Training With Disabled Go

Today, i took part in a training day with a company called

Disabled go

Which is an accessibility checker so that disabled people can look up particular venues to see how accessible they are. Disabled go works with counscels who pay to be a part of Disabled go. There are 4 counscels who are signed up here in Northern Ireland, but they want to get it rolled out to more counscel areas in the future. The counscels which have it already are Ards and North Down, Antrim and Newtownabbey, Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavan and Belfast city counscel. Once the counscel has signed up to the scheme, they will request for places to be surveyed.

There are two types of access guide that Disabled go provide. One is called a “detailed access guide” or a DAG for short. This would be a venue such as a restaurant or hotel where you are likely to spend a considderable ammount of time in. The other type of guide is called a “key access review” or a KAR for short. This would be a venue like a bank, where you aren’t likely to spend as much time in but still need to know if it is accessible or not. Unlike other companies, Disabled go does not make recommendations for venues to be accessible, rather they will provide guideance if it is a detailed access guide, for example, but it is mainly so that disabled people can make their own choices as to whether they will use a particular venue or not. For example if there is a step in to the venue, the website will list the fact that there is a step to get in to the building, but on’t recommend for it to be changed.

The day started with a visit to City hall, where we met the rest of the participants and the facilatators from disabled go. First of all, they presented a presentation all about the history of Disabled go and why it was developed. It was developed in 2000, after a wheelchair user found himself unable to access many venues after becoming disabled. The presentation then went on to explain what the difference between a detailed access guide and a key access review was. Not only had the presentation been emailed to me beforehand, but there were also brialle copies and print copies available. The questions we would ask venues were also available in braille. I was very impressed with this.

The information that is collected is very thorough. It goes in to details such as what the outside access is like, are there steps, how many steps, is there a ramp, is it portable, the angle of the ramp etc. It even asks what type of door there is and how wide it is. Once inside, it goes in to yet more detail such as did the staff receive disability equality training, is there an accessible toilet, is there a hearing loop, are there seats available and many more questions besides. Whilst on the subject of accessible toilets, someone in the group pointed out that if you’re visually impaired, you aren’t necessarily going to want to feel around to find everything in the accessible toilet and that things aren’t where you would think in every one. I pointed out a device called a

Room mate

Which is a device that some places accross the water can install with bespoke audio instructions as to where everything is in an accessible toilet. That hasn’t come over here yet, but i am interested when it does, as it would solve so many problems in locating things in the toilet. I also asked the question about

Changing places toilets

And if they would be included in the detailed access guides, which they are as for some people, they cannot use the standard accessible toilet.

The presentation also focused on why you may not be allowed to go in to a venue and ask about what they had available, such as seating, and this was because a shop may be busy or may be worried about people coming in and asking questions about their venue. This is a rare occurance apparently though which is always good to hear.

Once the presentation was finished, we were told about what else would be happening throughout the day and asked to fill in a feedback form on the day so far.

After lunch, it was time to hit the streets armed with the information we needed to create a key access review for some shops in Victoria square. We were split up in to two groups and each facilatator led a group. We visited 5 shopes in total. They kept it very short to accommadate peoples’ needs, and didn’t want people to get too tired doing it. Everywhere we went were very happy for us to ask questions about the venue. The only place which had a hearing loop was the Apple store, whilst Claires Accessories and a place called Boo avenue had racks that could be wheeled out of the way if a wheelchair user for example couldn’t get down an aisle and Boo avenue even had an accessible fitting room. Photos were also taken of the steps etc if a shop had any and how wide the aisles were.

Once we had finished, we had a chat about the day and were given a £10 gift voucher for our time. I would like to thank Disabled go for inviting us along and i really enjoyed the day. It is amazing how many things you notice when you have your accessibility head on. I hope more counscels sign up to the scheme and i look foward to hopefully doing more with them in the future.


It’s Starting To Feel Real

So today i had an after care visit from Guide dogs and walked with a few dogs to see what speed i am at now, since Ushi has slowed down a little.

