Tag Archives: blindness

Liverpool Karate-Jutsu’s – Karate for the Blind and Visually Impaired

This warms my heart. Martial arts was HUGE part of my self-development. I hope to train again (there is a karate class at my job- lucky me!) but I do not feel as confident due to my peripheral vision loss. Giving blind and visually impaired students the opportunity to study karate is a wonderful thing. Wonder if there are similar efforts in the United States. Read and support!

Sport 4 All

karateI, Sensei Mike Dunn launched Liverpool Karate-Jutsu in December 2010. In March, that year I had been awarded my “Shodan”, Black Belt in Freestyle Karate-Justu. I had restarted in martial arts at the age of 43, having previously trained in karate for 3 years, 25 years earlier. I also studied for and took an Instructors exam, so that I could start my own karate club.

I could not have done this without the support of my fiancée Christine, my own Sensei (Neco Bulut) and Andrew Morrell of the Cobra Martial Arts Association (CMAA).

karate1

Liverpool Karate-Jutsu’s primary Dojo is based at St Michaels Church Hall in Aigburth, Liverpool and is a community karate club that has always attracted great kids, teenagers and adults. The karate club was already well established when Stephen joined the karate club in June 2012.

Stephen has Usher Syndrome and is deaf and blind. He immediately became…

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Heels in the City: One Girl’s Love Affair

Nina Heelz

My mother never let me wear high heels. She didn’t really wear high heels herself. I don’t think I ever saw her with a heel that was higher than 2 inches. When I got my first communion, the BEST part was that she let me get a pair of little white pumps. Ooh-la-la. They probably had a 1-inch heel, but I saw them as my first pair of real high heels. I was in love with them, trying them on in front of the mirror and click-clacking around the house. I remember thinking that as soon as I was grown up, I would wear high heels all the time and be a glamorous woman. 

Fast forward to today, and you’d rarely see me in a high heel, much less in a heel over 2-3 inches. Why didn’t I become the next Carrie Bradshaw pounding the pavement in luxurious stilettos? A couple reasons.

  • Heels hurt after a while. I see both celebrities and regular women spending whole days or evenings in astronomically high heels, and I don’t get it.  How do these ladies do it? Are they superhuman with special, nerve-free feet? Heels always hurt for me after a while, and I wear sensible ones!
  • I like to dance. I can move better with shorter heels and I can last longer on the dance floor. I don’t have to teeter-totter and dance cautiously.
  • I work at a non-profit with middle school students in an after-school program. As health coordinator, I want to walk the walk and model healthy behavior. You’ll often find me in workout clothes and high top sneakers, ready to join the kids in physical activity. Heels don’t really make sense in this environment.
  • New York City destroys your shoes! Especially if you ride the subway and participate in mass transit. You’re walking a lot and going up and down stairs all the time. It becomes more challenging to navigate the city if you’re slowed down by heels. I have had to replace the tip of the heels on my favorite black heels 3 times. Next time, they’re finished.
  • It might not even be safe for me. Since I have Usher Syndrome and experience vision loss like night blindness, heels seem dangerous. I could easily miss a step and twist an ankle. I’m not as confident walking around in heels and feel that they weaken my balance as well as my ability to recover from little trips and bumps.

However, a girl can still look! Even though my practical side wins most shopping battles, I still love the way heels look and admire the people who wear them with confidence and poise (hopefully without ruining their feet). Here are some Nine West heels I find beautiful but would never purchase- their heels are too high.

nine west wedge Nine West Bezel

Nine West Fastazyou7 Heel in Natural/Snake

Not every pair of high heels works for a woman like me. But I believe I can wear some heels and should have options in my closet. I still want to be that glamorous woman sometimes, preferably in a stylish stacked heel instead of a stiletto, with ankle support, and more straps to keep your foot in than less. Is that too much to ask?

Here are my favorites from some recent online browsing. No purchases have been made yet. Your feedback is welcome!

Nine West Manii– black, red (at Macy’s), and white are all gorgeous

Nine West Marnii

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nine West Curri– Carmelita yellow is on sale!

