See the Amazing Photos Taken by a Legally Blind Photographer

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Tammy Ruggles
Via Tammy Ruggles.

Tammy Ruggles knew she had trouble with her vision from an early age. She got her first pair of glasses when she was just 2 years old. She remembers holding books close to her face and sitting near the front of the classroom to read the chalkboard. But it wasn’t until she turned 40 that Ruggles learned she has retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a rare progressive disease that affects the retinas, eventually leading to blindness.

Ruggles, 54, is now legally blind, and she’s pursuing her passion for art in a completely new way. Ruggles grew up loving art but stuck mostly to sketching. But in 2013, she started her professional photography business, taking pictures and editing photos with the help of today’s technology.

With a point-and-shoot digital camera set on auto, a 47-inch computer monitor and her remaining vision, Ruggles photographs landscapes, flowers and abstract objects. She doesn’t usually photograph people, as it’s difficult for her to tell if the subject is looking at the camera or what type of facial expression someone is making.

Her process is a little different than most photographers’. Ruggles, from a small town in Kentucky, shoots a bunch of photos, but she’s cannot really view them until she uploads them to her computer.

Lights Over the Land
Via Tammy Ruggles.

“When people look at my photography, I want them to say she’s an artist first,” Ruggles told The Mighty. “I want them to see the art before the visual impairment. I want them to look past my disability.”

On Aug. 28, Ruggles’ photographs will be in an exhibit for the first time. Art Beyond Boundaries, an organization that promotes artists with disabilities, is holding the gallery called “My Mind is a Camera” in Cincinnati, Ohio.

You can view Ruggles’ digital photography portfolio here and see some of her photos below.

Botanical 5
Via Tammy Ruggles.
Clouds 2
Via Tammy Ruggles.
Grazing
Via Tammy Ruggles.
Polaroid
Via Tammy Ruggles.
Botanical 4
Via Tammy Ruggles.
Fence Line
Via Tammy Ruggles.
As a Cloud
Via Tammy Ruggles.
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10 Small Victories in My Life With Cerebral Palsy

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Ah, victory — that wonderful feeling of winning a race, getting a promotion or finding the man (or woman) of your dreams. There’s nothing quite like the sense of accomplishment that comes from succeeding at big things. That sense of accomplishments can come from small things, too, especially for me. Living with cerebral palsy has caused me to think about a lot of everyday things as victories, and I wanted to share some of them with you. Here are my top 10 “small victories.”

1. Getting my feet under the blankets on the first try.

The way my body moves makes getting settled in bed at night more difficult than it should be, especially when it comes to blankets. My arms have a natural reflex to pull the blanket up instead of over my body. Usually this results in the blanket covering everything but my feet and a struggle to get it back where it should be. I love the nights when I manage to get the blanket set up just right and it slides over my feet with ease.

2. Plugging in my chair in the dark.

I use an electric wheelchair. Since I drive it around all day, I have to charge it in my bedroom at night. My light switch is across the room from my bed, which means I have to turn off the light, transfer to the edge of my bed and then plug in my chair. Finding the charging hole on the joystick is easy; putting the cord in the right way is not. It’s a lot like trying to plug in your phone when it’s dark, but worse. I often end up resorting to “let’s just put the end of the cord into the charging hole and twist the cord around until it slides in.” This can sometimes take a while, so I’m quite grateful when it happens quickly.

3. Turning 20-minute bathroom breaks into 10-minute bathroom breaks.

I don’t need to do this often. It happens most when I need to meet friends or squeeze in a bathroom break before an assembly or choir performance. It always feels good to know I can run to the bathroom and make it back before anything important happens.

4. Having a substitute aide I liked.

I’ve graduated now, but this was a huge thing when I was in school. I was never happy to hear that the aide who worked with me every day had to call in sick. I’d developed a nice routine with her and the routine was never quite the same with a sub. I also found it awkward “training” them, explaining what I did and did not need them to do. It was significantly less awkward when there was a substitute who had a similar personality and interests as me. Conversations flowed much easier when we actually had something to talk about.

5. Reading out loud and sounding good.

While I don’t have a speech impediment, talking out loud for long periods of time is hard for me. My tone kicks in and I often end up talking too fast or running out of air. For this reason I feel a real sense of pride when I read a presentation or passage from a book out loud more or less flawlessly.

6. Landing a transfer when I realize too late that I’ve positioned for it wrong.

I do this more often than I’d like to admit. I’ll be transferring from my chair to another surface and think I’ve positioned my chair close enough to said surface, then realize during the transfer that I didn’t. I transfer like a paraplegic. It’s a lot of sliding from one surface to another. If I make the mistake of positioning my chair too far away, I don’t always land on whatever I’m trying to transfer to. When I do manage to land it, I consider myself lucky.

