World CP Day

by Chelsey Zumpano

(I found this interview in my drafts from last year and it must have gotten lost or something, but here it is now).

This post is in honor of world CP, (Cerebral Palsy), Day that was on October 6th, so I’m interviewing my friend and fellow Blogger and YouTuber Sam.

1 Do you have other disabilities besides CP?

Yes I have other medical conditions other than cerebral palsy. The one that stands out the most however is autism spectrum disorder and for me I fall under extremely high functioning but makes it so that I am very hyperactive. I have nystagmus ( repetitive uncontrollable eye movement) in my left eye which makes tracking very difficult. And it also means I have no depth perception in my eyes at all. Most people when they hear that I have no depth perception think that I am blind. This is not exactly true. My right eye compensates for what I cannot see, (corners, ledges, Etc). I also have kyphosis scoliosis which makes it so my back is curved not one way but both ways.

2 Do you consider yourself to have a visual impairment?impairment? Yes I do consider myself visually impaired because almost everywhere we go has something that makes it difficult for me to see what I’m doing or where I’m going. And a lot of times I have to rely on what things sound like just here in our home to know what they are. My parents joke and call me sonar because I can hear anything and everything inside the house. I am supposed to be wearing glasses. But they would only serve to enlarge things for reading or writing. They do not correct the depth perception problem which is my biggest and visual difficulty.

3 How Does CP effect your dayly life?

CP does affect my everyday life and it will indefinitely. This is something I will live with for the rest of my life. And here are some of the ways that it affects me personally. I am wheelchair-bound and have never been able to walk. However once a week I do attend and intensive course of physical therapy. The purpose of this is to better my balance and eventually make it so that my ability to accomplish simple everyday tasks such as pulling myself up to a sit or stand position is made easier so that I can transfer on my own someday. I need help with almost everything in my daily life. Anything from toileting to making a meal I need help with. My family does their absolute best to encourage me to be independent regardless of the fact I need help with just about everything in my life. On a regular basis my mom and I both take care of my animals and do the gardening together. Just doing that is usually enough to exhaust me even after 2 hours of being in my wheelchair. CP is very difficult because even just two hours sitting up is like somebody able-bodied doing a whole day’s workout. Despite the fact of the difficulty of this condition, I still do find time and space Within a day or week to do one to two outside the house activities. My favorites include Church, shopping, and actually believe it or not, physical therapy.

4 Do you use any assistive technology?

Yes I use several assistive devices to get through a day. The biggest of which is my power chair…. By the way just FYI for anybody out there never use the term Electric chair to describe a power chair. It is not only disrespectful it will put negative connotation in somebody’s head that does not understand what you’re talking about. If you want to use those words use the words electric wheelchair. Never just electric chair alone. Other than my power chair I actually do use my cell phone for a lot of my needs throughout the day. For example just to turn my light on and off we have a specific light bulb in my ceiling fan from the homebrite company. The light bulb connects to a mesh which connects 2 an application on my phone… This allows me to independently from my bed turn the light on and off when I need it. Also my everyday life has simple things in it for example our frigerator has the fridge side door is broke into two sections. It is one that has a smaller door with the Press of a button in the top and then you close that to open the Charger door which opens the entire refrigerator. Our freezer has an ice machine attached to it which also has a water machine attached to it and helps me get water when I need it. Instead of running to a sink faucet several hours a day. My television in my room is a smart television for many different reasons. It has the capability to actually tell me what I’m clicking on without having to see it. But as for other medical equipment I use a hospital bed at the moment. This is helpful with positioning myself when I don’t want to ask for help period that comes in handy especially late at night when everybody’s asleep. I have a laptop here at home that helps me right longer letter is when I cannot get my wrists to operate. The computer also has tell it type it features as well as the other Target features I have mentioned on my phone and television.

5 How do your dogs help you?

My dogs are my world. My oldest Lylah and youngest is a boxer named Dixie. Lylah is an ESA and Dixie is the family dog. They are 15 weeks apart. Both help me with my anxiety disorders. Without them I wouldn’t be able to make it through the day.

