14 Mar 2015

5 Key Ways Blind People Do It Better

“Master yourself, and become king of the world around you.
Never be a victim of life; be its conqueror.”   Mike Norton

It’s true! Anything sighted people can do, visually-impaired or blind people can do it better! Don’t believe me? This photo was taken of me zipping around an actual race track with other blind drivers in Melbourne – have you been there, done that yet?

I’ll admit, I don’t drive a normal boring car – the tech guys are working on it though, I’m imagining the driverless car will be available for blind people soon. What a hoot!

Yes, be warned, we know our limitations and we’ve adapted to this blind-challenge.

Being blind brings a new spin on life. When you accept the ride, you actually find many ways in which to excel, exciting ways in which you can put your ‘foot to the pedal’ and enjoy life to the full. Come and take a back seat and allow us to show YOU the way for a change.

I’m raring to show you five keys to help you navigate through the racetrack of life.

Get ready…set…GO!

  Key 1:  blind people are experts in decision making

We know how to  cut down on too many choices and make a decision to save mental energy.

According to research, we all have a limited amount of brain power available to us every day. The more decisions we have to make, the weaker our ability to decide on many aspects of our day. And we can suffer from brain-fatigue too.

The simple act of having to choose between too many options can lead to overload.

When I read this, it became clear to me why as a visually-impaired person, I like to ‘cut to the chase’ and focus on realistic options when I am with sighted people because it allows me to reserve my thinking-battery and be more effective with brain-energy for those other important decisions.

The mere action of getting around is taking up most of my brain and sensory cells in decision making, to stay safe, to negotiate around obstacles, to listen out for sudden changes as I tread carefully around my neighbourhood or for example in the supermarket. My shopping list says ‘orange juice’. Please don’t tell me the other fifty shades of orange – I am really content with my original choice of orange juice.

Making a firm decision once we know our options is also liberating for our sighted helpers: we have freed you from feeling overwhelmed by having to tell us every detail in front of your eyes. Let’s keep the wires clear to our thought process and enjoy the decisions we make with confidence.

Key 2: blind people are natural problem solvers

Every single day, we are confronted by tasks which would be easier if we could see but our eyes have gone on a long vacation without us so what can we do? We can adapt to seeing the task differently.

Watch how your visually-impaired or blind friend finds creative solutions that meet the task requirement by being resourceful rather than resentful, and good-humoured instead of bad tempered.

We problem solve and avoid frustration by looking for alternative methods to achieve a visual task.

Getting from point A to point B without sight requires practiced skills in problem solving, being tenacious,persistent and open to creative solutions.

Asking a blind person directions is not as silly as it sounds because we have already mapped out the route…going my way?

Key 3: blind people are natural observers

Gathering detail about our environment  is not only in the seeing, it is in the feeling, in the knowing, in the observing of tiny details the eyes can miss because they can’t see for looking. Close your eyes and what happens? Your entire body becomes alert to subtle sensory observation.

We are expert detail detectors because we take notice from a variety of sensory skills.

Our ears hear you, our heart feels for genuine communication or awkward silences, our body alerts us to physical changes, our hands hold a picture of life and our intuition has a clear line to a deep knowing that guides us.

Close your busy-body eyes in a café or any other place as an experiment and see how well you begin to observe so much more. Leave your visual prejudice in the dark and open up to the full experience of observing life differently. We actually do see more in the dark than you realise.

Key 4: blind people are awesome time managers 

Dali - the persistence of memory - tapestry by j cinquin
You know the saying, ‘if you want to get a job done, ask a busy person?

This is because they know how to manage the task within realistic time constraints and boy, have we had our share of adapting to visual restrictions.

Losing the ability to see means people who are visually-impaired or blind take much more notice of the time it takes to achieve their tasks.

We have to be realistic in setting our goals and pace ourselves.

Time checks are a regular part of our day: as in preparing for an outing, a meeting, a deadline, cooking for our family, organising our children for school.

We have learned the essential skill of keeping time so we can saunter through our task with good old Father Time.

He’s got all the time in the world for each one of us – so take his hand, the minute one or the hour one and be realistic when setting deadlines.

