Get to Know Me – ‘The VIP Tag’

Hi All!

This time, I thought I’d write my thoughts on the ‘VIP Tag’. I know doing ‘tags’ is a very bloggy thing to do, but hey let’s have some fun! ūüôā So here we go!

1. What medical condition caused you to be blind or visually impaired?

It wasn’t necessarily a condition, when I was born I was born 4 weeks premature so as a result I was born totally blind and had no vision what so ever! I then had some eye surgery in order to give me some vision. It worked on my left eye, but not on my right. So for my whole life, I have a condition called ‘Retinopathy Of Prematurity’. From what I understand, this occurs when blood vessels grow and spread throughout the retina. But can be different for each person and each individual case. So what I experience can be completely different from someone else.

2. In three words describe your Visually Impairment.

Brightening, blurry, can be painful.

3. What is the hardest thing to do being blind or visually impaired?

As simple as the task is for most people, the hardest thing for me about being visually impaired, is matching up socks! Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m lucky enough to have enough vision where I am able to tell if I’m wearing odd socks. The hardest thing is match socks of the same colour! So I try and get around this, by wearing mostly black socks that way no one can tell at a glance!

4. What is the best part about being blind or visually impaired?

Honestly, I think the best part about having a visual impairment, is probably the fact I have one because if I didn’t I would not have been able to do some of the things I’ve been able to do! Before my sight got gradually worse, I was a football referee for my county where I live, and I did that for 4 years, I won various refereeing awards, I won a ‘Ward & Partners’ award for being the first visually impaired referee. I also got the chance to go to The Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford and I met some amazing people, who I still talk to today, whilst there I got to go to Stuggart, Germany twice and got to have a look round various places, including the Mercedes¬†Benz Museum!

But most importantly, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this blog post right now! During the time I have been writing theatre reviews, I have to got to go and see and experience some truly amazing shows, as well as getting to meet numerous cast members, who are always intrigued by what I think, because until they meet me at the press parties, certain aspects of their shows they would not even have thought of otherwise! Sometimes I get feedback from shows saying that if it wasn’t for them hearing my opinions, they wouldn’t have thought to make their shows even more accessible than they already are.

5. What question do you get asked most about or because of your vision?

There are three actually that I get asked all the time, the first one being: “Have you thought about having laser eye¬†surgery?” The second because I have a Guide Dog is: “Are you training her?” and the third one mainly asked by children when I’m out and about which always makes me laugh is: “Is your eye made of glass?” Sometimes, I say “Yes!” and the look of wonder on their faces, with the parents grinning behind them, is always funny to watch.

6. Do you have a cane, a guide dog or neither?

I have a Guide Dog called Blossom (who if your interested to hear more about, you should check out ‘My Guide Dog Experience‘ post) who comes with me everywhere I go, but on the very rare occasions where she doesn’t come with me, I use my white cane and did for years before Blossom came into my life!

7. What piece of advice would you give to someone who is losing, going to lose or has lost their sight?

The one piece of advice I would give is, sure it may seem scary and daunting to have sight loss, but your life isn’t over! There is so much more out there that you can do, as well as Numerous support agencies and organisations who will help you to have a full and happy life!

8. What piece of advice would you give to a sighted person about interacting with someone who is blind or visually impaired?

Throw all judgments and stereotypes of what other people have told you about visually impairment people out the window! We’re all different, don’t be afraid to come up and ask if you need to give us help and support, we’ll happily tell if we need it or not. ūüôā

9. Why did you join Youtube/blogging?

As if you can’t already tell I’m a HUGE fan of theatre and have been since I can remember! I can remember my mum taking me, my brother and sister to the local theatre to watch shows, and then every Christmas we go to the local theatre to watch the Christmas Pantomime every year (thanks Mum!) These days I’m lucky enough I get to see it twice, once for you guys, and the other time with my family which is always a lovely occasion.¬†

But as I got older and wanted to venture more and more out on my own, I was looking for someone who reviewed theatre shows from a visual impaired perspective, but after researching it there wasn’t anyone I could find. Then one day, someone said to me “Is there anyone out there who reviews shows for the visually impaired?” “No, sadly not,” I said. “Well, why don’t you?” To be honest, I had never thought about it before, though I would struggle to get theatres to let me review for them, as probably they had more popular reviewers, publications, and websites already reviewing for them. Fast forward 3 years, and here I am reviewing shows month after month and I love it!! Theatre has always been one of my passions! Do I get paid to do it? no. Do I care? absolutely not! Maybe one day I might be lucky enough to do so, but right now I couldn’t be happier!

10. Name three people to do this tag next.

At this moment in time, I hardly know anybody in the ‘VI’ blogging community, which I would love to change, and calibrate with some other people and try different things! But for now, if your a blogger who is also visually impaired, and want to give this a go, then why not! What’s stopping you!! ūüôā

The Inspiration for this post came from a fellow Visually Impaired blogger Glen from welleyenever.com! 

Until Next Time,

The VI Critic!

Getting to know Blossom! – The Guide Dog Tag

Hi All,

Today, I thought I’d do another Visually Impaired related blogging tag. This time it’s ‘The Guide Dog Tag’. So without further ado let’s do this!

