Being My Own Boss

The seventeenth challenge on my list of 30 wasn’t exactly something I had planned when I started this crazy idea back in February. However it is the one which will be the most difficult, definitely the most challenging, and the one that will have the most long-lasting impact. On 1st September, (the same day that I went surfing), I made contact with my local enterprise office, which was the beginning of my journey towards becoming self-employed. There were meetings, conversations, questions, forms, things to be clarified, lots of uncertainty on my part, and a judging panel, but last week I was given the goahead to operate
JD Audio Transcription
as a business.


I have been transcribing people’s audio files on an infrequent basis since I began working in Derry in 2007. I created the Facebook page a year ago and began making more of an effort to find transcription work when I was unemployed. I’ve managed to find a few regular customers (mainly involved with research) who seem happy with my work and happy to recommend me. I slowly started to realise that there is a need for this type of work, it’s just a matter of finding it. After experiencing lots of office politics and organisational changes in the places I’d worked, I was beginning to like the idea of working for myself, offering people an honest service, adjusting how I work, and being involved in more things that I enjoy. I never was a 9-5 office person, and although I wouldn’t consider myself a business person, I know I’m hard working and responsible, and I’m up for the challenge.


So what does JD Audio Transcription do? I transcribe audio of a non-legal/medical nature. I transcribe interviews, lectures, focus groups, workshops, conferences, seminars, radio programs, online content, material for books, and personal stories. Transcription is often required by students or researchers, which is always very interesting. I also want to expand my service to community groups, charities and people who have a story to tell. It could be used to archive the history of a family or a particular area. It could be used by people who have stories to tell but would prefer to talk than type. I have lots of ideas in my head, so I just have to find ways of advertising them and getting them out there. If anyone could like the Facebook page or pass it on, I’d really appreciate it.


Working with the people in the Inishowen Partnership who help set up businesses in our local area has been a great experience so far. They’ve offered me training, listened to all my concerns and motivated me and believed in my idea. They admitted that they hadn’t worked with a blind person before, but they couldn’t have been more helpful. Family and friends have also been very encouraging. It’s brilliant to have people around you who believe in your ideas, even if you don’t always believe in them yourself. The transcription business is the first of a couple of ideas that I have. I have to start somewhere, and I think this might be the easiest for now. I could never see myself working from home every day, so the other idea will be a great contrast. Before this, I wouldn’t have believed that I had the skills or the confidence to become self-employed. There is so much help out there, and it is a good option for people with disabilities to consider. It is very disheartening for people when they can’t find suitable jobs, or their disability dictates how they live and prevents them from being employed. There is a lot of help out there, and even just talking about an idea with someone can be interesting. I might be back job hunting this time next year, but in the meantime I’m going to be brave and give my ideas a go.

If you never try then you’ll never know 🙂





This was a good week!

There are a few reasons why the last week has been really good.
I love trying new things, and I got to do a couple of them this week, which were unplanned, not part of the 30 challenges, but still good fun!

My two younger nephews were off school last week so I told them I’d make them lunch and take them to the cinema. My PA drove us to Derry and left us off there. The road where the bus lets people off would be too dangerous to bring a dog and two small boys. They were so excited that Sibyl was coming too, even though they’ve been to the cinema with her before. We went to see the Jungle Book, mostly because I wanted to see it myself, if I’m honest. Anything with animals, and especially the fact that I knew the story so well made it seem like a good choice. We got treats and drinks and sat down to watch it in 3D. A man who worked in the cinema came over to ask if I wanted earphones for the audio description. I’ve never used it in the cinema before, and didn’t actually know that the Moviebowl cinema had it, as it’s not very well advertised. I was glad of it because the film was so visual. I was able to adjust the volume separately in both ears so that I could hear the boys to my right and hear the film louder in my left ear. Every ten minutes one of them would say, ‘what’s she saying now? What’s she telling you now?’ It was very funny. I must remember to ask for them next time I go, although every film is not audio described. If I didn’t have Sibyl with me, they probably wouldn’t have noticed that I was blind and wouldn’t have offered them.

