Light Versus Dark (Or Why A Sunny Day May Not Work In My Favour)

I am probably going to shock you by saying this but I don’t like sunshine – or rather – my eyes don’t like it.  What I mean is – given the choice between wandering around outdoors in bright sunshine and sitting quietly indoors you will usually find me indoors.


Bright sunshine is one of the things which plays havoc with my Photophobia (or the sensitivity of my eyes to bright lights).

In order to combat this I wear transition lenses (what used to be known as “reactolites”).  These can take some time to revert to their normal clear appearance when I go into a dark space.  This means that I may appear to be breaking the interview “rule” of not wearing sunglasses.  Sorry but – given the choice between breaking some “rule” dreamt up by someone who probably had 20/20 vision (and no sensitivity to lights of any kind) and arriving at your office even more blinded and disoriented by the sun than I do even with my glasses on (not forgetting the accomanying eyeache and the headache) – the “rule” goes out of the window.

There is something which you can do to make my life a little easier – make sure your Reception area is moderately lit.  There is nothing worse than having to go from bright sunshine to either a Reception area which would make a brilliant place if you desired to interrogate me using bright lights, or, a Reception Area where I almost have to feel my way to the Reception Desk.

In extreme circumstances bright sunshine can cause me to go on what I call “Shutdown”.  This means that – instead of you seeing the nearest thing to a “normal” person I can be – you may find ourself looking at someone who has definitely got a serious sight problem and who doesn’t mind you knowing about it.  When that happens I just want to hide myself away.

So, maybe next time someone comes to a job interview or a meeting at your offices who is apparently wearing sunglasses you might not think they are being rude to you – they are trying to show you their best side under the circumstances.  If you are unsure – just ask.

Why “Target Audiences” Can Mean You Losing Your Potential Customer!

If there is one phrase which sends shivers down my spine it is the one which includes the words “Target” and “Audience”.

Allow me to explain why that is.

I have come across companies who have concentrated so much on attracting their “Target Audience” that they forgot about the potential audience they already had.

If you think that your “Target Audience” is limited to those people who already know your company and your product or the service you provice – think again.

The above people are the ones who you have already caught on your last “fishing trip”.  As long as you don’t upset them or make their life too difficult they are the ones who are likely to stay around.

Your real “Target Audience” may surprise you.  It is those people who treat your website (and your other literature) as an oldfashioned “shop window” as they decide whether or not to give your company their custom.

However, they are not the most important people.  The most important people are the ones you have decided to invite for a job interview.

How do I work that one out???

Simple (and this actually put me off the idea of even going to an interview with one company – I went but only because I had to as part of my Jobseekers Agreement when I was unemployed).

If your potential employee cannot find their way around your website well enough to be able to research your company – they are likely to feel you treat your employees in the same way as those potential customers who contact your company “on spec”.

The company whose website put me off them were dismissive when I pointed out that I had had difficulties in using their website (in fact it was the worst one I have ever come across before or since).  They informed me that – not only had the website won an award (I get the feeling the RNIB were not included in that particular judging panel) I was not in their “Target Audience” – so they were not going to change it.

I am not sure if they are but – I think websites are used to such an extent that they should be covered by the Equalities Act.  After all, if I cannot read a website for any particular reason I cannot help but feeling as though I am being discriminated against as a result.

Your website is your showcase to the world – try to remember that everybody is your “Target Audience” in one way or another.

Sometimes You Have To Look Underneath The “Public” Face To Find Out The Full Story

I am one of those very strange people who are not obviously “disabled”.  Actually – that is not totally correct.

You see – my glasses will tell you that I have some kind of sight problem – they just don’t tell you exactly how bad it is.  Nor do they tell you what does and does not make my life easier.

A few months ago I went to a job interview where I ended up feeling extremely pleased with myself on one hand but highly insulted on the other.

