Tuesday, December 10, 2019

How I discovered Happiness

It may seem crazy, but I did not discover happiness until very recently.

I am wearing a deep blue button down shirt and a silver and black patterned tie.
William Elliott
There were occasion when I thought that I was happy, but in the moment that I had that very thought, the feeling fled to hide like a frightened rabbit being hunted by a pack of dogs.

Happiness was not a lasting satisfying feeling for me. In many ways happiness came with a dread fear of pain for most of my life.

I grew up in North-West England, not far from the city of Chester close to the border between England and Wales. My father was Welsh, but died just a few weeks after my seventh birthday.

I was brought up by my mother and my maternal grandparents. For many years I was bullied at school and spent much of my spare time running errands for the "Navvies" and brick laying gangs who worked on the large building sites around my hometown in the late 1960's and early 1970's.

I didn't have many friends of my own age. One person, Chris said he was a friend, but I remember on a couple of occasions going to his house, we were born on the same day and met on our first day at school, he would kick a football at my head and if I dared to duck would then punch and kick me in the face and body.

Of course today I see, Chris was a bully. One day when I was about eleven years of age. I just decided to open the gate and leave Chris to find someone else to  use as a punchbag or football. That made me bitter at the idea of friendship. Something that made me sad.

Today, I can look back on my choosing to walk through that gate as a life lesson. Though it took me about forty more years to learn the lesson.

Life happiness is about personal choice.

Life is not fair, in fact life does not care about me at all. Whether I was born or not. Whether I continue to live or not. Living is not about being happy or sad, being healthy or sick. Life is just about living and it is my own personal choice that makes me happy or not.

We make our own happiness by the way we choose to react to all those carrots and stones life throws at us.

It was about ten years ago. I was married and I had moved from the United Kingdom with my wife of two years. I found myself going blind. I was terrified and angry. There was no escape from the reality that going blind would change my life. It would change both of our lives.

My wife felt compelled to be strong for me. I felt compelled to put on a brave face for her.

In the ensuing few months as my eyesight improved and failed over and over again. We were both under a lot of stress. It was then I said to myself everyday. "

"This is as good as it gets."

 Every day I would get up and blink, some days I could see the picture on the wall, other days I could only see the blur of a wall. But "This is as good as it gets." Got me through.

I began choosing to make challenges to myself. Walk around the neighborhood. Walk to work. Ride the bus alone. My confidence slowly came back.

With that confidence came happiness. I began to notice the lows getting less low. As my confidence rose I could see more possibilities and more challenges. As I tried to overcome each challenge, I might succeed, then ok add a new challenge to the list. If I failed a challenge then I could feel low. I even accepted that I did feel low. Accepting the lows meant that I moved on faster. A slump of a month or more became a slump of a week or two. Then the more I accepted that bad things happened, the more confident I became that the bad times would pass and the more I accepted the bad with the good the happier I became.

Now though I cannot see very much more than a shadow. I am content. I do sometimes feel frustration with my situation but I accept frustration. I let it flow through me. I might even snarl in anger now and then. But I am much happier today because I accept that bad things happen.

Bad things have happened to me. Bad things have happened to you, I know. Things so awful that I cannot imagine, I guess. Accept. You do not need to try and forget, you just need to accept your self, your pain and your anger. Then you too can begin to find peace within your self and the gem of happiness which I have found in my life, will be yours.

William sits in the garden wearing a grey and blue checkered shirt and dark blue trousers. Leif a male black labrador guide dog sits between William's knees.
William and his Guide Dog Leif

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Monday, December 9, 2019

Christmas is coming

A Yellow Labrador retriever puppy looks into the camera.
Yello Labrador Puppy
So it is now mid December and Christmas is coming. My semester at college is almost over. In fact this week sees the Final Exam of my "Introduction to Aging" class.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Six Years Together: My Guide dog and I

We originally met on October 21, 2013. Almost two weeks later on November 2, 2013, Leif, my black Labrador guide dog and I graduated from guide dog school in San Rafael, California.
William, in check shirt and Leif a black labrador sit in our garden on November 2 2019. Their sixth anniversary after graduation from guide dog training.
William and Leif Today

Today, it is November 2, 2019. Six years to the day since our graduation. What a wonderful experience it has been working with a guide dog like Leif.