Notice the grace and skill of the blind person who manages time wisely and you too can enjoy the time of your life – every second of it!

Key 5: blind people are ambassadors for living life to the full

You may not think it possible to rediscover the joy in life when you are losing more of your sight or when you have to face the frightening reality of impending blindness. Your life is never going to be the same, it is true, but it’s going to be different, not necessarily worse.

People who are visually-impaired or blind wake up every morning alongside their sighted loved ones with the same desires: to be happy, to be fulfilled, to be at peace, to feel a sense of belonging, to want to contribute to our families wellbeing, to feel safe and secure emotionally and physically, to take our place in the world, so why would anyone see the one weak part of their life as the whole part of who they are?

I won’t deny it has taken many bumps and bruises to my ego and much effort and soul-searching to understand this ‘blind-life’ but what I have discovered is a real treasure: being blind doesn’t stop anyone from enjoying a fulfilled life.

It’s the choice and decisions we take that can keep us striding onwards like ambassadors for life. Come take our hand and the blind will show you the way to find courage and how to keep your face to the sun even on a cloudy day.

After all, it’s the life we were born to live, so we might as well make it the best one we can…

There you have five ways to see how blind people do it better. I have more in draft but for now, we’d love to hear other key ways from your own experiences…

Copyright © Maribel Steel 2015

Photos Copyright © Harry Williamson

18 Feb 2015

Seeing a Brighter Future

“As we rise to meet the challenges that are a natural part of living

we awaken to our many undiscovered gifts, to our inner power and our purpose.”

Susan L. Taylor

My journey as a writer and inspirational speaker has brought me to a wonderful NEW opportunity! To give more presentations this year.

To give some of you more of an introduction to my life’s journey, this post is an excerpt of an interview I was invited to do with the editor of Exceptions Journal | The Art & Literary Journal for Students with Visual Disabilities in the USA.

How did you get to where you are today?

In a nutshell – with a determined heart, a resourceful way of thinking and with tenacity of spirit. My father likes to say I’m stubborn but I don’t agree and won’t hear of it!

My aspiration to become an artist emerged around the age of tenand my parents encouraged me to pursue my deep appreciation of drawing, especially my Spanish mother who had many talents in the creative arts.

My English father was a lecturer and researcher in ‘Romance Languages’ at University and on some Sunday afternoons, I pestered him until he agreed to take me to the empty university as my heart was fixed on one mission: to draw in the private classroom with coloured chalk on the wide blackboard.

But a few years later, I was struggling to see anything on the blackboard at all. An alarming inability to see my school work at fifteen, led to a serious investigation and countless tedious tests. It took the skill of fifteen Opthalmologists and other specialists to deliver the definitive diagnosis. I had an incurable eye condition, Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) and was pensioned off as legally blind.

How do you think this has affected your experience of life ?

I do remember a defiant spirit rise within my young heart that I would take the obstacle of vision loss as a challenge, and not view my life as limited.

I have learned through this experience that often it is my attitude that will bring me victory or defeat in what I am trying to attain. Instead of saying what I can’t do, I look for realistic ways to reach my goals. Sometimes this might be on my own and at other times it involves seeking assistance from others.

I have learned a beautiful truth that to ask for help when you really could use a sighted person’s eyes is not a sign of weakness but actually gives both of you a wonderful opportunity to interact and to achieve together – the classic win-win situation.

What have been the most important resources for you in adapting to vision loss?

My personal philosophy is that there is an ART in being blind.

Life is about developing our skills in whatever career or hobby we choose to master. The only difference with losing sight, is that we didn’t choose this ‘vocation’.

Obviously, as the organ of sight weakens, we are forced to rely on our other senses. Apart from these sensitivities, three personal qualities that have proven to be powerful resources in my life are attitude, intuition and memory.

I have found trusting my intuition to guide me when sight cannot, and improving my ability to remember the smallest of detail, to be the two best friends of attitude.

What do you write about? 

My writing is mainly nonfiction, memoir type stories where I reflect on many aspects as a person facing the gateway to blindness.