The weather has been lovely, so I’ve been doing lots of walking and Sibyl has been doing lots of free running. Tuesday morning was really warm, and when I went to yoga, the teacher (who is my aunt) told us that she was doing the class outside. It was really strange for the first few minutes, being on the grass, listening to the birds and the sea. Most of the things we did felt different, but it was really enjoyable. We actually had to go inside for the last 15 minutes because it was so warm.

In between the walks and enjoying the good weather, I’ve been busy transcribing. I get nothing for a while and then everything comes at once. I could have a potentially big project coming up soon, so hopefully it will all work out, and I’ll be very happy.

The best part of the week was my new nephew being born yesterday morning. Everything went well, and he’s a gorgeous healthy little boy, with three big brothers to look after him. I’m looking forward to getting lots of cuddles in the next few days, especially when he comes home.

Audio Transcription

You can probably guess that this is non dog related from the title. I hate cross-poasting things, so appologies to the friends on facebook who have kindly liked this page already.

I’ve recently made a facebook page to help promote the audio transcription work that I ocasionally do. I enjoy the variety of work, and it would be nice to get a bit more if possible.
I can transcribe interviews, research projects, focus groups, assignments, lectures, memoirs, personal stories, material for websites, and lots more. I’m not qualified in legal or medical transcription. It’s not my full-time job, so I don’t intend gaining either of these qualifications. Also, I prefer the more human storytelling or research aspect to the material I transcribe.

Audio transcription isn’t exactly a service that everybody would require, but maybe sometime, you, or someone you know might need it. If you could like or share my page,
I’d really appreciate it. Maybe somebody will find it useful. Word of mouth can often be a great help!


Sometimes I forget I have a blog!

Well I don’t really, but you might think that if you follow this one, because of the lack of posts recently. As usual, lots of things to write about came into my head at different times and I wrote about none of them, so here’s a post with no theme, no structure, but a few of the things I’ve been up to during the last five weeks.

I haven’t managed to find a job, and could look harder to try and find one, but I’ve done a few things that might help. My aunt took me to a careers fair in Derry in September. I knew there wouldn’t be suitable jobs for me to apply for there, but I did meet some very helpful people who gave me things to think about. I also met the head of the career service I wrote about in my last post. Unlike her colleague, she was really helpful. She took time to talk, really listened to what I had to say, and gave me lots of good advice. She followed up by sending me useful contacts, and helping me to fix my CV.

I spent the next two days after the jobs fair in Derry again. This time I was doing a befriending and mentoring course. I’m going to give it a post of it’s own soon, even though I intended writing about it a month ago.

I attended two really interesting events this month. The first was a public discussion about the new human rights bill, which was organised by the Irish human rights equality commission in Letterkenny. It was the last of eight public meetings, and Donegal had a good turnout, with a nice variety of people from all walks of life. I’d read that it was happening and not given it much thought until a friend and former work colleague asked if I was going. I decided to go because I knew she wanted to, and having lunch with her after gave us a chance to catch up. It was more interesting than I thought, and I’m glad I went.
I also attended the launch of the
preferential parking space
in a local secondary school. I delivered a disability awareness workshop to the students involved last October, but this was only a small part of the work they did on the subject during the year. Their final project was to create a preferential parking space outside their school, as well as in four other locations in the town. These spaces allow people with non-physical disabilities, or parents of children with non-physical disabilities, who would otherwise not avail of accessible parking to park in an area which might make access much easier for them. After a few speeches, presentations and photographs, the parking space was launched, and we had tea and cake in the school. I was given a lovely bunch of flowers in appreciation for my help, which was unexpected, but really nice.

On Monday the primary school had a thank you coffee morning for all the people from the community who have helped there during the year. I spent a couple of hours in the PE hall, and it was lovely. I was asked to talk to fifth class pupils as part of a program called ‘friends for life’ which they do in school. I thought it was a small group, but when I came into the library, there were almost ninety students there! Some adults also sneaked in too, but luckily it started before I had time to be nervous. The students listened carefully and asked fantastic questions. I was really impressed by them all. Sibyl behaved really well, apart from steeling my mum’s sandwich when we returned to her class after the talk. The children loved her, and it was nice to see her reaction in such a busy school. Even one child who is very afraid of dogs fell in love with her, and even took her for a walk at the end of the day. I wasn’t surprised at all when Sibyl found the school quickly on our way to a restaurant in the town earlier today. It’s her new favourite place!

