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Paul's Latest Blog - Magnifiers and White Canes

iCAN experiences founder Paul Nicol embarks on his own personal blog, taking the readers on his journey from diagnosis of a sight losing disease through to the present day as he makes iCAN experiences a success in the midst of tough economic times.

Hello and welcome to my Blog. My name is Paul Nicol and I am the founder of iCAN experiences. iCAN experiences is a gift experience provider that is aimed squarely at people with disabilities. I will tell you more about iCAN experiences as this blog unfolds, but for now, I will continue on with my journey to where I am today.

In my last post, I recalled the emotions of selling my car and moving out of home. As I said, city living was great, without the tie of a car I had more money to spend, mainly on going out and having a good time!

It was on one of these nights out that I met my now wife Emma. It was a chance meeting; Emma was in Oxford on a whim, meeting up with an old University friend and I happened to live with the brother of said friend. We all met up and had a night out on the town! Emma and I got on really well and have I am pleased to say been together ever since. At the time of meeting Emma, my sight was reasonable and I was completely up front and honest about my sight condition. Despite all my efforts, it didn't deter Emma!

At the age of 23 I received confirmation from Moorfields that I was also plagued with Optic Neuropathy and this was the reason for my vision deteriorating at quite a pace. It was at this point that Emma convinced me that I should look into registering blind. It took some convincing as I wasn't keen on accepting the fact that I was blind and what registering represented. It took a little time for me to get used to the idea, but eventually I did. As it turns out she was right! Social services paid me a visit and quickly got me signed up to receive Disability Living Allowance, Tax credits and the best of all "Blue Badge", the park anywhere badge. Now, for those that are not familiar with the blue badge, it is the most brilliant invention, it enables Emma to park just about anywhere. In pay and display car parks, we park for free and we can even park on double yellow lines without issue! It is brilliant and if you're entitled to one, get it (Even if the scheme is under review).

Part of the social services visit was to talk to me about supportive aids. I was so very anti such things, I was at the time, young and keen to be cool, carrying around magnifiers, white canes and similar paraphernalia simply didn't fit the "Paul Nicol image"! What I did settle on was a small half dome magnifier, something that would fit in my pocket and I could use to magnify printed text. I took about 3 months for me to actually start using it! There was however, no way I was going to carry around a long cane or symbol cane, not gonna happen!

As time passed, I had to admit that I was struggling to view a computer screen, this was a key part of my job, being a computer support engineer at the time! My colleagues would see me with my nose pressed up against the screen and it became a reality that I was going to need some help here! I had to get in touch with Access to Work, they helped me by providing me with Dolphin Super Nova a screen magnifier and screen reader bit of software for a Windows PC, as well as some assistance with travel to work via a taxi as I was struggling with using public transport.

It was at the age of 25 that my boss, a great chap called Philip Bailey called me into an office with the Technical Director. Ominous I thought, Phil then very tactfully approached the subject of my mobility and safety around the office. He had noticed me moving around, bumping into the odd desk and using the wall of the corridor to navigate around. He was of course right, I wasn't the slowest of people and despite the best efforts of those around me, there was always a hazard around, be it a bin or a box of paper. I agreed to get some help and then dutifully did nothing! This was the acceptance thing again. I didn't want to use a white cane, I’d look stupid, people would look at me, it just wasn't me!

Anyway, life carried on for about 6 months and then once again, Phil called me in with the Technical Director again, "Paul, you've got to do something about your navigation around the office, we're really concerned for you" etc. I reasoned with them and got myself a white cane. It was however only to come out at work so that I could get around the building. I was definitely resistant to the white cane!

Undoubtedly, accepting the white cane, even in just the work environment was a major step. It got me used to walking around with the cane, got my colleagues used to seeing me with it and ultimately helped me to see that it was essential and that the issues that surround the cane were all of my own making and my own mind!

That's it for now, my next blog will cover my progress and how I got involved with outdoor activities.

I'm off to Birmingham sight village tomorrow, if you're going, I hope you enjoy the day, I know I will!

All the best,
Paul

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