Back in June, i had an aftercare visit and it had been noted that Ushi had slowed down quite a bit since the last time i had aftercare. I had always had an excuse for her slowness, such as the streets were busy/we had recently had road works/it was hot/wet/there were a lot of obsticles etc. However when it was mentioned to me, i was starting to think that maybe she was slowing down. I did find it hard to believe though since we had been down to Dublin only a few weeks earlier and she loved it. Since then though, i have noticed that she is slowing. She still is excited when we go somewhere new, but otherwise, she is indicating more seats and coffee shops to me than she did before. It is getting harder and harder to move her along too. I’ve notice too the past month or so, that she won’t lie as long in a cafe and seems to get more restless after a while. It is just subtle things really, but when you add them altogether, it is all making sense unfortunately.

Not long after that aftercare visit, the decision was made that i should probably put myself back on the list while Ushi was still working. Ideally, i would love it if Ushi could work right up until a new dog was found for me. I have to face it that she has been working for me for the last 7 years and that she will be 9 in February. When she had her last vet appointment, the vet noticed that she had some stiffness in one of her back legs. We are monitoring it carefully, but the vet isn’t too worried as she isn’t limping and doesn’t seem to be in pain. She has always been a bit funny though when i pick up her back paws though. Apart from that, she has been mainly healthy throughout her working life apart from a couple of little fatty lumps that she has picked up along the way.

So today, guide dogs came out to fill in the paperwork for me to be put back on the list. This was things like what i would want in a new dog etc.

First of all, i took Ushi out for a quick walk around the block so they could gage what speed she is at now. They are going to start coming out every six months now to keep a closer eye on her. They said that normally they would do this when the dog was about 10, but they think it would be better to do it now with Ushi rather than waiting. Obviously, i will be sad to see Ushi go when her time comes, but she has done some fantastic working for me over these past 7 years. She deffinetly wasn’t the easiest to work with in terms of her stubbornness and her random stops, but when she puts her mind to it, she really is a brilliant little worker. She is a nice, all round type of dog who isn’t bothered by much at all which is great. Initially, when i first got her, i wasn’t as busy as i am now, but now that i have found that confidence to explore more than just my home town, the world really is my oistor.

After my walk with Ushi, it was back inside to fill in the paperwork bit of the visit. This consisted of a series of questions to determine what i would like in a dog, including things like temperament and workload. We also discussed what my main routes would be and how long they would take roughly. This was much easier this time as i know what routes i am doing now, where as when i first did the assessment all those years ago, i didn’t know what routes i would like to use.

Eventually, after all the paperwork was taken care of, we went outside to meet some dogs. This was just so that they could see what speed and tention i need in a dog as they can’t tell from Ushi what i would need as she was always very light with her tention. The first dog who was brought out of the car was a little black boy. He was a bit fast to start with, but eventually slowed down to my speed. He had a very good tention as well. It wasn’t too light, and wasn’t too strong either. Next, it was a little black girlie. Again, her tention was strong, but i felt comfortable with her. Lastly, it was a golden boy. He was slower than the black girlie but because he had such a strong tention, it felt like she was flying ahead. I admit i did have to speed up a little and lengthen my stride just to keep up with her.

It was a good day and on one hand, i hope it is not too long before i am matched with a new dog, but on the other, i don’t want it to be too quick either 😦 i do know that Ushi unfortunately can’t keep working forever, no matter how much i want her to.

My First Tennis Tournament

I’m not long back from attending my first official tennis tournament down in Dublin.

Back in May 2016, i took part in visually impaired tennis at May fest and loved it. I happened to mention that it would be cool if it came to Northern Ireland, but thought nothing more about it. Eventually though, through

<a href=””>Disability Sports NI</a>


<a href=””>The Winsor tennis club</a>

Becoming involved, it became a reality. Basically, it is played like normal tennis, only the ball is bigger than normal and spongy. Inside the ball, is a smaller ball with ball bearings in it so that we can hear where the ball bounces. If you are a B1 which is no sight up to light perception i think, you play on half a normal courte and you are allowed up to 3 bounces to hit the ball after it has been served to you. If you are a B2 or B3, you play on a 3 quarter length courte and are allowed up to two bounces before hitting the ball after it is served to you. Otherwise the rules are exactly the same for normal play.

