Dreams

I close my eyes and drift into sleep

My thoughts and stresses disappear

I am lost to the world of man

For I stalk the dreamscapes of my mind

At times, pure paradise, a tantalising glimpse at Elysium

At others, dark landscapes,where Titans clash and Gods war

I roam from place to place

World to world and time to time

Infinitely searching

Forever running

I am all at once at my most powerful and most vulnerable

A god amongst men or a screaming infant

From light to dark I turn and back again

So lucid is my mind

Eternally I wonder

Which is the real me?

Written by James Goldsworthy.

copyright reserved 2008.

Is it accessible?

How accessible is your website?

 

Thousands of people around the world purchase screen reading software to enable them to use computers, tablets and mobile phones effectively on the internet. The common misconception is that only blind and visually impaired people use this software, but this is not the case. Although the visually impaired community accounts for a large percentage of the world’s screen reader users, people with motor impairment and learning difficulties also use them to great effect.

 

Sadly only a small percentage of websites out there are fully accessible to screen reader users. Unfortunately very few corporations, companies, organisations and small businesses even consider whether their website is accessible. This isn’t to say that the number of accessible websites is not increasing, because it is, albeit very slowly. There are certainly a far greater number of accessible websites now compared to just five years ago.

 

So who is to blame?

 

The website developers? Probably not, as they tend to work to their client’s specifications and to whatever the current minimal accepted level of accessibility is at the time. This isn’t to say that some web developers don’t try to go the extra mile and work hard on accessibility, because some certainly do.

 

The web developer’s clients, the corporations, companies, organisations and small businesses then? Probably not them either. After all, more often than not they simply want a website that looks good, that works, that promotes their product or service and that won’t cost them a fortune to have built or to maintain.

 

The disabled community perhaps? Again probably not. A vast majority of visually impaired and disabled people wouldn’t know how to build a website in the first place and those that do already do a huge amount to improve accessibility where they can. In fact the greatest leaps forward in accessibility have been as a result of the technically minded members of the disabled community having direct influence in its development.

 

So what’s the answer? 

 

To be honest I don’t think there is a correct answer, but here are my thoughts. 

 

The disabled community really does need to speak up more and communicate with web developers and the corporations, companies, organisations and small businesses that purchase their web building services. It is no good our complaining about inadequate accessibility if we are not talking to the people who can change it. There is a lot of ignorance out there about accessibility and I think it is our part to play to improve the situation by educating people about it. I don’t just mean negative communication either; if something works and improves our web experience we should be letting the web developers know. Equally when things are not working we need to communicate in a constructive and informative manner, not just blowing hot air. Without constructive feedback it is exceptionally difficult for web developers to make positive changes. 

 

As far as the corporations, companies, organisations and small businesses are concerned I think it is quite difficult. I think what it really boils down to here is a lack of awareness when it comes to accessibility, which of course is where what I said above comes in. Having said that however I do wonder if they ever think about how much their potential client base could grow if the percentage of people that are currently unable to navigate their websites could suddenly access them. I do feel that many simply overlook or dismiss the disabled community as not being viable clients or customers and I think that is something that really ought to change.

 

Regarding web developers; again this is a difficult one as the default position seems to be to work to the minimum industry standard for accessibility. That is of course a generalisation, I have come into contact with some outstanding web developers who are very inclusive of accessibility and who strive to improve it on an ongoing basis. There are a very small number of course like the one I spoke to around eighteen months ago who told me that the number of disabled people using the internet that struggle with accessibility is insignificant when it comes to the number of internet users worldwide, so it didn’t really matter if the sites he developed were accessible as his clients didn’t care about it. I wonder whether they genuinely didn’t care or if actually they just didn’t understand about the impact that accessibility can have, or even if they understood what accessibility is. With that extreme example aside I think that on the whole web developers are quite open to feedback, particularly if it is constructive. It would be quite nice if more developers approached disabled user groups and asked for their feedback during development rather than as an afterthought, but again what need is there if their clients are not bothered about it?

 

In summary I feel that it is the responsibility of all of us whether disabled, a web developer or a purchaser of website building services to spread the word about accessibility and make it an industry standard rather than an inconvenience.

