Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Sea-Otters Crossing

Last week saw  me, my wife and Leif my guide dog on a weeks vacation at the coast.

Friday had us in Moss Landing, CA. Moss Landing is a small place just south of Santa Cruz it lies on Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway. You might miss the town altogether if it were not for the giant electricity generating station beside the highway and a string of delicious fruit and vegetable stands.

Our reason for visiting Moss Landing though was our required trip to Phil's Fish Market.

Phil's is a fish restaurant, bar, retail store par excellance beside the small harbor in town.

If you visit, I suggest that you ignore that Phil's looks like a steel shuttered warehouse and take a leaf from the suggestion that something great is going on inside the grey exterior. Outside you will be lucky to find a place in the small car park. In fact you might find the street jam packed with cars, trucks and motor cycles from all over the Western U.S.

Believe me these people are probably inside Phil's and buying fishy meals by the platter.

Anyway I am digressing from my theme today. Take it as honest, Phil's if you are on this part of the coast is somewhere you should eat.

Back to my main theme: Sea Otters Crossing.

A road sign, yellow diamond with black shape of a sea otter on it, below a 15 mile per hour speed limit.
Sea-Otter Crossing Road Sign

Having crossed Highway 1, to enter Moss Landing, our car crossed a small bridge beside the harbor and my wife let out a squeal.

There beside the road was a new roadsign. A bright Yellow warning Diamond shaped sign with the black silohuette of a sea otter. This together with a speed restriction of 15 miles per hour.

The people of Moss Landing have created a crossing for Sea-Otters. These animals are as cute looking as can be.

I have regularly seen them up and down the central coast, swimming and basking in quiet inlets and kelp beds.

Once hunted for their soft fur, they almost became extinct, now they are spreading back into their once vast natural habitats.

But this is the first time we have seen a real roadsign warning of their presence and good on you people of Moss Landing.

Good on you.

Monday, April 3, 2017

How to Make Real English Beer Shandy

Summer is on the way again, and this week-end I got to thinking of nice cold refreshing drinks.

My favorite is a English Beer Shandy.

So as part of the low vision Kitchen series I created this short video on how to make a good old English Beer Shandy.

All you need are two ingredients, a good beer and either Lemonade in EnBritain, or Sprite or 7-UP in the US.  Then you can recreate this delicious light refreshing drink for a Summer afternoon party or barbecue.

Watch the video here:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


A visit to my eye doctor the other day did not bring good news.

a close up of an eye.
An Eye
I had hoped that some of the greyness I had noticed in my good eye over recent months had been due mainly to weather conditions. Lots of cloudy days with diffused light.

When I say good eye by the way, I do not mean that the eye is very good it is just better than my left eye which now barely has any light perception.  My right eye I had some useful vision to my right periphery, now that is shrinking.

I was noticing that diffused light was making my vision very foggy and I was losing most of what color vision I had.

My retinologist took a look at the eye and pronounced that there is a quite decent cataract in the right eye.

The diffusing of what vision I have is the edge of the cataract moving across my field of vision. In her opinion though there is little point in removing the cataract.

The reason for this is removing the cataract and replacing it with a new artificial lens will not help me because the field of useful vision in the eye is too small for the eye to recover any sight.

Removing the damaged lens and the cataract will make me blind, leaving the cataract will at least allow me light perception with some diffused vision rather than light perception only.

I have to admit that is a scary time. Knowing that there is little left to do in order to save my sight is a pretty tough pill to swallow. I am going to look at a second opinion from my other eye doctor over the next few weeks. Just incase there is a work around.

What do you think?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

2017 WAVE Award

Last Friday, March 10, was a pretty exciting day. I attended the final day of the Western Media Access Conference. Learned lots of stuff especially about social media.

William Elliott, smiling holds the certificate recognizing 'Blindside Fresno' as a finalist and runner up in the WAVE awards 2017.
William Elliott after receiving Runner-up Award Certificate
Later that evening was the Western Access Video Excellence (WAVE) Award ceremony. The event was televised by CMAC the local media access group that I have been a member of for over one year now.