6 What advice do you have for others who want to start YouTube or a blog?

The advice I would give to anyone trying to start a social media such as a blog or a YouTube channel is to just be yourself. Be as honest. Don’t pressure yourself to put something out there every day. Well I’m not as active as I would like on these platforms as made for myself, that does not take away from the fact that they remain active. Many people still love to read or watch my content. And so many are inspired by it. And as anyone will see on my blog page my goal and all of this was to encourage and style and uplift anybody who read or watched any content I put out there.

Blog:

https://conqueringcpblog.wordpress.com

YouTube: https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCTZZ5sZP-RD8qvsz0cb0n3g?reload=9

An Interview With A First Time Guide Dog User!

by Chelsey Zumpano

Ted with his new guide dog sitting on his right. Fauna is a black lab. (Picture credit goes to Guide Dogs for the Blind).

Have you ever wonder what it’s like for a first time guide dog user? Well this interview with Ted will answer some of your questions.

1 What school did you get your dog from?

I attended Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael California. They have two locations, California and Oregon. My Guide Dog, Fauna came from this location, as do all the puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. 


2 What was the application process like and how long did it take?

The application process was straightforward, I filled out an online form and once my case was reviewed I received an initial phone call to determine if I was an appropriate candidate for the guide dog program. The call was followed by an in-home visit, which included a run on the “simulator” so I could feel what it would be like to travel with a guide dog companion. I was also required to have a physical and ophthalmologist appointment. Once I met all the requirements, I went into the que for the next available class with an appropriate dog match for me. All told, the process took a little over nine months.  


3 How long were you at the school?

Training classes at Guide Dogs for the Blind last two weeks. The class contained new guide dog users and retrains – those who have had and retired a guide dog. This time ensures that everyone is starting off on the right foot with their new companion. Class sizes vary, my class was eight students, but they can house and train up to fourteen students at one time. 


4 What breed is your dog and did you have a preference of what breed or sex you wanted?

 

My guide dog Fauna is a female black lab. I have had various dogs throughout my life and they have all been female. I requested a female, but also indicated that a male dog would not be a deal breaker. My feeling was that I was getting my first guide dog, and I was hardly an expert on the matter, so I left it up to Guide Dogs for the Blind to determine what breed and sex would fit best for me. 


5 Do you like the fact that you know longer get tactile feedback with your dog? 

I have been a cane user for seventeen years, I was very accustomed to the fact that I knew/know the location and distance from any obstacle at any given time. My biggest fear was that I would lose my proprioception – from Dictionary.com: “The unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself.”. Before I got Fauna, I tended to move through space by counting steps and knowing where everything around me was. It is an odd feeling I have not yet overcome that I am trusting this wonderful little girl to move me through space safely. As far as tactile interaction with my environment, I still have a connection, it is just through the dog rather than the cane. I feel her gate, her pauses, where her head is looking etc. all through the harness handle. I don’t feel less connected to my environment, I feel more comfortable in many ways because I have Fauna as a backup to my environmental perception.  

 

6 Is it hard for you to learn to trust your dog, why or why not? 

When I am using sighted guide, I trust the person leading me. I have had few problems with this mode of travel except for one time a good friend and my wife both thought I was guiding off of the other person and walked me directly into a fire hydrant. After the pain subsided, and my voice returned to normal a good laugh helped to clear up the fact that they both felt terrible about the situation. 

Fauna is a highly trained guide, and she can get distracted just like a human. We must work together as a team to negotiate our world safely. I have her back making sure she’s not distracted by something and she has my back making sure I don’t run into things. She is constantly watching out for me a we travel our routes, she stops at obstacles and stairs, and generally keeps me safe. So far in almost a month working together, she has given me no indication that I should not trust her judgement in any situation.  