 

Part of my mission is to make disabled people more able to be independent through the use of technology. This of course means desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile phones. The ability to successfully navigate the internet and the websites that they want to visit has an enormously positive impact upon disabled individuals. Believe me, I know, I am one of those people. It creates the possibility of building networks of disabled peers as well as more inclusion in the general community. Let’s not forget that disabled people would still like to shop online, read local news online, hire solicitors or buy insurance online, just because we are disabled doesn’t mean we don’t want to do the same things as those who aren’t.

My first networking event

Today I attended my very first networking event. I don’t mind telling you that it was a pretty daunting prospect going to an event where I knew absolutely nobody and for all intents and purposes I would be alone at. If nothing else I was worried about walking into people with my white cane and potentially embarrassing myself. But I am pleased to say that I didn’t in fact do my human cannon ball impression and I seemed to be well received. 

There were around 40 people in attendance representing all sorts of businesses ranging from a vehicle leasing firm to a national insolvency company. The event was run by the Milton Keynes Chamber of Commerce and was hosted at The Brasserie in Bletchley College. Delegates were treated to a three course lunch prepared by the colleges catering students and I have to say that the food was superb. 

The format of the event basically meant that all delegates got to interact with two thirds of the attendees, which for me was great. There was perhaps fifteen minutes or so to stand and chat before the lunch was served. Then everybody took their seats around one of four tables and got to exchange business cards with those present before giving a brief introduction about themselves to the table as a whole. From that point on and for the remainder of the course (around 20 minutes per course) everybody was able to chat and make connections with whoever they wished to around the table. For me this was fantastic as it removed the awkwardness of me potentially barging in on others conversations as well as eliminating any possibility of collisions as I tried to navigate around. The same process was repeated for each of the three courses and by the end everybody was sporting bulging pockets or handbags from the number of business cards stuffed into them. 

Finally two business cards were randomly selected from those that had been dropped into a box as each delegate had entered the Brasserie. The owners of the cards were given the opportunity to deliver a five minute talk about what their business/company is about and what they offer. I thought this too was an excellent touch. 

All in all I felt it was a very well organised and thoroughly worthwhile experience. I feel that I have made a few good connections that may result in further networking opportunities or even some work. 

The Jaffa Cake cheesecake wasn’t half bad either!

Empowering people to use assistive technology

A large part of my mission both in my Coaching work and my voluntary roles within Bucksvision is to empower visually impaired individuals to live independent and socially interactive lives. 

 

Part of this is to help individuals embrace technology that can help enrich their lives and break down communication barriers whilst teaching the skills to become a competent and confident user of that technology. This can mean something as simple as teaching a person how to use a talking watch or bedside clock. Equally it can mean teaching more complex skills like how to use magnifying software on a computer, using Talks speech software on a mobile phone, teaching an individual how to use the awesome built-in Voice Over technology on iPhones, iPads, iPods and Macs, or it can be teaching somebody how to use a full assistive software package. 

 

One such package is Dolphin Guide. Guide is a complete software package that can be purchased and installed on almost all modern Windows Desktop or Laptop computers. I will not bang on for ages about everything it can do as all of that information is available on the Dolphin website; I have added a link at the end of this post for your convenience. What I will briefly mention however is that Guide enables users with low vision or complete sight loss to access and navigate around a computer by using magnification, screen reading speech or a combination of both. It allows the user to send and receive emails, access the internet, scan and read their post, create documents, manage their calendar and much more. So as you can see, it is pretty good! 

 

I have been a user of Dolphin Guide for around eight years now and felt that it was about time I actually trained to become an Accredited Trainer so I could deliver training effectively and of course with the necessary qualification to back it up. So last week I completed my training and sat my Accreditation exam. I am very happy to say that I passed with flying colours. 

 

Obviously I am very pleased about this; not only because I can now officially train people, but because it has been a personal goal of mine for two or three years to actually do this. 

 

So it is with pleasure that I can announce that I am now a fully Accredited Dolphin Guide 8.0 Trainer and my services are now available. 

