Pottery Tricks and Tips with Hadley School for the Blind

The Crafting Circle discussion group from Hadley school for the blind for July 2020 peaked my interest with the topic of pottery. I tuned in and ended up offering a few tips. The hosts appreciated my expertise so much they welcomed me to stay on the line and help answer questions. Thank you to the hosts, Leeanne and Jennifer! It was really fun!

To listen to a recording of the discussion, go to Hadley’s Crafting Circle: Pottery Tips and Tricks. It will ask you to log in to Hadley. Creating an account is easy, or you can sign in using Facebook or Google.

The tactile nature of clay is a delightful creative outlet for the visually impaired or blind. If you are curious about getting started with clay, this discussion is a good overview. We talk about using air dry clay as an excellent way to start shaping and sculpting without the need for a kiln. Air dry clay is wonderful for taking impressions and capturing memories such as a child’s hand print, a pets’ paw print, or a leaf, rock, or trinket from a hike or vacation. Check out the discussion for more ideas.

Dairy Free Strawberry Amaretto Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Two bowls, one brick red and wavy, the other smooth with colors of browns and yellows. Both contain scoops of ice cream with berries and sprigs of mint

Dairy Free Strawberry Amaretto Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

This dairy free ice cream gets its rich, creamy flavor from a balance of cashews, coconut milk and coconut oil. No ice cream maker machine is required. But I do recommend using a high powered blender such as Vitamix to get the perfect silky smooth texture. The amount of fat and the alcohol in the amaretto are key ingredients that give this ice cream the right texture and density with a luscious thickness that is still easy to scoop.

Serves 6
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Total Time: 12 Hours

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups raw, unsalted cashews
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup honey, depending on how sweet you like it
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk or other non-dairy milk
  • 1/4 cup Coconut Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Amaretto
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • 3 Tablespoons Strawberries in syrup
  • 3 Table spoons Chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Take the cashews from the fridge and drain water.
  2. Put cashews and other ingredients, except strawberries and Chocolate in Vitamix blender. Blend on high for 30 seconds.
  3. Put in strawberries and Chocolate chips and blend on low for 5 seconds.
  4. Pour into container and freeze over night or around 8 hours. Serve.

I like to serve my ice cream in a small mug. The handle keeps my hands warm and my ice cream cold. Check out my Pottery Lab for some cool mugs, cups, and other serving dishes.

Getting Started Blind in the Kitchen- Safety Tips

Getting Started Blind in the Kitchen – Safety

This is the first article in a three part series on getting started in the kitchen with blindness. There are three key areas to think about in adapting your kitchen to be accessible for the blind: tools and adaptations, safety, and organization.

This is not a comprehensive list of safety in the kitchen. You are probably already familiar with general safety for the kitchen, and you can always research more information about general food safety. Here I am just sharing some tips that have been helpful to me particular to being blind.

Full Coverage Heat Mitts

Find yourself a good pair of oven mitts that cover your whole hand and possibly go up to your elbow. With oven heat pads it is difficult to watch out for the back of your hand and easy to have a finger fall short of the pad. Personally I like the oven mitts I found that are more like gloves and cover each finger individually. They really make it easy to feel and grip whatever I’m grabbing.

Liquid level Indicator

Take care when pouring hot liquids, get one of these handy liquid level indicators. You stick it on the side of your cup, pour in the liquid and it will start buzzing when the liquid is close to full. This way you won’t be tempted to use your finger and risk being burnt.

Wear Shoes in the Kitchen

Always wear close toed shoes while in the kitchen. I learned this in my food safety class. You never know when you may drop something sharp, hard, or breakable and your toes will thank you if you have shoes on when it does. I keep a pair of shoes at the entrance of my kitchen that are easy to slip on.

Another side point, in my food safety class they also taught me to remember not to try to catch falling things. There is more hazard in instinctively grabbing for a falling knife or plastic wrap box than just letting it drop. You are more likely to cut your hand trying to grab it. Also, I keep a broom and dust pan in arms reach of the kitchen in case of broken glass.