We had rain yesterday for the first time in weeks, and the dry weather gave Sibyl a chance to do lots of work. Her work is improving every week, and even though she’s still easily distracted, it’s becoming easier to focus her attention back on her work again. Good weather means more free runs, and it’s important that she has a good balance of both. Sometimes I forget how much exercise a young dog needs, and if she doesn’t get enough, she soon lets me know that she’s bored!
Unfortunately we’ve had a few trips to the vet to have glands emptied, so I’m keeping a close eye on that. Otherwise she’s great, and turning out to be a smart little guide dog!

Career Change

Don’t worry, Sibyl hasn’t had to give up her job as a guide dog yet!
Though her crazy lively behaviour recently, (which included running into a swamp of horrible dirty water and nearly not being able to get herself back out), makes me wonder how this dog can be so trustworthy sometimes.
Anyway, I’m the one having the career change, not her. I suppose I can’t call it a career change just yet, because I haven’t actually moved to a new job.

A few weeks ago I left my job in the Donegal Centre for Independent Living, where I worked for the last five and a half years. I needed a change, and I want to try and find out what my long-term career plan is. Since I left, I’ve been researching courses and things to study, doing career interest tests, looking for volunteering opportunities and jobs. I have lots of ideas but no clear idea of where I’m going or what I’m doing, but I’m excited about what will happen in the future.

I loved the majority of the work I did in DCIL, especially delivering disability awareness training in schools. There’s a huge need for that type of work, and it has so much potential. I loved seeing the attitudes of students and teachers change as the workshops progressed. I loved the honesty of the students and the questions they asked. Just like the students, I enjoyed having the opportunity to learn new things. I was fortunate to be able to avail of two training courses in particular which were a great addition to my CV. I enjoyed working in the disability sector, which was something I previously would have ran a mile from if I’m honest. I learned a lot from my work colleagues and the people who use the personal assistant service. Many of them inspired me, and some became good friends, who I’ll hopefully always stay in contact with.

My colleagues were lovely to work with, and always more than welcoming to O.J and Sibyl. Being blind was never an issue. I mean it should never be anyway, but working as part of an organisation which provides services to people with disabilities made blindness non-existent in our office. I suppose that’s one of the reasons I’ve decided to make an effort to blog more about my search for employment and a career direction. I’ve moved from a situation where being blind was mostly forgotten by my colleagues, to it being one of the first things people notice. This became obvious twice during the last few weeks, when I met with two people working in the area of careers advice. One was talking me through study options in her college, while the other was supposed to help me focus my interests in particular areas. They both didn’t know where to begin, and one in particular spent more time admiring the dog. When we talked about education and I mentioned that I finished my degree from Queens University in 2006, their attitude completely changed. They were surprised that I could achieve such a thing, being blind and all, and suddenly they became more serious about wanting to help. As it turns out, neither of them have been any major help, but it was worth a try. Maybe they learned more from meeting me than I did from meeting them. They were nice girls and they didn’t annoy me, but they just got me thinking of some of the attitudinal obstacles I might face while looking for a job. This doesn’t bother me, but I think it’s just an interesting observation.

So now I’m on the hunt for a job. I need a challenge. I need something new. I have no idea what that will be yet, but hopefully the search won’t be too frustrating, and I’ll eventually find something that’s right.

The Tory Adventure

Last Saturday, myself, Sibyl and eight of my work colleagues took the boat to Tory Island. One of the girls comes from there, and we’ve talked about going there for a long time. I’m not sure if you’d call it a staff night out, but it definitely was a night with a difference!

I really don’t think Sibyl and I would make good sailors. The gap onto the boat was quite wide, so she was a bit afraid to go on. One of the boys gently lifted her on, and she was fine on the journey. Unfortunately I wasn’t as relaxed, and didn’t really enjoy the almost constant rocking motion. It was a good day and the weather was warm, so I dreaded to think what it would be like on a bad day. When we lifted Sibyl off on Tory, I tried to forget all about the boat on the way home, and started to really enjoy my time there.

