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Welcome!

Hello! I’m John Buckley.

It is my privilege to welcome you to “Freed to Fly,” Club VIBES blog devoted to help promote independence for people who are blind or visually impaired.

I was born “legally blind,” having some, but very limited vision. I went straight through public school, receiving my PhD from Northwestern, and have taught at both UCLA and the University of Tennessee before losing all of my remaining vision.

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Other articles

Medical Privacy
If you think you have anything like medical privacy when you lose your vision, think again. I suspect that there is a secret clause in HIPAA that says, “This doesn’t really apply to anyone who is blind.” Some years ago, my eighty-year-old mother came to visit. Since she would only ...
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Blindness under a microscope
A Note from John: Please welcome guest contributor Sarah Holloway to our "Freedom to Fly" blog. As a high-school student, Sarah was one of the founding members of Club VIBES. She has received her B.S. in microbiology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. You’re legally blind and got a degree ...
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faux service dogs
Political candidates should be on notice that my vote can be bought. Anyone who promises to make passing off a pet as a “service dog” a capital offense, preferably with a slow, painful death, is my kind of elected official. If this seems a little extreme, let me explain. A ...
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drivers license
I need to preface this blog by letting you know that this story is no urban legend. It really happened. It was time for my wife to renew her driver’s license. She had lost her vision since the last time the license had to be renewed and assumed that, no ...
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make-believe
I am pleased to announce that, in the near future, in conjunction with some of my male friends, we will be launching a new program to help other men experience what it is like to give birth. We plan to call it “Baby Maybe.” (more…) ...
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narcotic of help
A willingness to help others is a laudable personal quality. We value it in friends and family. We want to develop it in children. It makes us feel better about ourselves. But, it can be like a narcotic for someone who is blind or visually impaired; that is, beneficial under ...
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seeing the elephant
Recently, I was asked by the friend of a friend if I would be the speaker at the annual banquet of a local professional organization. The group would have no difficulty locating a good speaker, so I was perplexed as to what they thought I might have to say that ...
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No not even once
Almost every time I hear someone say, “Do you mind if I pet your dog,” I hear The Bad John whispering in my ear, “Would you mind if I put sugar in your gas tank?” Of course, I never say it and really do appreciate people asking, but there are ...
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challenges_raising_blind_child
I am a real fan of the humorist, Wil Rogers. Among the many insightful things he said were his comments on Mother’s Day: “It’s a beautiful thought, but it's somebody's hurtin' conscience that thought of the idea. Someone … figured we’ll give her a day … and then in return ...
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emperor clothes
A number of years ago, I was asked by the friend of a friend to speak with a middle-aged man who was losing his vision but very much in denial. When I went to his home, he welcomed me cordially, invited me in, and offered me a soft drink. When ...
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Meeting a person who is blind
I would like to think that, polished sophisticate that I am, if I were introduced to, say, Queen Elizabeth or former President Clinton, I would remain the ever-poised person I like to think myself to be and not blurt, “Hi, Liz” or “Hey, how’s Monica doing?” In my more realistic ...
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old map paper cut in shape of human head with treasure map x and magnifying glass
If someone who is blind were to draw a map of your city, what would you think it would look like? What would be highlighted? What would be left out? Growing up in Kansas, which, if it’s not as flat as a table top, comes pretty close, it was relatively ...
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word "impossible" on cards with human hands removing the "im" to create the word "possible"
After a little reflection, all of us can name those people who had had the greatest influence on our lives: parents, favorite teachers, etc. Sometimes, however, people who only touch our lives very briefly may have a significant impact as well. (more…) ...
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hand holding magnifying glass with red word "niche"
As a blind or visually impaired student, there are all kinds of things that the others kids do that people say you can’t, and, to be honest, there are a few you will have to cross off your list. If you’re a boy, you’re never going to be quarterback of ...
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guide dog
If you read my last post on Why Do You Use a Cane Rather Than a Dog You may be wondering why, with all of the responsibilities and inconvenience associated with working with a dog, anyone would do it. It ultimately comes down to a personal preference, ...
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Air Travel Concourse
The easiest, or perhaps the least stressful, part of flying as a blind person is the flight itself. There are only a few things to keep in mind to make it a little less difficult than it might otherwise be. (more…) ...
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Your Feedback Matters
Every single one of you who reads my blog matters to me. I’m here because you’re here, after all. As we reach the first-year anniversary of the blog, I’d like to ask each of you to take a minute and help me see myself and the blog through your eyes ...
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Use a cane
