2020 Conference

Self-Advocacy: The Missing Links in ADLs

Session Date: 
Friday, September 4, 2020 - 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm CDT

This pre-recorded session featured Sylvia Perez’s interview with Hannah Fairbairn, the author of When You Can’t Believe Your Eyes: Vision Loss and Personal Recovery. Hannah shared her experiences as a provider, why she wrote the book, and the key concepts the book discusses. A Q&A live session followed.

  1. Where can I get the book When You Can’t Believe Your Eyes: Vision Loss and Personal Recovery?
    1. The print copy is available on Amazon.
    2. The eBook is available on Google Play.
    3. A free copy is available on Hannah’s website.
    4. The audiobook is available on Bookshare.
    5. The cartridge format is available at some regional Talking Book libraries. The NLS Talking Books number is DBC11619.
    6. It is not available on Kindle or Nook.
  2. How can I find Hannah’s blog?
    1. www.visionlossandpersonalrecovery.com/
  3. Are there plans for another book?
    1. No, I don’t think so. I do put updates on my story on my blog. Soon I will do a series of very short videos on YouTube. These video titles will all begin with ‘How to…’  As we all know, one of the greatest difficulties for the visually impaired is knowing to whom you are talking. It is embarrassing to ask, ‘Who are you?’ That is the type of topic that I will be addressing in the videos.” – Hannah Fairbairn
  4. Have you considered writing a book for family members of those with vision loss?
    1. “The book does have short sections that are just for family members. The most active thread on my blog is almost all women married to men who have lost their vision. They talk to each other about the stress and exhaustion they feel and support each other. I feel for them, but it is not my area because I am the person that lost my sight.” – Hannah Fairbairn

Speaker: Hannah Fairbairn

Hannah Fairbairn

Born in England with partial vision, Hannah Fairbairn became a chef. She lost nearly all her remaining vision at age 33. She became a regular contributor to BBC Radio “In Touch” program for the blind. She and her family moved to Massachusetts. Her younger daughter inherited her eye condition, and Hannah worked to get her everything she needed. Hannah began her work at the Carroll Center, teaching personal management for 18 years. With the support of the head of rehab and therapists, she enlarged the scope of the department to include spoken communication – interpersonal skills – group classes for adults, teens, and young adults. She retired in 2016 to write When You Can’t Believe Your Eyes: Vision Loss and Personal Recovery.

Can you tell us more about yourself, Hannah?
“As you can probably hear, I was born in the UK. When I was born, there was no low vision support for students in mainstream schools. It became more difficult as the print in the textbooks got smaller, and the class sizes grew larger. I greatly disappointed my family by not getting into one of the great universities. I never went to college, which was not as shocking in the UK as it is now. I became a restaurant chef and a partner in a small restaurant in London in a lovely place called Greenwich. When I was 33, my retina detached, and there were lots of surgeries trying to put it back and stabilize the other retina. I was legally blind. Then, here’s the really lucky thing, I got called up by the producer of BBC Radio 4’s In Touch program, which then was a weekly show. Many listeners didn’t have any experience with the loss of vision but listened anyway because it was live and on the main broadcast station. I started contributing to that program weekly doing shows about cooking and household items. Also, even back then, I talked about assertive speech. Then, I married my long-term boyfriend, who very kindly did not run away when I lost nearly all of my sight overnight. We came to Boston, which was the area where he had grown up. Our younger daughter inherited my eye condition, so I learned a lot by putting her in public schools. And you can be darn sure that I made sure that our daughter, Catherine, got everything that I did not get. What was offered was very good. When my daughter was old enough, I went to The Carroll Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired and began teaching there. We have two daughters; one has full vision, and the other has partial vision.” – Hannah Fairbairn


Additional Session Information:

  1. Audio Reading Book List - List of further reading
  2. Resource List- Additional resources that Hannah finds useful
  3. VLPR Onesheet - Information on her book
  4. Session Q&A document – MS word document of Hannah’s Q&A session, including these questions:
    1. How do you help people differentiate between being assertive and being aggressive when learning how to speak up?
    2. What do you recommend for assisting in the adjustment and acceptance transition process?
    3. Do you have any tips or suggestions for advocating to the family?