Interview with John Sanders (Guest Blog Post #15)

Hi Everyone,

Today’s guest post is from author John Sanders. He write on all different kinds of topics including the eye condition, Nystagmus. Thank you John for being a guest. Please be sure to check out John’s social media links and his books and posts.

  1. Tell me a bit about yourself? – Born in the UK in the late 1950s, I moved around a lot as a child which was an education in itself. I worked as a translator, journalist and manager of the Nystagmus Network. Now I live in Wales and am fortunate enough not to have to do paid work anymore. That said, I still give the occasional talk about Nystagmus and volunteer with several charities. I also try to grow vegetables and fruit on an allotment which means struggling against slugs, pigeons, weeds and weather.
  2. What made you want to choose a career in journalism or writing? – No great plan. It was mostly by accident. My mum saw a job ad which didn’t involve driving. One thing led to another and I became a translator. Eventually that opened up an opportunity to become a journalist where the pay was better and the work more interesting. I missed my colleagues from translating though.
  3. What has been one of the hardest pieces you have written? – Not so much written, but the Dunblane school massacre in Scotland in 1996. That day I was sub-editing for an online news agency as the story unfolded. That meant I was the person checking the copy and pressing the button and sending the story out to screens around the world piece-meal as it happened. Initially all we had were reports of an incident at a school in Scotland. As the minutes and hours ticked by, it became apparent that children were dying and it wasn’t accidental. That was a horrible day. The British Government changed our gun laws following the Dunblane massacre. We’ve not had an event in a school like that here since.
  4. What made you want to write the Northwick stories? – Through fiction and drama you can often reach a larger audience – and have a greater impact – than simply trotting out facts and producing information sheets (although these have their place). Opinion-changing films about illness and disability that spring to mind are “My Left Foot”, “Rain Man”, “The Elephant Man” and “Children of a Lesser God”. One year I had to write up the Nystagmus Network annual open day for the charity’s newsletter. I was fed up (as a journalist) of reading dreary reports about meetings and events. So from almost nowhere sprang the idea of taking a humorous look at the open day through the eyes of the bear we’d raffled to raise money. Some people liked the story (others didn’t), but there was enough support for me to carry on writing about the world from Northwick’s flickering perspective.
  5. What has been the most challenging part of having Nystagmus? –What has probably frustrated me most is how hard it is to learn about how nystagmus affects us. And I’m sorry if this upsets anyone, but after years of thinking about this issue I’ve concluded that – based on the evidence available — much of the blame lies with the medical profession. I know some wonderful people in the medical world who are exceptions to this rule. But so many people’s lives would be so much easier and less stressful if the world of ophthalmology in particular changed the way it communicates to patients who have nystagmus. And, from talking to other people, this applies to other eye conditions too. Instead of simply complaining, I’m one of a small group of people developing a Nystagmus Care Pathway (see https://www.bioj-online.com/articles/10.22599/bioj.126/) which we hope hospital eye departments will adopt one day.
  6. If you could give any piece of advice to a beginning freelance writer what would it be? – A few things: Read good writers. Write short sentences. Be wary of how you use adjectives. And try to write something every day.
  7. What was one of the hardest things that you struggled with in school? – Sport obviously (because of dodgy sight), seeing the board, having to take part in activities I couldn’t see, glare from windows. But also the dreary uniformity — which contributed to making life harder for anyone who didn’t quite fit the norm.
  8. Has Nystagmus impacted your career choice? – I suppose so, but I think most of us are limited one way or another: for instance where we are born, who our parents are, where we live, the subjects we choose to study and to drop early on in school. I was lucky to find work I could do and enjoyed (most of the time anyway).
  9. Has Nystagmus influenced you as a writer (as in how you actually get the writing done, etc)? – Possibly in more ways than I realize. If you’re vision impaired and going along to news conferences you have to develop strategies to get hold of information other people can see and take for granted. On a positive note, not seeing very well has made me more aware of other senses and therefore not limiting myself to describing the world purely in visual terms when I write. Nystagmus was one of the factors that prompted me to go freelance and work from home, mostly by phone and email. It’s so much easier than working in an open plan office (crazy environment for writing anyway) where people generally forget you don’t see the way they do.

Let’s have some fun with these last few questions!

  1. Sweets (which is the British word for candy) or Biscuits (which is the British word for cookies)? – Dark chocolate (candy).
  2. Tea or coffee? – Both.
  3. Bed made or unmade? – Not something I ever think about!
  4. Favorite author? – I’m impressed by people who can choose favourites (English spelling). I’ve read a lot of books by very different authors and know that my tastes have changed and continue to change.
  5. Favorite Food? – See my answer on books. Maybe I’m just indecisive?

Please list your links where people can find your work or if you want how people can reach you:

http://www.northwickbear.com/index.html

https://cvisociety.org.uk/news.php?cat_id=143

http://www.wcb-ccd.org.uk/roundup.php

http://dsq-sds.org/article/view/858/1033

If you would like to be featured on my website feel free to contact me at: amanda@amandagene.com

 

My top five suggested school supplies for Visually Impaired Students

Across the world many students are returning to the classroom. For some parents this may be the first time their child who has a visual impairment may be getting a formal education. I have seen on many support groups that you want to help your child be as successful as possible.

