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Blindness No Barrier to Ice Skating for Toronto Writer

Courtesy Andrew Leibs at Suite101.com

Donna Jodhan Skating
Donna Jodhan's vocation is accessibility. Her company, Sterling Creations, provides writing, research, and translation services on business, lifestyle, and accessibility topics to numerous organizations. Her passion is recreational sports, which Jodhan pursues despite losing most of her sight to congenital glaucoma.

The activity that has done the most to shape her life is ice-skating, which she learned, first through trial and error and later from personal instruction, while growing up in Montreal. One of Jodhan's ambitions is to promote ice-skating among the blind. In this interview, conducted by phone on October 19, 2010, Jodhan talks about how she learned to skate and what the sport has meant to her.

D.J. I got into skating because I wanted to boost my confidence and prove to myself I wasn't afraid. I'd go out there and skate like any other Canadian girl. The challenge for a blind person is when you can't see where you're going, you have to deal with not knowing what's in front of you, and have to control your balance. After I fell down a few times, I decided to take lessons.

Was it difficult to find accessible instruction?

D.J. A school (Skating Adventures in Scarborough Ontario) let me come in, but they wouldn't give me formal lessons, but figure skater Jan Hainey volunteered to teach me. I was just happy learning to skate. Later, a Toronto parks and recreation program accepted me and taught me how to do all kinds of things, e.g. hockey stops, one-foot stops, gliding, and I progressed to Level 4 (out of 6). I skated with sighted people, but always had a private instructor with me and found skating to be one of the best things I ever did.

After learning, how and where did you skate?

D.J. I skated indoors and outdoors; the outdoors was more exciting. I always skated with a friend beside me. When I had much better vision, I could just skate beside them. When I'd lost most of it, I'd hang onto their arm.

How did skating build your confidence?

D.J. It showed me that once you fall down, you can definitely get up and keep going. Falling down wasn't the end of the world. Also, you have to find ways to get over your fear, your nervousness and just get up and go again.
Donna Jodhan Wants Blind Child to Consider Ice Skating

Do you have a favorite skating memory?

D.J. When I had vision — being able to skate around the ice rink at Christmas time and look at all those lights, all the various colored lights. The wind is blowing in your face and as you whip around the rink, it's a feeling that's very hard to describe.

How can parents best help blind children to skate?

D.J. First of all, they must ask their child, "Do you want to ice skate — do you really want to learn?" They should go with their kid onto the ice, before they even approach a club, and let them get a feel for the ice, what it's like so they can overcome their fear of it. Then go and talk with different clubs. You have to persist to get what you want, but skating is great; it's terrific; it's something I think every blind person should try.

Jodhan said ice-skating for the blind is an activity she'd love to promote. She knows from experience that it's an accessible activity where every joyful glide builds balance and confidence in all areas of one's life.