Nine West Curri Carmelita

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CL by Laundry Wild Party– I think brown looks better than black. I’ve never bought a shoe from this brand before though. Not sure if they are comfortable.

CL by Chinese Laundry Wild Party

It’s Too Easy to Stay Home

LIFE-IS-SHORT_BLOG-BUTTON

You know the feeling. It’s usually a work night. You made plans or signed up for an event but you don’t feel like going anymore. You’d rather go home and veg out. You’re in that moment of whether to cancel or go. Tonight I was in that exact position.

I was scheduled to join a dinner of some old college classmates who all took courses with the amazing Tony Brown.When I left work, it was drizzling. I hesitated for a moment and really considered going home to relax. Why did I want to cancel? It was mostly about my hearing and vision loss. I didn’t want to deal with figuring out where the restaurant was, walking in the NYC crowds in midtown, finding the table in the restaurant, and trying to hear in a group conversation. These small things can be a frustrating challenge for someone like me. Sometimes it feels like it’s easier to just stay home.

However, this blog is one of the reasons I decided not to throw in the towel on this evening. I have been writing about living with Usher Syndrome and being a Latina who overcomes obstacles. I’ve heard some wonderful & encouraging comments from everyone. And I want to live up to my words. Going home would be giving up. There are times in the past  when I have probably missed out on great experiences.

So I went. What ended up happening? The crowds weren’t bad (rain kept other people away!), the restaurant was very well lit and almost empty, it was super easy to find the group, I sat next to a friend, and I heard about 70% of the conversation. Who knew? It went much better than I expected- I think I learned my lesson. It’s too easy to stay home, and I know it’s not in my character to do so. I love socializing, enjoying the city, and being active. I don’t ever want to let Usher get in the way of that. Life is short- we have to enjoy it!

Bonus: I highly recommend this Lebanese restaurant, Byblos, to all hearing impaired and vision impaired individuals in the NYC area. There was no amplified music, so it was very quiet. There were no steps and it was well lit with space to move around the tables. Food was delicious and the prices were reasonable too.

Research News: Potential Treatment for Retinitis Pigmentosa!

Retinitis Pigmentosa Cure

For those of us who have Usher syndrome, it can feel sometimes feel like a hopeless waiting game. There’s no treatment and no cure. Vitamin A, lutein, and DHA supplements are recommended to help slow the deterioration of your sight. But that’s it.

Today, however, there’s an intriguing article about a possible treatment for RP and night blindness. A professor harvested some antioxidant-rich orange algae from a lake in Israel and conducted a small study where people actually saw IMPROVEMENT in their eyesight. This is the first I’ve heard of anything improving eyesight. I’m delighted that it’s natural and nutrition-based. I don’t know where it goes from here. The article mentions at the end that it’s being grown by a company now to increase its potency. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

The Dreaded White Cane

It had been sitting on a shelf in my house for months now. I would glare at it like an evil uninvited guest. I did not request the cane, but my Helen Keller trainer had brought it. So there it sat. For a long time, I didn’t even venture to touch it. Ewww! The cane seemed to represent defeat and shame. I would be different. Everyone would look at me. How would they understand that I still retained some vision? What if they thought I was faking it? What if people I knew saw me? I was not ready.

My brother (who also has Usher Syndrome) did some training with his cane. He encouraged me to open up and try it. He showed me how to use it in my living room and we had some laughs as I “practiced.” It felt so foreign to hold it- like I wasn’t myself.

However, on Saturday, something shifted. I was running late to go downtown and meet my friends for salsa dancing. I grabbed the cane and threw it into my bag. I felt compelled to take it. In that moment, I feel like I viewed it as a tool and not a horrible reminder of my condition. I thought that perhaps I could skip the line to the club if there was one! When I got to 59th St-Columbus Circle, I pulled the cane out and tried to use it. It was an experiment for myself. I knew I wouldn’t see anyone that I knew. There weren’t that many people walking around at that time. It was a little hard to maneuver the cane over bumps in the sidewalk but I did notice that people moved out of the way. It was easy to put together but it was more difficult for me to pull the cane apart. Those magnets are definitely strong! When I got to the club, there was no line and I walked right in. It was a great night.

