Ernie Jones, one of our former members, wrote a monthly column about various aspects of blindness for the Union Bulletin. Below are links to his articles.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Longtime U-B contributor Ernest “Ernie” A. Jones Sr. (July 13, 1937 — June 1, 2018), a registered nurse who retired due to vision loss, died June 1, 2018.
|Late writer’s final column about encouraging the blind
|A blind child, or even the adult who has lost his eyesight, must be encouraged to fight for life, to do everything himself if he is to succeed in life — even if this means doing activities the sighted think a blind person should not do.
|Sunny spring days can make a difference in your outlook
|Ever go to a supermarket or any other store on an early bright day and notice all the smiles the people wear and how cheerfully they speak to one another? There is new life on a sunny spring day.
|Though I can’t see it, the computer is part of my daily life
|I am often asked how I can use the computer. Years ago, I learned to use the typewriter, placing my fingers like the typist did, index fingers on the F and J keys. I have a high-rise dot on these two keys, allowing me to be able to start typing correctly. I have a few other keys also marked this way, making using the computer keyboard quite easy to operate.
|Blind gardener grows produce you don’t have to see to believe
|Do you have a hobby that gives you exercise as well as mental relaxation? Can exercise be enjoyable and fun? My garden gives me a workout, fresh produce and mental leisure. It also surprises people at what I — as a blind person — can grow.
|Blind use senses of hearing, touch, temperature to experience eclipse
|Is the only way to experience a solar eclipse through your eyes? No, there are other ways to gain understanding when an eclipse appears in the heavens overhead, and for this I am thankful.
|Milestones in living with blindness in the modern day
|Have you ever thought about how people in the modern day have dealt with being blind? I did some research and learned a lot. Following are some bits of information you may find interesting.
|Blind learn to navigate based on sensory input from ears, feet
|Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be blind? When you are out walking, do you hear the birds singing, the wind brushing the trees or a plane flying overhead? Or are you so intent on looking where you are going you have turned your ears off?
|Snow can be a ball, as long as you keep your bearings
|Ever walk under a snow-laden tree, only to realize too late — as you feel the snow slide gleefully down your neck and back — you didn’t duck your head low enough? One can imagine the melting snow laughing as the person gives a gasp of surprise and tries to shake any remaining snow off.
|Training a guide dog an extensive process
|Guide and service dogs are invaluable to the humans they assist. But their helpful behaviors aren’t inborn; the dogs must undergo extensive training before they’re able to serve as the eyes, ears and hands of the folks who need them.
|Some disabilities — such as deafness — might not be as obvious
|While you go about your daily life — working, driving, caring for the house and children, watching TV or any other activity — have you ever thought how life would be if one day you lost your hearing or eyesight? If told you had to either lose your sight or hearing, which would you choose? Are there any advantages or disadvantages of one disability over the other?
|October 15 a red-letter day for white canes
|Tap, tap, tap. That’s the sound of independence. It’s the sound of people with visual impairments, using a white cane to confidently navigate to work, to school or out for a daily walk.
|Leading them by their cane not among accepted methods of assisting the blind
|Have you wondered how best to assist a blind person? Following is a list of comments I received when I asked other blind their thoughts of how sighted people can best assist them.
|Blind pedestrians at risk of attack by loose dogs
|The sun’s warming rays were breaking through the clouds, while the west wind softly wrapped us in its feathery cloak as we headed down the road. The traffic was light due to the early hour, and my guide dog, Randy, was showing his eagerness for a walk. His guiding was great and he alerted me to the road crossing, working as he was taught at guide dog training school, nine years before.
|Gardening at night not only for the blind
|The night was mild following a very hot summer day. Carol sat in her rocker on the deck, listening to the crickets and frogs in the nearby stream. A gentle cooling breeze brushed her hair and rattled the pages of the newspaper lying on her lap.
|For the blind, danger lurks at every turn on some roads
|As you walk along a city sidewalk and approach an intersection, you might notice a tactile strip, what you might think are just some bumps in the pavement. You will also find these strips when entering or exiting Walmart’s main entrance.
|What do the blind ‘see’?