7. Finding clothes that are both cute and comfy.

I’m very much a girly-girl. I love being cute and stylish. Comfort is also a huge priority since I’m sitting a majority of the time. Shopping, especially for pants, was a nightmare while skinny jeans were in style. Skinny jeans just don’t work for me. Not only do they usually dig into my stomach, but the bottoms don’t fit over my leg braces. It wasn’t my favorite style trend. You can imagine my happiness when comfy, stretchy, funky-patterned leggings came into style. I live in them now.

8. Going out and not having a single accessibility snag.

Going out — especially when it’s somewhere I’ve never been before — can be stressful. My brain plans for every single problem: stairs, inaccessible bathrooms and staff members who aren’t comfortable with disabilities. I have backup plans for everything, but I absolutely love it when I don’t have to use them.

9. Making food and not dropping it in the process.

This applies to anything from cereal to sandwiches. If I manage to make food for myself and don’t drop it, it’s a good day.

10. Recognizing little victories.

The fact that I can even make this list is a little victory in itself. I love that even on bad days, I’m able to feel good about one of these things.

A version of this post originally appeared on CPExperience.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or illness. It can be lighthearted and funny or more serious — whatever inspires you. Be sure to include at least one intro paragraph for your list. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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When a 3-Year-Old Told His Mom That My Daughter Looked ‘Weird’

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For months, my daughter Betty’s physical therapist had encouraged me to have a short answer ready to explain her condition when the questions came. I thought about it a little, but felt pretty confident in how I could handle the “she has special needs” conversation with a curious onlooker. Plus, our entire community — family, friends, neighbors, strangers — had cradled us so supportingly, it was hard to believe that any hard questions or uncomfortable comments might ever come. But then one day, one did.

The thing that caught me most by surprise was the fact that a 3-year-old was the one who broke me. He came into the room as we got ready to leave a playdate and simply said to his mother, “Mom, Betty looks weird.” From the days when we first started to notice that something wasn’t right, through my daughter’s diagnosis and now nearly 18 months later, I had felt and acted uncannily strong. But in an instant, that façade collapsed, and I immediately felt the need to flee. I shoved our things in a bag as I felt the tears and a thousand different emotions surge to the surface. My friend, embarrassed, apologized for what her young son had said, to which he replied, “No, but Mom. Jack [his older brother] said she does. And I think so, too.”

Within a few seconds the metaphorical bough broke and all of that cradling from everyone around us was brought into question. Does everyone think she looks weird? Have they been lying to us when they tell us how cute she is? Is this just a preview to what the rest of her life — our life — will look like? Will she ever even be aware enough to realize people around her are saying hurtful things? I tried to reassure my friend and address the child’s concerns. In a shaky voice, “Yeah, she’s a little different, isn’t she? I guess we all are!” And then I left as quickly as possible so I could cry in the semi-privacy of my car with my two kids in the backseat.

Before I had children, friends who were parents had warned me that when your kids go through tough things you ache right along with them. But what I didn’t realize was that raising my daughter with special needs might mean that I would hurt for her. Betty likely had no idea what had been said. She didn’t feel the sting, the sadness, the hurt. But I did. It’s difficult to carry that and anticipate a lifetime of curious comments that might hurt. And though it’s a sad prospect to face, I’ve realized that this is a tiny part of her burden that I can carry for her. How many times do we wish we could deal with the challenges of our child’s disease, disorder or delays instead of them? This is one thing I can do for my daughter, one part of her life I can trade. And I’m more than happy to.

Dear little daughter, I will happily hurt for you. I’ll cheer for you and I’ll pray for you and I’ll believe in you. But I’ll also feel all of the pain you might not be able to feel. And that’s OK. Because I’m your mom and I love you.

Sarah Evans the mighty.2-001

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When a Man in a Shoe Store Thanked Me for Inspiring Him

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Years ago I worked at a shoe store.

It was a full-service store where we helped every customer find the perfect shoe for their needs. Sometimes this meant taking down and stacking boxes of shoes up to your eyeballs. We’d sit the customer down and have them try the shoes on, then ask them to walk or run around to see how they felt, oftentimes even tying the shoes for the customer.

Not until years after the fact did I ever think about how my customers must have felt when I, a guy with only one hand, tied their shoes for them.

One afternoon as I was stocking our shelves, I had that feeling. You know that feeling when you can sense that someone is behind you. Well, eventually I saw him. He was much older than me, probably in his early 60s. He looked nervous, almost scared.

At some point, I approached him and asked how I could help. I’ll never forget his response.

“I’m actually on my way to a job interview and I stopped in here to try and calm down,” he said. “I’m incredibly nervous. You see, I have a bad foot and it makes me very insecure. Even though I know you can’t see it and that nobody will notice it unless I tell them about it, I know it’s there and it makes me feel like a loser. I just wanted to tell you … I’ve been watching you for a while now and you’ve inspired me to go to the interview and do my best. You’ve been helping people confidently and you’ve been doing all of your other tasks without even thinking about your arm, it seems like. I’m envious of your confidence, honestly! So, thank you.”