7 Did you like staying in the dorms, why or why not?

 

The dorms at the Guide Dogs for the Blind facility are very comfortable. They have gone to great lengths to ensure that the students will be comfortable during their two-week stay. The food is excellent, with everything freshly prepared and tasty. The amenities on campus are also great, from the full gym to the hot tub and myriad of locations to relax or socialize depending on your mood. Being away from home for two weeks can be trying, and the folks at Guide Dogs for the Blind understand this. 

The two weeks flew by for me, for the simple fact that everyone that works at Guide Dogs for the Blind genuinely care about the students there. The other students in my class were also very personable and were a true joy to get to know. Sometimes a group of people gel from the first time they meet, and this was one of those experiences. I can see myself keeping in touch with this motley crew of wonderful people for years to come.   

8 What are some misconceptions that you had before getting a dog, (or others had)?

I went into this with a very open mind. I have had dogs my entire life, and most recently a black lab, so the care and feeding regiment was nothing alien to me. The time necessary to keep a solid relationship with a dog was something I had built into my daily schedule for her entire seventeen years with us. My only real thought about the program was that I would end up with a companion/teammate that would help me negotiate my world safer and faster. The broken toes, and scarred shins were a good example of me not doing this well by myself. My thought was that if a guide dog was close to the level of a sighted guide that I had to tell which direction to go, I would be fine, and I was not disappointed.   


9 What’s your favorite thing about having a guide dog so far?

Walking around at what I would consider normal speed, rather than having to remember and tap my way through the world is great, but my favorite thing so far is walking at night. Before my car accident and losing almost all my sight, I used to love to walk and jog at night. After the accident I lost all my night vision and was unable to safely walk by myself at night. I cannot explain how awesome it was the first time to get out there and walk through the world at night. All of this, and I haven’t even talked about how amazing it is to be more independent in my travels. If I want to go to the coffee shop at night, I can just go – its great. 


10 What advice do you have for others who are applying for a guide dog? 

Be ready to work. If you haven’t owned a dog before, they will be more work than you expect with the feeding and relieving schedules and keeping them mentally stimulated. If you have had a pet dog before, be ready to be shocked, you will be getting a well-trained walking machine. When you get your dog, it will be close to two years old and still have puppy tendencies. They like to play and be goofy sometimes – they are puppies, but they love to work. When you go for your training, be prepared for the time commitment, get in as good of shape as you can, you will be walking a LOT. I obsessively walked, weight trained and ate well for six months before my class and it was physically easy, but I was happy I put in the work before. The day started at 6:30 am and went to the last relieving at 8:30. You will be tired, well fed and have an amazing time. 

If anyone has specific questions about my work, my guide dog or my experience training with Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael California, feel free to contact me on social media at any of the following links. Thank you for the opportunity to tell my story, and share my experiences owning a guide dog (so far). On a related note, I am writing expanded weekly blog posts about my entire time at Guide Dogs for the Blind on my travel blog below.  

You can follow me on social media and websites at: 

My photography and blog sites:

http://www.tahquechi.com/

http://www.bodyscapes.photography/

My travel blog which has reviews for destinations and hotels form the perspective of a visually impaired traveler. 

http://www.blindtravels.com/

Instagram and Twitter: 

@nedskee

If you would like to be interviewed or otherwise contribute to this blog or YouTube send an email to:

viblindresources@gmail.com

An orange, blue, and yellow cane leaning against a wall that is white on the bottom and blue on the top.

An Interview with Meghan the Cane

by Chelsey Zumpano

An orange, blue, and yellow cane leaning against a wall that is white on the bottom and blue on the top.

(Picture credit goes to Chelsey Zumpano).

In honor of white cane day being on October 15th: I decided to interview my cane.

1 Welcome, Meghan tell me a little about yourself?

I’m a Seeing Eye Cane and my name is Meghan. You can also call me Meg, or Cane, but never Stick! To me being called stick just sounds disgusting and that’s just not what I am! I’m only a few months old, but that doesn’t mean I don’t move as fast as Chelsey’s previous canes, ′Fred and George′.

2 What’s your favorite part about working with me?

I get to be on camera and I love that we can go anywhere, also that I help people notice you more.