Don’t wear loose fitting clothing

Baggy, loose hanging clothes can easy end up dragging into food or get caught and knock things over. Worse yet, it could catch fire. For these same reasons, be sure to keep long hair pulled back.

Keep knives and other sharp tools covered

A butchers block keeps knives organized and safely tucked away. If you store knives or other sharp tools in drawers, be sure to keep them in a sheath or other covering. Being organized and having a designated spot for sharp items also helps. Wash sharp tools immediately after use and put them away. This way you won’t forget about them and find them hidden in a pile of dishes.

Do Not leave anything on the Stove

It is tempting in small kitchens to use the stove top as extra counter space. Make it a habit not to do this. It is easy to forget something left on the stove or to turn on the wrong burner. Sadly, yes, I’m talking from personal experience; I use to keep my electric tea kettle on the stove. One day I turned on the wrong burner and realized it when I smelt burning plastic.

These are just a few basic, general ideas for staying safe in the kitchen. I encourage you to read more about food safety and preventing food born illness. Please check out my other articles on kitchen organization and adapting equipment for more ideas of how to safely adapt your kitchen for cooking blind.

San Luis Obispo, California Resources for the Blind

Here is a list of resources for blind and visually impaired individuals particular to San Luis Obispo county. For a list of blindness related resources available anywhere in the United States check out my page of “Free national Resources for the Blind and Visually Impaired.”

California Office of Services to the Blind

From their website: “Under the Office of Special Services, the Office of Services to the Blind (OSB) provides information and referral on services, programs, entitlements, and products of benefit to individuals who are blind or low vision and their families or service providers. OSB staff assists such individuals in understanding the availability of services, their eligibility for services, and the purpose and scope of the various service programs.”

Blind Services has put together an extensive handbook of resources for the blind: Handbook of Resources and Services For Visually Impaired

Social Services

They should help you obtain Medi-Cal benefits, Social Security benefits, and In Home Supportive Services.

In Home Support Services

This is a program under Social Services that can help you get and pay for in home care such as food prep, personal care, house cleaning, laundry, and so on.

Department of Rehabilitation

“The goal of Blind Field Services is to increase employment outcomes and enhance the independence and self-sufficiency for consumers in California who are blind and visually impaired through a team of counselors and supervisors who understand the barriers faced in achieving meaningful employment and independent living.”

Runabout Paratransit – San Luis Obispo Regional Transit Authority

This is a bus service that you can call at least two business days in advance to schedule a ride within the county. They will pick you up at your home and help you get to the door of your destination. Fares run anywhere from $2.50 to $4.75 or more.

VTC Enterprises- Independent Living Services

May be able to direct you to get help with obtaining Social Security benefits, training for independent living skills, mobility training, job development, and more. They work with Department of Rehab, Central Coast Assistive Technology, and the Braille Institute.

Braille Institute Santa Barbara

Offers Consultations in kitchen confidence, using technology, and orientation and mobility. They have classes through out California and also will have times for out reach to other cities.

Independent Living Resource Center

Offers assistance attaining accessible and affordable housing, help with personal care through In Home Supportive Service, find accessible technology, and more.

Central Coast Assistive Technology

Helps individuals find assistive technology such as computers, screen reading software, canes, and more. Also they provide training and have a technology lending program.

Deaf & Disabled Telecommunications Program

Offers accessible phone technology like phones with large, tactile buttons that are easier for ones with low vision or blind to use. The phones are offered as a long-term loan.

GO See Foundation

The Central Coast has so many wonderful activities such as kayaking, biking, hiking, and more. The Go See Foundation empowers ones with vision loss to get out and enjoy them all! From the Go See Foundation’s website: “Our mission is to encourage, inspire and empower those going through vision loss to remain active and engaged with their world.”

Free National Resources for Blindness and Visual Impairment

The diagnoses of legally blind comes as a shock. A foggy cloud of devastation and helplessness may come over you. But learning about the many resources out there will help you feel more empowered and hopeful. As you see ways of adapting and gaining independence.

