Blog: DeafBlind Necessities in our Bags

Last night two pals and I decided on Honey Hole as our first watering hole before going to a goodbye party at a bowling alley. Honey Hole, a small quaint comfy bar on Pike near Broadway has been a favorite haunt for me & my DeafBlind pal, aj for several years since I first came to Seattle. While I was at school on the East Coast, aj would tell me she had been at Honey Hole and I would become instantly envious. I loved that hole in the wall for its friendly staff, cool décor, horseshoe shaped booths in front and their tall, ice cold Northwestern brew. I was finally back in that hole, without aj but some new company. When we sat down, I stood up and motioned for the bartender to bring pen and paper. He brought a Sharpie marker (a very important item for low-visioners) and a bulk of papers. The two other people were hearing sighted, with cool ASL skills – but no clue why I was astounded. I stared at the Sharpie marker sitting in front of me and I grinned. I told them that it was a great feeling seeing that aj made her mark at the bar, because every damn bar/restaurant I go to they tend to hand me thin pencils or pens which makes it impossible for me to read (these days, bold & medium markers do the job) so I carry one with me ALL THE TIME.Then I noticed that the bar had turned up the lights for us as it was getting dark. Now, that is ONE Deaf Blind friendly bar! Even more so, when I walked up to pay my bill, the man wrote the total in LARGE PRINT and touched my hand to give me my cash back. FAR OUT.

We went bowling afterwards, it was at a bar that housed 14 bowling alleys and 20 pool tables. The bowling alleys were dark, I learned how to grope my way around the dark spaces, looking for my red bowling ball. I bowled 41 – horrible, horrible! The bartenders were cool but not “aware” how to approach Deaf Blind people so I used my own Sharpie and my magnifying glass when the bartender wrote small, in thin pen. Only if everyone knew what to do with us – I have to educate individuals one by one because of course they don’t hang out with us DBies often. So that got me thinking tonight. What do DBies really carry with them in their bags? Ever wonder?

I went through my big, feminine bag (made by aj) and found several things that WILL be found in any bag that belongs to a Deaf Blind person.  

Sharpie Marker (in medium). Not every place has ‘em, and when it’s futile to read pen – I feel so stuck. Good for writing on bathroom walls or writing my phone number on a cute guy’s arm! 

Magnifying Glass (5x). I could pull myself out of the “thin pen” bind by flicking open my magnifying glass and be comfortable reading through 5x magnification. Other people would use 3x, 5x, 7x, 10x or more. Good for reading obituaries. 

Hand Sanitizer (Bath & Body Works, Sweet Pea smell). Imagine tactiling with someone who just came out of the bathroom without washing their hands? Or during flu season and there’s no manners or Kleenex? Booger on nail alert! Also comes in handy for cleaning cane handles when it’s my flu season. Gum. Tactiling in close proximity with someone and having bad breath is truly embarrassing. And if it’s the other person’s foul breath that is killing my offactory sense, I pop one in their mouth.  

Perfume Oil (naturally organic). Our smell sense is so sensitive. We don’t like smells of smoking, body odour, chemical perfumes, farting and so on. Perfume oils can be found in natural health/organic stores and are easy on the smell sense. I use my signature smell, Jasmine, and mix 1 drop of that with 2 drops of Almond Bark Lotion Extract and rub it on my skin. Lasts all day, opposed to chemical perfumes that smell too strong and lasts only 1-2 hours. 

Aromatic Lotions (Burt’s Bees. Bath & Body Works). Chapped hands make for good sandpaper against other skin. Ouch. I hate it when my hands are so dry in the winters, touch is a very valuable sense and I nurture it. My hands often tactile on others’ hands and I often get comments that my hands are very soft. Comes in handy when I go out for a cigarette and my hands (pew). 

Flashlight (LED Light). This is extra helpful when I am in a dark place and happen to have dropped something. Also to see what’s in front of me when I am walking in the dark in a strange place. Of course, this wouldn’t apply to people who are fully blind. I can see during the day time but am completely blind as a bat at night. And with my upcoming trip to Nigeria, where electricity is scarce in my area, it comes in handy with 12 hours of continued battery life. 

Sunglasses (Bolle Sports). This is a very important item also. With my cataract growing in my remaining good eye, it’s become painful for me to go outside in bright light without sunglasses. It also helps protect the retina, where the source of my Usher Syndrome is. 

Yellow/Black Bus Number Flashcards. I obtained this from working at the Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. in Seattle in 2005. There are three slots each with numbers 0 – 9, and a card for CAB or Transfer, Please. It is also encased in Braille. When I want to catch the number 42 bus, I arrange the cards to show 42 and hold it up in the air at the bus stop. The bus driver recognizes the card, comes out & guides me inside the bus and I hand him another placard with my drop off point information, which I also have in my bag. 