3 What’s your favorite place we’ve gone so far and where would you like to go?

I loved going to the pumpkin patch and seeing all the animals. I would really love to go skate boarding.

4 What do you think about the fact that you’re colorful?

I love it! It means I’m more noticeable and little kids love me. I think we cane’s should be able to be whatever color our humans’ want’, ′not just the traditional white′, because everyone is different and our inside’s should match our outside’s.

And there you have it strate from a cane herself! You will be seeing more of Meg because I wrote a book about her. It’s going to be called “Meghan the Seeing Eye Cane,” But we aren’t sure of the release date yet.

If you would like to be interviewed or otherwise contribute to this blog or YouTube send an email to:

viblindresources@gmail.com

Interview with Mom of Micro Premmies!

by Chelsey Zumpano

four pictures of Clint and Chelsey. The pictures on the top are Clint and Chelsey as babies. The pictures on bottom are them now at 23. Clint's on the left and Chelsey's on the right.

As you may or may not know, me and my twin brother, (Clint), were born at 25 weeks. We were micro premmies and Clint was born first. He weighed 1 Lb. 12 Oz. I weighed 1 lb. 6 oz.

In honor of Neonatal month of September I interviewed my mom about us as babies.

1 Why were we born early?

At 24 1/2 weeks I went into labor and I end up have an emergency c-section. I looked like I was 9 months pregnant.

2 What was your experance like in the Nicu? My experience in the NICU was actually pretty good. We had a lot of good nurses and Doctors . Even though we had many ups and downs the ups outshine the downs . We had a very good support system that helped us get through it.

3 What was the hardest part about us being premature?

The hardest part about having premature twins was not being able to take you home and having to wait to be able to hold you tell you were stable enough.

4 How many surgeries did Clint and I have?

Clint had laser eye surgery and a hernia surgery .

And you had 3 eye surgeries and 2 bowel surgeries .

5 What advice do you have for other parents who have premature babies?

Advice I would give to other parents in NICU would be to visit as often as u can but also make sure to take care of your self. Ask lots of questions be involved with babies care as much as possible. Take lots of pictures. And as hard as it may seem try to think positive it is what got me through a lot of the ups and downs. Talk to your baby and let them know you are there.

If you would like to be interviewed by me send an email to:

viblindresources@gmail.com

A Makeup Brand Created specifically for us Blind People!

By Chelsey Zumpano

I found this awesome company called Visionary Cosmetics, which is a makeup company specifically with us blind and visually impaired people in mind and so naturally I interviewed the creator Michael Aguilar.

1.   Why and when did you create visionary cosmetics?

I created Visionary Cosmetics after watching my mother struggle with everything from application to shade selection. I’ve had the idea for Visionary Cosmetics for a while, but after I saw what Fenty Beauty did for people of color, I knew it was time for the visually impaired community to be represented in the Beauty Industry. 

2.  What type of makeup products will you be selling for your line? 

Most products in this line can be applied using only the fingertips. We offer a foundation that includes a primer, moisturizer, serum, a B.B. cream, and a light coverage foundation, to minimize  counter space. We also offer foundations that are full coverage with medicinal properties like certain vitamins . A line of foundations for people living with albinism has also been created with medicinal properties such as sunscreen and vitamins. Each foundation line offers multiple shades. Every product is hypoallergenic and noncomedogenic. We also provide a wide range of concealers. We currently offer 3 eyeshadow palettes with easy to blend colors. We offer 11 shades in liquid and creme lipstick. Setting Powders are available in 3 shades to perfect any look. A personal favorite is the liquid highlighter, a simple product that adds a gorgeous glow to the face. The highlighter comes in natural, bronze, and gold. When the day is done, take off your makeup with our vitamin infused makeup remover. It easily removes makeup, leaving your skin feeling silky smooth. 

3. How will the products be labeled in braille?

Every piece of makeup and the packaging is labeled in Grade 2 Braille. The makeup container features the shade in braille, while the box indicates the item. 

4. will your products only be available online or will they be available in stores like Ulta? 

