Archive | November, 2014

Why Be Fashionable If You Can’t See?

26 Nov

by Maribel Steel

When author and inspirational speaker, Maribel Steel gives presentations on’What it is like to be visually-impaired’, one question will ALWAYS be asked, “How do you know what you are wearing?” Her simple answer is – choosing one’s clothing is a matter of feeling first, then seeing how it all fits together. When you feel good in what you wear, you will look great!

Following are her responses to questions she was asked recently…

How important is fashion and style to you?

Fashion is fun. I enjoy feeling garments which allows me to visualise the world of ever changing trends. I think it’s a ‘girlie’ thing – taking delight in touching clothes, lingerie, shoes, dabbing on perfumes or smelling leather hand bags because it is highly enjoyable. The other reason for my ever-readiness to touch the world around me is because it is not normally permitted in galleries or museums so when I am in a store or market place, it allows me to touch all sorts of objects I can’t see and by doing so, I feel less excluded from the visual world.

What sort of fabrics do you enjoy the most?

Soft fabrics, satin trims, things with buttons and bows. I layer my outfits with flowing chiffon tops. Lingerie is another one of my touchy-feely delights – as it is worn close to the skin. I believe that when you begin the first layer of clothing feeling feminine, you will wear the dress with an upright back and carry an air of chic – like a proud Spanish Lipizzaner!

What are your considerations when choosing garments?

Apart from seeking comfort and prettiness of garment, I take quite a while to scout out an item as I examine the texture carefully and the cut by feeling the collar, shape etc. I know what styles suit me by past experience. Then I quiz the shop assistant for the colour and price and if it passes these two questions, I will buy it.

What shops do you frequent the most and why?

I visit the local stores where the shop keepers know me and are quick to offer help – even though it might be more expensive, the price of being looked after is well worth it. But I do have to be in the right mood as it takes a lot of concentration to keep track of my movement around the store, to avoid prams and other obstacles. Sometimes the bumping from one object off another can feel like being inside a live pinball machine and if I can’t cope I will leave the store.

What challenges do you face when shopping?

Some of the main challenges include trying to locate the right shop and entrance. Then there is manoeuvring around a shop I have not been in before and avoiding the racks while keeping the cane tight in one hand, the other loose to stray over fabrics. I must be very careful that the clothing I am feeling is on a mannequin and not the clothing of another shopper!

One fashion item that is hard to choose on my own are sunglasses. Often whoever is with me will pick the style they like and then when I wear them, my family will comment “who helped you to buy those sunglasses?” which means – they wouldn’t have chosen them for me. How important to you are the perceptions of others of you fashion wise?

I like to show that blind or visually-impaired women can enjoy being colour co-ordinated, wear smart and trendy gear and enjoy fashion just as much as our sighted friends do. People are often surprised to see me turn up at a function in a fashionable dress with lovely bag and jacket. I am surprised by their reaction – why wouldn’t a vision-impaired woman be dressed well? I also have a passion for smelling fragrances at perfume counters and put my nose to the test to pinpoint individual scent molecules from cleverly concocted blends. The art of wearing fragrance – that’s another story.

Maribel Steel is an author, writer, blogger, mother and vocalist. She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her partner and teenage son. She was diagnosed at fifteen with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). Maribel writes about places to feel, sounds and textures to explore as well as sharing insights on crafting The Art of Being Blind. She has self-published a book of short stories (memoir) and has several articles featured in various journals and blogs.

Read more about her at: and being a teaching artist at:

The Trick Is to . . .

17 Nov

by Pamela Pospisil

Just do it!  That is a phrase my husband and I developed in the early 80s when we decided to embark on triathlons.  By the way, later Nike decided that was their key slogan! There was a good reason for that.  The slogan really does say it all.

We did the Ironman triathlon 2 times in Hawaii in 1982 and 1983.   Before training for it we had never even done a biking or swimming race. I had hardly done a running race before. My husband had been a runner, and I had mostly been a hiker.

There weren’t any great secrets.  It was just a matter of “doing it”.   Since then we have “just done” a wide variety of challenges.  Each one took that initial impetus of pushing through the resistance and fear of the unknown.

After having a chronic eye inflammation since 1970, I developed advanced glaucoma by the late 90s.  At this time I am nearly blind in one eye and can only see shadows in the other. The challenges of this far outweigh doing an Ironman, marathon or anything else I have attempted.

Because of my impending loss of vision we started doing some serious traveling in the 2000s.  We have traveled to Thailand, India, Nepal and many European countries. We even did the Camino de Santiago in 2007  which is a 500 mile pilgrimage across northern Spain. In that case we just picked up our backpacks and started walking.

At first, in my travels, I used trekking poles for everything.  Then I learned to walk with a white cane.  Now I have a guide dog, named Bianca. She has enhanced our experiences tremendously.

Our latest adventure has been in dragon boat and outrigger paddling.  We recently traveled to an international meet in Italy for this.

Yes, I have been fortunate to have these opportunities, but I have also learned that opportunities mean little unless you take advantage of them. Also, I have found that the obstacles which are perceived when reaching for a goal are usually only excuses for not taking on the challenge.

Push through the fear.  I am still pushing through fear, sometimes on a daily basis.  But I have learned, time and again, that it always pays off.  In other words, “just do it”.


Pamela Pospisil lives near Portland, Oregon with her husband. They have 2 grown, married children and 1 grandchild who live out of state. Pamela was diagnosed at the age of 19, in 1970, with a chronic eye inflammation which continues to this day.  It led to cataracts and glaucoma, which has caused the blindness.  She worked as a registered nurse until she could no longer drive. Pamela and her husband enjoy traveling and are continuing to be involved in outrigger and dragon boat racing.


10 Nov

by Nancy Scott

It’s October 2014 and the dire almanac predictions are published. How many polar vortexes will there be, and will the high-paid media gleefully name them? Will I hate it all and worry about high electric bills? But then I remember the first snow of last year…

The phone rings and Maryanne narrates that it’s snowing. Not just flurries. Fluffy rain that lands white and might stay which surprises everyone because the forecast said Tuesday and it’s only Saturday night.

Call-waiting beeps and Kay chimes in, “blizzard conditions” sticking to lamp posts, and I resist going out to my balcony to put out a hand over the chest-high wall to feel. I resist putting on jacket and shoes to go downstairs to catch flakes on my tongue.   I quote folklore about date and enough snow for cats to track footprints. November 23rd means twenty-three snowstorms this winter. But the cats would have to walk on the lawn or the roof of a car. Would someone have to see the footprints?

A half hour later and the phone rings again. Kay says, “Snow stopped” but her smart-phone prophesied squalls off and on until after midnight. There must be fifty stray cats and a few stranded pets.

I thought I was too old or too sad to care about this shift in weather, but I like not missing it. If it must snow 22 times forward of now, I’m glad someone who can see thinks to tell me how it all begins…

This year, our new windows make it difficult for me to track changeable weather. The outside world almost doesn’t exist when they are closed. Maybe this year, if I know it’s first-snowing, I’ll make the effort to catch some first flakes with a hand or a tongue. I should celebrate being here for the shift to winter. But, more importantly, I should never take the thoughtfulness of sighted people for granted. That is always worth tracking.

Nancy Scott, Easton, PA, is a blind essayist and poet. Her over 600 bylines have appeared in magazines, literary journals, anthologies and newspapers, and as audio commentaries. An essayist and poet, she has published three chapbooks. She won First Prize in the 2009 International Onkyo Braille Essay Contest. Recent work appears in Breath and Shadow, Contemporary Haibun Online, and Stone Voices.