I just stood there, stunned. I hadn’t been doing anything out of the ordinary. I’d just been doing the same things I did every day. I was just doing my job.

That gentleman was encouraged by me that day, but really, he gave me a gift, too. He taught me we don’t have to do extraordinary things to make an extraordinary difference in the world. You never know who you’ll inspire just by being you.

We ended up having a great conversation, and I encouraged him the best I could to give it everything he had at that interview. To be confident. To focus on his strengths and to let them know why he was the best person for the job.

If this were a storybook, I’d tell you that he stopped in a couple weeks later to tell me he got the job. But, it’s not and he didn’t. And that’s OK. Because that’s life. We have a moment and then we move on.

I was happy he was able to learn something from me that day, but I’m even more grateful for the lesson he taught me.

Ryan Haack the mighty.2-001

Follow this journey on Living One Handed.

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This Woman Is Empowering Kids With Special Needs With Superhero Capes

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In August 2012, Robyn Rosenberger thought it would be fun to sew a superhero cape for her nephew for his birthday. She’d never made a cape before and it was her first sewing project, but she enjoyed it and continued to make capes for her son, her dog and her friends’ children that same year.

During this time, she was following the site Blessed by Brenna, a blog about a young girl around her son’s age who was born with a severe skin disorder called harlequin ichthyosis. Rosenberger was reading Brenna’s story on her phone while rocking her son to sleep one night when she had an “aha” moment.

“Brenna needed a cape,” Rosenberger told The Mighty in an email. “My son looked super cute in one, but Brenna needed one.”

Rosenberger sent Super Brenna a custom-made cape in January 2013. With that, TinySuperheroes, a small business that sends homemade capes to children living with illnesses or disabilities, was born.

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Rosenberger runs TinySuperheroes out of her home in Saint Louis, Missouri. The capes are custom-made, come in a variety of sizes and colors and each feature the child recipient’s first initial. Families can purchase a cape for their child or nominate a loved one to be placed on the TinySuperheroes waiting list. With every cape purchased, an additional cape goes to a child on the waiting list.

As of summer 2015, Rosenberger has sent more than 6,000 capes to kids all over the world. But, she says, she’s just getting started.

Rosenberger can recall the exact moment she realized TinySuperheroes was her calling. She received an email from a father whose son had passed away days after receiving his cape. He wanted her to know the impact it had on his son and on their family was so great they decided to have him buried in his cape.

“This is the hardest part of this journey, to know that some of our TinySuperheroes will not make it to kindergarten, or to their 16th birthdays,” Rosenberger told The Mighty. “But to know that I have the opportunity to provide something tangible that could provide a single ounce of joy to a family during the most difficult moment of their lives meant that I was in this for the long haul.”

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Rosenberger hopes TinySuperheroes helps the children feel empowered and proud of who they are. She wants families to feel bolstered and encouraged when they see their children wearing the capes.

But more than anything, Rosenberger hopes TinySuperheroes can change the way the world thinks about illness and disability in children.

“I hope that through superhero capes, we can train people to see their TinySuperPowers instead of their differences,” she told The Mighty.

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Super Tayen Gilbert GOOD

Learn more about the TinySuperheroes mission in the video below.

To learn more about this project or to order a cape for the tiny superhero in your life, visit the TinySuperheroes website.

Photos courtesy of Robyn Rosenberger.

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Dad Creates Superheroes Who Use Their Disabilities as Superpowers

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Dan White couldn’t find a character anywhere in the media that his daughter Emily, who uses a wheelchair, could relate to. Emily was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that affects the spine and nerves.

White eventually noticed there were some characters in wheelchairs, but he none who he felt really showcased disabilities in a way children of all abilities to admire. So, he decided to illustrate his own set of characters — ones who use their disabilities as their superpowers.

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Aimee, Dan and Emily White. Via Dan White

“I wanted a broad range of diverse characters that would be unique, original and be fun for all kids to look [to] and emulate,” White told The Mighty in an email. “[The characters] show the wider world that disability can be a power, that it’s easy for disability to be mainstream without being frightening or misunderstood.”

The characters, who are all part of what White calls the “Department of Ability,” include Emily, an alien, a ghost and two animals. They all use what makes them different to their advantage. Pawsy the cheetah has a prosthetic leg, which helps him outrun everyone he meets, and Emily has a multi-functional airborne wheelchair. Her catchphrase is “Eat my wheels.”

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Emily as a character in the Department of Abilities. Via Dan White.

White quit his job to focus on the “Department of Ability” full time. Right now, he’s working with charities in the U.K., such as Strongbones Children’s Charitable Trust, to distribute the comic once it’s done (hopefully in 2016). In the future, White hopes the “Department of Ability” characters will go global, and he wants to turn the comic book into a television show.

You can watch the Whites’ interview with the BBC below.

They’re the “Department of Abilities” – Comic book heroes whose special powers are their disabilities. Its the work of…

Posted by BBC South Today on Wednesday, July 22, 2015

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