First start by contacting your local Social Services office. They should be able to help direct you to government assistance programs in your local area. Each county and state are different so just Google the contact info for your local Social Service office. They will probably give you some of the resources I am about to list too.

In Home Support Services (IHS)

– California Only

depending on circumstances and income, you may be qualified to receive aid from a person of your choice to help you with tasks such as laundry, food preparation,personal care needs, cleaning or other things you need a little help with. They will assess your needs and allot you a number of hours they will pay for to have someone assist you. You may choose a friend or family member or choose from there list.

Social Security

The Social Security Administration has special benefits and allowances for individuals who are blind. They have an online estimator to see if you may qualify for benefits. But be sure to contact them as soon as you can because determination of qualification and applying can take some months.

National Federation for the Blind – Free White Cane

The National Federation for the Blind has a program to receive a free white cane. This is a simple cane that is good for identifying you as having trouble seeing so people can be more helpful and cautious towards you. The white cane does not collapse, making it very cumbersome to carry around. But it is a quick, free way to try out what a white cane feels like. This cane is will not give you any balance support, rather is meant for you to extend out to feel what is around you. To pick a a good length of cane the general guideline is that if it is straight up, pareille to you, it should reach the top of your shoulder.So measure from the ground to the top of your shoulder to find the right length in inches for you.

Maxi AIDS Products for the Blind

This online store is great for all kinds of accessible products. You can find items to help you identify things, better white canes, lights and magnification devices, kitchen tools, even games. Plus free shipping!

Hadley Institute For The Blind and Visually Impaired

Hadley offers courses on adapting to vision loss, braille, hobbies, business, and more through the mail or online. Allot of the classes are free for the blind. This is a great way to get started learning braille. The first course in braille literacy helps you develop your sense of touch and at least knowing the alphabet in braille is very useful for labeling items for identification. Check back soon for an article about Why to learn braille.

National Library of Congress for The Blind

Borrow audio or braille books or magazines from the National Library of Congress. They can lend you a digital talking book reader as well. Personally I love their ap, BARD, which lets you download audio books very easily. And again this is all freee.

United States Postal Service – Free Matter for the Blind

Mailing material in large print, braille, or sound recordings is heavy and bulky. Fortunately the USPS has a provision for sending these materials free of charge. This is very helpful for receiving and receiving materials from the Hadley Institution r the National Library of Congress.

National Parks and Federal Recreational Land Access Pass

This access pass gets you into national parks for free and gives you a significant discount for camping and other features. Check if your state has another access pass for state parks.

Please follow me on social media to hear about any new resources I find.

Losing my eyesight and finding myself: What I learned from going blind

Losing my eyesight and finding myself: What I learned from going blind

Sleepiness, a throbbing head ache, nausea, and a lack of concentration is what I lived with day-in and day – out for several months. At the age of sixteen, I believed these symptoms were just an effect of hormonal changes. In Mid October I had finished taking a hot bath when I felt the strength of my body rush out of me, allowing gravity to pull me to the ground. I was hurried to the hospital where they ran tests. The M.R.I. revealed a brain tumor in my right frontal lobe that was slightly smaller than a tennis ball. The following day at Sierra Vista hospital I was in surgery having the intrusion removed. The operation was successful and thoroughly rid me of the tumor, leaving me with full cognition and motor abilities. However, over the next couple months my vision slowly faded until I was left with only vague shadows. Though I lost my vision along with freedoms, I gained clarity and appreciation for life.

Having the pressure of the tumor gone with minimal nerve damage and an E.E.G. showing my brain receiving visual signals, doctors were baffled as to why my vision was diminishing. This triggered frustration from the uncertainty encompassed by hope for my vision returning as I healed, since there was no cause for my loss. Needing to recover, I lounged in my cushioned bed. I now had ample time to watch TV, catch up on some letter writing, and reflect upon my situation. Six weeks went by from the day of my surgery. One late morning, curled up in my cozy bed, I scanned my eyes across my modern styled room. Sunlight flooded in from my window, brightening the room. To me though, a foggy haze blanketed the room. Breaking my gaze of the room, I grabbed a sheet of paper from my bed side table to write a friend. I began to write the first line, holding the paper closely to focus the grainy, dim spot of vision on my writing. I dropped down and wrote the second line, then looked back over it. Stun and despair flooded me as I peered down at the note to find I had written over the first line. My vision was worsening. The world around me was falling into a constant night. Only in my world there is no light to turn on, no shimmer of the moon. What I saw digressed into indistinguishable shadows in the peripheral of my left eye with a charcoal grey around it. The right eye was left with psychedelic color streaks filling it. To survive my other senses have heightened. I now discover with my hands and take in my surroundings with my ears.