People say time goes slower on an island, which I didn’t think was true, but it really felt like we were there for three days, in a good way of course. Tory has a population of under 150 people, and we met lots of the locals, who were very friendly. They are all very proud of where they come from, and were happy to answer all our questions about their culture. Sibyl wasn’t the only guide dog there, and we were delighted to meet Jock and his new owner Jimmy. The dogs knew each other from training in Cork, and we both had a nice chat. We met a dog who wasn’t so friendly on a walk later, but Sibyl doesn’t seem to let things like that bother her.

The local people on Tory were so welcoming, that when we set up a barbecue beside the hostel, the owners came out with pots of tea and coffee, and spent the evening with us. The fact that we weren’t staying in their hostel wasn’t an issue. We watched the Donegal match in the pub before going back to the hotel bar, where everybody seemed to gather. People played music and it turned into a bit of a session. We went to bed at three, but the hotel probably would have kept open all night if people wanted to stay in the bar. There are no guards on the island, and it’s such a safe place.

We were lucky to meet the king of Tory before getting the boat home on Sunday. The king is elected by the local people, and this man didn’t get the title for nothing! He’s a great entertainer and musician, with a real love of where he comes from. He welcomes each visitor to the island individually with a friendly handshake, and he’s got an infectious personality. He loved getting photos with us all, including Sibyl of course. He walked us to the peer and waved us off on the boat to the mainland. I didn’t feel brilliant on this journey either, and the dog wasn’t impressed by the big waves. Everybody was so helpful, and made her feel really relaxed.
I work with some great people, and we get on well. Some people have only joined within the last year, so it was nice to get to know them better. Hopefully we’ll meet up more regularly outside work, maybe we’ll just stay on dry land for a while though.

Didn’t I tell you we’d be busy?

All this talk of retirement hasn’t meant that O.J is winding down at all. We’ve been busy recently, and he’s worked and behaved like a star through everything. This is a long post, but the point is, I love this dog!!

On Thursday 5th I went to see
Duke Special
in McGrory’s in Culdaff. It’s my new favourite venue. It’s intimate and cosy, the people who come really love their music, and you can order coffee and nobody laughs or thinks you are strange!
The gig began with some songs from a band called the Pox Men. I can’t even describe them. There were some good musicians in the group, but it wasn’t really my thing. I wasn’t expecting any full bands to be there and they were quite loud, but O.J never moved.
Derry singer/songwriter Soak played next. She’s only eighteen, and has been getting a lot of attention during the past year. There’s something about her voice that makes you stop and listen, and the audience were silent while she played and kept us entertained with her great sense of humour.
Duke special himself played next, a solo gig just on piano. He’s more than capable of doing a great job on his own, and although it was random, enjoyable and entertaining, it wasn’t the best I’ve seen him play. It was nice to talk to him before the gig, and O.J got to say hi too.
We got one of the best seats in the room, because we had a comfortable sofa and lots of space in front for O.J to stretch out and relax, without being in anybody’s way. I think this was why he was so chilled out during the whole gig, and people were surprised that there was even a dog in the room.

On Wednesday morning we worked in a local school, and took the bus to Dublin afterwords. One of the only bands I love but still hadn’t had a chance to see live was the Decemberists, so I was delighted when they announced a gig in my favourite Dublin venue, on a day when I had to be in Dublin for work anyway. Nicky and I met up, fed the dogs in our hotel and met my cousin for dinner before the gig. She walked with us to Vicar Street, and we were all very impressed when O.J enthusiastically turned left into the entrance of the venue without even being asked. He knew that this was a place where he would be spoiled and petted and well looked after, and as usual, the staff couldn’t have done enough to help us.
The dogs chilled out on a mat in the store room while we watched Irish band Windings, and then the Decemberists. The audience were lively and really knew the band so well. Colin’s voice is amazing live, and he’s very funny. They played for just over two hours, and they were brilliant. The wait to finally see them was worth it.
We left the gig happy, with two happy dogs, who would have stayed for another few hours if they had to.

O.J worked really well around the hotel and nearby area, especially since there was no grass like we thought there was. It’s only taken him seven years, but he finally leash relieved on concrete twice! This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but in the awkward life of O.J, it really was!!
He behaved great during the training day on Thursday. It was my first time going there on my own, but everybody is so friendly and helpful that it wasn’t a problem. Meeting up with them is very reassuring, and it makes me want to continue the work I’m doing in schools a lot more than I sometimes do when I’m in the office. Irish Aid’s
World Wise Global Schools
team are so supportive and easy to work with. One of them even took the time to wait with me until I got the bus home. We went for coffee and had a good talk, and the four and a half hour journey home felt a lot easier.
Next morning we were up early to travel to another school. The students have been brilliant recently, and they’ve done some great presentations as part of our workshops. Work is feeling a lot more promising than it did before Christmas.

