Coming to an end

Last september I had a pretty big week.  I started college, I became a father and I started training to run an ultra.  Now college has come to an end.

It is still settling in that I no longer have to goto college,  I really enjoyed my time there despite the challenges on accessible courseware.  I especially enjoyed studying psychology and look forward to continuing at degree level.

I managed to finish the course with the highest mark possible, so pretty happy with that.  I scored far higher than was needed for my place at university so feel I am in a great position to take my education to the next step.

As one of my challenges comes to an end the other two are just starting.  My run will be over shortly and all my hard training will hopefully pay off with a finish.  Being a father however is the challenge that will never end!


Plan B

It is always a good idea to have a plan B.  The past few months seem to have taken the opportunity to drive this point home.

My initial plan to run the Cotswolds 100 has been put into jeopardy due to a knee injury.  I injured my knee in November and thanks to my stubbornness I ignored my own body and continued to push hard.  I am now nearly 2 months behind in my training.  I now however have moved onto plan B, rather than not run at all I plan to utilise a larger run walk split.  I will now walk the majority of the night section to reduce the running miles to the 70 mark, this should allow me to rapidly catch up on the training and still achieve the goal of a sub 24 hour 100 miler.

My other plan B is going to have a large impact on my entire family and me.  I had planned to attend a local university to obtain my BSc in psychology.  Unfortunately I received an unsuccessful through the UCAS system so will not be attending.  This is forcing two other possible options, one will involve a total relocation the other a sizable commute.  With mobility an issue the thought of the commute is causing great anxiety but will be something easily conquered after a few practice runs.  Moving will prove the most problematic, with finances strained we cannot live in a comparative area to what we do now.  We will be forced to live in a smaller house and live in (I will put this a nice way) a less affluent area.  This move also imposes another issue for me, no more running.  I will lose my beloved paved paradise and due to size restrictions in the housing will not have room for a treadmill.  This doesn’t leave me with many options at this point, persuade the wife to put a treadmill in the living room (unlikely) or utilise a nearby gym.  The lack of freedom from running will be a hard blow but I need to remember the rewards of the BSc and a new career path far outway the negatives.

In the end I WILL HAVE to find a way to run, just not sure what plan B is quite yet……


Just like everyone else

A number of months ago now I visited Sheffield University to talk about the support available for when I hopefully attend. This involved a quick meeting with the psychology department. I asked a number of questions with the key question being:

Have you taught any blind pupils in class?

“I wouldn’t know as they simply blend in with all the other pupils”

I questioned this and the basic outline was due to the levels of support on offer and all materials being accessible in multiple formats, the lecturers never knew the blind from the non-blind.

During my short time at college this is something I have strived for, however the past few weeks have been incredibly trying. The handouts are never sent to me in advance. This causes me a great deal of isolation and exclusion within lessons.

While other pupils are given paper handouts to work on tasks, I sit there with nothing to do. Instead of digital copies in advanced I am presented with apologies and paper handouts. This of course puts me at a huge disadvantage over the other pupils, as I have to digitize the handouts then do the lessons tasks at home as well as assignments.

Digitizing the documents is a mission, as I cannot read the paper; my wife must first vet all the handouts I receive over a week. Averaging 25 handouts a week results in a lot of proof reading for my wife and a hell of a time drain on digitizing.

In the past week I have made it clear to a number of lecturers how important digital handouts are. They don’t make it easier for me to read, they allow me to read. I am hopeful over the coming weeks the situation will improve.

Not all is bad however; one lecturer in particular seems to revel in the digitization of course materials. Even highlighting issues I had with diagrams in class were rectified within hours rather than weeks. For that lecturer I am thankful, just a shame I wont be studying biology at university.

Running to a Stop

For the first time in a number of months I haven’t run. So get ready for the excuses.

My college work has gradually been piling up and thanks to a few time management issues; which aren’t my entire fault! I now have 5 assignments and one week to complete them. Obviously this time restraint makes it even more difficult when reading is a real strain, the level of mental concentration needed for me to read cannot be maintained over long periods of time.

