Thursday, 25 September 2008

Back on the Track

Whilst I remember I got an email back from Mandy at RNIB regarding the Braille Champions. She said my story was 'fascinating and inspiring'! Anyway, she's sent it up to the press office and they should be in touch with me in mid October, as at the moment they're busy with the 'have an eye test' campaign.

Last night I went to the athletics track with Courtney for the first time. I hadn't been on the track since April and hadn't done much exercise in general for about a month. I was worried that I might not even be able to manage a lap, but I surprised myself.

We did 3 laps of the track with about a 2minute break in-between. This allowed Courtney to get used to guide running. We then did 4 50m sprints, which I felt in my legs, but was pleased that I didn't feel I was going at snail's pace! We then attempted a lap to cool down, but I quit after 200m. Slightly annoyed with myself, but I won't let it happen again!

Next week I hope to be training back at the Pingles with Sheila, as she's a great coach. Going swimming for the first time on Friday in nearly a year. That should be fun, hope Courtney is good at life saving!

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Braille Champions

I was reading the latest issue of Pure magazine from RNIB, which is a girly mag in Braille. There was an article stating that it's Louis Braille's 200th birthday next year, (the guy who invented braille). To mark the anniversary RNIB are looking for Braille users to share their experience of using it. For some reason they are calling it Braille Champions, but i'm not sure why. Anyway, I thought I would be a good sport and participate, as they hint there are opportunities to share your experience on radio, tv, their website and publications. This is something I enjoy doing and i'm all for awareness of visual impairment.

Here's what I wrote, i'll let you know if they want me!

Dear Mandy

I’m Selina, 20 years old from Leicester. I read about the ‘Braille Champions’ in RNIB’s Pure magazine and would like to give my input. My contact telephone number is: 07732284343.

My story:
I have been visually impaired since the age of 2 and until I was 10 had good partial vision. I was totally blind in my right eye and could read large print in my left. As soon as I learnt how to read I became a serious bookworm. Most books for young children come in a good-sized font, but my local library used to order in books especially for me too.

At the age of 10 I woke up one morning with blurry vision and by the evening I was totally blind. Luckily, I had numerous operations to restore some sight and was then able to read 48-point font. To continue my love of reading I used a CCTV. The first book I read was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and I was immediately addicted to the series.

At the age of 11 it was decided that it would be more beneficial for me to learn Braille against my will. I was still adjusting to my sight loss and continued to have deteriorating vision with more operations in an attempt to save my sight. My sight was reducing and the magnification increasing on my CCTV, but the eyestrain and headaches didn’t bother me, as I was grateful I could read print.

By the time I was 14 Braille and I were enemies. I was too reluctant to learn it and found it so difficult. My logic was that I could read print so I didn’t need it. Of course realistically I did.

The teachers gave up on me and I stopped attempting to read Braille at 14. I struggled through my GCSEs and A Levels with a CCTV. The day before my English Language A Level exam my sight dropped and reading on the CCTV was a nightmare. I squinted and strained to read the blurry text. No chance of getting a reader in English. I was so determined though that my blindness wouldn’t beat me.

After my A Levels I made a conscious decision to go to RNC (Royal National College for the Blind) for one year to learn Braille and independent living skills. I felt now was the time for me to learn Braille and some final acceptance of my sight loss. I did adapt to my sight loss before my exam and was able to read comfortably on my new CCTV that I got for my 18th birthday. The best present ever was my Clear View Plus, as it was more advanced and clearer than my Aladdin Rainbow.

At RNC I loved learning Braille. I don’t know why, but I picked it up quite quickly. In January at RNC my sight went yet again and as usual another operation was needed to restore it. I was so used to the procedure after having 14 operations, but although in the surgeon’s eyes the operation was successful, I lost my ability to read. For months I desperately tried to read with my CCTV, but couldn’t. The final Harry Potter book was due out in the summer and I had to read it!

I completed the Finger Print Braille course a month before Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released. I had ordered my print copy months before, but what use was that to me now. I have never been a fan of audio books, as they send me to sleep and takes the imagination out in my opinion. So, I had no choice, but to order the book in Braille from RNIB. One good thing was that it was being released on the same day.

I was shocked when 16 volumes arrived on my doorstep! I had never read more than 1! I made sure nobody told me the story and ploughed through the book. My reading speed was about 1 page every 10mins and I could only read a couple of pages at a time before needing a break. It took me 3 months to complete the book and I was so proud that I had done it.

Braille has honestly changed my life for the better. I’ve known it properly for just over a year now and have managed to keep my passion for books alive. My speed has increased rapidly and no book is a challenge after Harry Potter! I loan books from RNIB’s National Library and get Pure magazine monthly. I also have Uno and normal playing cards in Braille, which I enjoy playing with friends and family.