The reason I ended up feeling extremely pleased with myself was hearing “You don’t look Partially Sighted”.  I know you are not really supposed to mention your disability in a job interview (although I did manage to get the offer of a job as a School Crossing Patrol even after stating my sight problem – I failed on the Medical though) but I like to think that everybody knows where they stand.

What made me feel highly insulted was one of the questions the interviewers asked me.  “What was the most recent film you saw?”.

I took this to mean in a cinema and answered it as such.  Put it this way – me and cinemas do not mix.  Cinemas have a tendency to hit all my danger buttons at once.

If they had asked me about the latest book I had read I would have been able to bore them to sleep about it.

So – next time you interview someone for a job and you want to find out something a little unusual about them try asking them another question I heard in the same interview instead – “If you were a biscuit what sort would you be?”

Me?  I would either be a Stroopwafel (a delicious Dutch treat which goes very nicely with coffee) or one of those cinnamon-y, gingery biscuits you get with a cup of coffee in upmarket hotels and restaurants.

Placeholders For Blurred Scenery (Or – The Day I Saw What I See Without My Glasses On With My Glasses On!)

There are times when I really wish I could lend my eyeballs to the rest of the population.  Not only would this give me a rest sometimes – it would also enable other people to see what I can (or more precisely cannot) see with and without my glasses on.

On Friday I had a meeting about my photographic project where I saw a rather disturbing photograph.  It was disturbing because it was the first time I had seen an almost perfect photo of a street scene as if I was looking at it without my glasses on.  (You will have to wait until either the end of the project or after the next meeting before you get a glimpse of it.)

The photograph had a “placeholder” at each corner which might tell you what you were looking at but the main picture was blurred to the point where I knew what I was looking at.

The photographer wanted to take the “placeholders” out as he thought it would give the game away as to what the photo was of (when people with “normal” vision looked at it).

I was really pleased with that photo because it told me that I had made my explanations easy for the photographer to understand.  I don’t know if you have attempted to tell someone about something which you take for granted so they can go away and replicate it???  Trust me – it is hard work.  Especially when you know their instincts are telling them that what you are saying cannot possibly be true because it is too farfetched.  (If you want an example – and you see me – ask me to take my glasses off and tell you what I can see.  If you really want your brain to go on strike get me to explain to you how I can “see” a solid object without my glasses on.  You will be amazed – and you will probbly need medication for a major headache once I have finished.)

One of my favourite things to look at without my glasses on may surprise you.  It is the back of cars.

When I have got my glasses on I can see that the indicator light, backlight, and brakelight are all built in to the car – even when they are illuminated.

Without my glasses on the brakelights of cars and the indicators develop a more surreal quality than most other objects.  When the aforementioned lights are lit up they look like dandelion clocks but – obviously – in red and amber.  They also stand out from the car.

Maybe your “Solid State” world and my fluffy world are totally different on paper but I am really looking forward to welcoming you into my fluffy world and educating you.

After all, not many people on Planet Earth have got absolutely perfect vision.  I admit that I am in the lowest percentage of the population who have got any king of “vision” but everybody can teach everybody else about their life as they know it.  We just need to open our minds and expect the unexpected.

Five Stars For “Five Guys” ( Or – A Fastfood Restaurant Which Didn’t Supply A Fast Headache With My Order!)

Before I begin this review I would like to show you the effect that walking into places like McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, etc, has on my eyes and my brain.

(My thanks to Derek Lee for permission to use the photographs in this blog post)

You are correct – it is a circular saw which appears to be unguarded

You may think this is an exaggeration – unfortunately, if anything it is an understatement.

Fluorescent lights, coupled with backlit menus stuck on walls at least 6 feet away from the counter (behind it), and furniture which is either too cluttered to be useful or screwed to the floor so you cannot move it, are not exactly my idea of fun.

I have even barred myself from McDonalds since they installed those “Self-Service” screens in their establishments.  This is only because I wanted to smash one to smithereens the first and last time I looked at it.  The screen is too big, too bright, and the font is way too small.  That is before you try to convince me that paying for my food using a Debit Card is easier than feeding coins into a machine.  (Less chance of fraud if you use coins.)