O.J had a well deserved run on the beach and a swim yesterday after all his hard work. My sister washed him after the beach, so he’s lovely and clean. He really seems to be taking advantage of his Sunday rest today, but he totally deserves it.

Impact Theatre

Work has been busy and sometimes frustrating during the last couple of weeks. Myself and a couple of colleagues had an amazing opportunity last week to attend a workshop which was inspiring and made the hard work worth while.

DCIL received funding to run a workshop which I felt would be very educational for transition year students. I invited a class who I had worked with a couple of months ago. They are undertaking a huge disability project in their school, so they seemed like the perfect choice to attend this disability related workshop with a difference, in the Stationhouse Hotel in Letterkenny. Idan Meir brought a group of five actors with physical or sensory impairments to deliver a workshop and perform a play, but the day was much more than that.

The day began with a quiet group of students and a couple of teachers who didn’t know what to expect, and to be honest, I didn’t really know how to explain it to them either. We ended the day with a more confident, more creative and definitely more inspired and empowered group of people. I can’t really explain what happened in between! Idan talked to us about opression, having power, disability and what it means, and many other things. We didn’t just sit and listen. We learned about the impact of theatre and how we can use it. We learned how to create images with our bodies and how to tell stories. We learned how to lead and trust each other, and we definitely learned how to be out of our comfort zone! The actors performed a play for us after lunch called ‘happy birthday’, which explores the issues facing a 21 year-old girl who is unable to attend her own birthday party due to the inaccessibility of the venue. They performed it a second time, during which the audience were invited to stop the play whenever they felt that there was something unfair happening. This brought about interesting discussion and debate. After this, the students and teachers were split into groups, with myself and the actors joining each group to tell our stories or answer any disability related questions they had. The students and teachers were then asked to make an image of something they learned from that conversation. It’s hard to explain, but it was very interesting for me to hear, because I have no visual idea of how people represent words or feelings in this way. I learned a lot from these exercises, and it wasn’t what I had expected to learn when the day began.

It was nice to learn about disability, a theme I am so familiar with, but not actually be the person teaching it for a change. I wanted the day to be as much about the students as possible, so it was a nice surprise when I realised how much we were all included. I didn’t think to mention to Idan that I was blind beforehand. I didn’t think I’d be involved in the theatre with the students, and to be honest, it didn’t even come into my head. He did tell me that if he’d known he could have adjusted his activities a bit, but I was still very much included and he explained everything as much as he could. Part of the leading and trusting exercise involved people closing their eyes and then talking about the experience afterwards. I don’t know if this is always part of the day, but it worked well, and I was able to give my own feedback too.

O.J came along for the day too. I was very happy with how well he behaved since there was a lot of moving and running around. He just lay watching, and really loved the attention whenever the students came to pet him on their break. Idan sometimes gave him a quick pet to make sure he didn’t feel left out during the day!

‘Happy birthday’ was performed in Donegal a couple of years ago and I missed it, so it was brilliant to have everybody involved back to perform it and do the workshop just for us. It was a different way of exploring the theme of disability, and my only regret was that more of my colleagues didn’t come to see it.
Idan wrote a one man play called
which returns to An Grianan Theatre in February next year. It’s based on a different theme entirely, but I like his work, so hopefully I’ll get a chance to see it.

We’ve Moved!

Don’t worry, I haven’t moved house already.
Our office has moved into our new premises in Ballymacool in Letterkenny!
After renting office space for around thirteen years, DCIL finally moved into the purpose-built house they bought and renovated. It’s got lots more space, it’s own separate training room that can be rented out, and lots of lovely ground outside. It’s a bit out of town which means at the minute I have to depend on people to bring me there, but we would have never got a building as good in town, so it’s worth the compromise.