Working with a guide dog is not easy. Sometimes it can be a battle of wills. That discarded burger paper on the floor needs testing, people want to pet him, people have even grabbed him as we crossed the street. The blade of grass that smelled so good yesterday may carry yet more pee-mail messages today. He did well ignoring yet another distraction, but does he really deserve fifteen dog treats in a two minute walk to the bus stop.

All these matters might crop up anytime. They tell you about some of them at guide dog training. Many they don't tell you about.

One of the first things I learned at guide dog school was how to take care of my dog.

A guide dog is a working dog. First and foremost he is my eyes, plus an extra set of ears. My life can depend on him several times per day. So I need to look after his every day needs and keep him healthy.

You can tell Leif, is healthy. Just looking at his coat. Black, thick and glossy. His eyes are bright and intelligent, he misses very little in his environment and at seven and a half years old his ability to walk is not impaired by rheumatism or arthritis. Everyday he receives a few drops of salmon oil in his food.

People often comment on how good his coat looks and feels. I often allow people who ask to pet him a chance to stroke him. It is always nice to hear how the grooming he gets everyday feels to others. Plus when people ask how I keep him looking so healthy, I can tell them about his care. An occasional egg mixed in his food. High quality food and a spritz of salmon oil.

Working with a guide dog everyday is an adventure. I never really know what is going to happen to us. People are drawn to these working dogs. Walking with a long white cane rarely caused anyone to speak to me. I could go through my day without anyone speaking to me. It was lonely going out. With Leif by my side people do talk with me. I am never lonely with Leif by my side.

I love every moment with Leif, my black Lab guide.

I have recently begun a Quora Space called Lab Life Come over and read more.
Has there ever been a Guide Cat for the Blind?  Read more 

Friday, October 25, 2019

Financial Independence For The Blind: First Update

At the beginning of October I posted my idea of creating an income stream that would build some income for the blind. You can read that post  here
cash, bank notes and coins, when investing I like to see cash flowing into my account coming from distributions and dividends
Cash Flow is King.

That post was made on 10th October. It took several days to have my new account checked and funded with just $50.

I began purchasing stock on Monday 21st October, 2019.

The first aim of the account is to build a portfolio worth $10,000.

I am not making this easy, I want to show anyone can do this using just a few dollars of spare change per month.

Some money will come from cash inputs but some must also come from cash flow within the portfolio itself.

My initial investments were in Mutual Funds.

So why Mutual Funds?

I  chose to go the mutual fund route first because they add instant diversification. Plus the two mutual funds I opted to buy units of pay a distribution every month.

My two mutual funds are MLPFX and PREMX.

MLPFX is a mutual fund which invests in things called Master Limited Partnerships, or MLP's. A MLP is a special company which owns things such as pipelines for oik or natural gas. They pay their owners a percentage of the profit from ordinary operations. This is in the form of a distribution, not technically a dividend. It currently pays about 5 cents per unit owned each month.

The PREMX mutual fund is T Rowe Price Emerging Markets fund. Again this pays about 5 cents per month in distributions and invests in emerging markets bonds.

Over the next year I should earn at least $3.20 from both Mutual Funds, I will re-invest some of these funds in the units themselves. I have just under 3 units of each investing $20 in the MLP mutual fund and $30 in the Emerging markets fund.

At the end of the first week I now have a portfolio worth $50.10 an initial profit of 0.20%

This initial profit is due to daily price fluctuations that the two mutual funds have gone through.

At this point it is nice to see price rises, but we don't want to see too large a price rise since we are re-investing the distributions and a lower price will actually serve us better as we will be able to purchase more units as time goes by.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Financial Independence for the Blind

Can a Blind Person become Financially Independent?