Here now follows a picture of how the “Five Guys” restaraunt on High Street in Leicester, made me feel;

That’s more like it – soothing water

OK – so the food was slightly more expensive than I expected it to be.  But at least you could choose your own toppings for your burger (the Brooklyn Beer is not bad either).  Oh – and you had a choice between salted fries and “Cajun” fries – these were more like proper chips of the kind you would get from somewere like “Awesome Chips” (outside the Haymarket on Belgrave Gate in Leicester) than the excuse for chips served up by most fastfood places.

However, the food wasn’t what made me like the place.

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What does it take to save a veteran?

Servicemen and women, our reserves and their families are, like the rest of us wanting to live their lives in peace and in a setting they have chosen. Of course most of us make compromises due to our age, health and lifestyle choices. But for many who find themselves in an accident, a victim of crime or even caught up in a major incident they may face what is euphemistically called “life changing injuries”. These injuries may leave mental scars instead of or as well as physical ones.

People who serve in our armed forces however may be ordered to places where they face truly horrific incidents; where they see what no person should see and attempt to deal with what no person should ever have to do. They are expected to function, under discipline to resolve whatever they have been directed to do. Life changing injuries of one sort or the other, or both may ensue.

This I believe sets them apart and it takes a special sort of courage to know that your job may place you in harms way. Hopefully through training and teamwork they will pull though, wiser and more experienced but not all will be so fortunate.

There are a multitude of organizations to support these service personnel, reserves and their families but as physical scars are clear and obvious at their inception the mental ones can often lie dormant for years.

And when the ‘boxed up’ troubling memories arise they can be denied or inappropriately self-treated and end up bringing the veteran into conflict with their family, their place in the community and into contact with the criminal justice system. Now clearly there are lots of charities, local services and organizations who can help prior to this point IF the veteran is prepared to find and accept the support available. However when you are on a downward spiral and becoming less outgoing this can be difficult to do.

This is where the Veterans Programme can help. A referral to us can make all the difference. When a veteran comes into the criminal justice system [CJS] we work with them to get them to realize the situation they are in. Often the CJS contact acts as a shock. Our team will work to help them retain their freedom and undertake restorative justice. Where other charities provide support for specific needs we not only signpost these but ensure the end user can access them. Support for families is vital at this time and coaching or mentoring can make the difference to the outcomes for these hurting folk.

Now one in four of us will have a mental health episode in a year. Everyone needs support and help but for our veterans who have put themselves in harms way to defend us and our freedoms it is right and proper that they are able to rely on the rest of us to defend and protect them from the injuries they have sustained in our service. A pension is not enough. That is why the vulnerable veterans programme is absolutely necessary.

Read more about the programme at

Sometimes The Hardest Thing Is To Be Like Everybody Else (Or – Why We Should Celebrate Differences)

Every so often I read a blog post which says exactly what I am thinking but in a more eloquent way than I ever could.

Amanda Coleman’s blog post about swimming against the tide was one such occasion

There is so much pressure on people to behave in a certain way, think in a certain way, sometimes even speak in a certain way.

I honestly love it when people who (think they) know me in real life read my blo and find nuggets of information about me which come as a shock to them.

To be perfectly honest I have never been the kind of person you can treat like a computer.

What I mean by that is my programming is a little more complicated than a simple case of “If 2 plus 2 equals 4 then input 4” (I know my knowledge of BASIC computer programming is very – well – basic, not to mention rusty, but I think that would work as a like of programming).

My internal computer usually ends up processing a lot more variables that yours probably would when it comes to going about my daily life – lighting, angles, size of print, hidden obstacles, etc.  (My favourite being – how long will it take before I get run over as a result of having to walk in the middle of the road thanks to the inconsiderate oik who parked their car on the pavement???)

I think I have blogged about this before – or at least mentioned it in a blog post – but I have a particular difficulty with spiral staircases.