1. What is your guide dogs name?

Her name is Blossom!

2. What is the breed of your guide dog?

Blossom is half Labrador and half Labrador Retriever

3. How old is your guide dog?

At the time of writing this, Blossom is 2 years old, but will be 3 on 12th June!

4. Where was your guide dog trained?

Blossom was trained at The Guide Dogs Training School in Redbridge but was then taken to Hertfordshire to The Welwyn Garden City Mobility Team. If you want to see a clip of Blossom at her time here you can watch the video below! 

 

5. When did you qualify with your guide dog?

I qualified with Blossom on the 15th September 2017

6. Is he or she your first guide dog?

Yes, Blossom is my first Guide Dog!

7. Summarise your guide dogs personality in five words?

Fun, laidback, cheeky, playful, wonderful.

8. What is the best thing about your guide dog?

I know a lot of Guide Dog Owners probably say this, but the ability to go out anywhere I want and at spare of the moment!

9. What is the funniest thing your guide dog has ever done?

For, the funniest thing Blossom has ever done is during our early days of training, I was in the bathroom getting ready for the day ahead and in the bathroom, there was this see-through shelf that I didn’t see. So, as a result, I whacked my head on it. Afterwards, I looked at Blossom and she just looked at me, sighed, shook her head and went back to her bed sighing again!

10. Has your guide dog ever gotten you into any embarrassing situations?

Oh yes, she sure has! I can think of one incident in particular! At my church, sometimes I am an altar server, at one Sunday, we were getting ready to process back down the aisle. As I came closer to the aisle I noticed, Blossom was laying right in the middle of it! So as a result of this; all the servers, choir, and vicars had to walk around her and continued to walk down the aisle!

11. What is your guide dog like on harness?

On harness, Blossom is excellent! Sure, there are days where she struggles a little and doesn’t want to work as hard, but the way I look at it, is at the end of the day they are dogs and we do ask a lot of them!

12. What are some of your guide dogs quirks?

One of Blossom’s quirks, really makes me laugh sometimes. There is this one thing she sometimes does that makes everyone laugh. We can be heading somewhere or heading home from somewhere, and at some point, we will come across a bus. Blossom will sometimes notice the bus stop, stop at it, and look at me as if to say: “Dad, can’t we just go home on the bus?” People have said she is so like me it’s unbelievable! Also she knows that a night I suffer from ‘Night Blindness’ so she knows when the when to push the buttons a bit, and see what she can get away with! ūüôā

13. Where does your guide dog seem to work the best?

Blossom works really well at night. Part of my condition is that I suffer from ‘Night Blindness’ and over the time we have been together, she has worked this out. So at night, I couldn’t fault her in the¬†slightest. She also loves to work in busy and noisy areas like London, there is always a spring in her step whenever we go there!

14. What is your guide dogs favorite thing to do when off harness?

I only have one word to describe this…sleep! If we’re not out and about, she’s sleep. She’s even fallen asleep on buses and I’ve had to wake her up to get off the bus!

15. Has your guide dog ever done anything that goes beyond the call of duty?

I don’t think I can really answer that just yet, as we have not been together that long, but who knows in the near future I think she just might!

So that’s it! I hope you have enjoyed reading this, enjoyed getting to know to Blossom a little more! There will be plenty of photos in the up and coming reviews and many more adventures we have together! Any other Guide Dog Owners, who want to give this tag a go feel free to, I got the questions and inspiring from a fellow blogger & youtuber ‘Fashoneyesta‘ who’s video I will link here! If you want to see more of Me and Blossom, then please follow us on Twitter, that way you get to see all the update information, photos, and videos, plus all else that we get up to!

Until Next Time,

The VI Critic

 

Apps For The Visually Impaired

Hi Everyone,

I have been blogging about my experiences going to the theatre for visually impaired people for a few of years now, and it occurred to me recently that even though yes, I tell you guys about my theatre goings-on from a visually impaired perspective, I don’t really do any visually impaired related content. I did writing about my Guide Dog Experience recently (if you haven’t read that yet, I suggest you do so). But this time I thought I would write and suggest some smartphone apps that I use. Now you may have already heard of some of these already and that’s okay, but there maybe some on this list that you might not have heard of.¬†

This list is in no particular order, so here it goes:

1. Netflix

Some of you might be sitting there reading this and thinking ‘why on earth have you chosen Netflix?’ Well, along with Netflix being the leading company in online streaming services, it has I believe the largest and best category of films and tv show that have Audio Description! The UK version of Netflix already has big collections of films and tv shows, but what makes Netflix stand out from all the rest is that it has its own category for Audio Description which covers tv or films. Instead of trying to search for films or tv shows and clicking on each one to see if it has AD all you have to do is just click or tap on the category which says ‘Audio Description’ and there you go! Netflix is a monthly subscription service, with their basic package being ¬£5.99 and going far as ¬£9.99 for their ultra package. They do offer a 30-day free trial so give it a shot!