|Before losing my eyesight, I figured the blind — those who had little or no light perception — saw only black. But this is not the case.
|Crossover appeal: Making streetcorners accessible to the blind
|My cane struck the pole. I pressed the walk button, then took 12 steps to what I hoped was the edge of the curb. But there was no curb to really define the street’s edge. It had been made to lie flat with the street, thus allowing for wheelchair access.
|Dogs at your service
|One may find “service” dogs that have no training and are a nuisance in public, giving the well-trained service/guide dogs a bad name. But there are well-trained service dogs that not only are a help to their partner, they also show their sound training when out in public. As follows are several of their stories, adapted from writeups by Canine Companions for Independence.
|‘Blind’ as a bat: Neither literally nor figuratively true
|“I once knew this little lady who was blind as a bat,” spoke a woman as my wife Dorothy and I were leaving the church. “Her husband would lead her around by her hand — it was so cute!” Then, after catching her breath, she added — while still looking at my wife — “Well, how is Ernie?”
|Mysterious nighttime noisemaker needles homeowners
|Having always lived in a one-family house, I was not used to hearing sounds above me. But one night it seemed like a new resident was taking up housekeeping overhead.
|Driving blind: Fun at every turn
|We had just arrived, expecting to spend a couple of restful days with family who lived on the banks of an inlet of the Pend Oreille River, when my nephew said, “Tomorrow you will drive the Rhino, the John Deere and the zero turn.”
|Blind don’t see sharp, still can be natural musicians
|“Ernie, will you join the church choir if I join?” asked a friend who was losing his eyesight.
|Eating in the dark
|Blind don’t need looking out for
|While talking to an acquaintance we had known for years, my wife said, “I am taking an extended trip back east to assist our daughter. I may be gone over a month.”
|Despite blindness, life can be great
|In last month’s column I related people’s thoughts about going blind. This month I’d like to present what people have told me about learning to cope with blindness after the initial shock lessened, and what they did with their lives. No one wants to be blind, but life can still be great.
|The blind share their viewpoints
|How would you face blindness if today you were told you were going blind? As follows are things other blind people have shared with me, as we try to show that blindness may not be all bad.
|Well-behaved dogs allowed to fly
|Several months ago I heard a news report about a blind man and his guide dog being removed from an airplane, after the crew stated the dog was disruptive. I don’t know the full situation, but would like to make a few comments.
|How the blind make themselves at home
|When planning a move, people typically check out the new house or apartment to make sure there are enough bedrooms and bathrooms. Will the kitchen be serviceable, and is there room for all your furniture and other belongings?
|‘Seeing’ without eyesight
|The words slam into you as you hear the doctor say, “I can’t restore your eyesight. You will be going blind.”
|Sight not needed to have ‘vision’
|I often hear a person has impaired vision. Why is one considered impaired just because they are blind? To me, being impaired means the person is unable to perform normal daily tasks. True, we can’t drive the family car — something that is really hard to give up — and we usually can’t read normal print. But does that make us impaired?
|Guide dogs like to have fun, too
|Did you know our guide dogs like to enjoy life, even if this may not be according to the strict laws of being a guide dog? Here are a few examples of the other side of the guide dog existence.
|For pity’s sake, get a grip
|Have you ever had a Poor-me Pity Party? If honest, I think every person at one time or another has had such a party. Why did this happen to me? Why did I trip over that crack in the sidewalk? Why did my marriage fail? Why did I go blind?
|Industrious or foolish? Depends on your point of view
|Growing up, I was taught that the fact that I was very nearsighted and had to wear thick glasses was no excuse to be lazy. I was expected to do my share of house, yard and garden work, the same as my other siblings.
|How to talk to the blind
|Do you know how to greet a blind person you meet? I’d like to share some examples of how you, the sighted, can respectfully interact with the blind.
|Guide dog keeps her charge out of hot water during hike along lake
|“Watch out!” my brother shouted. It was the first time my brothers were to walk with me and Melita, my first guide dog, over a rugged mountainous trail.
