Saturday, April 23, 2016

Hug Me Shirt Funds My TV Program

Recently I posted a design for a T-Shirt on

The shirt sold and it has funded me to move forward with my TV program 'Blindside Fresno'. The program pilot is still in post production, my editor ois working on the final portions of the titles and credits and so fingers crossed I am looking at possibly having the prograam aired sometime in May.

Here is a picture of me in the T-Shirt which I designed.

stands wearing a white T-shirt with a baby penguin image with the words hug me below the penguin.
William Elliott in his "Hug Me" Penguin T-Shirt

The shirt is not guaranteed to get you more hugs, but it is still available from  TeeSpring Hug Me Penguin T-Shirt but  proceeds from your purchase will help me create new programs in the series, 'Blindside Fresno'.

Friday, April 15, 2016

How Do Blind People Know What Money They Have?

Many people seem to wonder how blind people know what money they have.

Well there are some simple tricks that enable blind or visually impaired people to tell the various coins in their pocket or purse.

Banknotes are a little more complicated especially in the U.S. where all bank notes are the same size and also the same color.

So here is my Youtube video on How  Blind People can tell what coins they have:

Here is my video about banknotes:

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The VIP Daily Living Tag

William and Leif sit facing each other, Leif wears a red bandana and leans forward and looks as if about to kiss William who is on the right kneeling wearing a Chicago Bears Shirt.
William and Leif
Last week I was tagged to answer this series of questions by fellow VIP and Blogger Luke Sam Sowden. This was the first time I have been tagged to join in a series of posts, so a big thank you to Luke for thinking of me, I hope this may be the start of some new phase of my blogging life with some more co-operative projects.

If anyone out there would like to chat about that then please let me know.

So here it goes.

Beauty and Make-up

1.When preparing an outfit, do you have your clothes set out in a specific way so it makes it easier for you to choose an outfit yourself?

Not really. My wife and I moved house last year and my wife arranged my side of the wardrobe in colors to help. Then she allowed me to put back shirts after they had been laundered so you can imagine, her careful considered layout is now a jumble.
2. When you want to buy new clothes, do you shop online on your own, or go shopping with someone?
I do some clothes shopping online, mostly for T-Shirts. I buy my T-Shirts from zazzle, an online store that I know produces quality items and I know their buying procedure quite well. I also design T-Shirts there and post them to my own store Bretsuki's Fun Tees so some of my purchases are from my own store for quality control.

. I buy more fitted clothes in stores with my wife and or mother-in-law to advise.

3. When shopping with friends and family, is there anything you ask them to do for you to help choose clothes or makeup you may like?

I ask them to check for sizes and the best colors for me.  Though I do have a little vision I am to all purposes color blind, only being able to see washed out or muddy colors. They also need to help me pick sizes in stores because I cannot read labels clearly.

4. Do you find it difficult to pick out an outfit due to your visual impairement?

Living in California means that my day to day outfits are more for comfort, so T-Shirts and shorts or lightweight trousers are everyday wear.

If I am going  to a more formal event, a public presentation or to productions of my TV show 'Blindside Fresno', I will ask my wife to advise me on what I should wear. I did this before I lost my sight anyway, and I don't think she has ever put me on the wrong track, dress sense wise.

5. Do you find online shopping accessible?

I do for the most part. I refer you back to answer in  question 2.

6. Does your visual impairement stop you from applying make up, if so, why?

To be honest I don't wear make-up, even on the television if I host.  I should perhaps try it someday. LOL

7. How do you organize your clothing or beauty products?

A major discussion point between my wife and I. Quite simply I don't. See also answer 1.


8. Do you have any kind of mobility aid, if so, what is it?

My main mobility aid is my Guide Dog, Leif. He is a four year old male black Labrador Retriever from Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael California.

If I am only working a short distance, taking out trash or it is very hot, Summer days here can be in excess of one hundred degrees Fahrenheit, Then I will use my white cane.