2. TimeBuzz

Okay, now technically this is not a smartphone app, but an Apple Watch app, but hear me out. Have you ever been in a situation where you want to know what the time is, but you are afraid if you check it will look like your bored, or it will distract the people around you? Well, this solves both those problems. TimeBuzz instead of telling you the time verbally, it gives you the time by giving you physical indications by tapping you on the wrist. For example, if the time was 10:15am once you press the button, it will tap you ten times on the wrist, pause, then tap you fifteen times on the wrist, and no is the wiser!

3. Big Spender

This app is for all my fellow Guide Dog Owners out there! Have you ever been traveling in a city or place you are unfamiliar, and your dog needs to ‘spend’ and go for the toilet, and if like Blossom they only want to go on grass? Well, then this app is for you! It uses your current location and searches for the nearest public piece of grass. You do have to use a bit of common sense, as it will show you places at you just can’t get to like grass on roundabouts or it might say there is a patch of public grass, but you get there and it isn’t anymore, but on the whole, it has got me out of a jam and it does come in handy!

4. StoCard 

This has been a recent find, thanks to another visually impaired blogger/YouTuber ‘Fashioneyesa‘. This has been a lifesaver! When I’m out shopping I’m forever having a blank at to where I have put a certain loyalty card for a certain shop, with this app I don’t have to worry about that anymore. What this app does is instead of struggling to find a certain card in your wallet or purse. All you have to do is store your card into the app before you go shopping. Then when the staff asks if you have a loyalty card, you can open this app and select it, at which point it will come up with that card’s barcode or QR code for the shop assistant to scan! It will add the points automatically to your account, it works with all major UK shops and food chains so start scanning!

5. Tube Map

This app has been brilliant! Even though I’m Visually Impaired, I am lucky that I have some remaining useful vision. But sadly when I go to London and use the underground, I can’t see the large maps on the station walls or on the trains themselves. So this app takes care of all of that. It downloads the full London tube map to your phone, and you can zoom in or out as much as you need. Although the best thing about it in my opinion, is that when you search a route, it tells you how many stops it is before you get to your destination, and which ‘bound’ to use for example ‘West Bound’ or ‘North Bound’ which is for me the biggest difficulty.¬†¬†

I hope that this list of apps have become useful, and has given you some new apps to try. All links to these apps are in the app titles, so just click on them and it will take you to the App Store. If you have any other suggestions as to what other Visually Impaired topics you would like me to talk about and go into, then please leave them in the comments below, or get in touch or either Facebook or Twitter!

Until Next Time,

The VI Critic!

Shows an iPhone next to a Macbook showing a 'Home Screen' full of Apps'

Europe After The Rain!

Hi Everyone,

Coming at you with another review! This is ‘Europe After The Rain’ by Oliver Bennett. It talks about politics and The EU exit vote back in 2016. The story includes four main characters Will, Max, Marta, and Yana.¬†

The story covers these four characters as Will owns at large house, and one day comes across two refugees who have come into England. As they have no place to stay, he offers for them to come and stay with him. Will has strong views on the now then current British Government and what he feels they should do. Marta and Yana, however, have no interest in the vote, so throughout the first have of the show, Will tries to explain to them, but with little results. The second half of the show then shows an extreme version of what could happen after the vote to leave the Europian Union. 

Simon-Haines-Max-Natasha-Kafka-Marta-Photography-by-Robert-Day-800x530
Photo Description: Simon Haines (Max) & Natasha Kafka (Marta) looking together at a tablet.

I feel that writer here is not trying to tell the audience his views on what he thinks of the whole subject. But to show a version of what could happen. I personally don’t take much interest in the subject, as I personally struggle to understand it all. But for those who do, I think this show is a show where I think you’re doing to love it or not. The show was performed in the theatre’s studio and not the main Auditorium, so there was very little space, so this was one of those times where I was glad I’m quite a small person! As it was such a small space to work it, there was a lot of realistic features, for example, the use of candles and realistic cigarettes.¬†

I thought the play was acted very well by all members of the cast. There was a fair amount of humor which was nice from the character Max. There was also a fair amount of strong language in this show too, I thought maybe too much but again added to the realism. You got a real sense that the household was struggling financially, due to the use of some characters using beach chairs and some using plastic and again same with the tableware. 

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Photo Description: Simon Haines (Max) dancing around, hold a bunch of red flowers laughing.

The whole show was also performed on sand, which I thought was interesting. Along with robes hanging down from the top of the studio, I can only assume that was to simulate rain, or maybe walls as it wasn’t really made clear. But was an interesting visual. If you’re looking for something different to go see, this Definitely ticks that box!

People With A Visually Impairment: Your have no problem watching this show at all, I would suggest you get a ticket within the B or C rows of seats to get the best view possible!

People With No Vision; Again you will have no problem here! Most of the story is Dialogue with very little visuals. every now and again a character will light a cigarette or light a candle but it has very little if at all to the story. The use of sound is also very good in this show, so you shouldn’t really have a problem. There is an Audio Description & Touch Tour available though if you want to have descriptions.¬†

‘Europe After The Rain’ is running that The Mercury Theatre in Colchester from 25th May – 9th June! If you wish to go and purchase tickets, then you can find the link by clicking here!

Until Next Time,

The VI Critic