Canadian National Institute for the Blind ID card. This can be used at airports, travel venues, fairgrounds, bus terminals and in the city to identify yourself as a blind person. Americans probably would have a Lighthouse, Helen Keller Center, or National Institute for the Blind card.  

Bigger bags. The bigger, the better. Backpack, shoulder bag, satchel. I can fold up my cane and put it in the bag if there’s no place to rest my 24/7 best friend. And leave my hands free if I carry shopping bags so I can use my right hand to navigate my cane and the right hand to hold a Starbucks cup. 

Baseball cap (Ottawa Senators). It is common for low-vision blind people to wear caps to shield low-to-bright sun, fluorescent lighting or just plain bad lighting so it’s comfortable for our eyes. And whenever it’s a bad hair day or the Hockey Night in Canada where Ottawa plays, it’s a bonus. 

Other Deaf Blind people would probably have: Braille GPS system or a Braille to Text/T to B typewriter in a carry on; bright construction vests so that when they walk in the dark, drivers are aware of their mobility. 

The other stuff in my purse is more associated with who I am as a woman and as Coco. Makeup. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.  Jasmine perfume oil. Nail file. Business cards. Credit card. Camera. Yadda yadda. 

If you are Deaf Blind, what do you hold in your bag? 

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10 Responses to Blog: DeafBlind Necessities in our Bags

  1. Sagecedar says:

    Very good list, Coco! I would suggest one more thing: extra cane just in case your usual cane breaks. Grin!

  2. Victoria says:

    I loved this post! I learned a lot and I thought it was very interesting. 🙂

  3. passsingthru says:

    Very interesting…do the Sharpies smell better or less nowadays?

  4. "R" says:


    As always! Great entry! Which Bolle Sports Sunglasses do you wear and why? Were you recommended this? I’d like to give this a try.


  5. Scott R. Burch says:

    Deaf-Blind Necessities in my pockets. . .

    Since I’m DB male, I usually have ’em as daily necessities with me all the times. They are:

    Pocket magnifier: Usually in my pant pocket with a comb and such. Any pair of pants, lol!

    Sharpie marker and a paper pad: In fall, winter and spring seasons, they are stored often in a inside pocket of a jacket or coat.

    Ray Ban Avaitor sunglasses: in another pocket of same jacket or coat. Same pair for ofver ten years!

    Keychain LED flashlight: Currently not carrying one. The last one broke off as I pulled my keys out of my pocket.

    White Cane: Depending on time on my outings, I usually put a loop from m cane to my belt and let it hangs.

    Canadian Institute for the Blind ID card: It is always kept in my wallet.

    From time to time, I use my backpack in which most of the items mentioned previously are kept inside. Or, as a tourist or a conference delegate, I usually store them in my “passport” bag with a sturdy belt loop on its back.

    When my vision starts diminishing considerably, I intend to carry my backpack more often. By then, I’d definitely need a portable GPS euipment, a construction vest and so forth so they can always be handy! I have been fiercely independent ever since. Grinning.


  6. Candice says:

    Very eyeopening blog. When Rebecca starts carrying a purse I will make sure that she carries these items. Until then, I will make sure that I am carrying and start using some of these items to try to make her feel more comfortable about them. Thanks!

  7. Mindi says:

    Hey girl! Another great post that gives me more insight into the DeafBlind world! Loved it. Two things …

    1. I think that bus card system is bloody ingenius and have never heard of anything like it before! More cities need to follow in those footsteps.

    2. The Ottawa Senators?? REALLY? 😦 I’m so bummed. I’m a big Leafs fan over here. Teehee!

  8. Rusty_Coyote says:

    Booger Alert??
    I pretty much carry the same things as you and also carry a “signature guide” for those moments in stores or restaurants when I use my charge card but it’s too dark to see where to sign. I ask the cashier to put the metal frame over the line so I can sign in the right place 🙂 Also lots of “maps” of where I’m going based on landmarks instead of street names. Just picture me trying to climb a signpost to read what freaking street I’m on, instead it’s “2 houses past the gas station and across from the church”.
    The rest of my “crap” is mommy stuff – extra kleenex, snacks for the kiddies, etc.
    DB Unite!

  9. Alessandra says:

    Hi I work for deafblind charity Sense and I’m helping a deafblind couple keep a blog about their training efforts to run the London Marathon. I’d like to flag this up to you as they could do with some support and words of encouragement.

    They’re dragging their support worker along at the training, white cane in hand and filled with determination. They set a great example and their blog is riddled with humor. I promise you will enjoy reading it!

  10. Anowar says:

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