I have been playing the tennis now since about May time and i love it. I don’t always return the ball after a serve, and sometimes i forget to move for the ball, but otherwise i really do love it. It is the type of sport you would never get bored of as once you start playing, you just get in to the zone and it flies in.

On Sunday past, about 12 of us all headed down to Dublin to play the Dublin Visually impaired tennis team in a friendly tournament. We headed down to the <a href=””>Shankill tennis club</a>

In Dublin. We arrived around half 12 or so and were greeted by the coaches and volunteers. We were provided with some tea and sandwiches which was a lovely welcome.

We then headed off to where the actual courtes were. We would be playing on an indoor courte which was a new experience for us as there are only two indoor tennis courtes here so we played on an outside courte. Apparently, Shankill have about 7 indoor courtes and 3 outdorr courtes plus a club house, so it is massive. Before we went on to the outdoor courte, we had to change our shoes as stones and things can scratch the surface of the courte. Once that was taken care of, we headed on to the courte. The courte felt like very hard tarmac but it was super clean and had a springy feel to it. It felt very nice under foot. Because a few of the Dublin team were unavailable through injury and illness, there were 5 chairs sitting along the side of the courte so that two people could play a game at a time and then we swaped over to play someone else.

We started by doing our warm up which consisted of jogging on the spot, running with our knees high and running as fast as we could whilst still running on the spot. We then had to put our hands behind us and try to hit our hands with our heels before running and rotating our shoulders back and forward. After thaat, we all gathered round to introduce ourselves and explain what catigory we were in and when we started playing tennis. It was then on to the excitement of playing a match.

We played 4 games altogether and were delighted to find out that we had won the tournament against Dublin. At the end of each game, each player had to shake hands with their fello player and say “well played”.

The time absolutely flew in and i could have kept playing. It was then back to the club house for some well deserved refreshments and to thank the Shankill club and players for hosting us. I really did have a ball and the bus back was full of craic about how we did.

Our next tournament will be in January back in Dublin. I am looking forward to it already!

I would like to thank the coaches at Winsor for coaching us so far and am looking forward to resumming play after Christmas.

Finding Your Voice 2017 #InvolvingPeople

In September last year, i took part in a course run by
Stellar Leadership
Who specialise in running leadership programs to help individuals become better leaders in their organisations.

Finding your voice

The Finding Your Voice program was set up speciffically for service users and carers to learn how to use their voice effectively within health care. It has been running for 3 years and is funded by the
Health and social care board
I was sent an application form for this by the local engagement officer for Guide dogs as she knew i was involved with the disability consultation panel for the local trust. There were only 10 places allocated on the program, so the application form was almost like a job application. People were then selected to join the program. Initially, i wasn’t sure what i would get out of the program, but i thought it would be good to go on and it was accredited too which is always good to have. Once you are selected, you have to commit to the 6 week course as well as doing a presentation on what you have learnt throughout at the end. The sessions were roughly every 3 weeks and they ran to January this year, where we had to do a presentation on what we had learnt before this was sent off to the
Institute of leadership and management
Who accredit you with a level 3 award in leadership and management if you complete the program and the presentation.

Throughout the program, you learn about things like Personal and public involvement, different leadership styles, emotional intelligence, intigrated care partnerships, as well as how to communicate effectively and getting your message accross in the right way. At the end, you have to do a presentation on leadership styles and effective communication and how to apply this to the work you do as a service user or carer. Wer were given access to the Finding your voice section of the website, where we could download things that were relivant to what we were discussing. A lot of the work was discussion based too which was good. Each week, we had a chance to write down something we maybe wanted to look up or find out more information about before the next session.