9. Do you prefer using this or be sighted guided?

I am very happy using either of my mobility aids or be sighted guided.  It all depends on where I am, for instance navigating a restaurant  or store with very narrow aisles it is often simpler to use a cane or be sighted guided than to work a dog. In wide open spaces or moving crowds then for me dog is best.

10. If you use a cane, do you feel self conscious while using it?

I never feel self concious using a white cane. Before I was trained to use a cane, I spent too much time falling over, tripping or falling off kerb edges. Now lying in the street cut and bruised made me self concious.

11. When it comes to transport, do you go on the bus, train, etc, by yourself?

I do use all kinds of public transport alone. I have always loved to ride a bus or train, even when I was sighted so for me, not using public transport as a VIP is like punishing myself by deprivation. I will even ride a bus to just ride the bus, see where it goes and learn a new route, anything to just enjoy the experience.

12. How do you feel about traveling independantly?

I feel it is a skill that VIP's should learn.  In my town there is a disabled ride share service and when I used it, on first moving here, I found it difficult to know where places were in relation to each other.  Getting out and about independently has allowed me to learn spacial relationships of important buildings and safer walking routes. Plus I don't want to give up my own independence, that is just not me.


13. Do you, or did you attend a mainstream or specialist school?

I was sighted into my mid forties. So I attended a main stream school.

14. If you had a choice, which one would you prefer to go to?

I know, as a friend, a VI Specialist teacher, she too is VI and a guide dog user. She teaches at High School and is very dedicated to her work. I admit bias here but I feel that she provides her students with a good education within the main stream.

But there again I have no experience of specialist schooling.

15. Overall, was your experience of education as a visually impaired person mostly positive or negative? How could it have been inproved?

As a child in England I was not visually impaired.
16. Did you carry on into further or higher education? If so, how did you feel about this transition? If not, why?

Coming to the United States in 2006, I did go to college and I found the experience very satisfying. At the time I was also rapidly losing my sight too. Between 2007 and my graduation with a Bachelors degree in 2011, I went from sighted to being Legally Blind. I took advantage of disabled student services, things like extra time if needed on exams and essays, note takers and use of text reading machines. I did not often require extra time, planning in advance made submitting work easier. I think that my Professors appreciated this too, not having to take extra time to wait for "The blind student" so hopefully their experience with me in classes made it easier for VIP students who came to their classes later.

Assistive Technology

17. What is your opinion on assistive technology for blind and visually impaired people? Do you think it is vital?

Having to adapt to blindness in my mid forties, I thank God for assistive technology. I was a bit of a computer geek going back to the early 1980's in England. I built my own first home computer in 1980, it was primitive back then, but it was a computer that worked. I moved on then through a series of home computers, learning BASIC computer programing and doing the accounts for my families corner store.

I though blindness would take all that away, but my blindness coincided with the latest technology and accessible technology. I am a geek reborn. Today I can do so much, even blog and make videos , write an e-mail or text from a phone by just talking to these items and they talk back to me too.

So my advice would be to learn any piece of adaptive technology that you think will be of use to you. So  having some knowledge of adaptive technology is vital to VIP's

18. Do you use assistive technology?

Yes I do. Lots of it. From screen readers to barcode readers. Apps are also very important.  I have also been helping a group of app designers make their latest app accessible to the visually impaired.

19. What assistive technology or specialist apps could you not live without?

My Apple Products.

While training at Guide Dogs for the Blind, I was training with a fellow student who is a programmer at Apple. I complained about my then Android phone and he took me aside and showed me what Apple products could do for me. I became an instant convert to ALL things Apple.

20. If you could recommend one piece of assistive technology for a blind or visually impaired person, what would it be, and why?

An iPhone.  Any of the iPhones after the iPhone 5 s. The combination of Siri to help you get information by simply speaking a question and Voiceover to help you read e-mail, texts or webpages is pretty good in itself but then the ability to add apps that can tell you the color of a shirt or read a barcode at the grocery store is something else. I love my iPhone.

