The Year that Never Was: Part Two

maribel standing on cliff next to sign "Danger cliffs". She is wearing a hat and holding out her white cane. Photo by Harry Williamson

Coordinated by Maribel Steel

Editor’s note: The VisionAware Peers are ending 2020 with their perspectives on getting through this year and managing it well with vision loss. Be sure to read part one of this series.

Observing Change In a COVID Bubble by Maribel Steel

Maribel and her guide dog looking to the left. photo by Harry Williamson
Maribel and Dog Guide (photo by Harry Williamson)

There are times in our lives when we are an observer, at other times, the player. During 2020, I found myself being an observer of the COVID-Court of life. While I planned to travel and attend meetings and Toastmasters contests, all that changed as my state of Victoria, Australia, went into lockdown for eight months. My partner and I stocked up the pantry in preparation with shelf-stable foods. It felt like going into a safety bunker. From the comfort of our home, I began to observe my world from a different perspective.

At first, having so much time on my hands was a treat; no rushing to catch a train, no dashing out to appointments. Time moved more slowly as I adapted to a different routine; cooking leisurely, reading, and staying safe. If I couldn’t venture outside my front door, I created my oasis in my garden. I took to keeping a diary and spent hours as the guest in our guest room. Every morning and evening, I listened to an audiobook. With time on my hands, I joined a book club as I began to master the Zoom communication platform. Soon after, I joined a writing group, and to stay connected, I Zoomed in on Toastmasters meetings.

Yet, I was observing something else. Even with all this connection on a screen, I felt lethargic, sometimes gloomy, and without a purpose, craving to see my family and friends in person. In my diary, I wrote, “I am having a “stupid day” where nothing at all is happening, no agenda, no tasks, no desire to do anything as the weather is so still; the birds are still, and all feel under a heavy blanket. I am happy to have a nothing day, it is part of being in this COVID bubble.”

Now that Melbourne is moving forward again, I feel cautious. I learned much about my internal life. I am so grateful to have known what I can live without (e.g., bought things), and I genuinely appreciate having time to linger on the good things in my life.

The Year of Remote Learning and the Need for Inclusive Design by Steven Kelley

high definition keyboard which has white keys and large black letters
High Definition Keyboard

2020 was the year of Access Technology and Remote Learning as we all tried to move face-to-face training to various online platforms. One of the great challenges has been creating content and media that include as many learners as possible regardless of their tech abilities. Resolving these challenges continues to put us all in a much better position for delivering training moving forward, irrespective of the circumstances we find ourselves in or the technology at our disposal. 2020 has certainly been a year when our focus returned, again and again, to ever more inclusive design.

Staying Safe and Productive in a “Sandwich” Year by Amy Bovaird

sunset in Key West  showing birds sitting on pilings in the forefront; in the background a beautiful sunset with sail boats silhouetted
Sunset in Key West

2020 began with travel for my brother and me. In mid-February, we left Pennsylvania and headed to Florida. A day after flying home, I had a fever, chills, and the flu. The date: March 1st. That was the start of COVID-19. We never found out if I had it or not. Since I live in a small town, COVID-19 has not officially arrived. Within two weeks, the pandemic spread all over the news. By the end of March, schools and businesses had closed down. 

Being a home-based author, my routine remained much the same. My critique group regularly met online via Zoom. I didn’t have to worry about transport and could hear feedback more easily online. In the ensuing months, I produced two short eBooks, and submitted a travelogue to an anthology. In November, I again found myself alternating between chills and sweating. My doctor recommended the COVID-19 test. By then, the virus had become more commonplace, but in my case, the rumors of how invasive it was didn’t live up to the hype. The painless testing procedure took less than a minute. Five days later, the test came back negative.

That was my year, lots of good sandwiched between two COVID-19 scares. Quiet productivity carried me through the months. I cooked, and my brother ran our errands. We did our banking at the drive-through. My family stayed connected through Facebook video calls.

Although 2020 looked different, this had nothing to do with my eyesight. Like others around me, I kept myself updated on how to stay safe. I fared well and never took my good fortune for granted.

Finding the Good in 2020 Through Flexibility by Melanie Peskoe

sign spelling out the word "lemons" -using real lemons to form the letters. Photo by Harry Williamson
Lemons (photo by Harry Williamson)

2020 has been hard, no doubt. But I’d like to share some of the good things that have given me strength and happiness this year. In January, I started working with the American Printing House for the Blind. This has been an amazing experience and truly one of the very best things about this year. The pandemic also gave my family an excellent opportunity to spend quality time together which has been priceless. Another really happy thing to happen was the addition of the newest member of our family. We adopted Gus, a sweet, gentle, loving 7-year-old Boxer, from an animal shelter.

With the necessity for so many people to transition from the office to working from home, employers are now more open than ever to creating remote jobs, which increases opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired to gain meaningful employment. There’s no doubt that this year has been difficult, where like most others, my family was handed some pretty sour lemons. It has been a challenge to turn them into lemonade. My family experienced job loss, non-traditional instruction that has resulted in a challenging school year, the unexpected loss of loved ones, and this difficult-to-name feeling of gloominess and sadness for this life-changing year we’re all living through.

In a year when so many things were canceled, it had given us a glimpse of our shared strength and the determination to create new paths when the old ones were no longer available.

On the flip side, due to COVID-19, we are also experiencing a sense of community and resilience like never before with a renewed effort to help humankind. Despite all of the tough times, 2020 has shown us what we’re capable of when we open our minds to new possibilities, adapt to creative solutions, and find ways to stay connected to our communities. This all being said, I am very ready to open a new door and close the old year ‘that never was’!