'Blindside Fresno' was a finalist in the very first category of programs, a non professional producer of disability awareness programming.  Non-professional meaning that I as the producer do not earn my living as a television producer.

There were three finalists, myself, a production from La Velle University in Los Angeles and a program produced by a local High School here in Fresno also nominated by CMAC.

Things  went by so quickly, I hardly heard my name mentioned as the nominees were named, than the winner was up on stage giving his thanks. The program from La Velle had won.

Their program covered the life of a quadraplegic, who has raised thousands of dollars for others like himself injured in car accidents.

In all there were forty-one categories and all had to be announced in a little under ninety minutes. There were not really any long speeches. Thank you's were the main order of the evening and it was a very enjoyable experience.

At the end of the evening those of us who had been selected as finalists were awarded our runner-up certificates.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Visiting a Trade Show and Conference

I have spent the past two days visiting the ACM West Region Conference and Trade Show here in my home town of Fresno, California.
The studio of Blindside Fresno, the host and guest silohuetted against a light blue background, in the foreground the silohuette of a camera and the floor director in headphones talks to the control room crew.
In the Studio For Blindside Fresno

The show is for access media providers, and it has been great fun to get out and about in new company for a few days.

Today will see the last day of the conference and also the presentation of the WAVE Awards. Blindside Fresno is up for one of the awards tonigh so wish me luck there.

In the past I have only visited on conference, as a delegate for my local chapter of California Council of the Blind.

This conference is very different, apart from the constant bumping into other conference goers, and the walk by sniffings of guide dogs especially around the buffet tables.

This conference is so much more relaxed and therefore fun. I am guessing this is for my part because at the CCB conference I was a newbie delegate. I didn't know what the hell I was doing there, I had a shopping list of must do items to report on which meant I was on duty from 6am  until bedtime at 2am. Here I will only have spent about twenty-six hours on duty at the conference over the three days. Much easier. Plus the conference is here in the city where I live so at night I am coming home to my own bed. Much nicer than even the best hotel.

Leif my guide dog is really enjoying the work. He has a spring in his step that has been lacking in recent months. I know he gets bored with regular routes and though he does perk up when people stop us to ask questions, these interactions are not as stimulating for him as working a room of moving people and the hope of getting that piece of roast beef off the floor under the buffet table.

Some of the most exciting talk at the conference has been about sharing of programming. From my point of view as a producer this is great news. I create programs to be seen by a wide audience. Though my program is titled for a specific locality, I think 'Blindside Fresno' has lots of universal interest for people who want to know about blindness, technology, and also the lives of the blind and visually impaired.

So today the conference closes. The awards will be awarded and what will I take away from it all? A great experience. Everyone should take in a conference or two in their lives. It is just fun to meet people who share ideas. Not just ideas that you have opinions on. But ideas that expand your horizons. Ideas that make you question possibilities. Ideas that encourage new ways of thinking.

Wish me luck for the WAVE awards tonight.

Thank you.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Help! Someone Moved the Bus Station

Being blind does mean we do like to operate within a comfort zone. I love to get out and about,  go for a coffee at Starbucks. Ride the bus and the train. Be independent. Then some city planner decides to throw a spanner into my comfort zone. Close a street to rebuild it for car access, rebuild a bus route to accommodate a new route for a high speed train which may never appear. Move my bus station from the main streets of Fresno to the back streets.

A bus shelter on a quiet street, there is blue sky with bright sun and green grass
A Fresno Bus Shelter
Earlier this week I made a trip downtown to purchase my monthly bus ticket. Arriving down town another passenger made a comment about fencing around one area of the bus stops. At the end of last year they moved my usual drop-off point across the park now it appears the pick-up area is enclosed by yet more feencing.