When transferring between flights, most people simply pick up their luggage when exiting the plane, check for the gate number of their connecting flight, perhaps stop off at the restroom or get something to eat, walk to the gate area of their connection, and board when the flight is called ...
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Use a cane
Even though both a Chevy and a Ford will get you where you want to go, many people still have a strong preference as to what they drive. It’s not much different for people whose vision has deteriorated to the point that they must either use a cane or a ...
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Air Travel Concourse
Usually, getting to your gate and boarding is pretty simple and uncomplicated. With rare exception, gate agents are helpful. If, however, there is a snag in the process – your flight is delayed or canceled, the gate is changed – what you thought was going to be simple now holds ...
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Ordering in a restaurant
Ordering in a restaurant does not rank very high on the list of problems you have if you’re blind, but it can be both annoying and a bit frustrating at times. Fortunately, there are only a few things to keep in mind when trying to minimize problems. The menu. While ...
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Kathy Nimmer article
I recently ran across the following article from Kathy Nimmer, Indiana’s teacher of the year for 2015 and one of the four finalists for national teacher of the year. Her message is universal but especially appropriate for anyone who is blind or visually impaired and their parents and teachers. by ...
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Air Travel Concourse
Before turning to look at getting through security as a blind person, it might be helpful to remember the obvious: the purpose is to screen everyone as quickly and, hopefully, as thoroughly as possible. To the extent that you, as a passenger, can help expedite this process, you’re more likely ...
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super hero hearing
The short answer is “absolutely not.” The more complete answer is a little more complicated. What the audiologists say. Most of us will experience presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss. We’re not exempted from this happening just because we’re blind. In the last fifteen years or so I’ve lost about 8% ...
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Give Directions: Compass pointing to the word Trust
As I discussed in my last post, giving directions to someone who is blind sometimes means rethinking how we use visual language like “over there” and “here” that we are used to using when the other person can see what we’re talking about. In this post, I’ll be looking at ...
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Air Travel Concourse
In the last blog, I talked about checking-in at the airport and dealing with customer service representatives. In this post I’ll look at luggage and packing. Packing. I’ve deliberately waited to discuss packing until I was able to give some small sense as to what the experience of ...
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Eye Exercises
Dr. Cassie Bruno received her doctor of optometry (O.D.) from the Philadelphia College of Optometry and practices in Knoxville and serves on the Board of Club VIBES. Vision therapy is a relatively new area of optometry that people generally aren't aware of. The goal of therapy is to improve visual ...
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Give Directions: Compass pointing to the word Trust
Imagine for a moment that you are contacting tech support regarding a website you are having some difficulty with. Next, imagine that, for some reason, your monitor can’t be turned on. The tech is going to have to be creative enough to think of a different way of communicating the ...
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Air Travel Concourse
Think of the last time you flew. It’s probably not a very pleasant memory, but think back to getting through the airport, fighting security, changing planes, having your gate switched, rushing to make a connection, and, then, imagine doing all of this if you were blind. I’ve done it several ...
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Dumb questions name tag
Almost every question I’ve ever been asked as a blind person has been prompted by a genuine, and quite understandable, lack of knowledge. Below are some notable exceptions. Whoever said that there are no dumb questions never met the people who asked these. All of these really happened. I couldn’t ...
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15_magic_show
Which of the following statements are you most likely to hear from someone you have just met if you’re blind?
  1. You’re so amazing.
  2. You’re so inspirational.
  3. You’re so courageous.
  4. I’m so sorry.
  5. All of the above.
...
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I think you can't
One of the unfortunate and unavoidable consequences of losing, or never having, vision is that many people, and this may include family, friends, and teachers, to say nothing of the general public, may have a lower expectation of you. We all get negative feedback that doesn’t enhance our self-image, sometimes ...
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Facial Blindness
A Note from John: Please welcome guest contributor Lakenzie Crawford to our "Freedom to Fly" blog. Lakenzie Crawford is a junior at the University of Tennessee where she is studying to pursue a career involving practice, research, and policy making as they relate to special education through the College Scholars ...
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Tax Advice
Now, before you think you will need an amphetamine to get through this, let me say that this appears to describe legislation that can have direct financial benefit for a large number of people who are blind/visually impaired. Don’t let some of the high-dollar figures in the document lead you ...
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tandembikinggreenways
These paved trails can be especially dangerous for tandem bikes due to the higher speeds and reduced reaction time. Especially on the weekends, you will encounter a lot of families with kids, strollers, scooters, and dogs. Many are weekend warriors or new to the concept of getting out for a ...