21. What’s one piece of assistive technology you would really like?

I would like access to a Google Car. Though I love to use public transport I also used to love to drive. So the idea of having a car  which I could travel independently in would be a dream come true.


22. Do you mainly have sighted or visually impaired and blind friends?

I have a broad mixture of friends. Most sighted friends come from the time before I lost my sight, all my visually impaired friends were found after losing my sight.

23. If you have blind and visually impaired friends, how did you meet them?

My blind and visually impaired friends came into my life through Guide Dogs for the Blind, I keep in touch with some of my class. My other blind friends came to me through attending meetings of California Council of the Blind or through blogging.

24. Do sighted peers understand your disability and try to help you?

My sighted friends often tell me that they don't always understand my vision loss. They understand the reasons for my vision loss, damage to the retina caused by blood clots, CRVO, but they  just don't get the extreme variation of my vision from very poor in good light to non existant in darkness. Also some have gone so far as to say that I am faking just because I use the word "see" or "saw"

Some do try to help. Reading menu's in restaurants, opening doors and such. I don't mind this well meaning help, though at times it may not be needed as I often know what I would like to eat at a favorite restaurant or my dog is perfectly able to show me where a door is and I am able to open it myself.

But I still thank them it shows they do care about me in the end.

25. What’s one thing you wish your friends understood about your disability?

I wish my friends and people in general would understand that I am not a walking talking disability. I happen to be visually impaired but I am still able to participate in the world. I would love to have a full time job, but employers see the blindness, not the thirty years of work experience in retail, managing a business or the skills that I have learned since losing my sight.

After all. How many employers would have an employee fluent in inter-species communication? I a. I don't have to imagine a voice for my dog, telling me something. I have to know that he is telling me I am at the top of a flight of stairs with my next step.  That is a learned skill. But no they see a blind guy with a dog.

26. Who do you tag to do this tag next?

This is the hardest question to answer. I don't know any VIP bloggers who are active at the moment, other than Luke that is.

So How about some of my readers. Take up the tag and spread the word by sharing your post back here, just add a link in the comments section.

Thank you again Luke

Saturday, April 9, 2016

"I'd Rather be Dead than Blind": Talking about Blindness

William and Guide dog Leif sit at a desk waiting for the next class of middle school students to arrive for the presentation on living with blindness and working with a guide dog.
William and Guide Dog Leif
I have read that blindness is one of the greatest fears of many people. Some have going blind as being worse than death.

Yesterday I went to a local Middle School to talk to the students about blindness and working with a guide dog.

The students had recently been studying the structures of the eye, from there many of them raised questions with their teacher about whatt happens when those structures fail and people become blind.
 Their teacher then came to me and asked if I would come in to talk to her students. I was very pleased to help.

The presentation included a video about the training of guide dogs from being young puppies to being recalled to Guide Dog training school for final formal training.

I then filled in about how I needed to learn the skills of being blind myself.

Many of the students were surprised that not all blind people are born blind. The idea of having  to go to classes was something new for them.

Many of their questions were of a practical nature. "How do you get dressed?" "How do you shave in the morning?" Those sort of things. Plus questions like "Do you know Braille?" These questions were on the whole quite easy to answer. Basically working at the problem and learning solutions.

Some students took a harder to answer route, "What does it feel like to be blind?" That one was tough, How does it feel to be blind? I went for the answer in terms of the transition phase from sighted. Fear, it is frightening at times. Frustration, there is a lot of frustration learning all the new skills that one needs to survive in a world of sighted people. Then to satisfaction that life is not that bad on the whole as a blind person if you learn to be creative with your problem solving and accept that  there is no instant answer to all the problems of blindness.