|Without accessible buttons, appliances are out of control
|Blind people have quite a difficult time operating devices that have hidden or confusing controls. But many appliance manufactures use hidden grids of controls, and remote controls feature arrays of identical buttons. Is it because this is supposed to look better? Is it because they can crowd more controls into one small box?
|Insomnia issues shed light on circadian disorder
|With the aid of a sleeping pill I had fallen asleep shortly after turning the light out, but was wide-awake two and a half hours later. Many nights I got only two hours of sleep.
|Variety of resources available for the blind
|“So what am I to do?” I asked. Just a few weeks earlier, noting a problem, I had made this appointment with my ophthalmologist, never expecting this verdict.
|This dog is more than just a man’s best friend
|‘I can sure tell whose dog he is,” the field trainer said, smiling, as he watched Randy. “That dog has eyes only for you; he is your dog for sure.”
|Columnist breaks down macular degeneration
|Crash! — and the glass full of water fell to the floor.
|Blind technician oversees setup of new computer
|I grew up doing garden and yard work, so although I’m blind now, caring for a garden is not that difficult. But when it comes to upgrading to a new computer I am lost.
|‘Seeing’ can involve more than meets the eye
|People use their eyes to see the beauty that lies all around them — the blue sky, fluffy white clouds and that old crow perched on top of the spruce tree. With their eyes they see the storm clouds rolling in from the west and they see that blackened area where a recent fire swept through.
|Mountain trail no match for blind hiker’s resolve
|“You are going to do what?” My wife Dorothy and I, along with my guide dog Randy, were at our yearly church campout. As in past years we looked forward to having a great time visiting, sharing and, of course, eating delicious food. But I had another plan: To once again hike up the rugged mountain trail that climbed the hill directly behind the camp.
|Readers respond to Ernie’s columns
|I’m encouraged when I hear that something I have written has helped another person, so in this column I want to report and comment on a few calls I have had over the past months.
|For service dog training, there’s no place like home
|Heritage Service Dogs, an Oregon nonprofit corporation, is an agency located in Milton-Freewater. The agency, operated by Barb Pierce, breeds AKC-registered standard poodles specifically to work with the disabled, and also assists people with disabilities through the process of selecting and training their own service dog.
|Week pays tribute to hard-working service dogs
|This is the first in a two-part series about service dogs and the benefits they provide to humans. The second part will be published in August.
|Going blind is not end of life
|Why do many people think going blind is the worst thing that could befall them? When told they are legally blind they go home and try to hide this fact from their family, their neighbors and friends. For some reason they don’t want anyone knowing they are blind and because of this reticence they miss out of a lot of life.
|Out to pasture on a four-wheeler
|“Ernie, how about taking a ride on the four-wheeler?” my nephew, Loren, asked me that warm summer day.
|Woodlands trek experienced by touch, smell and hearing
|Although a light coat felt good as we started our walk this late spring morning, there was a promise of a warm day.
|Randy’s day to be the classroom pet
|With a confident stride, Randy took me down the long hall at Rogers Elementary School in College Place.
|Visions of snow and warmer memories
|I listen to the conversation as the van carried us up the hills that cold December afternoon. I must confess that I was going along, not because of my desire but just to please the others who were bent on getting wet and cold in the snow.
|A few words on speaking with and among the blind
|“Hello,” I hear a voice say to my wife and me as we pass the crowded foyer.
|All in a day’s work for a service dog
|I am often asked how long it takes to train a guide dog. The short answer is, the life of the guide dog.
|Vision disorder not a show-stopper for kids
|“Watch out where you’re going,” Jim shouted to his friend.
|Good dog owners make good neighbors
|I expected some response from the blind community after my July 24 column about the attack on my guide dog several years ago and a continuing problem of unattended animals. But I was not prepared for the volume I received from sighted folk.
|Unruly dogs turn stroll into a walk on the wild side
|The attack caught me completely off guard and in mid-stride I was jerked around to face the direction I had just come from. I found my guide dog lying on the pavement with the attacking dog just out of my reach, growling menacingly at us.
|Phantom vision a phenomena when loss of eyesight occurs
|I was sitting in my favorite recliner chair watching what I could still see on the television screen. Other than the TV, the room was quiet and I wasalone. For some reason I turned my face and nearly jumped.
