Feeling Accomplish!

by Chelsey Zumpano

I DID IT! I wrote a blog for every day in November! It’s a great feeling to set out to do something and actually accomplish it! I’m so proud of myself and I think it really helped me with writing. Now if you give me a writing prompt, I’ll be able to write a blog about it. I’m hoping this will help me write stories.

Now for the month of December: I’m going to do a quote and draw/paint/take a picture of something to go along with it. I’m also going to do some baking videos. You can find today’s picture on my instagram @VIBlindResources and if you like what you see there give me a follow. Thank you to everyone who has followed me this month and the months before! I’ll be going back to once a week Blogs and Vlogs/videos will be twice a week. (They’ll be some random posts throne in there).

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

viblindresources@gmail.com

Teaching Braille

by Chelsey Zumpano

I have now taught two people braille: my sister’s friend, (which you can watch on this video: Teaching Unified English Braille), and my brother’s girlfriend, (Dana). She’s a very fast learner and with in one night she could recognize all the letters. I taught her by using my copy of ‘Unified English Braille for everyone’ and showed her the alphabet,I told her what dots were for what, then I had her tell me the dots as I typed them on my BrailleNote. First I had her type on my BrailleNote, but that was hard for her, so I switched to my Braille Writer, and she did much better. I can’t wait to teach her more!

I love that Dana just simply wanted to learn because she likes learning. I think more people need to learn braille because it’s a great skill to have. If anyone else I know wants to learn braille just ask or leave a comment below.

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

viblindresources@gmail.com

What Is Normal?

by Chelsey Zumpano

I hate the word normal! It implies you have to be a certain way or there’s something wrong with you! I use average because it’s a spectrum. If I’m going to say somethings “normal,” I’ll usually say it’s “my normal” because that thing or situation is my experience. Another reason I don’t say “normal” is because it generalizes a situation or group of people.

Much like lables “being normal” puts pressure on us. My advice to anyone who’s struggling right now is to be yourself and be kind to others, try to understand what others are going through. Being kind to others is hard for some people to do and that’s not okay! The same going for understanding what people are going through! My personal opinion is that as long as no one is hurting anyone, then just let them live their life and give them some respect.

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

viblindresources@gmail.com

What I’m Reading Right Now!

by Chelsey Zumpano

I started reading ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ last night. First off I had no idea this was a book and the only reason I new it was a musical is because I’m obsessed with ‘Waving Through A Window’. (which is the only song I’ve heard from the musical). Now that I’ve read a little of the book and listened to the song again, (which I have on repeat as I’m writing this), It’s even more sad! So far the book is good.

The next book I’m reading is ‘The Sword of Summer’ and it’s slow going because I’m trying to do a play by play of my favorite moments over on Tumblr. This is my second time reading this series, the first time I’m reading it in braille. It’s really helped me to improve my braille reading skills. The great thing about rereading is that I get to fall in love with all the characters again!

Some other books I’ve read!

• ‘Lost’ by P C and Kristin Cast

• ‘What Light’ by Jay Asher

• ‘Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: 9 from the Nine Worlds’ by Rick Riordan

• ‘From the Kane Chronicles: Brooklyn House Magician’s Manual’ by Rick Riordan

• ‘Leah on the Offbeat’ by Becky Albertalli (which I’ll have a review up on my youTube soon).

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

viblindresources@gmail.com

My Most Used Apps

by Chelsey Zumpano

(I’m sorry there are no links. For some reason it wasn’t letting me use them).

1 Audible because I am a major book worm and I can listen to audio books on my Alexa, Iphone, and Ipad.

2 Facebook is where I post most things for this Blog and YouTube because it’s the most accessible.

3 YouTube because not only do I upload videos, but I also watch a lot of videos.

4 The WordPress app is what this blog is hosted through.

5 Imovie is the most accessible app to edit videos.

6 BARD is an awesome book reading service through the Library of Congress and specifically for people who are blind or have learning disabilities. This is where I’m rereading ‘Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard’ by Rick Riordan in braille.

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

viblindresources@gmail.com

The Best Way To Spend A rainny Day

by Chelsey Zumpano

On rainny days I’m stuck inside, usually with a migraine because of the overcast sky. In this age of technology there’s lots to do inside on a rainny day;I could draw, write, or watch YouTube. But my favorite thing to do is listen to an audio book and cuddle with my dogs. The dogs don’t want to move on days like that and neither do I, so it works out good. We curl up under a blanket and get lost in a book. My dogs often listen to books with me and so I call them, “my book buddies.”

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

viblindresources@gmail.com

Holiday Traditions

by Chelsey Zumpano

In my family we don’t have many holiday traditions, but what we do have is pretty great. For Halloween we don’t do much, except dress up and hand out candy, but the last few years we go watch a zombie flash mob. For Thanks Giving we just have family over and eat lots of food, but when we were younger, (at our old house), we took out the go cart and dirt bike. Which was my favorite thing to do because I could drive it myself! We drove in a field across from our house. It was awesome and I miss it! If they hadn’t built houses there we might still have my go cart.

On Christmas Eve we spend it with my Aunt and cousins on my dad’s side. For Christmas we do a secret Santa, (excet no one is good at keeping a secret), and it’s just between the adults. It’s cool trying to figure out who everyone has. For Easter we use to take the quad out, but we sold it because that was the only time we used it and got the boat instead. So I don’t know what we are doing this year. Maybe someone will make my bug into a baja bug, (hint, hint), and we can take it out next year.

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

viblindresources@gmail.com

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

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Me

by Chelsey Zumpano

1 I’ve thought about being a lawyer for disability rights.

2 I use to hate musicals and now I listen to the Hamilton soundtrack.

3 We had a bunny for a little while and they are fast little animals.

4 I had a black cat named Oreo; he was very fluffy and he was a hunter.

5 I wanted to owner train a guide dog, but decided against it because of financial reasons and the fact I wasn’t confident enough in my O and M skills.

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

viblindresources@gmail.com

Happy Thanks Giving and What I’m Thankful For Part 3

by Chelsey Zumpano

I’m writing this while the delicious smell of turkey fills my house. Here’s another list of what I’m thankful for.

1 I’m surrounded by a loving family. My family is all healthy and happy.

2 My animals may drive us all crazy sometimes, but I love them anyway.

4 That I have a ruth over my head and food to eat.

5 I’m thankful for this Blog and YouTube and that I’m able to educate and help people with every new post.

6 I’m thankful for every new follower, like, subscriber, comment, and share.

7 I’m thankful for my vision and the fact that being legally blind means I get to help others in our community.

8 My cane helps me get around and for people to recognize me as blind.

9 My coping skills for my anxiety is something I’m extremely grateful for.

10 The fact I will be applying for a guide dog very soon.

Tell me what your thankful for in the comments.

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

viblindresources@gmail.com