Ideas jostle to be written and, like children, I have to ask them to kindly wait their turn.

On good writing days, inspiration flows and often situations that occur as I travel or the funny things people say end up being my published stories.

But on those very difficult days, I can feel like I’m stuck in a sand bunker slogging out words that won’t lift out of the sandpit of this writer’s despair.

I have learned, as in life in general, to let it go, take a break and come back later.

“The first draft reveals the art, revision reveals the artist.” Michael Lee

 What role do you think storytelling plays in our human experience?

When we open to the sharing of our personal stories, we feel the connectedness with others. Every single person has a challenge in their lives and they will be confronted to face it at some point.

It may be a health issue, the diagnosis of pending blindness, a mental illness, a relationship incompatibility, a financial concern, a family crisis – we have been enrolled in the school of life, and when we find others in our similar situation, it is like opening a window to a heart-warming realisation: we are not alone.
Cradled at Cradle Mountain, Tasmania

To read the in depth interview please visit Exceptions Journal:

Over to you now, please share how you have met your own challenges along the journey to a brighter future, we’d love to hear YOUR story…

You might also like to read…

Benefit #1 Being Blind: you are the rose among the thorns

8-Threads to weave into the garment of change

3 Easy Ways to hopscotch into your dreams

© 2015 Maribel Steel

18 Jan 2015

15 Effective Ways to Get on the Right Track

‘Keep in mind that, even if you are on the right track,

you can still be left behind if you just sit there.  Anon

For those of you who may be feeling overwhelmed with the new year already taking off without you having made your plans and resolutions yet, be reassured: you are not alone.

By mid January of each year, I have usually drafted up an elaborate ‘to do’ list of realistic goals and am chomping on the writing bit to get started, to get on track and get moving after the hectic Festive Season of the previous year. But this time, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by all the different directions I could choose to explore, the creative projects I could revisit that didn’t get done last year or new ideas to nurture into fruition. Yet all the while, the year is moving on and I am still sitting here, reflecting, thinking, pondering options and possibilities… when suddenly I realise this is the phase before progress.

YAY – it’s OK to just BE for a while without the DOING!

Do you feel the same?

While I reflect and intuit my next step in 2015, may I share with you the words of successful writers and deep thinkers who may help us in turn to jump aboard the New Year!

Love of words – my first cuddles with quotations

I first became aware of the magic behind a poignant quotation when I was a teenager. The wisdom captured within these gems written by others seduced and engaged my thinking: caressing my thoughts and enlivening my imagination.

I had been diagnosed with an incurable eye disease and was facing the prospect of going blind. Quotes became a lifeline to positive thinking and I began to cuddle and collect them like dear friends. The ability to read long texts in my books was an arduous task but short quotations were easy to read and to remember.

I combed through books with the aid of a magnifying glass and kept a private collection in my diary. The power within each quotation often transported my thoughts over the hurdles of doubt and helped to lift my attitude out of a negative perspective to a positive vantage point.

As a writer living within a sensory world, the gift of blindness often opens my mind to a different perspective. Here are some ‘magical’ quotes that have enhanced my positive attitude towards facing a major life challenge.

Try them, lean on them like friends for a while, and see what happens for you. Allow their wisdom to lighten your heart and pretty soon you will feel a positive shift, your confidence lift and your thoughts soar with new possibilities… until you are refreshed and invigorated and inspired to move forward again.

15 Quotations

1. 'When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.’

~ Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

2. 'Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.’

~ Albert Einstein

3. ’We must be willing to relinquish the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.’

~ Joseph Campbell

4. 'Do just once what others say you can’t do and you will never listen to their limitations again.’  ~ Anon

5. 'People of character find a special attraction in difficulty, since it is only by coming to grips with difficulty that they can realize their potentialities.’

~ Charles De Gaulle

6. 'All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.’

~ Havelock Ellis

7. 'Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.’

~ Raymond Lindquist

8. 'Use this day to do something daring, extraordinary and unlike yourself. Take a chance and shape a different pattern in your personal cloud of probability.’

~ Vera Nazarian

9. 'Getting it "perfect" is not an act of artisanship, because the true artisan remains in a state of perfecting.’