While everything was in print, all the documents we needed were typed up as word documents before being put in to pdfs on the website, which meant i was able to read them along with everyone else. This was brilliant and meant i could participate equally with discussions and things. I really appreciated this and made sure to feed this back to the facilitator. I was going to ask for the information in braille, but because it was available the way it was, and it probably would have taken the length of the program to get it in to braille, i decided to go with the way it was presented to me. After all, i braught my ipad along with me to each session.

Even though the presentations were done in January to the group, it took until today to get presented with our certifficates due to the external marking by the Institute of leadership and management and different things.


Today we were all called together to receive our certifficates for both the finding your voice program and a program called Involving people which was a level 5 certifficate in leadership and management and was designed more for health care staff to undertake. The event was held in
The Mac
And consisted of both service users and staff, as well as the Stellar Leadership guys and people who had completed both programs last year. There were presentations by speakers who had done both programs last year, followed by discussions with our tables on Personal and public involvement, or PPI and co production and how that could be made better. Everyone was encouraged to write down any feedback they had about the discussions on either a sheet of paper, or on the table itself, as there were what looked like place mats that could be written on which covered each table. There was also post it notes that you could write on and at the end of each discussion somebody from Stellar leadership came along and asked for feedback. There was an artist at the back of the room who sketched a picture of people speaking. We were then presented with our certifficates before more discussions took place before we ended with lunch.

It was a great day and we were well stocked with tea and water throughout. It was great to see so many people attending who had completed the programs through Stellar.

I would like to thank Stellar leadership for delivering the program and the certifficate presentations and for the Mac for hosting us.

The Orcam My Eye

Today the
RNIB here in Northern Ireland
Held a demonstration of the
Orcam My Eye
Assistive technology device. There had been a lot of talk about the Orcam for ages, so i couldn’t wait for the device to come here so i could see it purely out of curiosity. I was delighted when the RNIB said it was coming here for a demonstration.

Orcam first started out in Jeruselem, before moving to the UK, the US and Ireland. There are two devices available-the Orcam My reader and the Orcam My Eye which was being demonstrated today.

The Orcam My Eye is a little tiny camera, which is about the size of your finger if not a little smaller. It sits on a piece of plastic called a bridge, which connects to any pair of glasses. The Orcam even comes with a pair of glasses if you don’t wear any. From the camera, there is a wire that connects to a base unit, which is about the size of a thick mobile phone. It came with a case that can clip on to your belt, although i am not sure if that is the standard case that it comes in. There is a bone conducting earphone that comes with it too. It is worn on the right side of a pair of glasses. The base unit also comes with a sd card to store products on and faces on. The guy running the session explained that the Orcam has about 4 hours active battery life, but it also has a “suspended” mode for when you’re not using it where it will last about a day or so before needing charged.

The Orcam is basically a portable scanner. It can read text and constantly scanns the area you are in however it deletes something as soon as it has read it, so you couldn’t, say, read a book and come back to it the next day, for example. It will only speak something if you make it by pressing a button on the base unit or pointing at something and waiting for it to read it. It also has product recognition and facial recognition built in, hence the sd card to store this information on. For the facial recognition, you would take 3 photographs of a person, before recording what you want this person to be called. When this person then comes in to the cameras’ view, it will say what you have named them. It’s the same for the product recognition. You have to take a photograph of it and record what you want something to be called. The guy running the session gave an example of if you had a bunch of cards in your wallet but didn’t know which was which, you could take a photo of one and it would say “bus pass”, while another could say “bank card”. It can store up to 150 faces and 150 products, so potentially, you could go in to a shop and take a photo of a can of beans, and then it would recognise all the cans of beans. Unfortunately though, it would read everything about the beans, for example, like the nutritional information, for instance.

The folks at Orcam say the device is not a miracle worker, and does not replace sight. I would think of it as a portable scanner with object and facial recognition. Apparently, you can use this with no vision, although you do need to know what you are looking at.

