complete title and DB number of my favorite.

Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself DB 64972

And BTW, I did finish my book, “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living a Daughter’s Memoir, and you can find it on Amazon or

dldbooks.com/maryhiland/

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New Family Member

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was the day we decorated the graves of soldiers and loved ones, followed by picnics, a day at the beach, or the first dip in the pool. While the decoration part has been forgotten by most of us, I’m glad to hear about certain groups who plant thousands of flags in a field to commemorate the sacrifices made by our Armed Forces. If you haven’t seen one of these fields, you’ve missed a moving experience. So why did I not show a photo of one of these memorial fields of flags? Mostly, because I don’t have one.

But I do have a photo that commemorates another aspect of this holiday to be celebrated. Families gather to share food and fun, and my family celebrated a new member, and her name is Marley. My granddaughters, Meghan and McKenzie adopted a sweet Golden Retriever puppy, and she met my Dora today.

When she first arrived this morning, I took Dora out in the front to meet and greet, and we all know how dogs get to know each other. After the preliminary inspections, we all trooped out to the back yard for lots of “ahs” and “Oh how cute” and “See how nice they are playing.” Of course Dora was much more interested in having Steve toss the ball for her, but at least she didn’t run over her little guest as she ran back to have it thrown again. She’d stop and wait until Marley got out of the way before she’d run back to Steve. After running from one fence to another to say hello to neighboring dogs, who were just as interested to see the new kid on the block, Marley seemed content to lie in the grass while we humans had our picnic inside the screened in patio. Dora came in with us, not to beg, but to bounce the ball now and then to remind us that she was still waiting for someone, anyone, to notice that the ball was not being thrown.

We don’t know how big Marley will get to be, but I’ll keep you posted with more adorable pictures.

going Steady

“Going steady” has a whole new meaning for me. If you know someone who uses a Seeing Eye ® dog, and you do, because you read my blog, you might hear that person giving her dog certain commands, such as “hup up,” which means “hurry up” or “let’s go,” or “pfui!” which means “Bad girl,” or “Stop sniffing.” And of course, you’ll here the universal commands of sit and down. We say “rest” instead of “stay.” But the one I want to talk about today is the command “Steady.” I’ll get to what it means in a minute.

Since my spinal fusion surgery 6 weeks ago, I have not been able to use my sweet girl, Dora, because of her strong pull. I had to be very cautious when I walked around the house on my own and very slow when I walked with a friend outside. Poor Dora had to stay home from the few outtings I had, such as doctors’ appointments and a rare lunch at a restaurant. I just couldn’t risk having her pull too hard on me and undo the repairs on my back. I certainly did not want to go through that again.

Many friends brought in food and often stayed to have the meal with me, which was very kind. But what pleased me most were the energetic folks who took my athletic dog for good long walks, often with a vigorous game of fetch thrown in. She’d come home panting with a big grin on her face, and that made me happy.

I would have been happier still if I could have taken her out for a brisk walk myself. But no, I had to be the one staying behind, resting, and healing. “Rest” and “Heel” had a whole new meaning for us.

Then almost exactly at the 6-week mark, I decided it was time to try putting on the harness, along with a “gentle leader,” a soft strap that goes over the dog’s nose and mouth, (not a muzzle) just to remind her that she needs to slow down and pull only gently. Putting her harness on her without bending over was a trick in itself. I had to kneel beside her, being careful not to twiwst my body, because that was forbidden too, and then hoist myself back up on a nearby chair, so as not to strain my back. What joy I felt as we stepped out the door into the sunshine and started down the driveway and on up the street. It reminded me of the day I stepped off with my first Seeing Eye, Mindy. It was a joyous occasion. But we did not march off as in our previous days before back pain. No, I gently tugged on that gentle leader and repeated softly to her, “Steady … steady … steady.” There’s that command I mentioned earlier. And she remembered what that meant. Slowing her pace, we managed to walk out for 3 blocks and then home again with no pain in my back. And that’s not all she remembered. I had worried a little that with all the walking with friends, and therefore with no real commands, she’d get lazy in her responses to certain situations. As we stopped at a corner ramp, I gave her the forward command to cross the street, but she stayed put. This is called “intelligent disobedience,” because it was at that moment that a driver who was in a big hurry to beat us to the corner, swung right in front of us and continued making the turn without so much as a hesitation. In our training at The Seeing Eye, we call this situation a “traffic check,” and I was thrilled to see that even though we had not encountered one for years, she was “on it.” She might as well have said, “I got this Mom.”

As we made our way home, at a fairly slow pace, I thought to myself, “Yes, by the time the 12-week recuperation is up, we’ll be back to marching along, but in the meantime, we’re going steady. “Steady … steady … steady.

Mother’s Day

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Mothers, remember those days when you were instructed to stay in bed, because your little darlings were bringing breakfast to you in bed? You had to act delighted with the tray that was decorated with paper flowers, hand-drawn placemat and something that resembled, some sort of food, such as burned toast with jelly and a glass of kool-aid. You would read the handmade card, and then tear up with love and joy that were expressed so eloquently. Or maybe you woke to the sounds of your kids arguing in the kitchen, plates and pans being dropped or thrown, the smoke detector screaming, and then at least one of them crying and the others stomping off to their rooms, and the littlest one presenting you with the remains of what was meant to be your Mother’s Day breakfast. And you wished you could just go downstairs, make yourself a bowl of raisin bran and eat it peacefully while you read the paper and sipped your coffee. Or maybe you requested a way to prevent all that, and you went out for breakfast. You stood in line for a half hour, while your kid’s fidgitted and poked each other and then complained loudly to you that “He’s touching me.” When you were finally seated, the coffee was cold, and the eggs were overdone, and the family in the next booth kept bumping into your back, and a doll came flying over into your table and landed in the syrup. Or maybe you had the perfect Mother’s Day breakfast, as I did this morning.

The plan was that I would call my son Steve when I awoke, which could be anywhere from 5:30 to 8:30, but it happened that I slept in this morning until 9:30. Guilt swept over me as I pictured my son not only starving to death but wondering if I’d died in my sleep. After guiltily taking my patient dog outside to empty and then scooping up her long awaited food, I called Steve, and he was very gracious about my tardiness. He said he was glad I could sleep in. Then in about 10 minutes, he appeared at my door with ingredients for one of the most delicious breakfasts a Mother could wish for. Blueberry pancakes, bacon, orange juice, and hot tea were served to me at my kitchen table with the patio door open so I could hear the birds, with classical music playing in the background. OK. I was responsible for the classical music, but it was such a delight to have breakfast with my grownup son with grownup conversation. I think you have to get past the young-children-in-your-life stage before you can truly enjoy Mother’s day. When the meal was over, Steve, in his typical fashion, whisked away the dishes, loaded the dishwasher, and cleaned up the kitchen. As a finishing touch, we went outside to throw the ball for Dora. A perfect ending of a perfect visit. Oh, but we weren’t quite finished. Steve had to pick up a few things I had dropped over the last couple days, since I’m still not allowed to bend over, and he filled both of Dora’s water bowls, since that’s impossible to do without bending or lifting. Off he went to go on a fishing trip with his buddies, as I settled down with a cup of coffee to write to you. I wonder how my daughter in Syracuse is doing with her special day. She’ll call me later, and I’ll open the thoughtful gift she sent me. I am one lucky mom. I hope you mothers are having as nice a day as I am.