(repost from an article Joy just had published at crixeo.com)

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OCTOBER IS NATIONAL DISABILITY EMPLOYMENT MONTH (NDEAM). HERE’S WHAT EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE VALUE DIFFERENTLY ABLED PEOPLE BRING TO THE WORKPLACE.

I recently returned to the field of education after an eight-year stay-at-home-mom hiatus. In addition to the typical reentry jitters and pondering over whether my favorite coral blazer is still in style, some more significant questions surfaced as I signed my contract: How will I travel to trainings and meetings after the closest bus routes to my house were just cut? What if one of my students or parents is allergic to my guide dog? And how many sessions with my accessibility specialist will it take for me to confidently use all the technology required to do my job?

As a person who is legally blind, these are legitimate questions to ask, but they’re also relatively straightforward to solve, especially when compared to the invisible barriers people with disabilities face…

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(Repost from article by Joy Thomas from Crixeo Magazine)

AN ACCIDENT UNLOCKED JASON PADGETT’S MATHEMATICAL AND ARTISTIC POTENTIAL, MAKING HIM ONE OF ONLY 40 PEOPLE IN THE WORLD WITH ACQUIRED SAVANT SYNDROME.

Jason Padgett, who has acquired savant syndrome, says he wouldn’t change any of the pain he underwent after being beaten, as he now sees the world in an overlay of geometric fractals that he believes hold answers to some of life’s biggest questions.

With the popularity of shows like The OA, The 4400 and Second Chance, questions about the human brain’s hidden abilities surface, leaving many of us to wonder what price we’d pay to unlock hidden neurological gems. Though these shows are fictional, the brain science behind some of them is not. And there are real-life people to prove it.

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Acquired Savant Syndrome: Meet an Accidental Genius

(Repost of article by Joy Thomas from Crixeo Magazine)

MANY PEOPLE SEE THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SERVICE DOG AND HANDLER AS A BEAUTIFUL, SYMBIOTIC BOND, BUT SOME ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS VIEW IT AS HARMFUL. ARE SERVICE ANIMALS ‘HAPPY’ WORKING? WE ASKED THE EXPERTS.

Amanda Bagwell-Chase, a self-proclaimed animal rights activist, proudly wears a T-shirt displaying a lion’s paw print next to a human handprint, referring to Cecil the Lion and symbolizing unity between animals and humans. But on several occasions Bagwell-Chase has been the target of public ridicule while wearing this shirt. The reason? She wears it while holding the harness of her service dog, Patsy.

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Service Animals: A ‘Chosen’ Career Path or a Life of Servitude?

20247589_1900845293573972_6553534300030194330_oLesson #1:  Paddle boarding visually impaired is the perfect illustration to describe the continuum of blindness that confuses the public (i.e. for people who are perplexed when they see someone with a guide dog or cane reading a text message with their eyes).  

Navigating around Newport Harbor today reminded me of my favorite quote about my eye disease, Retinitis Pigments. ”RP is seeing a tiny piece of paper across the room and then tripping over an elephant on the way to pick it up.” I paddled hard to the right in order to avoid a small buoy, feeling extremely proud of myself for spotting the bobbing mound of plastic, only to ram the tip of my board directly into a giant boat, which seemed to literally appear out of nowhere, though it rocked there gently all along. That’s RP, my friends: the person standing silently by the elevator, unbeknownst to you, who suddenly says “hi”, startling you to a halt. The trickery of RP is that you see many things. And then you don’t. You think you’re gliding along just fine. And then you crash. You see just enough for your mind to convince you that you’re seeing the whole picture. But you’re not.

The mobility help of a guide dog or cane might seem confusing or unnecessary to some. But it isn’t. Mobility aides keep second-guessing to a minimum and prevent run-ins with mute elephants and strangers near elevators who come out of nowhere (and perhaps with silent sea vessels if they were useful in water). #blindpaddleboarding #guidedogsfortheblind

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My mom sent me this list, and I read it on a day I really needed a different perspective.  After my kids’ ride to their theater rehearsal cancelled, it was too late to call an Uber, so I had to quickly ask a neighbor to drive them.  She was in the middle of cooking dinner for her family and seemed stressed by my request, and since inconveniencing people is always a fear, I felt like a complete burden.  If it hadn’t been one of their last practices before their big show, I would have just had them skip it in order to avoid having to ask.  Even when people tell me they are happy to be helping me out, I still feel like I’m imposing on their day.  Reading my mom’s perspective helped me to see that there are some benefits for the driver, or at least my generous mom chooses to see the benefits!  Even though I live too far from her to regularly enjoy the benefits of riding with her (lucky duck, Jenelle!), I am grateful to know all of the many reasons she considers her chauffeuring days a gift.  Thanks mom!  

Visual Description: Joy and Jenelle with their mother, Judy, decked out in snow gear with a snowy background.

Visual Description: Joy and Jenelle with their mother, Judy, decked out in snow gear with a snowy background.

  1. Quality time talking, planning family events and attempting to solve the world’s problems.
  2. Someone to share an “adventure” with.  My family knows my motto is “life is an adventure” (which I say every time I get lost driving somewhere).
  3. More chances to see my grandchildren.
  4. Better price shopping because two heads are better than one.
  5. I swear less at rude drivers.
  6. I get to research good parks to play at.
  7. It provides an opportunity for my old brain to practice multi-tasking.
  8. It reminds me to clean my car more often.
  9. It keeps me from taking the gift of driving for granted; I am very grateful. In a few years, I’m sure I will need someone to start “driving Miss Judy”.

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Visual Description: Joy and Roja with Joy’s husband and two daughters against a red curtain backdrop at Guide Dogs for The Blind Canine Heroes Wine Auction

It’s been awhile, I know.  Joy just keeps me hoppin’. Salt Lake. Portland. Leavenworth. San Fran. Most of those places had guide dog friends for me, though, so I’m not complaining.

Of course, on each of these trips, Joy planned a million things.  She even tried to get me on a giant bicycle in Golden Gate Park that she called a surrey.  It was terrifying!  Thank goodness her husband talked some sense into her.  i’ve always liked that guy, partly because he’s hairy like me, but mostly because he has common sense:  you don’t fit a 60 lb dog on skinny bicycle seats..

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Visual Description: Joy embracing a frighted Roja while her girls look onward on a 4 seat Surrey bicycle.

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recent Salt Lake City gathering.

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One year ago today, Roja and I graduated as a team from Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, CA, and life hasn’t been the same since. In addition to getting Roja, this past year has been full of both amazing and difficult changes. From moving across the country and being apart from dear family and friends to growing in confidence as a mom, writer and teacher, Roja has been a constant companion who shows unconditional love (and licks!). Continue reading

Snowboard Photo

Photo description: Ashley holding her snowboard with her guide dog, Rick, by her side.

As soon as I started connecting with Ashley Nemeth from Mommies With Guides, I immediately noticed something refreshing about her: she is completely matter-of-fact about her blindness and her accomplishments.  She is almost totally blind, so as soon as I heard that she is an avid snowboarder, I of course, had to ask how she does it.  I think you’ll find her response quite interesting!  

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When you have a guide dog, you sometimes feel like a famous person getting stopped frequently to sign autographs, minus the actual signatures and paparazzi.  When I first got Roja last year, I loved it when people stopped me to ask questions.  I didn’t mind if it turned into a longer conversation, as long as I was able to share all about Roja and Guide Dogs for the Blind.

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