I am looking into gaining some financial independence. From today, October 10, 2019, I will attempt to build a nest egg for retirement. I am starting  from just $50.
A stack of dollar bills and coins.

The aim is to build this $50 up to over $10,000 initially. Taking some earnings from the occassional sale of items on amazon, some cash I save from housekeeping and daily expenses. It won't be easy. I plan on growing most of the  nest egg in a brokerage account. This will use cash, stocks in individual companies, exchange traded funds (ETF's) and mutual funds. I will share each step at least once per month, and give you the basics so you can follow and even try for yourself.

Why am I starting with such a small amount?   

I am starting with just $50 because it is an amount many of us can afford. We can all save $50 to start investing. The starting point in itself does not matter. What matters is where we end up.

Fifty dollars is also about the minimum amount that you can begin to invest effectively. It means that we cannot invest in a portfolio of amazon stock just yet. But we can invest in some property in the for or Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT) and some nice low cost mutual funds.

To make this investment account more productive you could open this in a Roth IRA within the United States, that would allow you to grow the account tax free, but it is only available if you have earned income and you are funding the account from tax paid funds. Since many blind and visually impaired persons do not have jobs then such accounts are not available, plus any readers outside the U.S. may not have access to tax efficient accounts, so I want to keep this real. Not pie in the sky as can be found in so many quarters of the investment market.

So first I will go with an E*Trade brokerage account, I am familiar with their platform, it works well with my screen reader (NVDA) and best of all offers all kinds of investment types plus no-brokerage fees.

I will be staying away from things like options and futures trading. They are too complex for me to understand so I avoid dabbling in areas of the stock market that I do not understand.

A good book to start with basic investing knowledge is  Stock Investing for Dummies

But their are many more such books available:

I also like to listen to my Kindle books and podcasts about investing on my Echo "Alexa" device.
 The echo has good sound and it has a good interface where you can just say "Alexa, read my latest kindle book." or "Alexa, play Stacking Benjamins podcast."

So here it is a new series of blogs. Please follow this blog to read the latest updates on this series and other posts.
You may like to read my two year update on Financial Independence for the Visually Impaired here.

Please feel free to share this blog on facebook, twitter or any other social media.  Thank you.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

A long Awaited First. "Black Bear Diner, Fresno"

William, in check shirt and yellow hat, stands beside Black Lab Guide Dog Leif. Beside them is a wooden carved black bear holding a Welcome sign in its front paws outside the Black Bear Diner Fresno
Leif and I stand outside "Black Bear Diner" Fresno California

After living here in the United States now for thirteen years, I don't get to do many first time experiences any longer. Okay I have still got to visit New England, Kentucky, Arkansas, Alaska and Hawaii, But with most people who have a "Bucket List" I have visited the "Big Trees", dipped a toe in the Pacific Ocean, as well as both sides of the Atlantic.

   Today, I did get to have another, now rare first in my life. I went to "Black Bear Diner".

Well the trip to a "Black Bear Diner", was not the first. I have visited several "Black Bear Diner's in the past seventeen years. My first was in Gilroy, Ca. Back in 2002. I visited the original "Black Bear Diner" located in Shasta in the Fall of 2012. Even eaten in the "Black Bear Diner" in Reno, Nevada a couple of times too.

The "Black Bear Diner here in Fresno opened a year or so ago. I had marked it as a place to try a while back. But today was the first time I actually got around to trying it out.

The "Black Bear Diners" are famous for their large portions. And their HUGE biscuits. One biscuit could be a small meal in itself. I like their "Bigfoot", country fried steak, sometimes called chicken fried steak. But this morning I stood by the old breakfast standard of scrambled eggs and sausage. A good deal for a breakfast that sticks to your ribs and fills you up.

Since this diner is only a few hundred yards from the Valley Center for the Blind at Shaw and Valentine in Fresno, right beside the West bound bus number 9 stop, I should be visiting it more often.

The food is of good quality. Service is good and they also welcomed Leif, my guide dog with no hint of a problem.

It is not often I get to do a first these days. So it was nice that this first turned out to be a good one.

