Two things happened in the space of about twelve hours to prompt this post. First, I spent a little time last evening with one of the tenants of the supported housing of the small charity for which I work part time. Second, I read some comments responding to the latest post on Australian photographer Leanne Cole’s blog, which I follow from my photo blog.

I spent the time with Gordon, completely blinded and brain damaged in an accident when he was young. One of several of the tenants who have been known to say “I’m not disabled; I just can’t see”. But what was he doing last evening? Scaling the climbing wall at a local leisure centre while I watched safely from below (taking pictures and making a video clip).

Gordon, blind and with severe brain damage, nearing to top of a climbing wall on 27 June

Gordon, blind and with severe brain damage, nearing the top of a climbing wall on 27 June

Comments on Leanne’s blog postulated that we now treat people with a disability better than we used to. That, in general, is undoubtedly true, but they are still discriminated against quite disgracefully.

Just one example, the response of a decision maker at the local authority on being told that a tenant needed more support to get out of the house more regularly: “Well many elderly people don’t get out at all”!

I’ve been completely hooked by blogging but I’ve never felt the urge to create a Facebook page and, although I have a Twitter account, the only thing that is tweeted, automatically, is a new post here.

As far as Facebook is concerned, I have a strong aversion to it – born of my wife’s announcements like “?? says she’s sitting in ?? celebrity restaurant drinking her seventh vodka and ?? (celebrity chef) has just spoken to her” and then shows me a picture of said ?? obviously very drunk in said restaurant. Who cares?

Poster promoting the new Wilberforce Trust 'Living & Learning Zone' blog, Facebook page and Twitter

However, for promoting an organisation it’s a different matter so, having recently created a blog for a particular activity of the small charity for which I work, I’ve gone the whole hog and also created a Facebook page and a Twitter account for it. Now I’m getting out a flyer promoting the three communications media to all local libraries, community centres, etc.

The blog is very simple, it is just a weekly update of the activities in our specialised community centre, catering for people with sight loss and additional disabilities, posted every Monday as a reminder for the activities during the following week.

The Facebook page is used to post very short reports of activities with one or two photographs.

As for Twitter, I’ve now got participants in the courses and other activities doing live tweets during the sessions.

There have been some very interesting and helpful posts from WordPress in the past couple of weeks; I was particularly taken by one describing how a magazine, Beatroute, had used the Oxygen theme to make a ‘blog’ version of the magazine.

I’ve been pondering for some time how to distribute ‘electronically’ the quarterly newsletter I produce for the charity for which I work. Sending PDFs isn’t really satisfactory. The ‘blog’ magazine seems the ideal solution though it will be a lot more work than just turning my newsletter InDesign files into PDFs.

It’s worth mentioning that the text here is not in the typeface which is default for the theme. The default text is a seriffed typeface – like this

typeface

 – which can be very difficult for people with sight loss to read. I also bumped the size up a bit and immediately got some ‘thanks’ messages from people who would not be considered to have a ‘visual impairment’.

However, ‘electronic’ communication is often much better for people with sight loss as the computer and other devices can make things much easier, including of course speaking a text. Apple have excelled in this.

Christmas is getting closer and much as I, being an old traditionalist, like to ignore it until Christmas Eve, I can’t do that as far as sending Christmas cards is concerned. So today I’ve devoted to making some.

This year I thought I’d do something with pictures of Romanian decorated eggs; decorated with Christmas scenes and symbols is not traditional, nor is feeding a ribbon through so it can be hung on the Christmas tree. I think I can take ‘credit’ for this as a suggestion made when I was working in a project to try to increase the income of the ladies who decorate the eggs.

Egg2_1060835 Egg1_1060834

I cannot take any credit for the one below – again it is not ‘traditional’ but the relatively small number of women making these wonderful paintings on hens’ eggs have no artistic training – it’s a natural talent. Some of the nuns in the monasteries paint eggs like this too.

Egg3_1060838

However, I have some people I want to send a Christmas card to who cannot see – tenants in the houses supported by the small charity for which I work and a couple of work colleagues. What about them?

What better than enclosing a CD with some of the wonderful Romanian Christmas carols, very beautiful and very different to the carols I was used to before I went to Romania.

Here are just three from the ‘Christmas card CD’ I have made this morning (hopefully if you click on them they’ll play on your computer – they’re MP3 files not the CD audio files).

22 Colindul clopotelor               21 Linu-i lin             19 O, ce veste minunata

22. The carol of the bells    

21. I can’t translate it – smooth (like the music)    

19. O, what wonderful news

- sung by the superb ‘Mira’ choir of the ‘Lord’s Church of St. Nicholas’ in Iasi, Romania (Lord in the sense of ruler, of Moldova, Stefan cel Mare – Stephen the Great). The only musical instrument in the Romanian church is the human voice, if you discount the bells and the toaca (the wooden board drummed to summon the faithful to prayer), of which this Iasi church has neither. I have been lucky enough to hear this choir many times when I lived in Iasi, not just at Christmas. The church is the one in which I was married.

The third carol is my favourite, perhaps because it is the first I learned by heart and surprised my pupils each year by singing it to them. For you, I can assure you that Mira is much better!

You’ll find Mira on YouTube:

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNmJVKjeQpM

How does someone blind

Who cannot see the sky’s blue

Create this art work?

Functional art; a multi-coloured 'bowl' made by someone with sight loss

This ‘functional art’ multi-coloured ‘bowl’ was made by someone with sight loss on a course intended to help them find employment

One of the great things I’ve discovered from beginning to ‘blog’ – only a couple of weeks or so ago – is that it opens the way to so much inspiration. Someone ‘likes’ your blog, you go to look at theirs, so often you find something to inspire you, especially to inspire creativity; you ‘follow’ them and, wow, you begin to be inspired daily. I’m going to mention below some of the blogs which have inspired me.

Another inspiration for me comes from the people I come across in my part-time job with a small charity, based in York, UK, which supports people with disabilities, often very severe and multiple disabilities, to live as independent a life as possible. Many of them are blind, or have very limited sight or, in the professional jargon, have a ‘visual impairment’.

The charity has recently been running a course to open the way for people who have sight loss to find employment. They’ve been making things to sell – ‘functional’ art objects, and food items (chutneys, jams, etc) – in the practical part of the course and I’ve been lucky enough to watch their confidence and independence grow week by week. Next Wednesday evening they’ll be showing their wares at a charity wine and cheese evening on a boat on the River Ouse in York, which ends with an auction of things they’ve made. The ‘bowl’ pictured is one of them. It inspires me.

A haiku seemed the best way to sum up this inspiration.

The background music will be provided by another inspiration, blind schoolgirl flautist Holly Tuke..

Holly playing her flute

(By the way, if you live in York and want to go to the wine and cheese evening – 5.30 – 7.30pm Wednesday 11th July, call the charity, the Wilberforce Trust, on 01904 760037. Tickets cost £10).

Some blogs which have inspired me (there are many more but these are just some of those which seem to do it almost every day):

Haiku – http://fivereflections.wordpress.com/

Creative writing – http://cristianmihai.net/

Food & cooking – http://madamecroquette.com/ , http://rantingchef.com/

Photography – http://hovercraftdoggy.com/

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