Friday, May 22, 2015

Just playing some cards

Sometimes it’s the simple things.

As ,y vision got worse, one of the things I had to give up was playing poker. It was something I wasn’t necessarily all that good at, but I enjoyed it none the less.

I’d read some stories about people that were blind pulling up to the tables and trying it, so I tried to back in September before Jen and I were planning a trip to Vegas for a family get-together.

But I wasn’t just going to show up at the poker room and say “How are we going to do this?” That’s just not fair to anybody.

So I placed a call to the poker room at Wild Horse Pass to talk with someone on how we would work out any accommodations that I’d need. I got escalated up the food chain two or three times before I got transferred to a supervisor or manager or someone with instructions to leave them a voicemail and that I’d get a call back.

Well, that never happened.

I called a few more times and didn’t get any farther, so I did a little digging around on their website and found the number for their guest relations manager. I left him a strongly-worded voicemail where I may have mentioned the Americans with Disabilities Act and the next day I had everything worked out. I had approval to have my wife sit behind me and whisper to me what my cards were. As far as the community cards, the dealer would just read them to me.

So, with that worked out, I went to play a tournament just to see how it would go. I played like crap, but it went well.

I played a few more times before the trip to Vegas, including a trip o a different casino in town. I called them as well as the Monte Carlo, where we were staying in Vegas, and asked if the same arrangement would be ok with them and neither casino had any objections.

It’s taken some time to get comfortable with the arrangement, but it works out pretty well. But, more importantly, I felt like I got a little chunk of my life back since I got back into one of my hobbies.

Now, one of the things that I get asked a lot is if I feel like I’m at a huge disadvantage not being able to see the other players. While I do miss a few things, I feel like it’s not a huge disadvantage since I always read more into people’s betting patterns than what faces they were making or anything like that.

As far as Las Vegas, I’m going again in a few weeks and will be playing at the Monte Carlo again. They were so awesome with us that I won’t stay anywhere else.

No touching!

No, I’m not just making an Arrested Development reference for the heck of it.

I know you may mean well and are really just trying to help, but don’t grab me when you want to guide me somewhere.

I’ve had this happen before, but an incident that happened on Monday just got under my skin.

As part of a mobility lesson with rehab, I was getting on a light rail train downtown and taking it down five or six stops to meet my instructor. It was the third ride like that which I had taken that morning, with another light rail trip and a bus ride.

Anyways, when I got onto the train, a lady saw me with my cane and offered me her seat. I started to walk towards where I thought she was, but apparently wasn’t exactly on track. She decided to just grab my shoulders and basically push me to the seat.

If I grabbed her and had tried to move her, I would have gotten slapped. Twice. Once by her, and once by my wife when I told her about that bonehead thing I did today. But. for some reason, people think it’s ok to just grab a blind person and steer them like a car or something.

Remember, I can’t see that you’re about to grab me. When someone unexpectedly grabs me, it surprises me. When, after that, they decide to steer me, it throws off my balance. I’m clumsy enough just standing still on my own, the sudden shifts don’t help anything.

It’s not that I mind the help, I promise that I don’t. What I do mind is someone invading my personal space and potentially screwing up my balance.

If you want to help out a blind person, just ask if you can guide them. More often than not, we’ll say yes. Then simply offer us an elbow to grab onto. That’s how we’re trained to let folks guide us, after all.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Counting down

The countdown has begun.

I had a meeting yesterday with all my instructors at rehab. After cutting my schedule to three days a week a few weeks ago, we have chosen next Wednesday as my last day.

That means just two more days!

When I look back, it amazes me just how far I have come.

Just as an example, I wrote this post using just a braille note taker, a device that allows me to type using the same type of keyboard I'd use if I were brailing a piece of paper. It also allows me to read things in braille. I'm trying to get my speed up so I can use it to take notes when I start school in the fall.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The questions kids ask

This afternoon I walked with my mother-in-law. We went to lunch and did a little grocery shopping, taking advantage of the rarity of a 75-degree day in the middle of May.

As we were walking back to the house, we ran into some kids from the nearby elementary school who were going home for the day. One curious little boy walking home with his mom saw me moving my white cane back and forth and asked me “Is that a detector?”

I said no at first, but realized that it kind of is.

Anyways, I thought that was a cute little story and wanted to share it with y’all.

Is this thing on?

Yes, that’s right, I’m back.

A lot has changed since I last wrote here.

The one thing I want to write about today, which is the reason I’ve been away for so long, is my vision loss.

Over the last couple of years, my vision started to get worse, to the point that I had to quit my job about a year ago.

Since then, I’ve enrolled in Arizona’s Vocational Rehabilitation program, which helps people whose disabilities prevent them from working gain the skills necessary to either join or rejoin the workforce. It’s one of those programs that even someone with my libertarian leanings can get behind.

Anyway, I’ve just about completed the comprehensive rehabilitation part of the process. That’s the part in which I, among other things, learn braille, how to get around using a white cane (though I plan on getting a guide dog at some point), cooking and cleaning with my vision loss, and how to use a computer with JAWS, which is software that reads the screen for me.

That’s right, I’m using a computer with just a keyboard to navigate. It’s actually a lot easier than you’d think, but I’m sure that my tech background helps me out a lot. Though I have to give a ton of credit to the instructors in the Adult and Transition Services program at the Foundation for Blind Children here in Phoenix. They’ve been pretty awesome through the whole process.

And now that I have my own laptop with all the tools I need, I can blog again. Thankfully Windows Live Writer plays nicely with JAWS.

Anyways, once I finish the comprehensive rehabilitation program, I’ll be returning to school to get a degree in Information Technology Support, again with the help of FBC. Once I get my degree and find a job, VR will even help whoever hires me with getting and setting up all the extra technology and other things I will need.

I’ll be blogging about my experiences here, as well as anything else that comes to mind.