~ Sina Mossayeb

10. 'There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.’

~ Anaïs Nin

11. 'Hold on to your dreams, for tenacity is the force that will anchor your visions, to create a reality that once seemed impossible.’

~ Barb Mayer

12. 'When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bounds: your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world.’

~ Patanjali

13. 'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.’

~ Helen Keller

14. 'If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible.’  ~ Soren Kierkegaard

15. 'Perhaps someday you will be thankful for some temporary failure in a particular direction. When one door closes, another always opens: as a natural law it has to. To balance.’

~ Brian Adams

How a quote a day can change your life

In 1998, a college student began sharing one enriching quote a day with his friends. Today, his website, Daily Good shares positive and uplifting news around the world to more than 100,000 subscribers...

LINK for 'Daily Good':  http://www.dailygood.org/


Do you collect words of wisdom too? Please share them with us in the comment box, we’d love to hear how words move and empower your world too!

You might also like to read:

Being Blind is the Obstacle and the Stepping Stone (Jan 2014)
Tools of the Blind Tradie May 2013
Benefit #1 Being Blind: You are the Rose among the Thorns (March 2014)

Introduction Copyright © Maribel Steel 2015
Photographs Copyright © Harry Williamson 2015

20 Dec 2014

Forever Stella Young

“I will do everything I can to meet you, eighty-year-old Stell. By the time I get to you, I will have loved with every tiny little bit of my heart and soul…By the time I get to you, I'll have written things that change the way people think about disability. I'll have been part of a strong, beautiful, proud movement of disabled people in Australia.”

Stella Young (1982-2014)

Stella Young wrote a letter to her eighty-year-old self – but the charismatic old lady will never get to read it – it is for our eyes only…dear Stella died two weeks ago, aged thirty-two.

At her colourful Memorial service today, I felt her strong, beautiful, proud and passionate spirit move through the crowd as thousands of people gathered in the Melbourne Town Hall to celebrate her life. Stella is remembered for her dynamic wit, her direct honesty, her strength to speak her truth and her warm and generous heart for her family, friends and community.

Wherever Stella went you were sure to notice her presence – she was a dynamo on wheels, a force to be reckoned with and a woman who was easy to admire but her challenges didn’t come easy…

Born with a condition known as Teogenesis Imperfecta, a genetic disorder that causes bones to break easily, Stella’s feisty and passionate nature to enjoy life with the same expectations as any normal human being put her at the forefront of advocating for the disabled community in Australia.

Leaving home at seventeen to study journalism at Deakin University, Melbourne, Stella became a member of the Victorian Disability Advisory Council, the Ministerial Advisory Council for the Department of Victorian Communities, the Youth Disability Advocacy Service, and Women with Disabilities Victoria.

Her public profile brought Stella into our lounge rooms when she was invited to host eight seasons of Australia's first disability culture program, called No Limits where her mischievous humour carried a punch line like no other!

Stella was an award winning comedian, writer, activist and former editor of ABC Ramp Up.

But in today’s moving memorial service she was a beloved daughter, sister,  mentor and friend, a cherished woman in our community reminding us in her passing to never give up feeling proud of who we are, never give up the pledge to make life a better place for having been apart of her dreams and her legacy…. 

“By the time I get to you, I'll be so proud. The late Laura Hershey once wrote about disability pride, and how hard it is to achieve in a world that teaches us shame. She said, 'You get proud by practising'. Thanks to my family, my friends, my crip comrades and my community, I'm already really proud. But I promise to keep practising, every day.”

The above is an edited excerpt from Women of Letters, by Michaela McGuire & Marieke Hardy. Published by Penguin Books Australia

Stella Young

Our dear Stella – you are a true star! God bless – and I pray you have told the good Lord to replace the stairway to heaven with a decent ramp up for those following your lead…!


Read a fuller excerpt of Stella Young’s letter to her eighty-year old self at:


And be captured by her charm at

Ted Talk  "Im not your inspiration"


“We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity.

We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.”

Max de Pree

Copyright © Maribel Steel 2014 Photographs © Harry Williamson 2014