Blogging against disablism day: independent living

Today, May 1st is “blogging against disablism day”, an annual day for bloggers to write about anything related to disability. As always, it is hosted by
diary of a goldfish
and you can read more about it and find out how to join in
This is my first time to participate, and here’s my post.

Centres for independent living (CIlS) provide personal assistants (PAs) for people with physical and sensory disabilities in Ireland, to help them live as independently as possible. Clients are often referred by family members, social workers and other disability organisations. They complete a detailed application form to determine if they are eligible for a PA, and what tasks they need assistance with. The person with the disability directs their own service, in other words, they decide what they need help with and what they want their PA to do from day to day.

Why exactly would a blind person need a PA? That’s a question I sometimes find myself having to answer and explain to people with and without sight.
When the idea of a personal assistant was suggested to me over four years ago, I wasn’t really interested. I wanted to do things by myself, and felt that having a PA would mean that I was depending on somebody to do things for me. In fact, this is quite the opposite, since having a PA allows me to do things that I would otherwise not be able to do.
I live in a rural area, so public transport is not always readily availible. If I didn’t have the assistance of a PA, I wouldn’t be able to travel to the studio to record my weekly radio show. I mightn’t be able to bring my guide dog to the vet immediately when he needs to go. I would have difficulty teaching my dog new routes that I am unfamiliar with. I wouldn’t be able to do my job as well in work, because I would be confined to the office, where I can only do so much. I mightn’t be able to do a part-time or evening course if I found oneI was interested in, and I wouldn’t be able to explore new opportunities and interests. I know there would be many more opportunities availible if I moved to a city, but I like living in my home town, where I grew up and where people know me. I think its a pity that people feel that they have to move away in order to live independently. If we all moved away from our communities, these communities would never have to make an effort to become more accessible. I know its difficult to find work in small towns, and that’s the only thing that would prevent me from staying in my home town.

I know there are blind people who live completely independently, without the help of an independent living service. It can be done effectively, but this depends on the area in which you live, the facilities availible to you and how motivated you are as an individual. I know people who depend on their family or partners to help them. My family are always willing to help, but I know that I would feel bad if I had to ask them to help with every single thing that my PA does. As a result, I would avoid doing things because they cause other people to have to go out of their way for me. My PA gets paid and this is her job, so I don’t feel bad about asking her to go somewhere with me, as long as she has enough notice.

I am in the lucky position that I have a wide circle of friends to socialise with. My PA is twenty years older than me, so it would not be appropriate if I had to depend on her to accompany me on all my social activities. We get along very well but we just aren’t interested in all the same things! Some people have no choice but to use their personal assistant to bring them to the cinema, to gigs, for dinner etc, and this works well for them. I would personally hate people to socialise with me because it is their job and they are getting paid. I want people to do things with me because they want to, not because they have to.

I know people who are blind, who would be too proud to apply for help from an organisation such as a CIL. In reality, some of these people are not able to do the things they would like to independently. As a result, they miss out on opportunities, and don’t get to do the things they really want to. This means that they are ultimately less independent because their opportunities are limited

If you are ever given the opportunity to apply for a personal assistant, don’t dismiss it as quickly as I did at first. Consider how it might improve your quality of life. If it is organised well and you are in control of your own service, having a personal assistant can be a great enhancement to the life of a person with a disability.

Waw, a blog award nomination?

The 2011 Irish blog awards take place on 19 March in the Europa Hotel in Belfast. They are hosted by
Rick O Shea
who is just one of the coolest people on Irish radio.
I usually always nominate blogs in the various categories, and keep an eye out for the results. This year I didn’t hear much about them beforehand, and was surprised to hear that nominations had closed sooner than I was expecting. I was even more surprised to read on twitter today that my blog has been nominated in the ‘personal blog’ and ‘specialist blog’ 2011 categories. Waw!