I felt a small victory because I decided to try the cane and it was not forced upon me. I want to make my own decisions of how to handle my Usher Syndrome. I know that now I am more comfortable asking for further training with the cane and seeing where that might take me. I don’t feel that I need to use it all the time, but it is a tool that could be helpful sometimes. It’s better to have it available than not. I do value the fact that it would help me retain my independence and safety. I will not be defeated. Catarina- 1. Usher Syndrome- 0.

Top 5 Obstacles for People with Low Vision

Did you know? The world can sometimes be a scary place for those of us with low vision. All of a sudden, things can pop up that we didn’t see. They were just in our blind spot. I have trouble seeing below my eye level line of vision. If a person darts in front of me quickly, it can appear as a flash of color and a shock to my eyes. I definitely might flinch or stop in my tracks. Sometimes I even squeeze my eyes shut and put my hands up because I feel like I’m about to hit something. Then I might realize it’s just a person who cut in front of me and then I relax a little.

I’m about to let you in on some obstacles for people with low vision that you might never have even thought about. It’s my personal top 5- enjoy! 🙂

5. Open kitchen cabinet door

I control this so it doesn’t happen too much anymore, but I have definitely banged my head a lot on open cabinet doors! I have trained myself to remember to close them before I leave the kitchen. That way I won’t forget I left them open when I come back.

kitchencabinetdoor

 

 

 

 

 

4. Sidewalk cellar doors

Haven’t had a problem with this yet but it seems very dangerous for blind people especially. They could be open and someone could fall inside. I steer clear and walk on the other side of the sidewalk- just in case!

sidewalkcellardoors

 

 

 

 

3. Person pulling suitcase

AHHH! Anytime someone is pulling a bag or a cart, I’m focused on looking at the person and don’t realize at all that they might have another appendage. Always have to look down, especially in NYC where people might be traveling or pulling their work bag. I have definitely kicked too many suitcases to count…

personpullingsuitcase

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Benches, chairs, furniture, etc.

Unexpected furniture can throw me off. If I’m in a museum and all of a sudden, one room has a bench, I might not even notice. I love art- so I’ll be looking at that! One time, I walked right into a bench and flipped onto it, landing on my stomach. Good thing I have a sense of humor!! Oh, and good thing it had a cushion!

museum room with bench focused

 

 

 

 

 

1. The ultimate nemesis: THE WET FLOOR SIGN

This is an obstacle of the highest degree. It could be anywhere at any time. It could take different forms. If you kick it and walk into it, it makes a NOISE as it crashes shut onto the floor and everyone looks at you. If you were trying to walk around and blend in like a normal person, you  failed! Foiled again by the wet floor sign! And that is why it tops my list.

WetFloorSign

 

 

 

 

 

Bonus item: toddlers & small children! More on that soon 🙂

My Eyes

visual field test results
Visual field test results from early 2013

This blog has been a long time coming. I originally set up my WordPress site in January 2012. It was a New Year’s resolution that didn’t get further than that. I think I got stuck because I was afraid to share my story. I wasn’t ready. A lot has changed since then. So let’s dive right in.

Recently, I had a visual field test done for my Usher Syndrome (more about that in the About section). This was done at the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youth & Adults on Long Island.

I can’t really explain how it feels to look at a picture of your eyes and see circles that are mostly black. I knew I was losing vision, but I guess I never wanted to really think that I was going blind. I’m holding on to some central vision and some patches of peripheral, but it doesn’t seem like much. I have approximately 10 degrees of vision (out of a possible 180). Life seemed pretty terrible that morning, and I definitely didn’t want to go back to work after that appointment. But I did. And life will go on. And this blog is part of my way to deal with it all.

I navigate New York City, hold down a great full-time job, work on my own non-profit on the side, and soon I’m going back to school for my MPH. I don’t want to stop pursuing my dreams, EVER. I hope to take you on the journey with me. I want to share my experience in the hope that it will help others and keep me going.