I eventually had to learn to trust myself, other people, and the feel of my guiding stick. All of these things have their independent challenges. As I would walk through my house, my forehead would remain tight with fear of running into a wall. Slowing down and paying more attention, I adapted to navigating my house smoothly and in a relaxed manner. Outside of the house, I now had to cling to somebody’s arm for guidance through obstacles unbeknownst to me. Every step I took was heavy with hesitancy until I learned to surrender my independence and rely on people. To gain some independence, I started using a guiding stick. My stomach would groan, knowing my white cane distinguish me from others. Fear of being misguided and lost stifled me from going out solely using my walking stick. All of my development and trust came to be out of necessity, time, and experience.

For a time, I felt as if a child again; for, now I had no job or car and had to rely heavily on other people. The fulfillment of working for my own pay check was gone. Luckily, since I still lived at home, I survived with out it. What grieved me the most was not being able to escape to the open road where I was free and where I enjoyed blasting my music. Thanks to my supportive friends and family, I was at least able to get to school, shopping, and appointments. Never the less, an emptiness along with an inadequacy lingered with me.

After mauling over my situation for a few days, I determined I was grieved over my deficiency of responsibilities, not my job or car alone. I began to analyze how to regain this in other aspects of my life. Responsibility is taking positive action in your life. My job and car were concrete responsibilities I possessed. Although, what about responsibility for my personality and morality? Until this point I had been quick to anger and criticism with others. I now made an effort to find positive qualities in people and forgive when I was hurt or disappointed, leaving me with a satisfying peace. Where I would once associate with people my age with similar rambunctious attitudes, I now carefully chose friends who were supportive and up building in their kind words and clean conduct. Just with these few changes, my inadequacy was voided and replaced with a rewarding sense of dignity.

Lethargic and clueless one minute, healthy and perceptive the next; this was my ordeal. I look back at my incident, detached from situation, astonished by how I coped and came out as an improved person. I lost the liberties of being able to drive freely, leaving my house with the security and awareness of the world around me. Having a tumor and the absence of my sight is a devastation I still struggle with; this I cannot deny. However, I appreciate the wisdom that I have gained from this tragedy. I have learned how to adapt physically, visualizing by touch, and perceiving by sound. Not having a job or car pushed me to develop a broader scope of responsibility. My scope reached into my personality, where I cleaned up my negative attitude. I will constantly find traits I can improve, but the ones I have made so far have given me a solid foundation to build on. I still miss my freedoms. Never the less, the sobering effects enriched my nature, for which I am grateful.

This is an essay I wrote in 2005, four years after losing my eyesight.

Guide Dog Team Graduation Gift Ideas

Toys | Treats | Accessories | Unique and Handmade

The day of graduation for a guide dog team marks the beginning of years of a new bond that gives more freedom in mobility to the handler, stimulating work for the dog, plus joy and companionship for both. This day also marks the completion of two weeks of rigorous training for the guide dog team, nearly a year of devoted love, attention, and discipline of a puppy raiser, around 6 months of diligent guiding training from instructors, plus thousands more dollars and hours of support from donors, volunteers, and members of the Guide Dogs for the Blind community. Truly a guide dog team’s day of graduation is a day to be celebrated! Here are some ideas of gifts to contribute to the celebration…

Toys

Every one deserves some play time after a hard day of work, guide dogs included. Because we want to keep our hard little workers safe and healthy, only high quality, durable toys are recommended for guide dogs. These are toys that will not pose a choking hazard or digestive issues. Also toys that could encourage work distractibility are not recommended, such as balls or Frisbees that can lead to obsessive behavior. And any toy should be checked regularly for splinters and rough edges and discarded if damaged or too worn down.