I don’t know who nominated me, but thank you, whoever you are. I’m pleasantly surprised 🙂
I doubt I’ll get shortlisted in either category, there’s just far too many good blogs out there. I’m quite happy just to be nominated.
Many people say that blogging is dead, but if you take a look at the long list of nominated blogs on the
Irish Blog Awards website
you will see that there are still many talented and dedicated Irish bloggers out there.

Subject = none in particular

*This is one of those posts about nothing in particular*
I need to think of titles for those.

World cup fever has gripped the nation again. The most annoying thing about this is not that Ireland aren’t in it, but those bloody vuvuzelas. They sound like a constant swarm of bees and are driving me crazy. I don’t like football, so when I try to listen to a match they are the only thing I can hear. Please please make them stop!
My family did a draw to pick teams tonight. There were 8 of us and we picked 4 teams each. We only put in a fiver each because Jack is only eleven and didn’t want to put in any more money. I drew France, Greece, Chile and the USA. Not sure how lucky I’ll be but at least I’ll have a bit more interest in following the matches now.

My brother came home from Afghanistan last night and his future mother in law (who I’ve never met) is coming tomorrow to stay with us. More about why they are here soon. Last week was a horrible week so its nice to have visitors to cheer us up. We have lots to keep us busy and a good weekend to look forward to. I’m off work until next week, so trying to find time to plan radio stuff and walk the dogs every day too.

Please take a few minutes to read Darragh’s excellent post about

Torie has moved her blog to blogger, and you can find it and follow her at:

Finally, I bought ‘Dog Training Mastery, An Owner’s Manual’ last week. I have enquired about dog behaviour and training courses or something I could study in that area, and haven’t heard much feedback, so thought this might be something to read through in the meantime. Its an online publication, so no books or audio cds involved. It might put me off the subject completely, but I won’t know until I start reading.


Thanks so much to
for their brilliant guest posts during the last week. I’ve enjoyed reading the comments after each one, and I’m glad people found them useful and insightful. Thanks to the people who mentioned this on their blogs and twitter as well.

Brad Taylor from the Lighthouse for the visually impaired and blind in Port Richey, Florida contacted me to tell me about
their executive director, who is blogging about her journey of getting her first guide dog. Check it out!

If anyone has any ideas for a guest post they’d like to write, just email me. Otherwise its back to normal blogging service from me! 🙂

Guest post: paws for thought invades 2uibestow

This week paws for thought invades

Peter Nagle’s music blog
is one of my favourite places to find information on Irish music. He has an obvious passion for it, and his reviews of gigs, new bands and new music are great.
He recently asked me to be a guest blogger on the site, and you can read my posts every day this week.
Thanks Peter for giving me the opportunity to try guest blogging for the first time.

I’m glad you like it here!

Blogging is great when I get comments, new followers, and awards like these.
Thanks to

The rules for the awards are:
Paste the images of the awards on your blog
List 10 things that make you happy and do 1 of them today
List 10 bloggers who brighten your day (for the Happy 101 award) and 12 bloggers who brighten your day (for the Sunshine award)

Ten things that make OJ and I happy (in no particular order) are:
1. Going for long walks in nice weather
2. Eating good food
3. Spending time with family and friends
4. Meeting new people and experiencing new things
5. Listening to music, particularly when its live
6. Having fun with other people/dogs
7. Finishing something after working hard at it for ages
8. Not having to get up early at least one day a week
9. Relaxing beside a warm fire on a cold day
10. The beach

I’m going to be lazy, and instead of linking to other people’s blogs, whoever goes to the trouble of leaving a comment (because some followers are a bit shy!) and hasn’t got this award already can have it. Come on, say hi and get an award!

A few months ago I received an email from the
wellsphere network
asking if I would join their network as a health blogger. Basically all my blog posts to date and future posts would be put up there under the “eye health” section, and I just do what I normally do on the blog. No extra work for me, its completely free, and if it helps someone else in some way then why not. It was great to be asked, and I’m looking forward to meeting new people from the network in the future. There’s just so much information there, I don’t even know where to start!