As of now, the products will only be available on the official Visionary Cosmetics website. 

5.  When will your products be released to the public?

The official launch date is November 1, 2018.  Pre-Orders begin October first. 

Website: visionarycosmetics.com

Email: michaelaguilar@visionarycosmetics.com

If you want to be interviewed or contribute a post on this blog or make a video for our YouTube channel send an email to: viblindresources@gmail.com

Interview with Author and Guide Dog Trainer Julie Johnson

By Chelsey Zumpano

Monty: a black lab and boxer mix standing in a blue Guide Dog harness.Jetta: a Doberman standing in a red guide dog harness.(Picture credit goes to Julie Johnson).

Julie Johnson is the author of “Courage to Dare: A Blind Woman’s Quest to Train Her Own Guide Dog”

Julie hasn’t been blind all her life, but she has had glaucoma, (which caused her to be legally blind), sense she was around 19 and she only has light perception.

She has successfully trained two guide dogs at the time of this writing. Both pictured above, (Monty is her retired dog and Jetta is her current guide).

(Why did Julie decide to write a book versus making videos)?

“I’m better about writing, then making videos. Also a book is more in depth. I could take the time to say everything I felt was important. There are no time constraint, no worrying about your pronunciation or what you look like. It’s just the words, which feels more comfortable for me.”

I for one absolutely love that she wrote a book because it’s a great way to spread awareness and educate people! It is also a great way to help prove that we as visionally impaired and blind people can do anything we set our minds to!

(what does it feel like to use a cane versus a dog)?

“I’m not sure this is going to be explainable in a meaningful way, unless you have experienced it.  What’s the difference between boots, tennis shoes or sandals?  There’s the obvious things like the dog takes you around things, while you’ll contact things as landmarks with a cane.  Moving with a dog feels smoother, more fluid.  A cane works great when you’re looking for a specific thing, like a mailbox, trash can or chair.  A dog can take you to those things, but you have to teach those skills specifically.  Otherwise the dog views them as obstacles and will take you around them.  Canes are pretty low maintenance. Toss it in the corner when not in use, but a dog is 24/7 care and supervision.  A dog is a thinking being and can make decisions from a distance, offer suggestions of places you might like to go based on previous experience and can be trained to show you all sorts of specific things in your environment.   A dog can provide a lot more information about your environment and is a smoother travel experience, but it’s also a lot more work.”

Julie is working on a second book: it’s a training book manual on all the different aspects of training your own guide or service dog. Julie says: “it’s a huge project and will likely be a couple of more years before it’s finished.” She would like to add videos and other content to make it a full course.

Julie’s writing advice: Write.  That’s really it.  Put your backside in the chair and write.  rinse and repeat.   Anyone can write a book.   It might not be a best seller, but if you want to write a book, you can write a book.  Again, it’ comes down to commitment.

Julie’s advice for owner trainers: Be really, really, really sure this is something you want to do.  Not just “I think that’s interesting” but a deep “I have to do this” feeling.  It will consume perhaps 2 years of your life.  You have to be willing to give up a lot of free time, sacrifice extra spending money for dog supplies, focus only on dog training and be willing to stick it out even when it gets tough.   The folks I see who are unsuccessful with owner training are those who don’t fully commit the time.  Perhaps they try to train a dog and start a new job or get married or some other big life event.  That’s great, I’m happy for them on the new job or relationship, but there are only so many hours in a day and so much mental energy to devote to important things. There are a lot of other factors that contribute to success: a solid dog, training experience, blindness skills, support, financial means and patience, but a deep commitment to the process is the foundation.

You can buy julie’s book on Amazon at this link: Courage to Dare: A Blind Woman’s Quest to Train Her Own Guide Dog https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QXZSMOC/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_tai_TZ-0AbB8PW4H0

Go check out her website: http://www.guide-and-service-dogs.com/

Are you interested in traning your own guide dog and want to talk to like-minded people? Join this email list: http://lists.myguide.dog/listinfo.cgi/guidedog-owner-trainers-myguide.dog