The following types of toys are not recommended by Guide Dogs for the Blind:

  • Latex squeaky toys
  • Cow or horse hooves
  • Pig ears
  • Rawhide bones
  • Real bones
  • Frisbees™ or flying discs
  • Fabric or stuffed toys – anything a dog could dismember, shred or swallow
  • Tennis balls, golf balls, any medium or small size ball

Here are a few fun, quality toy ideas:

nylabone dog chew toys

At the end of the day, my guide dog loves to chew away at her Nylabone Dental Dino Power Chew Toy. Nylabone dog toys are made from a material safe for digestion and take several weeks to chew through . They come in many shapes, sizes, and flavors. My guide dog loves the bumpy texture and shape that makes it easy to hold of the Nylabone Dental Dino Power Chew Toy. Or look through the list of nylabone dog chew toys for just the right one.

KONG Classic Large

Fun, versatile, and stimulating, Kongs are a must have dog toy! It can be filled with kibble to make dinner time even more exciting and slow down the meal. To make the filling of the kong last longer, I will moisten the kibble then freeze it. My guide dog now eagerly runs to her kennel when I pull out the kong and doesn’t seem bothered at all when I have to leave her for a time.

Treats

Unfortunately treats are not recommended because guide dogs are highly motivated by food and we also want to keep our partners fit and healthy. This isn’t to say guide dogs don’t get rewards; In their training, food is a reward for good behavior. The handler keeps a pouch of kibble and frequently rewards the dog for helping find doors, steps, passing other dogs without getting distracted, resisting the crumbs left on the floor of a restaurant, and so on. So if treats, with a tastier flavor than their kibble, are given to them, it can lead to devaluing the reward of their kibble. Plus treats often have higher calories and ingredients that may upset the digestion of the dog, which is not fun to deal with when being in public so frequently, if you get my drift.

I do have some treats on hand for times when high value rewards are called for, such as nail trimming or bath time and when fireworks and loud scary noises go off. Also, if I must leave her alone for a few hours I will give her a cong with some kibble mixed with a little bit of peanut butter. Apples and carrots are also healthy treat options. However, now anytime anyone has peanut butter, apples, or carrots she sniffs and stares at eh person and may even groom reminiscing over the taste.

If you like the ideas of getting treats for a guide dog team, I would recommend…

Natural Balance Large Breed Bites Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Dog Food, Lamb Meal & Brown Rice Formula

This is the dog food recommended by Guide Dogs for the Blind. I like the kibble size for large breed because it is easier to handle when rewarding my guide. A bag of this dog food would also be a much appreciated gift because the school gives you a small bag of dog food to go home with that last less than a week.

Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Dog Treats, Brown Rice & Lamb Meal Formula

Since this is a similar formula to the dog food, they could be a good option to have on hand for those high reward times.

Nutri-Vet Pet-Ease Soft Chews for Dogs

When the high rewards aren’t enough and my guide dog is still trembling from a scare of fireworks, I give her a few pieces of pet ease. These seem to take the edge off for her.

Accessories and more

There are many other items that are handy or necessary to have for a guide dog. Check back for my next article on “Guide Dog Essentials” for more practical ideas.

There are many cool gift ideas at the Guide Dogs for the Blind gift store.

Unique and Handmade

Jonesaz Handmade leather Leashes

Jonesaz makes beautiful leather leashes with service dogs in mind. She is also a service animal trainer for Guide Dogs for the Blind. This would make a wonderful gift and it is always handy to have an extra leash on hand!

Dog Bowls for food and/ or water by Tawny’s Pottery Lab

How about a dog bowl inspired by a guide dog? Each bowl was hand made by wheel throwing by me, a guide dog team graduate in 2012. I’m working on a line of dog bowls featuring Libby’s paw print in the bottom. So please follow me and check back for new products.