The wellsphere badge isn’t too easy to work with jaws because of the images, but hopefully I’ll get someone to give me a hand putting it on my blog soon. Check out the site
if you want to know more about what they do.

thoughts on the noughties

I should probably start with all the enjoyable things that O.J and I have done this year. If I didn’t have this blog I probably wouldn’t remember half of them!

In February I returned to the guide dog centre for the first time since I got O.J, and was lucky enough to meet O.J’s
On the way, Which was really enjoyable for all of us. I would definitely advise anybody with a guide dog to bring it back to visit its puppywalker if possible.
In May I finally finished a guide dogs
radio documentary
that i’d been working on in my spare time for six months. I’m not sure if it was worth all the effort, but it was something I thought might be worth making, and when I start working on something, I really want to get it done.

O.J and I went on our first flight alone together to
We had great fun and met so many lovely children. Hopefully we can do that again next year.
In June we were both lucky enough to meet
Christy Moore
After his gig in the Plaza in Buncrana. My cousin spotted a photo of me shaking hands with him up in the Plaza the other night. Well it was at 3 in the morning and she’d had a few drinks and I thought she was making it up! I don’t even have a photo. You can’t see my face, but its there anyway. The shame!

In July we met
Roy Keane
Who is the patron of Irish guide dogs, and
Josh Ritter
In October.
We had enjoyable trips to

I also did some fun things without O.J, like going on a family holiday, having parties and nights out with the girls, going to lots of gigs, including Bruce Springsteen again, and interviewing
Christy from Aslan.
O.J felt left out at the time but has forgiven me since.

As for the noughties…
It doesn’t seem like ten years ago since the millennium, when everybody was celebrating the beginning of the 21st century. So much has happened in the last ten years, and there have been many highlights. I think I had two favourite years, 2003 and 2007.

I had my school formal/debs at the beginning of 2003. Its the school party that every final year student looks forward to, when you get a night out with all your teachers and friends. The weeks beforehand are spent preparing, and the week after looking at photos and talking about the night. The teachers eventually get annoyed because no work gets done.
In June I did my leaving cert, which seems like the most important exam in the world at the time. I went to see Bon Jovi the day after my exams finished. The special Olympics was held in Ireland, and began the week of my final exam. There was a great positive atmosphere in the country, and even though I’m not very sporty, I enjoyed watching it.

In August I got my leaving cert results, and did better than I had hoped. I got accepted to queens to do the course I wanted to do, and found out while I was on holiday in Majorca.
The end of September was the start of university life and living in Belfast was great fun. I met lots of new people and made new friends. I learned a lot in the first few weeks. I also lost my godfather during this time, which was a big shock and a tough time for everybody. I visited him twice that summer and still remember those visits like it was yesterday.

2003 was a busy year for discovering new music and going to gigs. I think I saw the frames or Glen Hansard 4 times, and Christy Moore for the first time, at the Lisdoonvarna festival in the R.D.S, which was the perfect gig for Irish music fans, because everybody good at the time performed that day. I went to my first match in Croke Park the next day, Donegal V Armagh. We lost and I haven’t been to a match there since.

2007 was another amazing year. I started work placements, where I was introduced to the radio station where I am still a volunteer. I got a personal assistant which enabled me to become more independent. I turned 21 in February and had a house party with most of my family and friends there to celebrate.
In April my second nephew Danny was born. He’s one of the most lovable, amazing little boys I have ever met.
In May I started work at the VAC in Derry, where I still have a job. I loved what I was doing and the work was completely accessible. The people were so helpful and I quickly felt welcomed there.

In June I got the phone call I’d been waiting for for years, that I might possibly be getting a guide dog. The timing couldn’t have been better. I went to Cork on June 22nd, and I went for a walk with this big black dog who completely changed my life. I didn’t think you could possibly pick the happiest day of your life, but I think that was it.
I spent August training with O.J and had so much fun. This was better than anything i’d ever learned in school or college. I also started this blog around this time, and its been great to look back at how much O.J’s work has improved since then.
I didn’t think i’d be bothered keeping this blog for so long, and I didn’t think people would be so interested to leave comments. I have met lots of interesting people online, and met up with some bloggers too. It has been great fun and hopefully it will be even better in 2010. Thanks everyone for keeping me entertained, and making me feel that writing here isn’t a complete waste of time.