Maybe if you are passing one of these "Black Bear Diners' you might try them out. If you are in Fresno, then maybe Leif and I will see you at breakfast.

Friday, April 26, 2019

What do Blind People Use Bump Dots For?

Bump Dots are small pieces of rubberized  plastic which can aid the blind and visually impaired around the home or the office.

What Bump Dots Look Like:

Bump dots come in a variety of colors and sizes. You can even find clear bump dots which are less visible to the sighted so a sighted person who lives with a visually impaired individual can look at a kitchen or office and not see a myriad of red, black or orange dots all over the equipment.
Cooker hob control dial showing two clear bump dots marking the low and medium setiing on my cooker.
Clear Bump dots on Cooker

I live in an apartment and the apartment manager allowed me to place a large square bump dot on my letter box. The bump dot is placed just below the lock of the letter box so I can find the lock and I don't try to open the mail box of other tenants.

What Do Blind People Use Bump Dots For?

Apart from marking my mail box, I use bump dots to mark the keypad on my microwave  oven and use a large bump dot to mark the start button. I also marked my standard electric cooker and oven with bump dots. I used them to mark the medium level on the stove top rings and mark the 350 and 425 degree point on my oven. These were the commonest settings I use and it is easy to adjust to either side for higher or lower cooking temperatures.

What else do blind people use bump dots for? Click Link HERE

Bump dots are very useful items, they are small enough to mark objects using the Braille lettering system. Imagine I have a can for coffee and a caddie for tea, both about the same size and shape. I could mark the coffee can lid with a Braille letter C and the tea caddy with a Braille T, easily identifying the contents.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

How do I Get A Note Taker For My College Course?

I recently answered this question on Quora. The question and answer website.

Here is a link to my answer:

Read William Elliott's answer to Do colleges offer note takers for vision impaired students? on Quora

Notes are a sticky subject for many students. I like my own notes because I get to choose what I think is important. Other students think differently and so notes can be very personal to each student.

In my experience it is better to take a nice   Laptop   or tablet  to class

Having a note-taker can be difficult for you as a blind student because you are subject to the whims of your note-taker. What if they decide to drop the class in week seven? You are in trouble, even if the instructor is willing to ask for other volunteers to take over as a note-taker you are now going to have to either get used to their new style of note taking or try to get them to make notes that you would like.
Finding a note taker at community college

In my experience note-takers at community college do not ask nor want you telling them what you like in nites.

You may also consider taking a recording of your own notes. Don't just record a class lecture you will fail miserably trying to find a note in a hour long class is a fruitless task. Take quick notes using a voice recorder making each note something like a word and definition of repeat a teachers outline of work to be done. Keep each note down to a minute at most for speed and ease of recall.

I use a Victor Stream    myself

 So there  are a few reasons why I would suggest thinking twice about using a note-taker in your college classes. Let me know if this post has helped you by posting a comment or sharing on your favorite social media sites.

Monday, April 15, 2019

What Organizations for the Blind Operate in your City or Region?

This blog is rapidly coming up to 100,000 views. So as a thank you I thought I would post you some organizations that may be able to help you as a blind or visually impaired person.

An eye looks out of thescreen. William Elliott a life with blindness looking out for you wherever you are.

Looking out for you!

If you are in the United States the two main organizations for the blind you should know of are:

National Federation of the Blind


A merican Council of the Blind     

  Both of the above organizations have groups in all fifty U.S. States and affiliate groups in most major cities and town across the United States. They are also a great resource for finding about new technology, getting training to adapt  to blind living and a source of social support for the visually impaired and their families.

I have asked friends from all over the world to send some details of blind organizations in their countries, regions, states so that you can find some resources more easily.

To find a resource that maybe could help you or if you know of a resource that may help others please feel free to post more resources in comments or 

Click Here to

Friday, April 12, 2019

Should Blind People in the U.S. Be excluded From "The Right To Bear Arms"?