The whole of downtown Fresno is an obstacle course of barriers, wire fences and diversions as a new downtown construction plan is put into place to accommodate a new high speed rail link which may never happen in California.

'Have they closed the Northbound stop? " I asked the driver.

"Yes." she said. "The new stop is over on Merced and L Street."

Great I thought. Having no idea where Merced and L streets even were. But luckily the transit people had placed some helpful people on the street to guide the lost passengers.

Well finding one of these people was fun, wandering like a lost soul up and down asking any passing shadow.

Eventually I found the correct person. ""Turn right, one block on the  left." She said.

OK so Leif my guide dog and I set off. Right was easy. Down one block and the street was silent. I turned left and crossed the street. Thinking funny now I might be going the wrong way. The street was deathly quiet. Just the  distant rumble of traffic but nothing on the street where I walked.

Eventually I came out onto another main street. I must have missed the new stop. I made my way back following my previous walk. Back to the street which I had crossed. I crossed back and walked up the street again silence, no cars or buses passed me. I eventaully  moved onto another busy cross street.

"Bugger it!" I muttered to Leif. I know where there is another bus stop from here so we walked three blocks over and found a bus stop near to the public library. In minutes my bus came and we were on our way home.

What to do to find the new bus stop?

Well the solution for me was easy. If all else fails get to ride the full bus route.

I did just that this morning. The two hour ride took me to all parts of the town. But finally as the bus looped back towards home. We turned up the quiet street where I had first walked down, to the street where I had crossed we turned left, the bus travelled half a block and the driver pulled over in front of the only building on that side of the block. Beside a lonely quiet parking lot.

There we were at the lost bus shelter. Not exactly where I had been told.

Life is tough being blind and you are forced to work outside  your comfort zone. But life would be easier if sighted people please gave clearer directions.

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.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year 2017

Well 2016 passed away into history last night. I hope that you had a good year. Lots of people seem to be saying that 2016 was a bad year. Lots of things didn't work out for the best or what they perceive to be for the best.

A view over the Pacific from near San Simeon at Sunset on New Years Eve 2016. To the right people stand silohuetted against the sun standing against a wooden fence. To the left of the picture the sky is a deep dark blue and a first cresent of the moon can be seen setting towards the darkening horizon.
Last Sunset of 2016 over the Pacific Ocean at San Simeon California
 For me 2016 proved to be a pretty good year. It went by quickly. So fast that thingss I thought happened just a few weeks back actually happened back in January or February.

One year ago, 'Blindside Fresno' the television program was an idea. An idea that in some areas got laughed at. "How could I, a blind person, create a television program?" Well 'Blindside Fresno' is now a series of shows. Going on into 2017 with several show ideas planned and looking for an award in March, after it was nominated last month. Fingers crossed.

I took a little break last week, my wife and my guide dog Leif, went down South to Santa Barbara. It was a nice change, some ocean air, a nice look at one of the most prominent of California's missions and a train ride down the very edge of this continent, retracing part of my journey on the Coast  Starlight, train back in the Autumn of 2002. The   Missions of California for school childreren   textbooks can be found by following this link.

A drawing from a photograph of the Mission Santa Barbara in California, the tenth mission of the California missions built in the late 18th Century it is the only mission church with two bell towers on the West front of the church.
Mission Santa Barbara California
 While I was also away I got a surprise phone call. offering me a job in 2017. Whether the job will play out we'll have to see. I cannot say too much as the offer is provisional but if it comes through it will be something special.  All I can say is that it involves  dogs in particular guide dogs and I am very much looking forward to seeing this project through.

The first program of 'Blindside Fresno'  2017 season will air on January 17, at 7pm so keep a look out here for the latest news on that and some other items that I am working on with Community Media Access Collaborative. ( C.M.A.C. ).

So join with me and wish everyone a Happy 2017.  I hope that you will follow my blog this year. There is sure to be lots of news, opinion and fun.

Please feel free to share a post or two.  Thank you all

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