Happy new year. I hope the next one is a good one.
Jen and OJ


We got this award today from the lovely family and golden doodle who blog at
Irish assistance dog
Thank you so much. I’ll follow the instructions; pass it on to five bloggers, who will hopefully pass it on to five more blogs and so on. Mine aren’t all doggy related, but just five of many I’m enjoying reading at the moment.

Selina and Calvin
have almost finished two weeks of guide dog training together. I hope its all going well and there’ll be lots more fun to come.

is great fun, has lots of determination and a great blog. I’m glad I found it.

green tea
from New Zealand is new to blogging, but is keeping me entertained and is doing a good job so far. Keep it up!

Digital Darragh
deserves an award for his recent microwave post. I don’t have awards for good ideas, so this one will have to do you. Come to think of it, maybe Freddie deserves it more! You can fight over it.

Our Jacob
is written by the father of Jacob, a little boy with downs syndrome. If everybody viewed disability in such a positive way life would be a lot easier.

Happy thanksgiving to anybody from America who reads this blog. Enjoy the celebrations.

guide dog network

I have been signed up to the Irish guide dogs mailing list for over a year now. People there have often talked about setting up a meeting, where guide dog owners can discuss issues and make suggestions about how services can be improved. As a result, the
guide dog network
was born. Its first meeting takes place on Saturday, and I’m looking forward to it.

I have some friends in Dublin, but they are either not around, alergic to dogs or don’t have space/grass anywhere near where they live. My mums going Christmas shopping while I’m at the meeting, which is great because I didn’t want to stay in a hotel on my own! OJ has obviously helped me to become much more independent, but I still like to have an idea of where I’m going if I’m going somewhere on my own. I know lots of blind people are confident to just find their way around and ask for help when they need it. Maybe its because I don’t live in a city and am not really used to navigating really busy places on my own. Maybe its because I spend most of my time with people, so can ask for help when I need it. Maybe I’ll gradually become braver, or maybe I’m just an eternal wimp!

I meant to mention
Trust Tommy’s project
ages ago. He has set up the
Irish student blog site.
If you know anyone who has a blog that isn’t listed there, let them know about it please.

Sometimes when I post long posts about music, I think people might be bored, but its nice to see that
is listening to something I have recommended, and even better, he is enjoying it!

Right, coffee, then back to scarey serious writing!

blogs, dogs and music

I have nothing too exciting to write about these days, but just wanted to mention a couple of blogs. I found
R’s blog
through a link that someone mentioned on
She lives in the US, always joked that she would never see her thirtieth birthday because of the kind of lifestyle she used to live, and she went blind when she was 29. She’s an amazing writer and its very interesting to read.

I’ve mentioned
before. She has been waiting for her first guide dog for over 18 months now, and could have a new furry friend very soon. Check out her blog and read what she thinks of the potential new dog and how they get on.

I had to work later than planned today, so OJ didn’t get a nice long walk in this nice dry weather. My uncle is up from Limerick and he came for dinner yesterday with his wife and 5 children. Of course OJ loved it! They all came to visit me in Cork when we were training, and they thought OJ had grown a lot. We’re going out for dinner with them tomorrow.
I’m recording another radio show tomorrow. I have most of the music planned I think. I know I’ll definitely be playing a couple of tracks from the new swell season album ‘strict joy’, which was just released last week. A few friends heard the show on monday. It was the first time people I know, who like the same music as me listened, so it was interesting to hear what they thought.
I was supposed to go to Mick Flannery on halloween night. I hate going out and dressing up for it so it was a good excuse to get out of it, but that’s not happening now. Funny story, but lets just say I think my friends in love, though she’s not admitting it!
Happy halloween everyone!

ps. If you have any blogs or sites you think I might like, post links in the comments section. I’m looking for new things to read and new people to meet, and also just curious to see what people come up with.