For those of you who can calculate angles at a glance I don’t suppose your average spiral staircase poses too many problems???

Me???  I have three angles to work out in very quick succession.

The downward angle of the staircase itself.  The angle of the spiral.  The angle of the tread of the steps in relation to the central pole.  No wonder I avoid those things as much as possible.

Seriously though – we would all be better off if we not only accepted each other’s digfferences but actively encouraged people to be themselves.  You never know we might learn something unexpected from the deep thinkers, the creative types, and those of us with a sideways view of life.

Sometimes what initially seems like the easiest route turns out to be the most difficult – especially when you get into difficulties and everybody else is too busy trying to save themselves to worry about you.

Ability, what is it?

Ability,  what is it and therefore what is disability? This question was posed to me during images-1a training run this morning. I was trudging through the town centre and saw an empty large car with a blue badge displayed, double parked, engine left running in the zigzag markings of a pelican crossing with the driver drawing cash at the adjacent ATM. He was middle aged and had a shuffling walk.

My immediate impression was of how selfish his behaviour was. Blocking half the carriageway, putting crossing users at risk and committing another offence, that of quitting. And I was a bit shocked that a disabled person should be so selfish. But then selfishness is not mutually exclusive to disability is it? But then the old boy needed his cash and was a bit wobbly walking.

The very next impression I had was of a couple, like me out running. They were travelling at least one and a half times faster than I was. They were in their thirties and holding a conversation as they ran. IN SIGN LANGUAGE!

So in comparison here was a guy utterly able to run at speed and sign with his partner causing no problems and making no demands on us or others safety. Brilliantly able.

What an example for others who have their own trails to run and mountains to climb. I want to be able, like the signing runners and not disabled like the driver. It’s my choice. And it’s your choice too.


Social Media Can Be The Biggest Hostage-Taker In Your Company

With tanks to our guest blogger Ineke Poutney

UnknownIf you think I am going to applaud you for banning your staff from using Social Media for personal reasons during working hours you would be missing the point entirely.

I have been reading an interesting Report about the Police and their use of Social Media which made very interesting points about the use of Social Media as a tool to connect with the public.

However, I couldn’t help thinking there was a gaping hole in the Report.  What happens when the public cannot use Social Media to contact the Police (for instance, because “this account is not monitored 24/7”)?

There is a major problem with “Corporate” Social Media accounts.  They never inspire me with confidence as to the service I am likely to receive from the company behind them.

On the one hand they are never as “human” as people’s personal accounts, on the other hand they always go “off air” when the member of staff in charge of them leaves the office.

And this is where my comment about Social Media being “the biggest Hostage-Taker in your company” stems from.

If your company only operates whilst the person in charge of your Social Media accounts is glued to their desk – and you don’t provide anything which is likely to break down, blow up, or malfunction in any other way, outside your hours of business – you must be one of the lucky ones.

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Making Meetings Accessible for Folks with Challenged Sight.

A new stream of consciousness by Blogger Ineke Poultney

So you have decided to hold a conference or have a meeting???  Great.  You have decided what topics you are going to cover, as well as making sure everything is Health & Safety compliant???  In that case, you are good to go, aren’t you???

Actually, chances are you have forgotten about people like me – those of us with sight problems which are not immediately obvious.  Don’t worry – we are easily overlooked.

The aim of this guide is to help you help me (and people like me) to get as much out of your conference/meeting as someone with “normal” sight.

Just because I have a pair of glasses on my nose you cannot assume I can see what everybody else can see.

I have a combination of three sight problems which have more of an impact on me than might first appear obvious;

I am seriously shortsighted (as in I am closer to blind than 20/20 vision).  My glasses do help me see, however, not to 20/20 vision standards.

The second problem is Photophobia- my eyes are extremely sensitive to bright lights.

On the flip side of that I cannot see in the dark.

So – how can you help me to get as much out of the meeting as the rest of the people attending???

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