Braille isn’t the easiest thing to learn, but once mastered is well worth it!

Thank you for reading and apologies for the essay!

Hope to hear from you soon

Kind regards

Selina Litt

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Paralympic Power

So the Paralympics are over and China did another great job not only at hosting, but collecting the medals! They won no less than 219 in total. We also did fantastic finishing second on the medals table behind the hosts with an amazing 102 medals.

There are too many outstanding performances to mention, but the ones that stood out for me excluding the visually impaired were 13 year old Elle Simmons getting 2 gold's in the pool and us winning 13 out of 14 gold's in the cycling.

Obviously, I was most interested in the visually impaired, but was disappointed with our lack of participation. The B1 football team didn't really shine and I believe we won one medal in the judo. Out of 33 swimming events for the VI we had 3 competitors all in the B3 (S13) sight category winning zero medals. On the track we had 5 participants and Libby Clegg did really well to get silver in the T12 100m. She did a PB every round, so you can't ask for more than that! Finally, Aileen McGlee won 2 gold's in the tandeming.

Watching all of this has undoubtedly inspired me even more to want to achieve high in athletics. I've now seen my competition and know what I need to do. My PA Courtney starts on Monday and I look forward to getting down to some serious training. I want to be there in 2012 and know I will feel awful if I'm not. I will still try and improve at Goalball and I have no more excuses of why I can't succeed. Well, except that I need to get over my cold first!

Wednesday, 17 September 2008


In 2005 I went on a Spanish Exchange with RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind). It was the first time I had been away from home and met other visually impaired people. So, it was an amazing experience in many ways for me. Even though they did forget me at the airport, as they thought I could see enough to follow! We first went to Alicante and spent a week there. I met some great Spanish people and some good English ones too. A couple of months later they came to England and we spent a week in Hastings where it rained everyday without fail even though it was July!

After the exchange I kept in touch with most people via MSN. After being nagged for 3 years to go and visit the Spanish I finally organised to meet up with Paula in her home town of Torrevieja for 4 nights with my Jack.

Here's how it went…

Thursday 11th September:
Probably not the wisest thing to travel on 9/11, but I honestly didn't think about it at the time of booking. The flight with Easy Jet was at 07:05am, so we got a taxi at 5am. I had pre-booked the assistance online, but was still a little nervous that things wouldn't run smoothly.

The taxi was early and we arrived at the airport in good time. I felt really tired, but excited to be heading for the sun. The assistance was fine although I did have to force them to allow us to grab some breakfast for the plane. The flight was on time and Paula and her mum met us at the airport.

It was strange seeing Paula again after such a long time. She seemed exactly the same. Her usual bubbly self. Paula has Nystagmus and is photophobic too.

We got to the hotel called Torre Joven and I wasn't impressed when they put us on the second floor. I had specifically asked for the ground floor just because it's easier for Jack and me. However, they obviously thought they were being disabled friendly, as we got a wheelchair accessible room.

It was lunchtime now and my belly was grumbling. Jack and I went for a wander to find food. Jack really struggled to see in the sun and guide me at the same time, but I gripped a symbol cane in hope that people would be considerate. We eventually found a nice café and I stole Jack's cheese burger, as it was a lot nicer than my cheesy chips!

Paula came back to the hotel and took us to where she lived. We went for a walk by the beach and got ice-cream. The ice-cream was gorgeous, but I've never made such a mess in my life! It melted before I could even have a lick. It was very funny though.

Next, Paula suggested that we went and smoked. Not drugs although I wasn't convinced. In England I believe its called shisha or hooker. According to Paula it was just flavoured water. We got vanilla to share and it was an interesting experience. We all choked when we inhaled and it left a funny taste on my tongue. Let's say I won't be rushing to do it again anytime soon!

The hotel was predominately Spanish people and their English was minimal. Jack and I needed help with the buffet and I gave up trying to explain in English and just said 'ciego', which means blind in Spanish. Then for some reason they assumed that I understood Spanish!

Friday 12th September:
The weather was beautiful and we had arranged for Paula to come to our hotel and relax by the pool with us. Paula was catching the bus and arrived over an hour late and then told us she could only stop an hour. This was a shame, but we still enjoyed playing uno. The pool was too cold to go in unfortunately.

In the afternoon we were going to a complex where they had bowling and an arcade etc. Paula told us that she will get on the bus to our hotel and we would meet her on the bus to go to the place. After waiting at the bus stop for half an hour Paula called and told us just to get on the bus and she would call us when we needed to get off.

