Thursday, February 23, 2017

Blindside Fresno: Valley Center for the Blind

Recently Ken Warkingtin, Executive Director of Valley Center for the  Blind came to the Blindside Fresno studio to talk about the center and its work over recent years and it's possible future plans.

Ken was made aware of the blind world, when his daughter was involved in a major road traffic accident. She was thrown through the back window of a car her face hitting the glass of the window and her eyes lacerated by the impact.

He has been director of the center in Fresno, California for several years and has seen its expansion in recent times from a social meeting place to include training in independent living skills and training in the use of adaptive technology.

Follow  this link to see this months program.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January, February

The really difficult thing about this time of year is that it is so often dull and grey.
An eye looks out of the picture. Close up of my eye.
Looking at Grey Days is Tiring

With the dull grey skies of recent weeks has come a dullness in my brain. It is difficult to go out and about. I need some contrast in my days. Bright light is sometimes painful, but it brings shadows and bright patches.

Grey thick clouds, grey sidewalks, grey bare trees, grey winter grass and grey news just brings me lots of long days of unispired nothing much.

This time  living in Fresno reminds me very much like living in England.

We have had lots of rain this month, the skies have been heavy and grey for a month or more. I cannot say that today's break with sunshine has not opened up my life again.

February is due to open with more rain again on Thursday and Friday. But tomorrow also brings February. February is nearly March with the promise of brighter and longer days. The move to Daylight Savings Time and then later , after a few weeks, heat. Damn heat which withers the soul.

Living in California is not all beach and fun.

It is not that cold, we don't have to march through snow drifts, worry about tornados, hurricanes or much other than drought and fire, with the occasional foot massage for our cows in the form of an earthquake.

This February also marks the thirteenth year of asking my wife to marry me. Thirteen years. No I didn't ask on Valentines Day. I was going too, but nerves made me ask earlier on my visit. I had it all planned to ask over dinner on a President's Day vacation. Valentines Day was in the middle and it seemed so right to ask at the dinner. But knowing I would get nervous on the days running up to the day and wondering what if she said no? I asked on the first night of that trip.

That way, less nerves, less fear and if she said no. I could always go back home to England a few days early.

Well she actually said yes. Thirteen years later here I am looking at another anniversary.

The greyness now suddenly seems less grey.

Thank you.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Blindside Fresno A Finalist

You may have read a short while ago that 'Blindside Fresno' program two, An Interview with Nathan Romo, was nominated for  prestigious television award.

A view of the blindside fresno studio during recording. Two people are silohuetted against a back drop and sitting at a table, to the front left is a member of the studio crew wearing headphones and a camera.
In the Studio of Blindside Fresno

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

'Blindside Fresno #7: Guide Dog Application Process

One of the most common groups of questions I am asked when I am out with Leif, my guide dog is "How do you get a guide dog?
The crew of Blindside Fresno in a picture taken after the show. William Elliott (Producer) is seated beside Leif  his black Labrador retriever in guide dog harness, behind him are Rene Gomez (Camera) Ace Dunn (Director) and Steve Manelski ( Camera  on far right is Darcie Elliott (Host).
Blindside Fresno Guide Dog Crew: L to R Back Rene Gomez, 'Ace' Dunn, Steve Manelski, Darcie Elliott Seated William Elliott and Guide Dog Leif

It therefore seemed to be a good subject to look into and explain in an edition of 'Blindside Fresno'.

Applying for a guide dog is not a quick process. As I am isked in the program; "Can you wake up Monday and decide to apply and have a guide dog at your side on Friday?" Well the straight answer is "No." But what do you need to do before applying for a guide dog? What is happening as your application works through the system? How long might it take.

I describe my own experience of applying for a guide dog from Guide Dogs for  the Blind in San Rafael, California. My own application from start to graduation took almost one year. That is not unusual.

There are amny guide dogschools within the United States of which GDB is only one.

Take a look at program 7 of 'Blindside Fresno' Guide Dog Application process by following the link below.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Guide Dog Denied Access

Last week-end a fellow member of my local chapter of California Council of the Blind went out with her guide dog for dinner.

A black labrador in full guide dog harness sits against a white wall. Red letters across the image spell out the words "Access Denied"
Guide Dog "Access Denied"

Sadly the party was cut short when her guide dog was denied access to the restaurant.

What! I hear you cry. "A guide dog denied access in California?" What happened?

Well technicalities in the law apply here. First though the person and her guide dog were within the geographic boundaries of the State of California, they were also within the jurisdiction of a Native American Ranchero ( also called a reservation in some areas )

In fact they were in a local Native American Casino.

The manager of the restaurant in the casino stated that they could not enter the premises of the restaurant and the reason for this was that as a sovereign nation the Americans With Disabillities Act and the access provisions enforcable within the Act do not apply within Native American rnclaves.

She and her dog could not enter though the other members of her family were welcome to enter and dine there.

Of course all refused and left.

I took it on myself to contact  Guide Dogs for the Blind    in order to clarify the situation. as I had heard rumors on both sides of the argument, as to whether the ADA applies  in such sichuations.

It appears that this is a sad loop-hole in the ADA, Native American Casinos or any business on  Native American land is not obliged to allow access to a guide dog.

A bad situation made more complicated

One thing that complicates this loop-hole is that whether the ban is all encompassing or merely at the whim of a manager.

I have visited the same casino with my Guide Dog, I was allowed to move freely around the casino and even to eat there, in one of the restaurants.

My visit took place last summer so possibly the rules have changed since. No mention as to when the rule changed has been given.  My initial interest was raised when another member of my local CCB told me of friends of hers being turned away from the casino's front door and not being even to enter the premises.

Bad Business

Being prevented from enjoying the same access to businesses is very upsetting, it can spoil even the best of days for anyone. But it is also a bad business practice.

On this occassion the restaurant lost income from a family with several members.  The news spread pretty quickly through our CCB Chapter and we have told people that we all know.

A former manager of mine when I worked in retail told me; "Get it right first time, and the customer will tell one or two people. Get it wrong and the customer will tell everyone they know."

This may be a slight exageration but think of how many times you might have complained about poor service in a business and how often you might have cheered a business for doing the right thing and serving you well.


If you are thinking of visiting a business on Native American land. Do not expect the Americans with Disabillities Act to be honored.

If you use a guide dog, check for access rules on Native American land.

Bare in mind that rules may be discretionary, what one person allows another may not.

Hope to pursuade the managers of these businesses that blind and visually impaired customers are good customers.

If you have a bad experience then tell as many people as you can.

Follow Up On This Story

 A few hours after this post originally appeared, I received notification that one of the elders of the tribe contacted the family involved.

The elder apologized for the mistake and invited the family to return to the casino and the restaurant for a free meal, cortesy of the tribe.

That was a good gesture. But how much nicer would it have been to ALL concerned not to have this situation occur in the first place.