Olympics, Interrupted

It’s hard to believe that these marvelous Games are close to ending.  I should have spent the last several days braving the lineups at the Olympic Houses and the zipline, wandering up and down Robson and Granville Streets and generally drinking in the atmosphere.  But I didn’t.  Because of Molly.

Molly is our soon-to-be-17-year-old cat.  She’s a petite tuxedo, black with white chest, tummy and paws.  She’s always been small, but age has her shrinking down to just over five pounds.  She’s the love of my life.  She’s my baby. And last Saturday we almost lost her.

Without warning, a nasty infection and high fever rendered my sweet girl from lively and inquisitive into an almost lifeless state in mere hours.  If not for the Emergency Animal Hospital, I’m pretty certain Molly would have left us.  She’s on heavy doses of antibiotics and subQ fluids, but she’s with us, thank God.

So this week I’ve curtailed some of my Olympic activities in favour of sitting at home in front of the TV holding my Molly close.  And it’s been just heavenly.

Here’s to you, Mollykins, and to all the pets we love and have loved.  I’ll treasure you forever.


First Impressions that Last

Well, the Olympics are in full swing, and this wonderful city of Vancouver is absolutely electric.  I’ve never seen so many people from so many parts of the world having so much fun!  And I’m proud of all of us locals (with or without blue jackets) who are ready with a smile and a helping hand.

Like so many of us, my excitement and emotion began at the Opening Ceremonies at a local watering hole with some good friends and dozens of other happy and boisterous fans.  For a once-in-a-lifetime experience like this, I wanted to be with people who were as pumped as I was.

The Opening Ceremonies didn’t disappoint anyone who anticipated artistic excellence to rival the spectacles we’ve seen in past Games.  For me, though, it was some surprise appearances and awesome performances that have stuck in my mind.

  • 16-year old sensation Nikki Yanofsky singing a very different, but riveting O Canada. This girl is destined for stardom!
  • Our gracious and utterly human Governor-General Michaelle Jean opening the Games.  I am an unabashed fan of this woman.
  • The Celtic dancers and fiddlers in a visually stunning routine.  Ashley MacIsaac rocks!
  • k.d. laing’s moving rendition of Hallelujah – one of my all-time favorite songs by iconic Canadian Leonard Cohen.  Quite simply, I bawled.
  • The Olympic flag carried in by people I revere and admire for so many reasons.  It was a joy to see Betty Fox, Bobby Orr, Julie Payette, Donald Sutherland, Anne Murray, Jacques Villeneuve and Barbara Ann Scott – but I was particularly overjoyed to see former General Romeo Dallaire, whom I consider a true Canadian hero.
  • And of course, the torch lighting was perfect, but what made me happiest was seeing Nancy Greene and Rick Hansen.

I was hoarse and exhausted on the bus ride home.  But I was in great company.  Most of the people on the bus were either coming from the actual event, or had seen it somewhere on TV.

The driver asked over the intercom “So, how was it, guys?’

And we all yelled, “It was AWESOME!!”  And two days in, everything is still awesome.

We have gold, silver and bronze medals – and a ton of memories. And we have two more weeks to go:-)

Way to go, Canada.  You’re making us all proud.

A Ride to Remember

On Sunday, I hopped on the Main bus to meet a friend downtown.  I love the Main bus. It meanders down my beloved Main Street neighborhood full of mom and pop businesses, wonderful clothes shops that showcase the best of Canadian fashion, and of course, some of my favorite restaurants. (I plan to do a photowalk later this week and will post shortly after.)

What made my trip even more enjoyable this time was the driver – a woman who smiled, chatted and went out of her way to be helpful. No matter who got on the bus – locals she recognized, a homeless person looking to get a free ride, or a young mother struggling to maneuver a stroller on board – she extended the same courtesy, with the same smile. She made everyone on the bus glad to be along for the ride.

One woman actually complimented the driver on her positive attitude as she was getting off at her stop.  The driver smiled and said, “I love my job!” That was definitely evident.

Translink, take note.  I don’t know her name, but the driver of Main bus #2553 is a winner and a terrific ambassador for Vancouver. And she personifies what I hope will be our attitude toward each other during the Olympics – ever positive, ever helpful, and damn happy to be part of the fabric of this beautiful city.

Extending a Helping Hand – Literally

My good friend and fellow Metro Blenz News Squad teamate Bonnie Sainsbury wrote a great post the other day about the Ask Me! button campaign that will alert visitors to Vancouver’s Olympic Games that the wearer of the Ask Me! button is friendly, approachable and helpful.  It’s a wonderful way to break the ice for people who may feel shy or intimidated at the thought of talking to strangers, and I encourage everyone to read Bonnie’s post and pick up a button.

But not everyone will be able to see those buttons.  Blind and visually impaired people like me, and many seniors with failing eyesight won’t be aware that you’re there to lend a helping hand.  So, here are a few things you can do to help:

  • Remember that blind or visually impaired people aren’t always identifiable by a dog guide or white cane.  If you see someone who looks lost or uncomfortable crossing the street, or is having problems reading street signs or addresses, chances are they may have trouble seeing.
  • Approach the person, and touch their arm lightly, and ask in a normal tone of voice if you can help at all. Don’t yell.  We’re blind, not deaf:-)
  • Let the person take YOUR arm so you can guide them. Many people think they need to grab the blind person’s arm, which means that you’re dragging them around.  That’s very disorienting.
  • If the person is using a white cane, don’t grab the cane and pull him/her along.  I’m serious.  It happens.
  • If the person has a dog guide, don’t distract the dog by talking to it or petting it.  A dog guide is a working dog.
  • If the person requires directions, make them very concise.  And don’t point in a direction.  It won’t help most of us.
  • The phone number for the Vancouver branch of the Canadian Nantional Institute for the Blind is (604) 431-2121. Keep it handy.

Hope this helps.  Feel free to ask me or the CNIB for help.

Let’s make the Games memorable for everyone.

Dear Apple – A Slightly Different Perspective on the iPad

After such a long time away from my blog, there are admittedly many things I should be writing about…but this is important to me and so many people out there who are visually impaired.

I love to keep in touch online, no matter where I am.  I find my very large-screen laptop a trial to lug around on the road, and tried a netbook. But the screen was so small that I was picking the darn thing up like a book.  Complete FAIL if you don’t want to draw undue attention to yourself at the local coffee joint.

Then I discovered the iPod Touch.  Love it for its portability and its ability to give me the independence to read email, post to Facebook and tweet to my heart’s content – fairly unobtrusively.

But it’s still a bitch to read over a long period, and the keyboard is minuscule.

I think for people like me who are legally blind, the new lightweight iPad and its larger screen may be a lifesaver.

Bottom line, I’m very interested.  But like anything else, it’s price-prohibitive and even totally out-of-reach for many of us.

So, for all you folks at Apple, I have a few suggestions for your consideration:

Make the life of visually impaired people a bit easier.

  • Start working with organizations like the Lighthouse for the Blind and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind to donate at least one iPad to every branch across North America  for their low-vision clients (I’d like to say world-wide, but I have to be practical)
  • Donate an iPad to all the major schools for the blind in North America
  • Involve visually impaired people like me in the development of the next generation of the iPad so we can give you solid feedback on what works and what doesn’t (and if you haven’t done that for any of your previous products – why haven’t you?)
  • Give a discount to visually impaired consumers who’d be interested in purchasing an iPad (Proof of disability can easily be provided in the form of an ID card or doctor’s letter)

You’d be helping countless of thousands of people communicate more effectively and efficiently.  And isn’t that what Apple is mandated to do?

If anyone at Apple takes the time to read this, thank you!