The work will get done, one way or another.

The next excuse? Slightly sore knees. As the weekend miles have increased I have been suffering from a little pain in my knees. I am confident this is just a strength issue and with the help of some glucosamine, plies and a little ibuprofen I will be back running in no time.

Determined to put both these things behind me I headed out for a swift 3 miles yesterday. Half a mile in I convinced myself the knee pain was not worth it. The real problem was simply my head was not in the game. I was worrying to much about whether I should include diagram a or diagram b in my kidney assignment.

I have managed to eek out a little work today, so hopefully tomorrow I will rack up a quick 4 miler. Along with 2 assignments, the weekly food shop and oh yeah looking after a baby.


The past few weeks have presented numerous challenges. The combination of parenthood, college and running has made excellent time management essential.

Grayson is growing at a furious rate and is changing by the day. Sian is having great fun dressing him in cute little outfits and subjecting him to photo shoots. I am sure they are all available over at her site.

College has been draining these past few weeks, with numerous assignments and the dreaded personal statement to complete. The assignments have been flowing out without a hitch; the personal statement however is a different story. Attempting to mention being blind and making it sound anything but negative is a real challenge. I have gone through many iterations and I am yet to arrive at something that strikes a careful balance.

Running however is a true escapism right now. The miles are steadily building with me racking up a few half marathons in the past couple of weeks. Within a month I will hopefully be running marathon distance on the weekends.

With these recent challenges beginning to become manageable I hope to be updating the blog on a regular basis. I promised myself when I started blogging a few months ago I would make sure it was a regular occurrence; so I am determined to get back into the swing of things.

The First Day

Up early and ready brek charged Sian and I headed into college. With it being the first day we decided to set off super early just incase traffic was heavy. We arrived way to early so waited in the car park to allow my nerves to increase.

Upon entering the college we quickly found my guide for the day Jackie. She escorted me upstairs and due to other commitments had to leave me. Sat waiting for the tutor I noticed everyone else seemed to know each other. How could this be? surely we are all starting today?

The tutor took me into class and began a talk on todays itinerary. It involved heading down to the library, ARGH! my guide had already left! I quickly made friends with the girl to my right and decided to stick with her.

As I left the classroom Jackie appeared, a quick conversation followed explaining to a few other students about my lack of vision. We quickly set down to our research task: Is the world heading towards environmental catastrophe?

I quickly reeled off a few causes of climate change to our group; agriculture, globalised economies, over population and CO2 production. We researched the separate sections then presented to the rest of the class.

Turned out we may have jumped a few steps, the lecturer was more interested in the research method. So will save that information for next time!

The day ran far smoother than I had anticipated, the mobility issues were easily overcome and I quickly struck up conversation will fellow students.

Triple Header

Undoubtably the next week is going to be monumental. My wife is now beyond her due date so the arrival of our son is highly likely. We are both becoming anxious now and just want him to be here already!

Tomorrow is also my first day of college. The long road to my degree begins. I am a little nervous about mobility issues but not so much the lessons. I am frantically converting books to ePub as I write this in preparation for the morning. I just hope it all works! I will detail my first day in a blog post tomorrow.

This week will also be my first double digit long run. Saturday holds the possibility of a 10 mile run. This may be jeopardised by labour or a little baby. Hopefully I will find a sneaky couple of hours to complete the run!

Looking forward to a truly life changing week.

Good News

After my previous post on the lack of disabled funding I sent an email complain to my local college.

I received a repsonse instantly, “Could you please come into the college so we could discuss this?” So on monday I had a meeting with Mary from the disability department. We discussed what had happened on my previous visit, turns out the finance department were mistaken.

There was indeed funding for accessibility, we discussed my needs and I highlighted I simply needed an iPad. The college had their own idea of some custom Dolphin devices, 2 devices one of which cost £1600. I explained this solution was incredibly expensive and the iPad would achieve everything I needed, at a smaller price point.