 

You can find out more by visiting the “Assistive Technology Training” page of the AVC website. 

 

Link to Dolphin website: http://www.yourdolphin.com

 

 

James Goldsworthy.

Founder of Alternate Visions Coaching.

AoEC Accredited Associate Executive Coach.

Accredited Trainer, Dolphin Guide 8.0

The Wall

A breathtaking view

Last week my partner and I spent several days up in Northumbria staying in a small bed and breakfast right on Hadrian’s Wall. On the second day we decided to walk the five miles to the nearby Housesteads Fort following the route of the wall. Predictably perhaps, the weather decided to make things just a little more challenging for us that day and as a result we ended up battling through driving winds and temperatures very nearly at freezing point. The rain had done its preliminary job of saturating the ground through the previous night so it was no time at all before we were getting bogged down in glutinous mud that came over our ankles as we negotiated the harsh rocky terrain.

As we struggled over, through and around that terrain and my partner described the environment around us as well as the breathtaking views all along the route I got to thinking about how we as human beings not only have to overcome obstacles and barriers throughout our lives, but also how we create them.

More specifically I was thinking about those that we create for ourselves that prevent us from achieving what we want to. Naturally there are those that we consciously put in place marking our boundaries and setting the extreme borders of our personalities; but what about those that we subconsciously put in place?

When thinking about self created obstacles I was considering examples like:

– The individual who wants to work their way up the ladder of seniority in their work but makes or finds excuses as to why they cannot go for that promotion they have always wanted.

– The individual who doesn’t have confidence in themselves or their abilities and has anxiety around making themselves heard, therefore creating an obstacle from their own shyness or fear.

On the surface these examples do of course appear to be more conscious obstacles, but those conscious obstacles more often than not have deeper root causes.

It can often be very difficult to get to the bottom of these root causes with a client, but ultimately that extra discussion and exploration can uncover multiple reasons for the given issue to have manifested.

I then thought about what obstacles and barriers can mean to different people. To most they will mean physical or mental things that slow a person down, something that is difficult to get through, around or over or something that can be intimidating as well as seeming impossible to face. Does this mean these obstacles are insurmountable?

I come across examples much like the ones I have used above regularly in my Coaching and I invariably ask my clients almost the same couple of questions each time. “How do you think you could find the courage to face these obstacles?” and “What do you think could help you overcome these obstacles?”

Almost always the response is the same or similar. “I don’t know” or “I was hoping you could tell me.”
Half way and it's getting colder!
Now, as my partner and I slipped and tripped and scrambled over that terrain along the route of the wall I thought how much I’m like my clients and my clients are like me. Not as silly as at first you might think.

I am blind and so to navigate successfully over that terrain I needed the help and support of someone I trust. Not to walk the route for me you understand, but to help me discover the best path for me and my particular needs. After all, my partner wasn’t carrying me, I trod the path myself.

In the same way (although metaphorically of course) my clients have the same handicap as I do in the way there is fear of the unknown; perhaps they don’t have the confidence or do not have the bravery to embark upon such a path alone, and ultimately are as blind as I am because they cannot see what is over the crest of the next hill.

So it is since making that slightly odd (but in my opinion, very relevant) metaphorical observation that I intend to use that walking experience in my Coaching to encourage clients to explore their fears and anxieties and to help them find the root issues that cause them to create their subconscious obstacles.

I would like to leave you with something to think about before I go.

Imagine yourself if you will, in the situation I was in on that long cold windy walk over incredibly wet, steep and rocky ground and see if you can apply that metaphorically to a part of your life that you are struggling with right now. It can be your home life, your work life or your student life.

Now consider how you feel at the beginning of the “walk”, how you could improve that feeling or indeed who might be able to help you feel better about it. Also think about what you are likely to find particularly difficult over the route of the “walk” and consider what or who might lessen that difficulty or help get you over that particularly high and nasty looking hill strewn with rocks. Now think about how you will feel when you get to your destination knowing what you have just gone through.

Feels good, doesn’t it?

James Goldsworthy.
AoEC Accredited Associate Executive Coach.
Founder of Alternate Visions Coaching.

What makes us who we are?