At the end of the session, we were allowed to try out the Orcam. I was expecting it to make the glasses really heavy and bulky, but it was quite comfortable to wear. It told me there were people sitting in front of me. I gave it a bus ticket to read and it read me all the terms and conditions on the back of the ticket. I didn’t know all that information was on a ticket, lol. The volume was a bit loud, but i presume that you can adjust it as and when needed. The only things it struggles to read are the likes of pictures and handwriting. It can’t read things in itallics either.

It does seem like a useful device, although you’d need to make use out of it as it’s not cheap at £2400 for the Orcam My Eye and £1800 for the My reader. This includes training in how to use the device, plus a 1 year waranty and a 30 day money back guarantee, apart from £160 for the training on how to use the device. Apparently, some charities and blindness societys do buy them so that people can try them before shelling out that kind of money.

In conclusion, it was a cool device, but i don’t think i could justify that ammount of money for a thing i would probably only use for the novalty and the fact that your phone could probably do a lot of what this does, minus the glasses.

I would like to thank the RNIB and the Orcam people for bringing it for a demonstration. It deffinetly is very interesting.

Perfectly Pampered

Today i attended the South Eastern Regional College for a pampering day. The morning was organised by the RNIB and the college as they had ran some visual awareness training for the staff and students late last year.

I got the 9 o’clock train this morning, before getting on the train to Bangor, where the other ladies were from the group, before walking down to the college. The college seems very moddern and new from first impressions. When we arrived, we were all led in to the professional beauty sallon where we could decide what treatments we fancied. There were a lot to choose from, such as a full body massage, a facial, nail polish, or a thing called micro dermabration i think it was called. I chose the full body massage.

I was letd in to a private cubicle where i was asked to take off everything apart from my underwear. I was then shown the couch where i had to lie on my tummy first of all. The student who was working on me was called Katy and she was brilliant. She constantly asked me if i was comfortable, and explained everything that she was doing.. I then lay on my back to get the same done again. I must say, it was lovely. I haven’t had a massage in years.

After i was nicely relaxed, it was time to get dressed again, before i got my nails painted. Again, i haven’t gotten my nails painted in years. I chose a nice red colour for my nails. Everybody said it suited me.

Once all of us had our treatments, we posed for a photograph before heading to the North Down Musium for some lunch before getting our respective trains home again.

It was a lovely way to spend a morning, i must say. The college are also open for the public on a Friday from 12 until 3 i think for people to get a treatment. The prices etc can be found

I would like to thank the staff and students once again for having us. It was brilliant :).

2016 In Review

It’s that time once again for the anual year in review post. It seems to have come around quickly this year. It’s been another busy year for me life wise, but i’m afraid i’ve neglected the blog again and haven’t written for a while. I do mean to blog, but i never get round to it. So in no particular order, here is my year and some of the things i’ve got up to.

The year started with the art class i’m part of having an exhibition in the Ulster Hall. The theme for this was the natural world. We made plaster paris tiles and canvases for it. For the plaster paris tiles, i put things from shells and pine cones, to an imprint of a crows skull that my sister had ordered online for photos as she likes doing photography. I thought it looked cool when i put it in the plaster. For my canvases, i made an autumn sceen and a tulip which was as if you were looking at it through a microscope so it looked bigger than what it was. It was good to get our work noticed in somewhere like the Ulster hall.

It was a relief to finally get all the legal stuff with my uncles’ house sorted. It took quite a long time, and there were a few niggly things that needed chased up and such, but in March, we could hand over the keys and be done with it. Selling a house really isn’t as easy as it sounds unfortunately.

In March, i
Abseiled down the Europa hotel
For Angel Eyes NI. It was great craic and i found it easier than abseiling off a cliff which i did at the Grit Plus residential a couple of years ago. The hotel was very smooth to go down. Unfortunately i ended up with the flu for the next week. I could feel it working on me the day of the abseil, but put it down to tiredness. I also met a youth worker i knew about 16 years ago too that day. He used to work at an organisation called the Blind Centre. I think i was about 9 or so when i went to the Blind centre.