|Help is there, but first you have to want it
|“I don’t need any help; I am doing fine,” the husband said. Turning to walk out the door, he cracked his head on the door jam. “So I bump into things, but so do many with good eyesight,” he said to his wife while rubbing at the pain on his head.
|One man, one dog and a world of trust
|One early autumn morning a while back my brothers, nephew and I decided to walk the four-mile trail that wandered from end to end along Sullivan Lake in northern Idaho. Although it had rained during the night, the morning ushered in blue skies.
|A view to last for a lifetime
|It was a crisp autumn day as I walked up the lonely gravel road years ago near Colville. The sun shone brightly on the hillside; no smog dulled the atmosphere.
|Sound and fury of a windstorm creates images of nature
|After zipping up my coat we headed out for my guide dog Randy’s first morning relieving. Not a bird did I hear singing from tree or shrub, but that didn’t mean the world was silent.
|Glaucoma a stealthy eye disease
|I remember the day clearly. ‘You have glaucoma,” my eye doctor said. ‘Put these drops in your eyes three times a day.”
|Blind or not, tear down dark walls of pity
|The sun seemed to hide behind a dark wall as I listened to my ophthalmologist: “You are legally blind, your work as a nurse is over. No more driving, no more using the mower, saw or garden tiller….” And the list of what I couldn’t do continued.
|The long, visionary road to Randy
|That I can move about independently in my rural Walla Walla County neighborhood with the help of my guide dog is owed to horrors of a long ago war and a young Tennessean who, like me, had been frustrated with his limited mobility due to blindness.
|Sight or no, life is a learning experience
|For the blind, finding one’s way may take practice but is very workable. A mechanic needs training before to work on your car’s engine. The auto body repairman needs training if he is to do good work.
|No need for eyesight to enjoy local birds
|I wake to the song of a robin perched high in the maple tree just outside our bedroom window. Then from high in the locust tree floats out the lovely trill of the meadowlark.
|Unfamiliar surroundings pose challenges for sight impaired
|I am independent when in my own familiar surroundings, but drop me in an unknown place and my independence may waver. Thus was a recent trip to the south hill of Spokane, an area I knew many years ago.
|Guide dog training continues at home
|There is a lot more in the training of a guide dog after the dog is placed in the home with the blind person than most people realize. Actually the training goes on continually. Different schools will vary to some degree in their methods.
|Blind pet teaches lessons
|This is not my normal column and I hope this is okay as I am stepping out just a little to share with you a couple letters I received recently. They may explain more regarding blindness and whether to help or not to help a blind person.
|Program helps blind write
|Thanks to the advancement of this electronic age there is a way that almost everyone can use the computer.
|Winter wonderland full of silence, sounds as well as snow
|The air had a bite to it as my guide dog and I set off on our walk that quiet, frosty morning.
|Visiting another home a challenge to blind
|Have you ever thought what it might be like for a blind person to enter a house he has never been in before? This can be challenging, interesting, confusing and at times, even amusing, as a recent weekend visiting family might show.
|Road construction turns walk into a mystery
|For several hours, I had puzzled over the noise rolling across the valley. It didn’t sound like farm machinery, and that was all I could think of. Only after my wife told me there was road construction could I put a picture to the noise.
|Preparation is the key to successful gardening
|Whether people do gardening or have never had a garden really makes little difference in their reaction to the news that I grow a large garden. The most common question is, “How do you tell a weed from a good plant?”
|Guide dog’s harness a multipurpose tool
|Frequently I am asked what the guide dog’s harness handle or leash are used for. The dog harness has evolved over the years and may vary from training school to training school. Though the leather is thick and strong, the harness is light weight.
|There are many things the blind can do
|After I weed our flower beds or garden, I relax. for the weeds are gone, aren’t they? I can now forget about weeds; that is until I am brought back to earth by a statement, “The border along the driveway is getting weedy,” or, “The carrots need some attention.”
NOTICE: Links to Ernie’s articles are presented for your information and enjoyment. Inclusion here does not necessarily constitute endorsement by the United Blind of Walla Walla.