What makes us who we are, shapes the person we see in the mirror each day and creates the personality we project to others? 

 

Below is a poem I wrote a few years ago in which I attempted to answer that question. Now that I look at it from a Coaching perspective I find myself considering how those people I mention in the poem that influence us actually Coach us in one way or another through our lives. 

 

Right up until the last line in the poem I think that those external influences have a greater impact on us as individuals than we perhaps appreciate. Certainly in the respect of our own will and intentions I feel that it is not until we reach our true adulthood that we come into a sense of our own identity in many respects, whether in personal relationships, family life or of course our chosen career paths. 

 

It is this in particular that interests me as a Coach. As through learning more about ones own strengths, weaknesses, anxieties and potential a person can grow as an individual and change who they are and/or who they want to be. Whether through conscious decision or by accidental realisation many people feel that they want to change but do not have the confidence to do so. As a Coach I feel that through helping people find that confidence and helping them empower themselves to change peoples personal lives and careers can be drastically changed for the better. 

 

James Goldsworthy.

AoEC accredited Associate Executive Coach.

Founder of Alternate Visions Coaching. 

 

Who we are.

 

What makes us who we are? 

This is my answer. 

 

Our early experiences in childhood, the bad and the good 

 

The things we see from afar, the beautiful and the disturbing 

 

The family that love and teach us 

 

The friends that surround and embrace us 

 

And our inner voice, the mind and the will. 

 

Written by James Goldsworthy.

copyright reserved 2008.

The Answer?

“Exploration leads to understanding. Understanding leads to deeper knowledge. Deeper knowledge leads to greater awareness.”

 

 

Although not spoken by anybody famous the quote I wrote above is something I like to use in a variety of different scenarios and I have found it particularly suited to my style of Coaching. Whether there is a challenge that I myself am working through or if I am Coaching a client I have found that each individual statement within the quote plays a specific and important part in its effectiveness as a whole. 

 

The quote does of course work in its most general state, but by extending the individual statements within it more clarity can be achieved. This works particularly well when the extended version is applied to a specific problem. If you take the quote from above and turn it into the version below you should see what I mean. 

 

“Exploration of the issue at hand and the potential options available leads to understanding. Understanding of those options and how they might work leads to deeper knowledge. Deeper knowledge of how many possible options work leads to greater awareness. With greater awareness one is better able to make informed decisions that have a greater chance of success.” 

 

As I mentioned earlier, what makes the application of this quote so effective is that each part of it directly supports the next. In fact it would be fair and accurate to say that using only one part of the whole will not work; for how can understanding of an issue or challenge be achieved without first exploring it fully? How can one have true knowledge of something one does not first understand? 

 

This quote, statement, or tenet if you prefer, is something that has served me very well through life and is now something that I incorporate into my Coaching practice. I don’t for a moment claim that it is “the answer” but I do feel that it goes some way to helping find the answers that we all seek. 

 

James Goldsworthy.

AoEC accredited Associate Executive Coach.

Founder of Alternate Visions Coaching.

Why did I choose to become a Coach?

Why did I choose to become a Coach? 

As you can probably imagine this is a question where the answer has many contributing factors, but I shall try to answer as fully as I am able. 

Back in 2005 I lost my sight, something that drastically changed my life as I knew it. My career up to that point had been in retail where I had worked my way up from the bottom. Unfortunately just as I was about to commence my training to the next level of management the problems with my vision started and as a result my career was put on hold. Now this piece is not a “woe is me” piece, so let’s get one thing straight before I continue. I lost my sight and it was bad, really bad and utterly devastating. For a time there I thought my life was pretty much over. Right, that’s the more negative bit over and done with so let’s move on. 

Ultimately I had to leave my job due to ill health and the fact that I was for all intents and purposes in and out of hospital for the best part of twenty one months. Now I could bang on about how I had to learn to do things, simple things like making a cup of tea from scratch again, but there are hundreds if not thousands of articles and posts out there where visually impaired and blind people go into all of that so I am not going to; but it is accurate for me to say that I went through all of that and came out the other side. 