To help with this here are my top five suggested school supplies to help your child achieve success.

  1. Bold lined paper. I know that paper in general is a required supply, however I found that growing up the regular notebook paper had lines that looked faded and it was hard for me to keep track of where I was writing. When I was little my teacher of the visually impaired introduced me to wide lined bold lined paper. They come in notebooks and college ruled length too!

This helped me a lot as I did not lose my place as I wrote. The only draw back that I found was that bold lined paper is meant to be used with a 20/20 pen, and it easily got onto my hands as I wrote. As I entered middle and high school, I found that using this paper did cause some bullying. That year I was lucky to find the five-star dark blue paper. I love this paper. The lines are dark enough to be seen, and you can use a regular pen or pencil.

  1. Erasable Pens. To help me see my work better I found that using erasable pens were very helpful. They come in either black or blue. When I was in high school, I found that I preferred the blue pens. The only complaint that I had with this tool is how the ink got all over my hands. This happened because of the way I held my pen. Remember guys, I have mild cerebral palsy. Just because this happened to me doesn’t mean it will happen to everyone.
  2. A mesh multi pocket pencil pouch. I am not talking about the clear plastic ones. I found that those made finding items hard to find. I am talking about a mesh multi pocket pencil pouch. These pencil pouches made it where I could separate all my pens, and made it where they were easy to find. Some pouches even come with holders at the top. I used to put my pens in there for a quick grab.
  3. A non-electric low vision device. In this day many students have Iphones, and Ipads to see their work, but what is a student to do if they fail? Use their non electric low vision device. When I was growing up, I used my dome magnifier quite often. I suggest that a student keep a device such as a dome magnifier handy just in case.
  4. Finally, eye glass wipes. Growing up I found that my glasses used to get dirty quite often, so I would have to ask for a pass to go to the bathroom just so I could clean my glasses. Some teachers may only offer a number of bathroom passes during the term, and a smart student would want to use them for what they are used for. (Kids, don’t use this excuse to get out of class, stay in there and learn. 😊 ) So, to help with this problem I suggest that you buy a package of pre moistened wipes that students can keep in their pencil pouches. That way a student can clean their glasses when needed.

 

I hope that you find these suggestions useful. I know that this is a short list. Is there something I missed? What would you add to this list? Tell me in the comments below.

 

Remember parents try not to worry. Your kids are going to be superstars! Happy School year everyone!

 

Disclaimer: Please note, these suggestions are based on my own personal experiences and will only help students who have some vision. These tips will not work for blind students.

 

The Glasses Tag

I saw this tag on the internet, and since I have to wear my glasses due to my visual impairment, I thought this would be fun to answer this tag!

1. How long have you been wearing glasses? I been wearing glasses since the age of two.
2. What were your first pair of glasses like? I think I still have them in my messy closet, but they were a pair of mickey mouse glasses with light purple arms. My mother said once I got used to them, I didn’t want to stop wearing them. I even fell asleep with them on.

3. How often do you wear your glasses? I have to wear them daily.
4. How many pairs of glasses do you have? I have two pairs. The pair that is my current prescription and another pair that has my old prescription which isn’t very helpful at all.
5. Where did you get your glasses? I got them at my local eye doctor through a grant from Division of Blind Services.
6. Long sighted or short sighted? I’m both. I struggle with seeing things at a distance than up close. This is one of the reasons why I can’t drive.
7. What prescription are your glasses? According to my eye doctor report I can see Right eye Distance: 20/100 Both together 20/50, Let eye distance: 20/250 with both together 20/800 and Distance together 20/50+ Near is 20/30. Basically, all those numbers mean is I have low vision.
8. Do your family members wear glasses? Yes, my dad wears glasses, my grandpa wears glasses and both my grandmothers wear glasses.
9. What do you think about wearing glasses? It helps me see better than when I don’t have them on.
10. Do you wear contact lenses? No. I wish I could though.

Do you wear glasses? Tell me in the comments below.

#Blindability Tag

I was watching the latest Blind to Billionaire video and, YouTube creator, Matt, was talking about his #Blindability tag and educational campaign. He wanted people from the blind and visually impaired community to post pictures and videos on their social media sites on, July 24th, to help raise awareness that blind and visually impaired people can do a lot of different activities even activities that can sometimes surprise people. Here are my three activities that people are surprised that I can do.

Read regular print. When I was in elementary school the teachers thought that my reading ability was poor. Come to find out not only was I Dyslexic, but I was visually impaired. Now I use a prescription magnifier or my Iphone when I need to access regular print.

Cook and bake. I love to cook and bake. I learned basic cooking skills from my stepdad when I was young, and last year I took some cooking classes at my local blind and visually impaired rehabilitation center. If you look at my Instagram account you know that I have been busy baking lately.

Lastly, that I can use technology. People are surprised that I can use my laptop, Iphone, Ipad and my Amazon Echo. When it comes to my laptop, I use a program called ZoomText. This program talks to me as I type and navigate my computer. I can change the font color and background. When it comes to my Iphone and Ipad I can either zoom in the screen or use the accessible feature called voiceover. Voiceover reads the screen to me. Lastly, last year I learned how to use my Amazon Echo. This has helped me gain more independence. I am able to access my grocery list right from my Alexa app.