I attended an interesting experiment at Queens’ University all about how peoples brain waves reactive when they hear audio description. You had to listen to different pieces of audio described information and your brain waves were measured. It’ll be interesting to find out the results from that.

I attended the
May Fest sports weekend
Which was run by the folks at
Vision Sports Ireland
The weekend was fantastic. From the minute i set foot in Dublin, i was made to feel welcome. Not that people up here aren’t nice, but everybody down in Dublin couldn’t do enough, i thought. They didn’t care that i had never been to their events before. From the lady on the train who helped me get to my hotel, to the staff at the Maples hotel, to the lady who lived opposite the hotel and made sure i got on the right bus to go to the Alsaa, and everyone else in between. It was deffinetly a worth while weekend.

We got gas heating installed which was a bit of a hassle getting put in. It involved a lot of work to nearly every room in the house so that new pipes could be laid as we had oil heating before that. I managed to be out that day as i hate work being done, even though it needs to be. I just hate the mess and disruption it causes. Once it was all done though, it was worth it. My sister and i treated ourselves to a wooden floor in the bedroom after and got someone in to replaster the walls.

I was elected chair of the disability pannel for our health trust which i was honoured to accept. I was also asked to speak at the leadership conference for the trust in November.It was a very important conference.

I have still been just as involved with fundraising with guide dogs and campaigning too as well as still taking the minutes on the Angel Eyes Board.

There was a
Goalball taster session
Which i attended through Disability Sport Northern Ireland. I had played Goalball years ago, so it was nice to get back in to it again. There have been a couple of sessions in Derry since, but hopefully more will come to Belfast again.

I attended my first Ice hockey game and it was a brilliant experience as i’d never been to a game before.. While i wouldn’t go mad over it, it was good enough that i would possibly go to another game if the opportunity came again.

I am still parkrunning, and have completed my 93rd parkrun. I am still walking it, but i have tried a little running. I say a little, because i take it day by day as to if i will run or not and only run a tiny bit. I still am on the fence on that one.

Ushi is working well now, but we’ve had our little blips this year where she refused to go out of our estate and was lagging way behind when i tried to go for a walk. I had to bribe her with a little bit of cheese and guide dogs help to get her past that stage. It did worry me though given how sudden it was and her age. She will be 8 in February, so i have spoken to guide dogs about her. I want to work her and transition smoothly to a new dog, but as i said to guide dogs, she is working well at the minute, but i want to make sure i am doing the right thing by her and am not sure how to proceed. We’ll just keep an eye on her but thankfully we are blip free and working well at the minute.

I recently got back in to Yoga after not going for nearly 2 years. I didn’t mind doing the yoga up in Belfast, but i usually had to leave around 4 to get the 5 train to get something to eat, then get the bus round to the yoga studio. The yoga started at 8 and finished at half 9 so i wasn’t home until gone half 11 as the last train home is at 20 to 11. The woman who taught the yoga was brilliant, but it was such an effort to go each week that the motivation started to wane a little. About a month after i got rid of my yoga bag and mat as i thought i wouldn’t go again since i hadn’t in 2 years, i went to a yoga class in Rasharkin as part of a community day and wondered if there was a yoga class in Ballymena i could go to. Thankfully i found a class about 20 minutes walk away which means i can leave at half 6 and be home for about half 8. Again the teacher is brilliant at explaining things and i’m glad i have got back in to it again.

Unfortunately the earphone jack on my ipad mini stopped working after 3 years of having it. Since i use my ipad to take minutes of meetings and such, i figured it wouldn’t be good if i didn’t have earphones. So my sister has my old ipad as it still works apart from that and i have a new one. I had to get a new keyboard though as the ipad fell out of my old one since i had a thicker screen protector on it.

All in all, it’s been a good year. I have no plans for next year at all, but i hope it’s as busy as this year has been. I never make plans for the year, i just see what happens. I hope everybody has a happy new year and i look forward to next year 🙂 thank you all for reading as always.