William and Guide Dog Leif, a black labrador, stand before the class during the presentation on the work of guide dogs and living with blindness.
William and Guide Dog Leif in harness. In front of a class

One student raised the point that  he would prefer to die rather than go blind. I asked him to explain his reasons, all of them were reaal concerns, not being able to drive, not being able to look at girls, not being able to feed himself and also the fear of isolation.  These are all real worries. I went through many of these same fears myself.  I did make an attempt to counter some of the ideas. After all we blind are taught to navigate a plate of food, so learning to eat is a skill we have to relearn pretty quickly, but it is a skill after all.

The really scary idea  was his final one, isolation. For many blind people isolation is all too real the feeling of helplessness and a society which often turns a , forgive the phrase here, "ablind eye" to the blind. Now that idea of this young man was not so easy to counter.

So the day went well. I spoke to about 160 students over the course of the day. Leif, my black Labrador guide dog got lots of ear and tummy rubs and hopefully we helped to shine a light on blindness from a personal perspective rather than being an abstract idea. Thereby dismissin some myths about blind people in general.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Special Shout to Luke Sam Sowden

Today I want to send a special shout-out to a fellow blogger, Luke Sam Sowden. Luke blogs from  Yorkshire, a county in Northern England.

I have been following Luke for several months. He writes  and creates YouTube videos on a variety of topics, ranging from skin care to the accidents, mishaps and frustrations of visual impairment. He does so with a great deal of humor and fun.

Today Luke gave me a tag  in one  of his posts, The VIP Daily Living Tag . He passed on the tag to me and a couple of others to complete.

I am going to work on this tag over the next few days, it is pretty exciting for me as it is the first time that I have been tagged by a fellow blogger. But in the meantime I suggest that you may like to check out Luke's blogs and vlogs,.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

How Do I Spend My Days?

I am often asked, "How do you spend your days?" I guess people often  think blind and visually impaired sit around doing very little.

My day often begins early in the morning. I often wake at  about four or five in the morning. I get up and make a cup of tea. Listen to the radio, I listen to Radio 4 from the B.B.C. most of the time. Apart from during the change in time zones caused by the change from Standard time to Daylight savings time the Beeb is usually eight hours ahead of us here in California, so I can often hear the noon news from London and all programmes thereafter.

After a drink of tea and allowing my guide dog Leif out to relieve, I usually go onto my computer. Look at the e-mail, read up on stock market news.

I have been an avid follower of the stock-market for about forty years. I play a little at investing and am always looking for news about new ideas.

After that I might have breakfast, or I may write a blog post for an hour, sometimes something in the news will catch my attention and I may write about that or I may go to my zazzle store and design a couple of items.

By then it may be mid morning, I sometimes take a bus downtown to go to Starbuck's or to the TV studio. Riding the bus downtown and back takes about two hours so there is time for thinking and planning ideas.

Leif and I may also go for a walk around local streets and just ponder for a while or I may make my way to my various doctors for appointmments.

I only occassionally eat a lunch, I may spend the early afternoon calling various people and discussing ideas or I will return to my computer to check on sales of books through my Amazon bookstore or create some more designs for my zazzle store.

After my wife returns home from work at about 5pm. We may take Leif to the dog park, with the lighter evenings this is much easier, and Leif gets to enjoy a swim in the dog parks swimming pool to cool down.

After dinner around 7pm I may watch a recording of the Jeopardy quiz show before returning to my computer to answer e-mails, or create some more ideas on zazzle or check on my next shipments for amazon.

Sometimes though an evening might be spent in the TV studio  either working on my own project or helping others with their programs.

Evenings are also the big time for my involvement  with California Council of the Blind committees, I am a member of three groups two at my local chapter and one with Guide Dog Users of California (GDUC).

Day to day things can vary a lot. Some are packed and more hectic others thankfully the majority are more even paced and relaxed.

But this is the way I spend most of my days. For now anyway.


One of my latest products from my zazzle store. A t-Shirt which says in Roman Numerals "XL is the New XXV"