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36---Do-I-Really-Have-to-Learn-Braille
Now that blind students can have access to talking computers, why in the world should they have to learn Braille? Computers are fun, even addictive; Braille is hard. Computers are twenty-first century; Braille is nineteenth century. Computers are cool; Braille is, well, old-fashioned. Before looking a little more closely at ...
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35 - Secrets to Following Up on the IEP
It’s tempting to think that you’re finished once the IEP is drafted. It may be helpful to remember that the IEP is a means to an end, insuring that your child gets the best, most appropriate education possible, and not an end unto itself. In this final post in the ...
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34---Secrets-of-Successful-Transition-Planning
To paraphrase the children’s nursery rhyme, when transition planning is good, it is very, very good, but, when it is bad, it is pretty worthless. Before looking at what you can do to make it “very, very good,” it might be helpful to take a minute to see what transition ...
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33---Secrets-of-a-Successful-IEP-Meeting
In the last post, we looked at what can be done before the IEP to minimize your anxiety and make it a more productive experience for everyone. Additionally, there are a number of things that you can do in the IEP meeting itself to insure that it benefits both you ...
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32---Secrets-for-Planning-for-a-Successful-IEP
If you or a family member are blind or visually impaired, you will, or already have, been involved with an individualized education program (IEP). Although it can be very beneficial, the experience can also be overwhelming. The next four posts are intended to be a primer to help demystify the ...
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spilled bottle of pills
I had never really worried about not being able to read the labels on my prescription medications, that is, not until the pharmacy delivered oxycodone by mistake a couple of years ago. Before that, all of my pills just happened to be shaped differently. Some were ovals, some were elongated, ...
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Image from back seat
Several years ago, I was having dinner with two blind friends when the conversation turned to dreams. One person, we’ll call him Bob, mentioned that he had a recurrent dream in which he was always a passenger in the back seat of a car in which there was no one ...
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A family gathered at a sunset
This may seem like an especially pretentious title. After all, philosophers and theologians, to say nothing of average people, have been wrestling for centuries with the question of what makes people happy. While I doubt this post will answer the question to their satisfaction, I think I’m on pretty safe ...
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Parents and Child Shadow
While the following list is certainly not comprehensive, it is a pretty good set of guidelines for parenting a blind child. It’s based on a great many conversation with “successful,” blind adults and asking how they were raised. I think everything on this list would be good parenting practice for ...
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Hot Coals
Hearing the phrase, “When I was growing up,” at least for me, is as good as taking a sleeping pill. My mind wonders and my eyelids get heavy. If you can fight the urge to nod off, I’d like to begin by talking about when I was growing up. It ...
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Confused looking red gumby-type character
What exactly does it mean “to advocate” and how do you do it? Clearly, advocacy has become one of the popular buzz words among disabled people in recent years. I’ve noticed, however, that while blind students and their parents are encouraged to advocate for their needs, very little attention is ...
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Home office
People who study this sort of thing report that the most important question and the one that is most frequently asked when people first meet is “What do you do?” This is useful information when trying to quickly decide if this is someone you want to know better or whether ...
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Do You Dream?
Most of the questions people are dying to know about being blind are the sorts of things you would guess. My favorite, because the answer is far from obvious, is “Do you dream?” Interestingly, at least in my experience, this is something children are more interested in than adults. Closely ...
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Can You See Anything?
Virtually all of us, as small children, are taught not to ask why Uncle Fred is so fat or the next door neighbor has so many wrinkles. I’ve noticed that even people whose social skills are fairly appalling have generally mastered this lesson. I clearly remember the day when, at ...
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Little girl with glasses
Having a child with a vision problem can be an especially lonely experience. In addition to all the usual challenges of raising a child, you know you will have to take on many more, and you’re not even sure what they all are to say nothing of having little or ...
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Clear sight through eye glasses
If you, your child, or a family member are new to vision loss, the following is a brief list of several of the most widely known and best respected organizations providing assistance to people who are blind or visually impaired. This is just to get you started; we’ll suggest many ...
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Gift Ideas
If you think shopping for that hard-to-please someone is a challenge, what do you do if the person on the gift list has little or no vision? The following short list of suggestions may help get you started. Braille watch. It’s not necessary to read a word of Braille to ...
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