The bus eventually came and after an hour we were wondering when we would get there. Time passed on and half an hour later I attempted to speak to the bus driver. Thankfully a Spanish woman got on the bus who could speak some English to give us a helping hand. We must have gone past the stop and the Spanish lady spoke to Paula on the phone. Once we had established where we needed to get off the driver told us. Just over 2hours on the bus we made it! I was quite annoyed, but I think Paula felt guilty enough.

We then walked to the complex and had a game of bowling. Of course Jack won and I came second, but I could have done better. Then I sat on the side and Jack and Paula had a game of pool.

Whilst sitting in darkness I did feel a bit left out, but what can you do. There was no point getting depressed about it, as I was on holiday and just wanted to have a good time.

Saturday 13th September:
Paula took us shopping and I really enjoyed myself. I bought 4 tops and on reflection wish I had bought more! Jack got a bit bored, as he decided he didn't want anything. Men will be men!

We had lunch at Paula's and her mum made a lush dinner. The Spanish omelette was perfect and the beef in sauce with mushrooms was nice too.

We then went for a chocolate milkshake and Jack and I had cream on the top of ours. Oh my god it was like heaven! I've never tasted such a good milkshake in my life!

That night Jack won 40euros on the gambling machine in the hotel, which he was chuffed about.

Sunday 14th September:
I wasn't feeling well at all and had a sore throat and felt really bunged up. After breakfast Jack and I fell asleep until 1pm! I was ill he was just being lazy! I wanted to watch the grand prix at 2pm, so we rushed for lunch to get back in time.

I watched all of the grand prix, but didn't understand a word of it! Jack said the TV picture was fuzzy, so he couldn't read who was in what position. I kept hearing 'Fernando' and 'Alonso', but at the end of the race hadn’t a clue who won!

We then jumped in to a taxi and went to Paula's for the last time. We wanted to go for pancakes, but everything was closed, as it was Sunday! Instead we went for another milkshake, but although it was the same place it was in a different area and they didn't make it the same. So, I stole Jack's brownies in ice-cream. Which satisfied me!

We sat on the beach for a while and listened to the waves, which was very soothing. I absorbed the final rays of sun and dreaded coming back to freezing England!

Monday 15th September;
Paula and her dad picked us up from the hotel at 8am to go to the airport. It was a quiet journey there and I can't remember if I fell asleep on the way. Paula and her dad checked us in and then the assistance came. We said our goodbyes and went on our way.

The flight was on time and Jack was going to watch Tottenham that night so needed to get back to London straight away from east Midlands. As soon as I got home I watched the grand prix in English!

Overall it was a nice holiday. It was great to see Paula again and she made the holiday enjoyable. I ordered flowers last night to say thank you, but I'm not convinced that they will get there! The address is complicated compared to us!

Saturday, 6 September 2008

My Quest for a PA

Through the Direct Payments Scheme funded by Social Services I was awarded 9hours of help in order for me to access sporting activities. This means I had to employ a PA and the job was advertised in the local paper.

I was surprised to find that 7 people applied for the position and I short-listed 5 for interview, which was held today.

At 11.15am I was wondering where my first candidate was and thought they might be held up because of the bad weather or having difficulty in finding my house. I eventually called and was told they weren’t coming. I was obviously disappointed, as it wasn’t a good start.

12pm on the dot the second candidate arrived. She was very friendly and began to ask me questions as soon as she walked through the door. Only I thought I would be in charge of the questions today! She was a qualified gym instructor and did judo at international level, which was impressive. She didn’t answer the questions as well as I would have liked, but I could tell she would be able to handle the post.

At 2pm the next candidate came and I used to go to the same primary school, as her. Not that we were ever friends, but I remembered her mum was the swimming instructor. Although she was a nice girl she lacked fitness and didn’t seem flexible with her availability, as she already worked full-time and needed to walk her dog daily.

Time ticked on and at 3pm there was another no show. I tried calling, but there was no answer. So with just one candidate left coming at 6pm there didn’t seem like much choice.

The final candidate arrived on time and she was my favourite judging from the application forms. She’s currently studying Sport and Performance at Loughborough College and plays for Leicester City’s Women’s football team. She answered the questions well and I liked her enthusiasm.

I weighed up the first and final candidates and eventually decided that Courtney, the last person was to be my PA. It was a tough decision, but I feel and hope it’s the right one. She’s accepted the job provisionally, which is a positive sign and I just need to sort out with Social Services what I’m meant to do next.

I have to say it really infuriated me that the two no shows didn’t call to cancel, as I felt it was extremely rude and inconsiderate. On a good note I look forward to working with Courtney to improve my fitness levels and do well in athletics.