by Marilyn Brand-Smith
Give me a hard path to follow;
I will choose sturdy equipment;
Ask questions before I start
So I can plan and succeed.
Bury my dreams in a mysterious hole;
I will remove what covers them
So they can see light again,
Hold my attention.
Tell me I can’t reach what’s twice taller than me;
I will network, borrow a stepping stone,
Add it to my treasure trove
Of tricks already accomplished.
Withhold your friendships because, in your eyes,
Blindness makes me less than whole;
I will regret our mutual loss,
Find greener pastures.
If my patience and performance don’t equal your altitude expectations,
Influence your attitudes;
I’ll reluctantly nod,
Understanding that you don’t yet understand.
Marilyn Brandt Smith spent her childhood at the Texas School for the Blind (1955) and at home on a ranch in south Texas. She taught children in summer programs and adults in year-round rehabilitation centers and in their homes. Marilyn also worked as a counselor and a director of rehabilitation for several agencies across the country. She is now totally blind and lives with her family in a hundred-year-old home in Louisville, Kentucky.
In memory of all of the sacrifice . . .
If you or anyone you know is a visually impaired artist or writer, this is a great opportunity for a fellowship at Vermont Studio Center:
The Vermont Studio Center is pleased to announce two Creative Access Fellowships for month-long studio residencies to be awarded to artists and writers who are blind or have low vision.
Each fellowship, supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, includes a $500 travel stipend. Applications for the Creative Access Fellowships are due June 15, 2012 as part of VSC’s fellowship awards deadline.
by Stella De Genova
What do you like to do? What do you like to make? Where does your creativity lie? For me, I like to paint; I like to garden; I like to cook. It makes me feel good to do something where the end result brings contentment and a sense of accomplishment to me and to others. I even started this blog as another creative outlet for visually impaired people to find a place to share what they write.
As I was out in the sunny yard today, planting some vegetable plants, I realized that it doesn’t matter what it is as long as a person can find something or some way to be creative, they will find joy and some inner peace.
I can say that I’m not always pleased with a painting I’ve done and next time I make a recipe, I may add or delete to what I’ve tried. Sometimes my garden doesn’t harvest the most robust vegetables but I don’t care. It won’t stop me from trying again next time, plus I look for new things to paint, cook or plant. Yes, I’m visually impaired and yes, sometimes I make a mess but I will continue to create because it feels so good. I guess what I’m trying to say is that finding out what you like to create will make a difference in your life too. So make some cookies, or sculpt something out of clay or write some haiku: it will make a difference in your life.
A while back, I invited everyone to let us know about blind people you know that are doing interesting and creative things. This was submitted by a volunteer in Myanmar (Burma):
Aung Lwin Oo from Myanmar a young man (totally blind) who invented (developed) a software. He is skillful in using computer and his software is “Braille to Myanmar” “Myanmar to Braillex” It is like “Duxberry English-Braille/Braille-English” software. He invented it in 2010. It was launched in 2011 and widely used for academic texts and other books for visually impaired persons in Myanmar.
Other sighted people in Myanmar had developed this kind of software. However, they did not include any visually impaired person in the process. As a result, it is not as good as that of Aung Lwin Oo.
by Rox’E Homstad
Spring time in New Orleans. Fresh strawberries and that Strawberry
Abita beer I love so much. Flowers and shrubs blooming everywhere.
Those nasty stinging caterpillars dropping out of nowhere to leave you
with a souvenir of their passing which will last for days. This time
of year is the same time six years ago when I made my way out of exile
in Memphis, TN. back home after the failure of the federal levees.
There is a section of “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran which sums up my
leaving of Memphis well.
“Long were the days of pain I have spent within its walls, and long
were the nights of aloneness; and who can depart from his pain and his
aloneness without regret?
Too many fragments of the spirit have I scattered in these streets,
and too many are the children of my longing that walk naked among
these hills, and I cannot withdraw from them without a burden and an
It is not a garment I cast off this day, but a skin that I tear with
my own hands.”
On the 26th of March, I packed my worldly goods into a U-Haul and
drove back home. I was coming home to much welcome, but also to much
I remember getting out of the car once we had arrived at my new
temporary home. The city still had that smell. It’s an undefinable
smell, mixed of equal parts decay, death, and desolation. And the
mold… we must not forget the mold.
That night, friends had come to help us move our things. After
unloading the truck, we trooped over to Franky and Johnny’s for some
Those first few weeks were a blur. I saw clients every day with
stories of being pulled from rooftops, watching their children die,
and floating on kitchen appliances in filthy waters. I listened. I
helped where I could.
Things started getting quieter and quieter in my world. I couldn’t
hear the phone. I couldn’t hear my clients or coworkers. In six weeks
my hearing was gone, and I didn’t know what I would do. I was in a
city with very limited medical services. The wait to see an
audiologist is long. He is so shocked by the sudden loss, and he fears
I may have some obscure form of inner ear cancer.
I wait some more, finally get an MRI, and wait even longer only to find
out that I do not have obscure and deadly ear tumors. But I’m still
deaf, and navigating a city full of crime and debris which would
easily fall into the category of biohazardous totally deaf and almost
totally blind. I was more alone and afraid than I can ever remember
The doctors tell me that it’s the mold in the city which has caused my
inner ear disease to flair up and take my hearing. It’s like a bad
country-western song. “Katrina done took my house and my hearing and
my city.” The only thing missing is a part about trains and betrayed
People ask me if I regret coming back. If I knew what would happen to
me, would I have gone back? And my answer will always be hell yes!
Because I would rather be deaf in New Orleans than hearing and live
The New Orleans native and author Poppy Z. Brite once said:
“If you belong somewhere, if a place takes you in and you take it into
yourself, you don’t desert it just because it can kill you.”
I have known from the very moment I first arrived here. On that gray
and rainy day nine years ago. I knew that this is where I wanted to
live for the rest of my life. I want to work here, and be in love
here, and train dogs here. When I am old, I want to sit on my porch
here, and drink whisky in my lemonade on muggy July afternoons. And I
want to die here, and I want this place to be better for me having
been a part of it. I am certainly better for it being a part of me.
This whole time, when I struggled every day for simple communication,
I took strength from my clients. They would tell me how I gave them
hope for the future. But what they would never know is that really, it
was the other way around.
And so it’s spring again– a time which makes me think about great
love, and great inspiration. It makes me think of renewal and
redemption and hope.
And I pass one more season under a sky of vibrant blue, sitting on my
porch drinking Strawberry Abita beer and knowing that I am truly
Rox’E Homstad says she lives in a rundown house in New Orleans, sharing my life with her husband and their four dogs– all of whom are retired or working assistance dogs. By day she is a braille and activities of daily living instructor for blind and deaf-blind adults. She owns a small business doing dog training and herbal consultations for pets. She loves to cook, read, and is trying to teach herself to grow plants. Her website is http://www.pawpowercreations.com.
There is now a worldwide registry for people with Usher Syndrome, the biggest genetic cause for deaf-blindness in the world. To learn about Usher Syndrome, to register yourself or someone you know and to find out how the registry works, go to www.usher-registry.org . If yuo or someone you know has Usher’s, spread the word.