During the period of time between February 2004 and December 2005, which was basically how long it took for my vision to go, I had A LOT of time to think about my life, how it was changing and where it was going. After another few months I decided I wanted to do something and not just sit in my house letting my misfortune beat me; so I started volunteering for a local visual impairment charity once a week. I am not going to go into details here as this piece will end up being fifteen times longer than I intend it to be, but it is fair to say that doing that voluntary work really opened my eyes (no pun intended) to how lucky I was to have only lost my sight. It also made me feel valued and ultimately helped shape me into the man I am today. Of course there are many contributing factors that have made me who I am now, but I think it is fair to say that those few years had an impact that I am not entirely sure I can articulate properly. 

Over the next few years I became more and more involved with the charity and became a trainer for assistive technology as well as becoming a charity trustee in 2011. I am very happy to say that I became the Chairman for the 2012/2013 period and still sit on the board of trustees now; but that is by the by. For years I had been mentoring, training, and I guess helping guide people through very difficult and challenging times in their lives and on several occasions I had friends and family members telling me they thought I could go into counselling work etc. However, to be honest counselling work never appealed to me and although I was trying to find a career that would be interesting, challenging and that I would enjoy, it was only in 2012 that I heard about Coaching and what it actually is. 

I am not going to lie to you here, like most members of the general public I didn’t have the first clue of what Coaching was and how powerful a tool it could be in helping people change their lives. It was only thanks to a friend that I actually learned a little about it and was intrigued enough to want to learn more. Once I had found out considerably more about Coaching and how it worked I wondered whether my family and friends might be onto something and began to seriously consider training and becoming certified as a Coach. Fortunately I had the opportunity to attend a two day taster event at the AoEC so I eagerly went along with an open mind and a willingness to learn. 

The event was very engaging and answered many of the questions I had about Coaching and I think it was this that ultimately made my mind up as to what I wanted to have a career in. A far cry from being a department manager in retail or an assistive technology trainer, but a career that tapped in to skills I had already begun to develop in both those and other previous roles. 

It was just a couple of months before attending the AoEC event that I was offered the opportunity to receive some free Coaching. Needless to say I took up the offer as I wanted to experience Coaching from the client’s perspective and better understand how the Coach/client relationship works.

Even after only two or three Coaching sessions I could see how positive an effect it was having on me and helping me change the way I thought about things. It was this that really cemented it for me, I wanted to train and learn how to Coach properly and professionally. It was soon after that I enrolled on the AoEC’s Coaching Practitioner course and the world of Coaching was opened up to me.

So to answer my own question, why did I choose to become a Coach? I chose to become a professional Coach because after having gone through a literally life changing event and feeling that I had absolutely nowhere to go it was Coaching of one form or another that helped me get through it. Whether that Coaching was from friends, family, colleagues at the charity or medical professionals the process was challenging, emotional, enlightening and although I didn’t necessarily feel so at the time, incredibly positive. I looked deeper into myself than I ever had before and learned more about my own strengths and weaknesses than I honestly thought was possible. It helped changed the way I think about and approach the challenges and obstacles that life throws at me and ultimately gave me the tools to either work around them or smash my way straight through them. 

That is why I chose to become a professional Coach. I wanted to take a path on a career that is not only interesting and enriching for me, but one that also can help people change their lives in an informed and positive way. 

James Goldsworthy.
AoEC Accredited Associate Executive Coach. 
Founder of Alternate Visions Coaching.

A New Year

Welcome to the Alternate Visions Coaching website and blog. I would like to wish you a Happy New Year for 2014 and wish you every success in your endeavours through the coming twelve months. 

With this new year comes this new website and with hard work and a bit of luck the growth and development of AVC. It is my intention to write short articles on my journey as a coach and points of interest that you may find engaging as well as informative. Here you will be able to get news about AVC as well as reading more about my work and mission, so please do follow this blog to keep up to date. 

 

James Goldsworthy.

AoEC Accredited Associate Executive Coach.

Founder of Alternate Visions Coaching. 

Enablement coach specialising in sight loss, assistive technology training on Apple VoiceOver, Dolphin Guide & SuperNova, coaching for living with sight loss, back to work skills & confidence building