I went to the building twice last week with O.J, just to have a look around and become more familiar with the layout before I had to start working in it. It’s a lot more open-planned and noisy in the main reception area, but somebody (without even realising it) was being very helpful when they put my computer on the desk beside the radio so it’s easy to find straight away.
Today was our first full day working in the office and it was really nice. I put O.J’s bed close to the main door where it’s a bit cooler. He’s not right beside my desk, but not far away, and he has more space. Luckily for him, he can look around him, and gets petted by most people as soon as they come in the door. I got my first school today too, even though I haven’t even contacted schools about this year’s project yet. That was a nice surprise!
The new building has a really nice feeling to it, and we’re hoping that the move will help to raise the profile of our organisation and the work we do.

I did my bit for awareness of disability related issues last Friday. I went to the Highland Radio studio and had a chat with Greg Hughes, who was filling in on the Shaun Doherty show. The interview was organised in response to a lengthy discussion about dogs not being kept on leads, which took place the day before. I began talking about that, and ended up talking about lots of different things, including getting in a quick plug about my work and our big move. O.J lay quietly in the studio, and enjoyed all the attention he got at the station.
I enjoyed meeting Greg, and I’m very glad I went to Letterkenny rather than just being interviewed over the phone. It also made me realise that I miss radio work a lot, and if I could get into the area of radio that I like, I’d definitely like to do more of it in the future.

My brother has been here and gone since I blogged last. As usual we spent lots of family time together. I went to Dublin for the day with him and my sister. O.J was left at home but he was probably glad. He’s been going for more walks now that he’s practically fully recovered. We visited a friend in Portsalon, and that weekend, we went for a drive around Donegal, had a picnic and watched our local football team win a final.

So all in all, we’ve been busy. Not blogging busy, but busy in other ways.

Because I’m Happy…

I’ve been thinking of a reason to blog for the last few days, and that seems as good a reason as any.

I seemed to spend a lot of time last month feeling tired, thinking about my next dog a lot (even though it’s hopefully eighteen months away yet, and I don’t need to think about it), and worrying about not having a job and not knowing exactly what I want to do.

A friend’s hen weekend was the perfect distraction. We stayed in
this amazing house
for a few days. People came and went, and we had lots of fun. We spent an afternoon at
Jungle NI,
which I’d definitely recommend. I don’t do as many outdoor things like this as I should, but it’s so much fun. The treetop climbing course took me completely out of my comfort zone, especially since my friends made me go first, but it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. The instructors were so helpful, and encouraged me to try everything. The idea of a blind person up 80 feet high (even though I was in a harness) didn’t phase them at all. I was on a high for the rest of the weekend after that!

Last week we found out that I got funding for another year of disability awareness training from Irish Aid. They gave us everything we applied for which surprised me, but I’m so grateful. I’m looking forward to working on improving the workshops over the summer, and meeting at least twice as many students as we met last year from September onwards.

O.J had a 24 hour tummy bug last weekend in Carlow, which he generously passed on to Orrin. He had his annual vaccination this week, and it was a relief to have a few things checked and hear that the vet was happy. It seems that the st. Bernard we met a couple of months ago might have bruised his ribs a bit, but he’s in no discomfort at all. Since he left the vet, he’s been full of energy and just wants to play all the time. He’s so cute! I took my dad for breakfast this morning, and O.J practically ran the whole way into town. My dad said, ‘Am I getting slow or something, or is that dog getting faster?’ Even the staff in the cafe laughed at his enthusiastic entrance into the building. Dougal has been in a brilliant mood for the last couple of months too. It’s like owning a puppy again. Let’s hope it lasts, because when the dogs are like this, we all have so much fun! We intended going for a short walk the other day, but ended up making it three times longer, just because when we got going, we all seemed to be in the mood to walk. I love when that happens.

Today I spent a few hours helping a couple of people with assignments for a Braille course they are doing. I don’t know if Braille has slightly changed, or I’ve invented my own unique way of writing some contracted words over time. Either way, I think we all learned a few new things.

Finally, I’ve been listening to music again recently. Counting down the days until the new David Gray album comes out at the end of June. My favourite piece of music at the minute is from the new ‘other voices’ series 12 album. It’s called ‘the Finnishline’ and it’s by Colm Mac Coniomaire. I’ve been dying to hear it again since first hearing it in February when he played in Derry. It’s not online, but trust me, it’s magic!
If anyone’s still reading, what music are you listening to these days?