Personally I used to shoot clay pigeon in the U.K. I was pretty good shooting at club and county levels. Of course then I could see.
Uncle Sam, thin bearded man, wearing cream colored top hat, with starred head band, blue coat and red and white striped waistcoat, pointing out of the picture towards you.
Uncle Sam didn't say "Blind People Don't Count."

Since coming to the United States, I have shot a couple of guns at the shooting range. Back in 2010 my wife bought me a gun safety lesson and time on a range as a birthday present. It was a handgun lesson and I really enjoyed the time spent shooting and was happy that I didn't miss the target.

A while ago I remember a President of a State affiliate to the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) being pictured in a Walmart buying a handgun, much to the annoyance of many people.

Those who complained said that a blind person with a handgun was just plain dangerous to "normal" people. But at the time I argued that since it was not specifically stated in the Second Amendment that a blind person did not have the "right to bear arms" and a gun being included in that classification that it was legal under the Constitution.

So a few days ago I thought I would pose this question on Quora, "Should Blind People  be Excluded  From "The Right to Bear Arms" Under The Second Amendment  of The United States Constitution?"


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Do Blind People Ask to Feel Someone's Face So They Can See Them?

A few days ago I was asked on "Quora" if blind people like to feel peoples faces, so that they can "see" what someone looks like.
An eye wide open looks out of the screen at you.
"Let me feel your face so that I can see you"

I have seen such things in movies. But have  never come across such a thing in real life.

I think that the idea is some urban myth.

Or a plot created by some creepy people who maybe use an excuse of being blind in order to touch others in what I would consider a rather inappropriate manner.

Do you want someone feeling your face?

So why not take a look at my answer along with several other peoples opinions by following this link:

Read William Elliott's answer to Some movies show blind people being able to "see" someone's face by touching it. Is this true? Are you able to do this? on Quora

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Power of Prayer

For some reason my recent journeys to college have included a prayer session.
A two floor building built of brick stands at the end of a long paved walkway lined with lawns and tall trees. In the foreground is a fountain of water.

A young woman at the college bus stop a couple of weeks ago saw me and  decided that I am in need of prayer. I am not sure if she is a student at the college, there are houses all around the campus. She is there at 3.30pm same time as me and Leif my guide dog.

It was Leif that first got her to speak to me. She asked if she could pet him, I try to say yes if we are not actually walking so she did stroke his head and shoulders.

The next time she was there she started to tell me about her church as she stroked Leif. Then asked if she could pray for a cure for me. I just shrugged, so she started right there and prayed over me.


Has someone ever prayed over you in the street? See what other disabled people say. Click here.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Inspiration Porn?

There is a great deal of talk in the disabled world discussing "Inspiration Porn."

But What is Inspiration Porn?
A red stop traffic light.
Stop Inspiration Porn

Inspiration Porn is all around us. Able bodied people everyday share online images of disabled people, doing inspirational things, amputees running on blade legs, blind people walking down the street with a dog or cane.

The person who tells you that they know someone who is really disabled. They are a friend, relative or neighbor, you know, they can get up in the morning, always cheerful, go to church willing to help even though they have no legs or arms, completely blind and deaf too.

Ok so I am going over the top there. So let's see what others say about Inspiration Porn?

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

God Punished you?

I was on the bus today. Just a normal ride home from college.

Leif was quietly lying under my seat, as he does most of the time.

A woman got onto the bus which was quite full and after a few moments started talking to me. She opened up the conversation with the usual "Cute dog."
Would God take away one of his most wonderful creations out of spite? I think Not.
An Eye

So I agreed, smiling, trying to be friendly. Telling her he is.

Then her tone began to turn. Accusing me of being evil. So evil in fact that God obviously thought it a fitting punishment to make me blind. Then to send me an evil beast to be my companion.

This bus ride was now getting to the realms of scary.
I have never considered that people have such views, but  this woman put me in a nasty place.

I decided to put a question on Quora about this and took a look at the results.

SeSoe peoples answer to the question of is Blindness a punishment from God here

What do you think? I am honestly shocked by peoples attitudes to blindness.

It all makes me wonder about my own beliefs.