After around 30 minutes of negotiation I was left with the answer, “I will speak to my manager”. This morning I received an email giving the OK for an iPad. YAY!!!

The cherry on top? I bought an OpticBook 3600 on eBay for £38! The scanner arrived today, a quick test and it works like a charm.

So the previous cost has been reduced to a acceptable £38. This is far lower than even my dream scenario.

Now time to get back to compiling these post process tools.

college bound?

After my interview last week for college I was told to nip in to talk with Learner Services to discuss financial support for disabled students.

Arriving at college I headed to Learner Services, unsurprisingly they were unable to help and send me over to finance. This did not go as planned….

After a 5 minute conversation which included going round in numerous circles the verdict was simply.

“We do not guarantee any financial support to disabled students.”

But I need access to the books to complete my course, surely you will help fund that?

“We cannot guarantee that.”

The cherry on the cake? the course will have been running for over a month before they even make a decision. So I would have to start the course sans books and I MAY get them at some point.

A little angry and disappointed I headed home. I quickly got on task and began looking for a book scanning service. I shot off a few emails and waited for a response. After 20 minutes I got bored of that and decided to start ringing around.

First port of call Action For Blind/RNIB. They were incredibly helpful and gave me the contact information for Leeds University Transcriptions services. After explaining my needs we got down to the nitty gritty of cost, £7.42 pp. Which for the roughly thousand pages I need require comes in at a whopping £7420.

More than a little out of my price range, shocked at the price I returned to online research. After a few calls I managed to find a private sector service that would do it for 30p a page +VAT.

A little math shows it would cost:

Books: £70
Scanning: £352.50
iPad: £429
Total: £851.50

This is before any other supplementary scanning costs for other documentation. I simply cannot afford to pay that much for 2 books.

The solution? Well thanks to my previous role I am reasonably tech savvy. So onto the shopping list goes a book scanner and a whole host of post processing tools. The money saved will be negligible but will allow me to run a service at cost for other users that need books scanning at a reasonable price.

College Bound

Yesterday was my scheduled interview for college entrance. I had already passed the entrance assessments and this was the final stage.

My wife works at the college in the Learning Resource Centre so I headed into work with her to be prompt for the interview.

To burn a little time I listened to an audiobook, SuperFreakonomics. Despite criticism I do enjoy the series. I gleaned some wonderful insights about India. A little tap on my shoulder from my wife, interview time!

On arriving at reception I was informed it would be conducted in groups. Now I don’t get nervous about the group dynamic in fact I usely perform highly in competitive group tasks. But I realised receiving assistance in this scenario for things such as mobility would be difficult.

A quick chat and one of the staff agreed to assist me upstairs to part 1 of 3. Moving around the college was far more difficult than I had anticipated. I certainly need to learn the routes and memorise layouts.

Part 1 of the interview lasted all of 60 seconds, as soon as they confirmed I was educated and knew basic maths I was rushed to part 2.

Now this is where it became a little more interesting. I was handed a sheet of paper by the next assesor and told to choose a timetable. I informed him I was blind and would be unable to read the timetable.

“Well I don’t have the time to read it to you”

“How about you run me through the main points and we can go from there.”

Then the penny dropped, he had just refused to read the timetable for a potential disabled student. We worked together on the timetable and quickly came up with a lesson plan that was a good fit.

We began to talk about my vision loss and what I was able to see. In another misguided moment of his he questioned how a blind person would be able to complete this course.

I pointed out a few of the adaptations myself and the college could make and this quenched his negativity. As we continued to talk he asked about my past education and career.

This is the point where people generally stand to attention. People are shocked when informed I am well educated [in my previous field] and held down a managerial role.

Part 3 went without a hitch, so timetable complete I am officially starting in September. With one little caveat of finance, I will be speaking to Learner Services next week about this.

After the interview I met with my guide runner Scott and we headed into town to play with an iPad. Quickly turning on the accessibility features I gave iBook a twirl. Testing VoiceOver, Zoom and White on Black, made reading books a dream.

In an effort to make me jealous Scott ordered one. I will have mine soon!