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=”http://www.dsni.co.uk”>Disability Sports NI</a>
<a href=”http://www.winsortennis.co.uk”>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=”http://www.shankilltennisclub.com”>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.
In September last year, i took part in a course run by
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
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.
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.
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 :).
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.
I was browsing through the hashtag for
On Twitter, when i discovered
An audio sample of the book
Ther person reading the sample is the sister of one of the actors in The Archers, hence it being posted on the hashtag.
Our Country Nurse is all about a health visitor who has come to work in a little village called Totly in Kent. The book is not just a dull account of her life there, rather it deals with many issues such as poverty and emigration. The book is very fast paced, and you can’t help imagining being in Sarahs’ shoes as she deals with many new mums and babies. The way the book is written, it almost feels fictional but it is Sarahs’ real life experiences. I found myself getting carried along and wishing somehow that i could have had a health visitor like Sarah as she appears so kind and is probably what the mothers need to hear and that they are doing just fine. It is easy to imagine you are in fact one of the mothers being helped by Sarah.
I was delighted when i discovered that Sarah has also written another book, “The New Arrival” which i can’t wait to start reading.
You can buy the books, as well as read some advice if you are a mother with a new baby on
As well as on Amazon and on Ibooks on IOS.
I can’t wait to get stuck in to the next one :).
I’m not long back from my first ice hockey game.
A couple of weeks ago, Ushi’s puppywalker messaged me to tell me that she was coming over in a couple of weeks and would i like to meet up. Her partner was playing in an ice hockey game so that was why they were mainly coming over. Of course i said yes. She said that i was welcome to join her at the ice hockey game if i wanted as they had a free ticket going spare. I wasn’t sure about going at first because i didn’t think i would get much out of it. The last time i was offered to go to an ice hockey game was at a youth club i used to go to but i declined that time. This time though, i thought “what have i got to lose?””. The game was against the
Who were a scottish team.
Once i had decided that i would go to the game, i emailed the
To see if they offered some kind of audio description or at least an audio comentry so i could follow the game. When i emailed, they weren’t sure, but offered to look in to it for me. They soon got back to me and explained that they had no audio description, but could offer me a link to the live comentry for their web cast service which would link in to a hearing loop system. They also alerted me to the fact that the arreena used pyro tecnics at the start of the game and that they would be happy to have Ushi should i need to have her leave the arreena and bring her back in at a suitable time. I was mulling this over and decided just to play it by ear and see how she went.
So today i first of all went and did my parkrun, before eventually leaving and getting the 2 o’clock train up to Belfast. I got the bus up to Station street, where Ushi’s puppywalker and her friend met me before we all walked to the areena. We first of all went to Pizza hut to grab something to eat. Lots of pictures were taken of Ushi by her puppywalker. I had last visited Ushis’ puppywalker about 3 years ago so she was deffinetly glad to see Ushi. Ushi however was not in a posing mood. Once we were all fed and watered, we took Ushi for a busy where she decided to show off and roll around the grass a few times like a total loon. More pictures were taken which i did not mind at all.
We hung around outside until the areena opened their doors at 6 o’clock for the 7 o’clock game. The event manager of the areena met us, and told us that they had reserved disabled seats as they didn’t want Ushi getting trampled on during the game. They advised us of the pyro tecnics again and showed me how to work the hearing loop system. This was like a tiny little match box with a volume control which was also the on/off switch. I was given a spare in case the first one didn’t work and a pair of headphones. They had told me that they had never had a visually impaired person request a comentry, so weren’t sure how useful it would be. They also advised us that because the Braehead Clan were running a little bit late, the game wouldn’t start until half 7. We were left to our own devices for a while until the game started. I fed Ushi while i was waiting since i knew there was grass outside.
There was music being blasted out across the ice rink, before the ice hockey teams came on to warm up and practice a little. Details were also given about a raffle to win a signed jurzy from one of the players, and tickets were being sold called 50 50 tickets. This was where whoever baught one of these tickets was put in to a draw at the end of the game to win all of the money that was made from selling the tickets. It was split half between the areena and the person who won it. Warnings were also given about the use of pyro tecnics.
The pyro tecnics vidio came on and everything was grand until there were two huge bangs that sounded like huge fireworks. Ushi found this quite hard and started trembling so her puppywalker took her out for me. I’m not sure if the firework sounds scared her though as shortly after she was brought in again she started shaking again. We quickly discovered she was in desperate need of a loo break so were wondering if it was that and not the sounds at all. After that was taken care of, she slept for most of the game. She did appear to get a little cold at times though.
The game is split in to 3 20 minute periods. In between, the players would get a chance to stretch etc before coming back on to the ice. The ice also had to be re surfaced after each 20 minute session. I must say the audio comentry was fantastic. I was able to follow exactly what was going on at every point. The music was a bit loud when goals were scored, but i just adjusted the volume a little. The quality was very professional. I didn’t understand some parts, but got the main jist of it. I pointed out to the areena that since they use this for hearing loops anyway, they should offer it out to visually impaired people. The game needed no further describing. You certainly get carried along with the atmosphere of the game. The sport itself seems quite violent, with quite a few penalties just in the first 20 minutes. There was also a fight that broke out between the players in the last half. The crowd really enjoyed themselves too, supporting whichever team was scoring. There was also a drum that was being beaten each time the crowd chanted for a team. The players also did fun things like jumping on the ice and things once their 20 minutes were over before returning propperly to the game after each session. There was also pizzas being given to random people and random subways being given out too. They passed us by though lol.
I would like to thank Ushi’s puppywalker for inviting me to the game. I think i would attend another. I would also like to thank the SSE Areena for being so acomidating, not only with the comentry, but also with checking regularly on Ushi and making sure we were all comfortable.
It was deffinetly a good experience, and i plan to go again just for the craic :).
Oh and the score was 4 2 to the Braehead Clan which was the team that Ushi’s puppywalkers’ partner played for.