After all if I believe He created all things to be as they are. I do believe for my part that my blindness is only a challenge. But if others see it as punishment against me, then can that God be the same God? As my God created those who want me punished for their imagined evil.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Stopping Robot Callers

Over the last couple of years I have found the number of robot calls I was receiving on my cell phone to b
stop annoying robo-calls to your cell phone with you mail
Stop Robo Calls to your cellphone.
e increasingly annoying.

Last December I was receiving between eight and ten calls per day.

Some offering "Urgent prayer" on the light side of the spectrum to the downright threatening scam calls threatening me with a visit from the sherriff if I did not give them a few thousand dollars by providing them with my debit card details.

I had tried blocking the numbers after every call, but the scammers changed their telephone number several times a day and I would receive the same calls over and over again.

Early in January I heard about a free service called You Mail   

 You Mail is an app which runs on your cell phone. It checks incoming call numbers against it database of known spam callers instantly sending their robo-dialers an out of service signal. You Mail will also answer your incoming calls from your friends and contact list if you do not pick up the call.

The nice thing for me  is that You Mail will then transcribe any voicemail into an e-mail message for you. You can then read the e-mail using a screen reader like Siri on the iPhone.

There is of course two levels of service. Professional gives you more bells and whistles, but for me the free service is wonderful in itself. I have not had a robo-call or spam call for two weeks now. My wife loves that when  she calls and it goes to voicemail, my voicemail now addresses her by name. Much nicer than the old generic, please leave your name and number and I'll get back to you.

So if you are tired of robo-calls setting up You Mail took about thirty minutes. There are several codes to enter in response to e-mails. But it is free and well worth the effort as now I can get on with other things instead of answering spammers calls.

Take a look at You Mail Click here.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Don't Give Up

Over the past couple of days I have been researching some changes to my local bus routes which happened over the Christmas Holidays.

Some of the help I received could have been very dangerous for me to follow.

In this video I tell you about what happened to me. How by questioning the advice I was given and going out in the world I found my own answer to the problem of getting a bus to college was simpler, safer and more enjoyable than  any sighted person could believe.

Blind people have the resources they need to get on with  life so don't give up, there is a solution to your problem. You just need to not give up.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

A New School Semester

Last week I started a new semester at college. New classes mean new classmates and new rooms to learn the layout of.

I am generally not too nervous about taking new classes but one class I found particularly taxing on the first day.
Looking down a wide sidewalk towards a large stone building in the foreground there is a fountain. Trees line the sidewalk.
College Campus and Fountain

I generally like to get to the classroom in goode time. About thirty minutes before class start is ok. I like this fortwo reasons. One my classrooms are on the top floor of the building, I walk up the stairs to the room for exercise and the elevator is not the largest, Leif my guide dog and I can just squeeze in, God knows how wheelchair bound students manage. Secondly getting to class early eases my tendency to panic about being late.

Well, Leif and I were pushed out of the way as we joined the line to enter the classroom at the start of class. Normal behaviour I find for many of my fellow students at the beginning of a semester, or in the line for the bus.

After we had found our way into the room, I told Leif to find me a chair. He knows this command and does the job perfectly. In this case he led me to one of those desk chair combinations. Where the desk folds over your belly after you sit. Not my favorite style.

Well I began feeling my way around the chair, it was empty. When sudden someone shouted "You can't sit there!" and I felt the chair pulled away from under my hand.

"You need to sit over there." The voice said again.

I hate that phrase, over there. Over bloody where>? I always think to myself.

Anyway the teacher came over and directed me to a much nice seat. A desk with a seperate chair. Lots of room for Leif to stretch out.

The voice which had yelled out at me, cooed about how nice Leif looks I just nodded.

Later in the class my neighbor, the young woman who yelled at me. Quite emphatically told everyone in the class that she  is, "Totally sympathetic to the needs of the disabled and that I know what they need and want to work with them to support them."

Yes, Love. You definitely proved to me, that you have my best interests at heart. I thank you for your sympathy, which I do not need and ask that you gain some empathy, which would be of more use in your future.